Faith, Family, Love and Reviews

Home to Hickory Hollow series Book 1: The Fiddler by Beverly Lewis


About the Book:


A wrong turn in a rainstorm leads Englisher Amelia Devries to Michael Hostetler–and the young Amishman’s charming Old Order community of Hickory Hollow. Despite their very different backgrounds, Amelia and Michael both feel hemmed in by the expectations of others and struggle with how to find room for their own hopes. And what first seems to be a chance encounter might just change their lives forever.


My Opinion:


I fell in love with Beverly Lewis’ writing years ago, before my first daughter came along, and her books were the impetus for my re-dedicating my life to Christ so whenever I have a chance to get one of her books for review I grab at it and pray I receive a blessing.  Receive a blessing I did – the new series Home to Hickory Hollow is going to be another cherished series just like her others have been, and I can’t wait to read more.


Beverly Lewis is one of the first Amish fiction writers and where some have jumped on the bandwagon, hers stay true to the Amish roots she writes about down to staying true to her Christian readers.  I don’t have to be afraid when I open one of Beverly’s books, because I know there isn’t going to be inappropriate boy/girl, woman/man, relationships.  Her characters have feelings but I haven’t read a Beverly Lewis book where the characters act on such feelings until after marriage and The Fiddler carries this tradition on.


I’ll admit I was worried – I was thinking maybe she’s lost her touch or that this book would be like others and have issues that I’m finding hard to stomach anymore – but I must admit to my failings as a fan because I was proven wrong.  I have no reservations recommending Beverly Lewis or The Fiddler to those who are wanting true Christian fiction set in Amish country.  The story line was fresh, of course there is the age old dilemma of do I stay Amish or leave, but it’s put into a fresh plot that it doesn’t seem old or stale.


**Disclaimer:  I was provided a copy of this book from Bethany House, in exchange for my honest review, no other compensation was given.

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TOS Crew Review: Dive Into Your Imagination; Dive Into Diversity DVD

Vendor Name:  Dive Into Your Imagination

Vendor ContactContact Page

Name of ProductDive Into Diversity

Price:  $19.95 per DVD; PDF educator’s guides are $299 for the set of 6 or $69.95 for an individual title.

Age Range: Pre-K and up

Annie Crawley the creator of Dive Into Your Imagination has a love for the ocean and it’s inhabitants – this is seen through her work as a dive instructor, underwater photographer and dive instructor.  Her desire is to have all parents and children fall in love with the animals of the sea so that we in turn can learn to protect what we love.  She has 5 DVD’s such as the Camera Coach, Visions of the Sea, What Makes a Fish a Fish?, Who Lives in the Sea and Dive into Diversity all of which shows her love for teaching others about the ocean.

Dive Into Diversity was a very entertaining DVD, not that it was entertaining in a funny way, but I was as interested in the subject area and learning about creatures with Annie Crawley’s narration – such as the beautiful nudibranchs.  In just over 40 minutes I felt like I had taken a dive myself into the oceans depths without ever leaving my living room.  The colorful footage and sometimes even in your face movements had me wanting to touch the hammerhead sharks and hugging a seal!

Along with the beautiful DVD there are educator’s guides to have some follow up activities to watching to really sink in the lessons learned from the video.  Each chapter is based on a segment of the DVD so you can choose to watch the whole video or watch a segment at a time while focusing on the guide.  I will say the guide is mainly written for the school teacher but could be adapted for the homeschool family as well, although the price is a bit more than I would honestly pay.  The guides are a great way to follow up with what the child has learned and it covers the following areas such as general concepts/topics to teach, character education (puts a lot of emphasis on self esteem for me), imagination play script, book list, and more.

While I value the educational and beautiful teaching on the DVD I must say that I also must say a word of caution.  As a Christian I believe it’s our duty to take care of God’s Creation – but it’s not the end all and be all of our existence – and at points it seems there are references made about how we must all be in balance and protect our oceans.  One of the activities in the guide says to have the children learn a mantra about not throwing stuff away and reducing our amount of trash.  While this is all good in theory, some is hard to practice and I have a hard time teaching my children mantras of any kind.  There is also a brief period where Annie is in a bikini while she gets suited up and some of the children are as well.

