Monday, November 17, 2014

Sending You a Tropical Breeze - Review of Jan May’s Ocean Adventures Creative Writing Curriculum & a Giveaway!

by Sally Matheny

Sending You a Tropical Breeze
A cold wind may be whistling outside your window but today, a tropical breeze is coming your way.

     Do you have a young, reluctant writer in your home? I do. My fourth-grader freezes over when he’s required to write. He hates it. Which is why I was eager to try out Jan May’s curriculum, Ocean Adventures in Creative Writing.  Clearly stated on the front cover is the statement, “Even the reluctant writer will dive in!”

     Not only did I plan to get my reluctant writer’s toes in the water, but I also hoped the curriculum would splash enthusiasm into a homeschool co-op class I was teaching.

     The students ranged in ages from eight to twelve. Only a third of the class professed to enjoy writing. Here are a few of their comments upon completion of the class:

     I liked writing a story about my ocean adventure. I liked being able to choose my own animal instead of being assigned one. – Meredith (10)

     I’ve never been able to write this much in one week before. I never wanted to write this much before this class. – Samuel (8)

     I loved how fun it was. I liked the ocean theme. [The lessons] were easy to understand. – Zac (10)

     What makes this curriculum so likable to students?

Ocean Adventures in Creative Writing
·         to research an own ocean animal of their own choosing
·         to create their own ocean community setting
·         to devise their own characters and plot
·         to focus on the story more than grammar and punctuation

Bite-Sized Lessons
·         Character, Setting, and Plot
·         Writing beginnings, middles, and endings
·         Spicing up your story
·         Editing

Fun Factor
·         Opportunities to interact with friends
·         Additional art and craft ideas
·         Spotlight presentation at the end

    What makes this 53-page curriculum attractive to teachers?

·         Easy to follow teacher notes
·         Clear and concise worksheets for students
·         Printables of twenty ocean animals and handwriting paper with an ocean-themed border

·         Easily incorporated into other school subjects
·         Written primarily for ages 8-12, it is great for use by students of various ages, within the same setting
·         For students at various writing skill levels

     The curriculum offers ten lesson plans before students present their final story. Jan May offers additional ideas that could easily stretch this curriculum over several months, if desired.

     A “spotlight theatre” is suggested for the culminating project where students present their stories. However, my class opted for a sunlight theatre outside. 

     The reluctant writers may not be in the deep waters of writing yet, but they sure enjoyed wading out past their knees.

     After presenting their stories, several students experienced the exhilaration of riding their first wave. That’s a great feeling and usually it prompts a desire to do it again!

     If your students are dreading the winter blahs of writing, consider sending them a fun, tropical breeze with the Ocean Adventures Creative Writing program.


Author, Jan May is a veteran homeschool mom, freelance writer, and book author with a Christian worldview. Connect with her at

     Jan is graciously offering a free download of the Ocean Adventures Creative Writing curriculum to the one winner Rafflecopter selects on November 25, 2014. There are several ways to increase your chances of winning. 
Rafflecopter will accept entries between midnight on 11/17/14 and midnight 11/25/14.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans—Why Children Still Need You

by Sally Matheny    

Surely they served with our children in mind.
     Those who have served in our Armed Forces, during times of peace and times of war, have surely done so with our children in mind.

     From the Revolutionary War to the latest war on terrorism, our service members have fought to protect our freedom and way of life.    
     Many service members hoped that what they did would provide a better life for the next generation.

     Not only do I want to express my appreciation, I also want to remind veterans why our children still need you.   

     We recently attended our first Veterans Day Parade. A chilly breeze blew the little, American flags we brought. Alternating the hand in the coat pocket with the hand holding the flag, we tried to stay warm.

     When the parade finally began I quickly realized I did not come prepared.

     It wasn't the cold air that jolted me. It was the row upon row of fresh-faced students of the JROTC. Represented by various branches of the armed services, they marched with pride. 

     I’ve never seen so many at one time. Their presence reminded me this could be the next generation to defend our country and the freedom of our children.

This could be our next generation of freedom fighters.

     Then, I noticed the mentors marching beside their students. They are retired veterans of the military. 
     Whether, you are veterans mentoring cadets or your neighbors down the street, America's young people need you.

     Thank you, veterans, for investing your time and skills into the next generation. Our teens need mentors who model honor and integrity. For many youth, you are the only ones who care to teach them about self-discipline, hard work, and perseverance.  

