Wednesday, July 16, 2014

{Not so} Wordless Wednesday: Yep. I Built This.

Trust me, this isn’t going to turn into a furniture building blog. 
For Christmas, Dave demo’ed a  front coat closet we had.  It was an annoying closet because the edge of it – just about 1/4 of an inch at the bottom – prevented the front door from opening back all the way.  Since, we don’t really come up the front steps in the wintery months, the coat closet wasn’t really used for more than stuffing junk in. 
So he busted it out of the house, and now I have this nice little nook that needed a bench to put purses and bags on.  So I found a simple bench to build at Ana White.

The top opens up and we can put gloves and hats and stuff in it.  I went funky and stained the bottom this blue-ish color, and I wanted a darker black-ish stain on the top.  I like how it turned out!  Next up is a wall rack to hold coats and mail.  I hope it will look like this, but I’ll put some of the blue stain on it as an accent:


Entryway Bench and Storage Shelf with Hooks

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Nina and Pinta


The boys and I met up with some friends to tour the reproductions of Columbus’ beloved Nina and the Pinta as it made its way up the Atlantic coast.

The Nina – way smaller than I could’ve imagined.  I cannot believe 26 people sailed on this across the ocean! : 

2014-07-03 12.24.41

2014-07-03 12.28.19

The Pinta- slightly bigger than the Nina, but not as large as the original boat:


2014-07-03 13.06.54

Families in the Midwest, don’t think that you are left out!  The ships are headed up the Hudson River, through the Erie Canal, and Great Lakes will make their way down the Mississippi River this fall.

You can check out their ports of call:

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Perfect Summer Day


Luke and Levi had friends (a pair of brothers) sleep over recently.  My boys had been working on making paper folded fortune wookies prior to their arrived, inspired by Tom Angelberger’s Origami Yoda book series:


After they returned from the soccer field, the four boys starting transforming practically every piece of construction paper in the house into paper-folded Star Wars characters.


Who has to say, “OK boys, time to put your origami away and go to bed?”  Me, happily me.

And who wakes up hearing boys pass tape, fold paper, and discuss eye placement?  Me, happily me. 


They even made up some of their own characters,and adapted some of the folding instructions in the back of the books to make them a tad more realistic (I mean, ya gotta have R2D2 legs!) What an awesome summer day.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Veritas Press Self-Paced History Courses {Crew Review}


Levi is loving history!

Veritas Press sent us a complementary 12-month subscription to one of their Veritas Press Self-Paced History courses for elementary grades (2nd – 6th grade; minimum age is 7 years old).  Levi wanted to study the Bible and chose Veritas Press Self-Paced History: Old Testament and Ancient Egypt ($199) with the accompanying Old Testament & Ancient Egypt Flashcards ($19.95) to help him learn the ancient portion of the Veritas Press timeline. 

About Veritas Press:  Based in Pennsylvania, Veritas Press is a provider of classical Christian curriculum.  The have comprehensive packages of grade level materials as well as online classes through Veritas Academy.  The program that we had the pleasure of using a self-paced program, which affords a student with the multi-media benefits of Veritas’ online teaching with the ability to work around your family’s schedule.

Their elementary-aged history courses include the following five courses (each is offered as a self-paced course):

  • Old Testament and Ancient Egypt
  • New Testament, Greece and Rome
  • Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation
  • Explorers to 1815
  • 1815 to Present

You can read more about Veritas Press at their About Us page.

Technical Requirements:  This product is 100% online. Well, except for the timeline cards. You will need to be connected to the internet every time you use the program.  This is compatible with both Apple and PC operating systems.

  • You will need an up-to-date web browser (we found that Firefox and Chrome both worked well)
  • 1GB of RAM (2 GB is preferred)
  • Flash Player 10 or above (you can check which Flash Player you have at this Adobe Flash Player Help site). 
  • Make sure that you enable pop ups for this site!  Otherwise, you will get very frustrated and hear a lot of “Mom, it’s not working!”  {Ask me how I know!}
  • You can find additional technical information at Veritas Press Self Paced History FAQs.
  • Internet speed is recommended to be a minimum consistent speed of 1 Mbps.  You can run  Additionally, if you navigate to, you’ll get a grade for the quality of your connection.  Veritas Press recommends a minimum grade of B for their program to work.  My connection quality was given a B (I ran the test while we were streaming a movie), and we have had no trouble running the program.

How The Program Works:  Veritas Press sent comprehensive directions to me to help me register myself as the instructor and then set up my student account.  When you purchase the program, only one student can be registered for the cost of the registration fee (but there is a discount for siblings!).  The program offers multiple choice and online worksheets and tests that are graded immediately, therefore only one student’s scores will be recorded. 

