Monday, May 22, 2017

Happy Homemaker Monday, and Exciting News!!!


Good morning!!
   Happy Homemaker Monday has quickly became my favorite post!  I enjoy taking this time to blog and to share, and to catch up on some friends who I have enjoyed following!  It's so neat to see this time in space for so many people in so many parts of the country!  Love it!
   And I do have some exciting news!!!! For those who have been following!!

    This Sunday my husband announced to the church he was serving as the youth minister, and has been for the past year that he was moving forward.  It was bittersweet.  We have been there over a year now, and grown close to many of the members there.  We have grown and been mentored and challenged.  The youth has been incredible, and my husband dearly loves them with all of his heart.  It's been a learning and growing time in our ministry, and we are so thankful that our journey here at the Bible college has included this time at the church, and thankful for all we've learned from it.
   However, our time at the church, as well as our time here at Fruitland, has came to an end.  

Monday, May 15, 2017

Happy Homemaker Monday 5/15/07

The weather:::
While we were out of town early last week the weather was really drastic.  It went from cool and in the upper 60s to a beautiful 80s the day we spent at the pool!  It was fantastic!   I've heard this week is going to feel like summer.  I am so ready for summer!  I think at least lol!

On my reading pile:::
   It's been a long, stressful few weeks without much reading at all!  A couple of nights ago my son and I began reading Desperaux, and usually even reading children's books can give me better focus and encourage me to read my own.  Planning on picking back up on Scarlett this week!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Having a Mary Heart

Luke 10:38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”
41 And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away

When God Closes a Door

Acts 16:6 Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. 8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. 9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

I’ve heard a million times, When God closes one door, he opens another.. and I’m sure you have too. Although that saying is not specifically in the Bible, this and other stories describe this exact statement, that closed doors to God are redirections.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Let them be children

   Brother is my early riser.  It's really hard for me to get out of bed before he does...  but I love it when he gets up.  I'm usually sitting in my chair by that time, bundled in a blanket and kindle in hand.  He comes into the living room, and he's sooooo affectionate.  He smiles so sweetly, and tells me good morning like just seeing me brightens his day.  I hope it does..  because just seeing him does mine...

 He cuddles with me and I wrap my blanket around him..  but he stirs quickly, as little boys do.  He loves to read books, so sometimes he climbs into our reading nook with his piles upon piles of Berenstain Bears and Pigeon books.  Other times he chooses a box out of his room filled with some of his favorite toys and brings those onto the table to play.  He plays, quietly for him..  and he thinks, and its one of the rare times we are alone so he can talk to me about what is on his mind and his heart.

 The other morning as I was getting back into my devotion, I heard his voice crack, almost in tears.  I looked up and asked what was wrong...   I gathered my boy, now with tears filling his beautiful brown eyes into my lap and rubbed his back, since that is his favorite..  and he answered...

Monday, April 24, 2017

Happy Homemaker Monday! 4/24/17

   I feel like we've been gypsies lately.  It's been a month now since we have had a full weekend at home.  On month, four hotel rooms, staying with 3 different families at their home..  its been full throttle for awhile now.  I really enjoy this linky party though, and am glad that I always find Mondays to realx, rejuvinate, and take some time to write.
   I love catching up on Mondays!  So here we go!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Easter Sunday 2017

   Easter Sunday was truly blessed for my family and I!  The Saturday before we enjoyed seeing my amazing cousin (who is more like my little brother than my cousin) marry his sweetheart Amanda.   Here are their engagement pics :)  I can't wait to share their wedding photos with you guys!
   Since we were already staying at my Mother-in-laws, at the last minute my husband asked someone to substitute for him for Sunday school and to our delight they agreed!  So we were able to stay another night and enjoy visiting a beautiful church in my hometown that has supported us So much while we have been here at Fruitland!  They have sent cards and letters, and helped us financially..  as well as prayer!  My mother in law said that the entire church prayed for us the Sunday that we were out of town at one of the churches considering my husband..  and that touched us.  It was wonderful to be able to personally thank the church for all they have done, and a blessing to spend the holiday with family as well!
   With the exception of my beautiful Lacey, who wore her Easter dress to the wedding, none of these outfits were the ones that we went shopping to get for our kids for Easter lol.  Since it was a last minute decision, we actually went out and my Mother bought these outfits for them Saturday night after the wedding, but I thought they still looked amazing!  Afterall, Easter isn't about bunnies or chocolate, or even pretty dresses....

Tea Cup and Mug Exchange 2017!

    A friend of mine who I follow on Happy Homemaking Mondays posted about the Tea Cup and Mug Exchange, and I was immediately intrigued!  Honestly friends, I feel like my life has been a mad rush for so long now!  Just a look at the photos of teacups somehow makes me just awaken that desire inside of me to slow down and just enjoy life a little longer, a little slower...  

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Duncans Do Disney: Epcot!

