Faith, Family, Love and Reviews

TOS Crew Review: "Read for the Heart: Whole Books for Wholehearted Families" by Sarah Clarkson

Vendor Name: Apologia

Vendor Contact Information: Apologia Contact page

Name of Product: Read for the Heart: Whole Books For Wholehearted Families by Sarah Clarkson

Price of Product: $17.00

I love, love books and I love to read so when I got the chance to review Read for the Heart I jumped on it because I want to pass along my love of reading and books to my children.  No where can you step into a secret, locked garden or enter a plantation house better than opening a book and leaping into a new world.  It’s becoming harder and harder to find good books, great books, literature in this world as more and more children want the twaddle that so pervades book store shelves today.

My 9 year old enjoys reading and my 6 year old is beginning to enjoy it and my 4 year old loves me to read to him.  As you can see I’ve got readers and pre-readers who enjoy reading and being read to, even my older children enjoy being read to.  It’s been proven that even children who are teens can benefit from being read to.  I know it’s cliche but books truly do open up new worlds and with the right book with the right characters, plot and outcome you and your child can be transported to places you never knew or may never physically experience.

Read for the Heart covers many different areas in the literary world.  Beware!  If you like twaddle and want your children reading it then this book isn’t for you – this book has true literary value in that the books mentioned are on solid foundations with upright intentions.

  • Reading to Live
  • Reading Lost: The State of Literacy in America
  • Life by Book: How to Begin
  • A Roadmap to Using this Book
  • Picture Books
  • The Golden Age Classics
  • Children’s Fiction
  • Fairy Tales and Fantasy
  • History and Biography
  • Spiritual Reading for Children
  • Poetry
  • Music, Art, and Nature
  • Epilogue, Six Appendices, Endnotes, Index of Authors and Illustrators, Index of Titles

Reading of Sarah’s experiences with books and reading is very near and dear to me.  Not because I know her, but because I’m like her (and not just in name) I would read and still do at every chance.  I’d hide books in my school texts, and not books my peers were reading but things like Les Miserables, Gone With the Wind, and War and Peace.  When I read about how less than half the adult’s read literature or that less than one third of 13-year olds are daily readers, my heart aches.  How can one not read and at that, not read true literature – I had to struggle to learn to read and after many tutors I found a love of reading in 3rd grade – this means my children were younger than me when they began or begin reading!

Don’t get me wrong there is a time for twaddle and time for literature.  What will the world be like without The Secret Garden, G.A. Henty, Beatrix Potter and more?  I was excited that as I read Read for the Heart I more often than not had read or heard of the books and authors mentioned and even own these precious gems.  I’m saddened that my local library is getting rid of most of the classic literature because of political correctness.  This book will be going with me to the next used library book sale so that I can find quality literature for my children.

If you enjoy books and want to know what books are great for girls, great for boys or what works for a 9 year reading on a middle school level then grab a copy of Read for the Heart and delve into getting some great picks for your children.  Sarah’s love of reading the classics and of books and stories in general shines through in her book and may just inspire you to turn that extra bedroom, closet or hallway into a library fit for the King!

If you’d like to read more of what other homeschooling parents thought of Read for the Heart visit the TOS Review Crew Blog.

**This is a TOS Crew Review.  I was provided a copy of Read for the Heart from Apologia Press in exchange for my honest opinion, no other compensation was given.


Book Review: "Max on Life" by Max Lucado

Book Description:

We have questions. Child-like inquiries. And deep, heavy ones.

In more than twenty-five years of writing and ministry, Max Lucado has been the receiving line for thousands of such questions. The questions come in letters, e-mails, even on Dunkin Donuts napkins. In Max on Life he offers thoughtful answers to more than 150 of the most pressing questions on topics ranging from hope to hurt, from home to the hereafter.

Max writes about the role of prayer, the purpose of pain, and the reason for our ultimate hope. He responds to the day-to-day questions—parenting quandaries, financial challenges, difficult relationships—as well as to the profound: Is God really listening?

A special addendum includes Max’s advice on writing and publishing.

