Friday, March 27, 2015

How Many Times Do I Have To Tell You? -- Book Tour and Review

How Many Times Do I Have to Tell You?

How Many Times Do I Have To Tell You? by Rachael Carman
(Apologia Educational Ministries, September 2014)

About the book:
You’ve probably said these things to your kids, but have you listened to what you’re saying?
“I remember the day you were born.”
“Turn down the music!”
“This is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you.”
“Hold my hand.”
Your heavenly Father wants to tell you many of these same things. Rachael Carman knows how noisy it can be when you’re raising children—she has seven! But this lovely devotional book will help you to hear God’s still, small voice amid the chaos of carpools, cut fingers, and carpet crawlers. You’ll learn how to recognize God’s instructions for you, even as you seek to follow His example as a parent.

About the author: Rachael Carman is an author and speaker for Apologia Educational Ministries. The wife of Davis and the mother of seven children, Rachael challenges parents to live by reckless, obedient faith. As a direct reflection of her heart's desire to encourage, inspire, and celebrate motherhood, Rachael also leads Real Refreshment Retreats, weekend events that energize and invigorate homeschooling mothers with meaningful worship and speakers plus practical encouragement for the homeschool journey.
Find Rachael online: websiteTwitterFacebook

My review: I'm going to be honest. This book stopped me in my tracks right away. From the title and introduction alone, I started searching my heart and examining the words that come out of my mouth when I talk to (or at) my kids.

Am I speaking words of love that reflect the way God speaks to me? Am I using words of grace? Or am I being harsh in a way that is inconsistent with my Father's love and guidance?  Reading How Many Times Do I Have To Tell You offered a bit of a course correction for me.  That wasn't even the author's intent with this book, it is more of a devotional and reminder of the Lord's messages to us, his children. But the Holy Spirit works in us to bring us back where we belong.

This book is full of short chapters, each about 5 pages long, starting with a familiar  "parent phrase". "Slow down!", "I love you.", "Share", "Now is not the time", "It doesn't matter what everyone else is doing.", "Where does it hurt?". Rachael then tells a personal anecdote, relates it to God and His love for us, and finishes with "a moment of introspection" with a few questions we can ask ourselves about how we are teaching our children and what message or inspiration God has for us as well. 

From words of love to words of wisdom, from words of caution to words of correction, author Rachael Carman reminds us that God, as our most loving Father, has these very words for us as well. Would it benefit you to be reminded that He remembers the day you were born? Children love to hear how excited their parents were to see them for the first time, and how much they are loved and wanted. Your Father in heaven wants you to know these things, too. We may need reminding to stay close, listen, rest, stop whining, be still, and trust. 

This book can comfort your heart with the reassurance of God's great love for you, and it can help you consider how you speak, listen, and live by God's grace. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Litfuse Publicity in exchange for my honest review. 

To purchase a copy of How Many Times Do I Have To Tell You?:

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Book Review: Let There Be Light

I recently received the board book Let There Be Light by Archbishop Desmond Tutu for review purposes.

The book takes little ones through the seven days of God's creation. The words chosen are warm, gentle and full of wonder at God's love and the wonderful things He made.  The illustrations by artist Nancy Tillman are beautiful. I especially love the way the art almost seems to sparkle, and the crowns the children wear in the book seem to glow. The book reassures little ones that God loves them and made a beautiful world for them to enjoy and take care of.  The final page simply says, "You are loved."  My 5 year old enjoyed this book as much as my toddler twins. Of course, the kindergartener gets more out of the creation story. The littles just like to roar at the lion and pretend to be elephants at this point, but they still enjoy it. 

The only thing that bothered me about this book - and I hesitate to even say it because I like the book so  much - is that the image representing God or God's power is a bright, glowing, sun-like orb that reminds me a great deal of the "eye of Sauron" from the LOTR movies.  I really hope the illustrator didn't intend to create such a similarity. I won't let that stop me from recommending the book though. It is sweet, magical, and reminds the smallest children of God's love.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Think We Have the Perfect Homeschool? Think Again!

