Friday, April 29, 2011

Review: Pumpkin Seed Press

One of the workshops I attended at the Midwest Homeschool Convention this April was one by Shelley Noonan on mentoring your daughter.  A friend had listened to this workshop last year and recommended it as one I might like. As Ms. Noonan spoke from her heart about her past, her relationships with her daughters, and her advice for mothers like me, I became curious about the products of her company, Pumpkin Seed Press.  Fortunately for me, at the end of the workshop it was announced that product reviewers were being sought and interested individuals could visit the booth in the vendor hall.

I was graciously provided with several titles to review, detailed below, followed by my thoughts.

Beautiful Girlhood
Revised by Karen Andreola (original by Mabel Hale)

This title, originally published in the 1940s, is intended for girls ages 9-15.  It covers such topics as ambition, dreams, friendships, dress, a Christian life, the quiet hour, responsibility, and more.  There are 33 topics/chapters covered in this 205 page book.

The Companion Guide to Beautiful Girlhood
Shelley Noonon and Kimberly Zach

This guide is to be used as a mother/daughter study for girls ages 9-12.  It includes 32 weeks of character building lessons that correlate with the chapters in Beautiful Girlhood.  This study was developed as a result of precious "tea time" Ms. Noonan had with her daughter discussing Beautiful Girlhood.  Each chapter has three sections: Discussion Questions, Bible Activities/Applications, and Journal Topics. It is a flexible tool for a mother to guide her preteen daughter from child to woman.

Beyond Beautiful Girlhood Plus Companion Guide
Margaret Elizabeth Sangster, Revised & Expanded by Shelley Noonan

 This title, recommended for ages 13-20, is the next step after Beautiful Girlhood.  This book is actually only the first part of the 4-part Winsome Womanhood, written in 1900.  It has been expanded to include the following sections for each chapter:  Mother to Mother, Mother's Journal and Bible Study, Daughter's Journal and Bible Study, Projects, and Resources.  Over the course of 7-21 weeks, mother and daughter are to read the chapters, either aloud together or individually, and complete her portion of the companion.  Then they meet together on a regular basis to discuss the questions and share.  Using the Projects section, mother and daughter can decide on an activity or further explore the topic with additional resources.  In addition to an introduction to womanhood and character building, topics such as friendship, hobbies, reading material, education, and career as also covered. This title and companion is essentially a home economics guide with a Bible study.

The Three Weavers Plus Companion Guide
Robert and Shelley Noonan

Designed for a father to discuss purity with his daughter, this title is meant for use with girls ages 12-18 years.   The Three Weavers is actually an excerpt from a chapter of a 1903 book titled The Little Colonel by Annie Fellows Johnston. It is an allegory about the responsibility of a father to guide, guard, and train his daughter in the selection of suitor. The Companion Portion includes a discussion guide, a Bible study for the father, and an activity section.  There are six chapters and the study should take 7 weeks, with the last week to be set aside for a Purity Ceremony.

My Thoughts

The Three Weavers Plus Companion Guide was not a favorite of the four titles I reviewed. This was based more on a philosophy of approach, rather than a disagreement that parents have the responsibility to train both daughters and sons on purity.  I did enjoy the allegory of the story and would definitely have my daughter read that as a stand alone.  However, I don't really see my husband doing this type of study, discussion, and the related activities in this title, nor my daughter being at all receptive to this approach.  Instead, this topic is something we approach more naturally in normal conversations, and have since a young age. For those looking for this type of study, it may fit the bill. The directions are concise and the discussion questions clear, paving the way for a father to more easily approach this subject with his daughter.

