A Blog Devoted to Encouraging Homeschooling Mothers

A Blog Devoted to Encouraging Homeschooling Mothers
The Burts in 2013

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

TOS Homeschool Crew Review of PG Key SafeKey

Okay, let me just begin this review by stating that I have looked around and not found a product comparable to this one ~ read this review with that in mind!

PG Key is a USB external drive (often referred to as a "stick") manufactured by KeyWare, Inc. This product is not only a filter that can be used to protect your family while they use the internet; it not only blocks websites that are inappropriate or obscene; this little device is a portable, multi-functional tool that makes parenting and homeschooling in the internet-age easier than I ever guessed it could be.

Using the external drive is simple.
Step 1.) Remove product from the box
Step 2.) Plug product into your computer
Step 3.) Choose a password
Step 4.) There is no Step 4 - you're already done!!

So, at this point you may be curious as to what all this super-amazing product is capable of. The answer is, a WHOLE LOT!! With this one product, parents can rest assured that websites are blocked, filtering is in place, and notifications regarding user activity can be received in text or email form. PGKey provides a google based search engine that is safe and accessible via a toolbar or can be set as the homepage. There is a time lock option that controls the amount of time the computer can be used. And there is no "override" option - the password is encrypted so that it cannot be "hacked" and the computer simply will not work if the stick is removed. Those are some fabulous features - take it from a mom who has explored many of the internet safety options on the market as of late!

Beyond all of that, parents are able to review ALL forms of chat...FaceBook, IM, you name it, you have access to it all. This is accountability in action, and accountability truly is nine-tenths of the battle. If you know you will be held accountable for what you do, you probably will not make a poor choice to begin with, right?

And all of this is available to use on as many computers as you like - of course, you can only use the driver on one computer at a time, but you can use it over and over again with no yearly fee. That one feature alone makes the PGKey SafeKey stand out in a sea of internet safety products. You can even take it with you on vacation and easily use the PGKey on any laptop or PC your child will be using. That's not something I have seen any other product offer. That's a lot of security for $49.95. Check it out for yourself at

And two of my favorite homeschool-friendly features are the ability to record up to 60 hours of computer activity and alerts (sent to you via text message or email) when your child used key phrases you have chosen in advance. Why do these two features appeal to me as a homeschooling mother? I have five kiddos in five different grade levels doing five different things all at one time - the ability to signal out key words and phrases and receive a message when they use those key words means I can give the student an assignment and know when they are working on that assignment. The ability to view a recording of the student's internet activity later on means I can send a student to work on the computer while I work with another child, and later on at my convenience (whatever that is in the life of a homeschool mom, LOL!) I can review their work. I just press play, watch the video, and press pause if I need to look more closely at something they have worked on.

Long story short, I absolutely love the PGKey SafeKey. I did receive this product free of charge for review purposes, but I can promise you I would glady pay $49.95 of my own hard earned cash for it any day of the week. It is worth every penny and then some. This is a great product and the safety of your children is of paramount importance; don't hesitate to consider purchasing PGKey if you are in the market for an internet filter.

Happy Safe Surfing!

Day 49 done :)

Jan L. Burt

October is Ministry Appreciation Month

Did I mis-type the title of this blog post? Nope! More commonly known as Pastor Appreciation Month, in our church body we call October Ministry Appreciation Month. Wny, you ask? Because our pastor believes all who work in areas of ministry leadership, in a volunteer or paid position, should be "thanked" this month. It's a blessing to see those who serve week in and week out receiving hugs, notes, and even small gifts as tokens of appreciation for their service.

So, to all you who serve in your church body in any facet or form, a hearty "THANKS" goes out to you!! For all of your service, both seen and unseen, thank you so very, very much. It makes a difference and one day when you are with the Lord, you will see just what a difference your service made. After all, God's Word promises that we should not grow weary in well doing, for we will reap a harvest of righteousness if we do not give up.

Be sure to thank those who serve in your local church ~ it really does mean a lot!

Lord bless your servant's hearts!