Including topical and scriptural indexes and filled with classic Lucado encouragement and insight, Max on Life will quickly become a favorite resource for pastors and ministry leaders as well as new and mature believers.

My Opinion:

I really enjoy reading Max Lucado’s books, and this one is no different, in a question and answer format Max answers people’s questions on spiritual and Faith issues.  In his newest book Max on Life he takes on questions that even most Pastors today don’t want to touch in a parishioner’s life.  Covering topics in the following subjects:

  • Hope: God, Grace and “Why am I here?”
  • Hurt: Conflicts, Calamities, and “Why me?”
  • Help: Prayer, Scripture, and “Why church?”
  • Him/Her: Sex, Romance and “Any chance of a second chance?”
  • Home: Diapers, Disagreements, and “Any hope for prodigals?”
  • Have/Have-Nots: Work, Money, and “Where’s the lifeline?”
  • Hereafter: Cemetaries, Heaven, Hell, and “Who goes where?”

I’m not saying I agree with everything that Max Lucado writes such as I don’t agree with him that teens need to have a youth group at church and I don’t agree that women even those who have health problems should ever abort a baby (“Other than cases where abortion saves the life of the mother, we must protect the child.” page 62).  However, Max is right on on a lot of other Faith based questions and has much Scriptural basis and unlike other ‘Christian’ authors he does base his teachings on the Holy Scriptures and the leading of Christ.  If you’ve ever had a question that is Faith based and want to see what another Christian says then look into this book.

**I was provided a copy of of this book through the BookSneeze review program in exchange for my honest opinion, no other compensation was given.

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TOS Crew Review: Eagle's Wings "Considering God's Creation"

Vendor Name: Eagle’s Wings Educational

Vendor Contact Information: Eagle’s Wings Contact Page

Name of Product: Considering God’s Creation

Price of Product: Teacher’s Manual, student workbook and audio CD $29,95

Having used Eagle’s Wings Educational materials before I was aware of them and the quality of their products when I requested and was chosen to review Considering God’s Creation as part of the TOS Crew.  Whether you are looking for a supplemental resource to your current science program or want something that will be a core science curriculum for all ages/grades, then look no further than Considering God’s Creation.

Betty Smith, co-author, has two pages in the teacher’s manual about how to use this for multi-level teaching so if you’re unsure of how to teach multiple ages or grades then this will help.  The question and answer page will answer some of the questions you may have such as “May I photocopy the pages?” (more on this one later) or “I already have a science curriculum.  Can I use this program with it?”  The span that this teaches is amazing and I know for fact that this does work well as a supplement and as a stand alone.

In Considering God’s Creation you will study the following aspects of God’s Creation:

  • Creation
  • The Universe: Stars, Sun and Planets
  • The Earth
  • Non-Living Things: Rocks and Minerals
  • Weather
  • The Plant Kingdom
  • The Animal Kingdom
  • Animal Anatomy and Physiology
  • Man: Made in God’s Image
  • Miscellaneous (scientists, reviews, additional resource suggestions, answer keys, bibliography)

The teacher’s manual has everything laid out for the parent in order to get the most from the lessons and you can decide how to teach the material.  Do you want to read the lesson aloud, have your reading students read it or simply use it as a discussion?  Each day’s lesson has the preparation needed, vocabulary, introduction, song/poem, Bible reading, notebooking, evolution stumpers, review questions and a digging deeper.  Honestly I can see each lesson being worked on over the course of the week especially if you do everything suggested, have multiple ages or are using this as a supplement.  If you do one lesson a week this will give you a 36 week science curriculum but if you do a lesson a day (which I don’t think you’ll get what you’ll need out of this great curriculum) you’ll only get about 7 1/2 weeks out of it.

The student’s workbook is over 200 pages and in this you’ll find lots of activities including cutting and pasting what will be like a full page notebooking assignment, crossword puzzle reviews, all the lyrics for the songs/poems and a glossary of all the vocabulary words the children will be learning.  Remember I mentioned the copying question above?  Well here is the nice part if you have more than one child you can copy the student workbook for your family’s use.  However, please keep in mind this is a fellow homeschooling mom and pop business so please if you can support them by purchasing extra workbooks from Eagle’s Wings.  Extra workbooks are $13.95 and if you need another CD those can be purchased by $3.00.

