Monday, August 25, 2014

Savannah, Georgia: Not What I Expected

We spent the past weekend in Savannah, Georgia. Having moved to northeast Florida in 2012, it has been on our list of places to visit. Since all five of us went, the number of affordable choices was limited. There are many quaint B & B's, but they typically only have rooms for two and are quite expensive. Therefore, we stayed at the Comfort Suites on West Bay Street. This hotel is not recommended. While the staff was extremely friendly and the room was comfortable, it was located across from government housing. It was two blocks past the historical section of town. While we were checking in on Friday night, a youngster from the neighborhood asked if he could come in. The clerk told him no, and he proceeded to throw something against the glass before he left.


John and I took a walk, while it was still light outside, to River Street. I was expecting a beautiful, scenic stroll along the river. While there were some cool buildings and side streets, I didn't think it was beautiful or scenic. I felt like I had to keep looking over my shoulder, especially once the sun went down. 






On Saturday, we decided to tour the town via the Old Town Trolley. The concierge gave us a discount, which we were extremely grateful for as the tours are nearly $30 per person. The trolley takes a 90-minute, narrated, winding route through the historic district, stopping at 15 places along the way. At each stop, passengers have the opportunity to stay on or get off and enjoy the attraction, be it a house, museum, church, or shopping area. One of the beautiful churches, built in the Gothic style, was The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.


During the tour, various spots that were used in popular movies were pointed out, including the bench where Forrest Gump sat while he waited for the bus and the home where the shooting took place that is referenced in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. We drove past the pub where Julia Roberts saw her husband, Dennis Quaid, eating dinner with another woman in Something to Talk About.

There is one home in Savannah that wast the first on the East Coast (if not the nation) to have whole-house plumbing, and one house was built mostly out of iron (to show others how wealthy the owner was).


The Juliette Gordon Low birthplace is located here. She was the woman responsible for founding the Girl Scouts.

The city is built around 22 existing squares (there were originally 24). Some have statues of people instrumental to the history of Savannah, including James Oglethorpe. Some of these people are even buried in the squares underneath their statues.

One of the places we chose to eat while visiting Savannah was Leopold's Ice Cream on West Broughton. Sandwiches are served here, as well as ice cream. Leopold's is rated the third best ice cream in the country and the fifth best in the world. The owner's father started the business in the early 1900s, and when he (the son) was old enough, he left the business and became a movie producer (Sum of All Fears, Mission: Impossible III, The General's Daughter). In 2004 (I believe), he came back and reopened Leopold's, using the same secret recipe. The history is very interesting, and the restaurant is full of movie posters and clapboards from the movies he played a part in producing. The ice cream is delicious, too!

We had dinner on Saturday night at Paula Deen's The Lady and Sons restaurant. Once we were seated, we were served garlic cheddar biscuits and corn bread pancakes. For our meals, the menu had several options, including a buffet for $18.00 that includes salad fixings and an ever-changing variety of Southern favorites. On our buffet, there was fried chicken, pot roast, lima beans, collard greens, green beans, macaroni-and-cheese, cheese broccoli, candied yams, garlic mashed potatoes, rice, spoonbread, and fried fish. Dessert was a choice of peach cobbler, banana pudding, or butter cake.

The Lady and Sons is pictured below. It is a three-story building re-purposed to house a restaurant and store. There is a great deal of re-purposing going on in this town.


Two of the places we frequented while in Savannah were The Peanut Shop where they have all different flavors of peanuts to sample and Savannah's Candy Kitchen where they give out free praline samples. Oh, my goodness!


I'm glad we went to Savannah. If we hadn't, we'd always wonder what it would be like. It wasn't really what I expected, though. There were some interesting things, and I think I would have liked to have toured some of the old houses. I did enjoy the history I learned on the trolley tour. I do recommend that. Just try to get them to reduce your ticket price, especially if you have kids. I guess I was thinking this historic town would be more like Colonial Williamsburg and less like Philadelphia. I don't like the city feel. I want to be steeped in history. I don't want to have to worry about mine or my children's safety.

If you plan on visiting Savannah, my biggest recommendation is to stay within the historic center. Don't stay in a hotel or B&B beyond Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd to the west or Broad Street to the east. There are some upscale hotels on River Street and Bay, as well as some B & B's on East Oglethorpe.




Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wizzy Gizmo Review

Wizzy Gizmo Review

Being that it is summer and we've reviewed some fairly intense products, I jumped at the chance to listen to a product for a change. Wizzy Gizmo is a company that has created some Bible resources for children. This is another reason I asked to be on the review. I don't feel like we have enough Bible study or reading (or listening) in our house, so this was an opportunity to learn more while we were out and about. We received Audio Drama One: Who Created Everything? This CD presents the story of Genesis from an extremely unique perspective in just 36 minutes. It retails for $14.99.