  Its been awhile since the rest of my Disney posts, its just hard sometimes to find the time to sit down and actually write a blog!  Epcot however was my favorite, and the last thing I wanted to do was rush through it!

    The most ironic thing about Epcot being my favorite park was that it was almost the park we didn't do!  Our original plan was to spend all day Thursday at the resort.  Then my sister and I stared doing fast passes and realized something that was just not going to go over well with my sweet little guy.  The meet and greets were all going well until we realized who was at Epcot...
       Princess Anna.  
   Sawyer is absolutely in love with Princess Anna.  Frozen is one of his favorite movies, and she is his favorite person in the world.  He has an Anna teddy bear from Build-a-bear.  Don't get me wrong, this cape-wearing, light saber yielding guy is all boy..  but there's a place in his heart with Anna in it, and nobody else fills that place!  Or even comes close!
   So Epcot was a go, and Frozen Fever was our first must- do ride!  We could not do a fast pass for this, so we planned to go early.  We did have to wait awhile, but this ride was SO worth the wait!  We also got the best ride photograph of all time.  Check out Hudson on the second row, lol.  Love it.  But the ride was really incredible, something that everyone should do!

Happy Homemaker Monday 4/17/17

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter!!!
   I'm writing late this week!  We were out of town all weekend for a wedding, then my sweet sister and her babies came to visit Monday, so its Tuesday, but I still wanted to join the linky this week.  
  Say a prayer for my family!  My husband is preaching at two churches the last two weekends of this month, and we are seeking Gods will in his ministry.  Remember us in your prayers!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Happy Homemaker Monday

Hello there!  I'm writing late, again!
   But I'm excited to join this weeks linkup!  Better late than never!

The Weather...
  Amazing!  It was in the 70s today!  We had a full day of shopping in the sun at the outlets and it was amazing!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Finding a Math Curriculum that works!!!


  Math.  Not my favorite subject.  Not even close.   When I was in school, I never remember enjoying math.  I did get into the higher math classes in high school somehow, but still struggled when I was in college.  No, math was never my strong suit, nor was it something that I really enjoyed teaching.
   When it came to homeschooling my kids, naturally math was one area that I was never overly confident in.  Math in the lower grades was easy breezy.  Then we began 7th grade math.  Yikes....
   We started 7th grade math with Life of Fred.  That was working really well for my elementary age daughter, so we began with Fractions and Decimals just to make sure we covered all of the ground that I needed too.  About 2/3 of the way through Fractions I realized it wasn't working.  Even worse, I was having *so* much trouble explaining exactly what was going wrong.  Homeschooling two other kids made it even more difficult to take the time I needed to reteach myself how to do math...  I really needed some help!

Finding an online math curriculum seemed like the best choice!

   With something online it actually walked my daughter through the lesson, and if she had any questions it was easier for me to learn how to do the classes myself.  It took the troublesome work out of trying to follow through, or in the case of Fred, reading several chapters myself.  She was quickly moving ahead of me in her knowledge of math, and I simply didn't have time to catch up!

   We began teaching textbooks, not an online program, but one that has teaching CD's available.   This curriculum was okay, but that's all that could be said about it.  We then moved forward to Math-u-See which had became the favorite math course for my younger children.  However, I know from my years as a homeschool Mom that curriculum is very rarely a one size fit all, and when it came to Algebra in Math-U-See, it was neither loved nor disliked, but we were still lacking in certain areas.  Some areas my daughter was scoring great in, then in others she just still wasn't understanding.
    I had the opportunity to review Mr. D's Math curriculum for compensation, and I'm glad that we asked to do so!

   I had never heard of Mr. D's math before we reviewed this product.  Most likely because this is an upper-level math curriculum, and this was honestly our first year actually diving into Algebra.

Finding a Math curriculum that works

    The very first impression I had of Mr. D's math was an amazing one.  Mr. DeNoia personally conversed with me before we began the course.  He was very polite and approachable!  Before we even began the courses my daughter I and I felt like we were on a friendly basis with Mr. D!  He even mentioned that during his teaching in a public school system he had a student that shared the same name as my daughter.  How awesome that he would remember!  I was thankful that was very polite and easy to relate too, as that works very well for my daughter.  We began the self-paced version of his math curriculum, and both of us were just blown away by how wonderful it was!!!

Finding a Math Curriculum that works

   Mr. D is totally practical in his explanation of how Algebra works.  It is very much on a common sense level that actually, and finally makes sense to both of us!  He really breaks down the complicated parts of Algebra into terms that we can actually understand, like the video above of Skipper and how language is different to us as it is to dogs..  just like Math language is different than common language.

Finding a Math Curriculum that worksFinding a Math Curriculum that Works

    The layout of the program is by far the most simple of all of the math programs that I have tried to this point!  It's so easy to navigate the lessons and assignments, and all of the grades are so easy to access and understand!  I absolutely love how simple the navigation of this course is!  And how neat and organized!  I'm a big fan of having something in a very approachable manner, and we both love how easy this was to learn, and easy to continue!

