Monday, November 3, 2014

Review: Wizzy Gizmo

This past summer as I was looking to find a new bible curriculum for our family the opportunity to review a new product presented itself. Since we were in the market for a new approach, I jumped on board to review Wizzy Gizmo. I'll admit that while the name sounds fun, I had my doubts at how much my kids could really learn from it. We received the audio drama "Who Created Everything" (which is perfect for my on the go family) and popped it in as soon as it arrived at our door. My kids were instantly hooked. The drama kept their attention as it took them on an adventure with the kids of Sunnyville. They travel back in time (or at least virtually by Gizmovision) to the first chapter of Genesis and explore creation and how it came about. The story offered lots of details and in depth look at the entire first chapter, all while keeping it on a level this kids could understand. It's a fantastic resource for the kids at daughter actually listened to it on repeat for weeks when we got it. The Bible came alive to them and the silly and fun songs included have been sung throughout my house for the last month and a half (even my 2 year old sings them the best that he can).

The company was recently founded when two dads wanted to give their kids an entertaining glimpse into the Bible. They set out to create something that not only captivated the kids attention, but gave them an in depth look and understanding of God's word. They offer a variety of products, from digital downloads to books and other options to help you as a parent in your journey to teach your children the Bible and help them truly understand it. Pricing on all the products tops out at $14.99, making it very affordable. There's even bible study tools to help you kids get an even more out of the fun stories. Even if you're not looking for a bible curriculum, these products would be perfect for family devotions or just something to pass the time on long trips in the car with the kids. We will definitely be checking out more of their products and incorporating them into our homeschool.

You can find more opinions on some of Wizzy Gizmo's other products by checking out reviews at Home & School Mosaics.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

An Easter Resolution

As Easter approached this year, I began reevaluating my relationship with Jesus. What better time to do so than when we celebrate His resurrection. I decided to take time and look at each of the gospel accounts of when Jesus arose. As I read Mark's account, I was dumbfounded to realize how very lacking in my own faith I truly was of meeting with my risen Savior, not just this Easter Sunday, but every worship service I take part in.

Mark 16:1-8 (KJV)
"And when the sabbath was past Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us always the stone from the door of the sepulchre? And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid."

As I read this just before Easter Sunday, I pondered a few things from this account. First of all, why were they coming to anoint him? In verse 1 we are told a group of women are headed to Jesus' tomb with sweet spices to anoint him. Now, in that time, those spices were used to offset the odor of death...but they had been under Jesus' teaching all this time and yet they came to spice up the dead? Had they forgotten His words, his teachings? Clearly they had. In three different gospel accounts, Christ tells his followers that he will suffer and be raised from the dead in three days (Matthew 16:21; Luke 9:22; Mark 8:31), yet these followers of Christ still headed to the tomb, not to see a risen Savior, rather a rotting corpse.

I began to think, how many times do I really attend church service expecting to see a risen Savior? Do I go every single time to meet Him? Or am I going to try to spice up the smell of a rotting own dead and sinful body...because even though my spirit is so very willing to commune with Christ, my flesh is so very weak (Matthew 26:40). I'd say I'm very much like these women and though I know the words and teachings of my Jesus, I all to often forget and focus more on covering up my own stench than sitting at His feet and just taking time to worship.

Next, while the women were prepared to go to the grave to anoint Him, they weren't prepared to open the tomb?  "And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us always the stone from the door of the sepulchre?" (v.3) What good does it do to make all the preparations, yet not be able to roll the stone away? When we set out to see Christ every week, shouldn't we be ready to roll the stone away...the stone to our hearts? Or are we walking into a service, looking ready and smelling good only to be completely unprepared to open our heart to hear what He has to say in that small amount of time we are meeting with Him? Again, I realized what a failure I have been at taking in every little word He has for me in every single service I'm in.

