Sunday, July 31, 2016

Luke's Five Favorite Faith Aids

When Luke saw that Nina had shared her Top Five Traditions for Family Faith a couple weeks ago, he asked if he could share five of his favorite faith things.

{Disclosure:  Some links which follow are affiliate ones.  Should you click through them and choose to make any purchase, we may receive large compensation at no extra cost to you.}

The Action Bible

Luke said:
I am trying to read The Action Bible every day like a regular book, because I am trying to become familiar with all of the Bible stories.  I like reading the Bible stories this way because I just love the book.  It's my style.  It doesn't have much print and has a lot of pictures.  (I also like novels and handbooks.)

It is such a joy to see Luke reading his
Action Bible every day.  He truly is dedicated to it right now.  Every day lately I witness him find a quiet space to read.  In fact, over the weekend, when we went camping and I told him he could only pack one book for the trip, I was happily surprised to see him grab The Action BibleAs he put it in our minivan, he said, "I want to read this every day, Mommy."  I am delighted that he does.

Of course, at some point, I would love for Luke to read the Word straight from a traditional Bible with the same dedication he I doing so with the
The Action BibleHowever, for now, I am just glad that he is choosing to read the Word in any form on a daily basis - all of his own impetus.

(As a side note, I noticed that
The Action Bible is 42% off at Amazon right now.  So, if it's something you think your children would like, now might be a good time to look into getting it.)

The Picture Book of Saints

Luke said:
I got the Picture Book of Saints as a gift.  I really like it.  It has an illustration and large biography of a saint on each page.  We use it for saint feast days, to browse through, ...  And, I once used it to help a friend.  My friend's mom could not think of names for her new baby, so I used this book to make a list of suggested names.  She chose two of the names on my list as the baby's first and middle name.

Peg Dolls

Like Nina, Luke loves peg dolls.  He said:

I made my own, so I know a few things about them, such as: Be patient, and let it dry.  Mine were not the best and are not in this picture.  Mom has to find pictures of mine later.

I sometimes play with our peg dolls.  We play that they knock the devil out of heaven and stuff like that. We once even did a saint show-and-tell show.  More tell than show.  We also use them for saint day decorations and when we do feast days with our friends.  We use them for a lot.  They come in really handy.

Rosary Decades in the Car

Luke said:
Every time we get in the car we pray a decade of the rosary with a special intention for each prayer.  I really like that, because I get to have more people praying for intentions (my family) and it gives me intentions to think about when I pray by myself.  It also allows me to pray for many people.


Luke said:
I LOVE CD's!  Heirloom Audio Productions, the Brinkman Adventures, Holy Heroes...  They are exciting, especially the Heirloom Audios and the Brinkmans.  And, the Holy Heroes ones tell you the lives of saints.  I REALLY enjoy these!  I love when we get them.  It's so exciting listening to new CD's and old ones over and over, especially In Freedom's Cause.

As you can see, Luke prefers faith aids and traditions that are highly visual and auditory.  He also likes general Christian resources along with strictly Catholic ones.  Using a wide variety of resources offers us many opportunities to chat about similarities and differences between the tenets of our Catholic faith and the beliefs of fellow Christians who are not Catholic.  Luke wishes all Christians would understand the Mass and the Eucharist and also is thankful that so many know and love Jesus in one way or another.
What faith resources and traditions speak to your child?

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Celebrate St. Anne with Breakfast Al Fresco This Week

In 2012, I recommitted our family to celebrating our name days and baptism anniversaries.

Shortly thereafter, I kicked off our family tradition with our first celebration of St. Anne, a plant-strong, gluten-free, casein-free "Saint Tea".  ("Saint Tea in quotes, because, as much a I love tea, my children do not.  Thus, our "teas" have developed more into breakfasts, lunches, and dinners through the years.)

Since our first St. Anne "tea", we've enjoyed celebrating St. Anne every year on July 26, the feast day of Saints Joachim and Anne, grandparents to Jesus.  Some years our celebratory meals have been more elaborate and some they have been super simple.  However they have turned out, we have enjoyed sharing faith through food.

