A Blog Devoted to Encouraging Homeschooling Mothers

A Blog Devoted to Encouraging Homeschooling Mothers
The Burts in 2013

Thursday, August 30, 2012

How's It Going?

My question to you today is this: How are things going in your house? How is homeschooling going for you? How about for your kids? How are things for your husband? What about your homeschooling friends ~ how are things going for them?

We've all heard the saying, "Things are rough all over." And some seasons in life prove that saying to be true. If you are going through one of those seasons, chances are those around you are, too. And they could probably use some encouragement.

It may be the very last thing you feel like doing when you are going through your own rough patch, but it's the right thing to do. In fact, it's more the right thing to do when you don't feel like doing it than it is when everything in your world is peachy-keen.

Take a few moments to pray about this, asking the Lord to lay someone on your heart that you can encourage today. Do the same thing tomorrow. And again on the day after that.

You will be amazed at the myriad of ways that God will be glorified by this simple act. Glory and praise that He won't be receiving if you don't reach out and encourage others, even as you walk through your own hard times. In fact, I'd like to suggest that He might receive even more praise when you bless others even while you are in need of a blessing.

I'd love to hear how God is glorified when you reach out and encourage someone who needs it. And don't forget to be expecting God's encouragement poured out in your life as well.

Happy encouraging!

Day 220 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Monday, August 20, 2012

Schoolhouse Review Crew ~ I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist (Apologia Press)

I am blessed to review products for TOS. And when I receive a product from Apologia I consider myself doubly blessed! Now, when the book I receive is a TOS review item, from Apologia Press, co-authored by a Wheaton College graduate (Norman L. Geisler, class of 1960) then I am just about screaming with delight! Believe it or not, all of this took place before I began reading the book I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist

This book, combined with it's companion workbook ~ I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist Curriculum ~ makes a solid high school worldview course. Fifteen chapters, 3 appendices, additional notes and indexes of quality information are included in this 447-page wealth of a resource. And the companion workbook is high-quality, spiral bound, 279-pages; it has a "How To Use This Book" section, an introduction, 14 chapters, a conclusion, 3 appendices, and a handy glossary.  Students will be presented with study questions, supplemental material, activities for discussion, spiritual growth, and will grow in their writing skills. The workbook clearly lays out which chapter of the softcover book to read when.  These resources, when used together, pack a powerful punch.

A quote from the book says, "The purpose of this study is to help you understand and remember the critical points about Christianity and other worldviews."  Can you think of many things that we take the time to teach our children that carry more weight than that? It's enormously important, not just for the here and now but for time and all eternity.

Here are a couple of examples of the things covered in the introduction of I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist (yes, this is just in the introduction! and yes, it gets better as you progress through the book!).
     ~ The 5 most consequential questions in life are:
               1.) Origin - Where did we come from?
               2.) Identity - Who are we?
               3.) Meaning - Why are we here?
               4.) Morality - How should we live?
               5.) Destiny - Where are we going?
      The answers to these questions depend on the existence of God.

     ~ The Three Major Religious Worldviews -
               Theism - God made all (Judaism, Christianity, Islam)
               Pantheism - God is all (Zen Buddhism, Hinduism, New Age)
               Atheism - No God at all (Religious Humanism)

     ~ On page 28, the authors lay out the "logical, twelve-point progression" followed in this book. They clearly explain what is covered in each chapter. For example, Chapters 1 & 2 cover: Truth about reality is knowable. The opposite of true is false. Chapters 3 thru 7 cover: It is true that the theistic God exists. This is evidence by the: Beginning of the universe, Design of the universe, Design of life, Moral Law. (The book progresses in like manner, making it easy to see what your student is learning day by day.)

The Bible is the predominant textbook in our family's homeschool - just as it is the predominant book in our daily lives. It's not a relic to be treated gently, nor a book to carry to and from church services on Sunday mornings. It contains all that we need for life and godliness, and it is the most valuable possession in our home. So, in our homeschool, Bible study is always the first subject listed in each child's planner and the last thing we discuss each night before bed.