Finally, as the women get to the grave and they see the stone is already rolled away, they still went in looking for a dead man (Luke 24:3), only to find a messenger of God "and they were affrighted." (v.5) In the Greek, that word translates to amazed. Why were they so astounded? I mean really, after walking with Jesus and watching him feed thousands, heal multitudes, and being someone that had been set free from demons (Mary Magdalene) were they in shock? However, I began to think about many times do I end up utterly amazed when I receive a miracle or an answered prayer? Why don't I expect it? Even knowing His word, I still seem to forget what an awesome and amazing God I serve, a God that's not dead, has surely risen and deserves so much more of me than I seem to give.

So this Easter, I'm making a resolution...I'm resolving to remember and EXPECT with an open heart I'm going to meet a risen Savior that has something to say to me each and every time I allow Him to.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Review: Reading Eggs

I cannot tell you how excited I am about the latest review that I had a chance to take part in. For quite some time now, I have toyed with buying a membership to the learning site Reading Eggs. I have done the two week trial and liked what I saw but never felt like it was long enough to really invest $49.95 for six months or even $69 for a year; that is until now. For the past six weeks both of my kids have gotten the opportunity to explore and learn on the site and I've seen an explosion in how much my 4 year old has learned. He has actually read at least two sentences this far and is well on his way to reading much quicker than my daughter did. I definitely attribute that to using Reading Eggs. No other site has kept him engaged in the learning process quite like this one.

Reading Eggs is a reading curriculum that focuses on phonetic awareness and sight words to help children learn to read. The games are engaging and just plain fun! Each child can explore and learn at their own pace with the 120 lessons that will have your child reading in no time. Not only do they offer reading lessons, but kids can work on spelling too. The child plays the levels earning eggs which allow them decorate their own home and avatar. One of my favorite features was that it was available for iPad!! Big plus when you have more than one using the computer in your home!

I have to admit, we'd never been able to progress through entire level with my 4 year old, so I really wondered how much he was retaining. This time I got to find out. He progressed far enough that he got to take a test at the end of the map. This eased my worries, because if he had not mastered a particular skill he was forced to stay on that map and continue playing levels until he could master the skill set he needed to move forward. There are even free activity sheets you can print off in order to help reenforce areas where your child may be lacking. And if you want actual books to help your emerging reader, the books your child is learning to read from on the game can even be purchased.

My one criticism is the spelling. We used it to work with my 7 year old daughter and while she did great, I would like to see a place to take each and work with it outside of the game just like the reading. She actually played Reading Eggspress since she can already read. It is set up similar to Reading Eggs, except with it she could focus more fluency and comprehension.

Right now there has never been a better time to find out about if Reading Eggs is right for you and your family! Sign up before March 7th and you can take advantage of a 5 week trial and participate in a great cause. Thousands of children across the U.S. are now taking
part in the Reading Eggs Read-To-Cure Challenge – an effort to inspire children to read while raising funds for The National Children’s Cancer Society (NCCS). The goal is to raise $25,000!!! With every donation friends and family make to the your reader, Reading Eggs will match it up to this amount! And if helping a great cause isn't enough...there are prizes too! So take advantage of this program now while you can see how great it really works! For more reviews on what others thought of their trial head over to Home & School Mosaics.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Taming the Stuff Monster

For awhile now, I've felt this ever increasing burden that "stuff" and things were overtaking our lives. So this past Christmas we made some drastic changes in our home. It all began the Christmas before, we did the same thing we've always done...have a birthday party for Jesus, hoping to keep Him as the focal point. However, no matter what we did, something felt awry.

As soon as breakfast was over, the kids sprinted to the tree and it was if the birthday party never happened...Jesus was lost in all the mounds of ripped up wrapping paper littering my living room; and as much as I've always loved Christmas it became evident that no matter what I did it meant nothing about the birth of Christ, even in my own church going family. I watched over the past few years as the gifts got out of control and we succumbed to the pressure to do and be like everyone else when it came down to it. For all of 2013, the memory of wrapping paper flying through the air played out over and over in my head, shattering all that I truly wanted Christmas to be.