Last year was no exception.  On St. Anne's feast day, our family enjoyed a beautiful breakfast al fresco. 

The children helped me to prepare and lay out a simple meal, and, then, we all gathered to pray, chat, and celebrate.

After we all prayed grace, Daddy led us in a prayer.

Then, I focused the children's attention on an image of St. Anne that I had printed out, and we chatted about what we already knew about St. Anne.

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We also read two brief readings about Saint Anne, one from the sweet little book Prayers to the Saints (which sells used for as little as 53 cents) and the other from the classic Picture Book of Saints (which sells used for just a penny).

Credit: Amazon

After that we were more than ready to dig in and enjoy symbolic eats.

St. Anne is typically depicted in wearing green (for rebirth or immortality) and red (for love), so both our table decorations and our food reflected that symbolism.

Green beans, a gift from a friend, reminded us of the gift of grace we receive from Jesus.  The seeds within the beans reminded us of Mary in St. Anne's womb, and, in turn, Jesus in Mary's womb

Red raspberries reminded us of the heart of Jesus - so big and so loving for us.  They also reminded us of the Fruits of the Spirit. 

Coconut-fruit smoothies also reminded us of the Fruits of the Spirit as well as the sweetness of God's love.

Gluten-free pretzels reminded us of prayers St. Anne offered, asking for a child even in her late age.  They also reminded us of the Holy Trinity

The hummus the pretzels were dipped in (which added protein to our meal) was brown - an earthy color, and reminded us of the incarnate Jesus, St. Ann's son, coming from the havens to be with us on earth.

Watermelon and tomatoes reminded us, again, of the Fruits of the Spirit, as well as the seeds of faith within us

Herbs reminded us how something seemingly small - like prayer - can result in big changes - like Mary's birth, and, in turn, Jesus' birth.  For, just as a bit of herb can change the entire flavor of a dish, St. Anne's persistent prayers, when answered by God, changed the world.  Mary was born unto Saints Anne and Joachim, and Jesus to Mary.

The round shape of choc
olate chip cookies reminded us of God's eternal love.  The chips in them reminded us of many small prayers answered as well as of the sweetness of answered prayers.

It truly was a lovely breakfast - simple to prepare, delicious, and focused on faith.  I look forward to celebrating St. Anne al fresco again this year and encourage you to consider celebrating saints al fresco with whatever is in your garden, fridge, and pantry, too.  Doing so truly is a tradition that brings fond memories and time spent together celebrating faith.
May your Saints Joachim and Anne day be filled with faith and grace!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Beric the Briton Has Come Alive in Our Imaginations {An Awesome Audio Adventure Review}

Oh, the cheer that rang out from my children when I surprised them with the fact that our review copy of
Beric The Briton by Heirloom Audio Productions had come in!  We actually took a photo of them opening the package, which was precious, but it got inadvertently erased and could not be recreated.  So, just trust me on how much joy was captured - however temporarily - in that photo!

For, yes, my children truly love
Heirloom Audio Productions and count the opportunity to review their "awesome audiodramas" as one of the chief reasons that we should continue being on the Schoolhouse Review Crew each year.  Seriously, they wait and wait for Heirloom Audio Productions review opportunities to come up and, then, clamber, "Can we do it?  Can we do it?" with total excitement!

This time, when we received our CD-set, we did things a bit differently than usual.  Typically, I let the kids pop the CD into a player right away, we listen to it several times, then, later, we watch any video extras we have received access to, view other extras online, and chat about the content of the CD's loosely using the provided digital Study Guide.  However, this time, after the children finished bubbling over in delight about the fact that
Beric The Briton had arrived, I told them that they could not listen to the CD's just yet.  I knew we had a long ride coming up a couple of days later, and I wanted them to exercise patience until that ride, when we could all listen to the 2-hour CD-set with rapt attention (and, thus, peace and joy on our ride!)

Extras!  Extras!  Extraordinary Digital Extras!

Beric The Briton Heirloom Audio Productions  Review

Of course, my children were not thrilled that they had to wait to listen to the next CD set in their favorite series.  However, their disappointment was quelled when I told them they could preview something about it, for they do love "the extraordinary adventures of G.A. Henty" and all that they entail.


