Category Archives: Review Books

Thick As Thieves Review

My oldest son loves to read.  He was so excited to receive Thick As Thieves from Circle C Milestones  for review.

Thick as Thieves

Thick As Thieves

Historical/Christian/ Fiction
Ages 12 and above
Retails for $9.99

Thick as Thieves from Circle C Milestones

We received Thick as Thieves and the accompanying downloadable PDF Study Guide for this review.   This is the first book in the reading series in the Circle C Milestones ages 12 and above (young adult) reading / learning level by author Susan K Marlow.

Circle C Milestones

Andi Carter is 14 and lives on her family’s ranch called Circle C Ranch. She loves horses and she has a special horse named Taffy who gives birth to a foal during the story. The book is about her life on the ranch, her family and responsibilities like chores, and going to school during the 1880’s in America.

My son is 14, we homeschool, and live on a homestead.  He cares for his animals on our farm daily in addition to some household chores he rotates responsibilities with his siblings like helping with the laundry, taking out the trash, and dishes. He also has schoolwork he completes everyday. Even though he lives 150 years after she did, he could identify with the main character of the book Andi Carter.

reading Thick as Thieves

There is a wonderful FREE STUDY GUIDE offered with this book. It is written like a unit study and is 40 pages filled with cross curricular activities that relate to both the book, but also to this time period in history.

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The Study Guide includes: vocabulary, discussion questions, geography, history, writing, and “just for fun” activities. A great supplement for homeschool unit studies.

crossword puzzle

I don’t want to spoil the plot for you by giving away too much of the story ahead of time, but you can read a free excerpt from the book to “wet your whistle” and see why this is such a great read for teens and young adults.

My son enjoyed this book so much he did not want to put it down.  He has already asked for us to get him more books like this about Andi, and all her adventures at different stages in her life. It is a very well written book with great attention to detail. Many character qualities like work ethic, faith, genuiness, friendship, relationships, responsibility, and integrity of the character comes through.


Author: Susan K Marlow

Susan Marlow

The author, Susan K Marlow is a homeschool mom who has dedicated her life to her family and to writing wholesome Christian fiction books for kids of all ages to enjoy. She has authored over 17 books for children.  Each learning level she has written for has it’s own series of books.

Susan Marlow Books

If you want to read more books, from the Susan Marlow web site, you will see the info-graph above, and once you click “enter” on the picture of the series or learning level you are interested in, a whole web site for that specific learning level appears with books, study guides, articles, photos and more.  She has really done a wonderful job organizing this into a user friendly resource for families.

In addition to writing books, Susan also teaches writing workshops, and enjoys living in Washington on a homestead.  Her connection with homeschool life and homesteading really comes through in her books and my kids can relate to the Andi and the other characters.

Social Media

Be sure to follow Susan Marlow on her social media links for all the latest news and updates.

Andi’s Blog: Circle C Adventures

Koru Naturals Review

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Purposeful Design Review

” Wow!” is what I want to say to describe the photography and illustrations in Purposeful Design: Understanding the Creation by Jay Schabacker.

Purposeful Design

Purposeful Design

Purposeful Design: Understanding the Creation
Written by Jay Schabacker
Hard back book
$18.95 (currently 25% off regular retail $24.95)
For all ages

Jay Schabacker has an amazing story to tell. He is both a scienctist and a follower of Jesus. He believes that God is the Creator and he created everything with a purpose. Jay has numerous educational degrees and has worked for NASA, and also in Business Management, Church Leadership, Authored books and curriculum, and taught numerous workshops. But most important of all is that he loves the Lord!

In Purposeful Design: Understanding the Creation, he gives us a beautiful full color glimpse of the universe God has created during the seven days of Creation in Genisis.

Book Table of Contents (Abbreviated)

Chapter 1 – The First Day
The Foundation of it All
What Keeps Things Going?

Chapter 2 – The Second Day
Creation of the Atmosphere and Water
Quenching the Thirsty Earth – The “Rain Cycle”

Chapter 3 – The Third Day
Creation of the Dry Land and Vegetation
The Importance of Vegetation and Plants to Humans

Chapter 4 – The Fourth Day
Creation of the Sun, Moon, and Stars
Many Benefits of the Sun, Moon, and Stars

Chapter 5 – The Fifth Day
Creation of the Birds and the Fish
Why the Birds and the Fish were Created

Chapter 6 – The Sixth Day
Creation of Land Creatures and Humans
The Amazing Uniqueness of the Human Being

Chapter 7 – The Seventh Day
The Sabbath is the Day of Rest

Epilogue – Who Made the Cookies?

You can try out a free sample of the book before you buy. Don’t forget to also download the free Young Explorer’s Club curriculum (both student and teacher versions) that goes along with the the book too.

Jay is an aerospace scientist and worked on Nasa’s Appollo Moon Project. Through amazing photographs and scientific and biblical truths, he helps us to see the richness of God’s creation as can be understood once a person can see the amazing pieces of the puzzle. For many, it can be difficult to understand how God could have created the universe and created it in seven days. But Jay takes us through the process and shows how science lines up with the scriptures. The photography that Jay shares is amazing. This is a book you will want to leave out on display to share with folks who stop by your home. It is stunning.

How We Used Puposeful Design:

I read through the book with my children.  We spent a couple of weeks learning about each day in creation. There is a lot of science, scripture, and a lot of beauty packed into this book.  We love learning about space and I was very impressed with the space photos.