     After the JROTC, came an even bigger surprise. It wasn’t the awesome cars or the cool motorcycles the veterans were driving. 

     The faces of the veterans amazed us.

     Their eyes gleamed with pride—not a pride in themselves—but in their country. Some of the veterans’ grins reminded me of how a dad grins the first time he watches his child ride a bike. Eyes glistened as they saw their fellow Americans lining the streets, waving flags.

     Their expressions seemed to convey this thought: They get it. They love their country and freedom as much as we do. They get it. 
The veterans were shouting, "Thank you for coming!"
     Then, the veterans went beyond their call of duty.

     With outstretched hands, they shouted to the crowd.

Thank you for coming!
Thank you! Thank you!

     My throat tightened. They were thanking us. We, who quite often take our freedoms for granted and who can’t possibly have a full understanding of the sacrifices many have endured on our behalf.

     I could not let them pass by without shouting a thank you to them, but all I could manage was to mouth the words. I looked at my husband. His words were trapped as well. He nodded his appreciation towards the veterans.

     Eventually, our voices made it over the lumps in our throats and we were shouting our thank yous as we held our flags high. 

Some veterans seem uncomfortable with all the

   Some veterans seemed uncomfortable with all the hoop-lah. Nonetheless, they came and took their place in the parade. Perhaps, some did so only to represent the veterans they knew who gave everything for their country.


     One soldier riding a float, would not allow any veteran he saw to go unrecognized. Whenever he spotted a veteran standing among the spectators on the street, he stood up and saluted them. He didn't maintain a serious attitude. It was as if he couldn't contain his joy and a broad smile accompanied his salute.

     After the parade, our son, who is just beginning his understanding of freedom and the cost of protecting it, declared this one of the "best days, ever." 

     He usually says that after his birthday or a day at a theme park. 

     My family may never fully grasp what veterans have sacrificed for us. But we get it. We appreciate you and your service.

The veteran at the back saluted veterans lining the street.

    The parade had a good turn-out of folks and yet, if people really knew what some of the veterans have endured and still suffer from today, I think well-wishers would have flooded the streets.

    I’m blessed to know several veterans. The ones I know are humble and quiet about their service in the Armed Forces.

      I heard a veteran say once, “I wasn’t trying to be brave. I was trying to survive.” Many others state, "I was only doing my job."

     I hear what you’re saying but I still think all those who answered the call to military duty were brave.

     In wartime or peacetime, you had to be brave to go into the unknown, understanding that everything could change in an instant.     

     Veterans, people needed you at the time you served. We still need you. Our children need you.

     Let me tell you why.

     To many students, history may be a bunch of facts and dates memorized for a test and nothing more.

     You make history come alive. You evoke thoughts of faces and lives from the past. You show them that the names in their history books (and so many, many more not recognized in a book) are not just names. They were real people—someone’s son, husband, or dad.

Some endured frightening situations so our children wouldn't have to.

     When you speak to a class or volunteer at an event, our children see people serving others. 

     They hear about men and women, not desiring to, but willing to die for a just cause. They learn of service members sacrificing the comforts of home so America’s children have the freedom to enjoy those comforts. 

     They listen to how some endured frightening situations so our children would not have to. They learn how to work together and stand up to bullies.

     When you share your knowledge, you present an opportunity for youth to understand how the military strives to bring peace in the midst of chaos.

     Perhaps the wisdom our youth gain from you, will promote more peaceful negotiations in the future.

     Honorable veterans, you set an example of respect for your country, a love for life and a passion for liberty.

     Our children need you.

     We all need you.

     Thank you for what you did then and what you do today.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Girls’ Devo Book Review: Just Sayin’ by Carol McAdams Moore

by Sally Matheny

Just Sayin' by McAdams Moore
Don't judge this book by its cover. This paperback, 90-day devotion book is perfect for daughters (ages 8-12) who love digging & doodling. Each two-page devotional contains a scripture (NIV or NLT) and questions to get your girls pondering. Best of all, they'll love the opportunities to put their thoughts into pictures, puzzles, quizzes, and more.

One devotion is from Psalm 95. After some reflection on the scripture, you draw inside a frame of hearts a time you had a hardened heart and another space is for how you look living out life with a soft heart.

You can check out other sample pages from the book at Christian Book Distributors.

