Sunday, April 28, 2013

Review: Spanish for You!

I have to admit, when I found out I was going to review Spanish for You! by Debbie Arnett I wasn't exactly thrilled about the idea of adding it to our homeschool curriculum...not because I don't think it's a necessary skill for today, rather we've been so busy during the past month that fitting it in was just one more thing I had to do.

When we started homeschooling we decided to use a French curriculum because my daughter absolutely loves Fancy Nancy books. So I had some concern of the overlap as well. In high school I took 2 years of Spanish and 3 years of French and there are some similarities to the languages, which I thought would be confusing to her. However, my daughter (who is in 2nd grade) transitioned much better than I expected. And she was much more thrilled to be learning it than I was to be teaching it (shame on me, I know)!

The layout for the lessons is slightly confusing at first, but once you take some time as the parent to familiarize yourself with it, you are off and running. It comes complete with 30 weeks of lesson plans (everything is laid out for you...YAY!!), Spanish audio (both the author and a native speaker, which is slightly harder to understand) and a textbook (unless you order the e-book...which is what I reviewed). I personally loved the e-book and not having to keep up with another book for our homeschool.

As the teacher, it doesn't take a great deal of effort on your part. It is set up so that the student for them to be able to work on it independently. My daughter needed a little extra help, so I had to be a little more involved. It's also designed to be taught for 4 days a week, however we cut it back to two days a week which is how we were doing our French.

The price is very affordable, especially compared to some of the other programs on the market. It's fun for the whole family. We made flash cards just like the curriculum suggested and used them all the time. My daughter thoroughly enjoyed being able to carry on a mini conversation after the first couple lessons.

Overall, I feel the curriculum was extremely easy to use and adaptable to any situation. My favorite part was that the lesson plans were laid out for me. There was a slight issue with the audio files organization, however, those have been addressed and reorganized for future users!

Or purchase here...there's an option for all your needs. Any package you purchase includes soft cover book, lesson guides, worksheets, flash cards/activity pages. You can purchase Grades3-8 for $64.95 or you can break it down to Grades 3-4 or 5-6 or 7-8. Each grade level is $39.95. Any extra books you will need are $12.95.

Head on over here for some free mini lessons to see if it's a fit for your family as well!

Need a second opinion...then check out reviews by other Mosaic Reviews team members here.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Attending to Faith with Diligence (Part 2)

Cultivating faith isn't a simple task. Just as Jesus taught his disciples...diligence is key to cultivating faith (see part one). So how exactly do you have that diligent faith? There was a disciple who learned this the hard way. Which one? Peter.

Peter was quite possibly the most ardent (which means to have enthusiasm or passion) of Christ's disciples. It wasn't by chance he was chosen to learn from the Master of the universe. When we look at Peter's character, it's easy to see he was a bit of hothead. Always quick to jump the gun...cutting the soldier's ear off, swearing he would never deny Jesus as the Christ, etc. You will always find Peter at the forefront of every situation. Peter desperately sought to know how to cultivate his faith and once he learned...he attended to it with diligence and left us the blueprint on how to do the same.

In 2 Peter 1:3, Peter tells us, "According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that [pertain] unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:"

The first thing Peter is telling us in this chapter is that Christ has given us all things that pertain unto life. Now, we might define life in our English language as existence or being, and we’d be right to do so, however that is not the definition intended here. When we go back to the Greek, we understand that Peter is telling us that Christ has given us everything we need to be possessed with vitality! It means you’re supposed to live a life of passion and vigor!!! If you’ve ever met anyone that is passionate about something, they’re not sitting on the sidelines; they’re working hard to accomplish their goal. Think about Olympians and all the hard work and training they put in because of their passion. 

So how exactly do we do live our everyday life with vitality and passion? 

"And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to your virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity." (2 Peter 1:5-7)

Notice here...there’s that word again…diligence…Peter says, “giving all diligence,"...and then he starts with faith..."ADD TO YOUR FAITH…”

Remember, you can’t grow the mustard seed with out water and weeding and sunlight and pruning. If you’ve ever tried to grow anything, you know it takes diligence or hard work to keep it from dying.

Peter then begins to give us the list of ingredients to cultivate or grow our faith.

First, is virtue—or moral excellence, which requires strength…remember Proverbs 31:8—"who can find a virtuous woman?" Think about all she does! That lady is superwoman…she has great strength to handle all of the things coming at her! Virtue is defined in the Hebrew as strength...You see, you have to be strong to deal with the things that are going to come at you as a Christian. You have to strengthen yourself for those fiery darts. So how do you do that?