Purposeful Design planets

I was really greatful for the free downloadable curriculum too. The curriculum broke the book down into teachable units with questions, discussions, and a few activites to further the learning. I printed everything off and stored it in a handy three ring binder for easy use. There were also certificates of completion that correspond to each day of creation in the Young Explorer’s Club curriculum and a final certificate of achievement too. These are nice progress achievments to add to your studnets portfollio.


I was so impressed with this book that I decided to take it to our Homeschool Coop class. We did a focus on space exploration and studied about the lights in the heavens specifically the creation of the SUN, MOON, and STARS and how they give us light and control the seasons.  We studies the verses in the bible about DAY FOUR of CREATION found in Genesis 1:14-19. This book went with our study perfectly.

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I brought the free downloadable curriculum questions I had put into my binder, and gathered up a few props to go with the book including coloring pages, flash cards, space display, earth and moon in space puzzles, space sensory bin, and more to our class.

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The kids really enjoyed looking at the photographs of space in the book.  They also enjoyed creating their own space exploration to learn more about the amazing universe God has designed.

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Wouldn’t it be cool to visit some of the places in space that God created like the moon? I think it would be cool too to go into space with a scientist who believes in God and understands the scriptures and who is experienced with planets, moons, stars, and galaxies and see all of it first hand.

The kids pretended that Jay was joining them for a space adventure and divided into two teams (5 white astronauts and 5 orange astronauts) to create an exploration all terain vehicals with Legos to explore the moon, and create a space exploration diorama. Kids learn so much more and remember what they have learned when they can use several of their senses in the learning process. Sharing the pictures from the book, putting together a puzzle of the moon and the earth, creating vehicals and pretending we were taking a trip to explore the moon that God created made the learning experience all the more memorable.

I love this book! I would encourage every homeschool family and Sunday School Class and Bible Study group to get a hold of one these books and learn about our amazing Creator and his Purposeful Design in Creation.

Social Media:

Twitter: (@Jayschabacker)

LinkedIn: Jayschab


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If He Had Not Come Review

If you are looking for Christmas stories to read with your children or grandchildren, If He Had Not Come by David Nicholson is one you will want to add to your book list.



If He Had Not Come

Hard back book.
40 pages
Retails $18.95

This book is beautifully written and brightly illustrated.  It is written for kids ages 6 and older but it is very relatable for both kids and adults of ages.

David Nicholson has re-written a classic story for his children and grandchildren, and for children everywhere to contemplate the Christian message of Christ’s birth.   David is an author, teacher, and missionary from St. Paul Minnesota.   Many years ago, he heard the story written by author  Jan Week’s during a class at church, and began telling it too his children.  One day he decided to re-write the story with full illustrations to retell it to his grandchildren and future generations of children, and decided to write this wonderful book.


This book is about a young boy named Bobby and his journey to understand the impact Christ’s birth has in his life.  The journey to discover this truth begins when Bobby lays in bed one night and wonders what life would be like if Jesus had not come to the earth.  He had read John 15:22 with his family and the words Jesus had spoken to his friends in that passage would not leave his mind.  “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin.  But now they have no excuse for their sin.” John 15:22


He falls asleep and dreams about his life in a parallel universe absent of Jesus.  People are mean to each other, and life is dark without light, and there is no joy. Everything he knew before had changed, people, places, and there was no charity in people any more and no hope.  Even his church and the charity organizations like the homeless shelter and the local orphanage was gone.  In his dream he went home and picked up his bible, but it was blank and only read “if he had not come”.  When he wakes from his dream, he understands the impact Jesus has had in the earth and in his own life.  He prays to God for forgiveness and asks Jesus into his heart and dedicates his life to God.


We had a great time reading this book.  There are discussion questions and a bible study in the back of the book that is helpful for Sunday School classes as well as for the home setting.   The book also lists the steps to salvation through Jesus.  The message of our life with Christ and what it would be like without him is one everyone needs to hear.   Reading this book aloud at Christmas will be a new holiday tradition for us as we prepare to enjoy and understand the reason we celebrate Christmas.

We give gifts to one another because we love each other.  But God loved us first.  God gave us Jesus.  Jesus is the best gift of all in this life.  He can live in your heart if you will believe he is the son of God sent into this world by God to redeem you from sin and eternal separation from God, to a right relationship with God both in this life, and in eternity.

Be sure to follow David Nicholson’s social media links for If He Had Not Come for all the latest news and updates.


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Preschoolers and Peace Review

I am a homeschool mom of six kids. We have teens all the way down to toddlers in our home. It is a fun and rewarding job, but it can also be an exhausting job at the same time.

Preschoolers and Peace Review

There is a new book out to help homeschool families that we were asked to review by Preschoolers and Peace called Preschoolers and Peace: Homeschooling Older Ones With Success While Loving Little Ones At Your Feet.

Preschoolers and Peace Review

Homeschooling Older Ones With Success While Loving Little Ones At Your Feet

Homeschooling Older Ones With Success While Loving Little Ones At Your Feet is a downloadable e-Book. This e-Book is a wonderful investment at a great deal! It would make a great resource for you, and to give as a gift to other homeschool moms. For just $2.99 you can download this wonderful 47 page e-Book filled with practical advice for homeschool moms.