Overall, this is an exceptional learning DVD for both parents and children and it comes with three tracks, English, Spanish and music only.  My children really enjoyed this and even my son asked if we could watch it again.  When I told him we own it, he was very excited to know that he could indeed watch it again.  If you’re child likes learning about the ocean, it’s inhabitants and the beauty of it then I do recommend these DVD’s for the educational value that they contain.

Here is a special offer from Annie Crawley in regards to the PDF educator guides: “As a special for the Homeschool Crew and The Old Schoolhouse Magazine and followers Annie Crawley of Dive Into Your Imagination, she will gift you a set of PDFs with purchase of the DVDs. When you place your DVD order, just let her know in the notes that you are a Homeschool Parent!”

**Disclaimer:  As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine.

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American History: Observations & Assessments from Early Settlement to Today (and teachers’ guide) by James P. Stobaugh


I’m a history buff, I love reading and watching about history.  Give me a history book, whether it’s a book or textbook, and I’ll sit for hours (or as long as my children allow) and read.  I had the chance to review the American History text and teacher’s manual by James P. Stobaugh which is written for the 10th grade student and I must say I can’t wait until I have a 10th grader!  Not really, I’m not rushing my children to grow but this is such a wonderful history curriculum – I enjoyed just reading through it on my own and I learned stuff that I hadn’t been taught in public school – never ceases to amaze me how much revisionism I was exposed to.


This is divided into 34 chapters which amounts to 34 weeks of study for the student, within each each chapter are 5 lessons – I don’t know if highschoolers have to do school five days a week but if you only school for four I’m sure this can be altered to fit your family’s schedule.  Each lesson should take between 20 and 30 minutes to complete with the included reading and the critical thinking questions, some open ended, some not.  At the end of each week the student will take an exam over what was learned that week.  Even though I don’t have children in this grade, I appreciate that this course work is to be completed independently with the parent checking and grading the work turned in.  All responsibility falls on to the student to complete the work given in the time frame allowed.


You’ll find a lot of information in the text of the student book such as:

  • narrative background
  • critical thinking questions
  • concepts/generalizations
  • history maker
  • historiographies or historical debates
  • world view formation
  • history and world view overview


The only other items the student will need on a daily basis is a notepad for the writing assignments and a pencil or pen.  Your student (or yourself) will go through the “Natives of the New World” through the “Civil War” and the “War on Terrorism” – they will get an well rounded education of the history of the United States of America before she was the United States and beyond – based on a Biblical, non-revisionist text.  James P. Stobaugh and his wife have home educated their four children since 1985.


The teacher’s manual will making grading your student’s work much easier and faster with the choice to grade weekly or daily.  The student questions are wonderfully organized at the back for ease of use in testing as well as reviewing.  I really like the teacher’s manual gives a brief overview of the chapter in the first thoughts area and then an outline of the learning objectives complete with what questions/assignments go with each.  This makes it very teacher friendly and helps in the teaching if the teacher doesn’t have time to read through each lesson first.


I cannot say enough about this wonderful high school history curriculum for students who want a Biblically sound version without God removed from history.  I want to also say this text is not boring like some school texts, it’s very engaging and the illustrations are beautiful and sometimes strikingly painful, depending on the area of history being studied.  You can purchase the student and teachers books at Master Books.


**Disclaimer:  I was provided a copy of this curricula from Master Books in exchange for my honest opinion, no other compensation was given.



2nd week of school

Last week was our second full week of school.  We are making great progress and I’m hoping to add in our Spanish, Bethanne’s reading and Christian’s phonics next week.  Here are some pictures to recap last week.


Bethanne and her ‘lyre’ she made for MOH Vol. 2


Hannah and her lyre.


Christian and his lyre. He was mad because he couldn’t actually make it play music.


Our timeline – we’ve add three more figures. We are enjoying the time line and I so regret not doing it last year for volume I.


I didn’t take pictures of math, or science although we did finish Lesson 1 in Flying Creatures and the accompanying notebooking journal.


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Awesome Science: Episode I: Explore the Grand Canyon with Noah Justice

Tired of the evolution view that some nature videos and magazines tout as fact?

Tired of “over million and million of years” the earth was formed?

