The Lesson I Learned About the Power of My Words

28002_boy_holding_heart (1)My son taught me a lesson the other day.  My oldest son Noah is 10 right now and he gave me a fascinating display of how a child’s brain works.  He was doing his daily karate practice and he was being quite lazy and sloppy with his moves.  I started to correct but for some reason what actually came out of my mother instead was a compliment about how fantastic his moves looked when we was practicing in class the other day.  They were clean and crisp.  I told him it was obvious he was working really hard on that day.

My son walked over and hugged me and thanked me for what I said to him.  When he resumed his practice he was a different child.  Low and behold he started working just as hard as he had in class.  My mind was blown.

I had intended to tell him everything he was doing wrong.  I meant to let him know I was frustrated by his carelessness.  My plan was turn the moment into a character lesson about (ALWAYS trying our hardest).  I don’t have any idea why those words didn’t pour from my mouth.  What came out was not what was running through my brain however it was far better and highly effective.

Somehow in that moment I was lead to build my son up instead of ripping him apart.  It was a moment of love between us.  Lord I pray you intervene like this every time in the future with all of my children.  THIS is the kind of mom I want to be.

Review: The Cat of Bubastes from Heirloom Audio Productions


I get to share with you another AMAZING audio adventure!!! This time we had the chance of to review The Cat of Bubastes from Heirloom Audio Productions 
We love these audio dramas so much that we literally stalk all of their social media pages awaiting any tidbit of information about when the next adventure will be released.  The Cat of Bubastes is a G. A. Henty story that takes place in ancient Egypt.  That just so happened to perfectly fit into my 6 year old daughter’s studies this year. That made this even more exciting.



As you probably know we’ve listened to many audio dramas from Heirloom Audio Productions.  They base all of their work on the book series The Extraordinary Adventures of G.A. Henty. If you aren’t familiar with the stories you should make it a priority to learn everything you can about them.  Every story is filled with the ideas and themes we want our children to emulate.  Throughout the stories you meet characters who are brave, loyal, courageous, and honest.  They persevere through particularly tough circumstances.  These company’s mission is “to engage the listerner’s imagination by taking them back in time and immersing them in a great Christian story.”  They do just that in the most (dare I say it) Extraordinary way.

Every Heriloom Audio Adventure features the voices of well known Hollywood actors and actresses and a musical soundtrack that will rival the most elite Hollywood production.  These stories are exciting and engaging.  They are breathtaking and heart stopping.  These audios have become a part of the fabric of our family culture.  They are played again and again and again and again and yes…. again.  I’ll be replacing some of our first CDs before long as my kids are just wearing them out.


As I said before, The Cat of Bubastes is set during ancient Egypt.  The main characters include Amuba, who is a young prince and his protector and mentor, Jethro.  They are enslaved by the Egyptians and set to work in the city of Thebes.  Here they must decides if they will become like the Egyptians and follow their gods or turn to the true One True God and follow His will.  I would love to share with you more of the story but I don’t want to spoil even a minute of it for you. Trust me when I say it is excellent!

As I mentioned before.  All of the Heirloom Audio Productions feature a star studded cast.  Take a look at the voices features in The Cat of Bubastes! 



Along with 2-CD copy of the audio we received some other great bonus features which you can get as well if you purchase the premium buying option:

  • an MP3 copy of the audio drama
  • a copy of the E-Book
  • Official MP3 Soundtrack
  • Printable Cast Poster
  • A Study Guide with discussion points
  • Printable Inspirational Verse Poster
  • Unlimited access to the Live the Adventure Website
  • Behind the Scenes Video


Can I tell you just how fantastic these bonuses are?  The study guide is such a treasure as it is filled with details, and questions, vocabulary, deeper thinking questions, historical background, and even Bible study information.  As I am studying Ancient Egypt with my daughter this study guide became an instant resource for us.  We used it to learn about Hieroglyphs.  I liked the deep thinking questions for my older boys.  While I am confident they listen and comprehend well it is always nice to check in and see just how deep their understanding is.

Some of our best conversations have revolved around what it was really like to follow the One True God back in the time of story.  We’ve discussed what it meant for the characters to make the decision to believe what others don’t.  I’ve drawn similarities and differences to our world today to the world then which has helped us talk about what faith means today.


