Sunday, March 31, 2019

Pray Unceasingly with a Cemetery Prayer Peg

"Pray without ceasing," St. Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:17.

In an effort to do just this, I began establishing "prayer pegs" with my children years ago as a way of building "Holy Habits" that flow naturally, seamlessly, and rhythmically within our day-to-day lives.

What's a Prayer Peg?

Just as one can peg laundry to a line - simply, without great ado, and yet with purposeful intent - one can attach blessing, praise, thanksgiving, petition, and intercession to specific daily activities in order to form intentional habits of unceasing prayer.

This, in essence, is what I call "prayer pegs".

A prayer peg is simply an act of praying a distinct form of prayer in connection with a particular regular activity.

A Prayer Peg for When We Pass a Cemetery

One prayer peg that my family has established is to pause all conversation and thought when passing a cemetery so that we can pray:

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace through your mercy. Amen.

Upon concluding this prayer, we sometimes add specific intentions for our own beloved dead or for the dearly departed of our friends. While, at other times, we simply return to whatever we were saying, thinking, or doing before we noticed we were passing a cemetery.

Either way, because we live around the corner from one cemetery and pass many others during our day-to-day travels, our purposeful prayer peg encourages us to regularly raise our minds and hearts to God while living out part of the seventh Spiritual Work of Mercy: praying for the dead.

Often multiple times within a single day, whether walking or driving, one of us will note a cemetery and deliberately begin to pray. Then, the rest of us will join in.

Praying when passing a cemetery has become a holy habit for our family that was easy to establish and continues to help us to respond to St. Paul's exhortation to pray without ceasing.

Do you pray a specific prayer when passing a cemetery? What prayer pegs work for you and yours at other times during your days?

Sunday, March 24, 2019

What One Simple Habit Helps Us Break the Grip of Vice?

Do you find yourself and your family sometimes forgetting to practice an attitude of gratitude?

Have acerbic tongues and overly critical eyes ever infected your household?

Well, you're not alone.

Despite a desire to train happy hearts in our home, my family sometimes falls prey to unmeritorious habits:

Complaining. Criticizing. Fault-finding. Nit picking. Ingratitude. Contemptousness.

A host of ill tendencies begin to tarnish our souls, and I sadly notice a developing practice of lambasting, instead of loving one another.

It's ugly, but it's not irreversible.

One simple habit nips such negativity in the bud:

Gratitude and celebrating greatness!

Years ago, I developed a practice of "celebrating greatness" on days when the simple act of piling into our minivan brought more mayhem than merriment to my family.

The practice was simple:

I would ask, "Who wants to hear about their greatness?" and, then, I would name something specific that I had seen or heard each of my children doing well earlier in day, or I'd describe a special moment when I had witnessed them all working or playing together with virtue.

After that, my children would begin to pipe up with their own ideas - spontaneously celebrating one another's individual strengths and, sometimes, commenting on their own as well.

Before we knew it, negativity dissipated and virtue once again became our focus.

Celebrating greatness became a valuable practice for resetting our mouths, hearts, and minds.

Yet, it was more of a reaction than a preventative habit for happiness. We used it more often to reframe or heal rather than to ingrain and promote.

Recently, that has changed.

Overtiredness, puberty, neuro-differences, and more have been getting the best of us all too often lately, and I recognized that my children and would do well to more regularly heed the words in Philippians 4:8-9:

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you."
Phil 4: 8-9

So, I decided to get proactive about things and to build a habit for happiness and peace - a habit of gratitude and celebrating greatness. 

The way we are doing so is easy:

During our first car ride of the day, at bedtime, or both, I say, "I'm thankful for..." and name something specific about the day. Then, I ask each of my children - and my husband when he is with us - to follow suit.

After that, I ask who wants to celebrate greatness first, and we each take turns naming something about one another that we are thankful for that day or that we noticed as positive.

