Be The Best Mom You Can Be {A BookLook Bloggers Program Review}

Be The Best Mom You can BeI’m always genuinely interested in all the books about motherhood that I can find.  It’s something that truly is one of my main interests as my main job right now is to mother four young children.  So, when I saw the book Be the Best Mom You Can Be: A Practical Guide to Raising Whole Children in a Broken Generation by Marina Slayton, I was looking forward to an interesting read.

In this book, Marina, a mom with four children ranging from their mid-20s down to the teenage years gives advice along the way to moms that she’s gleaned from her experience with motherhood.  She begins with foundational chapters on love, belonging and creating a family vision.  Then, she moves into practical chapters on breaking generational curses, realizing that you’ll never be perfect, and choosing to focus on eternal pursuits rather than temporal ones.  There are also chapters on sex and drugs, encouraging your children, building community, and making time in a busy age.  At the end, there are also chapters specifically written for single Moms and working moms.

Throughout the book, there are wonderful examples of wisdom and loving parenting in an age that has truly gone crazy.  There’s great “middle of the road” advice that moms of all persuasions and backgrounds can find useful and valuable.  Of the whole book, I found the chapter on breaking generational curses to be the most interesting because I’ve seen how hard it is to break the patterns that are left to us by our parents and grandparents.  Slayton, especially is in a position to be able to discuss generational curses and how difficult and freeing the power of forgiveness has been in her life.  In the end, there’s fantastic advice, interspersed with graceful autobiographical details, making this a great book for any mom to read.

Disclaimer:  I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

Parable of the Sower: A List of Elementary Aged Video and Notebooking Resources

Parable of the Sower A List of Elementary Aged Video Resources

I’ve decided to gently add Danika Cooley’s Bible Road Trip Curriculum into our school days.  I don’t actually plan to accomplish it as a three year curriculum, but rather, I’m using it as a guide to create simple Bible units using her suggestions and note booking pages  as a guideline for our course of study.  We’ve started with week one where we explore just a little bit about what the Bible is all about, and one of the first stories that we encountered was Matthew 13’s parable of the Sower.  In an effort to help my little kids understand this story that Jesus told a little bit better, I decided to see if I could find some interesting movies/cartoons/You Tube clips.

I was actually surprised by how few clips I could find as I went exploring.  Francis Chan’s writing about the Parable of the Sower in his book Crazy Love really challenged the way that I view my faith, so I just have this feel that teaching on this parable should be huge and popular.  Yet, that’s not the evidence that I see as I look around.

Our church has a Right Now Media account, so I was able to search it for some of the videos that I’m going to share with you guys.

There were two videos that resonated with my preschool/kindergarten aged children, and they were:

  • Bedbug Bible Gang: Funny Farmers–The first about 10 minutes of this is devoted to the parable of the sower and some catchy songs that are great for my little ones.
  • Cherub Wings 5: Heaven’s Troopers–This one has a lot of songs and stuff, but the main Bible story that it shares is the parable of the sower, and the focus was on being the good soil that obeyed God’s word.

We found one video and several clips on Godtube that my older children preferred watching:

  • Great Bible Stories: Discovering The Kingdom–This contains several of Jesus’s parables and the parable of the sower is one of them.  The older children really liked this one.
  • There’s a flash animation version of the parable that my older two loved.  This was probably their favorite of all we watched.
  • They also really liked this loose take on the parable called “Fool.”
  • We also watched a clip from NEST’s Animated Bible Stories on the Parable of the Sower.  It’s from the Kingdom of Heaven video, and that video contains several more of Jesus’s parables all woven together in the interesting way that NEST has.
  • Here’s a great cartoony version we found on Vimeo.

That’s really about it, but it helped the parable come to life in the kids’ minds.  Once we had watched the videos as an introduction, we read the parable.  I read to the little kids out of their The New Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes and I read straight from Matthew 13 to the older children.

Then, the older children completed a note booking page.

