Homeschool Enrichment Classes

For the past few weeks, I have been very busy. My life has taken some major turns and twists, but I am keeping it full.

One of my life challenges was to teach enrichment classes to other homeschoolers! It has been a fun challenge and I have really enjoyed it.


In the middle of the first class day, my aunt dropped off boxes of books for me to sell. I have sold a few boxes, but still have several to get out of my living room.

Below, we learned the Chemistry of fat by demonstrating it with making butter cookies, as well as the importance of following a recipe carefully. Messing up the order your ingredients are mixed can change the chemical makeup of your dough. We are loving using Guest Hollow’s Kitchen Chemistry.


I am also teaching an American history through fiction class. Last week, we had skits acting out some of what we had learned.

I am also teaching an outdoor PE class with yard games to a large group of children. That gets rather exciting and I get a little exercise too. I am thankful to have some helpers.

We started out with some stretches to warm up and end usually with Duck, duck goose as everyone is a bit tired!

We have read Celia Garth by Gwen Bristow already and will be moving on to “Sarah’s Land” by Ann Rinaldi in the next section. I am working to come up with fun, hands on activities that really cement American history into their minds during the hour I have. Last week, besides the skit, we examined documents from the time period and tried to relate to the authors of them.

In all the changes that take place, it is always good to know that perhaps you can share your talent!


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Filed under Daily Happenings, Homeschooling

History Through Fiction

Seems backwards, right?


Fiction is fiction. History is the story of what happened in the past. The two should not cross.

Yet, every homeschool teacher will tell you as they look at curriculums like Sonlight, My Father’s World, Beautiful Feet, Winter Promise, and so many others that their children learned history best by reading fictional books about historical happenings.

Can you teach history using fiction? I would say the answer is a resounding “YES!”

This year I am teaching a supplemental class learning history through fiction. We are concentrating on American history. I find myself as I am wrapped up in the planning, more and more excited about the books we have to read, and wishing there was more time in the year.

I was thinking, if my voice was not so annoying and pipsqueaky like, that I would love to visit and talk on something like a You Tube channel about my favorite books. However, I am sure my voice would so annoy people, that I thought maybe instead that a series of photos, reviews and maybe short clips would be better.

Which would you rather see?

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Filed under Historical fiction, Homeschooling, MFW

Sons of Blackbird Mountain by Joanna Bischof

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko



My Review:

I know that when I pick up a book by Joanne Bischof, to expect something different.
This one did surprise me a little still. I loved the fact that one of the main characters was deaf. I felt for him with his struggles through the book.
The food descriptions will make you crave the recipes and send up signals begging for biscuits, apple butter and berry pies. But overall, this book, like this authors others, don’t expect everything to be cut, dry and over the top romantic. The characters have pain, struggle in their relationships and have to seek to get through hard trials.
Romantic? Yes, I guess you could say there are romantic moments in the story, but it is not the main focus.
This book touches on some of the social injustices of the time period as well. It is well written and one that will leave you thinking!

This book is available on kindle, audio and in print from Amazon.

“Sons of Blackbird Mountain” 

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Giveaway! The Hope of Azure Springs by Rachel Fordham


Want a chance to win a copy of this book that just came out in July?


Read the following interview to find out how!

Everyone has a story but not everyone has a story like Em. Before ever riding the orphan trains she endured life on the streets of New York. Hardened by a life of survival she expects little from her future and only dreams of reuniting with her sister. Life for women in 1881 is restrictive in many ways but to be a woman that is plain and uneducated is far worse. But Em has grit and heart, two ingredients that combined with kindness allow Em to blossom.

A gunshot wound is her ticket to freedom. Broken and grasping for life she enters the town of Azure Springs, Iowa where for the first time in many years she is greeted with friendliness and compassion. But a soul that has been beaten down for so long does not recover all at once. Her journey to happily ever after is marred with pain from the past, uncertainty and hardship.