Ever since we reviewed the first Heirloom Audio Productions adventure, Under Drake's Flag, the kids have been hooked on the CD's as well as the digital extras that go along with them.  They not only love listening to the radio theater-like on CD's, but also enjoy browsing such things as e-books and posters and watching behind-the-scenes videos. 

Thus, my children were delighted when I said we could begin our
Beric The Briton experience with the behind-the-scenes video that came with it.  As soon as I pulled that video up on our computer, using the special link we received with our CD-set, my children became immersed in it. 

Later, my oldest said:

I like being able to see what the people making the audiodrama look like.  I also like how in the beginning they say parts of what's on the CD's.  They also talk about the story and the background.  It's fun to find out how it's made.

All of my children enjoy seeing the actors and actresses, hearing their comments, and learning more about how
Heirloom Audio Productions takes G.A. Henty stories from page to audiodrama "stage" (studio, really), creating family-friendly CD-sets that are filled with:
  • adventure,
  • history,
  • excitement,
  • faith and virtues,

and, of course, engaging listening!

I do as well.  I also appreciate the other extras that come along with the CD-sets and offer opportunities for extending learning should families want them.  With the
Beric The Briton, extras included:

  • 1 48-page digital study guide, which includes comprehension questions, thought questions, key vocabulary, Bible studies, and more, and which can be used orally or in writing.  (Since the guide is full-color, we like to reference it on-screen so as not to use so much printed ink.  We also prefer to use it as a source for conversation, not written work, but I can see it being super for independent written work for families that benefit from such pursuits, too.  The guide is full enough and flexible enough to use casually or for sit-down studies!)
  • a Beric The Briton MP3 Set, which is helpful as a back-up and for those that have portable devices.
  • a Beric The Briton E-Book, which would be handier for us if we had a portable reading device, but is still appreciate
  • an official MP3 Soundtrack, which includes all the fabulously fun, adventure-filled music composed for the audiodrama
  • a Printable Cast Poster, which my children like to look at online
  • an Inspirational Verse Poster, which can make for good copywork
  • a Behind-the-Scenes Video, which, as I already discusses, my children love!

And the Main Event!

Beric The Briton Heirloom Audio Productions  Review

Of course, all the digital extras are excellent and enticing, but the main reason we love
Heirloom Audio Productions is the physical 2-CD sets we receive, which move with us from minivan CD-player to living room CD player, and back, depending on if we are taking rides, doing chores, or nursing sick kids.  Indeed, Beric The Briton has accompanied us on long rides, carried us through sorting socks and folding laundry, and kept children with fevers and belly issues contentedly staying still and resting.  The CD-set has also inspired hours of conversation, loads of physical play and dramatization, and, praise God, also some self-initiated free writing for one of my children.  Oh, how happy this adventure-packed, historical, Christian radio theater piece has made us!

Now, I know you must be wondering what exactly
Beric The Briton is about.  To answer that question, I asked my oldest (at ten) to give a narration of the story without giving the entire plot away.  He said:
Beric The Briton is about a Briton who battles the Romans and wins, but later is captured and turned into a gladiator.  Beric and his friend train and fight to gain their freedom.  meanwhile, a story about a strange man named Christus goes around Rome.  Beric hears it and has to decide if he will become a followed of Christ.

My son's summary is accurate, but does not capture all the excitement inherent in Beric The Briton. For a taste of that, see this video clip:

I think you can easily see why the cast's voices, the score, the sound affects, and the historical story itself which rings of Christian virtues captures our imaginations

Highly Recommended!

When I asked my oldest about why he wanted
Beric The Briton and if he would recommend it, he said:

I wanted to get this CD, because I love all the Heirloom Audio Productions CD's.  In this one, I liked the part where Beric fights against the Romans.  I thought it was cool how he used fighting in formations to make an impact on the Roman line.  I also liked that the story had a happy ending, and that it is a letter to Ned and Gerald this time instead of the man actually talking to them like in the other CD's.