At 14 years old, my daughter is beyond girlhood and plummeting, rather quickly, toward womanhood.  While many of the topics in Beautiful Girlhood are still relevant, it and the Companion Guide would have been better suited about two years ago.  Given that this title was originally written in the 1940s, there are portions, such as wearing a simple hair style (in the modesty chapter), that would cause definite eye rolls from a modern teen.  Depending on your teen, it may be better to pick and choose chapters that apply more to your daughter.  Or, perhaps it could just spur further discussion of how what seems outdated may or may not apply today. Regardless, this would be a worthwhile title for a mother and teen daughter to read together as a baseline for discussing matters of the heart and maturing as a young Christian woman. Preteens will get even more out of the chapters and discussions. Ms. Noonan has also provided a wonderful resource for Beautiful Girlhood with her blog,

For the younger set, The Companion Guide to Beautiful Girlhood is a lovely mother/daughter character Bible study that guides a preteen during a normally rocky time of change. It opens of the lines of communication and directs both mother and daughter to reflect on important life lessons that many don't learn until adulthood. What is nice about this study is that it is very flexible, and no matter how you go about it, you are bound to achieve the end result of developing a closer relationship with your daughter.

Though Beyond Beautiful Girlhood is based on a title written in 1900, I actually liked this title better than Beautiful Girlhood,written 40 years later. It is better suited for the issues my 14-year-old is now dealing with or will soon be approaching.  However, I also like the layout better with the companion and Bible study in the same book, and find the text more readable.  While this title also deals with character and issues of the heart, it also includes projects and resources that are more along the lines of a home economics course and/or preparation for adulthood, including career paths. One of the most surprising chapters for me was the one on higher education.  I fully expected to read an outdated chapter encouraging young women to stay in the home rather than pursue a college education or aspire to be a life-long learner through rich experiences. As with Beautiful Girlhood, this study is quite flexible and would make an excellent mother/daughter Bible study and tool for purposeful mentoring.

One of the things I keep reminding my daughter is that she needs to start setting aside some of her younger tomboy ways.  She's gregarious, and usually often loud.  She has many male friends, mostly because she finds them less complicated than her own kind, and her interests in the past have related more to boys than girls. Dare I say one of her favorite things to do is spar in her karate class! I have to admit, I love her spunk and spirit, though I know some would frown upon it as not being ladylike.  I disagree; I think she just needs some refining...and maybe I do too (smiles).  I want to keep all that spirit and spunk, full of life and boldness, but in a package that is distinctly different than "one of the guys".  As she and her peers, both male and female, mature, I can see we are well on our way to that distinction.

I wasn't sure how I'd like these guides. I have some old-fashioned ways, but with quite the modern flair.  However, after hearing Shelley Noonan speak from the heart with passion about her experiences and raising her daughters, I was drawn to learn more about these titles. I did not have this sort of purposeful training as a young woman and have been fumbling along in providing that for my daughter. While I tend to do my mentoring throughout the daily happenings of life, I can certainly see the value of a purposeful study for training and building of relationships and these titles have given me some thoughts on how to do that. Sipping tea from pretty cups and eating scones is not my style nor my daughter's, but there is no reason why some of these same discussions can't take place with a Starbucks and a muffin, no? There is something to glean from the Beautiful Girlhood and Beyond Beautiful Girlhood titles for all mothers to help guide a daughter into the woman she is to become.  There may be a definite old-fashioned tone in the titles, but it sure beats some of the modern titles I've seen that supposedly are meant to direct young women!

Whether you have sons or daughters (or both), Pumpkin Seed Press has a variety of tools to assist you in Biblically training and mentoring your children. Visit their website at  Readers of this review may use promo code FREESH to receive free shipping on all orders over $50.

Disclaimer: I was provided the product free of charge in exchange for my honest review. I have received no other compensation. I strive to give a balanced overview of each product, detailing my opinion of both pros and cons and how the product worked for my family. What works for one family may not work for another. I encourage you to read other reviews and research sufficiently to determine if any product will be a benefit to your homeschool.

Review: Alone with God Bible Studies (Greek N Stuff)


When I found out the Crew would be reviewing products from Greek N Stuff, my mind automatically thought of their popular Greek and Latin programs.  However, I was unaware that they also have a series of Bible studies available.  I knew of the Greek, but not the “stuff”, I guess.

