Saturday, May 26, 2012

Am I Missing Something?

I have wondered lately if a new version of the Driver's Handbook has come out recently and I missed it.  I was still under the impression that a construction zone called for a slower speed limit.  I do my best to follow the speed limit in a construction zone because I don't want to get a double fine.  Everybody else passes me, though.  They even cross the solid white line to get away from me.  Men are working behind the jersey barriers.  Does this give us the right to speed through the zone?  Am I the only one who didn't read the revised version of the rules of the road?

I also missed the parking rules when related to purchasing movies from Redbox locations.  Was it in the fine print when I signed up for Redbox.  "If you are purchasing from a Redbox, you are given permission to park catawampus in a parking lot and ignore the painted lines designating actual parking spaces.  Those spaces are for the consumers of the store where the Redboxes are located, not you the Redbox consumer."  Has anybody else read this?  Am I missing something?

Oh, yeah, then there's the rule that says if your car is shiny and you view it as the vehicle that makes you THE MAN, you can take up two parking spaces.  Seriously, what if everybody did that?  What goes through a person's mind to take up two spaces.  Do they think their car is so much more special than everyone else's or is it a phobia, closecaraphobia?  Am I missing something?

Now, I know when I took my driver's test 25 years ago the rule was that if a sign said, "No Turn on Red," you didn't turn right on red.  Does the rule not apply to people who can't read?  If you can't read, should you be driving?  I am only assuming that is the case for all those people who actually turn right on red when there is a sign.  And what's up with the people who don't turn right on red when you can?  Are they the ones who turn right on red when there is a sign not to?  Do they lack something in reading comprehension?  Have the rules changed in the last 25 years, and they are just that slow to take the signs down?  Am I missing something?

Granted, I am not the perfect driver.  I don't pretend to be, but there are certain things I just won't do.  I believe in using turn signals even when people aren't around to see.  I believe in doing 25 through neighborhoods where the posted speed is 25 mph.  I like to move over a lane, if I can, to let people enter the highway. Just let me know, am I missing something?


Friday, May 25, 2012

The British Middle Ages

Photobucket Would you like to study something like the British middle Ages without having to go to the library to search for the books you'll need?  What if all the books you'd need came on one disc?  Well, that's exactly what you get when you purchase curriculum through Heritage History.  For only $24.99 you get a "complete illustrated text of 55 books, over 60 maps, timelines, battle dictionaries, reading recommendations, geography terms, short biographies, historical era summaries, and a ready-to-print study guide."

Photobucket Heritage History employs the use of "living books" to learn about history.  The idea is that students will learn more through the use of engaging books instead of rote memorization of names and dates.  Besides the British Middle Ages, they also have a CD for young readers which includes books from a broad range of historical periods and is appropriate for elementary students.  There are CD curricula for Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, and the British Empire as well.  These CDs contain books for all ages, introductory, intermediate, and advanced.  All 5 can be purchased together for $99.99.

Upon placing the CD into your computer, the first-time user of this curriculum is encouraged to read through the Introduction and Getting Started links (located on the left-hand side) in order to understand the purpose and how to use it.  It would seem self-explanatory, but the introduction is quite detailed.  As I read through it, I got excited for all that my children could learn from it.  I am beginning to write my own curriculum/unit studies, and the way they have put this together is the way I would put something together.  It can be a challenging program if one takes full advantage of it.  The student (and parent) is guaranteed to learn quite a bit from this program.

The scheduling of the program is left to the parent/student.  The exact course used is left to the parent/student as they peruse the library and decide the course of learning for the year.  The parent and student are encouraged to spend a few days deciding which books are going to be read; more books can be added as the path of learning is understood.  Each book includes a brief description to help understand what the book is about to make it easier to decide when choosing.  A "Book Selection Register" is included so that the student can keep track of the books that have been read.  The wonderful thing about this curriculum is that the books available on the CD can be printed without having to worry about copyright infringement since the books are public domain, and they can be downloaded onto any e-reader or tablet.

While we have just begun with this program, I am thrilled that I now own it so that we can take our time learning through reading.  Because it includes books appropriate for all levels of students, I can use it with all three of my children this year if I want to, or I can hold onto it and use it with the younger ones later.