Parable of the Sower Videos and Notebook PagesWe used the notebook pages from the Bible Road Trip curriculum.  You can download the week that the above note booking page here.  We’re using the Lower Grammar suggestions and notebook pages because I only have one child who is above the LG stage, and language arts is not his forte.

If you’re looking for something a little different for you’re child’s notebook:

I didn’t have the little kids complete any note booking, but in retrospect, I should have had them color a coloring sheet to reinforce the story.  Here are a few I liked:

Some additional activities for the parable of the Sower include:

If working on the parable of the sower has you personally thinking and learning about the parable, I have written some reflections on this parable for adults before and about my concerns that my love for Jesus will be choked out by the things of this world.  You can see that blog post here.

I guess that about does it for this blog post!  I didn’t actually intend to turn it into a round-up, but once I started getting into full planning mode on the parable, I found some really good resources out there for you guys.

Mouse Paint Unit Study

Mouse Paint Unit StudySome of the items that I’ve reviewed with the children recently and the reading I’ve been doing recently for homeschool encouragement have made me long to go back to doing unit study with my children in a way that is designed to make all of our learning feel so much more fun.

We started with some work with Noah for all four children, worked through an American Revolution Unit Study with the bigger kids, and I’ve finally hit my stride again by working through some activities with the book Mouse Paint with the little kids.  In fact, this work was so much fun that even though the learning activities are mostly Pre-K/Kindergarten, my older kids wanted to participate just for the fun value of many of the activities we did.

For the base of this unit study, we started with the Ivy Kids Mouse Paint kit.  I did a review recently (not for the blog) of this kit, and I love the high-quality play-based materials so much that I ordered a subscription to help me create the core of the preschoolers’ literature and math play.

One of the activities from the Ivy Kids kit that we did was to play “Hide the Mouse.”  With the game, we would mix up the mice on the board and Monkey and Owlet would have to put them in the right places again so that they were camouflaged from the cat.  This was a little “easy” for Monkey but perfect for Owlet’s skill level.

After playing the game the way it was written a few times, we altered it a little bit.  We took the mice and hid them throughout the house, then we sent the “cat” through the house to find the mice and put them in the right places on the board.  Even the big kids wanted to hide the mice and have a turn being a cat.

Hide the Mouse

Since the whole point of Mouse Paint is to learn which colors mix into what, the next couple of activities we did were to help us to learn/reinforce the color mixing that we learned from the book.  First, we did some mess free color mixing.  I took three bottles of primary colored paint  and had each child choose two colors to put into a bag and mix.  I blogged a little more about it here.

Mess Free Color Mixing

While we were mixing colors, we also painted with our colors.  This mouse template was in my Ivy Kids box, but I’ve seen others online.  We used ours to make a display on large construction paper of the mouse colors.

Color Mixing Mice

The little kids worked some on their letter “M.”  They sorted uppercase and lowercase “m” and  glued them onto this worksheet that I got from 123 Homeschool 4 Me’s free printable pack.

Letter M Sort

Monkey loves to make puppets so he suggested that we make cat and mouse puppets.  The cat puppet is a paper bag puppet from DLTK kids.  The mouse puppets are cone puppets from Aunt Annie’s Crafts.

Mice and Cat Puppets

We also used model magic to make our own clay mice.  The whiskers and tail details are made from black pipe cleaners.

Model Magic Mice

Another type of mice that the bigger children were interested in making were origami mice.  Because they find traditional origami a little frustrating, we used Follow-the-Directions: Easy Origami.  I bought it a couple of years ago in one of those $1 Scholastic sales that they have, and it’s been a very useful book for us.

Origami Mice

Our Ivy Kids box also came with a pamphlet about blending colors, color paddles and some glossy cardstock pictures that they were able to match the paddles up with.  The children also loved putting the paddles up to their eyes to be their “detective glass” with colors for pretend play.

Color Mixing and Matching with Paddles

We once again turned to the 123 Homeschool 4 Me mouse paint pack to work on dotting our letter M.  The children love using dot markers to dot letters and stuff, so I’m always looking for these type of pages for them to play with.