The author, Kendra Fletcher, is a Christian homeschooling mom of eight children. She has a lot of helpful advice to share about what helps her be successful in homeschooling in a large family of different ages.

What a Homeschooling Mom Needs
Preparing Yourself to Homeschool Older Kids With Little Ones Underfoot
Planning Around Preschoolers
How Do I Keep Them Busy?
What Does a 2-Year-Old’s Day Look Like?
How Do I Get Any Preschooling Done?
How Not to Just Kill Time
Circle Time: Or How We Pull the Little Ones In
Preschool Boys
When All of Your Kiddos Are Preschoolers
Preschool Chores
Planning for Preschool
When Mama is Worn Out (or Pregnant)
Meal Planning 101

How I Used This:

E-books are great! I downloaded my e-book and saved it to my computer. I can read my book from my computer, or other reading device if desired. Later I hope to print it and have it bound and put it on my book shelf. It is a handy reference full of great ideas.


Part of the reason homeschooling can be exhausting, is that it can be challenging at times to manage the needs of so many different learning levels at the same time. Some days it doesn’t feel like I accomplished our goals, because the younger children need a lot of attention, somedays they have ouchies that need attention, or on any given day, any two of them are involved in sibling squabbles, and I feel like I just serve as the babysitter or referee. What I wouldn’t give somedays to know the secret to get it all done and meet everyone’s needs in the process!

Kendra Fletcher is a mom who has been there! She knows many of the same challenges I face on a daily basis. She offers lots of great advice, starting with the most important, putting God first in the little things as well as the bigger things. She encourages me as a mom, and my kids too, to start the day with prayer. That one piece of the puzzle in your day can change everything in creating a peaceful atmosphere in our home.

Another great tip she shares is how to help younger kids start the day off successfully. She suggests they accomplish the same five things every morning: get dressed, make bed, brush teeth, tidy their room, and spend time praying. She suggests using a schedule for multiple ages including mom, as a tool and shows you how to set one up. This schedule shows an overview of what everyone is doing when during the day and is an easy reference at a glance to keep you on track.

She also gives many suggestions for various kinds of busy sensory activities younger children can do that build their skills but at the same time keep them busy so Mom and older siblings can get more done.


Here are just a few of the toddler / preschool age activities we have used simultaneously in our home while homeschooling older kids include:
Circle Time (we include all the kids together)
Age appropriate chores (easy for little ones to do)
Sensory Activities (we use homemade Sensory Bins)
Quiet Busy Activities (we use homemade Activity Bags)
Duplo Legos
Sorting objects and shapes
Water Color Paints
Playing with leftover empty boxes

AND many, many, more great ideas are suggested in her e-Book.

Kendra has already helped her oldest two children graduate from homeschooling and go onto college. With raising and homeschooling eight kids, she knows the challenges mom’s face dealing with the needs of multiple ages and her book is a great resource. I would encourage you to get a copy while it is available at this great price of $2.99 and give a copy to a friend too.

Be sure to check out the media links for Preschoolers and Peace for all the latest news and updates:

You Tube

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Flourish Book Review

What does it mean to flourish?  Webster’s dictionary says that flourish means: to thrive; to grow well and be healthy; to achieve or be successful; to hold up and show something in a proud way; to be excited about accomplishment; a fancy or dramatic way of doing something; to be influential; to increase and prosper.(source)

Wow, don’t you want to flourish (be healthy and thrive) in your life?  Flourish in your faith and life long walk with God? Flourish In your marriage?  Flourish in your parenting and your homeschool?


I was blessed to receive an encouraging self-help book / life manual called Flourish, Balance For Homeschool Moms written by Mary Jo Tate and published by Apologia Educational Ministries through the TOS Crew to review this summer.

Flourish cover
290 pages
Retails for $15.00

This book is written for homeschool moms, but homeschool dads (perhaps work from home dads) might enjoy it and glean wisdom from it too. It is full of wisdom and helps you learn how to balance and flourish in your life as a homeschool mom, in family life, and flourish running a home business if you have one.



I am so glad you asked, ha ha!  There are 16 chapters full of suggestions that cover just about everything a homeschool mom faces.   Then at the end of each chapter is a section called TAKE ACTION.   This is a question and answer section that helps you focus on the main points discussed in each chapter, and figure out how you will apply the wisdom you gleaned into your own life, and helps you make a plan for positive change.  That is 16 opportunities to write out a plan for positive change!

Then at the back of the book there is a BIG LIST  (appendix A) of recommended resources to help you on your journey. Next is a BIG RESOURCE (appendix B) of helpful forms, charts, and goal planning pages. Some of these forms you will want to use everyday or every week so you will want to keep them handy.  When you buy the book, you can get a link to a downloadable version of the forms to print off and keep in a binder or hang on a bulletin board if you wish.  At the very back of the book, the author lists more about her website and contacting her for one on one coaching if you wish to do so.