Finding a Math Curriculum that works

     This course has absolutely taken all of the headache away from me as far as teaching math effectively!  We were also invited to take one of Mr. D's live weekly online courses, and I have to say it was fantastic!!!  Mr. D teaches small groups of students in a co-op fashion, and knows his students personally.  There is a window where you can see him and hear him teach, a window with an on-screen white board so you can see him actually working out the problems by hand, and another where students can talk to Mr. D privately or as a group, and he responds to the questions during the live session.  Students can also 'raise their hand', which was absolutely fantastic.  Lacey really enjoyed this part of the course, and although at this point they were ahead of where she was (the live online classes begin the week of August 21!)  she still understood a lot of what was being taught, and was very interested in taking the live classes!
    Mr. D also offers Extra Help courses online as well!  This is fantastic for any student who is struggling!  Absolutely, without a doubt this is the math curriculum for us!  It takes the hard work out of my hands and into the capable hands of Mr. D, who is awesome at math and at explaining it to teens!

Homeschool Classes offered by Mr. D

    Algebra isn't the only course offered by Mr. D's math!  Your student can join the classes for:
  • Pre-Algebra
  • Algebra I
  • Geometry
  • Algebra II
  • Pre-Calculus
  • SAT Math Bootcamp
  • ACT Math Bootcamp
  • Life Skills for Teens 
   One of the other unique classes offered are the intensive summer courses!  In 11 weeks your teen can complete a full credit math course!!  I believe this would be wonderful for a teen who is falling behind due to lack of a complete math curriculum in the past!  We have considered doing this if time would permit!  This would be a great way to get a full credit in during the summertime as well!

   Still wondering just how this math works?  You can check out Mr. D's Math's YouTube page to see some sample classes!  

   Mr. D's math has truly been a lifesaver, and I'm thankful that we discovered this during Algebra! I'm excited that this math curriculum will be a part of our curriculum for the rest of the time that we are highschooling!  I'm very thankful for Mr. D's math, and even more thankful that my daughter has learned to love math!  That will certainly make her education a lot more enjoyable for her!!
  Thank you Mr. D!  We are so glad that we met you!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Disney: The Magic Kingdom!!!

  I've been sharing our amazing vacation at DisneyWorld! here on my blog.  It's been a slow process in sharing!  A week after we left Disney our family traveled all the way to the other side of the state for my husband to preach at a church in Columbia NC, so we had just returned and unpacked when we packed up and left again!  It was a wonderful experience, but I've had to struggle to return to something normal lol!  So eventually I will get a chance to share all of our trip!
   On to the Magic Kingdom!!!

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Duncan's Do Disney: Hollywood Studios

   I remember visiting this park as a teenager back when it was MGM.  I remember the Aerosmith Rollercoaster being fantastic, and the Tower of Terror scaring me to pieces...  but I also remember it not being one of my favorites.
   Then, Disney bought Star Wars..  and this Sci-fi fan, who was going as C3PO to Halloween when I was five fell in love with Hollywood studios and it became a tie for my most favorite Disney park!!!

Chewie!  We're HOME!!! lol

The Duncan's Do Disney: The Animal Kingdom!

   Monday was our early morning magic hours for Animal Kingdom.  I was excited because out of all of the parks, Animal Kingdom is the only one I've never been too before!  I didn't remember Epcot because I was so young, but at some point in my life I had visited all of the parks except for the Animal Kingdom, so I really didn't know what to expect.
   I read so many times that it was the 'half day park', and the smallest.  We chose this for Monday partly because of magic hours but also because we knew that we would be tired from the trip on Sunday and we could use an easy park to get through and enjoy.  Nonetheless, we were exited to see what it had to offer!  

  I have to mention, the process of entering the park has been made about a thousand times easier with the magic bands coming into play! My best advice about this is just remember the finger that you used on the first day lol!  This isn't just for show, you actually have to use the same one or it will not work, and you have to use the same one if you scan your small children's bands as well.  It took a little juggling for me to get used too, but once we got it, it was an easy breezy way to get into the parks!

Pretty much immediately after getting into the park we found Russel!  Sawyer is a really big Up! Fan!  We met him at the entrance way and he took them on a small 'wilderness explorer' journey before going to his 'meet and greet' station.  We looked at the monkeys, he showed them the trail, and then we went to officially meet him at his wilderness explorer club!  He was fantastic!  Hudson's Miami dolphins shirt made for an impromptu football game between him and Huddy, which Hudson was thrilled about!  the kids were SO excited!  Look at their big smiles!!!  

The Duncan's Do Disney: The Art of Animation Resort!