Wizzy Gizmo Review

Professor Wizzy Gizmo starts up his Gizmovision machine, and the Bible comes to life. The kids who are listening to the Bible story gain a firsthand account of creation. The CD is intended for ages 4-12. My daughter, who is 12, felt like this was a little bit childish. Of course, she is a strong-willed almost-teen who has developed a taste for things are a bit more young adult in their age level. However, this audio drama is perfect for the younger crowd. It is engaging and entertaining. The way creation is portrayed in this CD with the sound and music and descriptive narration almost made me feel as if I could see it and hear it myself. I did feel as if there were some corny things in it, but, again, it is great for elementary and preschool children. Some vocabulary words are defined during the various segments, which I thought was ingenious. Not many children's stories do this. Silly songs are also interspersed throughout. One of our favorites was about mangoes. We sang this repeatedly after we listened to the CD, especially in the produce section of the grocery store.

Though this audio drama is geared towards ages 4-12, I also listened to it with my 16- and 14-year-old sons. They felt they were beyond the level of the story as well, but we ALL loved the soundtrack that was included at the end of the story. It was almost as if the music didn't fit the rest of the CD; it was that good—good enough that 16- and 14-year-old boys enjoyed it! We listened to the music more than once. I'm glad we are able to keep the CD because I'll be listening to this music when I'm tired of hearing the same songs played on the radio. Some songs had lyrics, and others were instrumental.

This is an excellent homeschool resource for Bible learning! It presents the Bible story in a memorable way, and it is accurate. They present the facts as they are written in Scripture. I hope that Wizzy Gizmo produces more stories like this. Though my children are older than the age range of this product, many children will benefit from this Christian education resource.

Some other products available from Wizzy Gizmo that the Crew reviewed and which you can read reviews about are:

Fast Track Bible Pack: New Testament
Book One: Who Created Everything?
Book Two: In His Image

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Six Words and a Review (This One is for My Daughter)

Today I will present six words that may or may not be familiar to you. They are certainly familiar in our house because my daughter has talked of little else over the past few months. I will explain a bit later.

1. Candor - unreserved, honest, or sincere expression

2. Abnegation - self-denial

3. Erudite - learned

4. Dauntless - fearless

5. Amity - friendship

6. Divergent - differing from the standard

Do you know what these words have in common? The book series and movie: Divergent

When Divergent (the movie) first came out, a couple of us youth group leaders went with some girls from our youth group to see it, including my daughter. She had read the entire series by Veronica Roth and was ecstatic to finally be seeing the movie. I had not read any of the books, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I am a movie-goer, and I enjoy seeing action-packed movies with a good story line. I was impressed by this movie. It was the fastest 2-1/2-hour movie I've ever seen. Yes, I know, 2-1/2 hours is always 2-1/2 hours, but this movie did not seem like 2-1/2 hours. I felt like I had only been sitting in the theater for a half an hour.


It is rated PG-13, mostly because of the violence. In this dystopian society, there are groups fighting against each other. There is killing, though very little blood. Several swear words are used. There is no sex, though Tris and Four kiss, and the new recruits are forced to share sleeping quarters. The movie shows some undressing, but no one is ever naked. During Tris' simulation test, which shows a person's fears, she dreams that Four is trying to physically hurt her as he throws her onto a bed. She kicks him and escapes.

Despite the fact that I wouldn't recommend this movie to anyone with younger children, it is a well-made film. It is action-packed and quick moving. There are few, if any, slow spots.

Since we all have differing views of what is appropriate for our kids to watch, you should consider reading the review on Plugged in Online and then decide. I, however, felt that my kids could distinguish between reality and fantasy. They know not to swear. One good thing this movie does is provide a strong female character, one who isn't afraid to be different, one who stands up for what she believes to be right. In the scene where she and Four are kissing, she stops kissing him and tells him she doesn't want to go too fast. This strength of this character is a strong point for the movie, I believe.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Apologia Educational Ministries: "Flourish" Review

Flourish Book Review
Apologia Educational Ministries has become a go-to resource for many homeschooling families. Not only do they have superb science curricula for elementary through high school, but they also have books on history, Christian teaching, and encouragement. One of these books of encouragement is Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms written by Mary Jo Tate.

Flourish Book Review

Flourish Book Review






















This 288-page softcover book retails for just $15.00 and is replete with Mary Jo's life experiences as a single homeschooling mom with a home-based business. Perhaps you are a married homeschooling mom who is not receiving a paycheck or a homeschooling mom who works outside of the home. This book is still for you. The encouragement and tips provided in this book are applicable to many different people. The chapters are topic specific, so if you aren't single, you can choose to skip the chapter on being a single mom. However, Mary Jo suggests you read it on the off chance something within it will help you to understand what your single friends are dealing with and will provide you with ideas that may encourage them. There are chapters on raising kids and chapters on our attitudes. The chapters I enjoyed the most, despite the fact that I am not an organized person, were the ones on organization—setting goals, big dreams, weekly plan, daily tasks, running to-do list, etc. I think I loved them because the direction Mary Jo provided was easy for me to accomplish. I didn't have to purchase binders and folders and filing cabinets. I just needed some paper and a pen.

