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Wordless Wednesday...or is it?

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Review of Wizzy Gizmo's Fast Track Bible Pack: New Testament

Wizzy Gizmo Review
Wizzy Gizmo - I know...the name, right? It's so cute, yes? When I saw this name come up on the vendor list, I had no idea what to expect. Then I saw that they do Bible books and audio dramas for kids and I figured that I would not have much interest in the products. I tend to rely on Catholic companies for our Bible study materials (although I have been introduced to some wonderful non-Catholic materials through the Crew, so I have learned to keep an open mind!). When I saw the Fast Track Bible Pack: New Testament, though, I upped my interest level in a hurry.
Wizzy Gizmo Review
The Fast Track Bible Pack is a series of 27 cards, one for each book of the New Testament. They are recommended for all ages and they cost only $14.99 for the set. The front of each card contains a summary of the book, while the back contains an outline, key chapters, key passages, key doctrines, and key people. It was after going to the website and seeing a sample card in its entirety that I knew that I had to have this set - in fact, I was so determined to own it that I had already decided to buy it if I wasn't fortunate enough to receive it for review (and I was so happy that I got it for review!).
This is the front of the card for the Gospel of Matthew:

And this is the back of the card:

Every card follows the same format. If you look at the website, you will see a host of different ways that the cards can be used divided up by ages. The suggestions can easily be translated into lesson plans. Of course, with cards like these you are limited only by your imagination. 

How We Used Fast Track Bible Pack

Before I talk about how we used these cards, I do have to talk about the Catholic vs. Protestant aspect of them. I knew that we would run into a few discrepancies with the cards, but I hoped that they wouldn't prove to be too much of an issue. We did and they didn't. For example, the very card of Matthew as pictured above provides the best example (and allowed me to see what I was getting into right off the bat). Under key passages, you see 

16:18 - "The rock is Peter's confession. "You are the Christ," though he would be given special authority in the Kingdom as an apostle and spokesman, but not as the first Pope."

As a Catholic, I read this explanation of the key passage and go, "huh?" because the opposite is so clearly true to me. In fact, to me it seems as though the explanation of the passage goes so far out of the way to deny the establishment of the Papacy that it is almost gratuitous. For one thing, Protestants may argue that nothing in that passage establishes the Papacy, but I will counter 100% that nothing in it argues *against* the establishment of the Papacy -- and the notation on this card indicates that it does. 

As it turned out, though, discrepancies like this provided one of the best ways for us to use the cards! When we came upon things like this (that is, things that diverged from our Catholic beliefs), we would go to the Catechism to explore our own beliefs. In this case, paragraph 553 (CCC 553) explains that Christ actually did institute the Papacy through Peter.

Paul's letters, too, gave ample opportunity for the same exercise. Any time a key passage or doctrine mentioned, for example, justification by grace, we would look at the Bible and the Catechism for the passages that explain the Catholic belief - commonly called "faith and works," but that name is a misnomer. Very simply (because I can't leave this topic without clarifying): Catholics believe we are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8), but because "Not everyone who says, 'Lord, Lord' will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but rather he who does the will of my Father" (Matthew 7:1), doing good *must* be a component of faith. Lip service isn't enough. 

In any case, such was the course of our apologetics.

Other Ways We Use and Will Continue to Use the Cards

Please, please don't take my above explanation as a slam against these cards - I *love* these cards, but the simple fact is that we are Catholic and the cards are designed by Protestants for a Protestant audience. There will be things which do not accord with our Catholic faith. It is my job to make sure that my children are very clear on the differences. Having said that, Catholics and Protestants agree on many, many things, and these cards are simply wonderful for so many purposes. One thing I have loved them for, and know I will continue to love them for, is their key people! For example, have you ever come across a name either in a Bible study or a Bible story, or even just remembered it - and you know it's in the Bible - but you just can't remember where? You will not have that problem ever again if you have these cards. Demas is one that has always plagued me. Turns out he was Paul's companion during his first Roman imprisonment - you find that out in 2 Timothy (admittedly, not a book I turn to often). I have enjoyed just reading through the "Who's Who" of the New Testament by flipping through the cards.

Also, for as much as it may sound like I was knocking the key passages and doctrines above, I know that we will be using them a lot in the years to come. I am already using the key passages as copy work for Nicky (11), Mary-Catherine (9), and Michael (9). It is great to be able to home in on a lesser known book of the New Testament to pull some passages out and have that work done for you. 

Further, as Therese (and later the others) continues to compete in NCFCA (National Christian Forensics and Communications Association), I have hopes that she will want to try Apologetics. For now, we are using the questions in our religious studies at home, but the way these cards are structured makes them an ideal asset in the Apologetics arsenal.

