History As Story: Dave Raymond’s American History Part 1

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History is one of our favorite subjects around here, and we’ve always used a literature-based rather than textbook approach. We’ve also really enjoyed the video-based approach that Compass Classroom uses for their programs, like Visual Latin and Economics For Everybody.

For the last few weeks I’ve been previewing Compass’s latest offering, Dave Raymond’s American History Part 1, which blends both of these approaches. It teaches through a combination of video lectures and readings from original source documents.

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Wordsmith Apprentice: Practical, Effective, and Affordable

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We’ve tried out several different writing and grammar programs with Karate Kid (11) over the last year or so. Each one has had things I liked about it, and we’ve definitely seen improvement in his writing. But I needed something less teacher-intensive that he could do fairly independently this fall with our busy schedule. Since we started schoolwork in August, he’s been working his way through Wordsmith Apprentice.

Wordsmith Apprentice is described as “an easy to use writing course encouraging students to develop their writing skills as they participate in every role on a newspaper staff: editor, reporter, writer, etc. Children develop a love for writing as they express themselves through sentence and paragraph writing, persuasive writing, and much more.”

The simple, spiral-bound consumable book aimed at ages 9 to 12, is divided into three parts:

  • Nouns, Verbs, & Basic Sentence Structure
  • Modifiers & More Complex Sentences
  • Organizing and Reporting
There’s a short section for the teacher and an introduction written to the student at the beginning of the book, and an answer key at the end. All the lessons are written directly to the student. 

The simplicity of design is nice. A variety of fonts and black and white illustrations make it pleasant to look at, and the conversational writing style is clear and direct.

I really like this program’s simple, no-frills approach! It’s practical, self-directed, and creative. There aren’t a bunch of bells and whistles and extra activities, but we’re finding it very effective. I love the concept of teaching writing skills through the different roles of a newspaper staff. Instead of just teaching abstract concepts, Karate Kid is seeing how these skills can be put into actual, practical use in the real world.  The format with it’s straightforward explanations and step-by-step instructions really helps him organize his thoughts, and the lesson length is just right. He’s been able to do the lessons by himself and just bring his work to me to check.

The assignments are imaginative and there’s a wide variety so that his interest level stays high. It’s something different every day. For example, in the very first assignment he had to fill out a job application and then create one to have someone else fill out. In other lessons, he’s created classified and help wanted ads, written a thank you note, made his own crossword puzzle, and more. All while  learning the parts of speech, types of sentences, and so on.

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Karate Kid working on a writing lesson in his favorite spot on the couch.

At this point, he’s close to halfway through the book. Once he’s done we will definitely consider moving on to the other books in the Wordsmith series. Wordsmith Apprentice is simple, practical, effective, and affordable…a great combination!

Wordsmith Apprentice is available at Timberdoodle for $14.50. You can request a free Timberdoodle catalog to see everything they offer, and be sure to also check them out on Facebook for specials and news.

Disclosure:  As a member of Timberdoodle’s Blogger Review team, I received a free copy of Wordsmith Apprentice in exchange for an unbiased review. All opinions are my own.

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A Healthy Alternative: Beeyoutiful SKIN Mineral Makeup


I’m a big fan of mineral makeup. I’ve been using it for the last 7 years or so for most of my makeup needs. Why mineral makeup? Well, for starters, mineral makeups generally use only natural ingredients and don’t contain the fillers and chemicals found in others, so even those with super sensitive skin can often wear them when they can’t wear most other brands. This also means they don’t contain many of the cancer-causing, endocrine-disrupting, and neurotoxic chemicals and fillers found in most major makeup brands and skincare products. [Read more…]

Three Hearts and the Children’s Heart Project: A Must-See Documentary and Worthy Cause

I was born with a rare congenital heart defect called Ebstein’s anomaly. Thankfully, my case is fairly mild and I’m blessed to have access to quality healthcare to monitor my condition. I also have a cousin and a close childhood friend who were born with heart defects. Like me, they have both benefitted from the medical technology we have available in this country.