Granted, sometimes, due to grumpiness, one of us struggles to find good in the day or in one another. However, usually another of us is more than happy to help out - offering ideas of things to be thankful for and recalling meritorious moments.

Because we know that at least once a day we'll each be asked to verbalize gratitude and greatness, we tend to focus on the true, noble, right, pure, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy a bit more.

Our habit of sharing gratitude and greatness shines a spotlight on virtue and helps break the hold that vice sometimes grips us in.

Might naming something your thankful for and something specifically good about one another on a daily basis turn into a habit for happiness in your family too? What other practices for peace and love do you promote?

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Combine STEM and ELA with a Full Year of Design Challenges {A Review}

If you're looking for an easy way to tie STEM and ELA together while offering your children a wide variety of creative problem-solving and design challengesSTEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges with Close Reading by Tied 2 Teaching could be just what you are looking for!

This handy resource - which my children have been tackling challenges from - offers a wide variety of activities to engage students of multiple ages and abilities.

What is STEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges with Close Reading?

STEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges with Close Reading is bundle of 70+ STEM challenges which dovetail purposefully with close reading activities and allow children to work literacy skills along with science, technology, engineering, and math ones.

The resource is designed for children at a grades 3-6 level, and, after using it, I would say that it hit the mark with the close reading activities but that the actual STEM challenges could easily adapt to a wider age range.

The challenge files, when I unzipped and downloaded them, showed up in an alphabetical order; however, they can also be grouped by month in order to correspond to holidays and seasonal themes.

  • 100th Day of School STEM Challenge – SPAGHETTI TOWER Design Challenge
  • Marshmallow Snowman Challenge
  • CIVIL RIGHTS MONUMENT Design Challenge
  • Sled Design Challenge
  • Valentines Day STEM Challenge – Cupid’s Bow Design
  • Groundhog Day STEM Challenge – Groundhog Burrow Design Challenge
  • Valentines STEM Challenge – Love Bug Design Challenge
  • Presidents Day STEM Challenge – Lincoln’s Cabin Challenge
  • St. Patrick’s Day STEM Challenge – Build a Leprechaun Trap
  • Basketball Tower STEM Challenge
  • St. Patrick’s Day STEM Challenge – Build a Rainbow Bridge
  • New Hat for Cat Challenge Read Across America STEM
  • Jelly Bean Tower Challenge
  • Easter STEM Challenge Design a Carrot Carriage
  • Earth Day STEM Challenge – Design Something Useful
  • Earth Day STEM Challenge – Upcycled Birdhouse
  • Design a New Droid
  • Paper Airplane Design Challenge
  • Pipe Cleaner Challenge
  • Lighthouse Design Challenge
  • Foil Boat Design Challenge
  • Giant Pyramid Challenge
  • Steamboat Design Challenge
  • Zip Line Design Activity
  • House of Cards Challenge
  • Doghouse Design Challenge
  • Alien Spacecraft Challenge
  • Airplane Design Challenge
  • Building Block Tower Challenge
  • Index Card Skyscraper Challenge
  • Paper Table Challenge
    BONUS Building Block Challenge MEGA PACK
  • Apple Boat Challenge
  • Pencil Tower Challenge
  • Totem Pole Challenge
  • Balloon Tower Challenge
  • Spider Web Design Challenge
  • Witch’s Parachute Halloween STEM Challenge
  • Sugar Cube Arch Challenge
  • Parade Balloon Challenge
  • Thanksgiving Table Challenge
  • Cranberry Tower Challenge
  •  Pilgrim Shelter Challenge
  • Cardboard Reindeer Challenge
  • Funky Christmas Ornament Challenge
  • Straw Christmas Tree Challenge
  • Christmas Tree Tower


These groupings can make for fun calendar tie-ins. However, since  each challenge stands alone and the skills and knowledge explored in one do not consecutively build into the next, you can really approach the challenges in any order you wish. 

This is what we did - pulling challenges out based on interest, the supplies we had on hand, etc.