We all have character strengths and though she believes her only strength is her ability to survive readers will discover that her strengths are many. Em touches the lives of the townsfolks at the same time they are reaching out to her. Their eccentricities excite and awake her to living and not just surviving. With their help the bedraggled Em learns to smile again.

For the first time the illiterate and unwanted Em begins to believe that there might be more for her. Books and letters free her mind. The kindness of the townsfolk awaken her dreams but can the tenderness of the sheriff free her heart?

Pick up a copy of The Hope of Azure Springs to join Em on her journey! Leave a comment answering the following question on this post to enter the drawing as well.

Has foster care or adoption impacted your life at all? If so, how?

Visit Rachel Fordham at
And at


Filed under Book Reviews, Historical fiction

The Truly Important things of life…

What is truly important to you?


Is it your job, your house, your kids, your family?

What do you hold in highest regard?

I do a lot of observing of other people. I see families that are close to one another, but seek to portray absolute perfection to others. I see other families that show their flaws, are open about their shortcomings, and don’t let it stop them from seeking to be better. I see those that spend time with others as well.

This last month my grandmother was ill, and passed away in the middle of the month. The funeral was last weekend. I spent several hours sitting by her bedside. I was reading or just observing, sometimes visiting with other family which she said made her happy. It took more emotional strain to know that she may not have long with us, but in the end,  the time was worth giving up. I left my meetings, my garden, my children, all things that were important to me to spend time.

We live in a time of culture where spending time is anomaly. We push achievements. If someone fails, we badmouth them or avoid them. We don’t seek for change and success.

Instead I see people focused on the latest fad or diet. Everyone has kids, little ones that are not eating normal diets. In fact, if someone does not have a million food restrictions they are the unusual ones. It is totally a first world issue, and most of the time science is not being used in these many food restrictions. But it does appear to help some people. But again, I noticed that this can limit the time those people spend with others. Their time is spent cooking, avoiding others that eat foods that they cannot eat, and working hard to just focus on what they can eat. The social isolation of people, down to young children is tremendous right now. Or if you eat normally, you feel odd that you can eat a slice of bread and cheese.

If you are someone that has to restrict your food choices, make a conscious effort to not isolate yourselves. Work to have an alternative food so that you can join in social activities occasionally. If you are introverted by nature, it can be easier to just isolate.

I realized though, the gift that others bring into our lives is something we should cherish. We may not realize how little time we have left with them. A 23 year old young woman died this last week, and another person lost their 28 year old cousin. While my grandmother lived a long full life, it still did not seem long enough.

You never know when you will lose someone. If you can spend time, do it. It may mean picking berries alongside them or unpacking boxes for a friend. It doesn’t always have to involve talking. =)


Who can you connect with this week?

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The Hope of Azure Springs by Rachel Fordham

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko



My Review:
This debut fiction story with the lovely cover was enjoyable. The author wove minor historical caveats to this story to give you a feel of some of the lives experienced by those that road the “orphan trains” as we refer to them now.
I found the hints of suspicion and dislike from the town towards someone that was an orphan or living in a way they could not understand so relatable. It seems that often we see this with foster parents, children that have possibly been abused or even with friends that have less than ideal lives. We reject them in the name of protection of others, while at the same time losing out on wonderful relationships.
This historical tale shows how sometimes loving when someone does not look or appear lovable, can be one of the best things for all involved.
This book was obtained from NetGalley through the publisher. The opinions expressed herein are my own and no one else.
The book is available for purchase from local booksellers and Amazon.
“The Hope of Azure Springs” It is also available on Audible, which is nice as well.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Historical fiction

What is Enough?

Are you enough? 

What is enough? 

Today, all over I saw people saying, speaking and sharing the idea that because one person was focusing on one wrong, it meant that they were neglecting other wrongs that needed to be addressed.

It made me ask.  What is enough? What truly means we are doing enough?


There are times it seems we look into the wide expanse of the universe and the enormity of it is overwhelming. It seems that as far as the eye can see there is something that needs to change, someone that needs support and some item that there is never enough of.