Dotting the Letter M

Our Ivy Kids box also included some patterning activities with colored circle chips and pattern strips.  There was also an I Spy card that we gave each other clues with and used the colored circle chips to cover the I Spy card.


I also grabbed a little from the Homeschool Share Mouse Paint printable with some different sized mice and different colored brushes.  We used big paper to match them up and then the children created their own artwork to collage with these printables.

Sizing Mice and Matching Up


There were a few other games and things in our Ivy Kids box, but that’s really the bulk of what we did for our study.  There are some great resources out there, but it was the Ivy Kids kit that really set our unit study apart this time around.

This Week

This week has been a good week.  Owlet has finally recovered from dental surgery and it running around playing, eating and having fun like she’s making up for lost time.  The children are beginning to highly anticipate our beach vacation and the countdown is on!  We attended my cousin’s wedding and a backyard vacation Bible school that some friends at church were hosting.  We watched a ton of Phineas and Ferb, and we even worked on some of our review products too!

Rose also started using the Feed My Sheep art curriculum.  I bought it during the Build Your Bundle Sale last month, and I think it will help her some with her artistic development.

Feed My Sheep

We finished making the Parable of the Sower books that we had started.

Parable of the SowerWe made potato people for dinner one night.  It was like playing Mr. Potato Head with vegetables.

Potato PeopleOwlet played on La La Logic for a while.  Firecracker traced and drew new Kirby pictures.  We used our five senses to determine salt and pepper.  We even got a new group picture taken at my cousin’s wedding.

miscellaneousWe read bunches of picture books from the library but we never really finished anything chapter bookish.  Firecracker continued working on Orphs of the Woodlands and Unlock Math.  We practiced cursive.

We we spent the rest of our week working on things from our Homeschool in the Woods medieval unit study.  We wrote some articles and created illustrations for our medieval newspaper.  We read and colored medieval fashion pages.

Middle Ages paperworkWe then took our knowledge of medieval clothing and the middle ages to make medieval puppets.  Once the puppets were made, the children took turns getting behind a box stage and giving puppet plays.

Medieval Puppets

We also started working on some medieval costuming by making floral crowns for the girls and by making Robin Hood hats for the boys.  While I made the pieces for the younger children, each of the older children made their own headpieces.

Floral Crowns and Robin Hood Hats

That’s really about it for now.  We’ve brought most of our subjects to a normal resting place for a week off, and we’re ready for a week that is completely off.  Our plan is to take this week completely off and to come back and study the sense of touch, medieval castles and the wise man who built his house upon the rock.


Third Grade Plans for 2015-2016

Third Grade Plans

I know it’s been almost a month since I posted our preschool and kindergarten plans.  It wasn’t in an effort to let things fall by the wayside.  It was more because my older two, especially Rose, are so difficult to plan for.

As many of you know, I collaborate with the children on what they want to learn as we sketch out a plan for the year.  When I asked Rose, she told me “I just want to sit on the couch and color all day, but you won’t let me do that.”  That’s not to say that I don’t let her do plenty of that though because that free time on the couch is often where she gets her sparks of creativity that she uses to draw and write stories. :-)

She also said that she might enjoy doing that “penguin math” that we reviewed this winter.  So, with that much to go on, I’ve compiled some resources that she may or may not use.  We have them here, and so we’ll probably use them to some extent as her third grade plans.  Plans are subject to change at any time based on what reviews we end up doing and her interests.


We attend a local Community Bible Study 30 weeks out of the year, and are studying Matthew this year.  She has a weekly workbook with five days of homework a week in it, which we use for reading practice, dictionary practice and all kinds of skills over the course of a year.

I’m also adding in the first Year of the Bible Road Trip Curriculum for our family Bible study (including all four children).  This curriculum will take us much longer than a year at the rate that we’re going through it, but we’ll be using the lower grammar note booking pages and assignments this year.  Think of this as some relaxed Bible “unit studies” in our house.


