Share the love!

I plan on putting a testimonials page up on our website. If you have any experiences you’d like to share about using Guest Hollow, please let me know! Here is a comment from an email I received from Trista (who gave me permission to share). She is using our high school anatomy curriculum AND the botany curriculum at the same time with her daughter. She said her daughter is retaining things more than any other program they have tried. When I asked her what she thinks made a difference she said,

” I think it is between the repetition and your way of presenting things in so many different ways. She has a lot of learning problems and sometimes it seems as though we are merely going through the motions of “school”, but not with her Guest Hollow classes. Your classes are great for her. She doesn’t complain about doing them, even looks forward to them and seems to be retaining most of what is presented. The way the classes is set-up she never knows what to expect each day and becomes excited as she completes daily assignments.”

If you’d like to share your story, thoughts, or reviews) about using Guest Hollow curriculum or materials, please email me at: I would love to shareĀ what you write on our website! šŸ™‚

Also, for those of you who don’t want to read posts about my garden and vacation pictures and such, lol, you can follow us on our new Facebook page:

We can also answer your questions about using Guest Hollow curricula there! Please head on over to like our page!

Illusion by Frank Peretti

Illusion: A Novel

*Read at the end about a chance to get your own free copy!!*

Frank Peretti’s newest novel is a sit-and-read-it-in-until-you-finish kind of book. The kind you want to hurry up and find out what is going to happen, never mind that it’s time to cook dinner. Dinner? Overrated. I’m not finished reading. Make yourself a sandwich or something. wink (O.K., I’m kidding about that, but JUST BARELY).

The novel starts out in 2010. Dane Collins just lost his wife Mandy in a fiery, tragic car accident…or so he thinks. In the midst of mourning he moves to a ranch in Idaho that he and his wife bought to retire on after a successful career as a magic act.

Suddenly, you are in 1970 with Mandy as a 19-year old college student at the fair with her friends until somehow she’s standing in 2010, right in the same spot, dressed in a hospital gown with unfamiliar faces passing by. Everything looks the same; and yet different. A very confused and distraught Mandy gets admitted to a mental hospital where she looks on in awe at computers and cell phones (like right out of Star Trek!), wondering how she got where she is. As it begins to sink in what’s happened, she discovers a strange ability to become invisible and escapes to scrabble out a living on the streets doing a street performer’s magic act as Eloise.

Mandy runs into Dane on the street as she plies him with a Gypsy card trick. He gives her a few tips, unable to just walk off until they’ve had a more than brief exchange. He leaves, thinking he’ll never run into that cold, young girl again but does after Mandy learns she has amazing abilities. Somehow she’s able to manipulate objects and takes her street act into a coffee shop while drawing increasingly larger crowds.

As the story progresses, Dane and Mandy’s lives become more and more intertwined and they take on a mentor/ protĆ©gĆ© relationship as he agrees to coach her magic act. There’s always a tension running between them though where they are drawn to one another but don’t understand why and certainly can’t act on it due to a 40-year age span. Dane is painfully reminded of his wife every time he looks at Mandy. There’s something about her that is so familiar. The author was really able to convey their love for one another that reached across the bending of time and space and the confusion they felt as they both struggled with the connection in their own way.

Illusion is not a romance, though. It’s more of a science fiction meets magic meets evil government secret project kind of book with Christian undertones. Throughout the entire novel Mandy’s abilities grow and the pace picks up as Dane realizes who she might really be and that there is a man following her. Secrets slowly unfold and there are new twists and turns that keep you turning the page.

Frank Peretti has written an engaging and memorable story of life, death, mystery, the bending of time, love and restoration. This is my first time reading Peretti and now that I have, I’m jumping on the fan bandwagon. You can be sure I’m going to dip into his other books and look forward to whatever he’s writing next!

Disclosure: I was given a copy of this book for free in exchange for my review. The above review is entirely my opinion and was in no way influenced by the fact that I got the book for free!

***Head back over here on Monday, April 9th for your chance to win a brand spanking new FREE copy of Frank Peretti’s new novel: Illusion.***

Click here to read our other book reviews.

