This Month's Featured Resources...

Explore the 50 States
ChristmasHistory Bundle Christmas Latin Latin Calendar

Friday, November 24

Black Friday Book Bonanza (giveaway hop)

A few new books, and a brand new book giveaway!

A Prairie Girl's Faith (Stephen Hines)
A Prairie Girl's Faith provides the first extended, in depth discussion of the Christian faith of one of America's most beloved pioneer women--Laura Ingalls Wilder. Although the faith of the Ingalls' family pervades books in the Little House series, the more specific details of Laura's faith have never been fully explored. It took extraordinary pluck for anyone to survive the harshness of frontier life--from the heartbreak of sudden crop losses to murderous storms to unrelenting loneliness. This book reveals how in surviving, the brave Laura drew not just on her character, but found encouragement, strength, and hope in her relationship with God.

This is a biography about Laura Ingalls Wilder, focusing on her family's faith and how it kept them going through the lean times.  Having been a fan of Little House of the Prairie, I enjoyed 'meeting' the girl behind the stories.  The author has done a great job of researching all aspects of her life, both the good and the bad, and laying them out without bias.  It does focus on the faith, as that was a huge part of her upbringing and adult life.  It also includes recipes from the kitchens of pioneer women of the era, which made for a sweet ending to the book!

They Came for Freedom (Jay Milbrandt)
Once a year at Thanksgiving, we encounter Pilgrims as folksy people in funny hats before promptly forgetting them. In the centuries since America began, the Pilgrims have been relegated to folklore and children’s stories, fairy-tale mascots for holiday parties and greeting cards.  The true story of the Pilgrim Fathers could not be more different. Beginning with the execution of two pastors deviating from the Elizabethan Church of England, the Pilgrims’ great journey was one of courageous faith, daring escape, and tenuous survival. Theirs is the story of refugees who fled intense religious persecution; of dreamers who voyaged the Atlantic and into the unknown when all other attempts had led to near-certain death; of survivors who struggled with newfound freedom. Loneliness led to starvation, tension gave way to war with natives, and suspicion broke the back of the very freedom they endeavored to achieve.  Despite the pain and turmoil of this high stakes triumph, the Pilgrim Fathers built the cornerstone for a nation dedicated to faith, freedom, and thankfulness. This is the epic story of the Pilgrims, an adventure that laid the bedrock for the Founding Fathers, the Constitution, and the American identity.
Yesterday was Thanksgiving, and I daresay that many of us are still stuffed and planning to eat leftovers for a few days.  But do we really remember what Thanksgiving is about?  This book focuses on "the forgotten, epic adventure of the Pilgrims."  It follows them from persecution in Europe all the way over to the New World, in a time where freedom to worship was not a given.  While the book contains a lot of historical facts and information, it isn't a textbook - it's actually written in a way that flows nicely and is easy to read.  There is a lot of information that I never learned in school and had here-to-for not heard.  The appendix includes a timeline, a list of the Mayflower's passengers, the Mayflower Compact, and a bibliography for further reading.  As you're finishing that third slice of pumpkin pie, think back to the original was a celebration of a miracle.

Staying Stylish (Candace Cameron Bure)
As an actress, producer, New York Times bestselling author, and inspirational speaker, Candace Cameron Bure has spent her entire life in the spotlight, and she is well aware of the pressures women face. Throughout her career, Candace has balanced her faith, family, and passion for work and found her spot as a role model to women of all ages—and as a style icon.  In her brand-new book Staying Stylish, Candace invites you behind the scenes of her day-to-day life and shares more than 100 tips and tricks for looking and feeling your best—both inside and out. Nurture your body, style, and soul as you read through this beautiful book full of photos, insider secrets, and exciting ideas to revamp your own life into its best possible version. She offers her insight into balance, spiritual growth, and looking great while doing it all.  Staying Stylish topics will include personal style, fresh hair and makeup for any age, a well-balanced diet and fitness regime, and a well-nourished spirit.
Anyone who knows me will be surprised to see that I read this book...but you have to keep people guessing sometimes, right?  This may be a fashion book (sorry sis, you got all those genes), but it's more than that - it's a book about knowing and being yourself, embracing your beliefs, and having a healthy attitude toward appearance.  There are three main sections.  The first features fashion tips on clothing, closet organization, and purchasing tips.  The second focuses on skin care, hair care, and hair styles.  She even harkens back to her Full House days here.  The third focuses on self-care, including stress management tips.  Part of looking good is taking care of yourself, inside and out, and that's what these last two sections really focus on.  It's a quick read, and you can flip through it leisurely (doesn't have to be read in order).  CCB is still as down-to-earth as ever, making it easy for anyone to relate to...even someone as fashion-challenged as myself!