Many things will fight for your high school student's time. Your job is to choose wisely what subjects and activities will fill that time. You've only got these four short years of high school once, and the time really does fly by. Are you putting the Bible in it's rightful place? I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist can help solidify your teens beliefs during these crucial years. I sincerely hope you give consideration to using it in your homeschool.

The only downside of this curriculum is that it's actually out of stock until September. But in reality, I think that says a lot about the quality of this book! I hope you take a look at the website,, and check out all they have to offer. And I really hope you check back in September to order your own copy of I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist.

The book itself sells for $16, and the companion workbook sells for $33.

To read what other TOS reviews have to say, click HERE.

 Disclaimer ~ I received this product free of charge for review purposes. All opinions shared here are solely my own.

Keep Christ at the center of your homeschool, and trust Him for the future of each of your children!

Day 219 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Umm, Seriously??

The title of this blog post seems to summarize my life in all it's different facets as of late! Ever have days (or weeks...or months...) that cause you to face-palm and say, "Umm, seriously?!?!?"

Now if I were to remain in the place, spiritually speaking, where I felt sudden shock and at times even despair, then I would be living a very defeated life. But having God's Word as my guide, my ABBA Father to call out to, my Savior Jesus interceding for me day and night, and the Holy Spirit as my personal and perfect Counselor for any and every situation ~ well, that's how I live a victorious Christian life!

When things confound me and I just don't understand what God's purpose is, I pray. A lot. I spend time in the Word. A lot of time. I sit quietly and say, "Speak, Lord - your servant is listening." I find specific Bible verses that fit my particular dilemma ( multiple dilemmas as of right now!) and I carry those verses around with me on note cards throughout the day. I even put them under my pillow at night so that the last thing I ponder at night and the first thing I think about in the morning is God's truth. I continually "think on these things". And believe me, it is a soothing balm for my soul.

No matter what you may be facing right now - if it's a huge need, a tiny speed bump on life's long road, or even if things are better than they've ever been - turn to the Lord continually all throughout the day. He is always near to us, and it is a sweet blessing to have Him at our side, holding our hand as it says in Isaiah.

I'd like to ask you to consider praying for my family, if you think of it in the coming days. My husband has been out of work since early May, and as you can imagine, finances are pretty tight. Your prayers for a job to arise for my husband - soon and very soon, if you know what I mean! - would be appreciated so very much. The Lord has a plan for our family, and I know He doesn't intend for this season of unemployment to last forever. I'll be excitedly sharing how the Lord answers your prayers on my blog in the future - keep your eyes open for a whole lot of praising and glorifying and thanking the Lord!!

Lord bless you all as you homeschool for Christ and His Kingdom. Our school year begins next week - and I must admit, it is always a very exciting time for me. What a blessing to homeschool and to see my children grow in His truth!

Day 218 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Schoolhouse Review Crew ~ Vocabulary Spelling

Sometimes you are blessed to be able to review a product that makes you enormously happy. This is one of those times!!

Vocabulary Spelling is an online spelling and vocabulary resource that is, honestly, one of my favorite products...EVER!

As soon as I registered and set up my account, I started digging around the website. I was pleased as punch with what I discovered, and that pleased as punch feeling has only grown the more I've used this resource!

I received the Premium Membership, which allows up to five students to have their own accounts (in addition to my teacher account). They simply log in using their own user name and password, and then view and complete their assignments - which I assign from the "Premium Teacher Toolbox" on my homepage. I can create my own customized word lists, or I can opt to use any of the word lists available at Vocabulary Spelling

I can also choose activities for them to do that reinforce their weekly spelling words in a cross-curricular manner. I love this option! Spelling has been one subject that has required a lot of work and curriculum changes over the years on my part, and a lot of stress on my children's part. Vocabulary Spelling City has taken that stress away. And that makes me one happy mom!