Free 30-Day Trial for “Gizmos”


courtesy of ExploreLearning Gizmosā„¢ has a free 30-day trial where you can have full access to their entire library of 450 Gizmos. The Gizmos are interactive math and science simulations that really help make learning concepts clear and easier to understand. ExploreLearning has a variety of Gizmos for grades 3-12 that cover topics like:

  • Number and Operations
  • Algebra
  • Geometry
  • Measurement
  • Probability
  • Precalculus
  • Earth and Space Science
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Physical Science
  • Life Science

Once you choose a grade range and category, you get to choose specific Gizmos to play with like some of these:


courtesy of ExploreLearning Gizmosā„¢

When you choose the Gizmo you want you then have the option of choosing some of the available printables to use with it like a student exploration sheet, teacher’s guide, vocabulary sheet, assessment questions, etc. (each Gizmo will not necessarily have every option available). In the screenshot below you can see that this Gizmo on pollination has a printable student exploration sheet as well as a vocabulary sheet available. Available printables are highlighted in blue.


courtesy of ExploreLearning Gizmosā„¢

The student exploration sheets are a terrific help. This particular one is 5 pages long with various questions, activities and specific directions to help your student get the most out of the Gizmo. They are totally optional though. Sometimes your student may just want to plunge into the Gizmo and “play”. Other times he may need more assistance or you may want him to get a bit extra out of the lesson. The student exploration sheets offer both. They also look good in a notebook and/or give mom some tangible evidence of the kiddo having done some actual work and gained some understanding. wink


courtesy of ExploreLearning Gizmosā„¢

The Gizmos themselves are interactive. In this demonstration of cross pollination I’m moving some pollen grains from one flower to another. The activity continues with animation and more opportunities for interaction.


courtesy of ExploreLearning Gizmosā„¢

I’ve used Gizmos in the past with Otter and found that they are excellent in making various concepts clear and easy to understand. Some of my favorite Gizmos are in the math section. Gizmos take abstract concepts and help make them concrete – something your student can “touch” and manipulate. I’ve found them to be a big help in supplementing Otter’s middle school math lessons.

Look at this Gizmo where you get to learn about square roots:

Gizmo on square roots

courtesy of ExploreLearning Gizmosā„¢

Suddenly square roots aren’t just some abstract concept! You can SEE what a square root is instead of having it be scary, weird looking math term.

Anyway, I thought I’d pass on that ExploreLearning has a free trial. I know a lot of you are still ironing out curriculum choices for next fall and perhaps this might help a few looking for a boost in science and math. It also would make a great resource for some “summer learning fun”.

Click here to visit ExploreLearning’s website ( You can also contact them toll-free at 1-866-882-4141. If you decide to order a subscription, be sure to ask them about a home account.

Book Review: Living Through the Mexican-American War

Ā I’m always on the lookout for engaging books to use with my history curriculum. Sometimes it’s hard to find a good book that’s affordable, covers a topic with enough depth and yet isn’t something a student has to “slog” through. Non-fiction can be especially challenging because I have fairly high standards. Each book has to be something Otter is going to connect to (unless there really isn’t anything else to choose from and it’s something I want to cover!).

I recently was on the lookout for a book on the Mexican-American War – a conflict that still has some present day repercussions and one that I think is generally ignored in most history programs but shouldn’t be! Living Through the Mexican-American War by John DiConsiglio does a great job of presenting this conflict as well as other related stories covering the years 1821-1849. The book itself is colorful and has a nice layout. There is a mix of maps, photos, illustrations and colored sidebars that bring some visual interest to the pages. I like the added touch of the “burnt/worn” edges look on each page. It’s details like this that set this particular book above the rest I’ve looked at for this topic.

The Mexican-American War

Even though it’s 80 pages long, Living Through the Mexican-American War is a fairly quick read that shouldn’t take your students more than a day or two to finish. Or, if you prefer to use it as a read-aloud, you can easily get through it in a week.

All throughout the book more difficult words and terms are presented in bold and defined via a glossary in the back. Here are a few examples:

  • Whig Party
  • Manifest Destiny
  • sovereign
  • chaparral
  • fortified
  • adobe
  • guerrilla
  • dysentery

If you like to combine assignments, it would be super-easy to pick out words your student isn’t familiar with and assign them for vocabulary study.

