Thursday, November 28, 2013

Christmas Book Favorites to Share

What else would I want to share with you... But of course - some of my book Christmas book favorites!

These suggestions have come from the Christmas Unit Study Adventure and my personal family experiences -

Bentz Family All Time Favorite (remember Advent starts Dec. 1st):

This is an exciting advent story for the whole family about a ten year-old boy, Jotham, and his journey across Israel in search of his family. His adventures are exciting -- this is the first advent book that we read completely through, cover to cover! 
Actually - look for Bartholomew's Passage and Tabitha's Travels (2 Advent stories that go with this book - you can read them in a three year cycle) We're starting this book this year for the 3rd time - and they never get tired of it. One of our favorite family traditions!

Last Year's "find" -
The Jesse Tree, by Geraldine McCaughrean. Published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing.

As Mr. Butterfield carves a Jesse Tree in an old dusty church, a curious young boy distracts him, asking about the various symbols on the tree. Against his better judgment, the old man finds himself retelling the familiar Biblical tales that trace the lineage of Christ, from the Garden of Eden to Jesus' birth. Under the carpenter's skilled hands, the Jesse tree grows--and an unlikely friendship begins to take root as well. The Jesse Tree will captivate readers who know and love the Bible stories as well as those who are reading them for the first time.
We read this as we would put on our Jesse Tree ornaments, all of my kiddos were giggling through it - great lunchtime activity for us!

What we're going to try this year:

One Wintry Night, by Ruth Bell Graham. Published by Baker Books.

In this beautifully illustrated book, a young injured boy seeks help from a grandmotherly woman during a snowstorm. While the two wait out the storm in her cabin, the woman lovingly shares the story of the Bible from Creation to the Resurrection, and each chapter ends with a bit of a cliffhanger -- perfect for family reading time during December.

Do you have a favorite Christmas book to share?  I'd love to hear your suggestions!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

India on My Mind - The Adventure Begins

I can't seem to get my mind off India!  I know I left parts of my heart there,  and I guess, my mind too.

We have had a whirlwind of activity since we returned, and I'm only now getting a moment to begin sharing this amazing journey with you.

Let's start with the beginning (for this post...more to follow)

I'd like to introduce you to the spark that lit this fire for India in me... My sixteen year old son Sam.

He had a vivid dream when he was only 5 years old, that God was calling him to be a missionary to India.  He's never questioned that,  always responded to the "What do you want to be when you grow up question?" with   "A missionary to India." 

I don't know about how many 16 years you know, but I haven't met many that are so confident of God calling them to India.

When our church mentioned they were planning a mission trip to India - we went.  If you want to read more about that experience - check out this post.

After months of preparation,  including spiritual gift testing, ministry bios, cross-cultural preparation and team building - we were ready!

Oh, by the way - did I mention that I happened to find out I had breast cancer during this time?  Satan was not happy about our plan to go, and tried his best to derail God's plan.  (maybe another post about that fight will be coming soon...) 

But, God's plan won out!  We successfully raised our support in a matter of weeks,  helped support the team financially with a huge Consignment Sale (read about that here!) and kicked cancer's behind!

We were off to INDIA.... 

The morning we left, the team, our families and several friends came to pray us off...  This is one of my favorite pictures - my husband praying a blessing over Sam and I as we are about to leave.  (sniff, sniff - still get a choked up.)

We tend to travel in a crowd.  Wonder who was taking care of the crew while I was gone?

Grandma came from MN (a cross cultural mission trip of her own)

Here are some of the most amazing WORLD CHANGERS - aka... Sam's friends!

Here we go - watch out world - we have passports and visas and we plan to use them! 

One of Sam's greatest fears about this trip wasn't the food, wasn't the being so far away in a completely new culture, wasn't even being seen with his mother!  It was flying.  He was truly scared stiff at the thought of getting on a plane.  I was so proud of him,  not only did he face his fear and overcome it, but he was an accomplished world traveler by the time we got off the 27 hours of travel to India.

India 2013 - NLC Team
About to embark on a life-changing adventure.


WE MADE IT!!   Our first picture in India!  A realization of a dream is happening...  my son has set foot on Indian soil - I'm not sure that either of us will ever be the same.
Stay tuned for more "India on My Mind", as our trip unfolds.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

At Home in Dogwood Mudhole from Franklin Sanders: A TOS Crew Review

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Franklin Sanders from At Home in Dogwood Mudhole

From their website:
"When Y2K looms and modern life fails to satisfy, Franklin Sanders and wife Susan go from nuclear family to multigenerational farm. Despite Susan’s admonition that they acquire nothing that eats, they gain dogs, chickens, horses, cows, pigs, ducks and sheep. Their children move back in and bring their spouses, filling Dogwood Mudhole with grandchildren. It’s no Green Acres, but through sheer persistence and good humor, they learn to farm. At Home in Dogwood Mudhole, a three-volume collection of letters, provides a running account of an attempt to live an authentic life, as Franklin writes every month for seventeen years a personal letter to his The Moneychanger newsletter readers."


Volume 1, Nothing That Eats, 379 pages, available in paperback for $22.95, or ebook formats Kindle, ePub, or PDF for $16.95. 

Sample chapters for both Volume 1, Nothing That Eats, and Volume 2, Best Thing We Ever Did, are waiting for you online. 

Best Thing We Ever Did is currently available in PDF format, with Kindle and ePub to follow in late November, and the paperback is expected to ship the first week of December.

Finally, a review for me - At Home in Dogwood Mudhole - a treat to savor.  This heafty book is a collection of letters inviting you to visit "Dogwood Mudhole", the destination of a lifetime!