Tired of having to explain to your children, again, “don’t listen to that part”?

Me too.

Enter the new DVD series from Master Books with Noah Justice who takes children and their parents on a 30 minute excursion into the Grand Canyon to show them how it can be proved the Grand Canyon was formed in a matter of just days and not millions of years.  Noah Justice explains how the 40 layers of the Grand Canyon were laid in the Biblical, worldwide flood of Noah’s day and not a long, long time ago.  Noah Justice is a 14 year old who is going to be your tour guide for the 30 minutes that you learn about the Grand Canyon from a Creationist, Biblical viewpoint.  He handles himself very well and gives in depth explanations that both adults and children will appreciate.  The DVD is $14.99 and can be purchased at the Master Books website and other locations – this is a great DVD to have on hand.

There is also an accompanying study guide that is available for $3.99 and will turn the DVD into a great unit study on the Grand Canyon.  The 34 page study guide takes you through the DVD in increments such as:

  • About the Grand Canyon
  • Evidence: Colorado River Plausibility Questions
  • Dunes
  • Receding Floodwaters
  • Example of Mars
  • and more


There are fill in the blanks, ordering, discussion questions and extended activities to have your child answer.  While copies can’t be made, the study guides are affordable or you can simply have your child record their answers orally or write them in a notebook – to save money for the family with more than one child.


**Disclaimer:  I was provided a copy of the DVD and study guide from Master Books in exchange for my hones opinion, no other compensation was given.



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Disciplines of a Godly Young Man by R. Kent Hughes and W. Carey Hughes


About the Book from Crossway:


Point blank, this is a punchy, no-holds-barred book for young men. Laying out the challenge to be disciplined, godly, and sold-out for Jesus, the authors talk about purity in your thought-life, cultural pressure, and perseverance as a Christian. Let father and son Kent and Carey Hughes help you live a life of integrity and become the man God is calling you to be.


My Opinion:


If you have a son and you want to find that book that speaks to him without making him feel feminized or beating around the bush, then look no further than Disciplines of a Godly Young Man.  The authors take the reader through what discipline is and why it’s needed for a godly life then into five areas covering relationships, soul, character, ministry, and discipline.  You won’t find a pat on the back, easy answer, go ahead and do it your way as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else in this book – you’re going to have Biblical, godly answers to the hard questions in life.


I didn’t want to think that one day my little 5 year old boy is going to need this book – he is going to need answers to certain life questions – and I want them to be Biblical answers so when he enters that time in his life where he is noticing girls, I’ll hand him this book and tell him to spend the day reading!  If you’re a Christian man who stands for Biblical Christianity in today’s world you’re often going to be mocked and shunned by the world – most men will decide to keep one foot in the world and cuss, watch T.V. non-stop while others will do the God honoring thing and refuse to back out on their convictions.  In order to do this our boys are going to need to have certain disciplines such as purity, prayer, tongue, witness and much, much more.


I can’t say this is just for young men, I know adult men in today’s churches that could use the advise in this book.  The authors advocate ridding yourself of the television if it’s making you sin or even tempting you to sin.  As I said they aren’t going to beat around the bush or make you feel good about your sin – and if you haven’t well it’ll hopefully cement your convictions.  It’s not every day you find authors who are willing to take a stand for Biblical manhood, because most will have scathing reviews written about them and their books, but these authors hit the nail on the head and I appreciate what some would consider ‘old fashioned’ manhood being written about un-apologetically.


**Disclaimer:  I was provided a copy of this book from Crossway in exchange for posting my own opinion, no other compensation was given.


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Recital – May 20, 2012

The girls have been going to a Christian dance studio since September 2011, Hannah took CWDI (Christian Worship Dance I) and Bethanne was in Ballet I.  I have to say I’ve been so happy with the teaching and the studio.  We haven’t had the issues of inappropriate music, inappropriate costumes, bullying, and best of all they pray before and after class so that the girls realize Who it is that gets the glory!


The girls had their recital or concert as it was also called on the 20th.  We had to be there at 12:30 for the dress rehearsal, this worried me because it was in the 90’s and the actual show didn’t start until 4:00 and it was outside.  The park was beautiful and had it been cooler it would have been lovely.