Beneath a Prairie Moon (Kim Vogel Sawyer)
Abigail Brantley grew up in affluence and knows exactly how to behave in high society. But when she is cast from the social registers due to her father's illegal dealings, she finds herself forced into a role she never imagined: tutoring rough Kansas ranchers in the subjects of manners and morals so they can "marry up" with their mail-order brides. Mack Cleveland, whose father was swindled by a mail-order bride, wants no part of the scheme to bring Eastern women to Spiveyville, Kansas, and he's put off by the snooty airs and fastidious behavior of the "little city gal" in their midst. But as time goes by, his heart goes out to the teacher who tries so diligently to smooth the rough edges from the down-to-earth men. How can he teach her that perfection won't bring happiness?

In a riches to rags story, the female protagonist has to reinvent herself with hard work, sweat, and tears.  She leaves her home and travels far away, submitting herself as a tutor to a bunch of roughnecks, but it turns out to be her salvation.  There are several humorous situations along the way, as the two classes (working man and rich man) clash...such as when they are forced to attend etiquette classes in preparation for receiving their mail-order brides!  The two protagonists dance around each other in a guarded game of distrust, wits, and eventually love.  As always, KVS has written another sweet, inspirational love story!

I received some of these books in exchange for an honest review.

Enter below to win a copy of Beneath a Prairie Moon!

Be sure to stop by our other, here, and here!

Welcome to the 7th annual Black Friday Book Bonanza, hosted by Marlene at Reading Reality and Kimberly at The Caffeinated Book Reviewer

Wednesday, November 22

Secret Agent Man (Johnny Rivers)

We’re always looking for fun, unplugged activities that are both entertaining and educational, so when we stumbled across a photo for Mail Order Mystery, it immediately struck a chord.  We showed it to the children, who were pretty excited about the prospect of receiving something in the mail (what kid isn’t?), and allowed them to choose the theme they were most interested in.  The winner?  Spies, Lies, and Serious Bad Guys!

Mail Order Mystery is a fabulous company who has come up with an absolutely brilliant and FUN idea for kids! They create incredible, ‘top secret’ mysteries. For each mystery a series of letters, documents and curious objects will arrive by mail and each one is connected to an ongoing mystery. The story arrives in six installments with a final larger mailing.

Ten Reasons Why Your Family Will LOVE this Mystery
  1. It’s unplugged.  There is an area where you can choose to use a website, but it’s not required and doesn’t add to the story.  The only tools required are pencil, paper, and a thinking cap.
  2. Puzzles, ciphers, adventure, and a plot to catch some bad guys!  (This was a big draw for the kids, and I loved the puzzles and ciphers aspect.)
  3. The kids get real mail addressed to them…and it’s not even their birthdays.
  4. It feels so real!  We completed the mystery within a week because of how excited they were to keep going.  The old letters, clues, maps, de-coding;  it’s an elaborate, impressive game that had a lot of work put into it.
  5. Code wheels, mystery boxes, and other trinkets that they get to keep when the puzzle is solved.  You can keep everything together (number the envelopes) and reuse at a later date, or with younger siblings when they are older.
  6. You have the option of receiving six separate packages (over six weeks) or one lump package and parceling out on your own timeline.  (This is great for families on the go.)
  7. Appropriate for ages nine and up, but just as engaging for older kids, too.  Our older son (well into his teens) enjoyed it the most!  Of course, he loves all things codes…but our younger son enjoyed catching the bad guy and getting to learn how to be a spy.
  8. If you get stuck, there is a way to get help solving the puzzles.  The customer service is great about helping out, but without giving you the answer right away.  First, you get a nudge in the right direction.  If you’re still stuck, then they’ll help more.
  9. It fosters sibling relationships.  My boys worked together really well, with the common goal of stopping the bad guys.  There were stretches of hours with no bickering or tackling as they solved the puzzles together.
  10. The final package contains a locked box full of goodies!  But you have to crack the code to access them.