It's really very easy to keep track of each child's progress - and that is a weight off my shoulders. Setting up student accounts was easy, and after just a little bit of time spent navigating the site I was ready to create spelling lists for my children. Honestly, I feel this curriculum meets all our spelling needs while eliminating the stresses that typically come with this subject. Sorry if it sounds like I am gushing here - I am just thankful and blessed by this product!

So I simply choose word lists for each child (from the huge variety of options available) or I create my own word lists. If vocab words are the primary focus of a spelling list, then I have the ability to provide my own definitions for the words and my own example sentences. Of course, I can use the definitions and sentences provided by Vocabulary Spelling City too. It's very easy to customize for individual homeschool family needs.

Then, at the end of the week, my kids take their spelling tests. I use my account to see how they're doing on their assignments and check on the grades for their weekly tests. That's it! Spelling is now checked off my list of things that give me a headache!

And a little more info about the Teacher's Resources; here you can find language arts lessons, worksheets, themed lists (from books your child is currently reading, or by grade level, etc.), articles, an FAQ section, videos and more. It's very thorough and I feel it meets spelling needs for multiple aged students with several years worth of information.

Want to try it out for yourself? No problem! They offer a free membership, which is the perfect way to get a feel for the program.

But if you are ready to dive right in and purchase the Premium Membership, the price is $29.99 per year for up to five children.

They also offer a free iTunes app.

And a handy training video is available to help new users learn how Vocabulary Spelling works.

To read what other Crew members have to say about Vocabulary Spelling, click HERE.

Disclaimer ~ I received this product free of charge for review purposes. All opinions shared here are my own.

Happy spelling everyone!

Day 217 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Like Oxygen

God's Word is all we need for life and godliness. That's what it says, and that's what I believe. There is no need in my life for which the Word lacks the answer. It has it all.

It's like oxygen - if I don't have it, I will perish. My "oxygen" currently is from the Old Testament.

Isaiah 43:2-3 - 

     "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.

     "When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

     "For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior."

That right there is my oxygen. It keeps me moving forward. It sustains me. It is my very life.

Take a deep breath of God's Word today, and be thankful for it - your life depends on it!

Lord bless you today!

Day 216 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Schoolhouse Review Crew ~ Vocab Videos

My son is a college student. He worked hard to get where he is today. And he would tell you that preparation for the SAT is enormously important, sometimes more so for homeschooled students than for their public or private schooled peers. He not only had to take the SAT in order to be able to apply to the colleges of his choice, he also took the ACT, and several SAT II subject tests. And he didn't just take the SAT with a "one-and-done" attitude; he took it as often as he could in order to attain the best possible score. The result? Google Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois...

Done scoping out my son's college on the world wide web? If so, then you discovered it is widely considered to be the only Christian college that is ranked as an Ivy. My son's freshmen micro-econ class included lectures from econ profs from Harvard. He is receiving an education from people who attended and/or taught at places like MIT, Oxford, Yale, Princeton, and Harvard. Even staunch non-Christians concede that Wheaton is a life-changing college. And my son would not be a "Wheatie" if he had failed to put in the necessary work during high school.

What does all that have to do with this product review? Well, vocabulary is a key part of the SAT. And the product I am reviewing is a test-prep resource that aims to help students score higher on the vocabulary section of the SAT. If you happen to have a high school student that plans on attending a college in the mid-west, perhaps the ACT is the only test they'll need. Either way, vocab prep is key to a good score.

Vocab Videos is an online resource that uses short videos to teach vocabulary words. One word is covered in each short video - they are about 30 seconds long. The videos are nicely divided into groups, which allows students to make steady progress without feeling the full weight of 500 frequently tested vocab words. Each video opens with a vocabulary word and it's definition, and ends by reviewing the word. After the student views a "set" of about 20 videos, a quiz with SAT-styled questions appears. They then take the quiz and have a chance to correct any mistakes. It's that simple!