Over the next 12 months I watched as my kids continued to amass more "stuff"...don't get me wrong it wasn't huge stuff, maybe just a Hot Wheel here or there or a new outfit, but all I could just see was more and more "stuff'!  As I worried what all of this "stuff" was doing to my kids, God began to convict me and open my eyes....we were birthing an appetite of gluttony. Too often we associate gluttony with food, but  is so much more than that. It's a poisonous sin that we are choosing to ignore in our churches and our country. How easy is it to become wrapped up in the things we own or want?  So I began to ask God, "How can I do this differently? What can I do to change?"

So as Christmas 2013 rolled around, I came up with the idea of going on trip instead of buying presents. While it may not have been the most novel idea, it was at the very least a break from the "stuff". Honestly, at first my husband was completely against it and my kids hated the idea, but my burden was so heavy and I was so insistent that I felt like this was what exactly we need to do in order to reclaim Christmas. Reluctantly, they agreed. I'll admit at first. everything seemed was odd and felt like something was missing, but by the end of the trip we realized it was the best decision we'd ever made. We had taken the time to stop enjoying "stuff" and focus solely on each other and it was the best Christmas we'd ever had.

The day after Christmas we decided to give each of the kids one gift. The gifts were nothing elaborate, less than $20, yet their excitement was a bountiful as if they'd just gotten ten gifts. There was a sense of joy, anticipation and contentment that had been missing all those years. In the past with each gift they'd open, their was less and less enjoyment. All the excitement was in what was next, not enjoying what was received. No gift offered any fulfillment.

All year long, I had struggled to find an answer, with God gently reminding we needed to make a change through messages my husband preached. Two things he said stuck with me each time I'd plow through the house cleaning "stuff". The first was, how we spend so much time loving things...things we think we desperately want..."stuff" we never really have room for. Then the second was how much time and money is given to our "stuff" much so that we even go as far as to pay someone else to store the "stuff'. All I could focus on was the "stuff"..."stuff" everywhere...the house was never clean, the kids were never satisfied, there was never enough room, never enough time all because of "stuff". Suddenly I knew the answer...the "stuff" simply need to go, because we were living in bondage.

So I started what would happen if I just took the "stuff" and gave it away, but that was unheard of...taking away all the "stuff" seemed crazy, until I ran across this was totally a God send...and I took the plunge. I sat them down and explained how "stuff" was consuming so much of our time and energy that we were missing out on life's greatest moments, referencing all the fun we'd just had on our Christmas trip. I then asked them to
choose three things to keep while we took a break from all our "stuff". To my amazement they agreed and readily bagged their up "stuff' (more confirmation that I was doing the right thing). I was shocked at how easily they tossed things out that I'd expected them to beg to keep. So we spent the next four days purging it all.

I'm not going to say it's been easy because I'd see things and think....oh man I paid this for that or I remember when
we got that...but I knew I had to focus on what God shown me. After the bags were filled, we loaded up my car and drove to Knox Area Rescue Ministries (KARM) and dropped it all off.

More than anything I started out desperately wanting to change how my family viewed Christmas, yet in the process, transformed our entire world...stopping the gluttony we'd allowed to creep into our lives. I realized all along God was trying to reverse a cycle of sin that we were wholeheartedly embracing without blinking an eye. We still have a ways to go and lots more purging (clothing is next), but the overwhelming amount freedom and joy we are experiencing is immeasurable.

For the record, I think they kept closer to 5 toys but "stuff' now has it rightful place and I'm going to do my best to keep teaching them the blessings in having less because it's far too often overlooked today.

As for future Christmas plans, we made so many great memories that we are even talking about what we want to do next year!! And we haven't ruled out gifts again, however, I don't think we'll ever have more than three...after all that's all my wonderful Redeemer needed.