In addition to the topics and the various "doodle" activities, the terminology in the book will also appeal to girls 8-12. (ex. "peeps"= friends) 

Published by Zonderkidz, Carol McAdams Moore’s devo book for girls is in Christian bookstores and on-line for around ten dollars.  

This book appeals to the heart
and your artistic side!
I wasn't sure I'd like this book based on the cover (maybe I just don't care for dogs in sunglasses) but I do like this book! It has Truth and the fun factor. It will appeal to all types, but especially to those who don’t enjoy a lot of reading. Devos are short, substantial, and snazzy. 

Sorry. I'm not giving this book away. I've got a certain girl in mind to receive this one. 

However, I will be giving away a free, children's writing curriculum the week of November 16 so be sure to check back for details on that!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Halloween is a Golden Time to Shine

by Sally Matheny

Dreams of the ultimate mother-load of candy
   It’s that time of year when kids’ eyes dilate and their palms sweat. Dreams of the ultimate, motherload of candy swirl in their minds until they’re dizzy with excitement. What possibly can be better than that? Parents, stay with me here. Halloween is a golden time for you to shine. Do you remember what it was like when you were a kid?

     Although, things were different back then. I don’t remember ever buying a costume at the store. On occasion, we did buy some of those cheap plastic masks you attach to your head with a rubber band. They made your face sweat from the carbon dioxide circulating underneath. If you didn’t pass out from the carbon dioxide, the rubber band eventually snapped in two sometime during the night. The masks made brief appearances to elicit candy and then they were usually tossed aside.

     My costumes were always homemade. The costumes my sister and I wore in the late sixties and early seventies would be taboo now, but they sure were popular back then. We dressed as hobos, gypsies, and fat people. It wasn’t that we were trying to be offensive—we just had to use what we had on hand—bandanas, old clothes, cheap jewelry, and pillows. Occasionally, if there wasn’t much time to prepare, an old sheet was thrown over our heads and two eye holes were cut out. That’s about as oogie-boogie as it got. We weren’t into zombies, vampires, and witches.

     If the stores sold the horror masks back then, as they do now, I sure didn’t see it. (Thanks, Mom)

     As I grew older, I became more aware of the dark side of Halloween and that did scare me. I respect people’s opinions about not doing anything on Halloween, not to acknowledge it in any form or fashion.

     However, our family considers Halloween a great time to shine the Light of Christ into the darkness.

Halloween is a great time to shine the Light of Christ
      A few ways we do that:

     We carve angels, crosses and the name of Jesus on our pumpkins.

     We attach Bible verses to the candy we give children. Sometimes we’ve given witness tracts or New Testaments with the candy.

     Our children never dress up in costumes that would scare another child or offend our Lord and Savior. Same thing goes for any decorations.

     We help with fall festivals at church each year. Our church’s fall event is called Hallow Him. Many people, who never enter our church on Sunday, come to this event.

     For the Trunk-or-Treat event (cars’ trunks are decorated and are filled with candy to give children), we decorate our vehicle in a way that tells something about the love of God. 

     It may seem challenging but there are tons of cool ideas you can get from the Bible. Once, I saw a van decorated as a whale. The trunk was opened like the mouth of the whale and inside sat a man dressed like Noah. Think of the opportunities he had to present the gospel when children asked him what he was doing inside that whale!

     Even if you don't dress up or decorate with a Biblical theme, you can still present something wholesome and light-hearted in contrast to the dark themes of evil.

     Christians, I challenge you. If you participate in events during the end of October, search for ways to be a Light.

     People will be out searching for free goodies. Many of those often search for treasure in all the wrong places. Time after time, they are left dissatisfied. The world offers tempting avenues to fulfillment—but just like candy—nothing lasts.

     Halloween is a golden time for you to shine a Light into the darkness. Guide people to something that will last forever. Give them the hope and truth of Jesus Christ.

     I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Winners of the 3rd Annual Climb-a-Tree Contest!

     Thanks to all of you who sent in photos via email, facebook, and other venues. I loved seeing all the smiling faces in those trees! Some of you perched low and some perched a little higher. Some were even hanging upside down!
     The number of entrants grows every year! We put all the names in a drawing and the winning names drawn were:

(drum roll)

Child: Sarah of Caroleen, N.C. (you'll receive your cool, outdoor toy very soon!)


Adult: Donna of Concord, NC ( You should receive your $5.00 Starbucks gift card in time to                                                                  tackle Monday morning with it.)

     Thanks everybody for participating. We'll do it again next year.
     Until then, keep climbing.