My boys have already listened to this drama two or three times through.  They love to pop it into their CD player and listen while playing Legos or completing chores.  This has entered their rotation of Heirloom Audio Adventures.  My husband is eager to hear this one himself.  We’ll be popping it in the van’s CD player on our next long drive.   Obviously we are a huge fan of these audio cds and I think every Christian home should own them.  Stay tuned… I hear there are more to be released soon!


Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes

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Why A Whole Foods Plant Based Diet?

What does it mean to eat WFPB (Whole Food Plant Based Diet)?  Primarily it means choosing to only eat foods that are unprocessed (or whole) and come from plant sources.  It means choosing not to eat anything provided by animals.  Eating WFPB means eliminating all meats and fish, dairy or all kinds including cheese and yogurt, as well as eggs. That sounds pretty crazy to most people I’m sure.  Once upon a time it sounded absolutely LUDICROUS to even myself!  I mean… how do you get your protein?  Well that is a post for another day.  So why did we choose a WFPB way of life?


We do it for our health!  Individuals who choose a WFPB diet often enjoy better health including fewer battles with typical diseases like diabetes, cancer, obesity and the range of problems that brings, and heart disease.  Eating like this is not a magic bullet to avoiding disease but it certainly is a pretty darn good one.

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Book Review: The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles by Mark S. Mirza from CTM Publishing Atlanta

ctm-logo1_zpsyrj4wv1nThe Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles by Mark S. Mirza from CTM Publishing Atlanta is a faith based fiction book that will challenge you in your prayer life.  In the book we are follow the stories of three separate characters who lived in significantly different times.  Epaphras lived during the first century, Alexander Rich’s story was during the 19th century, and finally Dale Riley lives in the present day.  We follow the stories of the challenges these men face during their time and how their faith impacts them.

What makes their stories interesting is that each of them is assigned a heavenly angel as guide in their faith, as well as a demon whose goal is to plant seeds that would result in a destruction of their beliefs in God.  Each character reacted to the trials of their lives in fascinating ways  and of course, as the title of the book would imply, they were all Christian men of prayer.  Their decisions and their walk had ripple effects on those around them and even those who came after them.  How all things tied together was quite surprising.

While this book is definitely a work of fiction it does give a person, especially a Christian, a lot to consider about the subject of prayer.  All three main characters are praying men (hence the title Pray-ers) and a lot of attention is given to explaining how and what they prayed.  Usually this centered on scripture from the Bible.  Praying the scriptures isn’t a new concept to me.  Many a Bible teacher has preached or written their own books or devotionals on just this topic.  Each time I come across this concept I find myself reflecting on how much I pray with scripture.  Sincerely it isn’t a habit for me though I’d like it to be.

This book challenged me beyond that though.  It left me questioning every aspect of my prayer life.  When I pray do I pray for others or just myself?  Am I praying with faith in God’s will?  Do I believe god is already working in the situation?  All great questions for reflection no matter who you are or what your prayer life is like.


While I had intended to share this book with my oldest son who is just about to turn 11 I think I may reconsider.  We are fortunate as homeschoolers to be able to keep the innocence of childhood longer than many of his traditionally schooled friends.  While I certainly don’t keep him shielded from the challenges of this fallen world there are some topics that we just haven’t covered yet.  Toward the end of the book there is some reference to things like abortion and rape.  We’ve only just begun to dabble in conversation about these topics (rape in particular).  I think he may just be more prepared for those things in a book of fiction in a few more years.

Overall I really liked this book.  I suggest that if you find it a bit of a slow start to stick with it.  At first it was a bit of challenge to see how the three characters in three different eras had anything to do with one another.  It’s a great book for young adults and teens! And it certainly had me reflecting on my prayer life.  I really recommend this book.  I hope you enjoy it!

You can read more about The Pray-ers/Book 1 Troubles by clicking here.  You can also find out more about it on Facebook and Twitter.

The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles

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Homeschooling… a thorn and a blessing….