Many, many children are not as blessed. Every year, there are over 1 million babies born with congenital heart disease worldwide. Most of these children live in countries where surgery is not an option. These children are the reason for the Children’s Heart Project (CHP), a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse. Since 1997, CHP has arranged life-saving operations for more than 800 children from Bosnia, Kosovo, Honduras, Uganda, Mongolia, and Bolivia. Currently, over 200 more children have been identified and placed on a waiting list. These children, along with a parent and translator, are flown to the United States to have surgery in top-quality hospitals across the country. Surgeons and medical facilities donate their time, expertise, and equipment. Host families provide a place for these children to stay and offer support and encouragement through the whole process.

Cissie Graham Lynch, granddaughter of Billy Graham and daughter of Franklin Graham, recently made a documentary telling the story of three children from Mongolia who were brought to San Antonio, Texas for surgery. I was blessed to have the opportunity to review this DVD, Three Hearts, for publisher Thomas Nelson.

I have to admit I wasn’t sure I was going to like the movie at first. In the beginning, it seemed to focus on Cissie’s internship with CHP and her schedule conflicts. But as soon as the team traveled to Mongolia to meet and bring back three-year old Toggie and teenagers Otga and Uugna, I was hooked! All three suffered from tetralogy of fallot, a condition that is most often corrected in infancy and is usually fatal by age twenty if left untreated. The two boys, ages sixteen and eighteen, had been unable to attend school because of their condition, and the stress on their hearts over the years meant time was running particularly short for them.

I was completely drawn into the stories of these three young people who were in what appeared to be a hopeless situation. And yet through CHP, they were given the opportunity for not only physical healing, but spiritual wholeness as well. Watching the interaction and the deep bonds that formed between the doctors, host families, and the children and their parents was incredible. The host families, medical professionals, and others involved were just as deeply impacted as the children and their families!

The tension I felt as I waited to see the outcome of each child’s surgery was intense. My heart broke for Toggie’s mother as I watched her hand her sweet baby over to be taken back for surgery. I can’t imagine being halfway around the world from my husband and having to go through that. My heart was filled with joy as I watched Otga and Uugna wake up and realize that they had pink lips, fingers and toes rather than blue! I was moved to both laughter and tears more times than I can count.

My kids’ reactions were similar. They were immersed in the story. The movie has spurred great discussion in our family and motivated every one of us to support the Children’s Heart Project in any way we can.

I know that my fumbling attempt to put words to the effect this movie has are not doing it justice. Please get your hands on a copy of Three Hearts and watch it! It’s a wonderful movie to watch as a family or with your bible study group or Sunday School class. Watch it as a group and then pray for the project and children and discuss how you can join forces to support CHP in their efforts.

Here’s the trailer to whet your appetite:

As I was gathering information for this review, I came across updates on two of the three children since their surgery. Sixteen-year-old Otga, now nineteen, and his mother, led fifteen family members to Christ. They started a nomadic church that currently has thirty members. Otga works at Children’s Heart Project Heart Camp in Mongolia and is finally learning to read!

Reading that Uugna passed away just last month, nearly four years after his surgery, hit me like a ton of bricks. Please pray for his family as they adjust to life without him. He spent the last four years of his life proclaiming God’s Word to his family and friends, and expressed the desire to bring glory to God until his final moments on earth.

I couldn’t find any information on adorable three-year-old Toggie, but her beautiful face adorns the cover photo on the Children’s Heart Project Facebook page.

The Children’s Heart Project is worthy of support. Please visit their website to learn more, pray for all those involved, and prayerfully consider financially supporting them if possible. If you live in a city that needs host families, maybe God would lead you to consider hosting a child traveling here for surgery.

Thank you so much to Thomas Nelson for providing me with a copy of the Three Hearts documentary to review and share with others! This movie has the potential to have a tremendous impact for good.