There are four studies in the series, titled Alone with God; I receive the I Can Study Jonah & Ruth study. They are available in either a NIV or King James version.

Primarily written for the middle to upper elementary age group, the Alone with God studies are simple enough for a student to complete during a personal devotion.  At almost 12, my son is on the upper range of the target group.

I Can Study Jonah & Ruth is a 13-week study covering two passages.  The first 5 weeks cover Jonah 1:1 – 4:11 and the next 8 weeks cover Ruth 1:1 – 4:22.

The weekly lessons are broken up into six segments, one for each day, Monday – Saturday.  The length of the passage covered each week varies, with as few a 3 verses to as much as 18 for this particular study. Each day starts with prayer and reading/reciting memory verse, followed with three questions relating to the week’s Scripture verse. The answers to the questions are directly from the Scripture for that week with the specific verse listed by each question.

Along with a memory verse, there is a Think and Pray About It section for each week. These vary in length and require a bit more thought than the daily questions.  For example, a question from the Ruth study is as follows:
Sometimes we think the good things we do go unnoticed.  That is absolutely not true.  God always notices.  And, eventually, people often notice, too.  But there is a very important question we should ask ourselves.  Why are we doing good?  Do we hope people will notice and praise us?  Or are we doing the good we do simply to serve God?
Also include in the sidebar of each week’s study are highlights of geographical, biographical, historical, and cultural aspects to enrich the understanding of the reading passage for that week. For example,

How far did Jonah have to travel to get to Nineveh? (answer: 500 miles)

Why could people go onto other people’s property and pick grain?

What was an ephah?

You can view a sample page of I Can Study Jonah & Ruth as well as sample pages of other titles by Greek N Stuff.

Even though my 11-year-old son is on the older end of the target age group, he seemed to enjoy this study. He doesn’t always do well independently, so the direct questions with the information on where to find the answer likely appealed to him as did the short daily work.  He didn’t feel the level of the study was inappropriate for his age. The appearance of the pages is very age-neutral, lacking any childish graphics.  While this is a simple study, right down to the physical appearance of black and white copies and comb binding, I would say that it is adaptable to many ages, keeping it simple if needed, or using it as a jumping off point. For older kids or those ready to jump in to an in-depth study, this might not be the best choice. For us, I liked that the simplicity made the study more approachable to my son.  It wasn’t intimidating, making it easier to build a daily habit of getting into God’s Word.

I Can Study Jonah and Ruth is available at the Greek N Stuff website for $8.95.  There you will also find information on the complete Alone with God Bible Studies as well as Latin and Greek language learning programs by Greek N Stuff.

Curious about what other TOS Crew members had to say about this product?  Visit the official TOS Crew blog to read more reviews.

Disclaimer: This review was provided as a result in my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Crew. I was provided the product free of charge in exchange for my honest review. I have received no other compensation. I strive to give a balanced overview of each product, detailing my opinion of both pros and cons and how the product worked for my family. What works for one family may not work for another. I encourage you to read reviews of other Crew members and research sufficiently to determine if any product will be a benefit to your homeschool.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

You were right, Mom!

Could it possibly be that my teenager actually uttered the words "You were right, Mom!" with zero prompting? That's jealous all you moms of teenagers.

I wasn't sure I heard her right, so I asked her to repeat what she said...again, and again, and again. Not only was it flabbergasting a show of her maturity that she said it in the first place, but she had no problem repeating it, which made me drop my jaw to the floor even further proud that she didn't let pride get in the way.

Oh, happy day! I'm going to savor the moment before I go back to not knowing anything.

(Hugs to dd! Thanks for giving my suggestion a try.)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Where are you spring?

I woke up this morning to let the dogs out, started to head down the stairs, and halted mid-step as I looked outside the window high in our foyer.  You’ve gotta be kidding…snow?

