This blog is my attempt to document our busy but BLESSED lives raising and educating our children for His glory. A child of God, wife to one, and mom to 6 fabulous kids. We are in our 15th year of homeschooling using a Classical ~ Literature based approach.

Come along for the good, the bad & the ugly.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Maestro Classics: The Nutcracker ~ a TOS review

Maestro Classics Review

A few weeks ago Montana came home from Girl Scouts telling me all about dance and the dance badge her Brownies were working on. Specifically, she raved on and on about how ballet dancers dance “en pointe.” I took the opportunity to tell her all about my favorite ballet, The Nutcracker. That same night the vendor interest form for Maestro Classics came out and you can bet that I jumped at the chance to be on this review.

The girls and I have been big fans of Maestro Classics since we were given the chance to review Peter and the Wolf back in 2011. I was so glad to see this vendor back on the vendor list again this year. Maestro Classics is not just your everyday run of the mill audio story. It’s more than that. These stories are designed so that the classical music brings out the story behind the story for children to understand the whole picture better. As an ambassador of great music for both children and adults alike, Maestro Classics helps listeners experience the classical music art form in new and exciting ways while discovering the magic that can be found within music.

Maestro Classics Review

We received a physical CD set of The Nutcracker based off Tchaikovsky’s famous holiday tradition famously known throughout the world. What makes this audio performance even more special is the fact that Jim Weiss of Great Hall Productions {he also reads The Story of the World} is the narrator. Mr. Weiss retells the story of young Clara who is given a nutcracker on Christmas Eve. As the night goes on The Nutcracker comes to life and turns into a handsome prince who goes into battle with the Mouse King. Clara is escorted by the Nutcracker to the Land of the Sugar Plum Fairy this same night and Clara awakes the next morning wondering if it was all a dream.


Each CD produced by Maestro Classics includes a 24-page program book, that tucks nicely into the CD case. The Nutcracker CD includes 21 musical scores and is just shy of an hour of listening time. It is adapted by Stephen Simon and includes musical selections from every section of the original ballet performance. The London Philharmonic Orchestra brings to life this tale so that you feel as though you are right there in the performance.


Also included with each CD are fun little activities in the program booklet including a word scramble, ballet descriptions, info about the Russian composer, and a crossword puzzle.


Each audio series has three significant benefits for listeners:

  1. To expand listening horizons ~ each series of recordings introduces the listener to an orchestra's magical sounds and awe-inspiring power. It helps them to further understand that music can be dramatic, can paint mental pictures, and is often filled with humor.

  2. To hone listening skills and accumulate musical memories~ the musical discussions will sharpen listening skills of children and adults alike. With discussion of the story, conversation will be about human values, and the musical work will leave each listener whistling a new tune.

  3. To encourage adults and children to listen to music together ~ very young will listen for the story, slightly older children will enjoy the music, and the adult will be surprised by how much he/she has learned.


Currently,there are 12 individual CDs available to purchase from Maestro Classics for just $16.98 each or you can purchase the musical files as MP3 downloads for just $9.98 each. The following stories in addition to The Nutcracker are available:

Peter and the Wolf

The Story of Swan Lake

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

My Name is Handel

Casey at the Bat,

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel,

The Tortoise and the Hare

Juanita the Spanish Lobster

Carnival of the Animals

Juanita la langosta espaƱola

The Soldier's Tale

Merry Pranks of Master Till


We have listened to the CD 4-5 days each week! One day we kept it on repeat and enjoyed it all morning long. We never tire of hearing these songs. Our favorite score is definitely track #16, Russian Dance. Montana {9}, McKenzie {6}, Micah {17 months}, and I dance around the house on our tippy toes to this score every single time. I know we are not as graceful as ballet dancers, but we have a blast each and every time.



I have personally never been to the ballet to see The Nutcracker. Every year it seems we have a conflict or a child too young to leave. However, I have already marked our calendar to take the girls to see the The Nutcracker in December 2016 since the girls will be old enough to sit through the performance.