The teacher’s screen looks like this:

VP teacher screen with comments 
Progress through the 160 lessons is noted on the left side and up-to-date course grade is reported on top.   The program was created for students to work on daily (5 days a week) and there is one worksheet per week scheduled as well as one test.  In a traditional schedule, the worksheet is done one lesson after the test (so a test ideally would be on a Friday and a worksheet for review on the following Monday).

On the lower left side of the instructor’s screen are PDF documents that help flesh out the history program into a comprehensive history/ literature course.  One document, a supply list, can be printed to help you plan the hands-on projects you can build to enrich lessons – things like an Egyptian Paddle doll, coloring pages, or a King Tut mask.  The activities can all be printed out from within the lessons.  In addition, a reading schedule of selected books (available through Veritas Press) have been aligned with the history lessons.

So, about these history lessons.  Each lesson is an interactive PowerPoint-like slide presentation.  Our guide was the an Egyptian Sphinx.  He introduced lessons and often gave Levi his quiz!  Here are some screen shots of from a lesson:

VP video clips in slidesThis slide is a short movie clip that is introducing a lesson.
VP quizThis slide is an interactive quiz.  Levi would click the correct a purple bar to indicate the correct answer.
VP history card readingThe history timeline song is sung for practice, and the timeline cards are used in the lesson.
VP attachmentsThe table of contents allows you to see what is covered in each lesson.  Also, the attachments section pulls down;  you can print the paper craft activities from here.
Veritas Press Jeopardy game (lesson 30)This was one of Levi’s most favorite review activities!  A Jeopardy-style quiz! 

You can sample and view a week’s worth of lessons from all of the history courses (Sorry, I don’t know how to make them show up here in the review).

The Old Testament & Ancient Egypt Flashcards ($19.95) are beautiful, high quality timeline cards that sequence into the history program.  The facing side shows beautiful artwork that captures the essence of the historical event represented on the card.  The words on this side are those used in the timeline song;  dates are included when appropriate.  The opposite side of each card has a summary of the event and includes additional resources that can be used to dig deeper into the event (the resources are available through Veritas Press).  

How We Used the Program:  Levi jumped into this program the second after I was finished registering him.  Lessons were never very long --- 15 minutes maybe – and the slide presentation had a variety of live-action material, interactive lessons/ quizzes, songs, and action that it really held his attention.  As a matter of fact, it held his attention SO well, he often completed multiple assignments each day!  I can definitely see that if you were only completing the self-paced history lessons, you could easily finish in shorter than 32-weeks!

Levi did hit a snag in one section of the lessons – he was asked to type out a new vocabulary word in 40 seconds. This was hard for him and frustrated him to the point that he didn’t want to work through the program anymore!  After I coaxed out his reason for refusing to continue, we talked about it, and I helped him through that step.  He is good to go know – but I used this as a reminder that even though the program is very self-motivating and easy to progress through, I do need to keep my eye on what he is doing more than I had been.

I did want to talk for a minute about how we used the history timeline cards.  The cards are considered essential to the program – and having used similar cards in the past, I totally understand why.  Having the cards as a hands-on tool is really important.  We actually started the online program a few weeks before we received the cards in the mail, and I was happy to report that it didn’t really affect Levi’s desire to use the program nor his ability to learn the information – including the timeline song!  I am always SO impressed to see how students soak up information – especially when put to song.  The detail he is learning about the Old Testament + Ancient Egypt is amazing.  Now that we have the cards, I like to hand him some of the cards out of order and make him order them correctly.  He enjoys it as well.

My recommendations & thoughts:  I am very pleased by how much Levi is retaining and learning by using Veritas Press Self-Paced History: Old Testament and Ancient Egypt.  There is just the right amount of teaching and systematic review.  The variety of teaching (and quizzing/ testing) styles makes the program very interesting to 21st Century students.   Using the online course by itself will give your student the basics of the the time period, and if you include the additional tools available from Veritas Press (literature and nonfiction books), you will have a very full curriculum. 

Veritas Press Review

If you are looking for middle/ high school self-paced courses from Veritas Press, crew members also reviewed Veritas Press Self-Paced Omnibus I.

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All prices are accurate as of blog posting. 


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Thursday, June 26, 2014

God Spotting: Six Months in….My Word for the Year

{God Spotting posts are for the benefit of my children.  I am hopeful that they can see God working in me everyday and will look back on these posts to see that God was constantly working in the life of a poor wretch saved by His amazing grace.  I pray it will encourage them in their walk.}

My computer ate my “Word for the Year” post earlier this year; I was so frustrated that I just could not re-write it out!  Until now.