Beric has adventure, romance, and humor.  everyone should listen to it.  Even little kids can handle it.  My brother loves it!
My youngest son, six, said:

I liked it!  The fire was exciting.  Beric was brave.  I want to listen to it again.  I like to play gladiators with (my brother and sister) now.
My daughter, nine, said:
I like it, because I like the story.  I like how Beric goes to Rome and becomes a gladiator.  If you want to figure out what it was like to be a Briton in that time or if you like Rome, you might want this. 

A funny part is when Beric says to his friend, "How can you lift that so easily...Is that because you have that extra muscle in your neck."  His friend says, "Where?"  Beric says, "right there."  His friend says, "I don't feel anything."  Then, Beric begins to laugh.  he is playing a joke.

An exciting part is when Beric jumps into the gladiator arena to protect someone.

I also like that Beric sails back home and all his friends back home and him have a big feast. 

And me?  I just love how
Beric The Briton makes history come alive for my children, my husband, and me!  It's been so much fun this time to witness my children making connections between past studies of Roman history and the story of Beric and talking to friends, family, librarians, history re-enactors, etc. about things they have learned from the CD's.

I have also appreciate how many faith connections
Beric The Briton opens up.  It was so easy this year to discuss early Christian martyrs and Sts. Peter and Paul on their feast days with Beric's story so prevalent in my children's mind.  It has also been easier to talk to my children about "touchy" current events they have caught wind of: People have been fighting over religions beliefs for centuries and standing up for Christ, too.  Having a hero like Beric as a model and, in particular, this well-done and engaging story Beric The Briton as a touchpoint for conversation, has enhanced our family's understanding of faith and virtues.Truly, many CD's that I pop into our CD-player during family rides do not "speak" to my husband, but ones by Heirloom Audio Productions always do, and Beric The Briton is no exception.  In listening, we have found ourselves laughing, becoming empathetic, shouting at people in the story, etc.  It is wonderful to share time like this.  I encourage you and your family to try it out.

More Information

Beric The Briton Heirloom Audio Productions  Review

You can find out more about
Heirloom Audio Productions at:

One-hundred Schoolhouse Review Crew families had the pleasure of immersing themselves in the
Beric The Briton audiodrama.  Click on the banner to see if all of them loved doing so as much as my family did.
Beric The Briton Heirloom Audio Productions  Review

You may also enjoy our prior reviews of Heirloom Audio Productions which can be found by clicking through each image below.

We cannot recommend these CD's enough!  We listen to them over and over and talk about them a lot.

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Sunday, July 17, 2016

Nina's Top Five Traditions for Family Faith

Tonight, Nina and I were chatting and she started telling me about her favorite ways that we pray and study about religion together as a family.  I have to say, I had no idea which of the many ways we practice our faith speak the most loudly to my little girl's heart lately.  Now, I do.

Rosary Decades

Nina said she likes how we pray the rosary in the car every time we go somewhere.  I must say, I do, too.  It's a prayer peg that I am so glad to have made a habit out of. 

Bible Time

Nina then told me she loves when we read the Bible together, especially HER Bible.  For, yes, she remains delighted with the Bible that she picked out, which became an answer to prayer for us even though, lately, I have been neglecting to make time daily to read it with her.  (Thank you for the reminder, my sweet child!)

Peg Dolls

"You might not realize it, Mama..." Nina then began as she walked across our living room and back to me. "I like these, too."  She held out her hand which had a peg doll in it.  Painting peg dolls, using them as decorations during saint "teas", and playing with the dolls all rank high on her list.

Rose Petals and Thorns

"And, Mama, it's not really prayer, but it sort of is.  I like when we do rose petals and thorns..." Nina continued.  "Rose petals and thorns" was the predecessor and successor to our Five Finger Examen

We began, years ago, sharing our "rose petals" (or favorite, sweetest, most beautiful memories of the day" and "thorns" (or least favorite, most challenging, most upsetting portions of the day) with one another before bed and praying about them.  Then, we moved into a
Five Finger Examen for a while, but now the "rose petals" and "thorns" are back.  It's a simple, lovely tradition which often leads to us going to bed with mas the children thank our Lord for things that were "a whole rosebush!"

