Striving to create a home strong in the foundations of love, respect, and God's truths ...

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Inspired Wednesday - Starting Somewhere

Sometimes, when faced with something difficult, you just have to start.

I recently was given the opportunity to do something that I once dreamed about - way back in another another lifetime - one that involved professional clothing and an actual, monetary paycheck.

I had forgotten about this dream.  As change after change happened for us, I became focused on what was right in front of me.  These changes allowed me to focus completely on feeding babies and first steps and being with my family, but sometimes I looked back on all those things I used to dream about and wondered just why God had me work so hard to prepare for them if I would never have the opportunity to use them - at least, use them outside of my family.

And then this opportunity came.  I realized that perhaps my dreams hadn't been exchanged completely for new ones. Perhaps they were just shelved, waiting for the right time.  Maybe God had other plans for me - or maybe He just had different timing.

So with the dusting off of these dreams came this opportunity - and after thinking through what to say and getting the right background noise, I found myself sitting in front of my computer, a nice blank screen before me, totally devoid of words.

I fidgeted.  I wiggled.  I found something to drink and checked my email.

Then I decided to type.  Something.  Anything.  To put a word on the page would surely take me someplace, and Someplace had to be better than Noplace.  Surely Someplace could later be edited and rearranged and improved upon.

So I began.  Feeling rather foolish, I began to type - and within seconds was caught up in words and page layouts and finding the proper terminology.

The rest of my afternoon flew by, and rather than feeling frustrated at my small accomplishment, I felt accomplished.  Not finished - not done - but started.  I had accomplished something, and in beginning, I was well on my way.  I now had a path to follow, a thread of thoughts to tug, and a verbal conversation to continue.

Sometimes, when a task seems insurmountable, you need only begin.

What's facing you today that seems too hard?

Last week Cathy at Thoughts on Books shared why she enjoyed the movie 42 - one that my husband has been eagerly awaiting. To find out more, visit 
Thoughts on Books - and Cathy, please visit our Inspired Wednesday page and take the "I was featured on Washed Up Inspired Wednesdays' button back with you.  

A Nest in the Rocks


Monday, July 29, 2013

Our School Space - Back to (Home) School 2013

Back to Home School 2013

I love seeing where everyone else 'does' school.  After spending so much time learning how to arrange classrooms and furniture in college, I'm fascinated with how people arrange their houses for learning!  So, I thought you might like to see what we do.  

Our house was built with a carport, and then the owners turned the carport into a room and added on another.  This first, original now-enclosed carport is our main school space, so it's long and narrow.

For us, this was the kids' playroom at first, and so it still has many of their toys in it.  This room is always evolving to meet their growing needs, but for now, this is what works for us.

At one end a table surrounded by lots of shelves.  Most of our writing is done here at the table.  This is also where I'll bring the laptop if we're watching a YouTube video together - like when we virtually toured Ireland or watched a kid make chocolate in the Amazon Rain Forest.

We do our paper-based math work here and most art projects, as well.

The shelves on either side contain most of the books that the kids could be interested in right now.  They often will pack a bag of books and carry them around the house or on short car trips.  We have a bit of everything - poetry, fiction, non-fiction, picture books, science books, math books, and reference materials.  They read them all.

My husband built the shelves behind the table for us  These are long, low shelves full of tubs.  The lower shelves mostly contain toys, while the very top one is smaller baskets with writing supplies - pencils, markers, crayons, etc.  Most of it can be reached from our chairs at the table, at least by one of us.

Because we don't use (many) traditional school books, the books I mentioned above are primarily what we read.  The kids do lots of writing, though,and they each have notebooks and whiteboards for their own personal use.  I sewed us each a simple backpack for on our chairs to keep all of our supplies organized.

I made these curtains when we first moved into the house.  They're made out of canvas and are great for darkening the room (my husband's big screen is at the other end of the room) and, now, for hanging important information.  The kids hang up their artwork and other favorite creations here.  I have also been known to hang up vocabulary words, sight words, or other thematic words that might be difficult to spell.  We keep clothespins on the edges of the curtains to make attaching papers quick and easy.

We don't always work at the table.  We spend a lot of time reading - both together and apart - and so having this cozy space nearby is important.  Someone is usually snuggled into the pillows on the couch, wrapped up in the soft blue blanket, reading away.  