April snow in Michigan isn’t all the unusual, but I wasn’t expecting it nonetheless. I almost put away all our winter gear…almost.  There is a reason I usually wait until May before tucking away warmer items, and this is it. Even so, this morning still took me by surprise. Freshly fallen snow is always so pretty, unless it is in mid-April. It just looks bitter and dreary then.

I peered through the glass in our front door.  Bleh.

 April thunderstorms have been rolling in for weeks, the buds are starting to form on the trees, and daffodils are peeking out of the ground.  Last Sunday was 80 degrees! Spring was in the air…and I'm ready for it to stay.

Will the real spring please show itself? There is something just not right about an Easter egg hunt in the snow.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Will Detroit rise from the ashes?

Yesterday our family did something a bit unusual.  We walked the streets of Detroit with nearly 25,000 people down a 1.6 mile stretch, starting at Comerica Park (home of the Tigers) down to the Spirit of Detroit, and back.  Now I hate crowds.  Absolutely despise them. In fact, I'm not sure if it is crowds or being cold, especially from raining weather like yesterday, that I hate more. So, what event would make me leave my warm and roomy home?  It was something unprecedented...Christians from all over the area and of varying denominations coming together to pray for a city in despair.

We've been attending Oak Pointe church in Novi for about a year and a half.  Shortly after we started attending, Pastor Bob Shirok shared from his heart how he desired to reach the people of our area with a focused campaign. Soon the effort began to grow and other churches wanted to join.  At this date, over 500 churches in the Southeastern Michigan area are involved.  In the video below, you cannot help but hear the humble heart of Pastor Bob Shirok as he talks about the EACH - Everyone A Chance to Hear - campaign, which was inspired by a friend in Africa, as well as a Time Magazine article about the Detroit.  The Time article spoke of the failure of Detroit opening with, Detroit has become an icon of the failed American city,” and closing with “The world is now watching Detroit with interest – and waiting to see if it finds a way to rise from the ashes.”

EACH 9/7/10 from Oak Pointe Church on Vimeo

I've actually never been on a prayer walk before, so there is nothing like just jumping in with the largest one to ever take place in the area.  I'll be honest, the rain storm while we were driving there was a bit of a downer.  Bleh.  However, by the time we got there, the rain stopped.  Before the walk started...the sun came out.  The rain held off for about three hours during the event and slowly started to pick up at the very end.  Was it a God thing?  You decide.

The crowd gathered at Comerica Park was amazing. Here is a pic my son took before the walk started.

Another pic, by William Archie and featured in a Detroit Free Press article, showing a wide angle.
The event started with some music by local performers, including the Selected of God Choir, featured in recent Chrysler television advertisements.

My son looking over the crowd gathered.  The Fox Theater is in the background. Notice the blue skies?
Then the crowd began the walk down Woodward Avenue to the Spirit of Detroit statue, which has scripture from 2 Corinthains 3:17 engraved on the wall behind it, “Now the Lord is that Spirit, and where the spirit of the Lord is, there is Liberty.
Small groups gathered to pray at the Spirit of Detroit.
 It started to drizzle just as we finished our walk.  My husband pulled out his obnoxiously over-sized umbrella so we could stay dry listening to some of the closing music.
I'm glad we attended. There were several things that made this event special...unique.  First of all, never have I seen barriers broken down and churches and people of many different denominations and demographics come together.  I mean, while most quietly walked the streets, some softly singing, not everyone does a prayer walk the same.  And that is ok.  I reminded myself of this as the loudly praying woman behind me had her friend close out her prayer with the sound of a vuvuzala. Afterall, if it is appropriate to sound a vuvuzala in the excitement of soccer game, why not on a prayer walk, even if it isn't my style?

