Timothy, a Little Fish with a Big Purpose by Brad Riley


Timothy, a Little Fish with a Big Purpose, written by Brad Riley and illustrated by Krystahl Goodale is a sweet story based on Matthew 17. Jesus tells Peter to go to the Sea of Galilee to find a coin in a fish’s mouth that is to be used to pay the Temple tax.

There are so many possibilities for this short story that it is very exciting. Younger children will enjoy the fun story and adventure of little Timothy the fish and the beautiful full color illustrations. Older children can be led in discussions about faith, trust, the sovereignty and provision of God, omniscience, and even Timothy of the New Testament and how he was raised to love and follow God by his mother and grandmother. He was prepared for an unimaginably great task by these faithful women.

I think you will really enjoy this book in print or in electronic format.

A big thank you to Cross Focused Reviews and Vox Dei for a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

The Gospel Call & True Conversion by Paul Washer


Paul Washer is a well-known preacher in reformed circles.  If you search YouTube, you will be blessed to find a good sampling of his sermons and teachings.  He has a deep passion for those who believe they are Christians because they prayed a prayer, thinking that the words of the prayer saved them.  God alone saves, and as Washer writes from the start of this book, He repeatedly calls us to repent (turn away from our sins) and believe on Jesus Christ in order to be saved.  Saved from our sins against a perfect God.  Saved from separation from God.  Saved from eternal death without Him.  Saved from hell. 

The Gospel Call & True Conversion is one volume of three in Washer’s Recovering the Gospel series.  Other titles include The Gospel’s Power & Message and Gospel Assurance and Warnings.

Humans like formulas.  If you take this pill, your health problems will be solved.  If you pass this exam, you will earn licensure for your dream job.  Easy, temporary inconveniences need to be taken to receive the result we are looking for.  Pray a prayer and we will have our “fire insurance”.  Nothing more to be done.  Go on living life as normal, not paying much attention to God except at prayers during weddings and funerals…and of course the obligatory Christmas and Easter service attendance.  Other than that, “God understands I am busy.”  Yikes!

The text is divided into three parts with a total of 16 chapters (188 pages) in which the author works through the true Gospel.  He explains repentance , faith, being set apart, the point of salvation, salvation assurance, God’s character, and so much more.  This is the first time I have read a book written by Paul Washer, and I was happily surprised at how readable he is.  I was expecting something more difficult to slog through.  His writing is peppered with Scripture as one would hope and his work is very well-cited.  That always excites me! 

Washer’s heart and voice are clear, pleading, longing for the world to know God and His perfect love.  He is passionate that the Church preach the true Word of God rather than watering down the Bible as has become the trend in so many churches. 

This would be a wonderful read for those who have been blessed by Washer’s preaching or other writings, for those longing for assurance of their salvation, for those wondering whether they are saved, and for those wanting to know how to better witness to non-believers.  It is a highly recommended read.


A big thank you to Cross Focused Reviews and Reformation Heritage Books for a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review

No More Wasted Years by Olivia Brodock


When I was in high school, it seemed that college attendance and graduation was simply expected of us by our teachers and guidance counselors.  There were no other “good” options if we wanted to have a “good” job.  As an adult, I know that is rather silly; many a young person is unnecessarily burdened with seemingly insurmountable debt after college.  A college education is only one option.  An option that more and more people are hesitating to plunge in to.  One such person is Olivia Brodock.

Ms. Brodock is a young author who recently published No More Wasted Years: Rethinking the Status Quo and Reclaiming the College Years for Young Women.  In her book, she presents other options to young women in a conversational tone, highlighting young women taking a different path.  In about 100 pages, the author discusses the option of choosing to prepare for marriage and motherhood rather than a formal, 4 year college program.  What does that look like?  Ms. Brodock shares many options of things that young women can do to develop their gifts and talents and ways that these teenagers and 20-somethings can earn money.  She does not completely rule out college.  She does not paint them as evil.  She does point out that many subjects are more quickly mastered from reading original documents and texts on the subject matter (economics can be learned from library books by Thomas Sowell just as well as text books).  If you are simply interested in the subject and not pursuing an upper level job at a corporation, this style of study will work.  In fact, this is how we learn most things in life!  On our own or with experts we find ourselves…not in a classroom.