I am going to admit something.  Our homeschool is not always what you see on this blog.  We have our fair share (I think more than our fair share) of bad days.  Days when things don't get done, the kids are distracted, we argue, I yell (yes, I'll admit that I yell - I'm not proud of it, but it happens).  

These things are not generally reflected on this blog. Why?  

I enjoy reading those other blogs that spill all the details. They make me feel more "normal". I like to laugh with those candid bloggers who can lay it all out there, warts and all, with humor or with emotion. But I'm not really one of those bloggers, and I'll tell you why. 

I struggle - really struggle - with negativity.  When things aren't going well, I sometimes say harsh words, I want to pack it all up and say forget it, we're done, I stink at homeschooling and homemaking and parenting and Christianity and everything else. In person, I make jokes about it, when I'm not crying about it. But on the blog, I have something that my kids and I can look back on and remember. That other people can look at and be inspired or just have something to smile about.  I want to post the best of us here. The best of me - when I've not failed my kids and we've had a good day. I want to post and share and look at those smiling faces, doing fun things, proud of their achievements. I don't want to post tears or snide remarks, because I feel that we have too many of them. Honestly, I feel like I'm failing my kids all the time, and sometimes it takes a positive post - a shared achievement - to feel like I'm doing a passing job with this homeschooling and parenting thing.

I just wanted to share that just because you see successful projects and smiling faces on this page, it doesn't mean we are always this way. It also doesn't mean I am trying to hide anything from you. It is that I have chosen to present our happy times to you, and to myself, because those are the times I want to celebrate and remember.  Let me encourage you that if you are having a rough time of it, you are not alone and it doesn't mean you should give up. Focus on the positive, do your best to change the negative, and persevere. This is not a sprint, it is a marathon. I'm running right there with you.

Friday, December 19, 2014

My New Phonics Graduate

My sweet Sunshine has finished The Reading Lesson and is declared "A Reader"!  

She is so proud. She has just realized she can read things that aren't in a leveled reader or phonics book. It's so fun to watch her pick up her kid magazines and read them herself, or listen to her read to the babies. 


Friday, December 5, 2014

St. Nicholas Day

Tomorrow, Dec. 6th, is St. Nicholas Day.  It is not celebrated much here in the U.S., but we were reading about the real St. Nicholas and decided to have a little fun along with our learning.

The girls made paper bag Saint Nicholas puppets with templates from the St. Nicholas Center
Click here for instructions

Hello, I'm Saint Nicholas.  Hello, I'm Saint Nicholas.

The girls will leave their shoes by the fireplace tonight with the expectation of a surprise tomorrow morning. The surprise will be golden chocolate coins, to commemorate the legend of Saint Nicholas secretly blessing a needy family with gold by leaving it in their shoes/stockings that were drying by the fire.

The girls know that Saint Nicholas is no longer living, and that he is the source of the Santa stories we enjoy today. We are not total bah humbugs about Santa, I just happen to like the real stories and then we "play along" from there, knowing that the man does not actually come down the chimney or bring all the good gifts on Christmas morning. 

If you decide to celebrate it, enjoy your St. Nicholas Day!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Book Review: Riley Mae and the Sole Fire Safari by Jill Osborne


The third adventure of Riley Mae, pre-teen shoe spokesperson, takes her to Kenya.  There, she learns about a different way of life, builds her character and faith, and faces danger and adventure.

My eight year old daughter is excited to read this series, and I am happy to give it to her.  The content is wholesome and is still fun and relevant to girls.  Riley Mae makes mistakes, she is not perfect, but she learns from them. I would recommend starting with the first book in the series, Riley Mae and the Rock Shocker Trek, to get the background on who Riley Mae is and how she found herself in this situation! This is a good choice for kids age 7-12.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the blogger book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Buy the book HERE

Monday, October 27, 2014

We Really DON'T Have To Do Everything Every Day

I have had an epiphany!