How it works

  • Choose your Mail Order Mystery and order it.
  • Let us know who the mystery is for and when you would like it to begin.
  • Receive an order confirmation and download a gift note for the recipient.
  • Parent(s) or guardian(s) get an email announcing the beginning of the mystery and explaining the process.
  • A series of letters, documents and curious objects begin to arrive in the mail, all connected to an ongoing mystery.
  • After several weeks the story comes to its exciting conclusion. All is resolved. The final mailing contains an artifact or collection of keepsakes related to the mystery.
The price of this Mail Order Mystery is $85, plus about $9 shipping. While it may seem steep, the quality of the materials they send is very nice, both the paper and non-paper items. Also, the experience lasts for six weeks (more, if you choose to reuse it).  

* Note :  The company is based in Canada, so if you see $109 in the checkout cart - that is Canadian dollars.  It is $85 USD, but the cart automatically converts. *

If you have questions, check out the Mail OrderMystery FAQ page.
Find out more about Spies, Lies, and Serious Bad Guys.

 My children received this product in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are our own.

Tuesday, November 21

Gifts for Mom & Son + Two Giveaways

For Mother...
A Girl Like Me (Julie Elias)

“A Girl Like Me” is Julie’s latest album which will be available on all digital music outlets, including iTunes, on October 27, 2017. Meant to be a companion to her girls’ events, every original song on the album as an intentional purpose and story behind it, from the conflict with a good friend in “Forgive Me” to her own feelings of unworthiness in “A Girl Like Me” to revisiting one of her favorites when she was a teen, a cover of DC Talk’s “In the Light.” The songs are a happy marriage of both heartfelt messages and both theatrical anthems and intimate lullabies when the occasion calls for it. Whether you are a young woman in life or simply a young woman at heart, that album reminds us all that despite our failures and stubbornness, we need to “still believe a girl like me could be worthy of a King."

About the Vocalist...

Julie Elias is a Christian singer/songwriter who’s story is unique but equally inspiring. Realizing a life in Hollywood as an actress, including appearing on shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “CSI:NY,” was not bringing her the happiness and contentment she was looking for, she surrendered herself to what God wanted her to do: be an influence in Christian music and use her stories of rejection, beauty and her own faith to encourage others. In 2014, she founded Aurora Ministries, a 501c3 non-profit that creates Christian material and events specifically for teen and tween girls. Through music, booklets, blogging, conferences and girls’ events, Julie has been able to share God’s role in her life - even when she didn’t think He was there - and find common ground to inspire young women all over the world.  Visit her at her website.

Our Thoughts...

The cd features many different musical styles.  I liked some of the songs, but didn't like others, for this reason.  However, there is one theme to all of the songs, and it's seen through the lyrics :  in her weakness, she feels God's power.  She doesn't put herself down for being imperfect, failing, feeling fear, or any other self-perceived weakness.  Instead, she sees it as an opportunity for God to move into her life and guide her through the hard times.  There were three or four songs that made for good earwigs on the album, but I'm not going to say which, because everyone has different tastes and your's might be different from mine.'s what makes the world go round, right?


For Son...(or daughter...wouldn't want anyone in our oh-so-offended culture to accuse me of being sexist...)