Based on the vocabulary and the writing style, I’d say this book targets the upper elementary to middle school age bracket, although I think it’s perfectly appropriate for high schoolers as well. Even I learned a thing or two after reading it and it’s written/presented in such a way that I think most students will retain most of it.

There is also a small “Find Out More” section in the back with a list of books, websites and DVD’s to explore, if interested.

I feel the book does a good job at presenting both sides of the Mexican-American War. It gives you a great understanding of the circumstances surrounding it from various perspectives and not only gives an overview of incidents like the Battle of the Alamo but various sections cover some of the people involved and topics like weaponry and hardships. There is even a section about Sarah Borginnis “The Heroine of Fort Brown” so your girls don’t have to feel too left out amidst all the battle-talk.

The Mexican American War

The Mexican-American War happened because of a variety of factors and if affected different people in a variety of ways. Living Through the Mexican-American War doesn’t shy away from these topics and yet covers them in an age-appropriate way. Portions of the book cover various interesting facts about things like yellow fever, deserters, Irish immigrants, the Donner Party and more. It’s written in a way that shows your students how all of these different things were connected. I like that.

Since there are no previews that I can find online, I’ve pasted an example of a small section below so you can get a feel for the writing style.

Mexican American War

After reading through the book I’ve decided it’s a winner! I’m planning on including it in my Awesome Timeline History Schedule, which will be posted here in the next several months (hopefully!) on my website. It’s an excellent resource that should help any student learn about this important part of our nation’s history. Click here to take a look at it on Amazon.

*Note: We received this book for free after I requested it for the purpose of reviewing it. However, our review was not in anyway influenced by this fact. All our reviews reflect only our personal opinion(s) of materials. We aren’t experts! We’re just a homeschooling family with ideas of our own about what works and what doesn’t for US. smile

amBooks by Mining Gems Review / Opinion


My rating:

Otter’s rating:
“I like amBooks but parts of them can be boring.”

AmBooks are digital books that have a combination of text, video, explorations, games, animations and experiments presented in an engaging, interactive format. There are a variety of topics to explore with chapters covering a multitude of science concepts. A small sampling of the chapter titles currently available are:

  • Chemistry:
    • Elements, Compounds and Mixtures
    • Acids & Alkalis
  • Earth Science:
    • Earth’s Landforms
    • Weathering, Erosion and Rocks
  • Life Science – Biology
    • Respiration
    • Diffusion, Osmosis and Active Transport
  • Physical Science
    • Measuring Volume, Mass and Density
    • Transmission of Heat

There are lots of other titles available with plans for more additions.

Each AmBook can be purchased for around $4.00, downloaded to your computer and installed as a small piece of software. Each chapter has to be activated before using it by entering in your email address and password. You can only have one computer activated at a time. I downloaded 10 different chapters matching some of our current science topics. As soon as Otter saw me open up one of the colorful “books”, he was chomping at the bit to try one!

When you first open up a “book” there is an introductory page that tells you what you will be studying. All of the subsequent pages are tabbed on the right hand side and can be accessed with a click. The book featured below can be purchased from the Physical Science section of the website and covers the transmission of heat.


As you click through the pages, you learn about the topic by reading, listening, watching and doing.

Here is an interactive exercise where you drag the items to the proper bin. (Yeah, yeah, I know copper should be dragged into the other bin…lol.)


And here is a video that helps illustrate conduction:


Each amBook has a different amount of pages. The longest one I ordered had 26 and the shortest had 13. This particular book has a total of 17 pages. Within many of the pages are additional “sub” pages or activities.

Here on page 14, when you click on one of the large purple buttons….


you get a popup box that has additional information.


In this particular book there are couple of check point quizzes to make sure you understand what’s being taught. If you get an answer wrong, a popup box explains why. On the last quiz it said if you get all 7 answers correct you’ll get a secret code to move on to the last section. Well, we got all of the answers and the code, but it didn’t really appear that the code did anything at all. confused To get to the last section we just clicked on the tab as usual.


There are also some boxes on a couple of pages where you can type in a prediction and explanation. Also, at the very end, there is a summary of all the main points covered in the book (which is great for record keeping purposes), a concept map and a test yourself section with essay (or interactive in some books) style questions such as: “Explain why only radiation can happen in a vacuum.”

