GrapeVine Studies (Review)

Friday, November 13, 2015

Having a good Bible curriculum is important to our family. We feel that teaching our children the truth is the most important thing we can do as parents.   Recently we were given the chance to try Birth of Jesus: Multi-Level, by GrapeVine Studies. This teaching program makes learning Bible truths fun for both the teacher & the student!
Grapevine Studies Review
GrapeVine Studies is well known for their iconic stick figure teaching method. The use of these simple drawings, specific colours & shapes to represent different parts of the Bible story being studied, makes the important content more easily remembered, as well as maintaining the student's interest. GrapeVine Studies believes that teaching a lesson using reading, hearing & drawing allows the student to have a higher retention rate then those who are just taught orally. They utilise this philosophy in their curriculum & their ambition is to point the student to the true source of wisdom - God!
We received the Birth of Jesus: Multi-level teacher booklet, the student booklet & a traceable student booklet as a download. These were all multi-levelled so all the students in the family can complete these lessons together, although it is recommended for ages 7+. They were simple to understand & utilise.
Grapevine Studies Review
Birth of Jesus: Multi-level is a simple, 5 lesson study, written to ensure the student will understand the events surrounding Jesus' birth & their implications to us. The teachers' guide is a 65 page teaching manual that is separated into three main sections. The first contains information specifically for the teacher. This introduces GrapeVine Studies and their belief. It also gives very detailed instructions on how the student should use each part of the study with their student. A list of needed supplies is provided, and a recommended schedule to follow is given. Birth of Jesus is written to be used four days per week. Each lesson will take a full week to complete.  Each day's work will take anywhere from 5 to 35 minutes depending upon what is being completed that day.
The second section of the teacher booklet gives instructions on the timeline element of the study. The timeline is an integral part of the study, so ensuring this is correct is important. This section includes example diagrams of what is needed to be drawn. It also uses the correct colours to ensure there is no confusion. At the bottom of each page it shows an example of what the completed student sheet should look like.
Grapevine Studies Review
The third section of the teacher booklet contains the actual lessons. The lessons are titled The Announcement, The Birth of Jesus, The Proclamation & The Wise Men and Herod. Each lesson section is 6 pages long. It includes full details of what to teach for that particular part of the lesson, a list of words to look up in the Bible dictionary, Bible passages to read aloud, examples of all drawings that should be completed. It also includes answers to the lesson review questions that are at the end of each lesson. The final page of the lesson contains a full example of what the completed timeline looks like. The fifth lesson in this lesson pack is the final review of all the lesson. The teacher book contains the answers to all the questions that the student will have to complete. The fifth lesson is the Final review.  This is an in-depth review of all the material being studied in the previous lessons and gives the students an opportunity to show their knowledge by completing the whole timeline again.
At the very end of the teacher manual is the labelled map of the geographical region being studied. This coincides with the unlabelled map at the end of the student booklet.
Grapevine Studies Review
The corresponding student booklet provided to us is 49 pages. In the package we also included a traceable option of the same booklet for use with younger students. The student booklet contains the blank timeline, the lesson pages & the final review. Each lesson contains three pages for the student to complete. This is in addition to the section of the timeline being studied. The aim is that by the end of the study, the student has a thorough understanding of the Birth of Jesus Christ.
The GrapeVine Studies' Birth of Jesus: Multi-level curriculum is an excellent program for teaching about this critical time in History. It is very relevant and makes an excellent Bible curriculum for fourth term (Australia) as we draw closer to celebrating this important event.
GrapeVine Studies can also be found at:
Periscope: @Grapevine Studies

Grapevine Studies Review

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A Homeschool Mama's Daybook...