Secondly, this isn't just about a prayer walk.  It is about restoring a city in need.  In conjunction with the EACH campaign, the goal is for these unified churches and Christians to contribute over a million hours of service in the city of Detroit. Thousands of volunteers are expected to provide 10,000 meals a day for 40 days, starting on Easter, in addition to medical and dental clinics, resource fairs, and more.

Will Detroit rise from the ashes? When people and organizations, in the numbers as I saw yesterday, come together with a common goal to heal a city, inviting God into the plan, amazing things can happen. Yes, the world is watching Detroit with interest. Watch on world...I don't think you'll want to miss this.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Yes, I sent my kid to Latin Convention!

Some people think it a bit strange that I've put my daughter on a plane two years in a row to attend a Latin Convention for several days.  Homeschooling moms typically don't question the activity, but more the travel arrangements of flying alone.  Others, usually outside of the homeschooling community, seem to have trouble with why she'd even want to go. Now I realize it isn't the typical desired activity for a 14-year-old girl, but we roll a bit differently here.  This is a highly desired annual event!

She attends as part of an online school, Lone Pine Classical. The teacher lives in Colorado and all students ages 12 and up are invited to attend the Colorado Junior Classical League State Convention.  Students are required to take 3 academic tests and have many optional categories to enter for competition.

Unfortunately, she had a very early flight this year, which required her to be at the airport at 5 a.m. She had a travel partner, a local friend that also takes classes with Lone Pine.  Despite the early hour, they still were pretty excited about heading out.
This year she tried two new (to her) categories, Small Model and English Oratory.  She placed in both!  English Oratory required her to write and essay in English based on this year's convention theme, memorize it, and present it. She took 1st place in her level!  For Small Model, students needed to create a classical themed piece.  Though she's never really sculpted before, aside from a few clay creations when younger, she took 4th place for her entry of a tree nymph.
Pretty cool, eh? She was inspired by a recent art project and built upon what she learned with that project.  She started with an aluminum foil core and used Sculpy as the sculpting material. The model was lovingly wrapped to make the trip in mishandled luggage and made it safely without a curl misplaced.  Glue was also packed just in case, though!

There were other awards, both for academic tests and several group events.  Twelve students from Lone Pine attended and they returned with 74 awards all together.  No, that isn't typical.  It is just the result of a great teacher and a great group of kids!

Overall, it was a wonderful experience, even if some think it a bit strange or over the top. Will I send my kid to Latin Convention again?  You betcha!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Kids: Body Scanner or Pat Down?

We rarely fly.  The increasing airport security since 9/11 hasn't bothered me simply because it hasn't had had much of an impact on me personally, positively or negatively, aside from knowing that measures are being taken to make air travel safe.  I simply haven't put much more thought about it, until now.

My 14-year-old daughter is flying on her own to attend a convention in CO.  She's flown solo a couple of times, so that part doesn't bother me as much.  Plus, she'll be traveling with another young teen and will have company.  It isn't that I don't worry about her getting to her destination, but what is bothering me more is the security measures taken in the Detroit and Denver airports before she even steps foot on the plane.  Both airports have the new body scanners.  In the case of Detroit (and likely Denver, too), everyone has either go through the scanner or opt for a pat down.  It isn't random like other airports. Neither of these options is acceptable to me.

I have concerns about the potential future health risks of the body scanners.  Some say the backscatter machines may cause risk for skin cancer in the future, but the impact won't be known for many years.  The millimeter wave machines use different technology that doesn't seem to be causing as much concern. These are the kind they have at Detroit, but I'm not sure about Denver. I understand it would take many, many repeat exposures, but I try to avoid any unnecessary risks to me kids. Aside from health risks, this is a virtual strip search.  I know they say they don't keep the images, but I find it entirely too creepy the potential to keep them, in addition to the fact that some stranger is looking at the image in another room.