From the teacher's Dashboard you can view student's progress, see quiz results and view worksheets. You can also create customized lists of vocabulary words, create flashcards, and print any of the worksheets. I love the worksheets that categorize the word lists! Vocab Videos also has an easy-to-use glossary, unique options for "sorting" words for easier memorization, and the ability to download and print quizzes.

Vocab Videos goal is to help students experience, learn and master vocabulary. I believe this is a resource that can really help with all those things.

Having said that, I must tell you honestly that I was not at all impressed with the "attitude" displayed in many of the videos. For example, the phrase "oh my #@*!" was used frequently. Our family sees that as taking the Lord's name in vain and we don't tolerate it. There was also some "leering" at females in these videos - and I have four daughters that have not been raised to be "leered" at or to find anything humorous in that type of behavior. I realize the aim is to appeal to the masses and have videos that resemble popular TV series of the day, but this type of behavior is not acceptable in our family and I could not post this review in good conscience without informing my readers of these issues. I found myself adjusting our use of Vocab Videos to avoid the attitudes and language mentioned above, and for the most part the pdf resources were what we used. Sadly, it was hard to gain the full benefit of the resource without being able to freely use the videos, but the standard for our homeschool is non-negotiable and so we simply made do.

For some of you none of the aforementioned may be a problem at all, and in that case I highly suggest you take a look at Vocab Videos. It's so important to be prepared for the SAT, I commend any company that aims to help young people face a daunting test. You really do get a lot of bang for the buck with Vocab Videos, and it's as good a tool as I have found for teaching vocab words.

To take a look at Vocab Videos for yourself, visit them at

A single student subscription is available for $39.99/year.
And a Emall Educator yearly subscription (which is what I received for this review) allows access for up to 20 students is $74.99.
A 6-month subscription costs $24.99.
And a companion workbook is available for $11.99.

You can take advantage of a free one month trial and download a free SAT word list online - remember the website is

Reviews of Vocab Videos from other Crew members can be found HERE.

Disclaimer ~ I received this product free of charge for review purposes. All opinions expressed here are solely my own.

Day 215 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Friday, August 10, 2012

Schoolhouse Review Crew ~ A Thomas Jefferson Education (This Week in History)

Rachel DeMille, of Thomas Jefferson Education, promotes a fascinating educational philosophy (based on The Seven Keys of Great Teaching). Her website,, provides a thorough explanation of this philosophy. It's also an excellent history resource that I hope my blog readers will consider using in their homeschools. I really love what Rachel is doing!

I am not reviewing everything available at the website - trust me, there is quite a bit to be found there! What I am reviewing is "This Week in History", a resource that covers a wide variety of subjects and topics on a daily basis in an engaging and interesting manner. I have used this as a part of our history curriculum, but it really is so much more than history. 

Each week I receive an email with the current week's "This Week in History". I am also able to access this information at the website, along an archive that covers the current year. And I also receive daily emails, called "Daily Inspire", that contain words of wisdom and doses of encouragement that motivate my daily. (This is optional, of course - you only receive these emails if you sign up for them.)

Topics covered using "This Week in History" include math, science, language skills, geography, current events, the arts, and much more. All subjects covered are tied to events in history. And there's no need to worry that the subject you'd like to study won't be available for the week you need it; you can search by date, topic or keyword to find exactly what you're looking for.

This is somewhat similar to a today-in-history calendar, but it's really different than any resource I've come across in my years of homeschooling. I started digging around the website right away and I was pretty impressed right from the get-go. I found a TON of ways to incorporate into our homeschool easily - and ease is pretty key to maintaining my sanity, I've come to find out! In fact, this resource completely fulfills a request of my husband's from a few years back. He wanted me to find a way to eliminate "down time" when our children's assignments were done, but didn't want to fill that time with busy work. His idea was for me to create a binder with activities, reading lists, etc. for the kids to use. I started said binder, but alas my roles of wife-mom-homeschooler-to-five-children-and-all-the-rest stopped me from completing this task. Thomas Jefferson Education makes that idea a solid reality...and it does it with NO extra planning on my part.