Does It Require a Ton of Supplies?

Because this resource is purchased online and delivered as a compressed zip file, you will, of course, need a computer to purchase, download, and save your bundle.

Then, you will also need a computer to read the challenges themselves along with the passages on Wonderopolis that are used for close reading.

If you prefer not to have your child onscreen, however, you can print out the Wonderopolis texts and select pages from the pdf challenge packets to print out, too. 

In each packet, there are about 18-20 pages, on average, but you need not print every page out. Rather, you can pick which of the differentiated pages will best suit your child and, then, print just those.

Besides a computer and printer, you will need different supplies for each different challenge, but, most of these things are things you'd already have around the house - tinfoil, playing cards, pennies, pencils, paper, books, recyclables, etc. - or things you can easily and inexpensively purchase - balloons, marshmallows, etc.

Some challenges do require a relatively more expensive item - plastic building bricks - but many homeschoolers have these, so, if you don't, you could always ask to borrow some, or you could purchase a knock off brand or the main brand secondhand. (Or, skip the challenges or use an alternate item to do an inspired challenge.)

Really, the supplies are not burdensome at all and, because the challenges promote creative problem-solving, in my opinion, if you don't have a specific suggested supply item, you can just swap out something else.

What Was It Like to Use?

We received STEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges with Close Reading as a link to download a compressed ZIP file or PDF files of each of the STEM challenge activities.

Inside each individual challenge activity file, we found a title and link to an online reading passage (with a QR link, too, but we don't know how to use those.)

That title/link took us to a page on a site called Wonderopolis where we could read more about the subject of the challenge. (The reading passage could also be printed from the Wonderopolis site, but we chose to read from the screen.)

Within the file there was also a printable with questions pertaining to the Wonderopolis article, which, with the first two challenges we did, I encouraged my children to complete. In doing so, I noted two things:

  1. The close reading questions were varied and well written - with some that just pointed toward direct comprehension and some that required a bit more thinking (depending on a child's level).
  2. Worksheets like this are NOT my children's style, but are still a good exercise for them every once in a while, and, I know, would be just up the alley of some other children I know.

So, with these things in mind, even though part of the initial appeal of this resource for me was the way it marries ELA and STEM skills, I decided, for the sake of sanity and interest level in my home, to forego "requiring" the Wonderopolis passages and close reading worksheets after the first two challenges we did, but am still happy to have them as they can inspire discussion and also be cycled back into life and learning at another time.

Then, after completing the close reading pages during our first two challenges, we read the challenge pages and picked at least one design challenge printable for each child to fill out.  

Unfortunately, we chose the house of cards challenge for our first challenge, but I did not realize our cards were simply too laminated and new for the houses to be built with ease.

That made for some frustrating challenge time - but also got creative thinking flowing.

The frustration with slippery cards then led to less than best attitudes with filling out the design challenge forms.

Oops!  Mama fail!  Seriously, MAMA's - not the products. The actual challenge was well written and could be fun!

How do I know?

On another day, my daughter asked if she could challenge friends to an impromptu redo of one of the challenges we'd done at home, and, when she described them to a friend's mom, that mom got some older playing cards out and the kids went to town.



The second challenge we chose was to make a table out of newspaper.  However, since I had no newspaper on hand, we just used recycled paper.

Again, my children were not as interested in the reading or the filling out of worksheets as some other children might be - although I still asked them to do so to honor our review commitment - but they did enjoy the challenge.

Some of them tried to make tall tables:

Other shorter ones:

And one super short one:

But strong, too!

In fact, my daughter then decided to extend the activity to see how many books she could stack on her table before the table completely folded in, allowing a book to touch the real table beneath.

I love when natural inquiry flows like this!

And, with that in mind, I decided to let natural inquiry take over for future challenges.  

Instead of me requiring reading, writing, etc., I am opting to let my children browse the challenge files themselves and to explore as they will with them from there.