I have had times in my life that I just knew what God wanted me to work on for a period of time.  One year it was prayer.  One year I could sense that God wanted me to “just do it” and go deep and intentional with my Bible reading – so I read the Bible in 90 Days (It was amazing and I highly recommend the challenge!).  Last year must have been the year to trust God as we jumped full into self-employment.  I know I learned a lot during 2013 – but I’m grateful God doesn’t give us grades. When I sense that God is giving me something to work on, I often feel like I am playing Tug-of-War with Him.  I struggle with constantly letting him be in control and leading.  Well, 2013 was definitely a Tug-of-War!

{image credit}

January 1, 2014 came and went, and I was still overwhelmed with issues from 2013.  It wasn’t the best start of the year in my walk with God, and if I am honest with myself I would have to admit that I was struggling to listen and hear God.  I was wrestling with a lot of worry, busyness and some anger with God. 

But, by the end of January or February, when life had finally calmed down, a date night conversation with Dave revealed the character and spiritual trait I needed to work on in 2014 – contentment.

Let me backtrack a couple decades and paint this picture for you.  Dave and I did a major backpacking trip when we were first dating.  Without the benefit of the internet or cell phones or GPS, we managed to plot a course of travel from the top of the Whistler Village Gondola, and hiked (bushwhacked) in the beautiful mountains of Garibaldi Provincial Park in British Columbia. We did, literally, have to bushwhack through some grasses that were well over 5’ 5” tall in order to connect marked trails together to reach our destinations.  We were hesitant with each step, hoping we didn’t run into a resting bear behind the foliage! 

The memory that I have of pushing past the grasses immediately in front of me and trying to look two or three steps in front of me – this is sometimes how I feel I am living life.  I am a project person…which (to me) means that I see life sometimes as a series of projects to dive into.  Which often means that when I am about midway through a project, I become antsy for the next new thing.  I’m ready to be done and ready to move on to the next.  I’m not content with where I am  at the moment;  I’m not living where I am at the moment.  I’m not seeing the blessings where I am at the moment.   

Now, let me tell you that home schooling my kids for the long haul has definitely cured me of a measure of discontentment. The start of a new school year or the start of a new math program or co-op or unit  often involves some amount of change and newness, thus my antsyness (not sure that is a word) is curbed a bit.  Oh, it shows up, mind you.  I’m blessed to have had the finances and space to house a nice collection of books covering all sorts of subjects.  I’ve got books that I absolutely adore, but haven’t read aloud to the boys because – well, I already read that with Ben 4 years ago and I cannot bear to read it again to Luke and Levi.  We switched spelling programs last September because I just could not open up the same book I’d been suing for 4 years even though it is a highly regarded, successful program.  I need a bit of change, newness…a “project” to figure out. 

And then there is the worrying part that leads to discontent.  I come from a long line of very competent worriers. 

Back to January/ February 2014 and our date night conversation. I knew that God was speaking to me, because I was expressing ideas I’d never heard rattling around in my brain before – and it was all making sense and resonating with me. (I’ve added some verses that I will thing upon this year)

Be content with where I have placed you.

Jeremiah 29:11

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.


Do not worry about The Next Step.  I know and have it under control.

Matthew 6:25

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?

Job 36:10-12

He makes them listen to correction
and commands them to repent of their evil.
If they obey and serve him,
they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity
and their years in contentment.
But if they do not listen,
they will perish by the sword[a]
and die without knowledge.

Enjoy the days I have given you. Each day is a gift.  Treat it as such.

Psalm 118:24

This is the day which the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Obviously none of these are new ideas.  I’ve thought each of them hundreds and hundreds of times in my life.  But the beauty of God (and the Bible) is that He speaks to us where we need it. The words in the Bible don’t change, but how God uses those words to communicate to me about my life and my relationship to him changes.  Relevant verses and teachings pop out on a page that I’d not noticed before.  Our date night conversation was just like that – relevant Biblical truths were dropped into my mind and so resonated with where I was/ am this year, that I knew it was from God.

As the first half of the year has melted away, I can still sense that I am where God wants me to be.  Learning gratefulness for every day in every situation.  Not worrying about the future, but planning wisely and rolling with the unknowns.  Being present for my boys in their activities and adventures.  For sure, I am not “cured” of my discontentedness (I know I’ll never be this side of heaven), but I am learning to let God be the God of my life on a daily basis, and in Tug-of-War game, I’m learning to be a good loser.

2014 is Contentment at Reaping a Harvest