I don't think any of her ideas are wholly revolutionary, but I feel like her book did provide some balance for my life. When I first wrote down work- and school-related tasks on a running to-do list, there were nearly 25 things on it. It felt so good to be able to cross things off that list once I finished them or even just worked on them for a portion of the day. One thing she suggests is writing things down that were accomplished but not planned. This allows you to look back at your week and see what you actually did get done. One week I didn't write down blogging, but I did have a few minutes I could spend on a homeschool science-related post. What a good feeling that was to actually get something done I didn't plan on doing!

One of the biggest things I took from Flourish is to multitask when I am able to do so. I took Flourish with me to the doctor's office so that I could read it while I waited. I listened to a CD I needed to review while driving in the car. As I wait for a page to upload for work, I try to plan our school for the year. When I take my son to work, I run errands while I am out so that I can save gas and time.

I have not done a great job writing out a specific daily task list, but I have found more organization through Mary Jo's encouragement than I had before reading Flourish. She does provide some forms in the back of the book so that you don't have to create your own. There will also be some downloadable materials available for those who purchase the book. However, I simply have been writing things down on notebook paper and keeping it by my computer. I have found in the few weeks since I've read this book that I am a bit less absent-minded, except for when health issues for three people in the family hit at once. Nothing throws me off more than worrying about the health of my loved ones. I know, I know. I'm not supposed to worry. I have prayed more recently. I have been working on memorizing Scripture so that I am strengthened spiritually. I even find that I believe a little bit more in my ability to accomplish things that I didn't want to do before, like make things from scratch and doing a little bit more cooking from recipes instead of just throwing things together that I've always made. One thing I have to do is make time to accomplish my big dream of finishing my novel. That is the thing that always gets postponed.

There are 16 chapters in this book plus some appendices. Some of the chapters are entitled:

Change Your Mind to Change Your Time
The FREEDOM Toolbox
Where Did My Time Go?
Aim High: Setting Goals
What Do I Do Next? Seven Essential Planning Tools
We Interrupt This Program
It's Time for an Attitude Adjustment
Training Your Children
Making Memories
Managing Your Home
Flourishing as a Single Mom
Home Business

Mary Jo Tate has been a single mom, has started her own home-based business, and has had health issues. Thankfully she has shared her experiences with us. She is down to earth. Her methods are simple. They are doable—for any of us. The benefits obtained are worth far more than what you will pay for this book. You may say to yourself, "Now, why didn't I think of that?" or "Of course, it's so simple!" That's what I love. It's like Mary Jo gave me permission to stop struggling and to do those things that I enjoy, like reading. Whatever you enjoy doing but don't take the time to do, Mary Jo teaches you how to incorporate those hobbies back into your life. Yes, you can have your own time!

I plan on re-reading this book so that I can continue to establish balance in my life and implement the things that I didn't on the first read through.

You can find Flourish through these social media Links:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/maryjotate #flourishathome


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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Roman Roads Media Review

Roman Roads Media Review
As a part of the Review Crew, I was presented some options,one of which I could use and review, from Roman Roads Media, a company specializing in a classical Christian education. These options were such things as Old Western Culture: The Romans, The Grammar of Poetry, Dave Raymond's American History, Economics for Everybody, Visual Latin, or Old Western Culture: The Greeks. Because we enjoy Greek history and stories so much in our household, I was eager to review, along with my son who is going to be a junior, Old Western Culture: The Greeks. This is a four-unit Christian approach to the "great books" that includes (as can be seen below) The Epics, Drama and Lyric, The Histories, and The Philosophers. The product that was given to us was the online access to the full-year course of Old Western Culture: The Greeks along with the DVD set for Drama and Lyric.

Roman Roads Media Review

We chose to focus most of our time on the histories since we've spent some time recently studying the philosophers and my son wasn't too excited about having to do a lot of reading. He was surprised, however, to find out that "The Histories" unit included just as much reading as "The Epics" and "Drama and Lyric."

Roman Roads Media Review

Our homeschool has never taken a classical approach to Christian education because I believed it was too rigid, and I have been mainly eclectic, using an all-in-one curriculum for the first couple of years but then sampling many different curricula over the years since there are so many wonderful products available to homeschoolers nowadays; I didn't want to miss out on anything. However, it appears that I may have actually been missing out on something.