As you can see from the screenshots, amBooks are colorful. Each page just begs to be clicked on and explored. Otter really enjoyed the short videos that usually demonstrate an experiment. He also liked the activities. One of the problems I ran into though was getting him to stop clicking around like a maniac and actually read and study the text!
That’s one potential problem I see with amBooks. A student can click around and “play” without really taking the time to truly absorb each concept. Even though there are quizzes, you don’t have to pass them to move on to the next section. In one way that’s convenient because you have instant access to each topic within a book. However, there is no way for you to know your student actually studied the material unless you assign the questions at the very end of the book. If you do assign the questions, there are no answers for you to check so you’ll either have to be familiar with the concepts yourself or you’ll have to read over the book to know if your student got them right! I think this could be solved in the future by letting teachers download an accompanying PDF answer key.

After trying out all of our amBooks, I would say they are appropriate mostly for middle schoolers, although younger and older students could also benefit from some of the material. The only thing about using it with older students is that some of them might be put off by some of the “kiddy” graphics, although some of the books have a more mature feel to them like the one about solutions and suspensions. As for using it with younger students, there might be some activities are concepts that are too advanced. For example, we ran into some math in one of the books that kind of made Otter’s eyes glaze over. A student would need to have a good understanding of pre-algebra to be able to complete it unassisted.

math in amBook

After reading the above page, you are asked to calculate the pressure exerted by a brick if it’s placed on its largest and smallest surfaces. Otter wasn’t sure how to proceed and there is no hand-holding to help explain the math. There is a solution if you get it wrong, but it was all mumbo-jumbo-yeah-whatever to Otter.


The book just assumes you have this level of mathematical knowledge. If your student doesn’t though, he can just move on to the next section anyway.

I also ran into an error in one of the books. On the page below there is a little “Remember This” box that says, “To read more about mixtures, click here.” Otter clicked and got an alert window that said that feature is not available. Maybe this is a bug that has yet to be worked out.


I’m glad I had a chance to review amBooks as they have added a fun component to our science studies. Otter likes them, but he has to be told to sit and actually study each page instead of jumping around to see what novelty each click will bring. He thought the books were mostly fun, but a few books didn’t engage him as much as the others (hence the 7 stars rating, instead of something higher). I did hear comments like “Ohh neat!” and “Hey mom, look!” frequently enough to know he was having a good time, for the most part.

Overall, I think amBooks does a good job at getting concepts across in a way that is engaging and memorable. The animations and videos help make things very clear. The interactive sections are generally fun and bring a lot of life to what could otherwise be just plain, old-fashioned reading. Visual learners will likely think amBooks is a treat, but some students may be totally distracted by all of the choices, colors and cartoons all over the page. There is still some room for improvement. Some pages could have used more detailed explanations (like the math in the Force and Pressure book, as mentioned above) and sometimes there was a wide mix of graphics and activities that don’t seem to know just what the intended audience is (elementary, middle school or high school?). The price is right for most of the chapters. $4.00 will get you about an hour’s worth of learning and entertainment mixed. This time period might be shorter for some of the smaller chapters.
If you are looking for something to jazz up your science lesson and your kids enjoy learning things on the computer, amBooks are an affordable solution that you can purchase and download in a matter of minutes. They can help get a concept across that ordinary textbooks might not be able to.

You can download a free chapter of amBooks from the Mining Gems website. Just click on the contact form and make your request.

*Note: We received amBooks for free in exchange for this review. However, our review was not in anyway influenced by this fact. All our reviews reflect only our personal opinion(s) of materials. We aren’t experts! We’re just a homeschooling family with 3 kids and ideas of our own about what works and what doesn’t for US. smile

In the Hands of a Child Renaissance Project Pack Lapbook

Wow! It’s been a long time since I’ve worked on my website or blog! I’ve finally found a minute to post a review of In the Hands of a Child’s Renaissance Project Pack Lapbook.

My rating:

my rating

Otter’s rating:

Otter's rating


Renaissance lapbook

This 72 page, affordable lapbook project pack from In the Hands of a Child has everything you need for a 7 day unit study on the Renaissance! It’s designed for grades 6-12, although I think it could easily be adapted down to 4th grade.

I’ve always liked lapbooks. They offer a hands-on, interactive way of learning a subject. Lapbooks are crafty, they break up writing into manageable chunks and they look GREAT as a finished project.