Once your children finish this curriculum (if you’re using it as a stand alone) they will have a wonderfully completed student notebook (each student will need his or her own 3 ring binder or something similar to put their work in.  If you’re using it as a supplement then they’ll have some great pages to add in on their other science curriculum.  Don’t feel you have to do everything listed, pick what meets you and your child’s needs and do it, that’s the great thing about Eagle’s Wings Considering God’s Creation it’s meant to make your job as parent/teacher easy, not overwhelming or complicated.

If you’d like to know what other homeschooling parents thought about Considering God’s Creation visit the TOS Crew Blog.

**This is a TOS Crew Review.  I received the Considering God’s Creation set from Eagle’s Wings in exchange for my honest opinion, no other compensation was given.

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KCWC Tour: "The Curse of Captain LaFoote" by Eddie Jones

Book Summary:

RICKY BRADSHAW has never sailed the Caribbean Sea, searched for buried treasure or battled pirates on the deck of a Spanish Galleon. He’s never fallen through the floor of Davy Jones’ locker or watched an old fisherman morph into a porpoise. All Ricky knows is his lonely life with his widowed mom in a tiny apartment overlooking the Chesapeake Bay. But all that changes on a snowy Christmas Eve when Ricky’s apartment building burns down and he suffers a seizure, falling into the chilly waters. Suddenly Ricky finds himself thrust into a world where there is surprising beauty on every island, danger around every corner and great honor and glory ahead of him—if only Ricky can summon the courage to survive the curse of Captain LaFoote.

About Eddie Jones:

EDDIE JONES has authored four non-fiction books, one young adult novel, and written over a hundred articles that have appeared in over 20 different publications. He is co-founder of Christian Devotions Ministries and a contributing writer for,, Common Ground Christian News, The Ocracoke Observer, and  Living Aboard Magazine.  He’s a three-time winner of the Delaware Christian Writers Conference and a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and Boating Writers International. Eddie sails, surfs and writes in North Carolina. For more information see:

You can view the book trailer by going to YouTube.  I can’t get the video to embed into the post.

Contest (sponsored by Kathy Carlton Willis Communication):

I will draw one name to whoever comments on this post to go into the grand prize drawing through KCWC.  I will draw a name and submit it to KCWC on June 5th.

  • 8 invitations
  • 8 – 9″ party plates
  • 8 – 9-oz. cups
  • 16 luncheon napkins
  • 16 pc. blue cutlery set
  • 1 red plastic table cover
  • 2 rolls of streamers, 1 blue and 1 red
  • 12 each of blue and red balloons
  • 2 pkgs. of confetti, 1 blue and 1 orange
  • 4 yds. deluxe creepy cloth
  • 12 pirate swords with eye patch
  • 72 pirate tattoos
  • 8 dessert plates
  • 16 beverage napkins
  • 8 treasure chest-shaped filled treat boxes
  • 1 10 ft. pennant
  • 12 child-size pirate hats
  • 1 photo door banner
  • 1 piñata and toy & candy asst.

Author Interview:

Tell us about The Curse of Captain LaFoote.
EDDIE: When my boys were young, I’d tell pirate stores on the bow of our sailboat. The lead character was Captain Stinky Foot. Captain Stinky Foot was named after my youngest son. If you’ve ever spent any time on a boat in August with a crew of unwashed young males then this needs no further explanation. I’ve always been fascinated by the stories of boys snatched away from London and Bristol and forced to serve before the mast. Seems to me life at sea was more fun than peeling potatoes. And more dangerous.
So The Curse of Captain LaFoote is a pirate tale awash in buried treasure, romance and dead men’s bones. The truth is, this book and the ones that follow in the Caribbean Chronicle series are love stories. For Ricky Bradshaw, the hero of the book, the story is a quest to find his father, soul mate, and purpose in life.
What is your lead’s wound?
EDDIE: A friend suggested that I let my lead have epilepsy. She said when she has an episode she sort of zones out—like daydreaming except she can’t stop it. She also said she knows when it’s about to happen. That she smells something like burning wires. So I gave Ricky epilepsy and finished the story.
It wasn’t until much later that I realized the book had a larger purpose. I met another woman at a writer’s conference whose son has epilepsy. During the conference, her son suffered a seizure — the first one he’d ever had without his mother present. The look on her face that morning convinced me that Ricky Bradshaw could be a champion for those suffering from epilepsy.
It’s not cancer or heart disease but over three million Americans live with epilepsy. If the sale of this book can raise awareness, then the book has done its job. For each book sold, the publisher and I will donate “a few pieces of eight” — half a sandy dollar — to the foundation’s Heroes Among Us program. Our goal is to raise ten thousand dollars in honor of Ricky Bradshaw.
What is the spiritual message in your book?
EDDIE: That courage cost. Near the end of the book Ricky has the chance to go back to his old life. We get to do the same thing, go back to our old way of doing things. But Christ says there is a cost for doing the right thing. Ricky faces that choice.
What takeaway value do you hope readers receive after reading this novel?
EDDIE: There are a lot of other deep and important themes explored in the book too. Things like what the poop deck is and why cruise ships no longer use them, the secrets inside Davy Jones’ locker, and why you shouldn’t walk downwind of a pirate who’s just eaten turtle soup.
Seriously, my goal in writing this book was to spur the imagination of young readers. Boys especially. I wanted to create within them a desire to read and set sail for a life of adventure, wherever that journey may take them. Even now I can see Ricky standing on the sugar-white sands of that island just south of Hispaniola. I am that boy. And so are a lot of other boys.

My Opinion:

I thought this was a good book…..for adults even though it’s supposed to be juvenile fiction.  My thinking for that is: 1) there is brief mention of his mom having a boyfriend over who is supposed to be sleeping in his room but the son knows the truth, 2) lots of violence, which is par for the course in the pirate world, but this was quite graphic for a junvenile book.  As an adult who is firm in my faith I took it with a grain of salt but I didn’t see an allegory in this book or how it relates to being a Christian, although it was a good work of fiction.   I have posted the author’s interview though so you can make your own choice about this book.  There was good humor in it though that at times had me chuckling.

**I was provided a copy of this book from KCWC  in exchange for posting the above information and my honest opinion, no other compensation was given.

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TOS Crew Review: Pearson Education enVision Math 1st Grade

Vendor Name: Pearson enVision Math

Vendor Contact Information: Pearson Contact Page

Name of Product: enVision Math Grade 1

Price of Product: $34.47 w/digital access (I received only the book)

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I requested and received the enVision Grade 1 from Pearson since they gear themselves towards public schools – and, well, I’m not a public school.  I also wasn’t sure of how to proceed since some of the pages required digital access which I didn’t receive in conjunction with this review, however, like most homeschoolers I improvised.  If you purchase this book you will get 1 year of digital access so you’ll be able to access the components I wasn’t able too, making this more of a fully operational workbook.

The book reminded me of something I used in school, the teacher would tear out the worksheet and give it to the student to take home and complete with their parents.  Since I didn’t have a teacher’s guide, not that I really need a teacher’s guide for 1st grade math, I used this workbook to give my 6 year old daughter a bit more practice on math areas that she struggles in.  I would give her the worksheet, fold it in half, and she completed most of the work on her own.

After the sheet is torn out and folded it creates 4 worksheets along with some instructions so that the parents can engage and help the student in their understanding of the math concept.  While I think it’s intent is to be completed over a period of a week my daughter easily completed the entire sheet in one day on top of her other math work.  Using what Pearson calls the Visual Learning Bridge students learn and deepen their understanding through sequential verbal and visual connections to the subject at hand.

My daughter begged to do these and I used them as a reward, not in place of, her regular math.  I can see this being a year’s worth of curriculum or even used as I use it as a supplemental and improvising on how to implement the workbook to your curriculum or tastes.  I think too, since it was extremely colorful compared to her black and white math worksheets these provided something fun and visual which helps her in learning her math facts.  Overall, while I wasn’t thrilled at first this workbook and seeing my daughter enjoy it and math while doing it changed my mind.  I think I would have been even more impressed had I been able to access the digital part of the book.