Finally, as the picture above indicates, the kids actually really like just reading the cards! They are physically quite sturdy and very attractive. You are naturally drawn to them. *I* like just sitting and reading them! That has to be their very best recommendation of all.

Wizzy Gizmo has several products under review by the Crew. To read all about them, click the banner below.
Click to read Crew Reviews
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Kindle Unlimited - Is it Worth Your Homeschooling Curriculum Money?

Yesterday I wrote about the subscription book service Scribd. Today I'm talking about another subscription book service - the new kid on the block: Kindle Unlimited.

Again, with Kindle Unlimited, you can try it free for a month. To be honest, when I began the free trial, I didn't really have any expectation that we would keep the subscription. After all, we already use a book subscription service that I love (Scribd). Actually, we are still in our free trial month, but I won't give up my subscription to Kindle Unlimited - no way. In our first 3 weeks, my kids and I have read at least 25 books that we wouldn't otherwise have gotten to read. I'll break it down by kid and explain why the books would have been out of reach.

Therese (13) loves Carolyn Meyer. Not all of her books are available on Kindle Unlimited, but several that Therese hasn't read are, including this one:

To answer the obvious question, yes - you can get all of Carolyn Meyer's books at the library. However, as I discussed yesterday, the library and I have a love-hate relationship. They love my late fines and I hate to pay them. Also, popular authors like Carolyn Meyer are often all checked out. Yes, I can and do put holds on the books. Then I watch as they expire. Right now she's reading A Night to Remember.

Michael (9) reads *very* fast. Hence, I can't check enough books out of the library to keep him "fed." Further, he was spending a fair amount of allowance on books both at Amazon (for his Kindle) and at Half Price Books. Like me, he was always make a cost-benefit analysis. A book had to be long enough for him to be willing to pay for it. Short books can be read in half an hour to an hour, so it didn't matter how much you wanted to read them - they weren't worth the cash. HOWEVER, in the past few weeks, he has been able to plow through a ton of short (and, yes, silly) books that he never would have been able to read. Because he reads plenty of literature and serious books, I don't mind at all that he has read more than a dozen books by Marcus Emerson (he has also read the ones I show for MC):

Nicky (11) has also been reading through this series, although more slowly. He has also read several of the books I'll show below.

Mary-Catherine (9) has read pretty much all of the above, plus the following. She is now working on Cheaper by the Dozen (please tell me that everyone knows that that is a book and not a mind numbingly stupid movie with Ashton Kutcher - in fact, it was a delightful movie with Myrna Loy) with Belles on their Toes on deck.

The Julia Golding book is actually the first in a quartet, all of which are available on Kindle Unlimited.

So my kids are reading. A lot. For 3 out of 4 of them, that's not big news, but for Nicholas it is. He's not a big reader, but he is big on technology. Hence, the more he can read on his Kindle, the more he wants to read. Also, having such a huge choice set really motivates him. I don't know if he would have read Tom Sawyer in paperback form, but it was a lot less intimidating on the Kindle. I'm sure being able to adjust the font size really helped!

Okay, so you can read a bunch of books on Kindle Unlimited. Can you do anything else? I'm glad you asked :-) Some of my readers may know that I have an audiobook...um...obsession. I currently have 1,125 audiobooks in my Audible library (if you want to know how I have acquired so many, I can do a separate blog post - I have been an Audible member for 7 years). Well, for the past several years, Amazon has owned Audible (which has only made my problem worse - oh, Whispersync - you temptress!). In terms of Kindle Unlimited, this relationship means wonderful things for members. Now, the audio version of the books is not available for all of the Kindle Unlimited books, but it is available for thousands of them. Then, for thousands more, you can add the audio version for a reduced price (usually $1.99-$3.99). For many people, adding professional narration means simply activating the ability to have the book read to you by a professional narrator, but what it *should* mean to you is getting the Audible audiobook free (or close to it)! 

The best thing you can possibly see when browsing for Kindle Unlimited books is shown below (where it says Kindle Unlimited with narration):

That means that for as long as you have the book out, you will have the audiobook, too! When your return the book, the audio goes with it. The audiobook plays on the Audible app, which is free on all devices. It also plays right on your Kindle. If, however, you pay for a reduced narration, you get to keep that audiobook. I LOVE that option. I am a fool for audiobooks (um, duh!). They have gotten me through many a migraine and they keep my insomniac kids company. They are also a great homeschooling tool in and of themselves (SPOLIER ALERT - that's tomorrow's post).