Once upon a time I was a die hard public school teacher.  I taught preschoolers.  My students were either had special needs (autism, speech and language delays, motor delays, over all developmental delays… etc.)  Or they were “at risk” which meant there was something in their lives that could interfere with later school success (English wasn’t their first language, they had violence in the home, they were homeless… etc).  Many of my children had behavioral issues as well.  My classroom was quite the eclectic mix of so many needs jumbled together at once.  I saw school, even for the youngest, as the only answer… the savior… that would make these children’s lives better.


I lasted a entire 6 years as a public school teacher.

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Review: Help Teaching Pro Subscription from


Help Teaching Pro Subscription  from HelpTeaching.comHelp Teaching Pro Subscriptions offers homeschooling families access to thousands of printables, online tests, worksheets, activities, lessons and games.  There is a tremendous amount of material here for Grades: Kindergarten through grade 12.


As a homeschool mom I’m always on the hunt for the perfect resources for add just the right thing to our homeschool.  I could spend hours hunting the web for something useful.  But websites like eliminate that need.  Included in this website is the ability to even create your own tests, quizzes, or worksheets right on the site.  So even if you can’t zero in on the perfect thing then you can just make it yourself!

For this review I worked with material geared primarily for the younger grades as I used it with my 6 year old daughter who is doing mostly 1st grade work.  Signing up for a subscription is easy.  Once that is done you can create a sub account for each of your children.  If they have an email account you can link that too and then send them assignments at will.  How neat is that? But if email isn’t a thing in your family no worries as it is not required.  However, if you do go this route then your child will receive a link that will take them straight to the lesson or test. Later the parent can log onto his/her account to see how the child did.

grade-1-earth-day_zps98jdhcdh offers more than just prinatables.  There are also lessons and videos for a child to watch in and learn from in several subject acreas.  They provide lessons like these in Language Arts, Math, and Science.


At each level they offer quite the range of lessons and materials.  Preschoolers can learn letters, colors, shapes, and more.  In Physical education you’ll cover nutrition, how to play various games like basketball or soccer.  Of course as I stated they cover the major subjects like math, language arts, history and more.  Older students can enjoy content on drawing, theater, architecture, and life skills link banking and safety.

kindy_zpspx3qkche has many of lessons aligned to the Common Core standards which is something I typically try to avoid for many reasons that aren’t relevant to this review.  I mention it because this is information I’d like to have up front and I do realize others feel differently and may even be required to use materials that are Common Core friendly.  If so than this could be a very good fit for you.  I have to say though that I didn’t come across any materials that seemed much different from any non-Common Core homeschooling materials.  If the website didn’t tell me so and I could only see the materials I might not have even realized they were aligned.


How We Used It

With my 1st grader I tended to stick with the predone lessons, especially in math.  We’d watch a video and then complete the practice problems.  We skipped around quite a bit and looked at the kindergarten lessons as well as the 1st and 2nd grade lessons.  This let me hone in on activities that would support the math curriculum we typically use.  The extra practice was very beneficial for her. I liked creating a variety of math sheets that really helped her work her addition problems.  We also did a number of self-paced lessons in reading.  She’d watch a video to learn about some word family (an, at, etc) and then do the practice questions after.  I liked how it reinforced her skills.



Over all this is a rich resource that is perfect for helping you really customize a child’s education.  I appreciate the amount of material found here.  We particularly like the pre done lessons.

Several members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew were given the opportunity to try out the Pro Plan from  You can see how they used this in their homes by visiting the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

Help Teaching Pro Subscription {}

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Who am I… at Living Abundantly

Who Am I?


So who is Crystal and why does anyone care?  Hmm… good question.  There are a million and one blogs in the world many of which are written by people who can tell a much more compelling story than I can. Why add another blog to the over-saturated internet world? What good is another voice going to do when so many voices are already drowning each other out? I’ve given that a lot of thought.

I can say this… I do feel called by God to write this blog…..

