Archive for Books

December Saint Picture Book Club Unveiled!

saint picture book club december st juan diego

On All Saints Day, I shared my plan to celebrate the Catholic liturgical year by reading a book each month. I’m so excited to share the first saint for the picture book club!

St. Juan Diego

St. Juan Diego’s feast day is December 9. I found two books that would be fabulous additions to your Catholic children’s library.

The first is one of those investment books–Talking Eagle and the Lady of Roses: The Story of Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe.  If you can swing it, it’s gorgeous and my 4 year old Ioves it. Bright illustrations and (seems to be) culturally appropriate also.

The second is smaller and simpler, but also good–Juan Diego: Mary’s Humble Messenger (Saints and Me!).  It’s not as much of a story as the first, but is another good picture book for children about St. Juan Diego.

Be sure to come back on December 8 to share your favorite books about St. Juan Diego! Subscribe to our RSS feed so you don’t miss a post.

And if you are in need of an Advent devotion, check out the 2014 Advent Companion app giveaway from Magnificat!


See you in a few weeks!

Jen S.


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Look Inside the Time of Jesus {Book Review}

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This post contains affiliate links; thanks for your support!



My kids love exploring lift the flap books so when I was offered the chance to review a new lift the flap style book from Lion Books, Look Inside: The Time of Jesus, I was excited to have a biblical book like this for them to explore.

Look Inside: The Time of Jesus is a beautiful gift quality hardcover book with 9 two pages spreads about what life was like when Jesus was alive.  The spreads cover:

  •  the first Christmas,
  • a synagogue and carpenter’s workshop in Nazareth,
  • fishing in Capernaum,
  • farming and shepherding in the hills of Galilee,
  • homes of the wealthy and everyday people,
  • the temple in Jerusalem,
  • the way of the cross, and
  • the first Easter.


The illustrations are engaging and the flaps aren’t always “educational” but are pretty funny sometimes.  Slapstick humor is good for 4 year olds :).  There is not a ton of text, a paragraph on each page and occasional snippets around flaps.

It’s a good book for discussion and exploration, making it useful for both long and short attention spans.  The knowledge shared about life in those times was good, though I did disagree with one item.  In the temple it said Jesus was angry that the widow felt she had to give money.  Which isn’t how I learned it; I learned that she was upheld as en example of trusting God by giving him everything.  But that can be skipped or better explained.  I’ve done both :).

Other than that, it’s a lovely book.  Both my 6.5 & 4 year old have been exploring it — alone, together and with me.  It’s been a great addition to our library.

If you have a child who loves lift the flap books or are looking for a religious gift for a 4-8 year old, Look Inside: The Time of Jesus would be a great pick. It’s a beautiful book & we’ve thoroughly enjoyed it!

Jen S.

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Schoolhouse Review Crew 2014 Year in Review & Favorites

2014 SRC Recap Favorites

Again, I have been totally blessed as a member of the schoolhouse review crew. This was my second year and my kids love to try new things & mix it up a bit. Like last year, we have tried things that we adored and others that didn’t work so well. Here is a review of everything we reviewed this year and how we feel about it after some time has gone by.

Curriculum Recap



The fascination faded quick :(.  So much for my keyboard investment…




Too involved for me to want to use long term. Great idea, but doesn’t work well for my desire to have little to no prep.  And I’m such a perfectionist that I didn’t feel like she was getting anything on the computer only if I wasn’t supporting with the printable stuff that went with it.  My problem?  Probably.



Motivated Moms Planner

I wish, I wish.  I am SO domestically challenged.  I keep trying; I might even download the app next year.  We shall see.




They loved these and I will be digging them out at Easter time. They still occasionally ask to use the eggs and I’d still be reading the book if it wasn’t locked away with the other Easter books :).




Meh. Preaching to the choir.



Victus Study Skills

This has been staring at me all month. I think we will start with new goals in January.  No point in doing it this close to holiday break :).



CTC Math

Still using and liking pretty well. She just finished first grade, so it didn’t take too long to fix my curriculum buying mistake from last year.



Rhythm of Handwriting

After a summer break, we have resumed ROH and are now on capital letters & words. She has started to write in cursive so it’s sinking in. She still doesn’t love handwriting, but she doesn’t complain much. We use an app (from another company) for review of individual letters so that helps :).   I think she will be finished with it by the end of the year.



Brinkman Adventures

The kids are a bit young. Again, we might bring them out for an upcoming road trip or dog days of winter. Totally not on our summer radar, you know?



Artistic Pursuits

We have paused due to it not jiving with the time period we are studying in history. We also just got back to school & are finding our groove. Probably in the winter. Regularly, if I know her :).



Maestro Classics 

I love these! I wish the kids loved them all as well as Mike Mulligan. I think they ALL need a book accompaniment! We will probably pull them out for composer studies in winter.



Peter Rabbit

There was a period of time where we hadn’t read them due to poor placement on the bookcase.  Now that they are easy to find and get to, we are back to reading them all the time.  Since I bought the set, I gave the two duplicates to my Godson for his birthday.  LOVED these!



Veritas Press 

Still love. My 6 y/o was whining about starting this again. Then she remembered how much she liked it and frequently asks to do an extra lesson. Seriously.   She is still “failing” and I realized it is because the test questions are way date heavy.  Since I don’t care if she memorizes dates, I’ve told her not to worry even though it has a giant FAILED across the score at the end — which is totally lame, BTW.   She answers the game questions very well, but those don’t count toward scoring and I don’t think they are the same questions that show up on the test.




This was great! If I didn’t feel like she was already spending too much time on school, we would be doing it. We both adored it. I can see doing it in winter when the days are long & indoors :).