While this resource is a little bit difficult to navigate in the beginning due to the all of the instruction that is provided, once the books are chosen and learning begins, it becomes an invaluable resource.  It is worth so much more than $24.99 because of all of the leg work that has been done in finding books and putting them in one location and providing all of the additional study aids.

I wholeheartedly recommend this product!

DISCLAIMER:  I received this product free of charge in order to provide an honest review of it.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Go Science!!!


As science is a favorite subject in our household, we were excited to receive these videos to review.  On the back of The Go Science videos it says they are geared towards children ages 6-14.  Since my children are 10, 12, and 14, these were to work perfectly with my family.  The LES website says the recommended ages are 5-11.  Ben Roy performs experiments on this video about 1st, 2nd, and 3rd class levers; incline planes; pulleys; trebuchets; singing glasses; singing rods; sounds waves; singing pipes; making a cloud; weather balloons; tornado tubes; and air pressure.  There are a few experiments on this video that are interesting such as singing pipes and air pressure, but the rest of them are ones that have been performed over and over again.  Ben Roy speaks and gestures in such a way that I feel this video would be more appropriately geared towards children 4 through 8 years of age.  He speaks to the children as if they are very young and have a hard time understanding things.  Even so, he mentions terms that an older student should know or be learning about.  He does not explain things very well.  He performs the experiments and throws out harder scientific words, but he does not tell us the science behind the experiments.

Everyone in the video is wearing a yellow “Kid’s Time” t-shirt.  The kids don’t look very comfortable when they are standing up front with him to do an experiment.  He asks questions and feeds the children the answers if they give the wrong one.  The whole video isn’t very polished.  He makes errors as he speaks.  Those mistakes are caught, but he leaves a feeling of confusion.  In some of the later experiments, it seems as if he gave the children the answers ahead of time to the questions he was going to ask.

His whole animation is a bit unnerving.  I had a very hard time watching the entire length of the videos.  Biblical topics are discussed very quickly in some segments and not at all in others.  They are mostly the Bible stories that children hear growing up.

The back of the video says, “Even kids who claim an aversion to science will be engaged by the high-energy science demonstrations of Ben Roy!”  I would have to disagree.  There is nothing about these videos that makes my children want to learn more about science.  It also says, “Ben captivates, motivates, and inspires students to be excited about science, while providing effective instruction based on science phenomena.”  Again, I would have to disagree.  There is no effective instruction.  Nothing is explained well.

Older children and children who are interested in science already would NOT benefit from this product.  There is no challenge in it whatsoever, and it is tough to listen to him make the mistakes as he is speaking, including grammatical errors.

The Go Science videos sell for $8.97 individually and $47.95 for all six including Motion; Simple Machines, Sound, and Weather; Magnetism, Engineering, Electricity, and Design; Chemistry; Air and Flight; Water, Space, and the Solar System through Library and Educational Services.  Even though I wouldn't recommend these particular videos unless your children are very young, Library and Educational Services has a wide variety of other products to choose from at great prices.

Their website is, and they can be reached at PO Box 288, Berrien Springs, MI 49103.  Their phone number is 1-269-695-1800.

DISCLAIMER:  I received these products free of charge in order to provide an honest review of them.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Love Books? Looking for a Good Sale?


The Homeschool Library Builder is an online book store that serves the homeschool community.  It is owned by two veteran homeschoolers, and they understand the need to find affordable books to fill our shelves.  I don't know about you, but I love seeing bookshelves full of things for my kids and myself to read.

Now through May 31st, Homeschool Library Builder, HSLB, is having a 25% off sale on all items.  No coupon or discount code is needed, and you can even use additional discounts or coupons if you have them with this sale.  If you become a member, you will receive one bonus point for every dollar spent.  Fifteen bonus points counts as $1.00 which you can use towards a future purchase.

In addition to the current 25% off promotion, if you make a $25.00 purchase, you will receive Of Earth and Sky: Spiritual Lessons from Nature, a $4.99 value, at no additional cost.  It includes literary selections that highlight the "seven virtues as taught through nature."