Below the couch you can see a map-rug.  This is our biggest open space in this room, and if we're working with manipulatives, like Unifix cubes or Base 10 blocks, this is where we end up.  My Big Helper likes to bring simple math work down here, as well, so as to have more space for her big white board.

The kids also love simply to sit and read the rug ....

So this is our school room.  Of course, we also cook in the kitchen and sew in the living room and read and build in bedrooms and paint and play outside and .... well, you get the idea.  ;-)

So what does your school space look like?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Win an iPad Adventure Pack from @SuzanneWFisher | A Big Year for Lily Giveaway Extravaganza!

Suzanne Woods Fisher is celebrating the release of A Big Year for Lilybook three in the beloved Adventures of Lily Lapp series, with a giveaway extravaganza!


  One winner will receive:
Twelve winners will receive:
  • Special prizes specially picked by Lily (something new each day)! Suzanne will announce the winners on July 29 on her blog!
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on July 27th. All winners will be announced July 29th at Suzanne's blog.

Don't miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to visit Suzanne's blog on the 29th to see if you won one of the fun prizes! (Or better yet, subscribe to her blog and have the winner announcement delivered to your inbox!)

Friday, July 26, 2013

Enter to win an iPad Mini from @KristaMcGeeYA | “Anomaly” Giveaway!

Krista McGee is celebrating the release of Anomaly, the first book in her new YA dystopian series, with an iPad Mini Giveaway!

One winner will receive:
  • An iPad Mini
  • A $25 iTunes gift card (download Anomaly to the iPad!)
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on July 31st. Winner will be announced at Krista's website on August 2nd.

Spread the word about Krista and her giveaway HERE!

"Anomaly" by Krista McGee

Thalli has fifteen minutes and twenty-three seconds left to live. The toxic gas that will complete her annihilation is invading her bloodstream. But she is not afraid.

Decades before Thalli's birth, the world ended in a nuclear war. But life went on deep underground, thanks to a handful of scientists known as The Ten. Since then, they have genetically engineered humans to be free from emotions in the hopes that war won't threaten their lives again.

But Thalli was born with the ability to feel emotions and a sense of curiosity she can barely contain. She has survived so far thanks to her ability to hide those differences. But Thalli's secret is discovered when she is overwhelmed by the emotion in an ancient piece of music.

She is quickly scheduled for annihilation, but her childhood friend, Berk, convinces The Ten to postpone her death and study her instead. While in the scientists' Pod, Thalli and Berk form a dangerous alliance, one strictly forbidden by the constant surveillance in the pods.

As her life ticks away, she hears rumors of someone called the Designer---someone even more powerful than The Ten. What's more, the parts of her that have always been an anomaly could in fact be part of a much larger plan. And the parts of her that she has always guarded could be the answer she's been looking for all along.

Thalli must sort out what to believe and who she can trust, before her time runs out . . .
I absolutely loved the last Krista McGee novel that I read, so I was a bit disappointed with the opening of this one.  The premise feels very much like Lois Lowry's The Giver or even Ted Dekker's Mortal series.  You know, planned community in which all emotion and sensual information is erased and science rules ...

except that's where the similarity ends.  

Anomaly focuses less on the main character's rebellion of the ruling scientific regime and more on each person's innate longing to know our Creator.  McGee has crafted an intense blend of science and faith that will fascinate even the most reluctant science fiction or fantasy reader.  Anomaly is both and neither at the same time - because while the premise may be futuristic and technological, truth resounds within its pages.

  • We are created to Love.
  • We are planned with a purpose.
  • We are not all the same - and those differences are in accordance to the above purpose.
  • We are not meant to be in control, and rather than being scary, this can be a freeing discovery.

Anomaly is a perfect teen read.  It would make a fantastic book club book or discussion diving board for those angst-filled teen years when one is trying to figure out one's purpose, place, and how to live with zits.  

That early similarity to The Giver?  It remains, lingering in the background, throughout the major action in the plot - but McGee ultimately does it better.  Not only does she add depth and meaning where it was missing in the first, but she throws in a surprise twist that totally blindsided me - and will have me scanning the newly-released book lists in watch for the sequel.

If you want to read other reviews from this blog hop, click here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

When Krista McGee isn't living in fictional worlds of her own creation, she lives in Tampa and spends her days as a wife, mom, teacher, and coffee snob. She is also the author of "Anomaly", "First Date", "Starring Me", and "Right Where I Belong". 

