Friday, February 15, 2019

For The Temple - A Review of an Audio Drama by Heirloom Audio

I have been aware of Heirloom Audio productions for awhile. We have done a few listening sessions using their products quite awhile ago when my boys were younger. So I was especially pleased when I was given the opportunity to review the newly released drama For The Temple. When we were in the thick of homeschooling, read aloud time was always a part of our family activities. For myself as an elementary school student many years ago, some of my fondest school memories were in the classrooms where the teacher spent a substantial amount of time reading aloud to students.

At one time, I simply considered listening to audio theater to be comparable to a read aloud or listening to an audio book. It is, but it is also more. Listening to For the Temple as a reviewer, I have reconsidered that conclusion. Listening to audio theater ups the game. It is more involved, requires more concentration and better listening skills. It also provides a greater audience reward with a deeper understanding of the characters and the stories. Not to discourage anyone from the joy of listening to audio theater, but the effort of setting the stage for listening without distraction and developing the required listening skill takes a little more preparation (at least at our house). It is so worth it.

I attempted to listen to For the Temple while fighting off a bout of the flu. Snuggled up, ready to rest, the voices became the background to my recovery but I didn't completely hear the story. My daughter and I listened together again while doing some hand crafts and stitching. The stitching activity allowed for enough attention to really listen and hear the story.

George Alfred Henty (1832 - 1902) was an English novelist. He is our For the Temple storyteller and begins our listening adventure by telling this story to an artist in a Viennese Cafe where they have met.

The actors bring the characters to life. Listening to the first century
Cafe Landtmann in Vienna
Who wouldn't like to hang out and
hear a story or two?
story as a dramatization improved our understanding of the reality of the characters as actual historical figures. I especially enjoyed the developing relationship between John, the main character and his betrothed Mary. Hearing the voices of characters as they interact with each other makes it clear how they are real participants in history. When John meets Titus the interaction they have really drew me in with the anticipation of how that relationship will play out. (No spoiler here.) The surrounding sounds of the environment from a storm on the sea to destruction in Jerusalem engage the listener.

From the attitude, life and times of the original storyteller G.A. Henty, to the times and place of the story told and the characters involved, there is historical depth and nuance available for our understanding through the Heirloom Audio productions. The use of the accompanying study guide creates a complete learning opportunity. The questions included range from listening comprehension questions to ones that encourage deeper thinking. There are also geographical prompts and vocabulary lists by section of the drama.

In her comments about the production of Beric the Briton from Heirloom audio, cast member Cathy Sara says "Yes, it can be used as an education tool, it has message, it has meaning. Anyone would find that place in these stories." I agree with Cathy whole heartily. Listening to this adventure adds value to my crafting, knitting, textile working time, whether homeschooling kids are joining me or not!
During a recent stop at the bank the conversation with two young women tellers turned to the topic of homeschooling. Living the life of home education, I am still sometimes surprised by some of the questions I am asked about our family's choice. Mostly, I am surprised by the questions regarding educational materials, books and curriculum. When asked about materials my response is probably so emphatic as to be unbelievable. There is so much available it is hard to even fathom. There are so many resources available of such high quality, that from my point of view, as a homeschooling mom, is hard to grasp not utilizing it all. The Heirloom Audio dramas are an excellent example. Listening to these and going through the study guides could easily provide the basis for understanding a large portion of western history. Don't miss accessing these materials!

Find more reviews of For the Temple linked on the Review Crew blog, click on the banner below.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Learning to Sew & Entering the School Block Challenge

Last summer, I had the opportunity to visit The National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky. Though I had heard of the museum I had never traveled to Kentucky to visit. It was travel to and from Nashville that finally got me there for my first visit. I am so glad to have viewed the exhibits and learn about the wonderful programs they have for sharing the art of quilting and sewing.

The quilt exhibits were fabulous and at least for someone who sews, like myself, very inspirational. The museum also offers excellent educational programs for all ages. It was because of my visit that I learned about the museums annual School Block Challenge, a contest sponsored by MODA fabric.

Despite her interest in learning sewing skills, I wasn't sure if my teen daughter would be interested in submitting a quilt block for the exhibit. As a senior in high school, 2018/19 would be her last opportunity to enter the annual event. As a homeschooling parent, I have found that exhibit and contest opportunities provide excellent opportunities for motivation and a framework that includes a beginning and end for learning a skill and completing a project. Research, applying a learned technique, a deadline and feedback are all included in submitting something to an exhibit or competition.