Some examples of the products available are The Tree and the Trail (softcover), usually $11.95, HSLB price $6.50, PLUS an additional 25% off.  There is a book about Buzz Aldrin called, Reaching for the Moon; the list price is $12.95.  HSLB's price is $4.99, PLUS you can take an additional 25% off.  That is amazing!

The page for each book gives a good description of what the book is about, whether it is soft or hardcover, the intended age range, and the condition of the book.  They tell you how many are available and how much it costs.  Discounts, like the 25% off promotion, are taken at checkout.

HSLB will even search to find a book you may be looking for if they don't have it at no extra charge.  Suppose you heard of a great book years ago and have been searching high and low for it to no avail.  Simply give HSLB the information, and they will do everything they can to locate it.

The different categories of books they have are fiction, non-fiction, activity books, award winners, classical literature, "for the homeschool teacher," "helping hand," holidays & seasons, inspirational, science, and story books.  You can search by curriculum, age, geographically, and even vintage and hard-to-find books.

Say you are using a curriculum you borrowed from someone, but it doesn't have the readers that are supposed to go along with it or maybe you are using a study guide for a particular book; chances are HSLB has it or can locate it for you.

There are American Girl books, My First Little House books, and other historical fiction books.  Under the science category, there are books about animals and nature, explorers, geography, and inventors and inventions.

As I perused the website, I was very impressed with the selection of books that are available and the prices.  I am sure I will be back to buy some things as we begin our next year of homeschooling.  I think you will be blessed if you check them out.

Under their "About Homeschooling" tab, there are biographies of  "Heroes of History," interactive lesson units about art topics, and links to various sites that can help with your homeschooling.

HSLB can be reached at Flower Mound, Texas, 75022.  Their phone number is 800-718-7986.  Their email address is

DISCLAIMER:  I did not receive any products to try.  I am simply providing a review of their website and sale.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

How God Paints a Future, Part I

   It is easy to see how God paints a sky.  From the sunrises to the sunsets, every day is different.  There is not an artist in the world who can create such beauty.  He does the same thing with our futures, if we let him.  This is the story of our journey over the past year.

   I was born and raised in Southwestern PA and, except for the one summer I spent two months in Ocean City, NJ, I have lived here all of my life.  There was never any desire or even the faintest notion that I would ever live anywhere else.

   John, my husband, had wanted to move south since he was a kid and spent time with his brother in both North Carolina and Florida when he was in the military.  He shared this with me on a few occasions, but he never pushed the issue.  He was pretty sure I would never move south.  My reasoning was that Florida was too hot, and there were too many bugs.

   Last April, John had had a frustrating day at work and came home wondering what job could be more enjoyable than the one he was currently doing.  As he looked on line for employment, he found a job at Walt Disney World working in their IT Department (computers).  Just applying I think made him feel a little better.  He didn't really expect to hear back from Disney World.  I mean, come on, you have to be really, really good at what you do.  Well, three weeks later, he got a call.  This started the ball rolling on the idea that we might one day move.  We had our friend, who is a real estate agent, come look at our house and advise us as to what needed done before we put our house on the market.

   John had his phone interview with Disney but turned down the opportunity for a second interview.  We just weren't ready.  Since we had started to think about moving, John and I both were of the belief that God was calling us out of our current house.  He had done that in the past.  When we lived in Ellwood City, there came a time when we knew it was time to move on.  Having nowhere to go when our house sold, we moved in with John's parents for seven months.   That was not an easy time for me.  Two women in one house does not work well.  Hindsight has allowed me to see God's plan in that, though.  John had the opportunity to spend time with his mom before she died the following year that he would not have had if we had still lived up north.  I am very grateful for God's wisdom.

   We spent a lot of time looking online at houses in our area, but we didn't have much motivation to get anything done with the house.  I had started to paint some of the rooms that needed painted, but there was no urgency.

   In November, we drove to Disney World for our annual vacation.  We had been there in 2008 and 2009 as well.  This time, however, as we were driving out of Florida and into Georgia, I almost cried.  I felt like I was leaving home forever.  What was that?  Why did I feel that way this time when I had never felt that way before?  As we drove home, the decision was made to try to move south.  My arguments from before no longer held any weight.  In the sweltering heat of the summer in PA, I spend all my time inside in the air conditioning.  The same thing would happen in Florida.  At least down south, things would be in bloom all year, and there wouldn't be any snow.