    Ten years ago my Mom had a conference with the sheriffs department that took place at Disney's Coronado Springs resort, so my sister, Callie and I went along for the trip.  Here's some of the pics, actually!  It was my first time at a Disney resort and it was incredible!!!  I also remember when I worked at Grandfather Mountain as a teenager, we always had someone from Disney come to do our hospitality training.. because if there is one thing Disney does best, its hospitality!  I loved every moment of being at the Disney resort, and really wanted the rest of my kiddos to experience it as well!  My husband had also never had the pleasure of a Disney resort stay, so I was so excited to share this with all of them!!
   A few years ago Disney opened the Art of Animation resort, and the year that it opened (2014!) I remember thinking that we HAD to go there!  As we planned our trip, this was one of the things that we considered a staple in our vacation this year!
   We originally looked at Nemo but we settled on Lion King.  The reviews said that this was the one that was closest to the bus stop, and located between Nemo and Cars, so the pools were an easy walk.  We were not disappointed!
   The decor of the rooms were fantastic!  We also LOVED the fact that there were two bathrooms! We don't even have two bathrooms in our apartment right now lol!  On top of that, it was so amazingly clean and comfortable!!!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Winter Photo Catchup

  I haven't posted here in this blog in awhile!  The months of January and February, I spent working hard on my new blog- Intentional Mommyhood.  It really is starting to take off, and that's so exciting!  I've enjoyed so much meeting new people, finding out about affiliates and working with some companies..  and enjoying some exciting new homeschool products through companies that I'm networking with.  It's been fast and exciting and I've loved every moment of it!
   Because I was spending a lot of time on the other blog I decided for a minute to start using my other blog for my family entries as well.  But there's just something about that I don't like.  I am not sure, its just really strong on my heart to keep my families photos private, but there are a handful of you (those who got the invitation to read at least!) who I do think enjoys updates on our little family every now and then!
   I do have a lot of updates, including some amazing Disney Pics!  I shared some on instagram, but I want to share alot more on here!  I also have a lot of updates about ministry to talk about, so stay tuned for that!  For now I want to share some pics and catch up on whats been going on in our family this past winter!  So enjoy the pics, and come back tomorrow for some updates and some Disney fun!!!!
  OH!  And since I had to get a new look for my photography blog I decided to share it with this blog.  Tell me what you think!!!

January:  We got to spend some time at the Build a Bear store and use all of the cards that my kiddos got for Christmas!  They enjoyed it, and Sawyer got his own Anna bear.  Yes, I said Anna, as in from Frozen.  He adores her!!!  

Friday, March 17, 2017

Thoughts on Gatsby

  It's no surprise to anyone that I have a great love for classic literature.  You know, the stuff they forced you to read in your high school english class?  You may not know that I originally began college with full intentions of becoming and English teacher.  Before it was over I had sold out those dreams to journalism to obtain a Bachelor of Science rather than art degree.  All because I wanted to graduate faster, and didn't want to pursue any more foreign languages.  Oh, how youth is wasted on the young, right?
   Sometime in my late 20s I fell in love with classic literature, and that's what I've been reading the past few years.  I finished Gone with the Wind last month, and during the time I was patiently awaiting the arrival of Scarlett from Thriftbooks I picked up Gatsby, a short novel and a quick and easy read from what I remembered.   I wasn't disappointed, and I was really intrigued by the things that of course, my high school mind didn't pick up on the first time I read Gatsby all those years ago.

   Something that stuck out to me that I deemed blog worthy was the ending.  *Spoiler Alert!* If there's anyone in the whole wide world that hasn't read Gatsby, watched one of the movies, or at least read your Sparknotes for your 9th grade English class, stop reading now!  LOL.  Hey, there may be one person in the world still yet that doesn't know how The Great Gatsby ends!  If you do know, please continue with me :)

     Gatsby was known for hosting glittering parties where hundreds of people attended.  The best of the best.  The richest of the rich...  and also just the average person who just happened upon the party and wanted to be a part of it all.  I remember in the early part of the story, Nick was wandering around listening to others talk about Gatsby.  It was funny to him that there were all of these people..  literally hundreds of people- enjoying his hospitality, his food and drink- yet they didn't know him at all.  They even gossiped about him, in his own garden, while enjoying the party.  None of them really knew anything about Gatsby aside from the fact that he threw glorious parties and they all just had to be a part of it.
    When Nick finally got to know Gatsby, he realized there was so much more to this man than what they all talked about, and he really grew found of Gatsby.  In his end, Gatsby's life was ended protecting the woman that he loved, and Nick was there for the funeral.  To his surprise and mortification, no one was there.

“At first I was surprised and confused; then as he lay in his house and didn’t move or breathe or speak, hour upon hour, it grew upon me that I was responsible, because no one else was interested--interested, I mean, with that intense personal interest to which every one has some vague right at the end.”