Chapters and discussions in the book include:

An Invitation To Flourish – Desire to succeed in your family, in homeschooling, and running a home business
Change Your Mind To Change Your Time – Life management not time management
The Freedom Toolbox – focus, reflect, educate, eliminate, discipline, organize, multitask
Where Did My Time Go? – time logs, assessment, costs of opportunities, schedule, wise choices
Aim High: Setting Goals – brain storm, write them down, share
What Do I Do Next?: Seven Essential Planning Tools – dream, goals, plans for monthly, weekly, daily tasks, to do or not
We Interrupt This Program – perceptions, phone, email, test, balance, boundaries, God is always in control
It’s Time For An Attitude Adjustment – no guilt, no fear, no perfection, no whinning, no resentment, no self pity
Oxygen Mask and Monkey Bread Days
Training Your Children – responsibility, independence, initiative, service
Making Memories – family traditions, one on one time, explore, enjoy, preserve memories
Managing the Home – housekeeping, attitude, organize, edit, meal plan
All of Life Is Learning – homeschool, expectations, encourage, system for success, beyond academia
Solo Act: Flourshing as a Single Mom – rest in God, strong family identity, unity, balance, self care
Home Business – why, options, outsource and delegation, income, time, marketing, customer care, team, records
Moving Ahead – evaluate success and need for change, make needed changes


What Did I Think?

I would recommend this book for ALL MOMS!  It is “hands on”, and is a self help manual with keys for success.

This would be a great book to read at anytime, to save your sanity and get organized, but especially a good read over the summer (or any break) when planning for your upcoming homeschool year.  Knowledge you will glean, and the hands on practice in goal setting, organizing, journaling, menu planning and more is invaluable.

Do yourself a favor and get this book.  This book will help you avoid a ton of mistakes that will potentially drain your time and energy and cause you to burn out.  You can avoid burnout if you have the knowledge of how to plan and how to FLOURISH in your hands from the start.  This book would also make a great gift to give away to friends and family too. This book would make a great study for a mom’s group too.

The basics to set up a flourishing life boils down to the process.  This book will help you through the process of putting God first, establishing strong family relationships, creating acheivable goals, evaluating priorities, setting and maintaining boundaries, taking opportunities, wise use of resources, and managing your time to be the best you can be.

I definitely want to flourish in every area of my life! I don’t want to burn out, and miss out on living a life filled with joy and purpose.  What about you?  Are you ready to flourish?

Mary Jo Tate


Mary Jo Tate is an author, speaker, business owner, and homeschool mom of 4 boys.  She understands the challenges homeschool moms face.  She has learned to flourish in her own life and has a lot of wisdom to share.  You can follow Mary Jo Tate on her social media links to keep up with all the latest news and updates:


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A Life In Balance Book Review

What if…
What if there were no learning disabilities?
Or what if folks with learning disabilities and or behavior challenges could learn to overcome them, without medication?
What if everyone with a learning disability could learn to read?
What if the same methods that could help someone with learning disabilities could also help someone without disabilities improve and sharpen their cognitive skills and physical performance too?
I wish I could say that learning disabilities didn’t exist.  But they do.  The number of family’s facing certain learning disabilities like ADHD, ADD, and Autism Spectrum Disorders continue to rise at an alarming rate and more families than ever are facing enormous learning and behavioral challenges. These kids given these diagnosis don’t fit into the traditional classroom very well.  They don’t learn the same way the majority of the other kids learn, or the way teachers teach, in school.   Many times they are prescribed medications to help them stay calm in the classroom so the teacher can teach the whole class with minimal disruptions.  Most of the time these kids fall through the learning gap, and fall behind, and many never learn to read or never learn to read at the skill and age level of their peers.
What if…

What if there was a way to teach folks to overcome limitations?  
What if there was a proven method? 
What if that method has 40 years of research and success, but has struggled to evolve into mainstream approach to reduce or eliminate medications and even though many therapists have heard about it, mainstream culture, most parents, family doctors, and the regular classroom has not?  

There is a way, and that method is called Learning Breakthrough Program.


The Learning Breakthrough Program is the invention of Frank Belgau who asked himself over 40 years ago “What if ?”   I would encourage you to pick up a copy of the A Life In Balance book, and come along on the journey to learn about Frank’s life, his passion, his research, and hear testimonies from the families and individuals his program has helped in this autobiography co-written by his son, Eric Belgau.

Life In Balance, A Discovery of a Learning Breakthrough
Soft cover  216  pages
Retails for $18.95 , but is currently on sale for $16.95 
See the web site link above for ordering details.

Frank Belgau’s research has led him to a learning breakthrough.  He could not have named his program with a more appropriate name than the Learning Breakthrough Program.  So simple yet so profound is this method.  He developed this method to help everyone move past neurological barriers, and train the brain through the development of movement and balancing skills. Through the use of balance and eye hand coordination activities for a just a few minutes each day, a person can unlock learning skills and abilities.  

A Life In Balance is the book that explains who Frank is and describes the process that took place in Frank’s discovery of the Learning Breakthrough Program.  We were sent a pdf copy of the book for the purpose of this review, and I was very impressed with his story.  He is a true hero and has blessed so many people with his discovery and his efforts to put the information into everyone’s hands.  This book is written for adults, parents, and higher skilled readers. Though I think many young people would enjoy hearing about Frank’s life and his son’s life growing up too.
The information in this book is relevant for parents, childcare workers, teachers, therapists of all disciplines, doctors, nurses, athletes, coaches, engineers, and more need to know this key to unlocking the brain’s abilities.  The Learning Breakthrough Program method goes beyond teaching those born with learning disabilities.  It can help those who have never suffered an injury and just want to improve their skills in any subject area, it can also help rehabilitate those who have suffered brain and physical injuries in childhood and adulthood, and can help skilled athletes improve their athletic abilities too.  