That's what happened with the tinfoil boat and penny challenge!

One son saw a picture of the challenge and asked if he could do it - right then and there. 

Then, another child asked to join in.

Both had fun and kept exploring!

Later, my children asked if we could try more challenges with friends - competing with them in a friendly way.  Of course, I said we can look into it, but, I also explained that we cannot share the actual bundle we have due to permissions.  We can certainly recommend it to others, though!

Do We Recommend It?

STEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges with Close Reading by Tied 2 Teaching is a well-thought and presented resource that adapts easily for different ages, abilities, and interests while encouraging children to get hands and minds busy with STEM and ELA.

As written, it would be ideal for students who use a traditional approach to learning - with readings and worksheets - but who also benefit from breaking outside the typical box to do some hands-on creative problem solving.

It also can work well for more interest-led or relaxed learning styles - like those in my home.

Besides the physical supplies for each challenge (like tinfoil, pennies, balloons, etc.) everything you need for each reading, writing, thinking, doing, AND reflecting lesson is right there - printable or accessible on computer - so you do not need to do any planning or prep beyond picking a challenge, gathering supplies, and printing whatever pages you wish to.

Also, as I already noted, the challenges are designed to align with specific holidays and seasons, so there are easy tie-ins built in - or, like us, you can pick challenges based on interest or what supplies you have at home.

Within the challenge files there are photos for the creations other children have made, too, so you will have ideas to work from or can show your children the ideas if they get stuck or want to compare their own ideas with someone else's.

So, with this resource, you "get it all" I'd say:

  • specific, well-designed curricula for those that like that
  • flexibility for those that like to pick, choose, and adapt
  • STEM and ELA focus
  • "book" (or rather computer, printable, and pencil) learning opps
  • experiential/hands-on learning opps
  • the ability to use and re-use materials at your child's different ages and stages
  • creativity, fun, and inspiration

With all this in mind, I wholeheartedly recommend STEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges with Close Reading by Tied 2 Teaching to anyone who wants a clearly designed, easy to use set of design challenges to inspire fun and learning!

Learn More

I was looking at the STEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges with Close Reading page when preparing for writing this review and noticed the bundle is currently half off, so if you are thinking about purchasing it, now is the time!

You can connect with 
Tied 2 Teaching at:

Find the reviews.

Would you like to see a larger sampling of the challenges offered?  Take a peak at reviews from 70 Homeschool Review Crew families.

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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Have You Heard About Drive Thru History® “Acts to Revelation”?

Have you heard about Drive Thru History® “Acts to Revelation” from Drive Thru History® ?

 It's fantastic!

In fact, my children cheered when we received a package in the mail with our review copy of the DVD-set of Drive Thru History® “Acts to Revelation” – The World of the First Christians in it.

Drive Thru History

For, having previously enjoyed Drive Thru History® "The Gospels" and watched the trailer for "Acts to Revelation", we all guessed  “Acts to Revelation” would be filled with entertaining, educational Bible history presented with beautiful vistas, solid facts, and bits of humor, too!

Drive Thru History The Gospels

How could it not be with host and guide Dave Stotts at the helm!

Dave had previously taken us on 
Drive Thru History®  adventures through gorgeous landscapes, impressive historical sites, and interesting Bible times, and we had no doubt he would again.

We were correct! 

“Acts to Revelation” – The World of the First Christians entertained us with Dave's popular, good-natured humor while also educating us about the people, places, and events that launched the Christian faith. 

rchaeology, art, Bible verses, geography, history, humor, information about political mindset - it was all there.

And, it's all wonderfully packaged!

Once again, my daughter "oo"ed over how the DVD's and accompanying study guide are presented:

A full-color slipcover comes off to reveal a  hardcover book.

When you open the book, you find 3 DVD's, containing 18 episodes equaling about 9 hours of viewing material attached to the inside covers.