Indescribable : Devotions for Kids about God & Science (Louie Giglio)
It’s impossible to out-imagine God. He orchestrates time, creates light, and speaks things into existence—from the largest stars to the smallest starfish. God is a powerful, purposeful, personal, unparalleled Creator.  Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens tell the glory of God. And the skies announce what his hands have made.”  Indescribable displays the majesty of creation with scientific findings, photography, and original illustrations. These 100 devotions encourage awe at God’s creativity with an in-depth look at  • Space, Galaxies, Planets, and Stars   • Earth, Geology, Oceans, and Weather   • Animals—from Hummingbirds to Dinosaurs   • Our Minds, Bodies, and Imaginations   Each devotion features a Be Amazed” section with fascinating facts, hands-on activities, and a closing prayer. Based on Louie Giglio’s popular messages “Indescribable” and “How Great Is Our God,” Indescribable: 100 Devotions About God & Science will help kids discover the incredible creation of our indescribable God.

Our Thoughts...
I really like how this bring faith and science together.  Our children are very much into science, and asking 'why?' about everything, and this book tries to answer that question.  It also teaches some basic science in the process.  The devotions are like mini-lessons, with facts about the topic du jour (only 100; not 365) and related Bible verses.  Perfect for younger children, but also for kids who might have reached that age where they're having a hard time just accepting God and are looking for deeper..."proof" is not the word I want, but if you have teens, you'll know what I mean.  

And So This is Christmas (Beatles)

During the holiday season, we relax our homeschool studies to focus on family and Christmas.  One of our favorite things to do is study traditions from different parts of the world - it's geography, history, cultural studies, art, and language arts all wrapped up into one (and sometimes I can sneak in some science and math, too!).

There are many different resources for Christmas Around the World (see a book list here), and we even created some ourselves, but this year we're taking a different route and using this resource from the Awe-Filled Homemaker.  It has over seventy pages, and features twenty different countries, as well as some Christmas staples...

Scroll down for the Giveaway!

The Christmas Around the World unit study includes informational text, question and answer activities, and a craft for each of it's twenty-four units.  We will be using extra books and video clips to further study each country, and probably doing some cooking from each country, too!  However, you don't have to add anything to it.  The unit study stands alone as a supplemental resource, perfect for elementary aged children.

While it's true that we do a lot of US geography, our international geography is limited to what we can learn from books, which means that the kids aren't nearly as versed.  I like that, while America is featured, the other nineteen countries come from all over the world, providing them with lots of exposure.  Also, they are not all of your basic 'let's put it in a geography primer' countries.  (Scroll down for a detailed list of featured countries.)

One of the featured countries is the Phillipines....that one was our family's favorite, as it was a jumping off point for oh-so-many stories from my husband's side of the family.  They were stationed there for a few years with the Navy, and brought out photos, trinkets, and stories about Christmases spent there!

For each country, we started by find it and its neighbors on a map.  Then we read the story and did the art project.  We watched a tourism video and one other 'kids' pick' video about the country, and then did some sort of food-related project.  As my children are older, we did one country each day, but you could stretch each one out over a few days.  Our unit included these :
Christmas Around the World unit study  (use code Black Friday to get it 50% off!)

Before hitting the countries, the first study is on Advent. We have a handmade Advent calendar that our family reuses each year, filling it with candies and trinkets, and the boys have been saving up for a Lego Advent calendar this year, too.  In light of their enthusiasm, it was nice to go over the reasons behind Advent with them.  Other 'Christmas staples' studies include the birth of Christ and St. Nicholas.

Though our family did not use the Christmas Passport (which is currently free with the unit study), I think it would be a wonderful tool with elementary children.  It's a hands-on way of accounting for each country you have visited through the unit.  There is a passport with stickers for each country, and they can track their progress.

Awe-Filled Homemaker has generously offered to give one of our readers a free copy of this unit study.  

To enter, visit the Awe-Filled Homemaker and leave a comment below with another resource in the store that you would like to use. (While you're there, use code 'Black Friday' to receive 50% off anything in her store!)  Winner will be chosen at random on December 1st.

Merry Christmas!!

Monday, November 20

Slow Cook November

November : Thanksgiving Sides
Learn the Crockpot Basics!!

The point of Thanksgiving is to spend time with family and friends, rather than stressing over the kitchen.  These recipes draw from ready-to-eat ingredients from the store shelf, such as condensed soup and baking mixes, rather than creating everything from scratch.  This should free up some extra time to spend with your loved ones...