The girls and I have truly enjoyed listening to this CD! Like the other CD’s in our collection we have not been disappointed in the least! I can’t wait to add more titles to our collection, especially since right now Maestro Classics is offering 15% off with the coupon code, FLUTE. These CDs will definitely be accompanying us on our road travels for our upcoming gymnastics travel season. If you are looking to add Classical music to your household and daily routine of listening to quality music, these CD’s are the way to go.

Be sure to check out what my Crewmates thought of each of the CD’s being reviewed by clicking the banner below.

Maestro Classics Review

Company ~ Maestro Classics

Product ~ The Nutcracker

Price ~ $16.98 CD set

Ages ~ recommended age is 5+, but enjoyable for the whole family

Format ~ physical CD

Maestro Classics Review





Crew Disclaimer

©2008- 2015 A Stable Beginning. All rights reserved. All photographs, text, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written permission of the author.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Apologia Educational Ministries: The Ultimate Homeschool Planner ~ a TOS review

Apologia Ultimate Homeschool Planner

Can I tell you a little secret? We are currently in week 11 of our school year and 6 weeks ago I was ready to throw in the towel {which is not really an option, but that’s how I was feeling at the time}. I was down and out with our planning and the way our school was going in general, and stressed to the M-A-X! Things are much better now that I have paired down my commitments, but it was admittedly a rough patch for me, albeit, my 7 year itch for homeschooling.

I have probably tried every planner offered for review, whether it be digital or paper and have not found something that I liked and could make work for our family to stick with it…until now! When the new The Ultimate Homeschool Planner - Blue Cover from Apologia Educational Ministries , was offered up for review I was ecstatic to give it a try quite simply because it offered space for 6 children and I liked the format!

I am sure you have heard of Apologia Educational Ministries, especially if you are a veteran homeschooler. If you are a newbie or a not a homeschooler at all, let me tell you a little about them.

When most people hear Apologia’s name mentioned they immediately think of their award winning science programs for elementary through high school. But did you know that they also offer Christian worldview curriculum and helpful books and planners too?

Apologia Ultimate Homeschool Planner

“Prioritize for Sanity”

~ pg. 7

Our planner arrived in the nick of time for me! And to my surprise it was my favorite color, blue! This planner is chock full of goodness! Some of the many features include:

~ Sturdy, plastic like, front and back covers with pockets. The whole book is spiral bound with 280 usable pages.

~ Calendars dated from 2015-2023 printed on heavy duty cardstock

~ One-Year Planning Grid

~ Student Goals pages for academic and character goals

~ Family Priorities page to help keep life in perspective

~ Resource List to track curriculum. Enough pages for six children.


~ Undated two-page monthly planning grids

~ Four-page spread for weekly planning. Includes space to write a Bible Action plan/ Battle Plan with Fighter Verse, Prayers and Evidences of Grace, Hospitality/Outreach opportunities, and Memorable moments. Each week also includes a quote or saying to help you meditate on God’s work in your life.

20151028_215906 (1)

~ The second set of pages in the Weekly planner portion offer the maximum opportunity to personalize the planner for your family. With space to organize up to six children in a day –by- day or subject format in a 6x6 grid format. The right hand page has space for Notes, Supplies, and Appointments at a glance as well as another inspirational quote.


~ Record grades on the handy grade list as well as reading lists, field trips, and outside activities.

~ High School Planning Grid helps to take the fear out of homeschooling High School and also includes a sample transcript for a competitive merit scholarship with recording of classes starting in 8th grade.

~Year – End Review pages and a few pages of notes to jot down important things.