Connect with Krista at

I received a free copy of Anomaly from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Colleen Coble’s “Rosemary Cottage” Nautical Summer Giveaway


Water can be calming and healing, but it can also be dangerous, as Amy Lange and Curtis Ireland both found out. Both lost their siblings to the sea, and they hope to find healing on Hope Island. But will they find it, or will their quest to find answers set them at odds with each other and with those who have secrets that need to stay hidden?

Find out in Colleen Coble’s latest book, Rosemary Cottage, which released July 9. To celebrate, Colleen is hosting a 12-day Nautical Summer Giveaway. From July 16-27, Colleen will be giving away a new nautical prize every day. She’ll announce the winners on July 29 on her website, so mark your calendars for that date to see if you were picked as a lucky winner!

Not on Facebook? Enter here.

Old-fashioned Orangeade

My Big Helper sold orangeades at her lemonade stand for missions.  

She sold a lot of orangeades.

This drink is deceptively simple - but surprisingly delicious.  

We watched as delight lit up people's eyes - one customer after another.  My Big Helper and my husband agreed to let me share their recipe with you.  I hope, if you try this, that you'll let us know what you think.

We'd love to know if your eyes lit up, too.

Here's how to make your very own old-fashioned orangeade.


  • 1 orange
  • simple syrup (recipe below)
  • crushed ice
  1. Juice one orange.  Be sure to get every last drop of juicy goodness out of it.
  2. Pour the juice into a 16-oz cup over crushed ice.
  3. Fill with simple syrup.
How to make your own simple syrup:  Cook three cups sugar with one quart of water until all the sugar is dissolved.  Pour into a pitcher and fill to the three quart line.  Chill.

So, go, have a party, and serve your very own old-fashioned orangeades.  Watch your guests' eyes light up!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

"A Big Year for Lily" by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Lily Lapp's family has settled into their new home in Pennsylvania, but life still holds big changes and big steps for Lily. Good changes, like once again living close to her beloved cousin and best friend, Hannah. Bad changes, like a mean girl who plays tricks on her. And no change at all where Lily would most want one--Aaron Yoder sits near her in school and relentlessly teases her. Surprises are in store for Lily as she learns, with Mama and Papa's help, to manage the ups and downs of growing up Amish.

The third of four charming novels that chronicle the gentle way of the Amish through the eyes of a young girl, A Big Year for Lily gives children ages 8-12 a fascinating glimpse into the life of the Amish---and lots of fun and laughter along the way. It combines Mary Ann Kinsinger's real-life stories of growing up Amish and the bestselling writing of Amish fiction and nonfiction author Suzanne Woods Fisher. With charming line drawings in each book, this series captures the hearts of readers young and old.

Lily is back, and she's better than ever!  We loved the newest installment of the Lily Lapp series.  Within a week of receiving the book, my daughter read it twice - and is working her way through the series again.  Any book that will encourage a love of reading like that is a winner in my book.

A Big Year for Lily is as full of childish adventures and parental wisdom as the first Lily book.  She deals with issues like what is truth?, who are my friends?, and how important is stuff?.  The story teaches about these important lessons while entertaining in a fun way.

I look forward to our upcoming book club event centered around A Big Year for Lily.  There are so many opportunities within this book for children to act out Lily's adventures!  Besides math, quilting, and cooking ideas, there are art and game options, too.  For more specific plans, email me at or keep watching for our book club post on a Friday in November.  I don't want to give anything away here just yet if you haven't read the book!  ;-)

My Big Helper is already asking when the next Lily will be released.  I'm not sure if Suzanne Woods Fisher and Mary Ann Kinsinger plan to collaborate on any more books after that one, but I hope that they do.  Our kids need more books like this - books that are strong in family values, respect, honesty, truth, and, yes, adventure!  Adventures that kids can really go and replicate on their own or with an adult's supervision.  Please, keep'em coming, ladies!  

You can read other reviews on this bloggy hop here or purchase your own copy here.

Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of the Lancaster County Secrets series and the Stoney Ridge Seasons series, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace. She is also the coauthor of a new Amish children's series, The Adventures of Lily Lapp. Her interest in the Anabaptist cultures can be directly traced to her grandfather, who was raised in the Old Order German Baptist Brethren Church in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne is a Carol Award winner and a Christy Award finalist. She is a columnist for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazines. She lives in California. For more information, please visit and connect with her on Twitter @suzannewfisher. Get Amish proverbs delivered right to your iPhone or iPad! Download the Free App!