Here are a few more Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Dishes to accompany these.  😊

Savory Wild Rice
  • 2 1/3 c chicken broth
  • 3/4 c wild rise
  • 1 chopped carrot
  • 2.5 oz sliced mushrooms
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp dried marjoram
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1/3 c dried cherries
  • 1/3 c sliced green onions
  • 1/4 c crushed pecans
  1. Mix broth, rice, carrot, mushroom, butter, marjoram, salt, and pepper in crockpot.
  2. Cover and cook on low 5-6 hours.
  3. Turn off heat.  Stir in cherries and onions.  Cover and let sit 10 minutes.
  4. Top with pecans before serving.

Apple Butter Yams
  • 3 lb yams, cubed
  • 2 green apples, sliced
  • 1 c whipping cream
  • 1 c apple butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  1. Mix everything together in crockpot.
  2. Cover and cook on low 6-7 hours (or high 3-4 hours).
Sweet Herbed Stuffing
  • 16 oz seasoned stuffing mix
  • 1 c golden raisins
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 c water
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 8 oz sour cream
  1. Mix everything together in crockpot.
  2. Cover and cook on low 5-6 hours (or high 2-3 hours).

Gingerbread Cake

  • 15 oz gingerbread mix
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1/2 c raisins
  • 2 1/4 c water
  • 3/4 c brown sugar
  • 3/4 butter
  • ice cream (optional)
  1. Mix together gingerbread, milk, and raisins.  Spread batter into crockpot.
  2. Mix together water, brown sugar, and butter, and bring to a boil.  Pour over batter in crockpot.
  3. Cover and cook on high 2 hours.  Uncover and cool at least 45 minutes.
  4. Serve with ice cream, if desired.

Friday, November 17

Addison Cooke....and his Crazy, Globe-Trotting Adventures!

Recently, we were sent an advance copy of the newest Addison Cooke book from Penguin Random House Publishing.  We had never heard of this series, but the cover looked intriguing (and my boys love Indiana Jones!), so we plowed on in....

“What to give the kid who’s read all the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson  books? Try Addison Cooke.”
  –Parents Magazine

Book 2 :  Addison Cooke and the Tomb of the Khan
Fresh off of a victorious treasure hunt and rescue mission in South America, Addison Cooke just can't seem to steer clear of rogue bandits, pesky booby traps, and secret treasure troves. But it sure beats sitting around in school all day.  
Addison's aunt and uncle, on the other hand, are none too happy about their habit of attracting kidnappers. When they become pawns in a dangerous gang's plan to steal the most prized possession of the notorious Mongolian leader Genghis Khan, Addison and his friends find themselves once again caught in the middle of a multi-million-dollar international heist. Armed with nothing but their wits and thirst for adventure, they travel across Asia in an attempt to rescue Addison's family and stop the treasure from falling into the wrong hands.  Brimming with round-the-clock action and tons of laughter, Addison Cooke and the Tomb of the Khan is perfect for fans of Indiana Jones, ancient history, and James Patterson’s Treasure Hunters series.

Our Thoughts :
Written for grades 4-7, both my youngest and oldest readers enjoyed this adventure!  We chose to read aloud together as a family, which is one of our favorite evening activities, and experience the adventure together.  However, it would be an appropriate read for anyone at at least a 4th grade reading level.  This is a fast-paced adventure, which is a good thing for keeping my boys interested, and includes a lot of geography and history facts within the pages.  There are suspensions of belief, good luck talismans, crazy storylines, and a whole host of other things that will remind you of Indiana Jones for this age level.  There are both girls and boys as protagonists, and many girls will enjoy the story, too.  As an added plus for mom, there is a lot of humor tucked into these pages, but don't worry - it's all appropriate!