Monday, November 9, 2015

I decided to join up with Jenny for her Homeschool Mama's Daybook:

Homeschool Mama's Daybook

For today:
 Monday 9th November 2015
Outside My Window....
The sky is a beautiful blue, criss -crossed with the remnants of fluffy white contrails left by the planes that have flown far above.  The oleander bushes are all in flower, nodding their pink buds in the breeze while birds hop among their limbs.  The open space flows on over many kilometres until way off in the distance, the purple mountains meet with the blue expanse.
I am Thankful for.....
Flowers blooming, days warming & children growing! 
I am Thinking....
About this roller coaster ride called foster care.  Things finally get sorted & then one person changes their mind & plans need to be rearranged.  That leaves us not knowing what is going on.  While I know this is not our agency's fault (in fact they are wonderful & are equally as frustrated as I am), I really just want to know what is going on.  Sigh...
patience, Renata, patience
I am Learning....
Patience.  To wait on the Lord for His timing because it is always best.  

I am Looking forward to....
Having little ones in our house again - even if it's only for a respite placement!  

What I am Wearing....
Farm clothes - a long skirt & an old shirt I made in home economics class back in high school.  Sure, it's old, but it's comfy & practical for doing farm jobs in!
In the Kitchen....
All is quiet this morning with cereal or toast being served.  Later, I need to do some baking, but Ellie will probably offer to do that as she loves baking.  For dinner, I'm thinking a roast dinner would be nice.  We had lamb last week, so I'll go searching for a pork or a beef roast to go in the slow cooker!
In My Garden....
The petunias are blossoming. The new birdbath garden brings a smile to my face & the newly planted vegetable seeds are sprouting & appearing above the ground.  I always love it when seeds grow, it's so exciting to see the life appearing.  Plants are so refreshing & I have been rather ambitious with my vegetable garden this year.  I'm hoping it all comes to fruition! The shadehouse again houses our tomato seedlings interspersed with basil & my strawberries are looking very healthy after a short bought of some fungal infection that we have been able to way-lay by removing the affected leaves.
These are all now planted in the shadehouse
Around the House....
We are also in the middle of renovating the boys big, new bedroom!  This is exciting as the three boys have outgrown their previous space & this will be double that!  They want to stay together, so we are trying to accommodate them comfortably! The ceiling is done, the walls are painted & the cornice is placed.  I believe there is not a lot left to do & the boys should be in there sometime in the next week!

Homemaking Plans for next week....
My pantry needs a clean out as someone spilled the honey, which has enticed some ants to find their way into the house.  It feels like I only just cleaned out the pantry, but spilled honey calls for it to be redone (at least on the two shelves with honey drips)! Also a full clean of the laundry/back bathroom area which for whatever reason gets dirty very quickly (sigh).  Otherwise just normal housekeeping.  I borrowed a Britex from the shop on Saturday, so the lounges & rugs are all clean!  YAY!!

In Our Homeschool Room....
The desks get scattered with all sorts of creating & I have to remind myself over & over again that it is more important to focus on my relationships with the children rather than expect them to have spotless desks every day.  ( I wish there was a way to have both, but with their personalities as such, I don't know?) One million tiny bits of paper & counting....

Homeschooling Plans for next week....
A full week is planned, although with extra little ones, I may be rather ambitious in expecting it to be completed...

We Are Going....
This is a super busy week.  Over the next few weeks the three sports that our children are involved in during the year overlap.  This means we are out four afternoons. I really don't like being so busy. Usually we just have one or two afternoon commitments, so four is a huge change.  Thankfully, this week Dave will have to help out with them!

Favorite Scripture/Quote....
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Colossians 3:12
Favorite Blog  from the week....
At the moment I am rereading some of Rebecca's blog at Renaissance.  I find her photos so inspiring as I plan & put in our summer gardens.  I have decided to create a flower circle (well ours will be a semi-circle) after reading about  ( & seeing amazing pictures of) hers over the years! And of course, I'm so excited for her that she is expecting a precious little bundle soon!

Favorite Photo from the Week....
I am firmly convinced that they love each other, even though they pretend otherwise.