In the Hands of a Child contacted me and asked me if I was interested in reviewing one of their lapbooks. I jumped at the chance. Our history study was heading into the Renaissance and this offer came along at the right time! Over the years we’ve finished lots of lapbook projects. Some have been absolute hits (like this one I made for nutrition) and others have been disastrous flops! Here are my impressions of this particular lapbook project pack.

My project pack came as a PDF. Instead of printing out the entire thing I only printed out the items/elements I wanted to use and read the instructions from my computer.

Graphics / Illustrations:

  • All of the graphics and illustrations are in black and white or grayscale.
    Pros Cons
    Printing only in black helps save expensive color ink. Some may find black and white graphics boring.
    A creative child may enjoy coloring things in. A kid who doesn’t like coloring might think it’s busywork to decorate his lapbook.

The sample lapbook displayed inside shows most of the lapbook elements printed on colored paper, which kind of jazzes things up a bit more (note: the picture below only shows part of the lapbook). I think the sample actually looks quite nice:

Renaissance lapbook

Everything appears to be clip art-based with different fonts for variety. This is not a beautifully “hand” illustrated lapbook like the ones featured at Homeschool in the Woods. However, the graphics are mostly crisp, clean and print well.


  • This lapbook covers a wide variety of topics from the Renaissance. All of the research for each lapbook element has been done for you and put together in an easy-to-read format sprinkled with pictures and clip art. Culture, art & artists, religion, architecture, music, literature, government, and exploration are all explored.


Because the lapbook is intended to cover only a 7 day period, nothing is covered in great depth. However, you get a good overview of the main topics and what the Renaissance was all about. I think this lapbook would be a good addition to just about any history curriculum and it could stand alone as well if you didn’t want to linger in this particular time period too long.

Lapbook Elements:

  • There are quite a few different lapbook elements to create (20 in all). A few of the items you can make are:
    • Booklet for vocabulary words
    • Flip flap book about Renaissance facts
    • Venn book comparing the Middle Ages to the Renaissance period
    • Shape book about Gutenberg
  • All of the lapbook elements come with written instructions on how to construct each one. I thought it was a little inconvenient that the instructions were separate from the actual lapbook element pages (all instructions are together in the beginning of the lapbook guide), but you could easily print the instructions out for reference. Perhaps it was designed this way so that they aren’t cluttering up each project page.
  • Answers for each lapbook element are contained at the end of the guidebook. Most of the answers are suggestions showing what your child could write on each project piece.
  • Reluctant writers may like how each element breaks down the task of writing into a smaller chunk. Instead of writing papers, information is displayed on each lapbook element.

Fun Factor:

Crafty kids who love to cut, paste and color will most likely enjoy completing this lapbook. Kids who like their schoolwork to be cut-and-dry will probably groan their way through it. If you already know your children like lapbooks, then I think this particular one will probably go over pretty well. It’s one of the better ones I’ve seen for this topic. On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being the worst and 10 being the most awesome activity we’ve ever done in our entire school career) I’d give this lapbook about a 6 1/2. Otter rated it as a 2. When I asked him why, he said there was too much writing and he didn’t think it was varied enough (with drawing or cut/paste activities, etc.). He also disliked the lack of color.

Overall Impression:

I think the In the Hands of a Child Renaissance Project Pack Lapbook is a solid choice if you are a fan of lapbooks or want to give one a try to add some variety to your studies. I think this particular project pack is a great overview of the Renaissance with plenty of activities at an affordable price. This is definitely something I would have considered purchasing to supplement our history lessons and add in a hands-on element. It’s well put together and saves a LOT of time! Unfortunately though, Otter doesn’t like it at all and while I like the content, I’m not in love with all of the graphics. I think it’s a professional product but not as polished as I personally would like it to be.

Check out the free sample at the In the Hands of a Child website and see for yourself whether it would work for you and yours!

*Note: All our reviews reflect only our personal opinion(s) of materials. We aren’t experts! We’re just a homeschooling family with 3 kids and ideas of our own about what works and what doesn’t for US. smile

Visual Latin

Visual Latin

I’ve become somewhat of a connoisseur of Latin programs. We’ve tried quite a few and I definitely have my favorites (along with some real duds). One of the best programs I’ve recently seen and tried out with my son is Visual Latin. Visual Latin breaks out of the usual Latin program mold and interjects a much needed dose of fun, humor and solid Latin instruction that sticks!