If you’d like to see what other homeschooling parents thought of Pearson products visit the TOS Crew Blog.

**This is a TOS Crew Review.  I was provided a copy of the enVision Math Grade 1 workbook from Pearson in exchange for my honest opinion, no other compensation was given.

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My Girls

I have been so blessed by all my children and I must say the Lord spoiled me when He gave me girls first!  They have been easier so far to raise than my little man – thankfully they all have their own personalities and I just love watching them all grow into the people He wants them to be.  This post is just some pictures of the girls.  Bethanne has a very fun personality where she enjoys making people laugh and she does this to me daily.

This is a picture of a hair style her sister, Hannah, gave her a few weeks ago and she came up with the face herself!

Bethanne was finally old enough to play spring soccer, so here she is in her uniform:

I only have one of Hannah for this post but she had her right ear tube removed a couple weeks ago since it had been in for over 3 years and it wasn’t coming out so the ENT feared it may perforate her eardrum, resulting in more problems.  This is after she came back from recovery, acting very silly.  Hannah is my serious one – she is very logical and analyzes everything.

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Review: "Seek and Find" ESV Bible

This is an awesome Bible, and while some may frown that it’s an ESV version I think this is a great version for readers who need help in comprehension or are just beginning their reading adventures.  Put out by Crossway in association with Concordia Publishing House this is a fully illustrated and colorful Bible that is great for ages 5-9 and those who love and teach them.

The Seek and Find Bible ESV has the following:

  • complete ESV Bible text
  • 130 full-color, full page illustrations
  • 130 Bible stories
  • Key questions
  • Introductions to each book of the Bible
  • illustrated facts about important Bible objects and places
  • over 50 profiles of Bible people
  • simple dictionary/concordance

The writing is a bit bigger than your usual Bible so it should make younger children more comfortable with reading from it on their own.  I use the ESV, including this one, to go along my KJV if I need clarification or just want another way of reading Scripture.  My children loved the pictures which are beautiful and vibrant and enable the child to better imagine an event in the Bible.

The seek and find’s scattered throughout have a lot of learning resources to go with the reading for example in the widow’s great gift you’ll learn where to find the account, a key Bible verse is given, three key questions (one is “Why did Jesus say the poor widow gave more than the rich people had given?”), and related Bible readings that correspond to the account or meaning of a cheerful giver.  This hardcover Bible comes dust-jacketed but the same cover illustrations grace the cover as well so the Bible remains just as beautiful without the jacket.

You can purchase the Seek and Find ESV Bible at Crossway, Amazon, and Christian Book.

**I was provided a copy of the Seek and Find Bible from Crossway in exchange for my honest opinion, no other compensation was given.

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WEEC (radio station) Field Trip

We took a field trip to the local and first 24 hour Christian radio station in April.  My three children and two others got to listen in to a live interview with the lead singer of Big Daddy Weave!  Unfortunately while they were listening in I had to greet everyone, such is the life of a field trip coordinator LOL  We had a lot of fun and learned some interesting stuff about radio as well as having some of the children be recorded for some live spots.

This is one of Bethanne recording a mini spot (I don’t know the technical name for it) so if you’re listening one day and hear “It’s to early, I want some hot chocolate and all I see if coffee” that’d be Bethanne.

We had a great host and he obliged all the children by drinking out of a HUGE coffee mug.

The children and I in front of the WEEC logo.

Each child got a ‘goody bag’ which mine really enjoyed.  This was a wonderful field trip.


TOS Crew Review: Mad Dog Math

Vendor Name: Mad Dog Math

Vendor Contact Information: Mad Dog Math Contact Us Page

Name of Product: Mad Dog Math

Price of Product: two year license $19.99 to $29.99 or a perpetual license $39.99

Do you have a child who is frustrated by math?  Enjoys math but still finds it challenging?  Well then enter Mad Dog Math!  This was originally a paper and pencil worksheet drill has now become a digital updated product suitable for grades K-5.  This is a program to be used as a supplement to your current math curriculum and can make learning addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts easier.