Day 49 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Monday, October 18, 2010

Lindsay's Piano Recital at Cowtown

This video is from a piano recital my daughter Lindsay took part in over the weekend at The Old Cowtown Museum here in Wichita. She has been taking lessons from her wonderful teacher Megan for a few months now and is enjoying it tremendously. She plays part of a duet with her classmate, just in case you wonder who the other lovely young lady is.

Watch it on youtube here.
Congrats, Lindsay - it was so much fun to listen to you play in a "saloon"!!

Day 48 done :)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

TOS Review Soli Deo Gloria Resources e-book "William Tyndale: God's Smuggler"

This week's product review is for an e-book published by Soli Deo Gloria Resources "William Tyndale: God's Smuggler". This product is a unit study - but not your typical unit study - trust me, I've done a few unit studies in my 13 years of homeshcooling. This one caught me attention and held it 'til the end. In it's 21 pages, this study covers history, science, geography, character, Bible, art, and language arts. The only thing you need to add is math. I found that each of the above topics is covered thoroughly, but not in an overwhelming-how-can-I-possibly-do-everything-in-this-unit-study way (if you have attempted many unit studies, you know what I mean by that!). Even though the company says that the William Tyndale study is shorter than most of their other unit studies, I found 21 pages to be just about right for a short-term project. AND it's written to work for ALL grades and ages - yup, that means K through 12. Big bonus for the multi-level homeschooling mom :)

The 15th and 16th centuries are the setting for this study - and when you consider all the amazing things happening in the world during this era of history, it's incredible they packed so much into this e-book. I found it meaty enough to keep us interested, but not so "full" of facts that we wanted to avoid using the product. They managed to strike a nice balance with this William Tyndale unit; one of the ways they accomplished that was their incorporation of a timeline. The key players surrounding Tyndale's life are "right before your eyes" with the timeline and students are free to explore in depth whoever they take an interest in. It's always best to keep history interesting and to link key people and events so that no one country or people group becomes isolated from everything else taking place in the world at that time. Some of the key players represented on the timeline include Gutenberg, Columbus, Luther, Erasmus, Calvin, and King Henry VIII. So students see the vast and incredible changes taking place - the development of the printing press; discovery of the Americas; Luther's thesis; the librarian who measured the earth; Calvinism's advent; "I'm Henry the Eighth, I am"; Da Vinci and Michaelangelo from Italy; the Black Plague; and so much more! This is a fascinating time in history and this study of William Tyndale is a wonderful piece of that era. I cannot stress enough the importance of understanding history and our place in it as Christians in 2010; and frankly, we would not be where we are right now without William Tyndale. His prayer just before he was martyred was answered by King James (he took the throne following Queen Elizabeth's death in 1603). Whether you take a break from your normal school routine for a week or study the 15th and 16th centuries in depth over an entire school year, this e-book will be a benefit to you. You even have the opportunity to do a little translating and scribe work for yourself - it gives you a small idea of the daunting task William Tyndale took upon himself to accomplish. The wrap up activity options are a nice way to end the study and gives the students the chance to share what they have learned with friends and/or family.

You won't need too much in terms of supplies. The book and movie list at the beginning of the unit is thorough and the resources aren't difficult to obtain. The e-book itself is internet linked and it is available for purchase at the publisher's website for $8 or at The Old Schoolhouse Store for $9. As always, I must mention that I received this product free of charge for review purposes.

Check out this unit study; dig into the history of the Bible as we know it and read it today; study William Tyndale with your children and give them a real hero to look up to.

Take time to read your Bible today and give thanks to the Lord for His blessing us with copies of our very own!

Day 47 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Monday, October 11, 2010

Walking Backwards with Michal

Okay, I'm starting my study to see what lessons I can learn from the heart of Michal...and I'm starting at the end and working my way back to the beginning! I don't normally study Bible figures this way; this time, however, I think there is a whole lot that I can learn by looking at where she ended up and slowly examining how she got there.