Then, there is the study guide book with glossy pages which includes:

  • a listing of each episode

  • Bible quotes, beautiful images, and summaries of episodes

  • discussion questions and side road notes

  • beautiful photographs

  • maps

  • and, answers to discussion questions.

It's all incredibly inviting, well-laid out, and helpful for taking already awesome DVD viewing and stepping it up a notch for more in-depth learning opportunities.

The episodes

  • Episode 1: The Gospel Shared at Pentecost
  • Episode 2: The Church Grows in Jerusalem
  • Episode 3: The Gospel Spreads to the Gentiles
  • Episode 4: Saul of Tarsus & The Road to Damascus
  • Episode 5: Paul's First Missionary Journey - The Island of Cyprus
  • Episode 6: The Journey Continues - Pamphylia, Galatia & Asia Minor
  • Episode 7: The Jerusalem Council & Paul's Second Missionary Journey
  • Episode 8: The Second Journey Continues - Philippi and Thessalonica
  • Episode 9: A Road Trip to Athens
  • Episode 10: Ancient Corinth
  • Episode 11: Paul's Third Missionary Journey
  • Episode 12:Paul's Final Trip to Jerusalem & Caesarea
  • Episode 13: Adventures at Sea - The Island of Malta
  • Episode 14: A Final Journey to Rome
  • Episode 15: The Martyrdom of Paul & Peter
  • Episode 16: John and the Island of Patmos
  • Episode 17: The Seven Churches of Revelation
  • Episode 18: The Book Closes on the New Testament Period

They begin in Jerusalem, then:

  • follow the lives of Peter, James, Philip, and Stephen through Israel.
  • trace the missionaries Paul Barnabas, Silas and Timothy through Turkey, Cyprus,, Greece, Malta, and Rome.
  • visit the island of Patmos with John.
  • drive through Asia Minor and the seven churches of Revelation.

In them, Dave Stotts walks you through many places, teaches you more about Jesus and early Christians, encourages you to read your Bible, and takes you on am amazing vicarious field trip to teach you history.

Indeed, Dave has truly mastered how to engage viewers in a combination of modern (virtual) sight-seeing, ancient Biblical history, and growing understanding of faith through putting the Bible into context.

Our family has been enjoying the professional cinematography, clean fun, and well-researched and presented facts presented in Drive Thru History® “Acts to Revelation” – The World of the First Christians! 

In fact, we've found ourselves using the DVD set as kids' pleasure viewing (when Mom was preparing for and recovering from a surgery), Mom-and-kids movie night (when Mom wanted to see what she had missed!), together time learning (when we get our "relaxed homeschooler" style on and chill with a DVD, then, chat away about it), and say-what-you-know time (when we used the study guide for "formal" Q & A quizzing at times - something the kids have been enjoying more since an adult friend of ours was on a nationally televised game show.)

Throughout all of this, I have appreciated that:

  • Drive Thru History® “Acts to Revelation”, although geared for middle school and up, is suitable for all of my children (ages 8 and up).  It makes for fun and educational mom-n-kids viewing, capturing our attention with humor and stunning scenery while delivering facts backed by Scripture and other historical documents.  

  • Dave Stotts maintains his quirky sense of humor, which makes watching Biblical history fun.  All three of my children were literally in fits of giggles and laughter at times! Gotta love when learning is truly FUN!

  •  Accuracy is valued.  The series is based on history and presents facts with reference to the Bible.

  • The videography is top-notchFilming and editing are beautifully and cleverly done. The soundtrack is catchy and compelling. (Yes, my kids hum the theme song.) The narration is engaging and easy to understand.  And, the scenery is stunning! In fact, both the on-location filming 

All Three of My Children Enjoy It!