   It hit me so hard for some reason, the night that I ended the book.  All of those people, all of those parties.  They all wanted to be a part of what Gatsby was offering, yet no one really cared.  Gatsby had made himself into a person who people wanted to know, yet they never really knew him at all.  His connections were all superficial, every single one of them.  Nick alone was in his 'inner circle' and knew who he was and where he was from, and just knew him as a person.  No one else in all of the time, all of the glitter and all of the parties had taken time to get to know the real person.
   Unfortunately, when I stared really thinking about this it brought me to the way that life is lived lately.  We all live our lives at a fever pace.  We are always so busy!  Isn't that crazy, that everyone is so tired and we do so little?  We always have this place to go or that place to go, but I think its more of the business that we involve ourselves in that makes our life so chaotic.  The hundreds of status updates we read everyday.  The hundreds of pictures that we scroll through on instagram.  Even blogs seem so flashy and busy nowadays.  Long written blog posts are simplified down to a post with a lot of bold headings, lists of 10 ways to clean your house or 7 ways to homeschool your kids, not to mention the pop ups that need your email address, the giveaways that you can only join if you follow that person on pinterest, twitter and instagram, and the ads...  ohhh all of the ads!  And plenty, I'm saying plenty of #followme #quoteme #tweetthis hashtags!  We are so busy!  So short, so brief and so, so busy!
   In all of this busyness I ask you.  How many people really know you?  Or how many people are simply hovering around your party, enjoying your hospitality through your giveaways or status updates and photos of your kids doing everything under the sun, yet they know absolutely nothing about you?  How many of your followers even know where you live, or what your favorite book is?  More than that, what do they know of your testimony?  What God has done personally in your life that has brought you where you are today?  Do you have friends or simply party guests who like to think they know you, but are honestly just taking advantage of your tendency to host grand parties and put your home on display for their pleasure?
    In the past year or so I've decided I don't want to be that friend anymore.  Getting rid of social media was the first step in humanizing my life.  If I was going to get to know someone, I wanted it to be on their terms.  I wanted to converse with them and let them tell me who they are and what they are all about, rather than stalking their status updates and finding out what they were willing to let the world know.  If someone wanted to allow me into their lives and send me pics of their kids, they would do that without social media.  I have found that the number of true 'friends' I have is a lot lower than I thought back in my days of thousands of followers on social media, but I've also found out that it doesn't take much thought to know who really cares about me, who really knows me, and who isn't interested.  It was a long process, and honestly a painful one..   but nonetheless, it separated those who were my friends from those who were my party guests, and I'm thankful for that!
   Some of my friends are you, my faithful followers who read the words that I say and follow me from blog to blog..  and I thank you for that.  Some are those who text me from time to time, and just make a point to involve themselves in my life.  I truthfully hope that I have been that person to a few people, even if in their busyness they have failed to notice my effort.
   That is also my newly adopted approach to blogging.  I don't want to be that person who sells out to PR in order to get free products.  Sometimes I do add affiliate links but its for something that I've used and deeply believe in, and normally something I've purchased myself!  I don't ever want to be that blogger that peddles something just for the sake of selling it.  I don't ever want to share photos of my kids doing things they don't want to do for the sake of a blog post.  I feel thats exploitation.  I don't ever want to gain followers by giving things away for the sake of a following, for those people aren't real friends or fans.  I want to be genuine.  
   I have moments where I look at this blog world and think that I should be different.  I'm a ministers wife, shouldn't I spend more time shelling out Bible studies and less time talking about the Great Gatsby?  But that's who I am.  I do enjoy bible studies and do desire to share those with you, and should share more often..  but I also look for lessons in every single thing in life..  from books I read to moments that I experience, I enjoy gleaning from every aspect of my life.  I want you to know me, and if you follow, I want you to follow because you like what I have to say and would like to have a conversation with me.  Not because you want a new mixer :)
   Dear blogger please dont' feel like I'm throwing knives at you!  I just wanted to share my thoughts and my heart.  I feel like there's so many bloggers out there with something significant to say, and they are allowing their hearts and thoughts to get lost in the stream of who they 'should' be, of who they want to appear to be on the outside..  or simply the busyness of writing a blog and advertising it on 7 different social media platforms.  Blogging wasn't meant to be that way!  It wasn't meant to be as insignificant as a paid advertising on channel 2.  It was meant to put the good in you out there into the world, so that others may learn and grow from what you have to offer!
   I love Jay Gatsby, and feel too that I've fallen into the mistake of becoming who the world wants me to be rather than who I really am under all the razzle dazzle.  I just thought this would be something fun to share with all of you out there, who are really trying to get to know me.  There you go!
  Also, you can play The Great Gatsby game from NES online!  Haha!  It's so fun!  Although I have gotten killed by the butlers more times than I would like to admit :)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Thankful Thursdays

I'm joining It's a Small Town Life for Thankful Thursday this week!