Are we enough?

Can we change lives from our small corner of the universe?

I like to think we can.


It might mean that while we cannot impact everyone, we may take one small smiling face and impact them to make change later.

It might mean having tea with a friend when they are having a bad day, to impact our corner, so they have strength to do their daily tasks, raise their children whom are growing up to impact their corner of the world.

It also may mean for you, that you are involved in politics. You may be a foster parent. You may adopt. You may support those in abusive situations. You may go to court rooms with those that need support. You may be a counselor that lends a listening ear.

You may write books, articles or report on news in the media.

Whatever you are doing, don’t ask yourself if you are enough. Ask yourself what you are doing to impact your corner of the world.

When you see the answer, ask if you can do more. If the answer is no, realize you are enough. Do we need to push ourselves a bit more? We are still enough if we are listening to that inner call.


Let us stop telling everyone that they are not enough when they seek to impact their corner. We can all grow, change and work to be more impactful individuals. But in the end, the way we act towards others often is the greatest impact we can share.

Instead, let us seek to encourage them in their impactful journey each step of the way!

When they seek to go in one direction and you are following another, know that this is how those with different visions make up the universe and give us each our uniqueness.

We are enough. We can have an impact from the smallest corner to the broadest audience.


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The Slow and Simple Life…

Is it reality?

Can it be achieved?

From my perspective, it seems like a dim reality. But as with so many other things in my life that I have sought after, I know that often we choose to accept the reality we have, rather than seek to change it. We see it as something we are trapped in, rather than looking for ways to find freedom.

As I am filling up the empty calendar days, this feeling in the pit of my stomach begins to rise. You know the one? That sinking feeling of, “How on earth am I going to do this and not lose my mind.” feeling.

I was watching an old movie about  Francis of Assisi and was struck by his desire for simplicity. He had everything. Riches, power, women, and everything. AS the movie aptly puts it, “Power, riches, women, even God. He just sauntered out of his house one fine morning and plucked God out of the air as easy as catching a butterfly. It is all too simple.”

His friend was jealous of his peace, the ability to forsake every standard that was set by society and live a slow, peaceful life, serving others. While much of the movie is fiction, I am sure, it teaches me something.

It may have seemed impossible for Francis to escape his duties to his country, his father, the church, and go against what the normal standard was. He forsook marriage, took to living as a beggar or what we would consider “homeless”. That is not what I want, but the peace is something I envy.

I live pretty simply. We eat simply.  We don’t drive fancy cars. We don’t accumulate debt. We serve others. But in all of that, comes a lot of responsibility and workload.

I would say, ask of yourself questions when determining where something falls on the priority scale.

  • Am I putting my service to others above my own responsibilities?
  • Are good things causing me stress?
  • What is on the top priority list where it is a need for survival?
  • What relationships are causing more anxiety than peace?

When we ask these questions, some of them may be hard to answer. They are not the same for everyone. We may need to cut back on good things. We may have to limit interactions with some people that we truly care about for a time.

But there is also a time when we need to ask other questions as well.

  • Am I limiting myself from being hurt because I don’t want to deal with it?
  • Am I caring for myself in a way that I can be of service to others?
  • Would it be easier to set healthy boundaries if I maintained them?
  • What things do I need to move off the top priority list because they never belonged there?

These questions are not always easy to answer as well as they constitute change we have to make. Change is not always comfortable. We may wish to protect ourselves from pain, when sometimes serving others is on the top priority list and it might cause pain. Perhaps we need to cut out sugar, so we have more energy, or allow ourselves to eat frozen pizza once in awhile so we don’t have the stress of cooking all the time to perfection.

The answers are not the same for everyone, but realizing that simple and slow might vary for you, but it can be obtainable in your own way.