Completed for submission to the
National Quilt Museum's
School Block Challenge 2018

We have been doing crafting and doing some sewing projects together since my daughter's little fingers could begin to manipulate supplies. It has been rewarding to share my love of sewing and creating with her. Her continued interest in learning to sew fed right into learning about quilt block patterns and designs. It is a joy to see specialty craft skills be embraced by the next generation in our family. 

My own interest in sewing was with the goals of creating clothing. That interest began as a young teen when, given my families limited resources, it required creativity to have more items in my own closet. I initially learned to sew and knit from my paternal grandmother and continued learning on my own. My skills improved by taking home economics classes in both jr. high school and high school. The same  desire to have more choices in what she wears has fueled my daughter's interest in learning to construct garments. Late last summer, we completed a couple of clothing sewing projects together.

It was following the making of those garments that she took off with her own research on quilt blocks and chose a design to model her own after. The School Block gave her the framework of guidelines and a deadline. Created, submitted and happily finished with the positive feedback of an honorable mention in the 9th - 12th grade category in the contest.
See the winning entries at:
All of the entries are currently displayed in The National Quilt Museum's galleries. Now we gotta get to Paducah to view the show!

My daughter used Simplicity shorts, skort and skirt
pattern to make a summer outfit for herself.
This is not a beginner pattern but it was fairly easy to follow and construct. The result turned out well. The Simplicity pattern can be ordered on Amazon at:

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Finding Connections with Other Mothers, Homeschoolers and Bloggers

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In my daughter's dance bag,
bobby pins, pointe shoes
and cell phone.

As a blogger, there are so many things to learn about posting, sharing and connecting. The rapid changes to our lives because of technology in the last couple of decades has been astounding. One of the blessings of having growing children in our household during this time is that we have been forced to evaluate our interaction with online resources and technological devices (as much as we can) along the way. When we first acquired a computer and internet access for our home, I considered writing a blog about our parenting and homeschooling adventures. At that point, it was the lack of uninterrupted time to write that slowed me down. Not managing to write a complete sentence really got in the way of following through with the blog idea. Now that I have the time and opportunity to have a complete thought without immediate concerns for the needs of young children, I am loving the process of it all. The writing, the posting, the sharing and finding other's who are doing the same is a challenge and a joy. There are times now, that it is my lack of technological savvy that most gets in my way.

Which leads me to gratitude for another blessing of having and young ones, teens and young adults around as these tools have become a part of our lives, that of  having young quick minds to learn and to help me with integrating all of the new tools we have at our fingertips.

Please, follow along or join in the discussion as I continue to learn the continually new tools of the trade.

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Friday, January 4, 2019

My Word of the Year for 2019

My Word of the Year for 2019 post can be found on the Homeschool Review Crew Blog. Take a look and link your 2019 Word of the Year post. Happy New Year!

Friday, December 28, 2018

A Christmas Gift Memory from Childhood

There are only a few items or toys from my childhood that I remember with fondness. Most are physically long gone. There are a couple that are tucked away in our attic. Vintage toy collections that I've seen bring back memories but I've never had the desire to collect and house old toys myself. However, I do have shelves filled with some of the most notable vintage items from my younger days. On those shelves are books. To me it is harder to part with and resist re-acquiring the old friend of a book. I found adventure and solace in the pages of books I read and loved. There are titles I have read that are still with me in memory if not physically. I still own a few of the originals that could be considered clutter in our attic attic space.

Every Christmas, as a child, my paternal grandmother gave each of her grandchildren a book, a brand new you can smell the pages, selected title just for each one of us. Even though my grandmother wasn't much of a reader herself, this became a tradition of hers. I was an avid reader all through my childhood and many of the choices she made were ones that introduced me to unknown authors or genres. I loved getting those books.  I still have each and every one of those editions tucked away safely on a shelf.

There were a few here and there over the years that I didn't greet with joy and excitement. One book in particular, that at the time didn't thrill my little reader heart was the Let's Start to Cook children's cookbook.

I thought of myself as an adventurer. I spent as much time as possible outdoors and many of my reading hours were actually logged (no pun intended) in the big old oak tree that dominated our front yard. Any domestic activities that captured my interest were the artsy crafty ones. If I wasn't reading or imaging adventure, I wanted to be creating something new by painting, drawing or crafting. That beginner cookbook wasn't on my to read list and I didn't explore it's pages very extensively at the time. The funny thing is, I still have that copy. It is a basic and very thorough how to cookbook that is now to my adult eye, actually pretty helpful.