Here are a couple of ways we used in our homeschool. The July 2nd topic was the death of US Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. His most famous case (which he argued as a lawyer before the Supreme Court) was Brown VS. the Board of Education. Well, we happen to reside in the great state of Kansas (don't laugh - it really is a great state with a fascinating history...some say we fueled the Civil War).  This particular case was based on events in Topeka, back in 1954. Needless to say, it was pretty easy to get excited about the July 2nd history lesson! The July 3rd topic was about Idaho's induction into the Union as the 43rd state. Some of my husband's family live in Idaho - so talking about Idaho was interesting to my kids. July 4th was, of course, Independence Day! And I don't think I need to explain what that day is all about!

The resources provided include photos and images @ the website, printables, recipes (like Homemade Apple Pie), ideas & quotations for research, discussion or writing, videos, songs, poems, math questions, activities using a camera, bizarre holidays, quizzes (with answers!) make for interesting lessons that don't take a ton of planning on my part. You can even post comments or leave a reply about each week's content - so you can learn what other homeschoolers have to share, and you can bless others with your knowledge and insight.

Just for fun, I'll share today's topic (this review is posting on August 10th). Missouri became the 24th state inducted into the Union. As I stated before, we live in Kansas...and our two states don't have a pleasant history. Nevertheless, we still have enjoyed what we've learned about Missouri :).  And things like the St. Louis Arch lead way to a discussion of the Lewis & Clark expedition. We have even learned about the spiders that can be found in Missouri! Tomorrow we may spend some time talking about Morse code, even though we don't do formal school on the weekend.

If you need a boost to help integrate history into your family's homeschool, this is worth considering. And if you're not sure what you'd like to do for history this academic year, why not try Thomas Jefferson Education out for a month? For about 33 cents a day, it's an affordable history option.

To learn more, visit their website at

The price for a monthly subscription is $9.95.

Read what other Crew members have to say HERE .

(Disclaimer ~ I received this product free of charge for review purposes. All opinions contained here are solely my own.)

And I'll end with a quote from one of the Daily Inspire emails ~ "Great books are great teachers; they show us every day what ordinary people are capable of."

Enjoy learning some history today!

Day 214 done :)

Jan L. Burt

What's Your Choice?

As we begin a brand-new homeschool year, we all have a large number of choices to make. Which science curriculum will we use for our middle-school student? Is phonics the best way to teach early reading skills? How many extra-curricular activities should our children participate in? And all this must, of course, fit within the family budget!

Really, the most important question to ask regarding any and all of our choices is simply, "What is God's will in this matter?"  That can be a scary question to ask! His answer could well be the exact opposite of what we're hoping for. But doing His will, His way, in His timing, trusting Him fully is truly abundant life.

In Genesis 13, verse 11, then back to verse 10, ending with verse 13 we read, "Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan...(it) was well watered, like the garden of the Lord...The men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord."

Are you seeing what I am seeing? Lot's choice sounded pretty good, didn't it? I mean, come on, the place looked like the garden of the Lord (the Garden of Eden)! How could that be a bad place to settle down and raise a family? But the men of the land were wicked, sinning greatly against the Lord. Hmm, Lot's choice was not the best choice after all.

And my choice of a well-watered land has the potential to be exactly like Lot's choice - full of deadly peril. It might look very "godly", and have the appearance of the perfect place to settle down. But I must always remember that the best-looking place in the world can also be the most dangerous place in the world. I can't settle down and make my home any old place that "looks right". Or I walk the path of Lot, and that is certainly not what I want to do!

I must choose to let God choose. Not just the place where I settle down - but every single thing. All of it, large and small alike. He gets to choose, I get to obey. It's really that simple.

So I have decided to choose to let Him choose for me today...and tomorrow...and every tomorrow until I leave this earth. That's a good choice!

Lord bless you today!