The Ultimate Homeschool Planner which retails for $29.00 was designed by Debra Bell, the best-selling author of the award-winning Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling and The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling Teens. It is specifically designed to be apart of The Ultimate Homeschool Planning System that teaches your students to take 20151028_215952responsibility for their own planning and scheduling with guidance to become an independent learner. There are two specific planners. One designed specifically for teens {7th –12th graders}, The Ultimate Weekly Planner for Teens, and a planner for younger students {4th –8th graders}, The Ultimate Daily Planner for Students. Since, we do not currently own either of the planners listed above, I modified our current planners using the techniques mentioned in beginning pages of the user’s guide with my oldest two students, Madison {9th} and Mikayla {7th}.

bc 5-98

We were able to have our weekly planning meeting on Sunday evening to make sure we were on the same page of what was expected to be done each week. This planning session was especially helpful for me to make sure that Mikayla knew what she needed to complete while she was at the gym on her training breaks on Mondays and Fridays. Sometimes our planning sessions get a little silly as we go over lessons.

“Order brings peace.”

~St. Augustine {traditional}

For my younger two students, Montana {3rd} and McKenzie {K}, I normally plan their next week on Thursdays in between helping Mikayla school and finish up by Friday evening {Montana and McKenzie normally do not school on Thursdays so that I can fully focus one day on Madison and Mikayla}. I did not schedule a formal planning meeting with either of them as their schedules are pretty much do the next page/lesson. I did however implement a color coded technique for each day in my planner to keep myself on track.


Overall, I love, love, LOVE this planner! It helps me stay organized and on track, even on my busiest of days! We are about to hit our busy season and I am confident that with this planner, I will be able to keep the girls on track with school and life in general. I especially love that this planner becomes a record of our year. If I ever had a question about this school year I am confident that I can look back upon the planning pages and tell exactly what we planned and accomplished each and every day.


Apologia is one of those companies that everybody talks about and for good reason too! The company publishes quality material and curriculum that I can count on day in and day out so it should not come as a surprise that we are huge fans of Apologia and the products they sell! You can be sure that when I am buying planners for next school year, this planning system will be my go to system for all three of my girls 4th grade and up!

If you are looking for a planner for your family and homeschool then be sure to check out The Ultimate Homeschool Planner. See what my Crewmates thought of this planner and the other colors, yellow and orange, being reviewed by clicking the banner below.


Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal Review

Company ~ Apologia Educational Ministries

Product ~ The Ultimate Homeschool Planner - Blue Cover

Price ~  $29.00 + shipping

Ages ~ for the homeschooling Mom

Format ~ spiral bound notebook

Apologia Ultimate Homeschool Planner





Crew Disclaimer

©2008- 2015 A Stable Beginning. All rights reserved. All photographs, text, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written permission of the author.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Koru Naturals ~ a TOS review

Koru Naturals Review
Ever since I had my first child, Marie, over 18 years ago I have had skin issues. My face breaks out or becomes very dry and inflamed, especially in my nose creases and eyebrow areas. I am always looking for products to provide relief and today I have a little gem to share with you from  Koru Naturals.

While I mostly spend time doing reviews of educational products and books I was blessed to be able to review a few of their natural products over the last few weeks, Skin Clear Cream, Manuka Honey Propolis Soap, Manuka Honey and Manuka Oil Facial Cleanser, and Manuka Honey, Tamarind and Manuka Oil Facial Toner.

Koru is the Maori word from the New Zealand aboriginal culture that means "new, unfurled fern frond". This special frond symbolizes the new growth, life, strength and peace found within the aboriginal community. Since 2002, Koru Naturals has been producing products to promote health to the body and to the skin.

We received:

 Koru Naturals Review

~ This cream is to be applied twice daily to clean skin and is perfect for those with acne-prone skin. Not only will this cream help to improved the appearance of blemished/scared skin, but it also helps to provide those precious nutrients to give your face that elasticity it may have lost over the years. Retails for $19.20.