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The Art of Argument: An Introduction to the Informal Fallacies (Review Crew)


Can your teens identify an ad hominem argument? How about a red herring? A straw man or bifurcation? We’re constantly bombarded on all sides with messages presenting certain slants on all kinds of things: from politics and the news media to advertisements for the latest food fads and technogadgets. One of my goals for our homeschool is to train my kids to think logically and critically so they can sort through this barrage of conflicting messages and recognize faulty reasoning and arguments when they see them.

Enter The Art of Argument: An Introduction to the Informal Fallacies, published by Classical Academic Press. Here’s part of the publisher’s description:

Junior high aged students will argue (and sometimes quarrel), but they won’t argue well without good training. Young teens are also targeted by advertisers with a vengeance. From billboards to commercials to a walk down the mall, fallacious arguments are everywhere you look. The Art of Argument was designed to teach the argumentative adolescent how to reason with clarity, relevance and purpose at a time when he has a penchant for the “why” and “how”. It is designed to equip and sharpen young minds as they live, play, and grow in this highly commercial culture. This course teaches students to recognize and identify twenty-eight informal fallacies, and the eye-catching text includes over sixty slick and clever, “phony advertisements” for items from blue jeans to pick-up trucks, which apply the fallacies to a myriad of real life situations.

I confess, I’d been eyeing The Art of Argument in the CAP catalog for a couple of years but hadn’t yet taken the plunge to purchase it. So I was excited to receive the workbook, teacher’s guide, and first DVD to review!

The Dancer (13) has been working her way through it for the last several weeks.  So far it’s been eye-opening for her, to say the least! She’s already been able to peg several arguments she’s heard and label them as one of the fallacies she’s learned. She is thoroughly enjoying the lessons and hasn’t minded the extra bit of time added to her schedule to work through them at all. She thinks this stuff is fascinating. Karate Kid (11) has looked at the workbook and caught a glimpse of the DVD and he is chomping at the bit to try it out as soon as he’s old enough!

I’m very pleased with both the layout and content of The Art of Argument. It’s the perfect blend of explanation and practical application. The lessons are clearly organized, with the 28 fallacies broken into six different groups:

  • Ad Fontem Arguments
  • Appeals to Emotion
  • Red Herrings
  • Fallacies of Presupposition
  • Fallacies of Induction
  • Fallacies of Clarity

 Each lesson is well-written and engaging, with a variety of dialogues, real world application, phony advertisements, and discussion questions. The phony advertisements are downright fun, and they do a fantastic job of illustrating each fallacy! Socrates’ ongoing dialogue with a group of students throughout the text does a great job of reinforcing the concepts.

The DVD, which shows a group of kids interacting about each fallacy, is nice, especially for those who are working through the book alone. If there are other siblings (or parents!) working through it also, there will be opportunity for in-person lively interaction and discussion of each fallacy, making the DVD less essential. The additional tests and quizzes in the teacher’s edition are nice to have, but the program can be done without it if necessary. I would put the age range at upper middle school through high school, as I’m not sure younger middle school students are quite ready for some of the content.

I’ve been impressed with the quality of the other Classical Academic Press products we’ve used, and The Art of Argument is no exception. We will definitely continue using it, and will move on to The Discovery of Deduction and The Argument Builder when we’re done.

You can download samples of the text here and teacher’s guide here. The text, teacher’s guide, and DVDs can be purchased in a bundle for $88.95 or individually.

Also be sure to check the crew blog to see what others though of The Art of Argument.


Disclosure: I received this curriculum free of charge in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are solely my own.

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Beeyoutiful: Great Natural Products For the Whole Family!

I’d never heard of Beeyoutiful until I received two of their products to try out and share with you. Beeyoutiful is a company dedicated to “healthy living in the real world”. They explain:

At Beeyoutiful.com, we believe that each individual is responsible for their own health. It is not a doctor’s responsibility to keep you in good health. Instead they are a tremendous resource, especially for those times when urgent care is required. But, they are only one of many resources. And the tools they use, while powerful, are not the only tools available. But a tool is worthless unless one knows how to use it. 