While I have loved learning Latin ever since we started, Otter has been a much more reluctant student. Latin has almost always elicited groans and a general disposition of one attending a funeral, or at least having to eat a heaping plate of brussel sprouts (no offense to you who love that vegetable). It’s always difficult when you love a subject and your child doesn’t. I’ve wanted to somehow inject the my own soul-felt knowledge that Latin is AWESOME, beautiful and a worthy pursuit of time. He wasn’t buying it. He was learning (painfully), but not liking.

Enter Visual Latin on the scene. I was skeptical. “Laugh through Latin…” Hmmm, I doubted it. As much as I love Latin, I’ve certainly never run into any program or material that makes me want to laugh while learning it. Let me tell you right from the beginning, it’s true. We have been laughing through our Latin lessons and for the first time, Otter is ENJOYING them! This program is a gold mine in that regard. He actually wants to….continue. You know that parent’s dream of seeing your homeschooled child who hates a subject change his opinion to actually wanting to spend time doing it, without pouting and even, *gasp*, looking forward to it… That’s what’s happened in our house thanks to Visual Latin. I’ve even caught my college-aged daughter peeking at a lesson and laughing along.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think all learning has to be fun. There are certainly some things you just have to do, whether you like them or not. How much nicer it is though, when a way to learn something kindles that fire in you and makes you hungry for more. Provides you with a little humor and smiles to boot? That’s a really special bonus!

While Visual Latin delivers with the laughs, it also delivers with content. From the very beginning you are exposed to grammar concepts, vocabulary and the way Latin works. We’ve just finished with the 10th set of lessons (each set has 3 videos with 3 corresponding worksheets) and Otter is translating controlled vocabulary paragraphs with ease. Visual Latin also has a knack for presenting things in a way that seems so natural and easy to learn. Nothing ever feels overwhelming (think of endless drills/chants/tables that are a drudge with other programs). There really is an easier way. This isn’t to say that Visual Latin is too easy (Otter rates it at a medium level of difficulty), but the creators of the program have a terrific insight to how kids learn and offer up lessons of the perfect duration and presentation (at least for us!). Maybe that’s because the teacher and producer have 8 homeschooled children between them.

For the purpose of this review I was able to obtain the first 10 lessons. Each lesson has 3 videos and 3 worksheets. So with the first 10 lessons you get 30 videos. Each video is usually about 8-10 minutes long. Each worksheet is usually just a single page (with the exception of later translation exercises that may span two pages to make room for a box of vocabulary words). We usually take 15 to 20 minutes to finish our entire Visual Latin lesson, although it can sometimes run a little shorter. You get the idea.

The lessons are broken down into 3 bite-sized pieces of material. First Dwayne Thomas (that’s the guy teaching the lessons in the video) introduces a grammar concept. The 2nd day you see these grammar concepts illustrated in sentences. The 3rd day has you working from a Latin text (abridged stories from the Latin Vulgate). Otter just recently (and easily) translated the following from worksheet 10 C (30 days worth of lessons for us) after first watching it being read in the video and repeating it out loud:

“Est dies septimus. Caeli et terra sunt perfecti. Opus Dei
est completus. Deus est laetus. Opus est bonus. Terra
est bella et bona. Caelum est bellum et bonum. Adam est
laetus. Hava est laeta. Hortus est bonus et pulcher.
Animalia sunt laeti. Est multa herba in terra. Herba est
cibum bestiarum in terra nova. Cibum Adami et Havae est
fructus aut holus. Omnes sunt laeti in terra nova. Opus
Dei est bonus. Deus complet opus. Deus requiescit.”

Compare this to what was being translated after nearly a year with a different program when you FINALLY get to a chunk of text vs. the sentences and phrases you’ve been dealing with all year long:

“Lavinia femina est. Lavinia agricola est. In terrā laborat.
Equī et taurī in terrā habitant. Sunt gallinae et gallī et porcī.
Est frumentum in terrā. Sempronia amica est. Hodiē Sempronia visitat. Heri Lavinia laborābat. Hodiē Lavinia nōn laborābat.
Hodiē amicae in silvÄ«s ambulant. In silvÄ«s explorant. Lavinia et Sempronia in fluviō natant. In silvÄ«s cenant. Crās Lavinia in terrā laborābit.”