 Koru Naturals Review

~ This soap is made straight from the bee hive and is known for its intense moisturizing and skin protectant properties of the Manuka Honey and Propolis.  I LOVE this soap! Not only does it smell good, it makes my skin so soft! ($7.90 for one 4.93 oz bar)

 Koru Naturals Review
~ This facial cleanser is a deep cleaner and is safe for those with sensitive skin because it is Paraben free and also does not contain any artificial colors. It comes in a 4 fl oz bottle and retails for $13.60 a bottle.
 Koru Naturals Review
~ This toner is the perfect to condition your skin just before putting on your daily moisturizer. Designed especially for those with acne, oily, combination, or sensitive skin, it will work for everyone! A 4 fl oz bottle retails for $13.20.
When these products first arrived at our house I was so excited to use the products. However, after a few initial uses, I discovered, that the using the cleaner/toner/moisturizer caused irritation to my skin. So, I tested the product on my 14 year old who is at the stage where she is just starting to get acne bumps. I wanted to use the products on Mikayla so she could thoroughly was the “gym funk” {aka chalk/sweat} off after each practice, however, the products are not recommended for use in children 12 and under. I will wait until after her birthday to start using the products with her. Also, I should mention that these products are not meant for those who are pregnant or allergic to honey, Manuka oil or tea tree oil either.
Madison has been really pleased with the products. I think they have made improvements to the acne bumps that she does still get by lessening the amount in each flare up. We will continue to use these products and be purchasing more when we run out.
I will tell you now that I LOVE the SOAP! Everything about it makes me smile from ear to ear! The smell is heavenly to me and the way it makes my skin feel is awesome. I have dry skin, especially in the colder months so I am looking forward to being able to use this soap and know that my skin is getting a deep moisturizer. The soap did not cause any irritation to my skin at all. I will admit that I was a bit selfish sharing the soap with my family members, but I plan to order more and use this as our family soap.

Overall, I love these products that we received! Even though I was not able to use the cleanser/toner/moisturizer I would still recommend the products if you are looking for a natural product. All of the items we have received have helped my family tremendously and I know we will continue to use them even after our supply runs out. I am especially looking forward to trying out some of the other products that Koru Naturals sells in the near future.

Be sure to check out what my CrewMates thought of these products I reviewed and the other products being offered for review including, Argan Oil and Sandalwood Hair Tonic, Emu Oil and Blue Tansy Oil Cream, and Emu Oil Shampoo and Emu Oil Leave-in Conditioner by clicking the banner below.

Koru Naturals Review

Company ~ Koru Naturals
Products ~ Skin Clear Cream
Manuka Honey Propolis Soap, Manuka Honey and Manuka Oil Facial Cleanser and Manuka Honey, Tamarind and Manuka Oil Facial Toner
Price ~ prices vary, see above
Ages ~ 13 and older
 Koru Naturals Review


Crew Disclaimer

©2008- 2015 A Stable Beginning. All rights reserved. All photographs, text, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written permission of the author.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Brookdale House: Drawing Around the World: USA ~ a TOS review

 Brookdale House Review

This year my 7th grader and 3rd grader are learning the states and capitals for geography. I had our curriculum plans set, but you know me I can’t pass up the opportunity to review something new. I had never heard of the  company Brookdale House until we were given the chance to review their Drawing Around the World: USA program.

Brookdale House publishes educational curriculum that allows children to interact and make connections with the material they are learning. The company started in 2006, when the primary author was looking for an elementary writing curriculum to use with her own children. Bescause she could not find one that fit the parameters  she was looking for, copywork, narration, and dictation,  she decided to create her own. Brookdale House’s main goal is to publish educational resources for the homeschool and private school communities that teach on a multi-level platform. The curriculum published is based off the teaching methods of Ms. Charlotte Mason.

 Brookdale House Review

We were lucky enough to receive a copy of Drawing Around the World: USA to use for the last few weeks. This curriculum is designed to help kids memorize all 50 states and capitals, along with a few important facts about each state. By following the simple schedule listed below, your child will not only learn the states and capitals, but also learn how to draw them freehand!

Day 1 ~ Study a new state and complete the important facts table. Also on this day, your child will locate and label each new state on the dashed, black and white copy map.

Day 2 & 3 ~ Locate and label each new state on the dashed, black and white copy map, along with drawing all the states you have studied so far.