With knowledge, which is the next thing on Peter’s list. Knowledge is a general understanding of the Christian faith. If you don’t know your faith and why you believe it, how will you ever convince someone how great our GOD is? You’ve got to know what is lawful and unlawful when walking with Christ. This keeps you from being a stumbling block, or causing others to fail to live that virtuous life.

When you knowledge of how you should behave, then you will need to learn temperance or self-control. You absolutely have to master your desires…whatever it is you struggle with, you have to have self-control to overcome have to bring it unto subjection to Christ. For example, if you are prone to gossip, then you’ve perhaps you excuse yourself from conversations that are going in that direction. If alcohol entices to you, then perhaps you don’t go to dinner with friends that think there’s no reason not to have a glass of wine….maybe you go for coffee with them instead.

Once you have mastered temperance, you then add patience…that is defined as endurance. You find a way to endure those moments that you will be faced with temptation, because you eventually will be. You find a way to endure those hardships that make you want to throw your hands up and quit. You find a way to that others might seek forgiveness in the Gospel of Christ when they look at your life.

After temperance, then it's easy to add godliness. Respect and reverence for your Creator comes east after you see all that He’s helped you overcome and how far He’s brought you.

Godliness then transforms you and brotherly love becomes part of the mix…you begin to love the brethren. Someone that was once your enemy is now your brother or your sister in Christ and you’re willing to do whatever you can to help them...your willing to bear their burdens. Someone that you once didn’t like…you now love…you now love him or her because you have charity, which is love. So you choose to love, because Christ chose to love you and die on a cross so that your sins would be washed away.

"For if these things be in you, and abound, they make [you that ye shall] neither [be] barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 1:8)

Peter continues here in verse 8, telling us that if all of these ingredients have been mixed in with our faith...the we will be working hard to share the Gospel so that others can have the same hope that lives in us...we won’t be idle.

"Therefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:" (2 Peter 1:10)

Again in verse 10, Peter tells us we've got to be diligent...our calling and election depends on it— that calling and election is our relationship with God!! We cannot and should not neglect time with HIM... we must be diligent {Definition again if you need reminding: Steady application in business (or relationships) of any kind; constant effort to accomplish what is undertaken; exertion of body or mind without unnecessary delay or sloth; due attention}

"Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting [you] in remembrance;" (2 Peter 1:13)

Peter stresses one last time the importance in remembering this recipe. He tells them he wants "to stir you up..." Strong’s Concordance defines both stir and up as awaken, arouse, render active. When something or someone is rendered active...DILIGENCE IS INVOLVED!

So the formula for cultivating our faith will keep us stirred up and working diligently for Christ. And the more stirred up we as body of believers stay, the more mountains we move, and the more people we reach for Christ. If you've never began adding anything to your faith, I invite you to do so now...because it isn't the size of your faith that's going to move that mountain...rather it's how you cultivate it. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Attending to Faith with Diligence (Part 1)

One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from Abigail Adams. It's the first sentence I used on my resume when I was in the workforce, because it says so much in such few words. She once stated, "Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence."

Diligence is an area of my life that is in constant need of attention. I start lots of projects that far too often take me weeks, months or even years to finish. It’s not that I don’t want to be diligent, because I do, but diligence is hard work. It takes a lot time and a great deal of effort. 

This is how Noah Webster in his 1828 Dictionary defined the word:

Diligence, n. [L., to love earnestly; to choose.]
  1. Steady application in business of any kind; constant effort to accomplish what is undertaken; exertion of body or mind without unnecessary delay or sloth; due attention
We’ve all heard if we just have faith as a grain of mustard seed, nothing shall be impossible. So what does faith have to do with diligence? Faith isn't just saying a prayer and the rest is up to God.

You see in Matthew 17, a man brings his lunatic son to Jesus for healing. No doubt, the boy's illness had left him with scars from head to toe...his spasms had tossed him into the fire time and time again. His father told Jesus that he'd even fallen into water over and over again. Perhaps he'd almost drowned.