   Around this same time, I started going to counseling for help in dealing with the stress in my life.  My front teeth hurt all the time from clenching my jaw while I slept.  While in counseling, I learned that I was a control freak and, also, that I had a very low opinion of myself.  Through counseling, I was able to break free from the control issue and was also able to believe the truth.  Jesus loves ME!  Really, he does.  I am wonderfully made.  I don't have to believe the lies I let myself belief since I was a young child.  I dealt with some really heavy issues over the next couple of months.

   For the first time in my life I wasn't afraid of what my future held.  God often puts us in the dark so we can't control how things turn out.  I have always hated that.  I have to know.  I have to be able to see what is going to happen.  I no longer cared.  I handed God a blank canvas and said, "Paint it, God, with whatever you want.  I look forward to seeing the picture when you're finished."

  John had started applying for positions the day we got back from vacation.  He had had some phone interviews, but nothing materialized.  In March, we had our friend, the real estate agent, come back to remind us of all we needed to do with the house.  We got started right away.  There was a sense of urgency now.  All five of us did our fair share in completing the painting of four bedrooms, three bathrooms, two hallways, an entire basement, stairway, deck, etc., etc.  It was exhausting completing it in the short amount of time we had, but there was motivation and determination.

   I believed it was time to put our house on the market.  John had reservations, though, since we had nowhere to go.  I told him I would look into finding a place to rent in the area.  We weren't prepared to go to Florida without a job.  I put feelers out for information on a rental.  I had told people that I was pretty sure our house would sell quickly.  It went on the market the Monday before Easter.  That Wednesday, a couple came with their agent and looked at the house.  The sign was placed in our yard on Thursday.  Thirty minutes after that, our agent called to tell us that the couple who had come the day before wanted to give us an offer.  Four days...that's quick.  Four days...that's God!


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Weekend Trip to Gettysburg

After teaching a Civil War class at our homeschool co-op, I figured an appropriate ending would be a field trip to Gettysburg.  Since we live in Pennsylvania and will be moving out of PA in a month, I didn't want to miss the opportunity to visit a Civil War battlefield so close to home.

We ventured out Friday evening around 5:00 and arrived in Gettysburg at 9:00 p.m.  I had thought it was a 5-hour drive, so I was pleasantly surprised to get there in only 4 hours.  We stayed at the Comfort Suites on Baltimore Pike.  There are many hotels, bed & breakfasts, and campgrounds in the area, but I like to find a hotel with a pool for the kids.  Besides, we came across a lot of people who had been camping, and all I can say is I'm glad I didn't smell like that.  ;-)

Upon entering the hotel, I picked up a thick pamphlet about Gettysburg.  It listed things to do, places to shop, and places to eat.  I had heard that it is worthwhile buying an audio tour to take you around the battlefield.  You can hire a live guide as well, but it is a bit more expensive than an audio CD.  There were two really good audio tours that I looked at when we were at the Gettysburg Military Park Visitors' Center Gift Shop.  One was $34.99 and came with a CD-ROM that could be used at home for further learning.  I chose the $29.99 audio tour with 3 CDs because it was the only one that had the Gettysburg Address on it.  After picking up the audio tour, we paid for and watched the movie and cyclorama about the 3 days of the Battle of Gettysburg.  The movie is told more from the point of view of the North and claims the major issue of the war was slavery.  The movie lasts approximately a half hour.  It is very well made and enjoyable to watch.  When the movie is over, the audience is directed to an escalator that takes you to see the cyclorama.  

 The cyclorama is a 360-degree painting of the three days of battle.  It used to be housed in its own building, which still remains by the Soldiers' National Battlefield, but they moved it into the new visitors' center which was built in 2008.

I had seen this cyclorama 30 years ago as a child.  It took five years to restore it once they moved it into the new building.  It is an amazing site to behold.  It took the artist and his team a year to paint the entire thing.  As the story of the battle is told, the lights shine on different parts of the painting.

It looks 3-D at different points and is complete with sound effects of battle.

In the large picture below, there are two men carrying another man into a shanty (above where the  sticks of the fire meet).  The man they are carrying is said to look like Lincoln.  Perhaps this was intentional on the part of the artist.