Your child starts out on their level and progresses through a ‘worksheet’ at a time limit (2 minutes) and if they pass they move on, if not they re-do that same sheet.  There are 3 levels and a Challenge level and each level is geared towards finishing it in one school year by spending with it being recommended the child spends 10-15 minutes a day doing the program.  Each level is as follows:

  • Level 1 – addition and subtraction begins with the 0-3 facts and ends with the 12-18 facts.
  • Level 2 – addition and subtraction providing lots of review from 0-6 up to the 18 facts.
  • Level 3 – multiplication and division beginning with the 2 facts and building up to the 12 facts.
  • Challenge – has problems from each area of work addition, multiplication, division and subtraction

With so much review built in your child has no choice but to learn and retain the information.  Starting out with a two minute timed sheet the child answers the questions if they do so they’ll earn a ‘sticker’ for the 2-minute club.  After they do that they’ll then try to do the same drill in 1-minute earning themselves a 1-minute club sticker.  After that is the 30 second club – if the child earns this award they’ll move on.  My children seemed to enjoy working toward earning these stickers.

This program is available for Windows users only and will keep records of multiple children in one family.  Since the children can view their progress and see where they are on their levels this is a wonderful way to teach independent working skills as well.  You can try the first fact family of each level for free by visiting Mad Dog Math.

If you’d like to see what other homeschooling parents think about Mad Dog Math visit the TOS Crew Blog.

**This is a TOS Crew Review.  I was provided a limited time full license of Mad Dog Math for the purpose of giving my honest opinion, no other compensation was given.

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TOS Crew Review: Bright Ideas Press, WonderMaps

Vendor Name: Bright Ideas Press

Vendor Contact Information: BIP’s contact page

Name of Product: WonderMaps

Price of Product: $49.95

Map work is usually boring and just well…..not fun but with the brand new product from Bright Ideas Press map work becomes fun!  If you’ve been looking for an easy way to do map work and teach geography then check out WonderMaps from Bright Ideas Press.  Would you believe that there are over 350 customizable maps on this program?  It’s true, over 350 maps that you can customize to fit your unit study or curriculum and it’s great for all grades and at one price!

If you are using the Mystery of History Vols. I-III and All American History Vols. I & II then this will be a great addition to your studies with all the needed maps included – this maps copying the book obsolete.  Also you’ll get:

  • modern and historical maps
  • reference, outline, political, and topographical
  • black and white or color
  • graticules, names, borders, rivers, cities, physical features

I enjoyed being able to choose which layers we need and didn’t need.  With having a pre-schooler, 1st grader, and 3rd grader I didn’t need as much details as a parent who has older children – but for me the more detail was interesting and very educational.

It is easy to begin using the program simply download or insert your disk in the drive (depending on what you ordered) and go.  The teacher’s guide has some fun activities to go through the 5 themes of geography; location, place, relationships within places, movement, and regions.  For an example the activity for movement is license plate bingo or for location go on a treasure hunt.  There are also 50 Bright Ideas for Using Outline Maps, history and geography projects like taffy pulling and timelines, Joseph’s Journey, Maps Galore 16 projects, salt dough map directions, as well as MP3’s and tutorials.

If you’re wondering what exactly the break down is for the included maps it looks like this:

  • 60+ maps of the world
  • 60+maps of the USA
  • 125 historical maps, including 25 biblical maps
  • The complete map sets from The Mystery of History Vols. I-III and All American History Vols. I & II

Even though I am using MOH and think that BIP is an excellent curriculum resource I would still say that this is the best map product I have ever seen.  If I had had this in school geography wouldn’t have been so dry and boring!  Some may balk at the price but if you have several children and will be using this time and again, and I assure you you will, the product will pay for itself in the end.

If you’d like to read to what other homeschooling parents though about WonderMaps head over to the TOS Crew Homeschool Blog.

**This is a TOS Crew review.  I was provided a copy of WonderMaps in exchange for my honest opinion, no other compensation was given.


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