I was glad that my mom (she drove us so we’d have access to a/c if we needed it) and I got to see the girls dance during the rehearsal because once the show got started my pulse started racing and I began feeling nauseous and faint.  My mom is an ANP so she recognized I was suffering from heat exhaustion and got me to her vehicle fast and in the a/c.  It was very scary, and is only the 2nd time it’s happened to me, and this was with all the water I was drinking all day, under an umbrella, using cloths soaked in ice water on my head and neck.  So we had to miss their actual show, while my hubby, son and inlaws watched it.


I’m so proud of them – they did very well and I look forward to getting our DVD and can’t wait till next year’s (hopefully an indoor location!)


Hannah and Bethanne in their costumes. Bethanne was mad as she was walking barefoot on black top (after being told not to) and she burned her feet.


Hannah posing in her dance form with her dance partner.


Hannah by herself. I love her costume, so feminine and modest and almost grown-up.

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Great for God: Missionaries who Changed the World by David Shibley


About the Book from New Leaf Publishing:


Inspiring true stories of the courageous faith of 23 missionaries who boldly lived for God and not themselves.

With bold faith, obedience to God, and love for others, missionaries attempt great things for God. Great for God: Missionaries Who Changed the World shares the biographies of twenty three missionaries. Each chapter highlights the amazing truths of God’s power at work through the lives of those willing to live for the applause of heaven. Learn from the legacy of:

  • David Livingstone
  • Lottie Moon
  • Jim Elliot
  • Eric Liddell
  • Bill Bright and 18 others

Their great accomplishments for God challenge believers to continue to “attempt great things for God. Expect great things from God,” as William Carey once stated. Author and Global Advance founder David Shibley offers Great for God to inspire every Christian, small group, and family devotion time. Teachers will find it a powerful supplement to world history and religious studies.

It only takes one courageous life in Christ to bring hope to millions! It could be yours.


My Opinion:


Wow!  Wow!  Wow!  I so enjoy reading the stories of those Christians who lived their lives out loud for our Lord.  Whether you’re looking for something for yourself or to read with your children – this book will have you flipping the pages learning about the great missionaries of the past and not so past.  I liked the outlines at the beginning of the chapters that gave the name, when and where born and died, what were their outstanding accomplishments and a quote of theirs – this really helped set the tone especially since before you actually read the story it’s preceded by a Bible verse that somewhat sums up what that missionary was all about.


Each story takes less than 10 minutes to read, which is why I said it’d be perfect to use with children, if you want to introduce them to some missionaries, who have either faded into obscurity or who are well known – some I had heard of, some I hadn’t.  Since the stories are short, you won’t get the whole story, for that you’ll need to seek out an autobiography or biography on just that missionary.  If all you want is a short course or even if you’re studying a certain country like India – you’ll find a missionary that one day ministered to and brought Christ to that land.  I could find this book useful not just as book to read but also to use as a unit study in our homeschool or to inspire me in my ministry at home until the time comes when I can minister abroad.


Jesus told us we need to be His Hands and Feet – and while some of us are doing great things within our homes, for a mom of young children her ministry is at home or for those who are out in foreign lands spreading the Gospel, we need to make sure that we are taking the Gospel to those who need it – our children, the neighbor next door or the tribal chief in a remote – and this book will definitely make you appreciate all that is given in the name of the Lord who gave us all of Him.


**Disclaimer:  I was given a copy of this e-book from New Leaf Publishing in exchange for my honest opinion, no other compensation was given.

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High Treason by Samuel Oakes

About the Book from Horizon Books:

The future is here for a bankrupt nation gripped in the throes of the plague, and the corrupt government is in charge of the vaccine. Young Amishman Enos Yoder faces the greatest crisis of his life when his father refuses to accept the compromises the bishop has made, and his mother lies on her deathbed. Will the family be consumed by his father’s stubbornness? Regina Owens, the liberal minister in town, is having her normal world rocked to the core by what is happening. She wonders why a man would lift his own hand against what is most precious in life. Will Enos recover from the brutal shock when his girlfriend is taken from him? Will his faith, backed by five hundred years of teaching against violence, survive the hate rising in his heart? High Treason is a story of love, bitterness, and treason, rising up in the heart of a man and in the highest corridors of government.