Filed under Daily Happenings

Before I Saw You by Amy Sorrells

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko


About the book:

Folks are dying fast as the ash trees in the southern Indiana town ravaged by the heroin epidemic, where Jaycee Givens lives with nothing more than a thread of hope and a quirky neighbor, Sudie, who rescues injured wildlife. After a tragedy leaves her mother in prison, Jaycee is carrying grief and an unplanned pregnancy she conceals because she trusts no one, including the kind and handsome Gabe, who is new to town and to the local diner where she works.

Dividing her time between the diner and Sudie’s place, Jaycee nurses her broken heart among a collection of unlikely friends who are the closest thing to family that she has.  Ultimately, Jaycee must decide whether the truest form of love means hanging on or letting go.

My Review:

Adoption is a topic that is very close to me. My grandmother was adopted. She was loved by two mothers, the one that gave birth to her, loved her and cared for her until she was six weeks, while keeping it a secret from everyone. The second one was the mother that adopted her, an amazing mother whom had nothing, but love for her daughter, her grandchildren and her great grandchildren. She was incredible. Always laughing, and giving something of herself to others.

When I read this story of Jaycee, I knew that the story was very different than that of my grandmother. But her mother that gave birth to her was similar in that she felt she had no choice. In that time, you didn’t keep a child when you were not married.

This story touched me as you felt the love of a birth mother for her child. The sacrifice she gave to give a child life. Often that is neglected in the story of adoption to show the incredible love that is there.

I wish that we were more supportive of mothers, so they do feel they have options, like Jaycee, that if they want to parent or release their child to be parented by another set of parents, we would see there is love in both actions.

I would recommend this book to anyone that has adoption as a part of their life, to see a glimpse inside the world of a mother that chose adoption, but not only them, almost anyone that would want their heart to be touched to glimpse into how we can love, self sacrificially in so many ways.

This book was obtained by me from the publisher, Tyndale House. The opinions contained herein are my own.

You can purchase your own copy in your local bookstore, or online.

“Before I Saw You”

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Becoming The Talbot Sisters by Rachel Linden

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko


Book Description

Twin sisters Waverly and Charlie Talbot have drifted far apart as they pursue opposite dreams of stardom and service to the poor. On an astonishing journey across Central Europe, they must come together to face their fears, find their courage and fight for what they love.

Celebrity chef Waverly Ross has built a successful career with her home-entertaining show Simply Perfect. Yet she and her husband, Andrew, have never been able to realize the true desire of Waverly’s heart: to become a mother. Meanwhile Waverly’s twin sister, Charlie Talbot, buries her bitter disappointment and shattered idealism beneath a life spent serving others as an international aid worked in Budapest, Hungary.

When the beloved aunt who raised them passes away, Waverly and Charlie come together in their grief after living years on separate continents. Struck by a fierce desire to bridge the distance between them, Charlie offers Waverly and her husband the selfless gift of surrogacy.

But soon the sisters find they are each in danger of losing their jobs, seemingly putting their dreams on hold once again. When Waverly shows up unannounced in Budapest with a plan to rescue Simply Perfect, the sisters embark on an adventure across Central Europe that could save them both from occupational hazards. Though the twins haven’t had to rely on each other since childhood, an unforeseen dangerous turn in their journey across Europe forces them to stand together to save their careers, the baby, and each other.

My Review:

I was not sure what to expect when I picked up this book. I had heard good things about it and was looking forward to it. It went in so many different directions than I thought it would. I throughly enjoyed this story.

This book would be classified as women’s fiction without a focus on romance, while there are hints of it, it is more about the relationship and life issues the characters faced. The story was beautifully interwoven with hard life stories, with the HGTV cooking show feel in the middle of it.

One of my favorite scenes was a labor scene. I thought the beautiful descriptions without being dramatic, gross or anything offensive in the labor scene was one of the highlights of the book. It takes talent to do that.

I would highly recommend you pick up this story, especially if you are looking for something with some good discussion and will make you think.

This book is available for purchase from your local booksellers and Amazon.

“Becoming The Talbot Sisters”

This book was obtained from BookLook bloggers. The opinions contained herein are my own.

I review for BookLook Bloggers

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Filed under Book Reviews, Doula