Recommended for students who are 14 and older, the full year of The Greeks Year 1 curriculum is available through online streaming for $199 or 4-DVD sets for $224. Each DVD set includes four DVDs, a guide, a PDF workbook, exams, and answer keys. Each of these things is accessible as part of the program through the online version. Hard copies of the workbooks are available also but are not necessary. Individual DVD sets that include a guide are available at a cost of $56 per unit, but the student workbook must be purchased separately as it is not included as a PDF (as with the purchase of the full-year course.)

My first impression of the online version of The Greeks is that it is a no-frills presentation. Each element of the course—the assignments, the lectures, and the quizzes—are simply listed one right after the other on the page. 


I found it a bit difficult to find where we left off each time we re-entered the course outline. As you can see, the headings for each unit are not obvious. They are smaller than the boxes that list the lessons. The lesson boxes also close each time you log out, so that made it difficult to remember where we were. The image above shows that the word "Completed" is present when each step has been finished. However, we had to open each lesson to find our place, if we couldn't remember. Perhaps if each new unit were a different color that would make it easier to distinguish between them.

The program is extremely easy to use. All my son had to do was click each new step, and it would open to an assignment or a video. Thankfully, Roman Roads Media has provided various options for acquiring the books that are required for The Greeks. The very first step for each unit has a "Note on Translations and Texts" which lists the works required and the translations suggested. In the online course, these works are provided as PDF links at the bottom of the first step.

The videos are presented by Wes Callihan. For the videos we viewed, he spent his time lecturing comfortably from an arm chair. I was impressed with his knowledge. My son and I both learned a great deal from listening to his lectures. The only complaint I have is that he has quite a bit of verbal pausing—a lot of "um" and "uh." If you can ignore that, it is quite enjoyable. I found his voice very relaxing as well. The videos don't just show Mr. Callihan sitting in his chair, though. They show ruins, works of art, drawings of the people being discussed, and more—all things that enhance the student's understanding.

The first book in The Histories unit was Histories by Herodotus, translated by George Rawlinson. The version provided by Roman Roads Media was a 629-page book. So, my son's idea that he wouldn't have to do much reading was proved completely false. This reading stretched through six lessons. Needless to say, we didn't finish the reading of HistoriesThe History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, which we didn't get to, is four lessons long, and Anabasis by Xenophon is just one. I think about the lower age limit of 14+, and I think about my 14-year-old. He would not enjoy this course. When trying to decide whether or not to purchase this course, think about the amount of reading your child will have to do and whether or not he/she likes to read. One option, although you'll probably end up with a different translation, is to find an audio version. My son tried this and found it a bit more enjoyable.

As I mentioned early on, we did receive the DVD set for Drama and Lyric. I am the type of person who likes to hold a book in my hand rather than read an e-book. In the same vein, I would rather have a case full of DVDs than have to access everything on the computer. I think that might be because I grew up before personal computers and DVD players. Regardless, the "Guide to the Art" that is provided in the case is wonderful. It provides instructions on using the course, along with a materials list and a recommended schedule. Additional assignments are listed along with age level "warnings"—"will encounter mature themes such as paganism, sexual immorality...and nudity in classical painting and sculpture." I greatly appreciate these warnings. The same warnings are provided in the PDF workbook that must be downloaded on the online version. It is located in step 1-"Welcome to the Greeks: Year 1." It is just a bit more difficult to find the information with the online version. There are many PDFs at the bottom of some of the pages (be sure to scroll all the way down so you don't miss any). I would strongly urge parents to read through all of the introductory materials, both online and in print, before your child begins the program. I'm fairly sure the child will not.

I noticed, as far as the nudity in the paintings is concerned, that Roman Roads does not dwell on any painting that displays nudity. Some paintings that have it are shown on a smaller scale than others. It seems to me that maybe they try to avoid it as much as possible, unlike some other Greek and ancient curricula that allow the image to be displayed for longer than I would like. I understand that they are classical works of art, but I don't believe my children, especially my boys, need to see nudity in any form until they are married.

Drama and Lyric covers the development of the theater, the period and the poets, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, lyric poetry, Quintus of Smyrna, and Apollonius. The Epics covers the Iliad and the Odyssey and discusses the Legacy of Homer in Western Civilization. The Histories contents were discussed above. The Philosophers provides an overview of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle but spends the majority of the time on Plato and Aristotle. Each unit has quizzes and a final test, as well as a paper.

Despite the few things that I commented on that I didn't like, I think this program is a very high quality choice for world history and/or literature for a high school student. It is well worth the price. I think it would be extremely difficult to find the same level of knowledge of ancient Greek civilization in any other high school product. Wes Callihan is truly a master. I would think that a high school student who took this class would certainly be ahead of his/her peers upon entering college in terms of culture and historical literacy.

We enjoyed the program so much and felt it provided such a wonderful learning experience that my son will be completing it for school this year.

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