Don’t worry if you don’t understand a word of Latin in the examples above. What I wanted to show you is that with Visual Latin you are translating large chunks of text every 3 days from the beginning and understanding what you are reading without spending tons of time trying to memorize vocabulary. The vocabulary is learned in context and retained without a lot of effort. It’s a very similar approach (the immersion approach) that is found in Lingua Latina, a program Dwayne Thomas of Visual Latin recommends, and one that Otter and I have also been working through very slowly. In fact, Visual Latin has really enhanced our study of Lingua Latina and added a bit of insight that has made it easier and clearer.

Another great thing about Visual Latin is that it employs a variety of ways to get the material in your head. You listen, watch, read, say and write Latin. It’s also very approachable. It doesn’t feel like some stuffy Latin scholar is force feeding you lessons. Dwayne Thomas makes mistakes and catches himself and just comes across as real. I think it’s reassuring to Otter to see a teacher make a mistake and then correct it. You can also tell that Dwayne loves Latin. It really comes across in the lessons and is infectious.

Latin is one of those subjects a lot of people aren’t sure how to approach. I’m happy to say that Visual Latin has made it not only very approachable, but even entertaining. It’s given Otter a confidence I’ve not seen with any other program we’ve tried and it’s made our Latin time something we BOTH look forward to. I’m happy to report that we have the rest of the lessons that are available and are looking forward to the next batch (Visual Latin 2) as soon as it is out. I’d be ecstatic if they would consider continuing on and creating even more lessons beyond that!! We’ll continue to use every last scrap of what is created because quite simply, it works and we really, really like it.

If you are thinking about purchasing a Latin program, take a look at Visual Latin! The website has some freebies for you to try (4 introduction lessons and 2 “real” lessons). The program gets even better as you move through the lessons beyond lesson 2. Also, so you know, we were provided with the first set of lessons for free in exchange for this review. All of the above is my real opinion and I’m not pedaling their program because I received a freebie. I’m sharing a real and true love for Visual Latin of my own accord. Check it out!

*Note: The above comments reflect our personal opinion(s) of materials. We aren’t experts! We’re just a homeschooling family with ideas of our own about what works and what doesn’t for US.

A Review / Opinion of The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible

Lucado Study Bible

The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible, NKJV

Every morning, when we start our school day, I read to Otter from the Bible. It’s a great way to start the day and it teaches that we give God precedence over everything else we do. We always start with Him first.
While I think Bible curriculum, devotionals and Bible lessons & books are great for kids, nothing can beat spending time in God’s word itself. We usually read one chapter from the Old Testament, one from the New, as well as a daily chapter from Psalms and then Proverbs (4 chapters total). We have several copies of the Bible, but one of my new favorites is the Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible.
It’s an attractive Bible that has verses arranged in a single column format, which means it reads like a “real” book instead of chopping up the verses into little sections. Headings are in a bold maroon which makes finding passages much easier than a traditional Bible (at least for me!).
There are lots of extra goodies in the form of side notes that really help you get more out of what you are reading. These notes help explain the context of the chapters (what’s going on here?) and then go more in depth to help you pull out the points, truths or lessons to be learned as well as an application section to help you better apply the things you just read to your own life. There are also full page devotions and articles that help you see the bigger picture of how everything ties together.
I like how at the beginning of each book you are given a run-down on the who/what/when/where with a small outline of the contents. These introductions are good to help you and your students focus better on what is being read. It gives the foundation for you to fill in. There is also a devotional index so you can quickly look up topics that need to be quickly addressed (stubbornness, kindness, etc.) as well as a “where to turn when” index (when you doubt your faith, when you lack patience, etc.). All of the “extras” are written so that I think they would be accessible to not only adults, but also to most children. If you have a child who has outgrown some of the “kiddy” Bibles, I think it would make an excellent step up, especially for a child in the 13-17 years age range. It doesn’t have all the flashy kid and teen oriented type of notes, but there is lots of good, solid and helpful guidance and information that may appeal to kids who are a little more serious in their approach to Bible study.
If you are looking for a good Bible to use with your kids (or just yourself!), you might be interested in giving this one a look. You can download a free 53 page chapter here and see if it might fit your Bible reading needs. I’ve personally claimed this one as my own!