Day 4 ~ From memory, draw all of the states you have covered so far on the blank map.


We received this curriculum in PDF eBook format which works great for our family because I can make as many copies as I need for my children. It is recommended for children is grades 4th-12th and the eBook retails for $22.95.  Montana is in 3rd grade and she was able to use the program with little adjustment, so it just depends on your child. We have been able to plug along with this curriculum into week 5 and tie it into our history study quite easily, which makes this Mama happy! Both of the girls enjoy completing their maps and have a fun time trying to quiz each other on states and capitals. My youngest daughter, McKenzie who is in Kindergarten, is listening in and picking up the information too, even though she is not officially completing the curriculum.

Be sure to check out what my Crewmates thought of this program, by clicking the banner below. Also check out some of the other products being reviewed too, including:

Drawing Around the World: Europe
The Fun Spanish
The Grammar Workbook Set

Writing Through Ancient History Level 1 Manuscript
Writing Through Ancient History Level 1 Cursive
Writing Through Ancient History Level 2 Manuscript
Writing Through Ancient History Level 2 Cursive

Writing Through Medieval History Level 1 Manuscript
Writing Through Medieval History Level 1 Cursive
Writing Through Medieval History Level 2 Manuscript
Writing Through Medieval History Level 2 Cursive

Writing Through Early Modern History Level 1 Manuscript
Writing Through Early Modern History Level 1 Cursive
Writing Through Early Modern History Level 2 Manuscript
Writing Through Early Modern History Level 2 Cursive

Writing Through Modern History Level 1 Manuscript
Writing Through Modern History Level 1 Cursive
Writing Through Modern History Level 2 Manuscript
Writing Through Modern History Level 2 Cursive

Sheldon’s New Primary Language Lessons

 Brookdale House Review

Company ~ Brookdale House

Product ~ Drawing Around the World: USA

Price ~ $22.95

Ages ~ 4th – 12th grade

Format ~ PDF eBook


 Brookdale House Review





Crew Disclaimer

©2008- 2015 A Stable Beginning. All rights reserved. All photographs, text, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written permission of the author.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

FishFlix: Do You Believe? ~ a TOS review Review no 2

Does your family like to watch good, quality family movies? If so, then I have a treat for you today. A few weeks ago we were given the opportunity to review the movie, Do You Believe? from

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.

~ Colossians 3:23-24 is a family owned company by Lukas Media. The owner and staff believe that God is honored by hard work, good service and quality products. is the most comprehensive online Christian video store featuring thousands of high quality Christian DVDs. Their mission is to bring you The Greatest Christian and Family-Friendly Films in the World at Great Prices. The website offers a wide selection of family friendly Christian videos, including entertaining movies, documentaries, biographies, educational films, and more. If you are looking for DVDs and Blu-Rays that the whole family can enjoy, FishFlix is the place to shop. Review no 2

The movie begins with a power scene when a local pastor is shaken to the core by the visible faith of an old street-corner preacher when he asks him, “Do you Believe?”. The pastor is reminded that true belief always requires action and takes that message back to his congregation to challenge his flock to take action.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

~ Colossians 3:17

Do You Believe tells the story of twelve individuals who are independently moving along their own daily paths, searching for meaning to their lives. Even though none of the twelve people believe in Christ, their lives all intersect in a way that brings them to the cross.

I watched this movie first and then watched it again with my husband and 14 year old daughter, Madison. This was a great movie that I recommend all watching. It is also from the creators of God’s Not Dead movie if you saw that one. I would caution you to preview the movie first before having a young child, under 13, watch the movie with you. There are some scenes that are intense and while it does not specifically portray suicide a child would be able to pick up on the inference.

Overall, I think anyone looking for great quality Christian movies to check out the selection that FishFlix carries on their website. You will be sure to find something to watch and keep you entertained.

Be sure to click the banner below and see what my CrewMates thought of this movie,  Do You Believe? and the other ones being reviewed, including: Faith of Our Fathers, Little Boy, When Calls the Heart, Heart of the Family, Living Waters: Intelligent Design in the Oceans of the Earth. Review No 2

Company ~

Product ~ Do You Believe?