There are so many applications for using the Learning Breakthrough Program method. A lot of information and suggested exercises are mentioned in the book.  The complete Learning Breakthrough Program resources kit including hands on equipment for daily use, and a DVD, is available on their web site.  It requires about 15 minutes twice a day to implement.  That is very simple straight forward effort in two short sessions of 15 minutes to help your child learn to focus, rebuild connections in the brain so they can develop skills to read, listen, write, compute, make decisions, and more.
When I was a young mother, I heard about how jumping and counting at the same time could help kids process early math skills.  I heard it was especially helpful for energetic boys who couldn’t sit still very well.  So we got a mini trampoline and put it into the living room for the kids to bounce on while they practiced math and spelling or needed a break.  I had also heard that using a balancing board helped children learn better and was supposed to help the postpartum mom loose the weight she gained while pregnant.  So I bought a balance board nearly 12 years ago and we have used it with all six of our kids.  I don’t think it ever helped me loose the extra weight, but it did help my kids.  I did not know there was a strategy or method and I did not know at the time that it was orrigionally used with those with brain injuries.  I only knew that learning to balance helped with other areas of learning.  I had seen some info on using a balancing board and a balance beam and classical music to improve children’s retainage of information and gross motor skills at the same time.  

The kids also enjoy playing on the balancing on the board, and practicing on it while watching learning programs on TV too.  Above is a picture of my son balancing on our board while watching a learning program on PBS KIDS.  We still always thought of it as just a passive form of exercise, and an activity to give the kids something to do to pass the time, or help them get the wiggles out so they will listen and do their school work.
I was amazed through reading this book that there really is a scientific process that works with our body system called the Vestibular System. This is the part of the brain that helps you with coordination.  It helps you keep your balance, and it also can reprogram pathways in the brain for information for several skills as it helps reroute information in the brain. There is a lot of information in the book that explains how the brain works and how we can work with it to maximizes it’s abilities and strengths.  I hope to implement several of the exercises mentioned in the book and see how it helps the kids and myself learn and process information better.
I honestly wish I had a copy of this book to hand out to every family I know, and it would make a great wedding gift, baby shower gift, graduation gift especially for those wanting to become teachers and therapists, and also just as a gift of friendship too for families from all walks of life.  
Be sure to follow Learning Breakthrough on their social media links, and check out their Youtube videos too:
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At Home In Dogwood Mudhole Book Review

Looking for some great reading material?  Look no further than Franklin Sanders from At Home In Dogwood MudholeChristmas is right around the corner and I think this might make a perfect gift to share with your loved ones too.  We were sent this book to review and I am impressed both with the book and the author!   I have a new hero/role model, Franklin Sanders.
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            At Home In Dogwood Mudhole
            397 pages
            Retails $22.95 paperback
            $16.95 kindle/ePub/PDF

“The unforgettable story of one family’s attempt
  to live an authentic life.”

This book was written by Franklin Sanders.  It is a series of letters that he wrote sharing experiences about his life, his family, and his homestead, and he published these letters in a monthly magazine called The Moneychanger over the span of 17 years.  

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This book will make you laugh, hug and cherish your loved ones, think about the food you eat and how it is raised, perhaps think about the local farmer living up the road from you, and possibly will make you cry too.  Franklin Sanders candidly shares about his life experiences on his homestead.  He is also a homeschooling father of 7 children, a husband, grandfather, and a Christian.    


Franklin Sanders and his wife Susan, moved their family to a homestead in Tennessee.  Over the years their grown children and grandchildren joined in homesteading adventures with them too.

Description from the 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”.
This is the first book in a series written by Franklin Sanders.
        Volume 1: “Nothing That Eats”  (available in stores now)
        Volume 2: “Best Thing We Ever Did” (available Nov 15th)


So what is a homestead you might ask?

According to

A homestead is:
    1. a dwelling with its and buildings, occupied by the owner as a home and exempted 
homestead law from seizure or sale for debt.

    2. any dwelling with its land and buildings where a family makes its home.

    3. a tract of land acquired under the Homestead Act.

    4. a house in an urban area acquired under a homesteading program.

I think everyone can find something about this book to relate too.  Whether it is personal experience, family relationships, faith in God, economic instability, financial independence, homesteading, homeschooling, taxes, jail, government intrusion, faith, or hope for the future.  Franklin Sanders has a lot of wisdom in money and finances as well as farming.  I really think a broad spectrum of people can relate to what he has to say.  I don’t want to give away too much details inside the book, but I am convinced you will enjoy it and gain great insights.

This book really hit home for me and my husband.  As a matter of fact, as I write this post, he is in Wisconsin, and took the book with him to read in his spare time.  So I was left to write this review from memory without the book in front of me, YIKES!  But it just attests to the appeal of this book.  My husband is not an avid reader, yet he was inspired to take this book with him to read.  We both love the homesteading way of life.  We love living off the land, grass based farming, permaculture, and sustainability.  We love raising our family on the land that provides our food and sustenance and giving God thanks for it all. 