This Thursday I'm joining a new linkup, which is Thankful Thursdays!  
      One of the most important parts of my prayer life is my gratitude journal. I find that if I go into prayer first by thanking God for all of the things that he has done for me that it enhances my prayer life.  So today I wanted to take a moment and share with everyone what I am thankful for!

   This week I'm thankful for my husband.  We are going on a very special vacation next week, and last time I was on this vacation I didn't have him with me.  We were married, but our marriage was broken and hurt.  I remember watching the Disney parade and looking at the families standing nearby.  I had sunglasses on so no one noticed me cry, I sat there with my children, babies at the time, and looked at those families longing to have that.  I never thought I would be there again..
   Next week I'll be there once more with a man that God has taken and completely transformed.  My husband is now the man that I prayed he would become, and more.  He is an amazing husband and father, and a spiritual leader on top of that.  Now we are all going together, and we have more kids in tow this time!  Our life has changed 100 percent since that day I sat alone on the sidewalk.  It makes me emotional to think about it, but this year, he will be by my side, with my baby on his shoulders.  I have to remember my sunglasses, because I know I'm going to cry..  but these tears will be happy ones!  
   I'm thankful that today, I have the things that yesterday I prayed for.
   I'm so thankful for the life he has given me.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Hands-On Ancient History with Project Passport

     In all of our history of homeschooling, which comes to a total of about six years (Wow! How did that even happen!) we have focused primarily on American History. If I'm going to be honest with you, it's because that is simply what is in my comfort zone. It's a far smaller span of time to study than the ancient civilizations, and in all honesty, it's what I learned the most about in my education. However, we are certainly coming to the end of our American history lessons, and as my kids get older they become more fascinated and curious about other areas of the world. So I think it's safe to say it's time to revamp our history curriculum to give them a broader view of the world around us!

    We have done a lot of dry curriculum. I really wanted to try something different. My kids are very hands-on learners, which is why so many of our curriculum choices work so well! However, I'm not great at planning and putting things into words myself, and need a good curriculum that's capable of basically drawing it all out for me. I love it when it takes the work away and tells me exactly what to do. Especially with multiple homeschoolers on different grade levels, it's important that I have enough time to dedicate to each learner. So this is what I was looking for as I began my search for some sort of world history program.

    When we were given the opportunity to try and review the Ancient Greece project from Homeschool in the Woods, I was just as excited as my kids were about stepping outside of my comfort zone to learn about something completely new to us! Where better to start in world history than at the very beginning, learning about ancient civilizations! So we received the hands-on Project Passport: Ancient Greece, and we were ready to begin!
disclaimer: I was given the product for free in exchange for an honest review of the product itself! However that did not affect my response written about the product. It really is amazing!!  Post also includes affiliate links!

   When we first began our life here at Bible College, I remember penning in my prayer journal that I really wanted God to impress on my heart a desire to know better the scriptures. I spent the first year praying that, and feeling like I was running on survival mode. In the beginning of the year, I resolved to be more intentional, specifically that I would get serious about knowing the scriptures and what they held, and began praying more fervently about this. We began a new bible study on campus which led us to read a book by Jen Wilkin called 'Women of the Word" At the same time, my Sunday school class began studying "Open Your Bible", which is another bible study focused on studying your Bible! So God is answering my prayers, and really impressing on my heart a desire for Biblical literacy like I've never had before.

   What does this have to do with an Ancient Greece study? A lot, actually! It is so important to have a basic understanding of ancient civilizations so we can better understand the scriptures. I remember in my study I read that Luke, which was believed to have been written around 60-61 AD, was written toward the Greeks. The introduction, dedicated to Theophilus (God's friend) opens this up. Also throughout the gospel you can see traces of Grecian style and vocabulary throughout the book. This was the moment that I realized that aside from the study of Greek Mythology in a literature class or two, I don't remember anything about the ancient civilizations. This is unfortunately, because this was the time period in which much of the scriptures were written about. So to understand these civilizations would be to better understand scripture!

   With this in mind, I was excited to begin this study and allow my kids into a world that I had never ventured, and pretty excited to try it out for myself as well!

Getting Started with Passport to Ancient Greece!

    Now to be honest, when I first opened up the project I was slightly overwhelmed! It seemed like so much prep work would go into this, and I wasn't sure I was up to the task. I'm so glad that I decided to put aside my fears and go on with this program!

    The study is available either on CD's you can order or by online download. We received both for this study. For some reason I had a lot of issues with the downloaded version. I'm not sure if it was just a personal issue or what, but I much preferred the format of the CD's. It's completely possible that it was a user error, as I find that I'm still familiarizing myself with my chromebook, but even putting the issues aside, I still loved the format that the CD version offered. On the CD's, the program is laid out in a very easy-to-understand format that made putting this curriculum together far easier! Also, I was less overwhelmed by the bright instruction page with the easily organized menus than I was an unzipped folder with all of the items listed in it. Either one of them would be easy to figure out with enough time, but I really liked the CD's better personally.