Price ~ $10.99

Ages ~ PG - 13

Format ~ DVD Review no 2







Crew Disclaimer

©2008- 2015 A Stable Beginning. All rights reserved. All photographs, text, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written permission of the author.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Progeny Press: Stone Fox ~ a TOS review

Progeny Press Review

Now that you have most likely been in school for a few weeks, are you looking to incorporate literature guides into your homeschool? Our family has a fond affection towards good books. I try to fill our bookshelves full of good books as well as check them out from the local library.

In our family I have found that literature guides make reading even more enjoyable. Have you ever checked out the literature guides from Progeny Press? For this review we received a downloadable interactive PDF copy of the study guide for the novel Stone Fox.

Progeny Press has been a family owned and operated company since 1992. They produce high quality literature guides from a Christian worldview ranging from lower elementary years through high school. They literally have 100+ guides and add 3-6 new titles each year ranging from lower elementary, upper elementary, middle school, and high school. If you are looking for a literature guide, they have got you covered!

Progeny Press Review

Stone Fox tells the story of a boy named Willy and his grandfather who live on a farm in Wyoming where they grow potatoes. One day Grandfather wakes up sick and can not get out of bed. After Willy fetches the Doc Smith so he can be examined, Willy finds out that there is nothing really wrong with Grandfather, just that he has given up on life because he fears he will lose his beloved farm for not paying backtaxes.

One day when Willy goes into town he sees a poster advertising about the National Dogsled Races with a prize of $500. Willy wants to do everything he can to help his Grandfather save the farm so Willy decides to enter the race with his dog, Searchlight, even though an Indian named Stone Fox, has also entered and has never lost.

We also received the accompanying interactive study guide with our review.  It has about 60 pages and includes a separate file with the answer key. The literature guide includes a wealth of information about Jackson, WY, the setting of the book as well as history of the Native Americans that lived in this region. With Bible work, map work, research ideas the guide ties into the story as a whole.

Stone Fox is recommended for kids in grades 3 through 6, roughly upper elementary. I read this book aloud to Montana, who is in the third grade. The suggested length of time for finishing a study guide is 8-10 weeks, however you can adjust this on your reading voracity. The first week is used to read the book and then each study guide takes the reader through two chapters of the novel at a time and focuses on several different literary concepts. Also included are several comprehension questions which ask the student to recall events from the book and analyze them. I love that each guide takes care to draw the student back to the Bible.

Check out the sample of the types of questions and information contained in the guides at the website. To make navigation on the website easier, literature guides are categorized by both genre and grade-level. The guides are extremely user-friendly and are currently available as a print version, CD in PDF format, and email as a PDF attachment.

We enjoyed our literature guide and have purchased and/or reviewed several guides in the past and will be purchasing more in the future. The new interactive format allows the student to type in the answers directly on their computer screen which is awesome! I also love that there is no limit on copying pages for use within our homeschool. Progeny Press Guides are economically priced from $10.99 to $27.99, Stone Fox sells for $17.99. Be sure to browse the online catalog for individual pricing on all the available guides. 

Our family finds that literature guides make reading even more enjoyable! We give this guide 2 thumbs up and I look forward to adding more literature guides to our collection over the course of the school year.

Be sure to check out what my Crewmates thought of this guide and the many other guides being reviewed, Sam the Minuteman, Miss Rumphius, Sarah, Plain and Tall, Stone Fox, Tuck Everlasting, Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, To Kill a Mockingbird and, Introduction to Poetry at this time by clicking the banner below.


Progeny Press Review

Company ~ Progeny Press

Product ~ Stone Fox

Price ~ $17.99

Ages ~ Upper elementary, 3rd to 6th grade

Progeny Press Review




Crew Disclaimer

©2008- 2015 A Stable Beginning. All rights reserved. All photographs, text, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written permission of the author.