A lot of the experiences regarding homesteading that Franklin writes about has occurred in our own life.  Sometimes it feels like he is writing about my own day to day experiences.  It is exciting to read about another person’s experiences that you have so much in common with. Like Franklin, I have been a member of the Weston A Price Foundation for many years and it has helped shape the person I am and my thoughts about raising food.  I have read nearly all of the books written by Joel Salatin from Polly Face Farms, and have so many of the same mentors who have influenced me.   I too have raised grass fed beef, chicken, eggs, katahdin sheep, Jersey dairy cows, dairy goats, turkeys, and more and used to have an all natural store on the farm that we sold our products from.  Franklin’s passion for homesteading and faith resonates in my own life, and I found this book to be very exciting to read.   

We give this book high recommendations.  This book is an excellent read and would make a great gift to share with loved ones and invest in the lives of others.  There is a lot of wisdom to be gained from listening to Franklin Sanders personal experiences.  I am a BIG FAN and honestly would love to meet him and his family and visit their farm someday!!!


Be sure to check out what other homeschool families on the Schoolhouse Review Crew had to say about this book. 

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If You Were Me And Lived In…Review

Have I told you?  It is no secret!  I have been an open book about it! 

I LOVE CULTURES AROUND THE WORLD!  God placed world missions on my heart when I was a child and I love people!  People!  People!  I encourage my children to love people from all over the world too.  I was blessed to have many cross cultural experiences as a young person.   I have served many diverse international populations here in the USA.  I served as a Cultural Liaison and was a student teacher of Cultural Anthropology in college.   We also hosted an international student from the Netherlands in our home for a year and this had a big impact on me too.  I lived with a roomate from Tiawan for a year in college, and also was best friends with a young woman from India for several years who served as one of my Bride’s maids in my wedding too.  I tutored ESL (English As A Second Language) in my spare time, and helped grade papers for the TOFL program in college too.  These opportunities brough me into the homes of people from other countries and I was blessed to learn so much about their lives.  So the study of people and their culture is a subject that is near and dear to my heart.

If You Were Me And Lived In…

We were recently sent a set of children’s books that help teach children about different cultures from around the world.  They are written from a child’s perspective, by someone who might live in a specific country that the book focusses on.  The Book Series is called “If You Were Me and Lived In…” by Carole P Roman from Away We Go Media.

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Carole is a wonderful author, and interweaves issues that kids face into the story books she writes.  We also own another wonderful book by Carole called Captain No Beard.  We have enjoyed her children’s books very much.  You can read more about Carole, and follow her blog, on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest too.
My family was sent 4 “If You Were Me and Lived In…” softcover books for the purpose of this review.   We were sent books about kids living in Mexico, Norway, South Korea, and France.  

Carole’s blog lists two more books coming in the near future for Kenya and Turkey, with more to come soon.  This will make a nice set of books for any homeschool,
Sunday school, missions outreach, or to give as gifts too.  We were also sent a care package with an inflatable globe, a passport book, and world stickers too as a gift to us to make this a fun cultural and geography study for our homeschool. 

Here is a short video introduction to the “If You Were Me and Lived In…” book series:

Each book is softcover and range from 22 to 28 full color illustrated pages.  These books are written for ages preK to age 8.  Softcover books retail for $8.00 to $11.00 +/-.  Kindle versions of the book retail from $0.99 to $1.99 .  You can find out more about purchasing these books on the website. 

Each book lists common words spoken in the language of each country the kids are learning about.  The foreign language words are woven with English through out the story.  In the back of each book is a list of words to know and a pronunciation key.  This is the pronunciation key from the book about South Korea.


The stories are written in short story form.  They are written from the perspective as if you were a child from that country and were telling a child in a different country what life would be like to live in your country.  All of the topics are simple, and any child can relate to them.
Briefly the child shares these common topics or themes:
            The name of the country.
            Where the country is found on the globe.
            The Capital City of the country.  
            Historical buildings.
            A common name for a boy and a girl.
            Names you call your mom and dad.
            What money in their country is called.
            Famous landmarks.
            Favorite food.
            Name for a national sport.
            Name for a favorite toy.
            Name for school

How We Used These Books In Our Homeschool:

I think these books are cute and fun to read for the whole family.  I read them aloud to the younger children.  My oldest children also read them aloud to the younger children and practiced speaking the words as they are listed in the pronunciation key.   Each child looked up the country on our inflated globe ball.  We also looked up pictures and more about the culture from each country on the internet (check out the Pinterest links under each book below).  I printed off coloring pages from each country for the kids to color, including a map of the specific country, landmarks, toys, and the flag too.  We also enjoyed eating some of the foods from each country too.  I three hole punched the coloring pages and worksheets we did, and plan to make an Around The World geography and culture book for each child.  It will be divided by continent and then divided by country.  It will contain learning we did from these books, other books too as we learn about more countries, words from the various languages, and animals from various counties / continents.   This is a work in progress.  


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If You Were Me and Lived In Mexico takes you on a fun journey to Mexico and shares brief glimpses of what life would be like if you were a child from Mexico. 

Before and after reading the book, we located Mexico on the inflatable globe.


We made beef soft taco’s.  We were blessed by a local church and given some bags of seasoned cooked chipotle steak.  It was already seasoned, cooked, chopped up, and then frozen.  All we had to do was heat and use.  This process made this dish super easy for the kids to help prepare dinner.


We heated it in a skillet, then placed it on a soft tortilla with shredded cheese, chopped lettuce, and sour cream.  The tacos were very spicy, but so delicious.

We colored three nice coloring pages including a Mexican Flag, Mexico Map, and a festive Mexican doll.