Today I was reading about her relationship with David in 2 Samuel 6 ~ and the first thing that jumped out at me was that she LET herself become bitter. We've all met bitter women; we've probably all been bitter women at some point. And there's only one way to be a bitter woman - by letting yourself beocome one. Whether it happens quickly or over time, it's always an allowed behavior on our part. This was her choice and she chose bitterness over any of the good things the Lord had for her. What struck me is how terribly sad that is ~ we all know a bitter woman is the not someone we can stand to be around for very long and we all know a bitter woman is a force to be reckoned with ~ but a bitter woman is also very sad to look upon. Michal was in a sad state in 2 Samuel 6, but it had taken her quite some time and a series of poor choices to get there.

In verse 16 she is identified as the "daughter of Saul". Genesis tells us to leave and cleave - we leave our father and our mother and become one flesh with our husband. It's simply not right to refer to ourselves as our father's daughters after we take our marriage vows. Now we are someone's wife. Reading her described as the daughter of Saul gives me some clues as to her state of mind; frustrated, filled with regret, and ready to remind those around her that she is the daughter of the first King of Israel...hmmm, sounds like a bitter woman to me! This is a great reminder to think of myself in accordance with the standard laid out in God's Word - and no other standard will suffice. If He says I am to identify myself with my husband and to leave my parents to become one flesh and a helpmeet to my husband, then that is what I must do joyfully; not because marriage is always full of joy and ease, but because His commandments are not too burdensome for me and because He Who loves me best can be trusted best.

Also in verse 16 I read that she was "looking down" from her window. Why? That was my question...Why was she looking down from her window? She wasn't participating in David's ministry - his loves had not become her loves. She was easily filled with contempt for him because she had separated herself from him emotionally. (This may have been in response to earlier issues in their marriage - but even if Michal the woman had difficulty forgiving David, Michal the daughter of the King ought to have been able to rise above their past and forgive...and aren't we all the King of king's daughters?) This portion of Michal's behavior reminded me that I am called to fully and completely "be there" for and with my husband. Even from her window Michal could have "looked up" to the Lord rather than "looking down" on David. She could have supported him and been his biggest fan. To do this she would have to let the Lord heal her hurts - which would have meant letting God in. Maybe that was the scary part for her, and maybe that's the scary part for every wife; the letting go and letting God in.

In verse 20 we see David, King of Israel, coming home to bless his family. Was Michal about to be blessed? Let's assume she was; but she didn't know David's intentions and she didn't wait to find out. Instead she bolted out to "meet" him and told him exactly what she thought of his actions. She did it boldly, brazenly, and in total disgust. How often do I forsake my blessings because I bolt ahead to gripe and complain? Do I assume too much about my husband? Do I make a poor trade - do I exchange a blessing for bitterness? Yup, sometimes I do that.

That is as far as my backwards study of Michal got today...but it was plenty far enough for me to hear the Lord speaking loudly to my heart! God is so good; He never leaves me empty when I come to His Word seeking Him. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits. He truly does wash me with His Word and renew my spirit within me.

May the Lord's blessing be upon you and may His Word be a balm to your soul and a boon to your spirit!

Day 46 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Friday, October 8, 2010

TOS Homeschool Crew Product Review ~ The Digitial Field Trip Series( Digital Frog International)

Today's product review is for the CD curriculum "The Digital Field Trip Series" by Digital Frog International . There are 3 levels included on the CD; The Wetlands, The Rainforest, and The Desert. Using the product is easy - put the disc in your PC and choose a destination! Student and teacher workbook materials are located on the disc - you access them by opening the folder for the corresponding geographical area (wetlands, rainforest, or desert). I also received PDF Review's Guides for each of the 3 options (all products received free of charge for review purposes). An informational/instructional guide is included inside the CD case - very handy for finding info quickly and easily.