However, the new "enhanced" pat downs didn't sound like a decent alternative. I know that female TSA agents are used for pat downs on females, but I've read accounts of males patting down females unless a special request is made.  It isn't like a female is going to make the process comfortable either. From my understanding, the pat downs are quite invasive and sometimes done in a private room. What if the child's parent isn't present (such would be the case of my daughter)?  What then?  I couldn't find any guidelines regarding a parent being present and I suspect there aren't any rules requiring one. Furthermore, when someone opts out, I've been told they announce it rather loudly and redirect the person.  It seems like a lot to ask of a 14-year-old traveling without an adult.

What it came down to was a refection on what situation could require more advocating, possibly have more things go wrong, or potentially be traumatizing. Emotional health was a consideration just as much as physical health.

I made my decision, but it wasn't easy.  I decided my daughter would go through the body scanner.  Out of the two choices, that was also the one that made dd the least uncomfortable.

I do understand the need for increased security measures.  I just don't like them, especially when my kids are subjected to them.

What would you have decided if it were your kid?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Midwest Convention Recap

I just returned from my fourth year at the Midwest Homeschool Convention in Cincinnati, OH.  This year, instead of it being strictly a mom getaway weekend, my dear friend, Katy, and I decided to bring our teens, who are both starting high school next year.

After 9 years of homeschooling and three previous years of attending this particular convention, I came into this year with a slightly different mindset.  I’ve heard many of the speakers, so I made a point to attend sessions of speakers of those I had never listened to (or in some cases, never even heard of).  I had mixed results and started attending some of the more "sure thing" speakers, those that are known to be excellent and knowledgeable presenters, like Susan Wise Bauer, toward the end of the convention. In other cases, I found some new speakers to explore and gleaned some new information.  In all, I attended 9 sessions with a mix of some old favorites, and new (to me) speakers.

I also didn’t have much to purchase for next year, and the vendor hall was less of a quest for the perfect product and more a time to browse and see what is out there.  My only true school purchase was Math-u-See Pre-Algebra for my son. My other purchases included:
  • a Rin-Tin book for my son (Timberdoodle)
  • a t-shirt for my son (I can't remember the company name, unfortunately)
  • some graph paper tablets for math work for my son (Miller Pads and Paper)
  • soap, a candle, and a laundry bar for me (Virginia Soaps and Scents)
I also came home with a review product from Pumpkin Seeds Press, which I’ll talk more about in a future post.

You'll notice that I purchased nothing for my daughter! First of all, since she was with me, she was able to purchase any fun souvenir items on her own. However, the only thing she came home with was a gift for her brother, a Lego stop-animation DVD that told the story of Jericho, by Shatterpoint Entertainment.  Isn't that sweet?  As for curricula, I have many of her items already, and those I don't are textbooks selected by various online courses and not necessarily something found in the vendor hall.

In previous years, I’ve come home with much more. However, after 9 years of homeschooling and 3 years of being a product reviewer, I’m finding I already have plenty on my shelves!  While that is a good thing (and less costly), I sort of missed the quest for products in the vendor hall this year.

Meeting new people is always a blessing each year. I had the opportunity to meet several TOS Crew members. A small group of us met Saturday a.m. for a quick chat and I met a couple other Crew members that were working at booths in the vendor hall. It is always nice to meet online acquaintances in person. In addition, I was able to meet Niki of In the Hands of a Child when I dropped off some product by my company, Pear Educational Products, that they are distributing.  I’ll expand more on this wonderful partnership at a later time.

My teen had a great time and enjoyed the sessions in the TeenTrack.  She even went to a workshop on the topic of teen etiquette on her own free will, which made me proud considering I met a mom in the coffee line that was bribing her daughter with a mocha to attend the same session.

And I can’t forget to mention Tim Hawkins.  What a talented and funny guy.  I laughed all the way through the performance.

Overall, this is a great convention to attend and well worth the 4-hour drive to get there. I'm not sure if I'll continue to go every year, as it can get expensive to travel, but I'm sure I'll make it again before my homeschooling years are over.