Can you imagine the pain that father felt watching his son struggle with an uncontrollable disease all those years? Surely, the father had prayed...wouldn't you if it was your child? We even learn that he'd brought his son to the disciples, yet that effort was futile. Jesus was the father's last hope...and the healing came. But why? Wasn't that father's prayer enough? Why couldn't the disciples heal him? Why is it we aren’t able to perform miracles? Why are we losing so many of our loved ones to cancer or other incurable diseases? Why does it seem the Gospel isn't enough and so many are perishing without Christ? Don’t we have faith as a grain of mustard seed?

"And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you." (Matthew 17:20)

Clearly, Jesus is letting the disciples know something really important here in this passage of scripture. The funny thing is, we, much like the disciples at first, have gotten it all wrong…and I have to credit my husband for teaching me this.

IT ISN’T THE SIZE OF THAT MUSTARD SEED, like we’ve been told for years. NEVER does Jesus even allude to the size of that seed. He just says, “…faith AS a grain of mustard seed…”

So if it isn’t the size, what is it? Look at verse 21.

"Howebeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting." (Matthew 17:21)

What does Jesus say? He says, "This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.” Did you get that? PRAYER AND FASTING!!

How MUCH do you pray? I'm truly ashamed of my lack of diligence in prayer. I might make a slightly more intense effort when there’s something important to me, but to "attend" to prayer diligently, I really do not. Prayer is HARD work! Seriously! Think about it, when Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, not only did He pray for ONE HOUR (Matthew 26:40-41) but He prayed so diligently that His sweat became drops of blood trickling from his brow (Luke 22:44). He was working hard!

What about fasting? Have you tried it before? 

It’s hard. I once fasted for 40 days and at first it was the hardest thing I’d ever done in my life. Fasting is hard work! It's not starving yourself...fasting is a spiritual undertaking...clearly with monumental consequences according to Christ!! It takes so much effort to turn away food when every social gathering in our world practically revolves around it!

So what exactly is Jesus trying to tell us here? He’s telling us our faith is going to take some work…and not just a little bit of work, but some HARD work. That’s where diligence comes in. Being diligent is the only way to move those mountains. Remember diligence means…steady application, constant effort, exertion of body or mind without unnecessary delay or sloth; due attention. So why the mustard seed? Because, while a mustard seed CAN grow to great heights, it can ONLY do so when it is cultivated.

(Continued here...)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Review: Time 4 Learning

As I've expanded my blog and began doing reviews, I've been blessed with some amazing opportunities to review truly incredible products. So far I can honestly say there hasn't been on that I have not loved. We Choose Virtues has transformed my 3 year old in so many ways! The Apologia Planner has simplified my homeschool plan and made me feel more at ease with getting everything in. Recently, we've had to opportunity to benefit from some digital programs that are available and today I'm going to tell you a little about the first one...Time4Learning

There are so many reasons why I loved the Time4Learning program. I wish with all we had going on in the month of March (personally and sickness setting up camp) that we could've even had more time to explore this curriculum, but we got in the time we could and LOVED it! Both of my kids dove right in and loved playing the games and watching the various videos.

It's ease of use for the kids made it a dream come true for me, because I had so little to do. I could literally set a time limit and let them go. They explored various subjects...everything from science to simple phonetics. Not only was it easy to let them explore, but the parent membership gave me the opportunity to set an actual curriculum for them to follow, so I could make sure they were on track with what I as their teacher am actually teaching them as well. It could quite possibly be used as a curriculum, however, I myself am not keen on doing all digital, but others may be.

Without a doubt, I would recommend this program to any mom looking for some fun learning activities and I absolutely will be purchasing a membership when we have the finances available. From now until the end of April you can sign up as many children as want for only $9.98 for the first month.

***I received a free trial of the above mentioned program to help facilitate a review for the company. The opinion is entirely my own from using the program and was not influenced by Time4Learning in any way.***

Thursday, April 11, 2013

About Me

Our family (Earl, Raquel, Genesis, Asher & Canaan)
I'm a small town girl, whose big city dreams propelled me to leave my hometown of Coeburn, Virginia in pursuit of a career in television news. After five years in the newsroom, the humdrum of needing bad things to happen to have an exciting day at work led me to expand my horizons. It was then that I made the move to a more creative position and became a producer for The 700 Club. After just two years there, I stepped down as God called my husband, Earl, and I back to his hometown of Knoxville, TN. In seeking God's will for us, we were led to his first pastorate at Forest Grove Free Will Baptist Church in South Knoxville.