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The Catechism

Finally, Nina said, "I like when we use that book.  You know, with the big circle in the center, and the little pictures around it."  At first, I did not know which of the many books we read that she was referring to, but, then, she added, "The small one," and I knew right away.

"This one?  My First Catechism?"  I asked. 

"Yes."  Nina smiled.  "It's fun when you read that and we answer questions." 

Well, I am glad my girl finds learning the Catechism enjoyable and with a book that currently sells used for but a penny, too.

What are some of your child's favorite family faith traditions and resources?  I would love to hear about them!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

How Screentime Became Family Art Time for Us This Summer {An ArtAchieve Review}

In the summer, there is one thing I want less of in our home:  computer time!  Yet, when I was offered a chance to review the Entire Level I program by ArtAchieve, I could not resist the temptation to add just a bit more time sitting in front a screen to our summer schedule.  Mind you, however, that time sitting involves more than just sitting.  Indeed, it wraps family time, creative pursuits, and a bit of professional art teaching all into one engaging half hour to hour to to hour, to, well,  however long the last artist in our family wants to sit at our kitchen table polishing off a project.

Have Your Heard of ArtAchieve?


Art Lessons for Children ArtAchieve Review

I admit, when I was offered the chance to review
ArtAchieve's Entire Level I program, I had no idea what it was.  However, as soon as I clicked over to the ArtAchieve website and read its mission, I knew I wanted to review the Entire Level I program.  For the opening remark in the mission spoke of something I have witnessed but not experienced firsthand - that "anyone can learn to draw."

You see, years ago, I was a child who liked to create, but who received little encouragement, and perhaps a bit too much criticism, for my (lack of) art ability.  Thus, I thought, Some people just cannot do art well, and I am one of them.

Then, an experience in my twenties changed that thinking. 

I was living and teaching in Japan and became wowed by the fact that every Japanese student of mine was a competent artist and that the average elementary-school child in Japan could draw, paint, and create art work on level with many junior and high school counterparts from America.   At annual art days, when the entire school would go on outdoor excursions to create art, which was later displayed at schoolwide culture festivals, I realized that every individual is capable of creating beautiful art.  When art is made a focus, basic techniques are taught systematically, and people are given opportunities to create on their own and in community, skills blossom!  

As a homeschool mom, then, that is what I seek for my children as far as art goes:

  • teaching of techniques
  • time and space to create
  • community to create and share with

ArtAchieve offers all that!

Its author John Hofland
is an experienced homeschooler, art teacher, and world traveler who makes art accessible to even the most novice child or adult and, in my experience, creates an opportunity for success right from the git-go!  Better still, because lessons connect to art from around the world that Mr. Hofland has collected images of, lessons also  dovetail nicely with topics in social studies, literature, science, and other subjects -- with connections made even easier by the lists of  supplementary links, resources, and ideas that are included in each lesson.  Plus, since all you need for the art lessons are an internet connection, a printer, and basic art supplies, such as pencils, paper, watercolor markers, a Sharpie, and oil pastels, lessons are super easy to facilitate and won't break the bank nor have you running here, there, and everywhere for specialty art supplies!

How We Used Art Achieve

We began using ArtAchieve with the free sample lessons offered on the site, and, then continued on with the ones we received access to with our one-year license to  the Entire Level I program, which consists of 11 projects (including the free samples) and their warm ups.

Art Lessons for Children ArtAchieve Review

At first, we used the slideshow version of the lessons, but, then, quickly realized that we liked the video lessons better.  So, to use the lessons, I'd sit down, download printables for a particular lessons, print them out, set the needed materials on the table, call the kids to the table, then, hit play on the video and set to creating artwork together.  Easy peasy and successful!

Even on days when the kids were a bit grumbly, by the time we got to coloring our artworks, we were all smiles and chatter.  (Mind you, Mr. Hofland suggests playing music when doing art and staying silent, but that's just not our style.  We tried.  We failed at the silence, but succeeded at the art - enjoying chatting about what we were doing and offering encouraging observations to one another.)

Thus it was that our summertime has become more filled with screentime, but also with smiles and creative fun!