I have heard it for years from experienced homeschooling moms, and yet I never really took it to heart until this year.  We REALLY don't have to do everything every day. Really. They're still learning a lot.

This change of mind/heart/schedule may have come from switching up our curriculum choices a bit this year (see what we're using here). We were using a pre-planned curriculum (which I really enjoyed) but I found myself wanting to check off every box for every day's lesson plan. I'm not even a Type-A person, but seeing those boxes waiting to be checked gave me some angst.

This year we are doing things differently, possibly even doing less (I'm not sure we've done any history lessons yet this year) but we have such a happier household. Managing twin toddlers in addition to homeschooling two children, and dealing with some personal family issues has made this the Year of Letting Go.

I'm not an unschooler (yet), because I still love to buy curriculum, and I worry that my kids would only want to study magical princesses or unicorns for their entire school career. However, I have found ways to be flexible.  Some days we'll start at 8:30 and finish at 12:30.  Other days we'll go to the park or library in the morning and start school after lunch.  Some days we'll start at 9:00 and take three breaks plus lunch, and finish up somewhere around 4:00.  Once or twice I've even looked at my kids and said, "that's it, we're done, you need to get outside and play".  It has been SO freeing to not feel the need to check a box.  Even if I go back to a pre-planned curriculum, I am going to have to use it on my terms.

My homeschool planner isn't even a planner, really.  It is more of a record of what we have done after we have done it.  If there is something coming up that I don't want to forget, such as a holiday activity, I'll pencil it in.  Pencil it with real pencil, because I'm going to erase that sucker if my plans change.

The other day this dance party was happening at 10:00 a.m. because breakfast wasn't even ready yet. Ok, I'm not totally proud of that part, but the kids were having a great time and we still did everything I wanted us to do that day.

My kids are so much happier, and so am I.  We are enjoying homeschooling in the midst of our craziness. 

Now if only I could remember to blog about our experiences again, I can share some of our fun times. I've relaxed myself right out of blogging, it seems. Well, tomorrow is another day.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Book Review: Magnificent Tales: Treasury of Bible Stories

Treasury of Bible Stories, Kelly Pulley

About the book: Part of the Magnificent Tales series, Treasury of Bible Stories: Rhythmical Rhymes of Biblical Times will delight children ages 4–8 with rhyming Bible stories pairing spiritual truths with playful illustrations.  

Featuring lyrical stories full of lighthearted moments, this colorful collection of Magnificent Tales is perfect for reading out loud. As families read these stories night after night, they will make memories together while learning about the Bible.

About the author:  Kelly Pulley works from his middle Tennessee home writing and illustrating children’s picture books, most recently “Ten Unusual Features of Lulu McDunn” and “The Cycling Wangdoos.” He is best known for illustrating dozens of books in the Beginner’s Bible series, including “The Beginner’s Bible” (over 1.25 million copies sold).
Find out more about Kelly at
My review: My 5-year old enjoyed the illustrations and lilting rhymes of this Bible storybook.  It makes a fine supplement to Bible lessons, and is a fun bedtime read. I do think that it is so whimsical that a "real" Bible storybook is a must for little ones to really learn their Bible stories and understand that the people and events in the book were real, and that this is not just a collection of fun stories. I would recommend this book for Preschoolers and Kindergarten age kids.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Free Admission to Los Angeles Museums

I thought I'd share the Free Admission dates to museums around the L.A. area 2014-2015:

L.A. County Museum of Natural History Homeschool Days:

Image result for los angeles county natural history museum

November 12, 2014:  Excavating Our Past
February 5, 2015:  Fossil Fanatics
April 20, 2015: Bugs and Botany
June 17, 2015:  Art and Nature 

No preregistration required.  Just mention at the ticket counter that you are there for homeschool days and you get in free.
Click here to go to the NHM site

The museum also has free admission the first Tuesday of the month.