This year my teen daughter was determined to have a cookie baking day. She searched for recipes, planned her ingredient and cookies lists. As she began the process of filling the cookie tins, I dug out that children's cookbook. My daughter, honestly didn't use it as a reference much. She has the internet, you know. Her kitchen creating caused me to remember that treasure of a cookbook and revisiting it's pages kept me out of her way in the kitchen as she baked. I appreciate the gift of that book now more than at the time it was given to me. Especially, as I can now see, more clearly and with amazement, still feel, my grandmother's loving intention of contributing to her grandchildren's growth and learning each and every Christmas with the gift of a book.

Let's Start to Cook

Shop Vintage Fairy Tale Collectibles at AbeBooks

Friday, December 7, 2018

Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women - A Review

We were provided a copy of this lovely edition of Zondervan's devotional Beloved to use and review. 

Having the opportunity to review the devotional Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women by Zondervan became an early Christmas gift for me. The book itself is lovely, it is a nice size, a nice weight - yes, that can make a difference and filled with wisdom. While the book itself is a lovely gift, it has been the reading of the pages together with my teen daughter that has been the true gift. 

We have been reading one of the brief devotions about three times a week for the last several weeks. Given the length of each devotion a daily reading really shouldn't be difficult in general. We have just had a very packed and hectic schedule this month. Which has increased the satisfaction of the time we have been reading this collection together. We included the reading in our early morning still in pjs on the couch snuggle time which explains the lack of photos of us using the book in this review. Too early in the day for any portraits!

Your identity as a woman matters to God. 

Especially during this season of Christmas preparations and activities it has been so wonderful to slow down, be together and read the encouragement found in the pages of Beloved. Meant for young women, Beloved contains 365, one page devotions. Each page also has lined journal space for a written reflection.

Who of us, young or old, doesn't benefit from a bit of encouragement and reminders of our true state of beloved-ness. I know as a mom, my doubts can feel perpetual and that they mar my ability to pass the message of God's love on to my daughter by example. This volume of one page devotions is an easy to add tool for sharing the message of "you are beloved" with any young woman. When I distill all that I want to convey to my daughter as she comes into her own as a young woman, it can be so hard to teach by word and example when I am myself not tuned into the message of unconditional love but is surely the most important message of all. 

Having this tool provides an easy to reach for way to incorporate biblical examples that remind each of us, that our identity as a woman matters to God

You are all together beautiful... -Song of Songs 4:7

Our time reading the passages together has been nourishing. The passages are brief enough so that the actual reading of each takes only a few of minutes. It is the actual consideration of the verse and the accompanying paragraphs that has led short discussions and even the quiet considerations in silence together. Those moments have been the real gift of each page.  A bit more joy and love and thoughtfulness has been added to our mornings together during this busy time of life and the year's season. Each passage has also increased my thoughtfulness about mothering my daughter who is about to embark on her own journeys as a this young woman.

This is a wonderful volume of devotions for the intended audience of young women. The brevity of the passages increases the likelihood of even the busiest of teens to read regularly. Despite the short daily passages these pages are filled with details of and insight from the stories of the woman of the Bible. As I read ahead, on my own for this review in Beloved, I began to see the weaving together of the stories and the intended emphasis of encouragement for young women in their lives today. 

I love how the passages revolve around the theme of womanhood with so many biblical examples, each with a story that sheds light on God's promise. Any affirmation for our teen daughters of the beauty and wonder of ourselves as women is welcome. This devotional offers affirming insight from the woman described in scripture and how each of their stories emphasize God's love for each of us.

To read more reviews click the banner above.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

'Tis the Season

Like sports, and life really, the dance world has it's seasons. For dance students that cycle typically includes performances in the winter and in the spring. The annual winter holiday schedule traditionally involves productions of the Nutcracker. The celebrated Nutcracker Ballet is performed by many studios and companies in Europe and across the U.S.

Our daughter dancer is involved again this year with some changes. New studio, new roles, new rehearsal schedule and a new timeline for our family. This year's participation requires rehearsals up until the weekend immediately before Christmas is celebrated. The timeline shift hasn't deterred our daughter, the six day a week dance demands are just part of her current schedule, even with the up-until-the-day-before Christmas Eve commitment. Our family adapts because we know the joy, being on that stage, brings her. And I have to admit, there is more than a little joy for me, as well, seeing her perform in this ballet.