The thing is…not everyone gets married before age 40…or at all…and not everyone has a supportive set of Christian parents who share the author’s view and are willing or able to continue to provide for the financial needs and wants of their young-adult daughters while they try to start a business and prepare at home for marriage.  (How is that for a run on sentence?!)  Sometimes married women find themselves abandoned, widowed, or needing to participate in the family financial economy in a manner that earns more than cake decorating or tutoring.  The author briefly addresses this set of circumstances and does encourage young women to submit to the leadership and headship of their parents.

While I don’t believe every young person should run down the path of a college education with college debt, I do think it is wise to be prepared to financially support yourself and your family.  For many, that may mean earning a college degree.  If a person is desiring to be a Registered Nurse or a paralegal, that cannot be solely learned from online classes and an internship.  One must become licensed by the state after completing an accredited program.  Life has so many twists and turns…rarely can we see when they are going to occur…in my ever-increasing age, I am seeing more and more that apart from Christ and salvation, there is more than one way to skin a cat and more than one way to honor God.  Whether we choose to prepare at home for our future or choose to prepare at college for our future, we can (and are instructed to) glorify God all along the way.  We know God is sovereign and in control of it all – praise Him for that!!!

This book would be an excellent read for young women and their families to read and discuss together.  The author has a young, passionate voice and I believe this will appeal to young women.  She has great ambitions (some of which are outlined in her book) and could be an encouragement and inspiration to other young ladies.

Check out her webpage, “She Considers”, at: http://sheconsiders.com/

Check out her Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/SheConsiderscom

Staying Rooted


God has been convicting me of something lately.  More and more.  I have been praying and trying my best to listen to this conviction…and now to repent.  Change.  Go in the right direction.  His direction.  His leading.  His Word – the Bible.

Rooted by the River.

Yes, that’s it.  We desire and pray for our children to have deep, blossoming faith in their Creator.  Yet how easily distracted are we?  Very!  This is the time of year many homeschool families begin to buy next year’s curriculum.  The beautiful, glossy catalogs come through our homes.  We go to homeschool conventions, curriculum fairs, and scour Facebook groups for good prices on new-to-us curriculum.  It is exciting and fun!  Most homeschool families enjoy making plans for the upcoming year.

There is a great deal of pressure to make the “right” choices for our children and our families.

Charter or Umbrella or Independent?

Public School at Home, Classical, Charlotte Mason, Montessori, Unschooling,  Unit Study Based, or Eclectic Approach?

All-in-One boxed curriculum, or Mix-and-Match your own?

Violin, soccer, 4-H, Scouts, Latin, AWANA, or…all of them?  None of them?

So many wonderful, beautiful choices in this day and age of homeschooling.  So many…distractions.

Why do we homeschool?

That has changed for us over the few short years we have been at it.  Or rather, the true purpose has come to the forefront and become more solidified.

Discipleship.  That is why we homeschool.  Not for superior education or a greater amount and quality of family time (although those are all true), but discipleship.  Our greatest call and goal and prayer and desire for our children is that they will be disciples of Christ who are firmly rooted by the river, engulfed in His love, seeking His face, resting in His holiness, glorifying and worshiping Him.

So how do we actually do that?  How exactly do we disciple our children to be students and followers of Christ?

I believe the answer is simple.  We are to be disciples ourselves.

How do we do that?  How do we grow in Christ?  How do we become more like Him?

We study the Bible.  We pray.  Alone.  Together with our families.  We talk about how Scripture applies to our lives.  We talk about our thoughts and wants and emotions and check them all against the Word of God.  We examine our good works and then check our hearts against the Word of God.  Are we resting in Him?  Are we remembering that He alone is our hope for salvation?  Are we remembering that all of our good deeds are as filthy rags before Him and His holiness?  Left to ourselves, there is no entering Heaven.  None.  It is His sacrifice alone that pays the price of our entrance.  Christ alone covers us.