Not sure what to say about this one. It was great to hear the encouragement and it kick started a reboot that was needed. Now I’m trying to fine tune everything. So I guess it was useful, but I’m struggling with detail & flow. And sleep :).



Happy Kids Songs

They were fun, but nothing my kids ask for. Maybe this winter when they are indoors more.



7 Minute Life Daily Planner

I spent a few months trying to use it.  I find that when I DON’T, I feel much less productive. I’ve switched to trying a Bullet Journal and use my 4 favorite pieces of the 7ML planner at the very beginning of each day.  So I like it, but don’t use the actual book anymore.



My Student Logbook 

Still love. Still use every week. Doesn’t even complain about time it takes because she can see the end. I can’t even tell you how much money that is worth!



Preschoolers & Peace (e-book)

Nothing changed.  Still have mixed feelings about it.



Clued-In Kids

We liked these.  I think I’m going to buy the Halloween one next year because we never do anything for Halloween.  Itty Bitty’s b-day is just before and I’m mentally spent after that, you know?


If He Had Never Come book review

If He Had Not Come

LOVE!  We read it nearly every day!


IXL math and language arts practice review


My PreK asks to do her “computer school” all the time.  I think I’m going to switch to using IXL for her language arts.  The curriculum we are using isn’t really working for us, no matter how awesome of a curriculum it is :(.  So, yay for IXL :)!


Top 3 Review Crew Products For 2014

  1. CTC Math
  2. Veritas Press
  3. My Student Logbook 

An honorable mention goes to If He Had Not Come.  If it had been homeschool curriculum & not a seasonal book, it would have had spot #3.


You can see the winners of the 2014 SRC Blue Ribbon awards (where we get to pick our favorites) at the Schoolhouse Review Crew website.

I’ve been asked to come back to the Schoolhouse Review Crew next year and agreed, so you will see some awesome curriculum and educational activity reviews to look at next year for PreK/K & Second/Third Graders.   I’m so excited!   Look for homeschooling and family reviews to begin again around February.   Until then, wrap up your school for the year & enjoy the holidays!

Jen S.



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Where Treetops Glisten {Book Review}

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  This post contains affiliate links; thanks for your support!

I am a reader. There is a constant flow of books coming into and leaving our home. It’s what I do when I need a few minutes to myself. At those times where I just need to relax a little, a Christian or historical romance is where I go. I recently received a copy of Where Treetops Glisten for review.

Where Treetops Glisten is a set of three Christmas themed novellas set in WWII by Tricia Goyer, Sarah Sundin and Cara Putman. I hadn’t noticed it while reading them, but each story is named after a (now) well-known Christmas carol that was released in WWII. The back is full of fascinating information about how the book came to be and how they worked together. It was fascinating. For a wannabe writer, it was the best part ;)!

In White Christmas, a skittish college student (Abigail) runs into a young man on the bus and quickly discovers that he is having some troubles weighing him down. Always eager to help, she brings him home to get advice from her father. Money has been disappearing and his mother is going to lose the farm. This short story covers the story of them falling in love and discovering what happened to all the missing money.

Pete (Abigail’s brother) comes back on furlough and is kind of dead inside. In I’ll Be Home for Christmas, He finds a precocious young child roaming around alone. Escorting her home, he discovers that she is the daughter of the girl next door he bullied as a youth. Because of her child’s impulsiveness, she has run out of sitters and he volunteers to help. Over time, she discovers he has changed and time and a possible tragedy averted bring them together on Christmas.

The last story, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, is about Paul & Abigail’s sister Merry. In Florida training to be an Army nurse, she falls in love with a German who disappears. Stationed in Germany, she is disturbed to find one of the villagers studying her. Turns out she is stationed in the same village as the man who disappeared. But is he for…or friend?

While all 3 stories are classified as novellas, they were just as enjoyable as full length novels. The stories were delightful and while Christmas played a part in each, it wasn’t overwhelming in any of the stories making Where Treetops Glisten suitable for any time of year (unless you hate all things Christmas). It was a highly enjoyable book.

If you are looking for an upbeat holiday book to sneak between your moments of holiday chaos, Where Treetops Glisten is an awesome pick! I give it 4.5/5 stars.

Jen S.

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The Legend of the Candy Cane {Book Review}

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This post contains affiliate links; thanks for your support!


Legend of the Candy Cane Board Book Review

My kids are in HEAVEN because we’ve had several Christmas books to review. In our house, there is a rule that daddy & I do not read “out of season” books. They were extra excited to see The Legend of the Candy Cane hit our bookshelf!

The Legend of the Candy Cane we received was in board book format and is about 9×10. It’s the story of a man who comes to town and sets to work on a shop. No one knows what’s going on and finally a little girl asks if she can help. They set up the candy store and she asks him about the candy canes; she’s never seen one before. He tells her the story and they go door to door, sharing candy canes and the story and inviting them to come to a grand opening on Christmas Eve.

The Legend of the Candy Cane Review - inside

All my kids loved this story. My 16 month old delighted in pointing out the dog on every page. My 4 year old liked it the best. I think the 6 year old would have preferred it in paperback. I liked this story because I was well told and Christ-centered. Secular Christmas stories are irritating :). The illustrations are colorful & beautiful to look at. I saw it at Sam’s club last week, so if you frequent one, you will probably be able to flip through it there.

If you are looking for some new Christ centered Christmas books for your advent book list/pile/basket, The Legend of the Candy Cane would be an excellent addition to your family’s library!

Do you like books that take popular “icons” and tell the Christian story behind them?

Jen S.

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