Brinkman Adventures (Review)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Our family really enjoys listening to audio presentations.  We also happen to love missionary stories.  When we were offered the chance to review Season Three of  The Brinkman Adventures, which combines both of these, we eagerly jumped at the chance.  We have listened to these quality audio presentations & have been so impressed & encouraged about how God is working in this world!

Brinkman Adventures Season 3 Review

 There are three separate seasons of The Brinkman Adventures available.  Each season contains twelve unique stories intertwining the adventures of the large, endearing Brinkman family with true, bold & miraculous missionary stories.   The Brinkman Adventures: Season Three is available as either a pack of five physical CD or as an MP3 digital download.  We were given the digital download for review purposes. I was easily able to download it to my laptop.

The Brinkman Adventures: Season Three contains ten separate missionary stories.  (A couple of the adventures are told over two episodes.) 
The Adventures are:
Episode One :  God's Mule
Episode Two: Mountain Mover
Episode Three: The Silent Ambassador
Episode Four: Translating Trouble
Episode Five: Man-Up
Episode Six: Acorns & Oaks
Episode Seven: A Saint's Story Part 1
Episode Eight: A Saint's Story Part 2
Episode Nine: Untouched
Episode Ten: Busy Bees and a Bullhorn
Episode Eleven: Missionary Tourist Part 1
Episode Twelve: Missionary Tourist Part 2

Brinkman Adventures Season 3 Review

The combination of a modern day family & missionary stories works well to keep both children & adults  entertained, whilst learning more about the world around them. While the Brinkman family & their adventures are works of fiction (although loosely based upon the creator's own family), each missionary story included in these recordings is the true story of someone who has put their life on the line for the Lord.  There are many amazing miracles retold in this collection.  These are the stories that our children need to be hearing & these are the people that we want our children to try to emulate. The inclusion of the Brinkman family in the stories really helps to bring the true stories to life. 

We listened to The Brinkman Adventures: Season Three over the past few weeks.  My four children eagerly listened to the first one & then begged to listen to more & more of them.  One afternoon they listened for 3 hours!  

We really enjoyed the way the stories were presented.  The production quality was excellent with the characters being both believable & captivating.   Each recording can be listened to as a stand alone recording (with the exception of the two part stories), although there is some continuation of the Brinkman family & friends' story throughout episodes, so it is nice to have the whole season.  

 I particularly enjoyed reading about how the creator of  The Brinkman Adventures, Ian Bultman, came to write these adventures & the purpose behind doing so. 
That can be read HERE.   Available on their website is also the real stories behind the stories.  This contains more details of the actual missionary being highlighted & their real life story.   

Overall, we highly recommend this resource.  Not only is it fun for the family to listen to, but it also teaches the listener about God & how we can trust Him in the most difficult of circumstances if we are doing what He wants us to!
Now my children are asking for the other two seasons....

 Brinkman Adventures can be purchased through their website for a donation.
They can also be found on Facebook.

For more reviews, please visit the Crew page: 
Brinkman Adventures Season 3 Review

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Online Learning with Standard Deviants Accelerate (Review)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

As the children travel further through their education,  it is useful to find some subjects which they can complete entirely independently.  In this age of  the Internet & computers, this is very easy to do.  We were recently asked to review an online learning program called Standard Deviants Accelerate.  We were given 12 months access to all of their Homeschool Courses.
Standard Deviants Accelerate Review
Standard Deviants Accelerate is an online program that provides fun & adaptable lessons to students. They endeavour to provide the student with unique lessons which are presented in such a way as to keep them interested.  Standard Deviants Accelerate's lessons primarily focus on subjects for children in high school (in Australia - grade 7 up), although there are a few courses for children in the primary grades.  They offer a range of courses which cover a large variety of subject areas.  
The Homeschool Courses that we were given access to are:
Arithmetic (Grade 3+)
Fundamental Math (Grade 4+)
Earth Science (Grade 6+)
Nutrition (Grade 6+)
Biology (Grade 7+)
Algebra (Grade 7+)
Chemistry (Grade 9+)
English Comp (Grade 9+)
U.S. History (Grade 9+)
AP Biology (Grade 11+)
AP Chemistry (Grade 11+)
AP American Government & Politics (Grade 11+)
AP English Composition (Grade 11+)
AP US History (Grade 11+)
Standard Deviants Accelerate Review
Once I logged into Standard Deviants Accelerate , I was able to add my students.  Zai (grade 7) & Ellie (grade 6) were both enrolled in the Nutrition course.  The one issue I had is that it required a different email address for each student.  As our children are still young, they don't have their own email, so this was a problem.  We chose the Nutrition course to supplement their PDHPE learning program (although this is not one of Zai's electives, I feel that some information would be beneficial to him).  
Standard Deviants Accelerate Review
The Nutrition Course contained eight different chapters.  Each chapter contained 3 to 5 different topics followed by a chapter review. At the end of the course was a subject review which contains a final quiz & a final word (where the student is presented with a case study & they need to utilise the information they have studied in the course to answer some relevant questions). 