Before getting started, the first things that you need to get everything set up are;

   The program CD or downloaded version of the program, printer paper, ink (quite a bit!) colored card stock, tape, white card stock, and binders with a clear cover. At least one binder for your Guide book (your teacher's manual) and binders for each student to make their 'Scrapbook of Sights' which will contain all of the work that they complete in this project.

      This is very important, please remember this! Before you do anything at all with the program, print the instructions! I began just looking at the pdf files and printing all of them out... (note... I admittedly don't follow directions well and tend to jump in feet first on projects. This is my downfall and I'm working on it!) and I wasted quite a bit of time, not to mention ink and paper in doing so. If you print the instructions first, they are very clear on what to print, when to print it, and what sort of paper you will want to print it on to get the best results! Some files are best printed on cardstock so they are easier to color, or so that the paper won't fold when pasted (they think of everything!!) Others are okay to print on paper, and in some cases (such as the teacher's kit) you aren't required to print them at all, if you are okay with using the disk to double check as the work is being done. I wish I would have started this to begin with!

    Don't be overwhelmed, the instructions are very clear! Incredibly so, and probably more than in any other curriculum I've used before! It's far less overwhelming and certainly exciting to read through the directions! This is an important step in enjoying the program and not getting in over your head! Remember this!

    To be completely honest with you, I struggle with something that has a lot of instruction to it. I never did well with the Abeka curriculum that so so so many homeschool families used flawlessly, just because there was so much instruction and I got so wrapped up in it it just overwhelmed me. That certainly was my thought going into this! I also prefer something very simple because as a homeschooling Mom of three and a toddler, I really didn't want to have something that would take me a long time to understand, and just from looking I imagined that was what I was getting myself into.

    I could not have been more wrong! 
    The format of the directions is sooo incredibly clear and simple. Anyone could do this and understand it! It's so easy and complete! Take it from a Mom who gets overwhelmed easy, this is so worth it! As long as you are willing to follow directions, this is a very easy curriculum to put together.

     What we LOVE about this program!

    Besides the clarity of the instructions, there are so very many things that my family loves this program!

   One of those things is that it makes me one of those awesome crafty Mommies that I've always wanted to be without any research on my part! Haha! You know, those projects that take hours of pinterest to plan, just because you're just -so not that crafty person? Nope! Not any longer! These projects are written out so simply for you. Take it from the Mom who doesn't even like to put together the simple science experiments (trust me those were not written for the crafty people, however I still struggle with them) This is even easier than that! I've struggled forever just knowing how to put a lapbook together.. so my crafty curious kids were so unbelievably excited when I pull out the colored pencils, glue sticks, scissors and card stock for our history lesson! For us, this has been a match made in Heaven! Or Olympus, if you will- :-)



     We started out our passport adventure by making a passport and a suitcase to tuck away neatly all of our travel gear! I also prepared ahead of time my main "textbook", the "Guide book to Ancient Greece" The program consist of printing everything from the teaching guides, the lesson text, and the travel pages to the cover page! No effort to be creative on your part necessary! Perfect for me!

   The lesson plans cover rich lessons in Greek culture, such as everyday life, commerce, science, medicine, philosophy, arts, religion, warfare, and much more! It also covers geography, history and notable figures from the time period. Each of these lessons is listed in an itinerary, conveniently 'stopping' at each area!

                                                  Sister Modeling her suitcase, complete with a cute luggage tag!

            Colored pencils make coloring the tiny details much easier! This is recommended, although not required.

Sister still prefers crayons :)

How we are using this program in our Homeschool

    There are lots of ways that you can implement this program into your homeschool journey! The "Length of stay" that is found in the beginning of the itinerary is 6-12 weeks. There are 25 stops on your journey, and honestly you can customize this to fit your homeschool however you see fit! Some of our "Stops" have taken us more than one school day to complete, and we are using it twice a week (we alternate history and science, focusing on history on Monday and Wednesday and science on Tuesday and Thursday) so it will take us a little longer than 12 weeks to complete. However, some stops are not as long as others, so we may be finished in a shorter time, but I'm allowing at least 24 weeks just to be safe. This means we will be breaking up the curriculum to span into next year, which I'm completely fine with! This is a rich program with so much information, so much supplemental material to be found, and lots, lots and lots of activities! You could certainly make this work however it fits with your family!

When I first arranged our folders, I placed the daily text followed by the daily itinerary in my Guide book. This works well for me, since I thrive on organization. I found it works best for me to print out the daily work ahead of time and arrange it in a folder for each child and slip this into the front pocket of their Scrapbook of sights. At the beginning of each lesson we read the text (which is also well-written and interesting, and not too long!) then the kiddos open their folder to find what we will be working on for the day. This is always exciting because it is always a hands on activity, such as a postcard or a newspaper, a lapbook or a printable coloring page! There are so many fantastic different and exciting activities to do with this project, and its so customizable you can choose which projects to do, and which ones you want to skip over!