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneezeĀ®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissionā€™s 16 CFR, Part 255


I review for BookSneezeĀ®

Flight of Shadows Book Review

Flight of ShadowsSet in the future only several generations from our own, Flight of the Shadows describes an America that has been reshaped into a new society with four distinct classes of people. Walled cities are made up of the Influentials, a class with all of the wealth and power which is served by the Industrials: herded out at the end of a work day to return to dismal shanty-towns- their faces tattooed for easy identification. The illegals live like wild animals, sneaking around and taking what they can – and then there are the invisibles. People fitting in nowhere, hiding from whatever and whomever.
Caitlyn, the main character, is hiding with good reason. A product of genetic experimentation, she escaped from Appalachia- a Christian dystopia where some of the inhabitants manage to get out in a kind of Underground Railroad. A psychotic bounty hunter is on her trail, as is the government of America who wants the secret hidden in her D.N.A.
Caitlyn meets up with Razor, someone with secrets of his own. Never quite sure if she can trust him, the two are caught up in trying to elude those who are tracking her as she slowly discovers just who she really is and why others want her. She has to make a choice… One that will affect her, those she loves and even the future of human destiny.
When I first started reading Flight of Shadows, I didn’t realize it was a sequel to a book called Broken Angel, but that didn’t spoil the story as it stands well on its own. I think what I found the most fascinating was the author’s vision of America’s future touched by darker tinges of science, oppression, government control and the future results of modern day problems like illegal immigrants. This is not a pretty story. There is violence and adult themes. It drew me in though and had a lot of thought provoking themes woven throughout about science and culture. This book is published by a Christian publishing house, and though there was a few bits of Christianity sprinkled throughout mainly in dialogue between characters, it didn’t strike me as an overtly Christian book. It doesn’t shy away from topics and situations that are just plain brutal and/or disturbing. I don’t recommend you leave it laying around for the kids, but if you like science fiction and want a provocative read, you might want to check it out yourself!

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Book Review: Heaven is for Real

Heaven is for RealRecently I received a free copy of the book Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back through in exchange for my honest review. It’s an account of a little boy named Colton who had an emergency appendectomy and in the following months dropped a bombshell on his family. He claimed he had gone to heaven and had a lot of interesting information to back it up -like the fact that he had met his sister who had been miscarried 2 months into his mother’s pregnancy – something he had never been told about. He also somehow knew what his parents were doing when he was out on the operating table. He shared details about his great grandfather he had never met, as well as details about heaven itself that match what the Bible says. There were lots of other bits and pieces that spilled out over the course of 2 years that gave an overall beautiful and interesting picture of heaven – many which most 4-year-olds could never dream up, even in a family where your dad is a pastor (as Colton’s dad is).

I approached this book with a healthy dose of skepticism. A little boy, almost 4 years old, coming back from heaven? It sounds like made-up stuff. Certainly not impossible, but something I wasn’t too sure about. After reading the Burpo family’s story, I can’t say I believe everything, but, the entire story was interesting enough to capture my attention for the 2 hours in which I devoured all 157 pages. I did have a problem with a couple of Colton’s descriptions – like the fact that everyone had wings (not just angels) and that everyone flew. I don’t see any evidence of that in the Bible. Perhaps if Colton did have this experience, he interjected/mixed in a few of his own 4-year-old interpretations and thoughts into his experience. I guess I spent most of the time wondering if his father made up a lot of the story or if young Colton was sharing bits and pieces he had picked up here and there in a way that made it seem like he had actually gone to heaven. Maybe he did go! I guess you have to read the book to come to your own conclusion!

Heaven is for Real is a quick, but thought provoking read. Although I personally spent the entire time wondering if the story was genuine or not, I came away with a sense that, if it was, it’s likely to be a real encouragement to those who have lost a loved one or are just wondering what heaven might be like. If not, it at least gets you thinking about the subject and for me it made me think that heaven is going to be greater than anything I could ever imagine – whether it matches Colton’s description or not!