Once the children open the topic for the day,they are presented with a screen which has a list of  tabs across the top.  Most lesson contained five separate sections (a couple did not contain all) which the students tab through & complete as they are ready.
The sections are:
1.  Video - The first section is the teaching video.  These videos are presented by a group of actors in a variety of scenarios. They are presented in a fun & catchy way to keep the student interested.  The videos provide the main teaching of the lesson.   There is also a full transcript of the video available for the student to follow along.  The student has the ability to take & save notes from these lessons to their own personal locker for future reference.
2. Vocabulary - This section contains a list of vocabulary words that the student needs to become familiar with.  Each word  & definition can be listened to to ensure correct pronunciation occurs.
3. Diagram - This section presents the student with a diagram from the lesson & asks them to complete the missing labels using the words from the word bank.
4. Quiz - The student is then presented with a multiple choice quiz of five questions.  This is automatically graded & any incorrect answers will present the student with a short section from the video that covers that particular topic. 
5. Written Answer - This section contains a writing prompt to get the student to think further about the topic. 
While both Zai & Ellie used Standard Deviants Accelerate, I found they had very different reactions to it.  Zai thought the videos were fun & kept him interested in the topic.  
Meanwhile, Ellie thought the videos were too silly.  She did, however, retain a lot of the information  as she talked about it often as we were cooking together.  
Overall, the topics presented were often very new to both students, but the content was displayed in such a way that encouraged retention of the subject matter.
Both students were able to complete their Nutrition course entirely independently once I logged them into the program.   I was able to monitor their progress through my teacher login. 
Standard Deviants Accelerate Review
Standard Deviants Accelerate is a unique program that presents a variety of homeschool lesson in an entertaining way to make learning fun!
Standard Deviants Accelerate can be found at:
For more review please visit:
Standard Deviants Accelerate Review
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Music Classics for Children (Review)

