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Review of Strong Learning, Inc.

Strong Learning, Inc.
I was blessed with four readers. If my kids could read all day every day, they would. Mary-Catherine (12), in particular, shares my love for historical fiction, so I had no doubt to whom I would give Bessie's Pillow from Strong Learning, Inc. Bessie's Pillow is the story of a Lithuanian immigrant who came to America by herself at the age of 18 in 1907, joining 20 million others who also immigrated in that time period. For a great introduction to Bessie, you can watch the author talking about Bessie's Pillow on YouTube:
Mary-Catherine's review: This is one of my favorite books. I like this historical facts because I love history and historical fiction. I like that it's not boring. She makes the family history that was already interesting fascinating. She makes you feel that you're watching it as it happens. It's very easy to picture. My favorite part is when Bessie meets Nathan or when she starts working at Green's Hardware Store. The title refers to the pillow Bessie is given before she leaves for America. A family friend gives her the pillow to take to her son who is already in America. Bessie waits several years before returning the pillow to the son because she felt like it was part of her. I can't tell you anymore because...spoilers!
Bessie's Pillow
The book traces Bessie's life as immigrant in America from the age of 18 until her death in 1951 at the age of 63. Told in the first person, the book covers so many aspects of immigrant life. It reads like you are truly *there*. It's exactly the kind of book you love to get lost in, and it's so perfect for so many different kinds of readers of so many different ages. 


Although nothing about this book says "school" to me, there are resources that make this book more "school-y" if that is important to you. The website Bessie's America has many resources to further illuminate the world Bessie lived in. You can read more about European immigration, food, recipes, and health of the time period, check out how Bessie would have done her housework and, my favorite, listen to the same radio shows Bessie would have listened to! It's no secret that we are addicted to Old Time Radio in my house, so to see that resource included in this study guide elated me. Please do yourself a favor and listen to some of these shows! It's amazing to put yourself back in Bessie's time and to picture her going about her day with these shows playing in the background.

We loved this book. I have already been recommending it to people and have heard back that they loved it, too. I would love to read more books just like this one, and I know that Mary-Catherine would, too. I don't think you would regret this purchase for one moment. Don't take my word for it, though. Click the banner below to read all the Crew reviews!
Bessie's Pillow {Strong Learning, Inc. Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

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What Happiness Looks Like

I have a few obsessions. Collecting pens is one of them. (Blow it up to see it in all of its glory :-) )




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Insta Inspo

When you see something really pretty on Instagram and then come to find out...it's your own daughter's account! Now, that's a cool feeling! (Anyone in Houston remember Psycho Robbie's cool feelings??) I had no idea that she was doing this :-)


Since note taking was pretty much my favorite thing ever in college and grad school (although I loved the material far less in the latter), she makes me wish I were at a different stage in my life. Of course, you're never too old to take notes (you're just too short on time!).

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Review of Home School Adventure Co.

Home School Adventure Company
I'm so excited! It's my first review of the new Crew season. I feel like for any other Crew year I would have already written so many reviews, but I am really trying to be selective this year. For one thing, I don't have any more elementary school kids, so I don't even qualify for some Crew products, which is *weird*. For another, Therese is not really up for many reviews since she is so immersed in high school (only two years to go!). Finally, I am trying to give the kids a *little* more consistency. The fact is that we have been introduced to so many amazing products through the Crew over the last seven years that we have a really full school day because we are still using so many of them! Having said all of that, I am *thrilled* to be writing reviews again so that I can tell you all about more amazing homeschool products. First up this year is a product from a company that we have reviewed and loved before: Home School Adventure Co.'s Creative Freewriting Adventure which also includes Creative Freewriting Adventure Coloring Book Edition
Creative Freewriting Adenture
Creative Freewriting Adventure (see sample here) is written by Stacy Farrell, the author of Philosophy Adventure (which I reviewed three years ago here), a curriculum used and loved by my family. Creative Freewriting Adventure can be used along with Philosophy Adventure, but it also works perfectly independent of it, which is the way we used it. The program consists of ten freewriting exercises, each of which is supposed to be timed at fifteen minutes. The exercises are truly unique among freewriting exercises because they fit so seamlessly into a classical curriculum. Each addresses one of the Pre-Socratic philosophers covered in Philosophy Adventure. The reader is given a short preface with some background on the philosopher (Thales is first, just as in Philosophy Adventure).
Then, however, things take a sharp left turn when the philosopher is put into some unlikely situation about which the student gets to write. Clocks are set for 15 minutes and creativity ensues...but not too much creativity. Students are given guidelines or prompts - told to describe the background, the dialogue, and to use their senses when writing. Specific questions help them to focus quickly so as to make the most of that 15 minute limit. Strict classical educators need feel no guilt about deviating from the curriculum - they're not! But you don't have to be a classical educator to enjoy a really diverting and different creative writing program that is such a refreshing departure from "Write about your last vacation" or "If you could be any animal in the zoo, which would it be and why?" The 15 minute time limit takes all the pressure off perfectionists since such a short time means that writing has to begin immediately! 
Creative Freewriting Adventure Coloring Book Edition
But wait! There's more! We also received the Journey into Freewriting Coloring Book Edition! In this edition, a coloring page is included with every writing prompt. Now, these coloring pages are not of the type that you would find in your average adult coloring book - they are far more modest (but consider the freewriting topics!), but they do add an extra dimension for tactile kids!
How We Used It
I gave these assignments to Mary-Catherine (12), who has actually not used Philosophy Adventure much at all before (three years ago, she listened in a bit while Therese worked through the program, but that's the extent of it), but who loves to learn new things and who LOVES creative writing. She enjoyed the snapshot views of the philosophers, and she laughed out loud at the writing prompts. Because it was my most whimsical child doing the exercises, I *so* appreciated the guidelines that were given with these exercises! Otherwise, I can envision Mary-Catherine getting so carried away! Because she was given focus, though, she didn't, and her writing was both creative and grounded, which is so important to me as her teacher. I think that the kids can use their free time for their truly creative writing, but if we're going to use school time for such an endeavor, there needs to be a point to it. These exercises definitely have a point. In fact, I won't teach Philosophy Adventure again without using them, and I highly recommend them even if you don't ever intend to do Philosophy Adventure. Please do yourself a favor and check out the sample - you'll be so glad you did!
The Homeschool Review Crew has been using other products from Home School Adventure Co., too, so be sure to click the banner below to read all their reviews! And, once again, it's so great to be back bringing you reviews!
Resources with a Biblical Worldview{Home School Adventure Co. Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