Page Museum (La Brea Tar Pits):
Get your saber-tooth fix for free on the following homeschool days

October 22, 2014: L.A. Underground
January 15, 2015: Bugs and Botany
March 20, 2015: L.A.'s Carnivores
June 5, 2015: Astounding Adaptations

No preregistration required.
Click here to go to the Page Museum site

California Science Center
Admission to the exhibit halls and over 100 exhibits is always free. You will pay for IMAX or to see the space shuttle Endeavour (though the shuttle fee is only $2 or free with the purchase of an IMAX ticket).

Griffith Observatory

Another location that is always free! If you're studying the solar system, you have to visit. There is a charge for the planetarium show, but there are plenty of things to see for free.

The Autry National Center of the American West

The Autry in Griffith Park

Free Tuesdays!  Every SECOND Tuesday of the month, admission is free. There is also free admission on New Year's Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and Presidents' Day.
The Autry National Center of the American West is all about the West: art and artifacts about cowboys, Native Americans, art of the West, and more.  There is a Family Gallery with hands-on exhibits, and kids can pan for gold on weekends (though weekends aren't free).

Historic Southwest Museum 

(part of The Autry but on a different campus) 
Always Free!  Featuring Southwestern Native American artifacts
Click here for the Historic Southwest Museum site

Skirball Cultural Center

Skirball Cultural Center entrance

The Skirball offers free admission every Thursday! This Jewish cultural center has art, artifacts, photographs, music, and theater events all about Jewish life.  There is a whimsical, hands-on Noah's Ark with life-size animals made of upcycled materials -- it is a must-see for little kids. Tickets are required for Noah's ark, in order to reserve a time slot, but they are no additional charge.

The Getty Museum
(Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades)

In this image of the Museum Entrance Hall we see how exterior walls of glass allow sunshine to illuminate the interiors.

Constructed in the early 1970s, the Getty Villa is modeled after a first-century Roman country home.

Admission to The Getty is always free.  The hilltop Los Angeles Getty museum is all about fine art, architecture, and their beautiful garden.  They have frequent family activities and festivals.  The Getty Villa - all about ancient Greece and Rome -  is also free, but requires a timed-entry ticket, available from their website.  Click here for more Getty info

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

LACMA has a NexGen program where children 17 and under are admitted free, along with one accompanying adult.  You need to sign up for this program, which you can do HERE 
Adults have to pay $15 regularly, but there is free admission the Second Tuesday of every month

Note: Be ready to pay for parking at any of these museums, generally $10-$15.  Check the museum calendar and ticket information before visiting, in case anything changes with their free admission dates.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Book Review: Conrad and the Cowgirl Next Door

Conrad and the Cowgirl Next Door is a Western-themed picture book for kids ages 4-8 with a Christian message about loving your "enemy".

Conrad is spending the summer at his uncle's ranch.  Conrad is no cowboy; in fact, he is more interested bandaging his stuffed animals with his Mega Ultimate Extreme First Aid Kit.  Accident-prone Conrad struggles in learning how to be a cowboy, and on top of that, has a know-it-all little neighbor, Imogene.  After several mishaps, Imogene teasing every step of the way, Conrad has a chance to return the rudeness when Imogene takes a fall.  Instead, Conrad shows kindness and forgiveness to Imogene.

This is a Christian book, and the back page has a note to parents about the parable of Conrad and loving his enemy (or, his annoyance).  There are several bible verses and discussion questions about Biblical character traits that parents can use to spark further conversation.

The illustrations are colorful and expressive. My 5-year old didn't understand some of the cowboy lingo ("greenhorns" and "tenderfoot", for example) and struggled a bit when we read things like "ain't botherin' you none"- I had to stop and explain.  Still, we enjoyed reading the book together and it had a good message.  What kid doesn't get teased sometimes?

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


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