Day 213 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Grant - Savior of the Union by Mitchell Yockelson (BookSneeze Review)

The Generals series from Thomas Nelson publishers is an excellent collection for any history lover's bookshelf. And the book Grant - Savior of the Union is one book you won't want to miss out on.

From the early days of the one-day Civil War hero and President of the nation he fought to preserve, to his death in July of 1885, the life of U.S. Grant is weaves a complex - but somehow also simple- tale. It seems as if even the choosing of his name as an infant was an indication that he was destined for great things.

More than the preservation of the Union, as if anything could be more fascinating than that, this book recounts a life of General Grant while focusing primarily on his role as a general in the United States Civil War. I consider it a must read, and is one book I look forward to reading again and again.

On my 'Page Turner Scale' of 1 to 5, I give this book a 5.

(Disclaimer: I received this book free of charge from BookSneeze for review purposes.)

Day 212 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Schoolhouse Review Crew ~ King Alfred's English

The book King Alfred's English - A History of the Language We Speak and Why We Should Be Glad We Do by Laurie J. White is 171 pages of the most interesting non-fiction reading I've done in a while.

This book opens with a map of Europe and a timeline (Ancient Times thru Modern Times) and a chart that has an overview of our language as it transitioned from Old English to Middle English and finally to Modern English. Having the maps and charts in the front of the book makes for easy reference while reading. I found this to be a nice feature that I used frequently.

King Alfred's English has six parts ~ Pre-English Britain, Old English, Middle English, A Time of Transition, The Making of the English Bible, & Shakespeare and Modern English. Contained in these six parts are 15 well-written chapters. Right from the start this book grabbed my attention. Yes, it's actually a book about the English language...and yes, it's actually very interesting. But it's not just a book about the language we converse, write and relate with. It's so much more!

 An overly detailed breakdown of this book's content would be as tactless as a short "blurb" would be, so don't be surprised if I don't tell you too much (otherwise you wouldn't need to read it for yourself!). The author is talented and engaging, and weaves a terrific tale. She drew me in and I was soon fascinated with the history of the Brits. And so we used King Alfred's English as a history book in our family's homeschool. When I found her writing to be a natural and painless way to teach geography, I became even more excited! And so we used King Alfred's English as a geography resource. Shakespeare is of course mentioned in this book, and so we used King Alfred's English to springboard a study of Shakespeare. This is truly so much more than a book about the English language.

Have you ever wondered where the word bodacious came from? Read this book to find out! Curious as to why you can find well-preserved Roman ruins in Bath, England? This book contains the answer!

Each chapter ends with key dates and catch-phrases describing the era described - these helped a lot in retaining what was studied. These key dates also make it easy to add information to a timeline.

My only problem with this book was that I wished I had it in a bound form (I received an ebook edition for this review). In fact, this "problem" bothered me so much that I did something I have never done before. I purchased a physical copy of King Alfred's English. Yea, I'm pretty impressed with this book.

And I would also like to make mention that this resource is written from a strong Christian perspective. That is enormously important to me as a Christian homeschooling mother.

If you were to use King Alfred's English in high school, it is recommended that you count it as 1/2 credit for high school History (used over one semester) OR count it as 1/4 credit high school history and 1/4 credit high school English (used over one semester).

Interested? Then you can find out more at the author's website ~ Here you can read the first chapter, read articles, find group discounts, check out a timeline, and of course order a copy for yourself! The book is available for $16.95 from Amazon, or $5.95 for Kindle. It can also be purchased from Rainbow Resource. And as a special offer made available from the author, the first four people to leave a comment about this post will be emailed a discount code for 50% off the price (a link to the author's CreateSpace page will be sent along with the discount  code). So leave a comment and your email address!

To read what other Schoolhouse Review Crew members shared on their blogs, click HERE.

Disclaimer ~ I received this product free of charge for review purposes. All opinions contained here are solely my own.

Lord bless you and your family today!

Day 211 done :)

Jan L. Burt

To Plan or Not to Plan?

Proverbs 19:21 reads ~ "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails."