Yes, we already know this.  But have we been distracted from it?  Are we more consumed by ensuring Latin and Greek and Piano and Grammar are completed than starting our day in the Bible?  Are we pious and proud of our Bible reading sessions?  Are we humbled and thankful we have the ENTIRE BIBLE (multiple copies!) in our home?  And that God used His chosen and holy men to record His holy Word to us?  Are we ready to dig deeper and learn more about Him and His love and provision?  Or are we too busy checking the daily Bible reading off on our to-do-list so that we can rush off to AWANA.  Are we distracted from God by the good things in our lives?  What a well-crafted trick of the Devil that is!  To distract us from God with the good things.  To tempt us to become so focused on church activities that we aren’t really paying attention to Him and His Word and His leading.

Are we more passionate about homeschooling than we are about the Gospel?  Are we greater witnesses about educating our children at home than we are about salvation through Christ?  Which subject do we talk about more?  Ouch.

We have been reading through the Old Testament most evenings before bedtime with our children, but God has really put it on my heart to do more with our 7 year old since he is the oldest and has a much longer attention span than our toddlers.  But how?  How do we fit that in?  One more thing?  We talk about the Bible all throughout our day and almost all of our curriculum is “Christian” with Bible “mixed in”.  The Bible cannot be one more thing that we fit in; it can’t be mixed in.  The Bible must be our foundation in life and in homeschool.

We have a new plan to try and will adapt as necessary.  We will keep our evening Old Testament readings (1 Kings right now) and will do better at reading our morning verse during breakfast (a verse on a small rectangle card pulled from a little plastic loaf of bread – that works for toddler attention spans), but during toddler nap time, we will also be studying the book of Luke and then the book of Acts.  A little chunk – a few verses – at a time.  Pray, read, discuss, repeat.  This isn’t about doing “more” Bible time.  We are not trying to clock enough Bible minutes each day, week or month.  No – we want to keep the main thing, the main thing.  We need to return to Him many times during the day.  For our family, more frequent Bible readings should help us to remember that God is first in all things, to better manage our time (ahem, Mommy’s Facebook time), and to avoid being sucked in to 18 different activities and 31 new curriculum programs.

I pray that you are encouraged by this post to follow God’s lead in your life, whatever that may look like.


Book Review: Anselm of Canterbury by Simonetta Carr


Italian by birth, Simonetta Carr has homeschooled her eight children, and now is sharing her writing talents with us in her series, Christian Biographies For Young Readers (CBFYR).

Her latest installment in the series is Anselm of Canterbury. To be quite honest, I cannot recall ever hearing of him before. That may be because I avoided church history while in Seminary. I’m embarrassed to admit that, but frankly, it sounded quite dull! Ms. Carr makes learning church history anything but dull. In just over 60 pages, the life of Anselm is explored as are world events, European history, early Church happenings, and theology. Yes, beautiful theology is delved into in words a child can surely understand! This book is written to an audience of children ages 7-12, but this Momma really enjoyed reading and learning from this book and I am eagerly looking forward to reading it a second time…at which point I will include our oldest child in the fun!

This series came highly recommended by a couple of friends in the Facebook group, Fellowship of Reformed Homeschool Moms, as a series to be added to our homeschool library, so you can imagine my excitement when I saw this book up for review! What made it even more attractive was the fact that we are beginning our study of the Resurrection of Christ – the Middle Ages (The Mystery of History: Volume II by Linda Lacour Hobar) next month. Anselm lived from 1033-1109, so his life fits perfectly in with the time period we will have the opportunity to study! Recently, I have become more and more convinced of the importance and beauty of studying church history. We are so excited to see more authors publishing quality works in this area of study. What a blessing and a joy to learn from brothers and sisters who have walked on earth with Christ many centuries before us.