Book 1 :  Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas
Twelve-year-old Addison Cooke just wishes something exciting would happen to him. His aunt and uncle, both world-famous researchers, travel to the ends of the earth searching for hidden treasure, dodging dangerous robbers along the way, while Addison is stuck in school all day.  Luckily for Addison, adventure has a way of finding the Cookes. After his uncle unearths the first ancient Incan clue needed to find a vast trove of lost treasure, he is kidnapped by members of a shadowy organization intent on stealing the riches. Addison’s uncle is the bandits’ key to deciphering the ancient clues and looting the treasure . . . unless Addison and his friends can outsmart the kidnappers and crack the code first. So it’s off to South America, where the excitement, danger, gold, booby traps, and car chases are never-ending!

About the Author :
Jonathan W. Stokes ( is a former teacher who is now a Hollywood screenwriter.  He has written screenplays on assignment for Warner Brothers, Universal, Fox, Paramount, New Line, and Sony/Columbia. Inspired by a childhood love of The Goonies and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Jonathan set out to write his first novel, Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas. Born in Manhattan, he currently resides in Los Angeles, where he can be found showing off his incredible taste in dishware and impressive  96% accuracy with high fives. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @jonathanwstokes

🎄🎄This series would make an excellent Christmas gift for tweens and teens!!  Click on the image below to purchase the Addison Cooke series.  🎄🎄
 Addison Cooke books

Thursday, November 16

Oklahoma Statehood Day!

BOOK YOUR 2017 AND 2018 FREE FIELD TRIPS TODAY! The Oklahoma Hall of Fame believes there are no limits to what is possible. Every day we celebrate the legacy of inspiring Oklahomans with all generations because Oklahomans are changing the world!

Through each of its programs and the Gaylord-Pickens Museum, the Oklahoma Hall of Fame promotes pride in our great state and honors our state's rich history by telling Oklahoma's story through its people. For 90 years, membership in the Oklahoma Hall of Fame has been Oklahoma's highest honor! Come visit us today to learn more!

FREE ADMISSION Oklahoma Hall of Fame Gaylord-Pickens Museum - 

Present this coupon for Free admission to the Oklahoma Hall of Fame at the Gaylord-Pickens Museum 

  • HOURS: Tuesday-Friday: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Saturday: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. 
  • Visit to confirm hours. 
  • PHONE: 405.235.4458 or 1.888.501.2059 

Via interactive exhibits, experience Oklahoma through the eyes of its people. Not valid with any other offer. Coupon valid for up to 5 admissions.

Wednesday, November 15

Christmas Dreaming (Frank Sinatra)

When the holidays roll around, we break out the 'Christmas Box' for special
out-loud reading time.  This is a box of books that are kept off to the side and considered special, only to be read during the Christmas season.  About mid-November, we'll pull down the box and start reading a new book aloud together as a family each night before bed.

One of my secret pleasures, too, is reading good Christmas books.  I love everything about the season, and don't just read them at the end of the year.  I've been known to pick up a good holiday read in the middle of August!  

Given our passion for reading, and for the season, we've spent some time coming up with our favorite Christmas books - both classics and some new ones that haven't been publicly released yet (hooray for Advanced Reader Copies!) - and are sharing it with you -- our favorite readers!

Download the Bibliophile's Christmas Wishlist  (fill out form below)
Broken down into five separate categories, this list includes everything you'll need to gear up for the holiday season.  It includes old classics as well as brand spankin' new reads.  The five categories include :
  • Kids' Inspirational
  • Kids' Fiction
  • Adult Inspirational
  • Adult Fiction
  • Non-fiction

If you don't have a Google account or the form doesn't work for any reason, please just drop us a line and we'll email it to you!

Twelve Days of Giveaways
Be sure to use the newsletter signup option on the entry form so that you'll be in the loop when our Twelve Days of Christmas Giveaways begins in just a few short weeks!!  Email subscribers will be the first in on the action...with some behind-the-scenes subscriber-only giveaways....

One lucky reader will receive a mystery Christmas book prize box with books from the Bibliophile's Christmas Wishlist (inspirational section)!
Enter below to win, and be sure to stop by the other giveaways that The Kids Did It and the Mommy Island have pulled together for more great chances to win!