This is a homeschooling post, so I hesitate to add my own experience with Kindle Unlimited, but in case there are moms out there who would benefit, I will.

There is a publisher (with whom I was previously familiar through Net Galley) called Open Road Media who is bringing back out of print and hard to find books. I LOVE this publisher. I love them even more because they participate in Kindle Unlimited! When I was a kid, there were authors (those popular authors of the 1970s and 1980s) I remember lying around my house. My parents were ALWAYS reading. Some of what they read was much more highbrow than others of what they read (Irving Stone vs. Irving Wallace!), but I was delighted to see those authors on Kindle Unlimited. Here's a sampling of what I have in my "KU Wishlist" on Amazon (you can have up to 10 books out at a time, so as I browse I add things to my wishlist so I won't forget them):

  • Harold Robbins
  • Helen van Slyke
  • Arthur Hailey
  • Janet Dailey
  • Barbara Taylor Bradford
  • John Jakes
  • Irwin Shaw
  • Eileen Goudge
  • Cynthia Freeman
  • Howard Fast

Then there are more recent authors that I have either read or always planned to read (heavy on Tudor history here):

  • RF Delderfield (okay - definitely not recent, but so up my alley)
  • Susan Higgenbotham
  • Edith Pargeter
  • Margaret Campbell Barnes
  • Ellen Jones (The Fatal Crown was one of my favorite books ever when I was much younger -- now I can read the rest of the series!)

Then there are those super guilty pleasures...the entire Perry Mason and The Saint series! I was in about 5th grade when I read every Perry Mason book I could get my hands on, but I've only read a couple of Saint books. These are the kind of books I would never pay for because I can read them in less than an hour. That's the curse (I am NOT complaining) of reading fast...you hate to buy books because they don't last. Now I don't have to. 

So when people say, "I don't need Kindle Unlimited - I already have it: it's called the library," I understand why they might think what they are saying is true, but it's really not. I could go on and on about what is available on KU that is not available at the library (for nostalgia's sake, does anyone remember all those Lois Duncan books from the mid 80s -- before she was only "Hotel for Dogs"? I mean the really scary ones? Yep - Kindle Unlimited (and definitely not at the library last time I checked).

So, explicitly homeschool? Maybe, maybe not. I have not yet begun to plumb the depths (although there are TONS of Newberry books there). It's definitely all about reading, though, and so I thought it worthy of this Blog Hop. I'd love to hear about any gems y'all find on Kindle Unlimited! And don't forget to click the banner below to see what everyone else is doing for "Back to Homeschool!"

Back to Homeschool Blog Hop

Again today, here are nine blogs for you to check out!
Group 3
Jennifer @ Chestnut Grove Academy
Crystal @ Tidbits of Experience
Rebecca @ Raventhreads
Jennifer @  Milk & Honey Mommy
Dawn @ Guiding Light Homeschool
Monique @ Living Life and Learning
Erin @ For Him and My Family
Lisa @ A Rup Life
Beth @ Weavings

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Spending Money on Books to Save Money on Books? Yes!

You know how you think you're the only one who does something...and then you find out that everyone else does it, too? My first revelation regarding this truism came when I found out that other people have forgotten loads of laundry in the washing machine and have had to rewash. Imagine my happiness, then, when I found out that I am not the only Mom in the world who supports her library through donations of overdue fines! I have the best possible intentions, but somehow I find that I just can't get to the library when the books are due. Often it's a mental block, but that's another post for another day.

Enter Scribd and Kindle Unlimited. Both are subscription book services, and while there is some overlap of books, there is enough uniqueness that I have no problem subscribing to both. First, to answer the obvious objection: why would I pay for books when the library is free? Well, for starters, I've already indicated that for me the library is not free. Further, the books you can get from these two sources are not necessarily available at the library (this is especially true in the case of Kindle Unlimited). 

Let me explain each a little bit further. Scribd is a familiar name to a lot of homeschoolers. It started life as a file sharing service kind of like Dropbox. That aspect of it still exists. Now, though, Scribd has arrangements with certain publishers (HarperCollins is by far the largest) to make its books available to subscribers. There are many ways to browse for books.