I've been at this homeschooling/mothering thing for a while now. I've also been in the role of a wife for a while. And I consider the way I fulfill those roles in my day-to-day to be a direct reflection of my relationship with the Lord. And because I am a human being living in a fallen world, my personal strengths and weaknesses at times collide with my desire to honor God as a wife, mom, homeschooler.

So what's a type-A, strong-willed, Irish girl to do???

Learn how to balance, that's what I must do. And the older I get, the better I become at this delicate balancing act. The verse I opened this post with mentions man's plans versus the Lord's purposes. That verse holds the key to my ability to maintain my balance in life.

I certainly want to fulfill the Lord's purposes for my life; I want to do His will, and do it His way. But my type-A tendencies push me to plan-plan-plan...and sometimes over plan. Have a contingency plan - and a contingency for the contingency. Maybe even anther back-up plan in case something goes awry. On the outside, this looks pretty good. To the world at large, and even within the church, someone who is "squared away" is very appealing. And in the world of homeschooling, I must admit, it feels nice to have my ducks in a row.

But there is a dark side. Since when did having it all together become the end goal? Who said my way of doing things is best, anyway? And where is my deep need for God in all areas of my life if so many of those areas are planned out to the nth degree?? Why should I be appealing to the world for affirmation? When did the church decide that the way I "get things done" is an indicator of my spiritual temperature?

Herein lies the dilemma - finding a continual balance between allowing the Lord's will to be done in every aspect of my life, every single day, in every single arena & not allowing myself to become lazy or slothful about my God given responsibilities. But praise the Lord, finding and maintaining that balance have become a lot less difficult for me since I have come to one very important conclusion.

The balancing itself is the blessing, because it keeps me close to the Lord in a continual state of dependence.

 Next time you find yourself fighting against the constant need to strike a balance between allowing the Lord to work out His will in your life and writing the script for yourself, remember that the act of balancing is the real gift. He gives the gift, the struggle of making plans but yielding them to Him, as a means to be in constant close contact with Him.

Be blessed as you learn to enjoy the process of keeping your balance!

Day 210 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Schoolhouse Crew Review ~ Create Better Writers

Create Better Writers provided me with three products for this review:  How to Write a Paragraph, How to Teach the Five Paragraph Essay, & The Home School Writing Action Plan. The intro to these products describes this curriculum as either part of a complete writing system, and it's aim is to break writing down into it's simplest form for both teacher and student. That's a pretty basic, but fitting, overview of all that Create Better Writers has to offer.

The first ebook we used was "How to Write a Paragraph". It is the first step in the program and can be used beginning in 3rd grade (around age 8) and should be taught first. It contains one "trick" that gets students writing. This is the foundation of the program. The rest of the system falls into place after this "trick" is learned. They build on this until the process of writing research reports is mastered.

The website ( has a page where you can see the entire process at a glance. This helps moms and kids on target and makes the process doable instead of overwhelming. You can also find a 53-minute video about the program HERE. (Scroll about halfway down the page to find the video.)  The how-to video is a little lengthy, but I loved what I learned from it. It makes teaching writing with Create Better Writers easy. The author, David Dye, is a good teacher, which helps a lot!

Create Better Writers uses a "Pre-Write" process that makes the program easy to implement. No student should feel overwhelmed or stressed about the writing process using this curriculum. It follows a clearly laid out, step-by-step process that gets results. If you teach this program following the simple directions, you won't have much extra prep work. Being able to prepare once versus prepare over and over again is a real bonus for busy homeschool moms. The "paper set up trick" is my favorite aspect of the program. While I can't give away how the program works, I will say that this trick is able to be used for oral presentations, almost any writing assignment, and can be used by writers of all ages. I can honestly tell you that this trick works.