English is a sore subject for us as she doesn’t read fluently, and I (out of fear), have pushed her too much.  Because her older brother will be using Fix-It! Grammar and Student Writing Intensive A (Read my review here.), she will also be using these resources at least a couple of times a week.  I like these resources because they’re the first programs I’ve found that don’t make her cry.

She also has Spelling You See Level B, and she’s worked through over a third of that, so I imagine that she’ll pick it back up and finish it at some point this year.

Beyond that, I plan on working through her English concepts informally using note booking pages and projects that we work through in other curriculum.  For reading practice, I also plan on her picking easy readers and other books she feels comfortable with at the library to check out and read-aloud to me at home.  She’s been keeping a literature journal where she’s been copying passages from some of the picture books we’ve gotten at the library and rereading them, and I’m going to leave good enough alone there and let her continue doing that as her interest allows.


She says she might use GPALOVEMATH (read my review here) for the rest of the year’s subscription we have of it, but I can’t verify that she actually will.  She really worked through almost a year’s worth of math concepts when she reviewed CTC Math (They were below her ability level, but she truly needed the review), so I’m not stressing out too much.  As a reviewer, I find that math programs come along all the time, and she’s already used three different math programs at three different grade levels this year, and when we get a math program to review, she often does several months worth of work in just a few weeks time.

I’d like to give her some work on multiplication and division this year, so we’ll see how that goes.  Much of our Math and English both end up being incorporated into other subjects, so it will vary depending on what we study.


I’m continuing to use ARTistic Pursuits with her.  We’re using Early Elementary books 1 and 2.    She loves the watercolor painting sections and is, in her own words, “eager” to do them.  However, she can’t stand that ARTistic Pursuits calls for using different mediums from the ones that she’d like to use all the time.  As she’s young and the other children love the books, I continue to have her use them.

I purchased the Feed My Sheep art curriculum in the Build Your Bundle sale because coloring, drawing and painting is really her thing.  She also really loves colored pencils and acrylic paint, and since those are the main items used in this curriculum, I thought it might be a good fit.  I’m going to print it and have it here for her to use at her leisure.


Hubby came back from the Dominican Republic wanting our family to learn Spanish.  So, they’ve started working through some Spanish using Duolingo.  Rose finds this to be a little fast moving and confusing.  So, I’ve been looking at a couple of different resources to teach her (and the little kids) Spanish.  I’m kind of waiting to see if I get a vendor that’s on the upcoming vendor list for the Crew, so I’m going to hold off on sharing ideas for this one right now.


We had enjoyed the Veritas Press program that the children reviewed last year so much that Rose asked us to purchase another level.  So, I purchased Old Testament and Ancient Egypt.  Guess what?  She’s termed it boring.  The program we reviewed was the last of the modern history program, and it was written on a 6th grade level.  The one we’re using now is written on a 2nd grade level and it is much more slow moving than the modern history.  So, I can understand where she’s coming from.  Since we purchased it, we’re going  use it as a fall back when we’re not using something else.

We will be completing some unit studies.  I have tons of unit study and lapbook materials on my computer, but two that are history based that we are starting the year out with on the Crew are:

  • Homeschool in the Woods:  Project Passport ~ The Middle Ages
  • With Lee in Virginia (audio drama with study guide)

She’s mentioned being interested in Queen Elizabeth and in Queen Victoria.  I think she likes the idea of studying queens, so that might be a possibility.


I’m also using some science unit studies.  We’re starting with Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers.  I’m letting her and the other children pick out the units that we complete as we go along.  I also have many science unit study and textbook materials on the computer and on our book shelves that are just waiting for the children to get interested in them.

I guess that covers everything that I think we’ll be using with Rose at this time.  Even though it doesn’t really feel like a lot, I’m always amazed at where we end up over the course of a year.