When I asked my eight-year-old what he thought about 
Drive Thru History® “Acts to Revelation”, he said:

I like Drive Thru History® “Acts to Revelation” because of the humor, the teaching, and how Dave Stotts actually goes to the places that the Bible history happened.  
Two parts of the humor I liked were when he was visiting the old toilets and he commented on the old century plumbers. I also liked on the road how he was scared of fake animals.  
I learned a lot about Acts, like lots of people were stoned and mobbed because they believed in Jesus Christ and that Peter survived through many things. I also learned that Luke wrote Acts. 
I liked that Dave Stotts goes to the places, because I cannot travel there right now, but I can imagine the places better when he shows them.The places are stony, long-lasting, and breathtaking. Some are really interesting, like the tunnels.  
I would recommend this to Catholics, other Christians, and people who like history. It is family-friendly

My 11-year-old daughter said:

I enjoyed Drive Thru History® “Acts to Revelation”.
Some of my favorite parts and special effects are when they show you the ruins and then use digital effects to build up how it may have really looked, so you can see where the buildings were in the ruins.  
I enjoyed the humor, too! There are many times when Dave Stotts is funny. One of the funny times was when he quotes someone who said, "I get tired of seeing your hairy, sweaty legs," so he got into a blue-and-white striped "bathing suit" that had long shorts that went down to about his knees and socks that went up his calves. 
I also enjoyed when they had the throat singer do the theme song. Why? The video goes on and on with history and, sometimes, that makes me tune out. So, by adding the funny parts, it gives me time to laugh and, then store all the information I had just heard in my head. 
Having the episodes be about 30 minutes also helps me retain the history. 
I enjoy this series! When I used to think of the Bible, I didn't think of Acts and the Revelation so much. I thought more of the Old Testament and the Gospels. Now, I think of them more. When I was watching the videos I realized I knew more than I thought I did, and I also learned new things. 
I believe that Christians who like history and geography would like these videos, too.  I think they are good for all ages - well, maybe not two year olds.

My 13-year-old son said:

IDrive Thru History® “Acts to Revelation” , the host, Dave Stotts takes you on an exciting and enlightening journey through the actual modern locations where the ancient Biblical events of Acts and Revelation took place. You explore different parts of Palestine, Greece, Rome, and other Mediterranean places visiting ancient architecture, modern cities, and dazzling countryside. 
You also get to vicariously try local foods through Dave Stotts, which is quite hilarious, especially because I think Dave is completely addicted to cheese! I also think he is addicted to sanitation. Why? He went into a store and bought soap and used hand sanitizer after touching a sewer that has not been used in hundreds of years. This was funny. 
Dave Stotts definitely knows how to teach history and, while doing so, to sprinkle humor throughout the content. This - along with his charismatic air - keeps viewers interested and helps them to enjoy discovering many interesting facts about Biblical times. 
Some of the things you will see and learn are how long a Roman mile is, the names Dave Stotts was called in school, the different places where historical events actually took place including site of martyrs, what Roman urban planning was like, and what multiple gorgeous harbors look like. 
Drive Thru History® “Acts to Revelation” is a journey I suggest anyone can take. Without really leaving your home, you can visit multiple places and feel like you are actually traveling to the Biblical sites of the early Christians. I enjoyed each 30-minute episode - and sometimes watched them as a marathon. I hope all of you reading this will one day enjoy these adventures, too.

We all agree that Drive Thru History® “Acts to Revelation” makes great viewing and learning anytime, but would be especially wonderful for fellow Catholics and other Christians during the Easter season. The 50 days of Easter seem an ideal time to learn more about the people, places, and events of when the Gospel spread during the first century. Dave Stotts makes such learning enjoyable!

Learn More 

Want to see more?


As I mentioned previously, we are not first-timers with 
Drive Thru History®.  We've happily reviewed two other fantastic Drive Thru History® products before:

Enjoy History and Humor with Drive Thru Adventures! {A Review and Links for Free Previews and Codes!}

You can also read reviews from 80 Homeschool Review Crew families who were were able to study history and faith with Drive Thru History® “Acts to Revelation” – The World of the First Christians

Connect with Drive Thru History® on social media at:

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