Anselm of Canterbury is published by Reformation Heritage Books and is illustrated by Matt Abraxas. The illustrations are beautiful and of high quality, although I do think a few of the facial expressions may be scary to a young child. The book is beautiful. The pages are glossy and heavy weight – a beautiful book for your home or church library. The pages are filled with the vivid illustrations from Mr. Abraxas as well as detailed photos of artifacts and geographic locations Anselm traversed during his lifetime. At the end of the book is a page titled “Words from Anselm” where some of his quotes are listed. They are cited so that you can find them in Anselm’s writings if you so wish.

I didn’t expect to be convicted while reading a children’s book on church history, but I was. On page 18, Carr writes that Anselm was discouraged and frustrated and went to see Archbishop Maurilius. Anselm only wanted to be a monk, yet he found himself in the position of being Abbott with much greater responsibilities.

“As Anselm’s superior, Maurilius encouraged him to continue to take care of his duties. He explained to him that many people join monasteries just to look for peace and quiet, and in the end, they become selfish and lazy. He also told Anselm that probably God was going to give him even more responsibility, and in that case he should not refuse it.”

Wow. I see myself in there – just wanting peace and quiet and time to think and read and rest…yes, even relax. That just isn’t the life we see God calling us to in the Bible. Not that any of these things in and of themselves are bad – God did create the Sabbath – but this should not be our goal nor our focus.

I didn’t expect to be spiritually encouraged while reading a children’s book on church history, but I was. On pages 42-43, the gospel of Jesus Christ is clearly laid out. God became man because of our sinful rebellion. Without Christ’s payment for our sins, we have no way to repay God. All of our works and supposed good deeds are like filthy rags before Him. We are saved by Christ alone. He had to live a perfect life and die and rise again on our behalf. He had to take the punishment for our sins. Yes, I know it is true, but the way in which Carr writes this gospel truth is beautiful and simple and moving.

I highly recommend this series. In fact, we’ve already ordered two more books in the series and plan to purchase more soon! I am sure that had I read a series such as this during my childhood years, I wouldn’t have avoided church history during my seminary years.

Other Books Available in the CBFYR Series:
John Calvin
Augustine of Hippo
John Owen
Lady Jane Grey

Yet to be Published:
John Knox
Julia Gonzaga
Jonathan Edwards
Martin Luther

A big thank you to Christian Focus 4 Kids, Cross Focused Reviews and Reformation Heritage Books for a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Wow! It has been a while. Life has been busy, but we are back on track.

I wanted to take the time to share two fantastic freebies that our family has been enjoying.
The first is a math website: https://www.xtramath.org/

Think of it as electronic flashcards for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts. After Dad or Mom create a free account, your child takes a free online assessment to determine where to begin practice. At that point, your child can begin an individualized math practice program. It took some time in our home to get used to the computer keyboard (not bumping letter keys while in pursuit of the number keys) and the timer, but that is part of the learning curve! After a few days, it became much smoother. We still LOVE Life of Fred by Professor Stanley Schmidt and will continue to use Life of Fred as our math instruction program.

You can find out more about Life of Fred at http://stanleyschmidt.com/FredGauss/index2.html

You can read a review I wrote on Life of Fred at https://rootedbytheriver.wordpress.com/2012/11/30/life-of-fred-review-part-one/

You can buy Life of Fred from Z-Twist Books at http://www.ztwistbooks.com/

Xtramath is not a stand alone math program because no teaching session is included. This site only offers practice for what your child already knows. Xtramath helps your child improve accurate speed through repetition. There is no annoying buzz sound when time is up. Instead, if the wrong answer is typed in or if your child doesn’t answer in time, the correct answer appears and the child then types the correct answer as seen on the screen. This is a gentle way to reinforce what the child already knows (or is in the process of learning or memorizing). The site also emails parents weekly with the progress the child is making. This is helpful for those who have their children practice independently. Generally, we have our child come to get us when they finish each section so we can see the progress and review any missed facts. The practice sessions each day take less than 15 minutes for us and are broken up into three sections so that your child can see which problems they are doing well on and which problems they need to keep working on. Multiple children can be added on to the same account with each child able to log in under their own name.