Patriotic Rag Wreath

There are probably a million rag wreath tutorials out there to choose from, so I almost didn’t write this post.  However, I wanted to share with you an example of a craft that Rose and I worked on together and both enjoyed making so that if you’ve got a kid wanting to craft, you guys can actually make a useful handicraft.

It’s been bothering me that I didn’t have a wreath for summer for a couple of years.  I know that’s going to seem silly to some of you guys, but it just so happens that some of my holiday cheer comes from having a nice wreath on my door so that I can see the wreath every time I open the door for the mailman or pull into my driveway.

So, I set out to make my own wreath for summer this year because all the really nice store-bought wreaths are so expensive, and I just knew that Rose would enjoy helping me. :-)

I went to Hobby Lobby and bought:

  • a medium sized wire wreath form
  • a pack of 5 fat quarter sized pieces of patriotic cloth
  • a large chipboard star
  • a spool of simple patriotic ribbon

Supplies for Rag Wreath

Then I opened up each piece of fabric, cut it into fourths, and then cut each fourth into strips. There felt like there were a million strips.

Fabric Strips

Meanwhile, Rose ran off with the chipboard star, pulled out her acrylic paints and began to paint a flag on the star.  I also had her paint the sides and the back so that none of the plain chipboard color showed through.

star flag

After that, I sat and tied knots onto the wire form.  Rose tied a few, but she considered it “boring.”  We watched a movie and it took me pretty much the whole movie to tie the strips on.  There are four rings on the wreath form, but I really only tied on two rings, and I alternated where I tied.

Once the star was dry, I hot glued the ribbon to the back of the star, tied it onto the wreath, and then hung it on my door.

Patriotic Rag Wreath

And I love it!  I’m already considering making others for other holidays :-)  This cost me about $20 to make, but since I paid $35-40 a piece for my two favorite wreaths, I don’t feel like I came out too badly.  I could have lessened the costs by buying fabric on bolts or by using blue jeans and other materials I already had at home, but I didn’t, at least not on this wreath.

7 Family Ministry Essentials {A Litfuse Publicity Group Review}

7 Family Ministry EssentialsI’ve been volunteering in the children’s ministry at our church for several years.  I’ve taught in AWANAs, in Sunday school, worked in VBS, volunteered in Junior Church and spent time in preschool classes.  However, the more time I’ve spent working in these classes, the more discouraged I’ve been about how often children don’t seem to be absorbing anything or experiencing God in their lives.  So, it was with much interest that I began reading 7 Family Ministry Essentials: A Strategy for Culture Change in Children’s and Student Ministries by Michelle Anthony & Megan Marshman.

In this wonderful book, Anthony and Marshman outline seven key components of effective children and students’ ministry.  These are:

  • Empowering families to take spiritual leadership in the home
  • Forming lifetime faith that transcends childhood beliefs
  • Teaching Scriptures as the ultimate authority of truth
  • Understanding the role of the Holy Spirit’s power to teach and transform
  • Engaging every generation in the gospel of God’s redemptive story
  • Making God central in daily living and every biblical narrative
  • Working with the community to further God’s will.

This book is a book that writes down so many of the ideas that I intuitively feel after spending time volunteering in children’s ministry.  It was nice to see that my ideas were similar to ideas that others had been having.  I enjoyed seeing how their efforts played out in practical real-life examples in their various ministries.

I especially loved hearing the ways that they had attempted to invite response to God into their ministry.  One of these ladies had taken out the video game consoles in their student ministry and replaced them with a prayer wall for students and parents to come and pray and to write down their prayer requests.  I love this.  I love seeing that space is made for exercising a personal response to God and their attempts to equip the parents in their ministries for more effective discipleship of their children.

This is a book that is valuable for helping your children and students’ teams in equipping parents to disciple their children, listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit and teaching the Bible as a continuous story of God’s redemptive plan.  This is a book that I’m going to directly give to my husband for his feedback and recommend to the children’s ministers I know.

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book from Litfuse Publicity Group.  I was not required to write a positive review.