Tuesday, November 14

November – No One Else for Now

Alone time is a pretty difficult concept for some of us to grasp. Between cell phones, email, and social media, we are spending more and more time plugged-in.  Solitude is the state of being alone with no one to communicate with, but it’s not loneliness.  You can be connected and lonely, and you can be disconnected and not lonely.  

Alone Time is Good for the Soul…
  1. Being alone gives you time to think. -- Life can be crazy sometimes, and being alone gives us the time we all need to reflect on important events and to organize our feelings about the things that have happened. Without this, we can get overwhelmed with all we are trying to juggle mentally, and this can cause extra anxiety and stress.
  2. You can get creative. -- There's nothing like putting on headphones, listening to your favorite songs, and getting down to work. Being by yourself gives you the motivation and the opportunity to open your mind and explore new ideas, then put those ideas to good use.
  3. You can recharge. -- Being around people means having to constantly be alert and aware of what's going on around you and in conversations that require your full attention. When you're alone, you can use that quiet time to recharge and regroup.
  4. You get to know yourself better. -- Spending time alone means putting yourself first, and getting a chance to explore your personality in depth. The more you get to know yourself, the more you'll find out just how awesome you are.
  5. You become more independent. -- When you're alone, you don't have the option of depending on other people for their opinions, advice, or help. You call all the shots, and even though that can be scary sometimes, it also means you become more reliant on yourself — and this is a great thing.
  6. You see and hear things you wouldn't otherwise. --  When we're quiet, we can hear and see things we don't notice otherwise. We are able to appreciate the small things in life because we’re not distracted when they happen.
  7. You get to do whatever you want to do. – You can spend all the time you'd like to doing exactly what you want to do, without compromise.  And going on your own private adventure can be exciting!
  8. You appreciate the people in your life. -- Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? Taking some time away from the people in your life can help you realize how important and valuable they are to you.

How to Find the Time…
  • Set aside time each day to unplug from all the ways you connect with others. Turn off your cell phone, TV, and computer. You'll be amazed at how much more you can get done when you're not distracted.
  • Wake up a half hour earlier than everyone else in your house and use that time to create, produce, problem solve, meditate, or just “be.” 
  • If you’re at an office, close your door for a period of time and just concentrate on the tasks at hand.  If you’re a mom at home, close the bathroom door…..and good luck with that!
  • Once a week or even just a couple of times a month, commit to spending lunch with yourself. Don’t work through lunch, but take a walk, sit in the sun outside, and enjoy the time you have alone.
  • Mark off time in your day planner or calendar for spending time with yourself -- it doesn't have to be long. Any time that you can spend alone with yourself to reboot is better than no time. 

Homeschool Parents : The Challenge of Finding Time
We all know homeschooling is difficult.  It is a unique type of stress we shoulder as homeschooling mothers.  But if you’re not making time for yourself, you’re going to be facing burnout…

Symptoms of Burnout
  • feeling overwhelmed
  • feeling depressed – lack of hope
  • feeling irritable & fatigued
  • considering putting children in school
  • feeling angry and resentful towards family members
  • lack of confidence
  • feeling like your kids are behind or not learning enough

 Help for Burnout
  • Stop homeschooling.  The kids won’t suffer if you take a week (or two or three) off, especially if you school year-round.  Sometimes, you just need time to be their mom, and not their teacher.
  • Quit comparing.  My kids, your kids, the kids in public school….they all have their own strengths and weaknesses.  And no matter how it appears, almost no one has a super genius kid that excels in everything.  Recognize your child’s strengths and work on his weaknesses, and take joy and pride in his growth.
  • Get outside.  Sunshine, vitamin D, fresh air….need I say more?
  • But cut down on outside activities.  Too many extracurriculars, and you’re just running a shuttle service with an endless task of coordinating everyone’s projects.  Are you the CEO or the secretary of this operation?  Get back to basics.
  • Talk it out.  Sharing with another homeschool can really help put things into perspective.  I often find that, after starting the conversation, we both have concerns and confidences, and we can help each other find perspective and balance.
  • Consider a change.  I was the mom that spent hours planning 
    unit studies and fun learning, but it was very draining!  We investigated year-long unit study programs, and found one that was similar to what we had been doing.  I still supplement and change a few things, but the pressure to create something for each day is no longer there.   And for the aggravation that it’s saved, it’s been entirely worth what we spent.
  • Spend time with your husband.  You need to have adult interaction, and maintain your marriage.  We have a three-part series here about putting life back into your marriage.  You’ll be surprised at the effect on your whole family!
  • Spend time alone.  I know that it comes off as being selfish, but remember what they always say on the commercial airlines…before applying someone else’s oxygen mask, apply your own.  If your spirit is empty, you have nothing to give to your children.  Take the time to fill up your spiritual and emotional tank.