The visitors' center also a large museum that comes with the price of admission.  It is not biased with regard to the North or the South.  It contains hundreds, if not thousands, of artifacts from the entire Civil War, not just Gettysburg.  It was so very interesting to walk through this museum and read letters written by Lee to Jefferson Davis and love letters written by soldiers.  All of the artifacts were explained as to their purpose.  There was a room in which you could sit and listen to Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

 The uniform on the left is typical of a Confederate soldier.  That on the right is typical of a Union soldier.  We learned that the weight of everything they carried - uniform, cooking supplies, games, etc. - weighed in excess of 45 pounds.  I can't even imagine carrying that extra weight while wearing wool clothing in the heat and humidity of July.

The cases below had buttons, belt plates, and insignias from various regiments.


After we finished at the visitors' center, we began our audio tour.  There were 16 separate markers on the tour  at which we were to stop.  Sometimes the tour had us stopping at points not marked so that it could inform us of various events that took place.  I was, overall, very happy I bought the audio tour because it will be a wonderful resource for years to come.  There is so much information contained within it that it doesn't matter if you aren't driving around the battlefield; you will still learn so much.  The booklet that comes with it is also a wealth of information with its maps and pictures and explanations of things.

 As you drive around the battlefield, there are thousands of monuments.  They are for people, for brigades, divisions, markers for various battles, etc.  I will include some photos that I took and explain what you are looking at.

The cross is a memorial to a Pennsylvania brigade

 The house above is General Lee's Headquarters on the first day of battle.  The museum inside is free.  There are artifacts inside here as well from the Civil War.

Next are some informational signs explaining what happened where you are standing.  This one is for a skrimish that took place in the railroad cut that sent Confederates hiding for cover.

Eternal Light Peace Memorial dedicated to unity between North and South after the war was over.

Sallie the Dog - Guarded over the dead and dying of her regiment.  Killed in battle later in the Civil War.

Observation Tower

This is a view from the observation tower.  There are a few of these around.  You can climb them for an overall view of Gettysburg.  They often have signs on top that show where things are in the distance.  They are very, very sturdy!!

This is Little Round Top.  Fighting took place here on day 2 (July 2, 1863).

The hillside is covered with very large boulders.  The Union took this high ground on day one.  Therefore, they were able to maintain the high ground throughout this battle.

Devil's Den

Little Round Top Monument

We went to Devil's Den on Saturday and again on Sunday.  The kids had so much fun climbing on the rocks.  In listening to the audio tour, it was said that the soldiers who fought here remembered fondly of days they played hide and seek here with their friends.  

The last stop we made on the battlefield before heading home was the site of Pickett's Charge.  I recommend watching the movie, "Gettysburg," before you go to get an idea of what happened.  It gave us a greater respect for the soldiers as we walked across the same field.

This would be the stonewall the Union soldiers were behind when the Confederates began firing upon them with their cannons in hopes of destroying the Union guns and causing them to run out of ammunition.

The line of trees in the far distance is where the Confederates involved in the charge would have left from once the cannonade stopped.  They then needed to march over the large open field towards the Union.

Copse of trees on right that was their target to head for

Memorial of High Water Mark attained by Confederates
It sits behind the copse of trees.

During our weekend in Gettysburg, we also went through the Jennie Wade  House.  She was supposedly the only civilian casualty in the Battle of Gettysburg.

We also ate at some wonderful restaurants.   Hunt's on 15 is a tiny little place but small prices and delicious sandwiches on pretzel bread.  We ate breakfast on Sunday at a place called  Dunlap's.  We didn't particularly care for the free breakfast at the hotel, so we ventured out and were very happy with our choice.  Nathan ordered a cheese danish.  I figured it'd be like a store bought danish with cream cheese swirled inside of it.  The thing they brought out was about 3 inches high with cream cheese poured on top and dripping over the sides.  I'd swear it was half as big as his head.  It was also delicious!!

I hope you get a chance to visit Gettysburg at some point.  It was a wonderful experience, especially being a parent and getting to go with my kids.  I know it is something they will remember forever.  Even Paige said that this was something she'll want to share with her kids and grandkids.  Jacob said, "The Civil War is pretty cool."