Check out some fun learning activities and awesome pictures about Mexico on Pinterest to enhance your learning when reading this book.


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If You Were Me and Lived In Norway is a wonderful short story book about the culture of Norway.  Norway is an amazing diverse land of lakes, rivers, islands, ocean, mountains, valleys, and snow.  The foods are nutrient dense meats, fish, fermented foods, and dairy.    We looked up Norway on the inflatable globe.  I printed off coloring pages including a map, flag, a paper quilt craft, and a Viking ship.  What a fascinating place to live and grow up!


I have not personally met anyone from Norway before.  I have tasted a few of the dishes from Norway that are similar to dishes from neighboring countries.  We also enjoy some of the common foods eaten there such as waffles quite often.  The kids would like to visit there and see where the Vikings roamed and get into some of the historical ships.   The kids and I agree that it looks like a very fascinating place to live. 

Check out lots of great pictures, learning adventures, and more on Norway on Pinterest to further enhance your learning while reading this book. 


If You Were Me and Lived In France

We looked up France on the inflated globe ball.  Then colored pictures of France, the French Flag, the National Bird (Rooster), and the Eiffel Tower.  We had a lot of fun pronouncing French words and the kids learned that many words in the English language are actually French words too.



I was blessed to have a native French language teacher in college.  He helped me learn to speak French and provided some introduction to his culture.  He shared many pictures of his country with our class.  H
e gave me some music of his favorite artists from his country too.  This helped me to speak with other International students on the college campus who spoke French.  I had some friends from Africa, Lebanon, and Canada and they all spoke fluent French.  I have always dreamed of traveling someday to see France and Paris and visit the Eiffel Tower.


When we read “If You Were Me and Lived in France” we remembered our dear friends Andy and Annelies, who came to our home and cooked dinner for us.  They are missionaries from Belgium.  But they have a lot of French cultural customs and they ate French foods and spoke Belgium and French in their home country.   Annelies’ father was also a French Chef too and she loves French food.  They prepared several French dishes for us to eat including CREPES.    Annelies taught my kids how to make the crepes and flip them in the skillet and stuff them with yummy ice cream and chocolate. 

Check out some great pictures and fun learning activities about France on Pinterest to enhance your learning when reading this book.


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If You Were Me and Lived In South Korea  takes kids on a fun journey to learn about living in South Korea.  The colorful pictures are filled with family, culture, and interesting places.  Kids will enjoy this short story and learn what life might be like for them if they lived there.  We looked up South Korea on our inflatable globe.  We colored some pictures including a map, flag, and cultural dress.  We looked at lots of pictures of South Korea on the interent and Pinterest too.


I have met wonderful folks from South Korea before.  One family was so incredibly special, they were like family to me when I attended college at Kansas State University. 

While I helped the wife learn about English, they in return taught me how to speak several words in their native Korean language.  They taught me a lot about their culture and rearing a family, about respecting the older generation, they put traditional Korean clothing on me, and taught me how to prepare several Korean foods.  My favorite foods were gimpa, plu go gee, guke (soup made with water or broth, sprouted beans, salt, cayenne, green onion tops).  It was amazing to experience preparing and eating meals together with wonderful friends.

Be sure to check out pictures and activities on my South Korea on Pinterest board to learn more about this country and culture and expand your learning when reading this fun book.

Our Recommendation:

We give these books two thumbs up!!!  These books are wonderful short introductions to various cultures around the world.  I encourage you to give books like these to your children and grandchildren.  They make a wonderful addition to a homeschool. 

We have enjoyed learning with these books. 
I hope my children will have a variety of cultural experiences like I had.  It would be wonderful to meet folks from other countries, and also to travel to those countries and experience what life is like there first hand.    It really enriched my life and I know learning about people from different countries will enrich my children’s lives too.


Be sure to check out what other homeschool families on the Schoolhouse Review Crew had to say about these books.

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Diary of a Real Payne Review

Are you looking for something fun to read in your homeschool?  Then you might want to check out Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story by Barbour Publishing.

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Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story
By Annie Tipton
192 pages
Written for ages  8-12
Retails for $5.99 and currently on sale for $4.49

When I was a young girl, I used to daydream about what life might be like outside of my small town.  What exciting adventures awaited me?  What amazing places would I see?  Maybe I could be a doctor, or president, or even a cowboy!  I kept a journal and wrote down my thoughts and hopes for my future.  Sometimes I wrote about things I did, but most of the time I wrote about things I hoped to do someday.

That is exactly what the main character in this book does, she daydreams.  Emma Jean (known as EJ) Payne is 10 years old, and daydreams because she can’t wait to explore the world.  She thinks life in her small town is boring.  She dreams about adventures at the circus, outer space, racing cars, and more.  She writes down her hopes and dreams in her diary.   But sometimes her daydreaming gets her into a quandary in real life too.  Eventually she learns how to enjoy her everyday life.  The book goes back and forth between her diary and her real life and is a lot of fun to read. 

Here is a short video of the author reading from this book:

This is the first book in a series of youth fiction books written around the Emma Jean character.  The next book is due on shelves in March 2014.  This book would make a great Christmas gift and is very inexpensive too.  The story even ends with a lesson learned about herself after helping others at Christmas.  She also draws closer to God through the lessons she learned.  So I think it would make a great Christmas gift for kids to read over the holiday break.  You can pick up a copy on sale right now for $4.49 through Barbour Publishing.  What a great price!