You can add books to your library, making them readily available to you or anyone in your family (you can be signed on on multiple computers/devices). If you want to be able to read your book offline, you just download it to your device. Big caveat here (and this is no different than the old Scribd that was just an online file storing system, but it's a much bigger issue here): anyone can upload files/books to Scribd. That means that while there are major publishers' books here (screenshot of part of my library below),

there is also some junk. Lately, I have noticed a ton of, well, garbage (like worse than 50 Shades garbage - I don't want the word for what it is on my blog, but it rhymes with "corn."). I know that might be an issue for a lot of people. The sad fact of the matter is that that kind of (word that rhymes with "rap") is everywhere these days. It's on Amazon, too. The writers/publishers only get paid if you actually download *and* read a percentage of the book, so I am comfortable that my $8.99/month is not supporting that industry (the principle of double effect is at work here, I would think). I know others would feel differently. *Definitely* do not allow children to browse, though. I always put books in my library and then on my children's devices. They are allowed to read what is downloaded to their devices. That system works well for us. As to an example of the kinds of books you can't get at the library?

And there are many, many more! The above picture shows over 200 in one collection that someone on Scribd put together - they are almost all gorgeous, Vintage books! I have no problem paying for the privilege of having access to all of these books, some of which I remember reading at my grandmother's house when I was little. Add to that the ability to read today's authors? I'm sold!

But are there books that will help you with homeschooling? Yes!

And for my Catholic friends:

(see that arrow? It means there are more!)

Be sure to come back tomorrow to read my opinion of Kindle Unlimited! I love it just as much, but the books are quite different. Also, be sure to click the banner below to read more great "Back to Homeschool" blog posts! And don't forget to enter the amazing giveaway here!

Back to Homeschool Blog Hop

Too many blogs to get through? Try getting to know these today!

Group 2

Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break
Tara @ This Sweet Life
Laura @ My (re)Viewpoint  (Yay! You already found me!)
Alyson @ Family Style School
Kemi @ Homemaking Organized
Karen @ Tots and Me
Anne @ Upstate Ramblings
Julie @ Nurturing Learning
Beth @ Acorn Hill Academy

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Avoiding the Homeschooling Comparison Trap (aka: Homeschooling as a Social Science Thought Exercise)

Homeschooling is growing by 7%-15% per year. That is such exciting news! I love meeting and talking with new homeschoolers, but even as I do so every year, I am slightly concerned. They ask what curriculum I use, what grade my kids are in, what our activities are, etc. I can see the looks on their faces as I describe what we do, and I immediately follow up with, "But everyone is different! Your homeschool day won't look anything like mine!" I can tell that so many remain unconvinced.

There are as many ways to homeschool as there are homeschooling families. That point can't be reiterated often enough. I have written on this subject before, but I am going to recap briefly because I think the example is a good one. Stay with me - it makes sense in a couple of sentences.

In social choice theory (economics/social science jargon - not important), there is a (debated) maxim that you can't make interpersonal comparisons of utility. All that means is that you can't make comparisons between people in terms of what they value because people (and, thus, their preferences and the degree to which they value those preferences) are different. Homeschool Mom A can't compare herself to me and feel bad because my kids are learning Latin and hers aren't because I place a high premium on Latin - and maybe she doesn't! Or, and this is more likely, she simply places a higher premium on something else. Maybe it's teaching her daughters homemaking skills. The good Lord knows that that is not something I necessarily value. I'll tell you that it is, but all you have to do is look at my house to know that it's not really true.

That brings us to point #2: everyone has preference orderings whether or not they are conscious of them. Your preference orderings are reflected in how you spend your time and your money. All of us probably place God and family first. After that, we all take our own paths. We teach different subjects and support different companies. Some of us have very neat and ordered homes and some of us...don't (no judgment - I'm talking about myself!). Some of us belong to co-ops and some of us go it alone. Some of us do secular extracurricular activities and some of us only participate in Christian groups.

None of the above choices can be considered right or wrong because each choice represents a complex interaction of preference orderings that is unique to each individual person! For that reason, also, none of us can look at another homeschool mom and say, "I'm doing it wrong and she's doing it right." She's doing it right for *her family*. It may be all wrong for someone else's - and will be if it doesn't reflect that family's preference orderings.

Now, would my husband like a neater home? Of course! So would I! Would he like a neater home at the expense of my providing an intense classical curriculum for our kids? At the expense of their speech and debate? At the expense of my work-at-home job that he knows is important to me? No. (N.B. I'm not saying that there is not room for improvement in my home or that I am a victim of circumstance. I am saying that it reflects the way I prioritize my time. Most people have some wiggle room in their schedules.)

So what's the takeaway for all of us homeschooling moms? One that the perfectionist in me has to struggle to remember every day! There is no wrong way to do it and it is an exercise in futility (seriously - I'm speaking as a social scientist here!) to try to compare yourself to another homeschooling mom. It doesn't make sense on any level. We all need to do what I tell my kids to do every single day: work your program and don't worry about what anyone else says or does. You'll be so much happier and more successful!