Learn more about Lily at

I received a free copy of A Big Year for Lily from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

Inspired Wednesday - Establishing Routines & AiO Giveaway!

On Monday I shared with you what our regular school days look like.  

Today I want to tell you more about our devotional schedule.

When My Big Helper was little-little, I tried to have devotions in the morning.  I tried to have devotions in the morning, but every morning ended up different, depending on where and when we were heading out that day.

Eventually we ended up having devotions at night, and that worked for years.  

Then our schedule changed again.  With one child in school and an early bedtime important, we struggled to find a time to read and discuss scripture.

When we moved to full-time homeschooling, I played around with this a little, and now my study Bible lives on our kitchen table.

We try to read at breakfast, and some days that works.  Others, when we're rushed to leave, we might not make it -but it's still there at lunchtime.

This has been different than anything we've done before, but we like it.  The kids often ask me to read more, and we have the rest of mealtime to talk about what we've read.  We're not so rushed, and this gives us time to discuss what we're learning.

I've also noticed My Big Helper making connections between what we're reading and what she's reading on her own.  She's starting to tell me when she remembers hearing a particular verse before, or connect it to something that's happened.  

Sometimes schedules need to be fluid.  Sometimes we need to watch for teachable moments.  Sometimes, we do what works, even when it's a bit different.

This is what works for us.  How do you make crazy schedules work?

Adventures in Odyssey is giving away a free sample download of their book, 90 Devotions for Kids.  Click over here to download your own!

AiO is giving away one copy of 90 Devotions for Kids to one of you!  Use the widget below to enter.

Don't forget to link up your family friendly inspirational posts! 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

GratiTuesday - Bug Bites, Sharpie Stains, & Frozen Corn

It's that time again.

Time to begin food storage for winter.

Actually, we've been doing that for a while now.  We've already stored berries and strawberry jelly in our freezer, but now the corn stalks are tall and waving their tassels proudly.

As a kid I loved helping to freeze corn.  My dad always seemed so strong and sure as he ran each ear quickly through the cutter.  I could never figure out how he could do it so quickly or without getting cut or burned.

My mom always kept everything else running smoothly.  She cleaned the ears, blanched them, cooled them, and had them ready for my dad.  She monitored my sister and I as we scooped the corn into bags and got the kitchen cleaned up afterwards in a snap.

I did the corn one year by myself.  It was completely depressing to do all that work by myself, although I did enjoy my freezer full of corn all year long.

That made my joy even brighter, though, when the kids began to help with this process.

For the past few years the whole family has worked together to husk the ears. We generally do a fair amount, and it can be hot, buggy work to husk all that.  

My Big Helper has been chief bag label-er and corn scooper for the past few years, and we've developed our own simple system for making it all happen.  I've enjoyed working with her.

This year was different, though.  

Daddy had to be away for work, and so we purchased the corn ourselves.  We took chairs outside under a tree and husked away.  (My Big Helper kept pointing out the myriads of mosquitoes on my legs while worked.  She failed to mention the myriads on her own - until the next morning.)

Next we moved inside, and I half expected My Little Man to bow out and find a book to read. He scrubbed his hands and pulled up a chair, though, after asking what his job could be.

He began by labeling the bags and eventually moved onto corn bagging.  Despite my many years of helping to preserve corn, though, My Little Man surprised me.   He didn't just do the basics but thought of something new.

Maybe he was remembering our trip to the art museum the day before.

Whatever it was, he decorated the bags!  He drew pictures to go with his labels.  At first they were simple things like smiley faces, but as time went on he drew complete scenes.

I smiled through the rest of the corn cutting (still wondering how my dad ever did all of that without burning himself), until it was time to put away the bags.

Then My Big Helper began to yell, "Oh, no!  Sorry, Mommy!" and hop around on her chair.

I looked to where she was pointing, only to see that the corn juice had run onto the bags and then transferred the happy blue pictures onto my countertops.

The pictures looked great on the bags.  Somewhat less so on my counters.

After removing all corn, juice, and bags, we discovered that Mr. Clean's Magic Erasers really are magic, and they do remove Sharpie stains from countertops.