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A Lenten Meme Inspired by Fr. Troy!


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Words of Wisdom from my Dad

My dad is the wisest person I know. I am so blessed that he regularly emails me (and my siblings) his thoughts on all manner of things. Last weekend, he sent me this:

"I had an insight while out praying today.  I was reflecting on the passion and imagining the terror of that ordeal that from start to finish probably lasted 18 hours and I realized that Christ was not afraid as we would be, not because he was God but because he trusted in God.  In other words fear is frequently about what is to come, but I am thinking that Christ lived in the moment which was in harmony with His Father.  In other words Christ had no need to look beyond the present because he trusted in His Father to provide for his every need.  In that sense Christ’s reference to the birds of the air makes a whole lot more sense.  The lesson is clear for all of us.  Stop worrying about the future.  Tomorrow is not guaranteed.  Live today and let God take care of tomorrow.  Mother often said that God takes care of his own."

The mother to whom my Dad refers is my grandmother, Mama Connie. I miss her so much!


Side story - her luggage got lost, so the only thing she had to wear to my wedding was the dress she wore on the plane. She was so embarrassed. I think she looked beautiful.

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Wasting Time Whining

...it's what I'm trying *not* to do. We've all heard that successful people don't waste time whining or complaining, right? It makes perfect sense. The same stuff you're complaining about is still going to be there when you're done complaining about it, so get over it and get it done. I've never had a problem with this in most aspects of my life. I never complained about a lot of schoolwork. I just did it. I never complain about a lot of housework. I just don't do it (truth in advertising, people, I'm all about it). When I had four children in less than 3.5 years, I didn't complain about the diapers or the lack of sleep (well, except a little self-indulgent venting to my husband, but that doesn't even count). I just did it. Those babies needed to be fed (constantly) and changed and played with and they were my responsibility. So why do I waste so much time bemoaning certain things that I can't change? Specifically, I accept all the nonsense in my own life and just deal with it, but when things happen in my kids' or husband's lives (things that I can't change and that they can't change), I somehow forget everything that I preach, teach, and believe and revert to a whiny "it's not fair" childlike state. It's not attractive.

Case in point: all this year, Henry's company has had his paycheck messed up. They have been taking out more than ten times what they should be taking out for flexible spending each check. Well, they finally fixed it and they will refund us our money -- all on one check and all lumped on to his regular paycheck. Which will kick us into a higher tax bracket. Which means we will lose a bunch of that money (*our* money that never should have been taken out to begin with) to taxes. Henry is very zen about it because he knows there is not a damn thing he can do about it. He realizes that we will just have to wait until a year from now when he does our taxes to get that money back in our tax refund (when the government realizes that no, we actually don't make what this one check will suggest). I can't get over it, though. I'm so incensed. And for what? I can't change it.

I need to put my money where my mouth is and get over it. Thank God we have enough in the bank to absorb the loss. Thank God we even *have* a paycheck. With benefits. I *know* we're blessed beyond anything we could ever deserve. And that knowledge just makes me resent myself and my pettiness even more (because it's not *fair*, don't you see?!). What a silly vicious circle!

So many times I ask myself WWHD (What Would Henry Do) because he is just so pragmatic about so many things. He is the serenity prayer in action. (I know it's What Would Jesus Do, but for me, aspiring to be like Henry is a tad more realistic most times than aspiring to be like Jesus - which, of course, is the ultimate goal.)


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