‘Tis the Season…to be reading

Tomorrow we will celebrate Thanksgiving in a lovely but simple way. A feast around the table with joyful fellowship and thankful hearts. With only dishes to wash, I am sure there will be hours devoted to games and the great outdoors. In our family, there will also be reading going on.

Is it not the perfect time for an evening of reading? Everyone is well fed, leftovers are saved for another day, energy has been spent, and all is quiet. You grab a good read, find a comfy spot and a cozy blanket. Sounds perfect, right? Why, yes, it does. What could be better but a little holiday reading? I have the just the book for you!

Chautona Havig has long been a favorite author in our home. The Annals of Wynnewood and the Not-So-Fairy Tales are well loved by my children. My older girls and I have enjoyed many of her books written for adults. When I had the opportunity to read Chautona’s newest book while she was in the process of writing it, I was thrilled. Carol and the Belles is being released Thanksgiving evening and is a perfect way to end the day.

Carol and Michal have been lifelong pen pals. Through the years, letters have crossed the ocean and formed an amazing friendship. After all these years, Carol finally has the opportunity to come and visit Michal. From the moment Carol steps off the plane, plans take an unexpected turn for Carol and for Michal. With help from the “belles”, Michal tries to make Carol’s visit fun and memorable. There are just some things that can’t be planned.

Intrigued? I hope. There is a delicate balance in sharing about a book without giving it away! Carol and the Belles can perhaps be categorized as a romantic comedy. You will likely find yourself laughing, hoping the right person gets the girl, and maybe even shed a tear or two. A perfect light-hearted read but not fluff! There is depth gently woven into this story. How we see people, how they present themselves…what is real and true? Do we trust in the comfortable or are we willing to take a step of faith? Are we willing to sacrifice our happiness for what is true and right? We also find out the perfect traveling attire. Ha!

Guess what? There is a bonus! If you grab the book this weekend (November 26 – 30), you get a FREE short story that contains letters from over the years between Michal and Carol.  So fun to take a peak into how their friendship developed over time.

Hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving! Eat, drink, and be reading!


The Ultimate Homeschool Planner – A Review

I was a pen and paper gal. After several failed attempts at using various computer/online planning resource, I was confident in my pen and paper method. Until it wasn’t working. Then I threw aside my Luddite ways and embraced the world of online planning. For a while, it was great. It appeared that I had successfully transitioned and could save a tree or two. However, I began to notice a strange thing. I was planning with paper and pen and then transferring it to my online planner. Not exactly saving time, was I?

I decided that I needed to stop fighting my love of pen and paper. So the search for the perfect planner began.  As I was searching for the paper planner that I wanted to use, Apologia Educational Ministries made The Ultimate Homeschool Planner (orange) available for review.  Was the Ultimate Homeschool Planner the answer to my planning problems?

What the Ultimate Homeschool Planner Offers Homeschool Moms

A quick Google search will present you with an overwhelming selection of paper planners. So, what does The Ultimate Homeschool Planner offer that makes it the right choice for you? (Make sure you download the Ultimate Homeschool Planner Sample and TOC!)

*Helpful Tips & Examples– While this planner is very user friendly and not complicated to implement, it is often helpful to see how the pages were intended to work to help get us started. Also helpful for those who may beginning homeschool planning for the first time.

*Variety of Planning Pages – For recording reading list, field trips, academic goals, resource lists, etc, there are enough pages for up to six students.

*Monthly Calendar – Twelve blank monthly calendars are provided. These pages allow adequate space for keeping track of monthly engagements and important dates. Having the pages undated makes this planner work no matter when your school year begins or even if you begin using it mid-year.

*Weekly Planning Pages – There are 48 weekly planning pages. Again flexibility is key in these planning pages. It is all left blank and up to the homeschool mom (or dad) to decide how to make it work. Six rows across and six columns down can be worked in a variety of ways.  Six students? Six subjects? Six school days? Six time blocks? It is all up to you!

There are additional resources for the weekly planning that help you with focus for the week. You can see these in the sample pages. The Ultimate Homeschool Planner is clearly intended for the Christian Homeschooler. These weekly pages are to aid in focusing on scripture, prayer, etc.

How The Ultimate Homeschool Planner Worked for Me

When The Ultimate Homeschool Planner arrived, I did a quick flip through to get a feel for the planner and what it had to offer me. I looked over the beginning pages that shared about planning and how to use the planner. Then I went straight to to the weekly planning pages to transfer information over. There was no way that I was going to fit in the seven children who are “officially” homeschooling. I also wanted to use the planner to hold me accountable for doing early learning activities with my little ones. Since my two oldest are independent and planning out their own weeks, it seemed counter-productive to put them in my planner.


After a bit of writing, erasing, and re-evaluating, I opted not to put my two middle schoolers in the homeschool planner. We are working on encouraging more independence in learning and studying for them this year. So I am just jotting down reminders to check their work or meet with them certain days of the week. They have separate planners for their weekly assignments.

This left me with three official students and two little ones for my planner. I opted to use the six rows for: Hannah, Sarah, “Together”, Sam, The Littles, and The Gathering. “Together” is for subjects/projects that Hannah and Sarah are doing together such as science and history. The Littles is a spot for me to jot down activities/goals for my three year old and sixteen month old. It is easy to get busy and not take time to read a book or take a walk outside with my little ones!  The Gathering is our circle time as a whole family. Here I can plan out each day what we are going to try to cover/read/discuss.