So now, I'm sure I'll be smiling every time I pull a bag of corn out of the freezer.

First at the cool blue pictures.

Then at the memory of how they got there - three sweaty people, singing along to the radio and working together to story up for winter, all while one short person constantly exclaimed, "Isn't this fun, Mommy?"

Lastly at my sight of my counters - blue-free.

For more GratiTuesday, visit Heavenly Homemakers.

Monday, July 22, 2013

What Does a (Home) School Day Look Like?

Back to Home School 2013

As a college student I studied how to structure a school day.

As a new teacher in a different state I learned the regulations for how many minutes we were supposed to study each subject.  (They need to add those up - first-graders really do need time to go to the bathroom - that's important.)

As a (home)schooler, though, there aren't rules about what to do when and for how long, and that's one of the best things about it.  We can totally do what works for our family.

Our kids need a lot of sleep and family time is important to us, so those two factors are being big in determining our schedule.  When my husband gets home from work (after commuting to another county), we eat a late dinner together - usually around 7.  That means that baths are around eightish and bedtime (hopefully) by 9.

We grown-ups then finish clean-up from that day and prep for the next.  We all now go to bed later than we used to....

but, that's okay, because we can also sleep in more.  The kids are serious about their sleeping, so while one gets up around 7, the other gets up somewhere between 8 and 9.  That gives one-on-one time for me with the oldest - sometimes talking, sometimes playing a game, and sometimes just snuggling in on the couch to read together.

Breakfast happens between 9 and 10:30.  Yes, I know that's late, but that's what works for us.  Afterwards we start some laundry and clean up any messes from breakfast.

Then everyone makes their way to the playroom/schoolroom.  My Big Helper works on independent assignments while My Little Man writes in his journal and reads to me.  I review her work as needed, and then everyone does math.  When we're finished with that, we break out a computer for a virtual online tour, snuggle up on the couch for some read-aloud time, or find the art supplies to create something new.  We might pull out our science books and read a chunk of the next chapter, as well.

The kids have separate reading and math assignments, but we do everything else together.  They're actually becoming so close in math that we may study the same topic at the same time this year, as well - at least sometimes.

I always think we'll be done by lunchtime, but invariably we end off on a rabbit trail.  Somebody wants to practice more spelling words or read through the dictionary or find the country that was mentioned in the book, and off we go.  We usually end up finishing things after a late lunch, when we read our read-aloud book and then do a few chores.  

The kids then have free time until supper, when they must be picked up and ready to eat as a family.

And then we do it all again .....

What do YOUR school days look like?  I'd love to know.  I'm always curious as to how others get things done!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

"Rosemary Cottage" by Colleen Coble

Amy came to Rosemary Cottage to grieve, to heal, maybe even find love. But there's a deadly undertow of secrets around Hope Island . . .

The charming Rosemary Cottage on the beach offers Amy Lange respite she needs to mourn her brother, Ben. She's even thinking of moving her midwife practice to the Outer Banks community. It's always been a refuge for her and her family. She also wants to investigate Ben's disappearance at sea. Everyone blames a surfing accident, but Amy has reason to wonder.

Coast Guard officer Curtis Ireland has lost a sibling too. His sister, Gina, was run down by a boat, leaving him to raise her infant daughter. If anyone knew who little Raine's father was, Curtis could lose his beloved niece. Yet he can't help being drawn to Hope Beach's new midwife, Amy. He even agrees to help her investigate what happened to both Ben and Gina.

Can two grieving people with secrets find healing on beautiful Hope Island? Or will their quest for truth set them at odds with each other . . . and with those who will go to any length to keep hidden things hidden?

You'll have an inkling of who should fall in love with whom from the very first chapter of this book - but they won't.  Better yet, you'll fall in like with them, and you'll keep turning those pages because you want good things for them - and they're not readily forthcoming.  You won't get bored, though, because you won't be able to predict all the twists and turns in this story, which is what master storyteller Colleen Coble planned all along.

You won't care that you can't figure it out, because you'll keep thinking that you have.  You'll be able to piece a few bits of information together, sure that you're on the right trail, only to have another mudslide come along and wipe out half of your supposition.  You'll have to start all over again with the new information that the sliding mud uncovered, but that's okay - you'll be excited again to be on the trail of the answer.