    To make this project even more customizable, there are fantastic resources listed in this book! So honestly it can be customized however you would see fit! You could expand or shorten this curriculum however you need to fit your own personal needs!


    It's also questioned about the age group that this study is appropriate for. It is listed from 3rd to 8th grade. Some of the activities would be far too difficult for my 1st grader, but I am confident that you could tone down some of the lessons and activities and easily make this work for younger siblings who want to tag along! However, we normally don't get around to this lesson until after 2:30, and my early-to-rise Brother has certainly finished with his daily individual work, and is very ready to surround himself in the floor with legos! So normally I allow him to play or color while the older kids work on this project.

    It is a perfect fit for my 4th grader, but with extra supplemental material I also plan to make this work as a high school half-credit for history! Along with the supplemental reading material and some other studies, I believe this will be a great addition to her transcript! It certainly will give her the time needed to use as a credit with all of the work that goes into this. I know that she's learning a lot, because I am learning a lot, and we are absolutely loving it!

    We are so excited that we have had the opportunity to review this project, and will certainly be keeping it and going along with the rest of the program! There are also other fantastic programs that go along with Home School in the Woods! This is the newest addition to some wonderful curriculum choices offered by this company! Some of the other studies on ancient civilizations available are...

and Ancient Rome will be available in 2018! 

    This is a great curriculum for everyone! If you're a history junkie, or just someone who wants to learn more about the Ancient civilizations and has no idea where to start, consider Home School in the Woods! My experience with this program has been absolutely fantastic, and I can't wait to continue on this journey!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Springtime Study with Eric Carle

   Isn't it great when two of your favorite things come together to make one!  You know, like peanut butter and chocolate, or the sand and the ocean...  or particularly this week, books and springtime!!!
   We have enjoyed fantastic weather here in western NC the past week, and although its still 'winter', it feels so much like spring!  Easter Lilly's are blooming along the road, there's the chirping of birds to wake me up in the morning.  Springtime feels like its here!  And although there may be a few more cold, and perhaps even snowy days remaining, we know that spring is just around the corner!
  How better to celebrate than some amazing spring books!!!

   Eric Carle has been one of my favorite artists since I was a child.  I remember fondly watching Reading Rainbow in those early years and being fascinated by his use of color and paint techniques to fill a space.  A modern-day artist, with incredible talent!  And yes, I say artist, because although he is a fantastic author of children's books, he's equally as talented with his color and illustrations.  I just love Eric Carle, and his bright artwork makes his books standalone works in children's literature to be loved through the ages!

    This week I unpacked some of our favorite Eric Carle books and visited our local library in search of some more.  I wanted to pour this artist into my sweet kiddos, and for them to enjoy every moment of it!  The bold colors, the fantastical stories about the smallest parts of nature that they will soon be outside enjoying!  We were all excited about this study, these books, and the artsy stuff to go along with it!
   The first book we chose was little Hero's favorite book ever.  The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

   We also had an extra special treat!  I found a youtube video of Eric Carle himself reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar!  My kiddos especially loved hearing this!

Next we began on our craft for the story!

   Bella is an artist, so we keep a lot of acryllic paints on hand.  We are very fond of the Apple Barrel paints that we get at Walmart for only .50 cents a piece!  I also picked up some paper plates to use for some of our other crafts, and we used those as our palletes.  For this project though, we didn't use paint brushes, we used a chopped up potato!

We made green circles for his body, and a red circle for his face! 
While we were waiting on our heads and bodies to dry, we enjoyed watching the Very Hungry Caterpillar on Netflix!

 We finished up our project with a fine paint brush to give him eyes and antena, and we have some very hungry cateripllars!!!

Our next fun spring book we visited was the Grouchy Ladybug

My kiddos laughed and laughed at this book as the grouchy ladybug crosses the land to find somebody who wants to fight with him!  But in the end, he becomes more friendly and finds the friendly ladybug was willing to share all along.  Such a cute book, with fantastic colors and vivid animals!  We loved it!
We used our same potato stamp paint method to make a page of ladybugs!

    For our last book this week, we read the Tiny Seed!

For this project we took out the paintbrushes, and painted a scene of a sky and land onto a paper plate!

Next, we added painted popsicle sticks for stems, and silk flowers that I picked up at Walmart onto the plates!

Now I have some beautiful spring gardens to hang on my wall!!!

   Please come back next week as we study more of Eric Carles work!  Next week we will be reading the Very Busy Spider and the Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse, learning to paint like Eric Carle, and learning a bit of art history on the inspiration behind Carle's work in the Blue Horse book.  I can't wait!  Hope you'll come back!  

Join me and my friends over at the iHomeschool Network to find out some fun spring book ideas!

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