The Wetlands digital field trip is the original title in the series; it uses virtual reality technology to explore Cloud Lake (Algonquin Park, Canada). The CD has more than 80 screens and are hybrid (allows you to use the same disc on Windows and Macintosh platforms). QuickTime is required for The Wetlands to work properly. Five sections make up The Wetlands; the Field Trip, Wetlands Types, the Study of a Bog, Mechanisms of a Wetland, and Our Endangered Wetlands. As you explore the different sections simply move your mouse pointer over the Virtual Reality pictures and drag to have a panoramic view. You will see Field Notes with information about what is seen on the screen, including animals and plants. Tabs under pictures display extra photographs and movies. The Hot Text cursor feature allows the student to click on a word and display it's definition. The Say-It icon play a spoken pronunciation. The easy to use Menu is accessible at all times from any screen by pressing "M" on the keyboard or by moving your mouse to the menu tab in the top left corner of the screen. Help is never far off - simply press "H" on the keyboard and help is on it's way :)

The Rainforest section is similar to The Wetlands in operation and consists of the following segments: the Field Trip, Rainforest Study, Rainforest Types, Mechanisms of a Rainforest, and Our Endangered Rainforests. From the main menu screen of The Rainforest the student can access the Quick Tour, which contains 5 short videos. These videos give students an overview of CD navigation - they are short and informative, a busy homeschooling mom's dream come true! A total of 30 rainforest plants and animals are profiled in the Digital Field Trip portion of The Rainforest and 29 movies are accessible by clicking on the projector icon. There is more to be explored than can be shared here; your child won't be bored in a few minutes while using this program.

The third section is The Desert which visits 5 North American deserts and uses over 150 screens. The Field Trips, Desert Types, Desert Study, Mechanisms of a Desert, and Human Impact are the CD's five sections for The Desert; this was hands down my favorite segment of the 3 regional topics. I love the panoramic views at each post in the Digital Field Trip. Deserts are fascinating habitats and I only wish I had this resource available to use W-A-Y back in 3rd grade when I wrote a paper on kangaroo rats. I would have learned, and retained, and enjoyed the process so much more!

My personal thoughts on the product are that the maps are a great idea - they make navigation easy and the clickable puzzle pieces in each sub-category allow the student to easily see what they have learned and where else they need to explore. All of my children are able to use this curriculum (ages 10 through 17) although the 10th and 12th graders are probably a bit beyond this curriculum; for them it would be best used as a supplement to their science or geography studies. The fast find keyword search from anywhere in the program is a handy tool. I like the preference settings for sound and screen size, too - with 5 students of varying ages, it's a nice way for each of them to customize their learning experience. The bookmark feature makes it simple to find a topic later on without hunting for it - and it's a nice teacher tool for marking what needs to be reviewed. The cost per CD set is $125 for home licensing and the products are available at Other products available from The Digital Frog include The Digital Frog 2.5 and Science Matrix; Cell Structure and Function, and each of the aforementioned for sale individually. Look around the website and view the demos. For a variety of learning styles, these products make science fun and interesting.

Happy Science Studies & Remember to Be Encouraged Today!

Day 45 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Oh, What to Do...

I have been feeling led (gently led, mind you) to begin working on a Biblical study of the life of Michal (King Saul's daughter; King David's wife). This isn't exactly a new idea ~ I've felt the Lord tugging at my heart to invest time studying Michal's heart for quite some time now. I've been "putting it off" because, to be totally honest, I'm super busy! But how on earth can I be too busy to do what He is leading me to do? And if He owns it all, that "all" includes my time, so I actually cannot be too busy to use His time/my time to do His will. I pretty much need to get started with my study of Michal, don't I?!

So I'm asking my blog followers to help keep me accountable - ask me how it's going, remind me to keep doing what He asks me to do and not let the busy life I lead as a homeschool mom crowd out His best for me, give me a stern rebuke if need be! How will you know if I am actually doing this study on Michal; how will you know if you need to "lemme have it"? I'll share some of what I study on my blog so that you can hold me accountable. And don't worry, no pressure on you; you're all busy moms, too, and the last thing I want to do is heap one more burden upon you. No one is obligated to keep me accountable ~ you are free to check up on me and you are free to NOT check up on me. Placing this on my blog for all to see will keep my heart a bit closer to my King throughout this process; there is something about commiting my work to Jesus openly before other believers that helps me move in the right direction (hopefully that makes sense to someone other than just me!).

Have a fantastic day as you seek to serve and love our Lord with your day to day life as a mom.

Psalm 105:4 (New Living Translation) says, "Search for the LORD and for His strength, and keep on searching."