I traded the lights, camera and action of telling other people's stories for being a stay at home/homeschooling mom writing my own story with the three adorable blessings God has given me so far.  Since writing has always been a job, I'm excited to see where God takes me as I return to it as a hobby. To see some of the amazing ways God has worked in my life, be sure to read our love story. It's the whole reason I started blogging to begin with. Thanks for stopping and sharing in on my journey to serve the Creator of all.

Review: Apologia Planner

About a month ago, I posted my very first review. It was a blog planner, which has helped me stay on track and given direction to my blog on a weekly basis (with the exception of when we were hit with nonstop sickness for a few weeks and then traveling for a couple of's already on my planner to get some guest bloggers to fill those times in the future). I'm still using it, which is a HUGE feat for me! As I've told you in the past, I'm organizationally challenged which is why anytime I can find something that helps my family's life become a little less chaotic it's wonderful.

Now, since I've been homeschooling the past three years, I've always had a plan and I've tried everything from fancy paper planners to just simply putting it on iCal. They've all fell by the wayside, which means, I'm still looking...or at least I was until I received The Ultimate Homeschool Planner (it's really working for me at the moment)! Everything about this book makes it practical. I'm not even sure I can list all the reasons why I love it, but my favorite is because it is undated. That may seem silly to some, but when you're a free spirit who changes with the wind, it's wonderful! It means if I forget to write in my planner for a month, it isn't useless! It means if I fall by the wayside, I can pick up in whatever month we are in! If I want to start planning in October, I can...or February I makes your planning regimen so flexible! And free spirits love flexibility, so for me it really is the best feature. Now on to all the other awesome features.

Let me start by saying, even though I've been homeschooling for three years, I'm still learning as I'm sure most homeschooling moms will attest to. Every year has a new challenge and especially when you are homeschooling your first child, which is sort of the guinea pig in this adventure. Having said that, this planner lays out so many things I never thought of to plan for (free spirit here).

The planner starts with a yearly planning retreat. Sure I sit down and sort of map out our homeschool every July, but I've always just focused on the academic side of it. I never thought what are the characters goals I have for my children...when I say that I mean sure I want them to be well behaved and following Christ, however, pinpointing the exact attribute they needed to work on never occurred to me (or at least not until We Choose Virtues). It also provides an area for family goals. Again, I never sat and mapped out what we as a family need to accomplish and with family being the first institution God created, it's an absolute must! How could I have overlooked these simple things? It's so easy to get wrapped up in the academics of homeschooling by trying to meet other people's standards of what your children should be learning (i.e. state, grandma  photo 77448590-63d3-4a20-9ef0-03d0d8fc7286.jpg) that you stop focusing on the real reason you decided to homeschool in the first place and this planner reminds you of that.

The next awesome thing about this planner....the monthly planning sessions. Every homeschool family already does this to some degree, but add in the family goals you are now focusing on and it gives you better idea of how to accomplish those goals each month. You can see how you've progressed at the end of each month and readjust family priorities and other commitments you have made if necessary because they are there in black and white (or pencil which is what I'm using).

Next, you have weekly planning breaks. My favorite part about this section was that there were so many areas that I'd never thought of like a battle plan, or even making a list of the weeks memorable moments and the best...evidences of grace...honestly, how often as a homeschool mom do we need to remember those moments when God's grace was present to keep us going...for me that is definitely weekly!!!!

There are also two sections called Monday Morning Tutorials and Friday Afternoon Reviews, which are designed to help you raise an independent learner (yes, please). You use the first to give your student their lesson plans for the week and then on Friday they check in and you get to see how they are managing their time and completing tasks. This it is set up to work with The Ultimate Daily Planner for Students, which I also received, but since my daughter is only in 2nd grade she struggled a little with it and we weren't really ready to dive in and use. Another year or two and it will be a perfect companion for us to this planner!

My overall take on this product is it is wonderful!!! The ease of the layout makes it simple to tweak anything in the planner! Users guides are included in it with thorough explanations on how to use each and ever section, so I wasn't overwhelmed at all like I am with most planners this size! Both The Ultimate Homeschool Planner and The Ultimate Daily Planner for Students come chalked full of encouraging and motivational quotes and scripture as well as other extras. In The Ultimate Homeschool Planner you'll find teaching tips and a year-end review section. I can honestly say that I expect to use this for years to come. I would really love to see a digital version available too so I could see which I would prefer using. I wholeheartedly recommend purchasing this planner (which costs $28 but is so worth it) for your next homeschool year!

Need a second opinion, check out other reviews from Mosaic Reviews team members here.