Monday, November 13

Forbrain for Speech Therapy - Homeschool Review Crew

Our son struggles with the basic skills of speech, memory, and concentration.  We’ve been through all kinds of therapy, with minimal improvement, but the struggles stubbornly remain.  Forbrain (Sound for Life, LTD) developed the bone conduction headset to help with speech and language difficulties, brain stimulation, auditory processing disorder, reading issues, add, and ADHD.  Given the opportunity to try it out, we lunged!

About the Headset
The headset consists of a microphone, two bone conduction transducers (the part that goes next to the ear) and the dynamic filter.  (The dynamic filter is the box that has the on/off button, volume control, and a light.)  It also comes with a quick-start guide, which is handy.  It’s very easy to charge up – we plugged in the USB cable to the computer and let it sit for a few hours.  There’s a red ‘charging’ light that turns off once it’s fully charged ; that light becomes blue when the device is in use.  One of my favorite parts about the kit, however, is the hard-shelled, zippered carrying case that makes it easy for us to take it with us everywhere (all of the pieces and the guide fit into it). 

The headset can be used for exercises such as:
  • Reading aloud
  • Dictation
  • Narration
  • Recitation (especially fun reciting poems)
  • Memorization
  • Singing
  • Dialog (role playing with toys, mine did this with their dragons and legos)
  • Story telling

What is Bone Conduction?

Bone conduction is the conveyance of sound though bones in the skull to the inner ear.  When you speak while wearing the device, you are hearing yourself loudly in your head.  It gives excellent auditory feedback to the user, and is particularly useful for those with speech issues who may struggle to hear how they sound.

One thing I liked about the headset was that, while he was getting a boosted auditory signal of his own voice, it wasn’t blocking out or muffling the sounds of those around him.  He was still able to carry on a conversation with others.

Forbrain is recommended for use as a daily tool for reading, speaking, attending in class or for general use for six to ten weeks.
  • 10 minutes a day for little ones
  • 15 minutes a day for ages 5-15
  • 20 minutes a day for teens and adults
  • 30 minutes a day for seniors

Our Use & Thoughts
He used it for the recommended amount – a mere fifteen minutes a day!  I know, you’re thinking that this isn’t enough time and it should be worn for longer, but in this case, more isn’t better.  Wearing it too long can lead to headaches and fatigue.  Results really do appear with just a few short minutes each day – consistency is really the key.

He has struggled with speech issues since he began to talk at age three….yes, age three…a bit late to the game.  We’ve seen several different speech therapists, and each has worked hard to help improve his speech, but his issues are not your ‘classic’ ones.  He has apraxia of speech, and really struggles with certain sounds…such as the short /A/ in his name…which makes it very difficult for others to have a conversation with him.  We have tried all sorts of techniques, but he doesn’t seem to be able to hear how he is pronouncing that sound.  This device really opened his eyes to how he is saying that /A/, and while it did not “cure” the issue during the review period, he did make great strides just by the fact that he is now recognizing how his version of that sound differs.  I consider that progress.

Additional Points
  • The headset retails for $395.  That’s a steep price, but if you’re paying out of pocket for speech therapy (like we were before it became too expensive), and you see results from it, then that’s really not much.  Auditory processing issues are difficult to tackle, and this looks like it will get us over a crucial ‘hump’ so that we can progress with his therapy.
  • Some sort of pre / post-test from the company would be a nice addition.  To be honest, I’m not sure how they’d do that from afar, but it’d be nice to have some concrete results that your money had been well-spent.
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