Friday, October 30, 2015

When I was offered the chance to review Peter and the Wolf, written & composed by Sergei Prokofiev, and presented by Maestro Classics, I was intrigued.  I love orchestra music & my children love listening to stories, so I thought the combination of the London Philharmonic Orchestra  & an exciting narration by Yadu (Dr. Conrad Czynski)  would really make the story come to life.  It didn't disappoint and we have & will continue to listen to this.
Maestro Classics Review
Maestro Classics offers stories in music, specialising in classical stories especially for children. They currently have 12 titles available in either CD format or as an MP3 download.  We were given an MP3 download of Peter and the Wolf. I downloaded it onto my laptop & my children & I listened to it completely in one sitting.  The complete MP3 is 62:16 minutes long & contained 8 separate sections:
1. Peter and the Wolf Intro - In this section the narrator introduces himself as well as the Maestro.  It introduces the setting, the characters & the concept that a separate instrument represents each character.
2.  Peter and the Wolf - This is the actual story which includes both the narration & the music.  
3.  About the Composer -  This introduces Sergei Prokofiev, the composer of  Peter and the Wolf.  It gives a brief biography of this well known composer, and an outline of how he came to write a musical classic for children which has stood the test of time.
4. A Russian Peter -  This section is a musical version of the orchestration of Peter and the Wolf using traditional Russian styling in the music.  
5. About the Music - This is presented by the conductor Stephen Simon. This section looks further into the music of each character as well as the overall music for Peter and the Wolf. It also introduces the listener to some basic musical terminology. 
6.  Peter and the Wolf - Orchestra Only - This is simply the orchestra playing the music for Peter and the Wolf without any accompanying narration. 
7. Invitation to Grandfather's Party - this is a very short extension to the story.
8. Kalinka - This section contains some Russian music. This will get your toes tapping & your fingers snapping!  It is a wonderful finish to the audio presentation!
Also included in the MP3 is a booklet that contains a brief biography of both  the composer & conductor, some information on some of the Russian folk instruments you will hear  and also various activities for the children to complete related to the story of Peter and the Wolf.  It includes a few short sections of musical score should the child wish to learn to play some of the composition they have been listening to!
Maestro Classics Review
Peter and the Wolf was written by Sergei Prokofiev specifically to introduce children to the orchestra.  It does an excellent job of this.  The additional commentary within this recording really enhances the experience for the listener. It is both informative & entertaining.  The sections are quite short, which keeps the listener attentive & interested.  While this was especially written for children, adults will also appreciate both the story & the commentary (I know I sure did).   We really enjoyed this version of Peter and the Wolf & will continue to listen to it over & over again! 
There is also a free curriculum guide available for Peter and the Wolf  found on the Maestro Classic website.  This covers History, Science, Geography, Language Arts, Art, Music & Maths.  
Maestro Classics can be found at:
Maestro Classics Review
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It wasn't meant to end this way...

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The gunshot reverberated through the night air, the echo bouncing off sheds & startling all the occupants of the farm.  We knew it was coming - dreading it, but at the same time knowing that it had to be done, that it would stop the pain & suffering of our jersey cow Bessy.  

For 5 1/2 years our Bessy made her home here at Sunnyside.  She came as just a tiny calf & we bottle fed her.  She was so adorable & right from the start she became part of the family & an integral part of our farmyard. She turned into the most mischievous of cows - her speciality was eating the wiring out of the old blue tractor, taking the radio out of the ute & opening every gate that didn't have a snappy - lock on it.  She was such a busy body & any time visitors came to the place, she would come straight to the house yard gate to see what was happening.

She was a stubborn cow & taught me the reason difficult people are often referred to as 'old cows'.  She would do what you wanted her to do, if it suited her.  Of course, she knew that Dave was the boss & would do what he wanted her to do anytime, much to my annoyance.  

After a difficult start, she ended up being a fantastic milker.  Some of my favourite memories of her are when Zai & I went down & milked her.  I love the smell of cows & their milk.  There was something so relaxing about being in the milking shed of a morning as the sun rose into the sky.  Once we got our milking system worked out, milking was one of my favourite times of day.  


Last Sunday we realised that she was down & couldn't get up.  We had no idea why this was the case & after talking surmised that she had been down for a few days ( she had crawled around a bit, so we didn't realise that she wasn't getting up in between).  We called our vet & after chatting, he prescribed calcium in the rare case it was milk fever - even though she wasn't milking or currently in calf.  We also began physically moving her so that she wouldn't end up with nerve damage in her hind legs.  After a night of her getting worse & her back legs seeming to become paralysed, I ended up calling him again & asking him to come & see her. She had stopped eating & drinking & had gone very quiet - not even bunting at the dog, which was very out of character for her.   We started her on antibiotics, although there was nothing specific that could be diagnosed.  We continued to roll her & kept food & water to her.  After 24 hours on the antibiotics we were pleased to see that she appeared much improved, she was beginning to move her back legs & her appetite had returned.  We finally had hope of our cow getting well from the mysterious malady.
Photo by Zai - taken just a couple of weeks ago.  Right where her last breath was going to be.