With each page turned, your heart will become just a bit more attached to Hope Beach and its occupants.  With each patient of Amy's you'll pray for a safe delivery and for Curtis to come home after another daring sea rescue.  You'll want Raine to be safe and for Heather's motives to come to light and for someone to tell the lovebirds to get with it already and see the Cupid flying about overhead.

You'll want to - but you can't.  

They're only characters in a book.

Only you forgot that.

It's that good.

Click here to read other reviews on this bloggy hop or here to purchase your own copy now.

Best-selling author Colleen Coble's novels have won or finaled in awards ranging from the Best Books of Indiana, ACFW Book of the Year, RWA's RITA, the Holt Medallion, the Daphne du Maurier, National Readers' Choice, and the Booksellers Best. She has nearly 2 million books in print and writes romantic mysteries because she loves to see justice prevail. Colleen is CEO of American Christian Fiction Writers and is a member of Romance Writers of America. She lives with her husband Dave in Indiana.

Learn more about Colleen:

I received a free copy of Rosemary Cottage from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Inspired Wednesday - Build a Hideaway!

A few weeks ago I shared my excitement over a few of the freebies found on the Winter Promise curriculum's website.  In return for sharing these with you, the company's owner sent me a piece of their curriculum to check out. 

I received a book called "Hole Up in a Homemade Hideaway," which is one component of the K-1 curriculum 'Hideaways in History,' a complete year-long study of life in different time periods throughout history.  The idea is that for each week of the school year you would study a different time and place - and then the book provides directions for building a location that would be specific to that particular place.

I must say, I'm fascinated with this book.  My Little Man is now in first grade, but my Big Helper is in third, so she's a few years' past what this book is geared towards, but she's looked it over and can't wait to get started.

There is a full years' worth of hideaway directions in this book, so that's 30+ building plans.  We won't be using the book in this way - as I shared with you on Monday, we usually park ourselves in a given time period and stay there for several weeks, so we won't get through the entire book in a year; but who says we have to?

We'll be using this book for years to come.  Rather than use it as the base of our curriculum (which would be great, if that's how you plan) we tend to use it as an extension.  It will be a fabulous supplement to the units that we're already planning.

Come October, when we are learning about ancient Egypt, both as a family and in our book club groups, we'll be building cardboard pyramids and decorating them with hieroglyphics.

When we study China, in preparation for the Geography Fair and at my Little Man's request, we'll be building the Great Wall of China.  We might build part of the Forbidden City, too.

When we read the Imagination Station book about the early Pilgrims in America, we might build the Mayflower.   If time permits this year, we'll be moving into the Roman Empire, and so we could build a Gladiator arena or the Trojan Horse.

Those are just a few of the possibilities for this school year.  They match up naturally with our study plans.  The structures in the book begin chronologically just after Creation and continue as recently as World War II.  We'll be able to continue with these next year and even the year after that - as long as my kids are interested in building what we're studying.

These creations don't have to win any awards, either.  Each one requires only basic materials, most of which you'll already have around the house - things like cardboard boxes, scissors, paint or markers, and newspapers.  I love that I don't have to go hunting for specialized equipment!

Since we plan to make only a few over the course of the school year, we might go all out for each one.  That might work for us - and each set of "blueprints" provides directions for 'fancying up' your structure.  

If, however, you move a bit more quickly, or your children are younger, that might be difficult.  That's okay- the Winter Promise people planned for that, too. There are also directions for creating a simplified structure that will be easier to put together but will still give your kids the same idea.

Building something for kids to play in turns their lessons into life.  It helps it to become real.  It makes their learning kinesthetic and changes it from words on a page to something interactive.  Suddenly they can become the people in the stories more easily.  They can add their own art, pretend to be the heroes of the age, and relate to the whole era.

I've done this with two-year-olds and with second-graders, and it never fails to reach them in some way.  I'm looking forward to more frequent and more elaborate structures with all sorts of elementary-aged kids this coming school year.  Best part?  All of this creative thinking comes ready-made for me.  I don't have to research it, study it, or figure it out.  I can just climb in and have fun with the kids.

OH - and this book won't break the bank, either.  At just over $20 for more than 30 building plans + multiple modifications for each one, I think this is a steal. 

So who's with me?  Anybody else ready to Hideaway in History this year?

What special time or place will you be learning about this year that could benefit from its own special Hideaway??