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Though it is written for boys or girls in the 8-12 range, this is a fun story for kids and adults of all ages.  If your child is not old enough to read it on their own, it can be a fun family read aloud too.  We did both.  I read the book to my younger kids, and my oldest son read the book on his own.  I found him reading it on the couch, in the van, and reading in bed too.  He loves to read.  He told me he liked the book but wished the character was more of a “real pain”, as he looked forward to reading it from that perspective.  But even though it sounds like it might be about someone who is irritating, it really isn’t about that at all.  I don’t want to give away too much about the story, but it is a fun read.

This book is fun, silly, and serious all rolled into one.  After reading this book, I personally think this book would be a fun book to row!  If you are familiar with the method of rowing books from the younger years, this book would make an incredible journey to follow along and do lots of related activities and keep them in a lapbook or notebook as a keep sake.  I think it would be fun to have the kids illustrate some of the fun daydream adventures, build a diorama or other stuff they can build, do some crafts, perhaps keep their own journal too as we follow the diary of EJ, and add in all sorts of hands on activities and make it come alive for the kids.  Whether you just read it, or row it, you will enjoy this story.


Be sure to check out what other homeschool families on the Schoolhouse Review Crew had to say about using this product in their homeschool.

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Seed Sowers Review

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I have a wonderful book to tell you about from Seed Sowers called Seed Sowers: Gospel Planting Adventures.  It is a collection of short stories about 21 different missionaries who have served the Lord by sowing seeds of God’s word around the world.  Each page is filled with the fascinating journeys of missionaries who reached out to many different cultures in their native languages.   By translating the whole Bible and / or the New Testament portion of the Bible, these villages across the world could hear about God’s love and salvation through Jesus for the first time.

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Seed Sowers: Gospel Planting Adventures is written for the whole family, including all ages, but is also written at a 6th grade reading level.  It can be read as a family read aloud and this way you can include younger children, or it can be read individually for those who can read at a 6th grade level and above.   Though I enjoy reading it to all of my kids, my son who is in 7th grade enjoys reading the captivating stories in this book by himself too. 

Be ready for some great discussions with your kids, and some emotional highs and lows.  Sometimes you will laugh, sometimes you might cry.  Many of the stories will grip your heart.  All of the stories will encourage your faith.

These stories appeal to everyone, so be sure to get the grandparents involved too.  It is a great place to start with conversations about the lives of missionaries and the peoples they reached.  Perhaps your parents or grandparents served as missionaries at some point in their life or had other family who did, and they can share those stories with you and your children.  My paternal grandmother went as a missionary three times to the Ukraine to sew seeds of the gospel.  She loves to share her stories about her trips as a missionary with me, and though she does not live close by, I know she would love to read this book with our family and share in this experience.

This makes such a great Homeschool and Sunday school book.  It is a great introduction to faith studies, real heros, geography, the study of languages, map studies, cultural studies, unit studies, and more.  This book would be a great item to do a unit study with.  You could do an internet search for maps, coloring pages of the different countries mentioned, foods from the different cultures, learn words from those languages, maybe write a bible verse in that language (biblegateway {and other websites} has a really neat link to change the language of the verse that you could use to help with this), etc.  You could make an amazing lapbook or notebook including all the projects you did while reading this book.  I may go back and do this later with my kids as I think it would be a lot of fun and would really help them remember each missionary and culture they visited.  Perhaps we can encourage Gwen to create another wonderful homeschool resource like a unit study or workbook to go along with this wonderful book she has written (hint…hint…if you are reading this Gwen!).

The paperback version is 165 pages and retails for $13.95 (currently on sale for $12.50 through Grace and Truth Books).  There is also a hardcover book and an eBook versions available to suit your needs. Check the website for more details on versions and purchasing options.

It was written by a fellow homeschool mom, Gwen Toliver.  She is a sweet Christian wife and homeschooling mama of 8 kids.  Their family currently serves as missionaries in the Wycliffe’s Linguistics Center in Dallas, Texas.   Wycliffe is a worldwide missions organization.  You can read more about Gwen and their work for Wycliffe here.

{pictured: Gwen Toliver and her family serving as Wycliff missionaries}

Gwen is also on the Schoolhouse Review Crew.  The Crew has gotten acquainted with her through reading her forum posts, reading her blog Tolivers To Texas, and now by sharing in the process of getting the word out about her book.  It has been a privilege to read / listen as she shares her heart for homeschooling, motherhood, and missions.

Though the book does not contain pictures, but Gwen has put some pictures on the book cover.  She has also shared some pictures pictures of missionaries from the stories in the book with us on her website and a few of these are posted below.

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{pictured: Roger Doriot missionary in West Papua, find the story
on pages 119 to 124}
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{pictured: Eddy Riggle missionary to Caquinte people of Peru, find
his story on pages 105-110}

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{pictured: Harriet Fields and Hattie Kneeland missionaries to the
Matses of Peru, find their story on pages 59-66}

View more pictures of missionaries from Seed Sowers: Gospel Planting Adventures at the link posted here.  It is fun to have the kids go to the website link and look at the
pictures of the missionaries and their families and the people they reached.


Be sure to read what other homechool families on the
Schoolhouse Review Crew have to say about Seed Sowers.

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