 Unfortunately our Bess  was as strong willed in sickness as she was in health - it seems that she had finally stood up in the night, only to fall over into a very awkward position.  I found her the next morning & tried to move her, but I just couldn't.  Zai & I tried again & again to get her to turn into a more natural position, but to no avail.  At the start of the day she was eating & drinking, but by the evening hours (when Dave could finally get off work) her eyes were filled with pain & she just wanted to rest her chin on my knee & be held.  
We borrowed a sling-lift from a neighbour & we tried it out.  Unfortunately one leg was at an unusual angle & we surmised it was at least dislocated, if not broken.  Her other leg had completely cramped, although it gave signs of possibly working - were she not in so much pain.  In the end after trying everything we could possibly think of, we put her into a comfortable position.  As I looked into her eyes & felt her nose that was now cold, I knew there was only one decision to be made, but it wasn't what I wanted to make.  I knew I had to make the call because she was my cow, my baby - right from the start.  We rang our vet & asked him to come & put her down.

On the good day when things were finally beginning to look better...
I'd never really considered that Bessy would die young.  It's crazy, I know, because everyone who has animals knows they are terribly unpredictable, but for whatever reason, I assumed she would end up living 15 to 20 years.  That she would be with me as I cried tears over the children leaving home one by one.  Instead we crowded into the lounge room, these children & I, & cried tears over a wire-eating, gate-opening, stubborn cow named Bessy.

Sure, we will have other cows.  We already have begun making plans.  But I somehow think that none will be quite like our Bess.  She was the cow that fulfilled my childhood dreams of a 'cow named Bessy'.  She was the one who taught me so much about cows.  She was the one who I out-stubborned & ended up milking (after we both worked out what to do).  She was the one who made me fall completely & totally in love with Jersey cows.
A girl and her cow... the wind was wild that day...

There's a hole in the farmyard today - missing a crazy, stubborn, affectionate, beautiful, well-loved cow.

I'll miss you my Bess....


Thursday, October 22, 2015

 A September trip to Canberra would not be complete (at least for our family) without a visit to Floriade.  Floriade is an annual festival that celebrates the coming of spring.  I just love the beauty of the flowers that are the epitome of the Floriade celebrations!  The air still holds a coolness to it & the floral scent just fills the air! It is such a delight to the senses & makes for a fun (& free) family day.  We always try to make sure a Canberra trip is on the calendar sometime in the month (mid-Sept to mid-Oct) that Floriade is on!
The first time we visited Floriade, I did not even know I was pregnant until a few days later.  I did know that I was oh, so tired though - surprise - twins were on the way!  Now look at this crazy pair!
I just love the pansies in this bed! 
We have a photo from a Floriade visit  years ago when the twins were only about one in front of a flowerbed similar to this some flowers.  We tried to re-enact the scene!
He's so tall now...and growing all the time.  I have to look up to him (this is the angle I see him from these days) - our Zai really is a young man now ( & takes on the responsibilities of such as well)! 
 Eli decided to follow some ducks, which is no surprise as his love & enthusiasm for birds is well known in our family.  He would spend all his time outside bird watching if he were allowed.   In fact I find myself interested in birds more & more because of this boy's great love! 
He even took his video camera, which is filled with bird pictures! 
And Ellie had her camera too!  - I'm not sure who they take after with their love for capturing images....
Jud led us along a random path and we found a maze made out of bamboo!  It was so fun to explore!
At one point, there was a beautiful arch-way of fairy lights.  How I would have loved to have seen this in the night time!
And of all the things to capture their interest, the boys ( & Dave) found the remains of a half decayed bat most interesting.....males...???!!!???
At the end of our path, we found a pavilion filled with designs fashioned from plants.  I'm not sure how comfortable they would be to actually wear, but they were certainly interesting!

Another beautiful trip to Floriade! 
A great start to a particularly gorgeous Springtime here at Sunnyside!
May you have a lovely day friends!

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