The next fantastic freebie we are really enjoying is Free Piano Lessons 4 Kids http://www.freepianolessons4kids.com/

That’s right! Free piano lessons! Wow! I took piano lessons as a child, but didn’t stick with it. Now I am learning with our oldest child. So fun and special! Joseph Hoffman, M.M. has developed a complete music training program…online. For this, we use the iPhone and place it on the sheet music stand of our Yamaha keyboard (a generous birthday gift to our oldest child by his grandparents a couple of years ago). If you prefer a larger screen or don’t have an iPhone, you could do the same thing with an iPad (we don’t have one), desktop or laptop computer. The point being…you want to watch the lessons right next to the keyboard or piano. We are practicing every day except Sunday (unless there is a desire to do so). Since the lessons are short (less than 10 minutes each), they are perfect for the attention span of a child. If you have a child who is passionate about learning the piano, they could certainly complete a few lessons in a day (as long as they are taking the time to learn what he is teaching carefully and not simply rushing). We love that he is teaching music by ear and by sight. The Hoffman program includes not only songs, but piano posture, the musical alphabet, rhythm, reading music, chords, finger numbers, hand over hand, and much more.

The lessons are completely free to watch without any odd advertisements scrolling across the screen. How generous of him to take his time and talent to share with all of us! If you would like flash cards, worksheets, downloadable games, and an accompaniment CD for practice, those are available to purchase for a minimal fee (considering how much we would be paying for lessons normally). If you do not have internet access or simply prefer DVDs, those are available for purchase as well. Mr. Hoffman’s online store can be found at http://www.freepianolessons4kids.com/store.html

Currently, there are 54 free lessons available online. I am not sure whether or not he is continuing to add lessons, but check back with regularity and perhaps there will be a pleasant surprise!

Check this page to have many of your questions answered http://www.freepianolessons4kids.com/support.html

Check this page to follow FreePianoLessons4Kids on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/FreePiano?fref=ts

Parents can sign up for Mr. Hoffman’s free newsletter at http://freepianolessons4kids.us2.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=fb2feca28d00943ac130d411c&id=f44ba50086

Renee of France (Bitesize Biographies) – by Simonetta Carr


Renee of France is an interesting woman in that she lived during the time of, corresponded with, and even had a brief visit from the French Reformer, John Calvin.

Simonetta Carr provides a simple timeline spanning Renee of France’s life – October 25, 1510 to June 12, 1575 at the start of her Bitesize Biography. Carr ends her text with an annotated bibliography in case one wishes to use her writings as a spine and then venture out for additional readings and information.

Renee of France had a turbulent life, even from the beginning. Both of her parents died before she was five years old. Her only sibling died, and so her hand was sought by the parents of an Italian Duke on his behalf. The marriage was tumultuous – filled with trials and with little other than their five children in common.

Notable about Renee of France is that while she sought to live out her Protestant beliefs in her Catholic marriage, she provided refuge for many who were persecuted for their religious beliefs. The book details how she worked through the discrepancies of the two faiths during the time of Martin Luther. Peppered throughout is Calvin’s advice as she navigates these waters with few to guide her and no support from her husband.

Though this is a historical biography and names and dates are bountiful, the book is written in the form of a novel which makes it easy to read. There are fewer than 130 pages, so it is also quick! I will be saving this short book for when our children are older so that we can read and have a female perspective on the Reformation.

As a bonus, you can listen to an interview by Shaun Tabatt of Cross Focused Reviews with the author here! http://biblegeekgonewild.com/2013/02/26/author-talks-episode-12-simonetta-carr/

A big thank you to EP Publishing With A Mission and Cross Focused Reviews for a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.