One aspect of the planner that I don’t like is that the calendar and weekly pages are separate. Meaning that you have all 12 calendar months and then you have the 48 weekly planning pages. I would prefer to have a calendar month followed by four or five weekly planning pages. To work around this,  I simply paperclip the current month and the current week so I can easily find what I need.

While all resource pages are helpful, I am flexing them to make them suit our needs better. My children track their own reading lists and we don’t do many field trips. Those pages would be wasted if I didn’t tweak a bit. With a sticker or two, I have turned these pages into: Books to Buy, The Gathering Plans, Books to Read, Books to Review, etc. I would love to see these list style pages left blank to better serve the wide range of homeschoolers.

I am a random note taker/list maker/doodler. There was only one “free” Notes page in the whole planner. All other pages were pre-labeled. I need more pages for writing/notes so I have to keep an extra notebook with my planner or paperclip in sheets of paper. It would be great for a few note pages to be added for each month.

To streamline the planner, I also removed pages that were not necessary or relevant. After the initial reading I didn’t need the examples of how to use the planner or planning tips. Removing clutter helps me focus!

Overall, with a bit of tweaking, The Ultimate Homeschool Planner is working for me. Will I buy this next year? Not likely. There was a bit too much tweaking with all the pre-labled pages. With our family size and learning method, I need more flexibility. However, I will continue to tweak and use it.

Other Crew Members have been using The Ultimate Homeschool Planner. Every family is different so take a moment to see how others have been using this planner. I know I’m going to go read a few and be inspired.

Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal Review
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Progeny Press – Tuck Everlasting ~ A Review

One of my daughters is currently in 7th grade and I decided that I wanted to focus a bit on literature study in a more formal way. Participating in a review with Progeny Press worked out perfectly. Lydia has been reading and studying Tuck Everlasting using the Tuck Everlasting E-Guide/Study Guide.

Progeny Press offers literature study guides that aid the student in understanding the literature selection from a Christian Worldview.  Sharing literature with our children provides a way to learn, experience, and understand people, places, and circumstances that are not a part of their worlds. This can often bring up challenging points of discussion. Utilizing resources such as the Progeny Press Study Guides can serve as an excellent way to handle tough issues. Study guides are available from Lower Elementary through High School. 

Tuck Everlasting E-Guide is designed for Middle School grades. However, depending on the age and interest of your student you could easily flex this guide to work for a bit younger or older. You can view a sample of Tuck Everlasting E-Guide and other guides as well.

The Tuck Everlasting E-Guide comes with the Student Guide as well as an Answer Key for the parent/teacher. The study guides are very simple to implement and are basically “open and go”. After downloading the study guides, there are two basic ways to use the guide. You can simply print the PDF and use it in the traditional paper and pencil method. However, the E-Guide PDFs are interactive. This means after downloading the guide, your child can type answers directly into the PDF. A very simple and efficient use of the resource.

Due to the ratio of computers to people in our home, finding time to work on the computer can be a bit of a challenge. Also the student using this program often expresses herself more easily orally. With those factors coming into play, we chose to pass on the interactive feature of the study guide. Depending on the assignment/activity in the guide, my daughter either wrote her answers or we had discussion using questions from the e-guide.

The study guide is very straightforward. The student learns a bit about the author and the synopsis of the selected book. There are some “Before You Read” activities that are often a fun way to dig a bit deeper into topics that will be presented in the text. As Tuck Everlasting deals with immortality, one of the suggested activities was to research Juan Ponce de` Leon and the Fountain of Youth. Discussing the quest for forever youth was quite lively.

Lydia read through the book completely and then we were ready to begin. The study guide addresses the book a few chapters at a time. Vocabulary, literary terms, descriptive writing, comprehension/discussion questions as well as a Dig Deeper section are all different aspects of each lesson.

I appreciate that presenting the vocabulary was handled differently in each lesson. Multiple choice, matching with synonyms, using the words in your own writing were a few of the uses. The vocabulary section was the least favorite part for Lydia. I’m not sure why except that it felt a bit “test like” since she did this portion on paper.

Having the discussion questions are really helpful in making sure that we did not miss important aspects of Tuck Everlasting. The Dig Deeper sections, where scripture references are brought in, always provide for excellent conversation. Discussions on fearing death, the significance of names, and our impact on the world around us are powerful and meaningful.

In our home, with so many avid readers, we can very easily fall into the habit of reading, reading, and reading without stopping to deeply ponder various thoughts, ideas, and issues shared via literature. The Progeny Press study guides can help us slow down, savor the story, and look at the depth and meaning of the story. While I do not use these study guides always, I do find benefit in adding in one or two a year. These guides serve as an excellent literature study resource that is easy to implement, affordable, and non-consumable as a PDF download.

No matter the age of your student, there are a variety of guides available. From Miss Rumphius to Fahrenheit 451*, there is sure to be a study guide for your literary studies.

As always other Crew Members were able to review from a selection of e-guides. Why not take a peek and see what others are saying!

Progeny Press Review
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