2018 Nutcracker with the Chicago School of Ballet

The Chicago School of Ballet
presentsThe Nutcracker

From last year's Nutcracker post on November 17, 2017:

It may not seem like it's quite time yet. Thanksgiving hasn't even arrived. Here at our house, honestly, we haven't done much preparation for Thanksgiving yet, at all. The primary reason being, Adah's participation in the Hinsdale Ballet Theater's production of The Nutcracker. Presented the weekend before Thanksgiving, the show kicks off the holiday season for us now. The benefit to the dancers and their families of an early season Nutcracker, is that it affords us all the opportunity to relish the upcoming holidays after the production without the pressure of a performance looming.

Adah in rehearsals. View her Instagram profile. 
A brother observes a rehearsal.

Right now, however, the rehearsals are packed in and the show is about to begin. The three pre-Thanksgiving performances with the young artists begin tomorrow November 18, as they dance their way into the holiday season. Dancers from the Milwaukee Ballet will be dancing with them in these performances giving the young company members an exciting opportunity to learn from the accomplishments of others as they share the stage with professionals.

2017 Adah performed "Spanish" with
Milwaukee Ballet's, Isaac Sharratt
 Hinsdale Dance Academy

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Homeschool Review Crew Applications are Now Open

This year, I've had the opportunity to participate in the Homeschool Review Crew. The Homeschool Review Crew is one of the divisions of The Old Schoolhouse® which also includes a quarterly published magazine, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine and Schoolhouse Teachers which is an excellent on-line resource of self-paced classes for students and families. As a result of being on the Homeschool Review Crew, I have had the option to use and review products that we might not have tried otherwise. We have discovered excellent learning tools to use to our home school.

Each review was done after using the product with a student or students for a recommended period of time. Most here were done with my daughter, my current home school student. We have discovered useful curriculum and incorporated many new resources into our home school efforts as a result of doing the reviews.

There have been so many benefits to being a member of Homeschool Review Crew. An obvious one is the access to curriculum and products that I might not have tried otherwise. There have been side benefits beyond just added homeschooling materials. There is access to a supportive community of homeschooling moms and mentors via an online forum. Questions regarding products and reviews are welcome there, as well as, feedback for written reviews. 

Another added value for me has come from the increased writing that I have had to do. The external motivation that comes from a commitment with deadlines helps produce results! Being a part of "The Crew" has bumped up my writing confidence and my writing productivity. It has given me a group of supportive homeschooling moms who are also writing consistently and available for encouragement and information.

If you have any interest in participating, reviewing new products and improving your writing because you'll being doing more of it. Check out the info by clicking the banner below.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Balancing Diapers and Deadlines - A Course Review

Lisa Tanner is a writer, blogger, and work at home mom of eight children. She is a free lance writer and home schools her children. You can find her at Lisa Tanner Writing.
Balancing Diapers and Deadlines is one of the helpful courses she has created to share her knowledge of how to get things done. Based on her experience of running a business, while raising and homeschooling her children, she shares effective strategies to be productive and accomplish goals.

As a Homeschool Review Crew participant, I had the opportunity to take and review Lisa's course Diapers and Deadlines. For myself, with only young adults and a teen student still at home, our homeschooling responsibilities are coming to a close. I certainly don't have the needs of young ones to take into consideration anymore. However, the prospect of learning some time management skills from someone who manages to accomplish as much as Lisa, was enough for me to enthusiastically join in, on this one.

What Lisa has put together in this course is impressive! It is practical and encouraging. If your babies are grown, don't let the diapers in the title discourage you; this course is useful for anyone working from home. We can all use tools to help maintain balance in our work and home responsibilities, no matter the ages of family members. Presented in eight units beginning with an introduction and the basics, each unit includes 4-8 lessons within.

The Unit titles are:

Welcome to Balancing Diapers and Deadlines
Building Your Foundation with the Basics
Minimize Your Decisions
Minimize Your Decisions: The Annual Meal Plan
Sustainable Growth
Growing a Business with Your Kids Around
Boost Your Productivity
Closing Thoughts

In the study units, Lisa introduces overall concepts like; getting your family on board with your business, building a foundation and minimizing decisions. She describes how a concept applies to productivity and gives suggestions to address and complete tasks with examples of how an idea has worked for her family. She provides very doable action steps to use in your own situation. The lessons are sprinkled with sufficient reminders to be flexible and creative in applying them in your family.
"Planned fun helps with motivation." -
Lisa Tanner

If you have been homeschooling and/or working from home for a while, you might feel the pull, as I did at first glance, to quickly move through or even skip the units with titles that suggest lessons on the basics. After reading through a few lessons from the beginning, I began applying a few of the helpful action steps that followed. As a result, I started to evaluate some of my basic routines and my current situation in a new light. I am now in the process of returning to some routines that have fallen by the wayside and am completely overhauling others, most notably; meal planning.