Last week Nancy at There is Grace shared some lessons she learned at StarBucks - and how they could be translated into our churches. To find out more, visit 
There is Grace - and Nancy, please visit our Inspired Wednesday page and take the "I was featured on Washed Up Inspired Wednesdays' button back with you.  

A Nest in the Rocks


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

"A Bride for All Seasons" Review

It All Started with an Ad in a Mail Order Bride Catalogue . . .

Melvin Hitchcock of the Hitching Post Mail Order Bride Catalog isn't dishonest---not exactly. If he tweaks his clients' applications a bit, it's because he's looking out for their best interests.
This charming bouquet of novellas introduces four Hitching Post prospects in the year 1870, each one eager for second chances . . . and hungry for happiness. Year in, year out, they'll learn that love often comes in unexpected packages.
And Then Came Spring by Margaret Brownley
Mary-Jo has been unlucky all her life. But who would guess she'd travel halfway across the country to meet her match . . . only to find him dead!
An Ever-After Summer by Debra Clopton
Ellie had no idea she's not what Matthew ordered. And what's wrong with being a "Bible thumper" anyway? She's determined to show him she's tougher than she looks---and just the girl he needs.
Autumn's Angel by Robin Lee Hatcher
Luvena would be perfect for Clay if she didn't come with kids. But kids are a deal breaker, especially in a rough-and-trouble mining town. The trouble is, there's no money to send them back. . .
Winter Wedding Bells by Mary Connealy
David's convinced he's not long for the world. He needs someone to mother his boys when he's gone---nothing more. Can plucky Irish Megan convince him to work at living instead of dying?

A Bride for All Seasons has something for everybody.  With faithful characters and not, some interested in love and others running from it, from robust cowboys to opera singers and those just shy of dying, there's a character for everyone in this anthology.  

My favorites, of course, were Mary-Jo and Ellie.  I love their pluckiness in the face of diversity, and Megan comes in hard on their heels for just the same reason.  Their sheer determination and grit reminds me of just how easy many of us find basic life now - and how blessed we are if we have made our own love match.

The premise of the story was pure hilarity -  or, it would be, if it had not left so many people in such dire straits.  Can you not picture a skinny little bean-pole of a man seeing himself as Cupid and trying to 'improve upon' the ads that were sent to his mail-order-bride catalogue?  

The only issue I had with this book is that the stories are short - which, by definition to fit inside an anthology, they must be.  Most of the characters had the depth built into their backgrounds to be much more than a short story, and so I kept expecting more twists and turns than the author had time to build in.  I think that's a good thing, that I wasn't ready to turn the last page on these characters, so I'm definitely looking forward to the next adventure penned by these four.

You  can read other reviews on this bloggy hop here; or, click over here to purchase your own copy now.

Brownley, Hatcher, Connealy, Clopton

Margaret Brownley is a NEW YORK TIMES best-selling author and has penned more than twenty-five historical and contemporary novels. @margaretbrownley 
Robin Lee Hatcher is a Christy and RITA award-winning author. Her books often appear on bestseller lists. @robinleehatcher 
Mary Connealy is a Carol Award winner, an a RITA, Christy and Inspirational Reader's Choice finalist. @MaryConnealy 
Debra Clopton is an award winning author of sweet, heartfelt, western romance that face life with a smile. With over 2 million books in print, Debra has her first book coming as a movie starring LeAnn Rimes. @debraclopton

I received a free copy of A Bride for All Seasons from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

GratiTuesday - Setting Giant-Sized Goals

*This post contains affiliate links for a company whose products I have used and loved.  I recommend them because they are high quality.  If you choose to click on these links, you'll be supporting our homeschooling efforts - and we thank you.

Over the past few months I've gotten to work with the elementary-aged youth at our church.  We used the fabulous curriculum that came with Tales of the Not Forgotten  by Beth Guckenberger.  (You can read my review of that book here.)

The conversations that we had sparked something in my Big Helper - something new and special.  She decided to raise money for the Hands and Feet Project's orphans' home in Haiti - and then, upon learning that it was possible to go there on mission, she set that as her goal.

Now, I think this is a wonderful thing.  As hard as it will be to let her go, and even harder if she's heading off to our continental American shores, she's only eight.

Fortunately for me, Hands and Feet requires that you be thirteen years old before going there to do mission work, but my Big Helper is not letting that stop her.