We have found a lot a tools that have worked very well for our families, and made Beeyoutiful a repository for those tools, as well as the information to effectively use them. As we learn more, we share more. Our goal is to eventually carry every natural product that we use. We’re not there yet. We may never be as we are constantly being exposed to new and great products. As much as is in our power, we want to aid others in obtaining and maintaining good health.

Beeyoutiful carries a variety of all-natural products, from beauty products for the hair and skin, nutritional supplements, and natural remedies, to baking supplies! The website is very nicely laid out, with menus to shop by product type or by health concern. There’s also extensive additional resources in the form of articles and videos, as well as an active forum.

I received both Tummy Tuneup and B.A.L.M. (Beeyoutiful All Natural Lip Moisturizer) to try out.

Tummy Tuneup

Tummy Tuneup contains eight vital strains of friendly bacteria in enterically coated capsules designed to survive the highly acidic stomach environment and not dissolve until they reach your intestines, where they will be most effective.

I’m a firm believer that getting probiotics into our bodies through our diets rather than supplements is the ideal, and yet there are times when we could all use a boost! We had an example of that just this past week. There’s been a nasty stomach bug going around, and several days ago Karate Kid and I came down with what was apparently a touch of it. We both took doses of Tummy Tuneup and managed to prevent a full blown case. In fact, we both experienced only mild symptoms compared to most. That’s saying something, considering that on the rare occasion that I catch one of those yucky viruses, it usually lands me in the ER! I also made sure everyone else had several doses to give their gut flora an extra boost and keep them from getting this unpleasant bug. I have no doubt that the boost of good bacteria from Tummy Tuneup, coupled with the other probiotics we’ve been consuming in our food recently, were instrumental in staving off a very nasty virus.

Tummy Tuneup would be excellent to rebuild gut flora after a round of antibiotics. It would have been perfect to help my husband get back on track after having to take antibiotics for his trip to Haiti this past fall! It also claims to give users relief from excessive gas and bloating, irritable bowel syndrome symptoms, and helps combat yeast overgrowth by helping to build a strong population of good gut bacteria.

At $18.00 per bottle, it’s not cheap, but it’s not something that has to be taken every day either. I don’t mind the expense to keep a bottle on hand for those times when we could use that extra boost of the “good gut critters”! After all, that’s still much less than an ER visit! 😉


I like to use lip balm, but even most of the so-called “natural” brands contain a long list of unpronounceable ingredients. For example, a tube of a well-known “natural” brand that I have on hand lists thirty-two ingredients, with twenty-five plus of them being unpronounceable. On the other hand, the B.A.L.M. ingredient list consists of four: Organic Grapeseed Oil, Organic Shea Butter, Beeswax, and Orange Essential Oil.

I’ve been using it for about a month now and love it! It smells wonderful and has just a hint of taste. And at $3.00 (or 3 for $2.70 each), it costs the same or less than others I’ve used in the past.

So, I’m impressed with both products, and excited about several other items in the Beeyoutiful catalog! I’ve just been reading about the benefits of elderberry syrup, and I see that they carry a reasonably priced one. I was also excited to see that they have fermented cod liver oil and butter oil, two items that are of great interest to me as we adopt a more and more “traditional foods” diet. Also, with a teenage daughter who is very “into” hair and skin products, makeup, and the like, I’m happy to see the selection offered here of items that I know she’ll find appealing and I can be confident don’t contain carcinogens and other unhealthy chemicals.

Beeyoutiful is definitely a worthy company to check out. You can be sure I will be trying more of their products in the future, and letting you know what I think of them! In the meantime, you can check the crew blog to see what other crew members have to say about various Beeyoutiful products.


I received products from Beeyoutiful free of charge in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are solely my own and I was not required to give a positive review.

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