One simple and basic I'm returning to was prompted by Lisa's 15 Minute Quick Clean. A time limited pick up/clean up is something I used when my children were small, to get them to participate. Reading her creative adaptation to the same idea sparked the renewal of this technique for myself. Along with the wonderful reminder to enjoy the process, put some music on! Why do I forget this? Might as well have a little fun and dance while cleaning up, even if (or now that kids are big) especially when, I'm cleaning by myself!

An example of a bigger overhaul in my routines, prompted by Lisa's course, falls under the concept of minimizing decisions. I see how we all get bogged down with too many daily decisions and how making as many as possible in advance can increase ones productivity tremendously. I'm on board with this and appreciate the suggestions Lisa gives about where to make decisions in advance.

The place I currently most want to minimize daily decision making, in my own life, is in the area of meal planning. Lisa understandably, gives meal planning it's own unit. The process of determining what's for breakfast, lunch and dinner on a daily basis, takes it's toll and frequently results in less than optimal nutrition for my family. I have done weekly meal planning off and on over the years. It is a task I don't enjoy and am truly overwhelmed by.

Just beginning, still overwhelmed
but, determined to give meal
planning another try.
Balancing Diapers and Deadlines provided the motivation, so with printable pages provided through the course, I'm diving back in. Lisa's example of a yearly plan, quite frankly, seemed crazy and impossible at first but, as I read through the lessons in the unit and printed out some of her examples, the idea started to fall into place. Having themed dinner ideas makes sense to me. It still allows for some flexibility and creativity while providing the needed structure to get it done and minimize daily decision making - leaving energy for productivity in other areas.

My current challenge is actually preparing for and adjusting to the many transitions our family is undergoing, finding focus for my own endeavors as we move into a new season of life. While we have our routines in this phase, the rhythms are changing which can make productivity a challenge. Lisa created this course to give info to moms and help them accomplish their goals while still caring for their families. She offers down to earth practical advice and suggestions for the necessary day to day basics that need to be accomplished for the healthy effective functioning of a family.

At first glance through the early units some of the lessons seemed too basic but as I progressed through the units, I also found myself returning to those basics. I reflected on and re-evaluated my current routines and how they are addressing the needs of family members and my own needs as I pursue a new and developing list of my own goals.

To read more reviews by Homeschool Review Crew 
of Lisa Tanner's Balancing Diapers and Deadlines Course, 
Click the banner below. 

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Just a Little Bit of Trick Or Treat

Last night, we juggled our usual annual family Halloween birthday dinner for my son with answering the door for costume adorned children chanting "Trick or Treat".

It is always a festive celebration for our family of our second born. It is typically, a similar atmosphere to what we experienced on the actual day of his birth, at home on Halloween two decades ago. Family togetherness interspersed with short sweet visits from happy little ones asking for treats.

Probably, like in most neighborhoods, it is hard to predict the amount of trick or treat traffic that will wander our sidewalks and climb the too big cement steps to our door. This year, we had a picture perfect fall day with the trees still full of color, a few leaves gently drifting to the pavement and lawns. The temperature was just right, not too cold, not too warm. It was beautiful fall weather and the little goblins responded. Trick or treat turn out was high. I wasn't as treat prepared as I should have been. As we celebrated at our family table, we took turns answering the door.

After dinner, I answered for one very large pack of small tricksters, in the midst of their visit, I ran out of candy. With a bowl completely empty in my hand, I got quite the look from one very small fairy princess. From her expression, I gathered that I must have been the dumbest witch she had ever laid eyes on. How could I have dared to answer the door! It probably didn't help my cause but, her glare did make me laugh out loud. I'll try to be better prepared for future Halloween festivities. I certainly hope I am in case the fairy princess rings my door bell as a preteen.
But it was the comment from the sidewalk in regards to the lack of candy, that made my Halloween evening. In a cheerful voice from the little boy in the ninja turtle costume, in a wheel chair, he shouted with a big smile, "That's o.k. Happy Halloween!" He melted my heart!

The lessons just keep comin'!
Happy November!