That's my prayer for you, and for myself, today - search for Him and keep on searching!! He's worth the search, amen?!

Day 44 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Friday, October 1, 2010

TOS Homeschool Crew Product Review ~ Foundlings, Book One of The Peleg Chronicles by Matthew Christian Harding

Ah, the joy I have today over the fact that I'm writing a review about a work of fiction! Homeschool moms spend SO MUCH TIME focusing on academia, they can forget the simple pleasure that comes from reading a piece of fiction. This product review has been like a breath of fresh air.

First I'd like to give a brief overview of The Peleg Chronicles and then I'll move on to my thoughts and the thoughts of my 16 year old daughter regarding the book. I'll wrap up with the product information.

The Foundlings is the first book in a series titled The Peleg Chronicles written by Matthew Christian Harding. The author and his wife homeschool their four children. As most homeschooling parents know, it can be tricky to find acceptable fiction reading for our children; Mr. Harding's intent in writing this series of books was to teach children to "align themselves with the Word of God, to not be a hearer only, but a doer" through Scripture-filled fiction. His willingness to take his parental responsibility to raise doers of the Word seriously has resulted in reading material that blesses other such parents. As is often the case, the decision to honor the Lord with his gifting has become a blessing to the Christian homeschool community as a whole. As the title implies, The Peleg Chronicles takes place in the time of Peleg, whose story can be found in Genesis 11 at the time of the Tower of Babel. Based on this premise, Mr. Harding weaves a fictional plot that includes dragons, giants, darkness and light, nobility and honor, chivalry, personal sacrifice and bravery wrapped neatly in 30 easy-to-read chapters. The book ends with a thorough explanation of the Gospel of Jesus - which serves as a witness to unbelievers who read the book & as a source of encouragement to those of us who know Jesus personally. I'm all for witnessing to the lost and all for encouraging the Body of Christ :)

As a mom, I have to say that I was relieved to find a book I can hand to my children with assurance that they are reading "well". While I myself do not much care for some of the "darker" elements in this book (i.e. the evil priests and their pagan sacrifices) the characters and elements themselves are handled with much integrity, reminding me of Tolkein's ability to bring the reality of a fallen world and the wretchedness of war into his books without graphic descriptions. Mr. Harding follows in Toklein's vein, calling evil what it is while avoiding the popular modern-day emphasis on "details". Paul wrote that there are some things we should not even speak of; I think the author of The Foundlings understands what Paul was teaching us. I also enjoyed the setting of the book - all the way back in Genesis man is portrayed as that which God made him to be - man, not cave-man. A hearty thanks to the author for honoring God's Word in details large and small!

My 16-year-old daughter shared these comments about The Foundlings: "When I first began reading this book, I felt Chapter 1 started off a little slow for my liking. As an avid reader, I like to be pulled in from the opening paragraph. To my delight, however, Chapter 2 was filled with action (realistic action, mind you) and I LOVED the way Scripture was incorporated! As a student of Jane Austen and a young author myself (I have written one novel and am working on my second) I must say the character development was excellent and very clean cut. Over all, it's an interesting read that makes God's Word applicable to all of life in a way that is anything but corny. I would highly recommend this book and will read it again myself ~ which, by the way, is the mark of a good book. C.S. Lewis said we ought not waste time reading once that which we would not read again and I very much agree. Read this book and it's follow-ups and you won't be disappointed!"

The final portion of this review consists of the product information ~ which is very important since I would like my readers to know how to get their hands on this book! The Peleg Chronicles are published by Behemoth Books/Zoe and Sozo Publishing and can be purchased at Book One and Book Two are $11.95 each and a Chronology Chart (from Adam to Joseph) is also available for $7.50 laminated (or $5 non-laminated). You can read more about the books and the author at the website. Older children can read this on their own, as can adults; younger children could enjoy it as a read aloud at the parent's discretion. And as always, I received this product free of charge for review purposes as a member of the 2010 TOS Homeschool Crew.

Enjoy some fiction today and, as always, Be Encouraged!

Day 43 done :)

Jan L. Burt