Last month she decided that it was time to plan her annual lemonade stand, and about a week before setting up, her face lit up.  She looked at me and announced, "Mommy, this year I want the money to go towards my Haiti trip!"

I wasn't sure what to say to that.  Does she realize that this trip is five years away - minimum?  Does she realize how much it's going to cost to get her - and her daddy - and the four other people they require all the way there?

No, she doesn't.  She wasn't counting the cost - she was just stepping out in faith.

And then she decided to expand upon last year's lemonade stand and sell orangeades - and art.

She was so pleased with her debut piece of oil pastel artwork that she decided to add art to her lemonade stand.

As word spread about what she was trying to do, the demand for her artwork far surpassed what she was able to create in the few days' time prior to her sale.  In fact, she's still trying to catch up.

But she's happy.  

Her lemonade stand efforts went so well - and people were so generous when they learned what she wants to do - that she raised many times over what she's ever made before.

So much so that a few days later we visited the bank, where she opened a new account to keep her Haiti money safe.

Life has slowed down since her lemonade stand supplies were packed up for this year, but her dreams haven't.  She's dreaming as big as ever - with a giant-sized goal heaped upon lots of faith and sweetened with lemonade and sugar.

If you came by My Big Helper's lemonade stand and supported her efforts to go to Haiti, we thank you.  If you're one of the people waiting in line for her original artwork, we thank you, too - you're both increasing her faith and her confidence.  To Beth Guckenberger and the See the Light Crew - only God could have mashed together my Big Helper, oily sunflowers, and Haitian orphans with your outstanding lessons to get a goal this beautiful.  Thank you.

For more GratiTuesday, visit Heavenly Homemakers.

Want to know more about how she began her own "art business?"  Check it out here!

Ice Cream & Dinosaurs & Chinese ... Oh, My! Our Home School Curriculum

Back to Home School 2013

When you teach in a public school setting, you teach what you're told to teach.  You teach to the objectives in the curriculum, and maybe, if you're lucky, you'll have enough wiggle room and time to be really creative with how you teach those things.

In our state, the requirements for homeschoolers are very open-ended.  There are really no requirements about what we teach, only about the records that we keep, which is both a blessing and a curse.  It's hard, at first, to figure out what to teach; but once you get started, you'll wonder how you will ever stop.

That's what has happened to us.

As a certified teacher, I panicked at first when I didn't have a curriculum.  Trying to figure out how to set thirteen years' worth of goals at once sounded impossibly hard ... until I remembered wisdom from the Old Testament:  Do the next thing.

I sat down one night to figure out what our 'next thing' was, and it's evolved into this.

We want our children to be great readers and thinkers and problem solvers.  We want them to know how to learn, how to look at problems critically, and how to work together.  We think they should be kind, caring, and responsible adults who are able to lead and support their families.

Translation:  They should be able to read well, answer questions, figure out stuff, know where to go to find more answers, handle basic math, hold down a job, etc.

There.  That's not so hard.

So, since we like to get totally immersed in our education, we study things for several weeks at a time, usually, so that we can get at them from all angles.  We want to read about them, build them, replicate them, play in them, eat them, grow them, and whatever else we might be able to do with our topic of study.

So for this upcoming year, after talking to the kids, examining the opportunities presented by our local library and homeschool group, we've chosen to study these things during this upcoming school year:

  • Ice Cream
  • Camping
  • Ancient Egypt
  • China
  • France
  • Zoology - in particular dinosaurs, tigers, and elephants
  • The first Thanksgiving in America
  • Art - drawing and color
For a few of these units, we'll be using prepackaged materials to supplement what I create. Voice of the Martyrs has a great Egyptian lapbook, and so we'll incorporate that into our studies.  We can't learn about ice cream without reading Ebenezer Bleezer's Ice Cream Store, and we'll learn how to make arrays with our sundae toppings.  We're starting an art co-op and will be using See the Light's Art Class DVDs.

Mostly, we'll read lots of good books, examine art and cuisine and music and folklore of any given location, study maps, and write all about our findings.  We love the Imagination Station books, the Magic Tree House and Magic School Bus chapter books, as well as lots of other random books we find all over.

So that's our plan for the upcoming school year.  If we finish all that, I'm sure there will be new things just waiting to tackle.  One kid currently wants to learn basket-weaving and the other wants to study Chinese ....

What will you be learning about next school year?