What the Kids Have to Say

My youngest, five, has not always liked to create art as Mr. Hofland directs, but he does enjoy coming to the table to prepare himself to work as Mr. Hofland suggests (by rubbing hands together until they are warm and then placing them over eyes and breathing deeply).  My youngest also enjoys creating alongside his siblings and I, even if his creations veer dramatically from the projects suggested (as the man does among the suns below.)

When I asked my youngest about the Entire Level I program, he had this to say:

I like in the videos when they show the pictures, not the guy. I also like when my hands are smooth and I rub them and put them on my eyes.  The art is okay.  I like the coloring.

My youngest is not a boy of many words.  His sister, at nine, however, is more loquacious. 

During lessons, my daughter often began verbalizing self-critical frustration early-on despite hearing Mr. Hofland's constant encouraging reminders on video, which her brothers and I echoed.  However, after a bit, her confidence and satisfaction grew, and, when I asked her what she thought of the program, she said:
I like (this program) so far.  I like the man.  He always has us do the exercise with our hands and I really like it.  I also like how he gives us tips. 
I REALLY like the sun picture better than all the rest I have done, but I am not sure if I will like it the best, because I have not done every project. 

I liked how when we did the cat, we had more free will than in the bugs one, where you had to copy every detail or you would not get the right shapes of bugs.  With the cat, you just had to copy a little.  With the sun, all you HAD to do was the coloring and the circle.  The rest was your FREE WILL (besides using cool and warm colors).

I made a big mistake with my sun, though.  It said I was supposed to color the rays, but I did not get that correctly and colored outside of them.  So my rays are all white now, but I still like it. 

I guess you don't have to follow all the rules to get art you like. It's good to know the rules, because once you know them, you can figure out which ones you really want to follow and which ones you don't really need to follow to create the picture YOU want to create, not what someone else wants you to create, but what you want to.  I like that the guy says, "Remember you are not coloring for your neighbor, your teacher, your mom, or me.  You are coloring for yourself." 

I hope you'll like the art program, too, if you do it.  I think you should if you like art.

Yep!  I'd say the
Entire Level I program is a success for my daughter.

 ArtAchieve is a win with my oldest son, too.  He has always liked drawing and creating, but often has not cottoned to set projects for any length of time.  With ArtAchieve that is changing.  He sits down excited to see specific projects and to remain focused until he completes them.  

When I asked my oldest what he thought about the program, he said:

I like it.  It's fun.  I like learning about the different art from the different countries and being inspired to make my own art especially. 

I preferred the videos to the slideshow, because they were more fun.  I liked seeing what the man's art looked like.  It showed me what was different between mine and his and gave me ideas.

So far, the bugs was my favorite project.  I liked drawing the bugs and it was enjoyable coloring them.  I enjoyed making patterns, coloring, and seeing them in the end.

I asked my mom if we can get Level 2 someday!

I think other people will like this, too.  Everyone.  Kids, grown ups,...  It's fun! 

Final Thoughts

I have been well pleased with my decision to try
ArtAchieve out and with the focused, creative time doing so has encouraged my children and I to spend together.  I am also now experiencing the art instruction and encouragement I never did as a child myself and find it so satisfying to create simple projects alongside my children.

"Oh, Mama, I love yours!"  "Do you like how these colors pop, Mom? I do."  "Look at mine!  Look at mine!"  "It's okay.  You won't know what you like until it's done."  "I think that's really good."

Hearing all these comments and more has made the moment many a time for me since we began using
ArtAchieveI am delighted with how using the Entire Level I lessons have increased my children and my art skill and offered us opportunities to encourage one another.  Without question, I would recommend ArtAchieve to anyone who is not confident at art and wants to meet with success while creating, experimenting, and learning basic art skills.

Learn More

Art Lessons for Children ArtAchieve Review

Almost one hundred Schoolhouse Review Crew families tried out
ArtAchieve's Entire Level 1, 2, or 3.  Enjoy reading what each had to say and browsing the different projects each family has chosen to share by clicking through the banner. 

Art Lessons for Children ArtAchieve Review 
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And, don't forget, you can try out 
FREE sample lessons to see if ArtAchieve suits your family!

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