Next the student learns to improve their writing, starting with topic sentences. Then we moved on to "How to Teach the Five Paragraph Essay" ebook. First the student master the basic format of the five paragraph essay, and then they learn about introductions. After that they work on smooth transitions, creating a flow from one paragraph to the next, classy conclusions, and so on. Timed essays become a lot less intimidating when using the techniques shared in "How to Teach the Five Paragraph Essay". An easy layout of directions makes for ease of use, and that is a big plus for me! It means I don't have to come running to cries of, "Mom, how am I supposed to do this?". Create Better Writers is designed to be used with multiple aged children at once. We were able to accomplish quite a lot in the six weeks we've been using Create Better Writers.

  While we haven't finished using the program in it's entirety, I can say that I have been pleased with the process and the results. It was easy to use with my kids - just give them paper and pencil, toss out a few ideas for subject matter, and off they go! I did find a couple of typos, and some parts of the ebooks are a little repetitive and even wordy, overall it's a solid writing program. I don't think we will use it as a stand-alone writing program, but that's my decision for my children. Others may feel differently.

While my family didn't use "The Home School Writing Plan" within the time frame allotted for this review, we fully expect more of the same from it once we start using it. 

Overall I found this to be a pretty good program. I love how easy it is to use, and success builds upon success. Just do Day 1, next do Day 2, etc. and you're children will be on their way to better writing!

The website is

To read what other reviewers have to say, click HERE.

The price for the ebook "How to Write a Paragraph" is $7.99
The price for the ebook "How to Teach the Five Paragraph Essay" is $17.99
The price for the ebook "The Homes School Writing Action Plan" is $15.95

Disclaimer - I received these products free of charge for review purposes. All opinions shared here are my own.

Happy writing everyone!

Day 209 done :)

Jan L. Burt

A Word to My Fellow People Pleasers...

Stop the insanity!!

That's my semi-humorous way of conveying a thought that in all actuality is anything but funny. People pleasing is a serious problem, and it wreaks havoc in the lives of those it plagues. Before you wonder if my words are too harsh, let me lay out some evidence in support of my position.

Looking at the issue of people pleasing through the lens of God's Word, we find that it doesn't produce any lasting fruit. Don't just read that and continue on - think about it for a moment. People pleasing produces no lasting fruit! It just doesn't, and it never will. You will not be the one person in all history to generate lasting fruit by working to please people!

People pleasing hasn't yielded fruit in the past, it isn't yielding fruit right now, and it will not yield fruit in the future. What it does do, it does consistently and very well. It leaves you worn out, weary and resentful. Hmmm, doesn't remind me of the fruit of the Spirit in the least.

In some instances people pleasing will even cost you friendships. In fact, it's been my experience that any friendship forged in the fires of a people pleaser's kiln cannot withstand the pressure and heat of real life. It isn't strong enough to endure the rough and tumble that is real life. The one who is a people pleaser will eventually need to rely on the other person for something, and the other person may well not know what to do when this happens. After all, the friend they knew was always there for them, going the extra mile and bending over backwards. Even the smallest upset in that balance can send said friend running for the hills. How do I know this, you may ask? Life experiences. More than one of them. Yes, I am a recovering people pleaser. And yes, I have lost many friends when I was unable to keep up my people-pleasing facade during times when real life came rolling in.

This isn't easy to admit on a public blog where anyone and everyone can read it. Not only read it, but make judgements about me based on what is written here. For someone with such strong people-pleasing tendencies, that's a scary thought! But it's much scarier for me to hide in my turtle shell and not share this openly in the hope that someone, somewhere might relinquish their people pleasing ways and turn to the Lord for His guidance in relationships.

Not as many people "like" me now that I am more the me God created me to be and less of a people pleaser. And that's okay. In fact, it's far better than having more friends who opt out of the friendship when I actually turn out to be, ahem, a real live person with real needs and flaws. And I've found out that I have some truly amazing friends who are there with me through thick and thin. Praise God for each one of them!!

My final piece of solid advice, from the heart of a die-hard people pleaser, is this: Do not be a people pleaser! Be the you God created you to be!

Lord bless you today!

Day 208 done :)

Jan L. Burt