Welcome back to homeschool! Be sure to click the banner below to read dozens more blogs that are filled with practical advice about all things homeschool. I promise that few will be as esoteric as this one! And DON'T FORGET THE GIVEAWAY! Want to win hundreds of dollars in cash and curriculum? Click that link above to enter!

Back to Homeschool Blog Hop
Because there are so many great blogs to read, try starting with these 10 - come back tomorrow for 10 more!
Group 1

Marcy @ Ben and Me
Lisa @ Farm Fresh Adventures
Jenn @ Treasuring Life's Blessings
Michele @ Family, Faith and Fridays
Dusty @ To the Moon and Back
Michelle @ Delightful Learning
Jacquelin @ A Stable Beginning
Rebekah @ There Will Be a $5 Charge for Whining
Gena @ I Choose Joy!

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Back to Homeschool Giveaway!

If you read my blog, you undoubtedly know that I don't do giveaways or anything like that. This one, though, is too good to resist! The prizes available to y'all are unreal. I can attest to them personally because, curriculum junkie and Crewbie that I am, I have used most of them! Have I mentioned that there is cold, hard cash? I would really *love* to see one of my readers win the only giveaway I have ever done, so please definitely enter, y'all!

Back to Homeschool Giveaway

Several members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew have joined forces during our August Back to Homeschool Blog Hop to bring you these incredible giveaways, totaling more than $1300 in homeschool curriculum and Paypal cash!


Grand Prize Giveaway

In the Grand Prize  Giveaway, someone will win $765 in curriculum, plus $150 in Paypal cash to help you finish up your homeschool shopping! You could win all of the following. Please click on the prize links to learn more about each product.  From Home School Adventure Co. -- Philosophy Adventure--Pre-Socratics and Mere Christianity Critical Analysis Journal (digital editions) From Diana Waring Presents -Experience History Through Music From Writing with Sharon Watson - The Power in Your Hands: Writing NonFiction in High School and Writing Fiction [in High School] From Homeschool Legacy -- Westward Ho I & Westward Ho II Once-a-Week Unit Studies From The Old Schoolhouse Magazine -- One-Year Membership to SchoolhouseTeachers.com From Shining Dawn Books -- Charlotte Mason Homeschooling Bundle (Charlotte Mason Homeschooling, Loving Living Math, Grammar Packets, and Creative Nature Walks) From Memoria Press -- Latina Christiana I Set From Excelerate Spanish -- Excelerate SPANISH DVD Lessons 1-6 From WriteShop -- Winner's Choice of WriteShop Primary Book A, B, or C (Teacher's Guide + Activity Pack) From New Millennium Girl Books -- Isabel Writing Bundle  From Write Bonnie Rose -- Asia: It's People and History From Home School in the Woods -- Project Passport: The Middle Ages  From NotebookingPages.com -- Lifetime Treasury Membership From Victus Study Skills System -- Victus Study Skills Student Workbook & Teacher Edition Bundle From the Schoolhouse Review Crew bloggers -- $150 Paypal Cash

 2nd Prize Giveaway

In the 2nd Prize Giveaway, someone will win $325 in curriculum, plus $100 in Paypal cash to help you finish up your homeschool shopping! You could win all of the following. Please click on the prize links to learn more about each product.  From Home School Adventure Co. -- Philippians in 28 Weeks, The Wise Woman with Literary Analysis Question, and The Wise Woman Print Set (digital editions) From Writing with Sharon Watson -- Jump In: a workbook for reluctant and eager writers From Home School in the Woods -- K-2 Lap-Pak: Knights From Write Bonnie Rose -- Printables Bundle (Writing Prompts About Space Bonus Pack; Revolutionary War Activities: Patriotic Copywork; Revolutionary War Activities for Kids: Puzzles, Games, and Quizzes; Praying Through the Produce Aisle; Summer Olympics and Paralympics Unit Study) From Excelerate Spanish -- Excelerate SPANISH DVD Lessons 1-6 From Memoria Press -- Prima Latina Text Set From New Millennium Girl Books -- Callie's Contest of Courage Mid grade novel and Callie's Contest of Courage Literature Guide From The Old Schoolhouse Magazine -- One-Year Membership to SchoolhouseTeachers.com From the Schoolhouse Review Crew bloggers -- $100 Paypal Cash

To enter, use the Rafflecopter below. Residents of the U.S., ago 18 and older only. See more Terms and Conditions in the Rafflecopter. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Wordless Wednesday - Exhaustion

If you know how a Fitbit works, this will be meaningful to you. If not, just look at the time I spent in bed versus the time it is reported I actually slept. And I wonder why I'm always exhausted. This is a very typical night's "sleep" for me.

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