I took this book with me on a weekend escape with my hubby.  Our setting - high in the Ozark mountains, in our private cabin with a view that stretched for miles (it's okay to be jealous...) just helped set the stage for getting lost in this book!

I remember the Y2K scare... but, living in suburbia at the time, we just bought some extra bottled water.  Franklin Sanders and his wife, along with 7 children, did far more.  They made a move to Dogwood Mudhole, Tennessee.

His stories are heartwarming, encouraging and inspiring.  Right off, in the preface - he clues you in on his motivation.  "So here we are, all of us - you, too - at home in Dogwood Mudhole, sunk in the mire of the world but surrounded always by the promise of resurrection, the assurance of grace, and the hope of glory.  That hope transforms the mudhole back into a garden."    

I was hooked!  Being a transplanted northerner, I loved his descriptions of the south.  Having a large family myself, his family antics made me chuckle with agreement.  Growing up on a farm, it brought back plenty of childhood nostalgia.  

Now - if only I can convince my husband to sell everything and head to Dogwood Mudhole...  :-)   Seriously, you will enjoy this read.  

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew


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Thursday, November 7, 2013

IXL: A TOS Crew Review

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Online Math Membership (K-12)  & Online Language Arts Membership (2nd - 4th)

From their website:
"Practice makes perfect, and IXL makes math and language arts practice fun! IXL motivates students through interactive games and exercises while keeping teachers and parents informed and involved. With more than 2,500 skills spanning pre-school through high school, IXL offers a dynamic and enjoyable environment suitable for any learning style. Students who use IXL are succeeding like never before."

COST:  IXL - $9.95 for math only, $9.95 for language arts only, or $15.95 a month for both.

 If you purchase a yearly subscription it is $79.00 for either math or language arts, and $129.00 a year for both subjects. (Each additional child is only $2 per month, or $20 per year)

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The Bentz Test Laboratory was excited to get a fresh new look at IXL Online Math Membership (K-12).
My five testers were grades K-5th grade.  IXL arrived at a great time, we really needed some extra practice in the dread subject... math!

IXL is a very comprehensive drill and review program.  It's not full curriculum, it doesn't actually teach the concepts.  However, I think it is one of the most appealing, user friendly online programs we have used.

After setting up a family account, I was able to create child accounts, complete with their own avatar :-) for each of my testers.  That was painless... and they were ready to begin!  I hate complicated parent account set-ups,  IXL was so easy to get started.

It's been a tough time around the Bentz Test Labortory - I recently finished radiation treatment, and a 2 week mission trip to India.  So, needless to say, math practice has be automated, or it may not get done.

My testers were able to easily log in independently and choose from skills for their appropriate grade level.  In addition, they could choose the specific topics they wanted to work on - from simple counting all the way to geometry! They could choose whatever they wanted, and jump around within their level.  As they complete each topic, they earn awards and medals.  This was surprisingly effective.  Seeing their percentage correct advance until they reached their goal, kept them motivated.

It was an easy way to incorporate math review into their day.  They all enjoyed the computer time, and found the program enjoyable.  Not too bad for math review, wouldn't you say?

Weekly progress reports were emailed to me, so I could see exactly what they had been working on, and what they had mastered.  I think this is a useful tool to add to your math toolbox.  However, with multiple children it can be a bit pricy.  I found it worth the cost during this season of our life - math practice was getting accomplished on a daily basis!

Another fun addition (PUN intended!)  is the FREE IXL App for your iPad.  You don't want to miss getting to take IXL on the go.

We did not spend any time with the IXL - Language Arts section, but - you may want to check it out for yourself.  Online Language Arts Membership (2nd - 4th).

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Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew

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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Carole P. Roman with Away We Go Media: A TOS Crew Reveiw

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Carole P. Roman with Away We Go Media

If You Were Me and Lived in...Mexico
If You Were Me and Lived in...South Korea
If You Were Me and Lived in...France
 If You Were Me and Lived in...Norway

From their website:
"An exciting new children's series - If You Were Me and Lived in... that focuses on learning and appreciating the many cultures that make up our small planet. Perfect for children from Pre-K to age 8, this series is a groundbreaking new experience in elementary education. Interesting facts and colorful illustrations help children realize that although the world is large, people all over the globe are basically the same."
Check out this short intro video:

COST:  Available on Amazon for $8.99 each (Norway - $10.79) 

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Geography study is a foundation of Bentz Test Laboratory!    However, with many ages to teach - it can be difficult to find the right resources for the younger testers.  I want something more than just a picture - with details, but, not too many.  A book long enough to have some "meat" to it - but, short enough for their attention span.
I have found the perfect addition to our country studies...especially for my younger crowd! Carole P. Roman with Away We Go Media has written 4 wonderful books exploring Mexico, South Korea, France and Norway.  (If You Were Me and Lived in...Mexico, If You Were Me and Lived in...South Korea, If You Were Me and Lived in...France, If You Were Me and Lived in...Norway)
Each of these gems introduces your child to a country, it's language, landmarks, food, and more.  My testers immediately caught onto the similiar format to each book and were eagerly looking for what their name would be, or what they would call their parents by the 2nd book! 
The illustrations are bright and colorful.  My tester loved that futbol on the TV looked like an actual picture...I think these are very well done books.  You could take each book and use it as a springboard for a unit study on that specific country - dig deeper into each landmark, make some of the food,  try some new words out.  
Our package included some fun "extras" - a passport book, inflatable globe and fun pencils.  Perfect!!  Just what my little testers needed to get the geography fun rolling,  Thank you Carol Roman!
The books are each 20-30 pages long, a 8 1/2 x 81/2 paperback.  The author plans to have 6 books in the series, and we can't wait to add the others.
Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew
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