My Opinion:


From the first page you’ll realize you aren’t reading the same old Amish fiction novel, this is something much, much different.  Enos struggles with following the rules laid out by his Old Order sect and eventually makes his decisions as to what path he is going to follow.  Regina, is also struggling, but in much different ways since she of course is used to the world and her father himself is a veteran of a foreign war.  I was hooked after about the first chapter, it had everything I enjoy in a novel, however I will say that there was also a sexual relationship outside of marriage however it’s not detailed and it’s really so that the readers will see what struggles the new world is up against in the face of death, destruction and corruption on a grand scale.


I’m glad to have taken the time to read this novel, because even though it’s fiction, there is a lot in this book that could take place in our world today as things give more to evil.  I still don’t know what I would do (I side more with Enos than with the female pastor, Regina) in Enos’ place because as he believes in non-violence, no government aid, etc, so do I – but what would I do when faced with my children and husband dying when there is a vaccine?  Do I chance it?  Do I let God control our life even unto death?  These are just some of the questions that I pondered as I read this book – it wasn’t just an entertaining book but it many ways it shows what can happen when the government runs amok.


If you have been into Amish fiction, but are tired with the same old love stories and happy endings then please grab this book – it will have you seeing Amish fiction in a brand new and much needed light.  Yes, there is love in this book, but it’s not the romantic, rose colored glasses love, it’s the real world love when one recognizes what may not be best for them is the best for the other.  Sacrificial love.  There is suspense and mystery and of course, faith, questioning faith – grounded faith, but faith nonetheless.  It’s not a happy ending – where everyone is tiptoeing through the tulips – it’s an ending that leaves you with hope of what is to come and what is to be and I hope that there will be a forthcoming book with more of this faith and hope.


You can purchase this book at Horizon Books and at Amazon.


**Disclaimer:  I was provided a copy of this book by the author, in exchange for my honest review, no other compensation was given.

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Why Church Matters by Joshua Harris

From Waterbrook-Multnomah website.

About the Book from Waterbrook-Multnomah:

We were never meant to live our faith in isolation. The church is the place God uses to grow us, encourage us, and use our gifts for His glory. In this honest, personal, and practical book, Joshua Harris shows you why it’s time to say yes to church and how to find the right one for you–the place where you can fall in love with the family of God.

What you miss when you miss church
Ten questions to ask before you join
How to get more out of the best day of the week

My Opinion:

I picked this book because as some of my friends know, and now my readers, that I don’t believe that church membership is Biblical nor is it needed – this is because the times that I have given time, money and everything else to a church – it usually ends with me leaving – because of the pastor beginning to follow a teaching of a man than a Bible or because those who are heavily involved in the occult are allowed to continue worshiping with the body of Believers.  Enter Joshua Harris’ book, Why Church Matters, he makes the argument that all Believers should be in a church, not a home church, but a church and that we should be members of said church.  He claims this will make us better Christians and make the church stronger – some of his points I agreed with however some I do not.

One part of the book mentions him hearing a pastor say that if you’re not a member of a church you’re going to Hell.  What???  He doesn’t mean that membership is a requirement for Heaven, only Jesus is that, but he seems to agree that if you aren’t building the church and helping it by being a member is on the same grounding as other sins.  I love going to church and worshiping with fellow Believers, we tithe when the Lord has blessed us with extra, we give of our time, and yes we should still fall under church discipline should we fail to repent of sin that is corrupting the church.  Does this mean I need to be a member, his book fails to convince me that I can’t have a real Christian relationship with the church and those in it without being a member of a church.

I did enjoy reading this book but I know if my husband were to read it he wouldn’t care for it as much since it’s more of a look at the church and it’s members from the basis of a relationship.  He says that we are the brides of Christ but in my readings it is the church who is the Bride, not the individual members making up the church – but I don’t have a theology degree so I’m taking the verses at literal face value.  It is a thought provoking read and he does make some great points and I can see myself maybe revisiting this book as my husband and I are yet on the search again for a Bible preaching church that we can both go to and get something out of.


Please take a moment to rank my review at Blogging For Books.  Thank you.

**Disclaimer:  I received this e-book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest opinion, no other compensation was given.

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