To read the rest you’ll need to visit

Review: CHSH Download Club from

chsh-teach-com-2016-logo-350x350_zpscacxdhnnIs there a homeschooling family out there that isn’t living on a tight budget?  I haven’t met one.  Hunting down just the right materials to meet the needs of each and everyone of our child, on a budget no less, can be quite the challenge.  I was recently given the opportunity to review a website that can help us all meet these challenges.  It is the site, also known as My familiy received a one year Subscription to their CHSH Download Club .

product-photos_zps2p1ny861 is an amazing subscriber based website brimming over with over 50,000 downloadable pages of educational goodies!  This website was created by a homeschooling mom and former school teacher named Lynda Ackert.  Amazingly she’s created most of the materials the fill the site.  You’ll find so many treasures for your children from the preschool age all the way through high school in a wide variety of subjects.  There really is something for everyone! Truly my description here is going to fall very short of the true value and richness this site can offer your family.  Check this out too, I think this is pretty unique, of course content is regularly added but those who are members of the  Download Club can also upload their own creations to share.

Let me show you few screen shots of just a sample of the subjects they offer.  And let me tell you, even these screen shots do this website an injustice because everything you see is a clickable link that brings you pages and pages of more options and more links to click that bring you to even more content.  I’m not even scratching the surface here.



They also have the website sorted out by grade, by months of the year, and they have sections of content that will you get organized.

How we used this website!

The uses for this website are pretty limitless and I struggled at first with where to start.  What I decided to do was find something that met my family’s most pressing need first.  My 6 year old Joyanna is in need of some site word practice and I was able to find just the thing.  It only took a few minutes for me to locate some Dolch site word flashcards… here is a little sample.


We reviewed her site words with the help of these flashcards for several days and her reading fluency was greatly improved.  I loved that I didn’t have to take the time to make them up myself.  I just printed them on some cardstock, cut them down, and away we went.  Some people might have laminated them.

Next I thought of my son who is in constant need of reviewing his multiplication facts.  I found several fantastic games to help us do just that but I settled on one.  It is a fun and quick game that brings about quite a few giggles while the children have to quickly work through the answer.  A definite hit!


While researching the math fact game I found this great wall poster on fractions.  My other son is studying fractions soon.  I printed that baby out and I WILL be laminating that one!

Next I found these things called Monthly Learning Packets!  My 6 year old does have her own full curriculum but some days she finishes so quickly compared to her older brothers that she just wishes she has more.  I downloaded the first day packet and put it in a binder for her.  Problem solved! Here is a little preview. There are over 200 pages in each of these packets!  Now my daughter pulls out her bind and flips to a page that looks interesting to her.  I might read the directions so she understands what to do.


One thing my family loves to do is literature studies.  I was delighted to find so many… take a peek at just a few in the elementary age rang.


We happened to be finishing up rereading Little House in the Big Woods so I downloaded that one.  It is 18 pages of reading comprehension and discussion questions. Some questions are quick multiple choice while others are more long form.  It was a great little companion to our reading.

Each and every time I log into the site I think, “Oh, we should do that and we should do this and I wonder if I can make time for that.”  This website could be ALL you need to homeschool.  It is that good!  This website currently only costs $25 annually or $99 for a lifetime subscription.  This site could save you hundreds if not thousands on homeschool curriculum.  It is an amazing value.

Christian HomeSchool Hub {Download Club}

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Review: Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition from Apologia Educational Ministries

apologia-logo-jpg_zpswpuj9gxgMy family has had the blessed opportunity to study science with the help of various Apologia Educational Ministries elementary science curriculum over the years.  My two older boys discovered the wonders of God’s creation while they (at least in their minds) zoomed through space, dug in the dirt and observed plant life, swam the seas, and so much more.  The Exploring Creation series has a reputation for being rich, full, and deep with learning.  My daughter has now come to an age where she is ready to begin her own journey through creation.

We couldn’t have times things more perfectly since our beloved Astronomy curriculum was just revamped.  For several weeks now my six year old has been soaring through space with Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition from Apologia Educational Ministries.


From the moment the box of goodies arrived I was taken.  The new books are so colorful and full of life.  Everything about them has been updated with our young learners in mind.  But I might be getting ahead of myself here.  Let me tell you all about it, step by step.

About Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition

The Exploring Creation series of science curriculum from Apologia Educational Ministries is  a must have, in my opinion, for every Christian homeschool.  This series is geared toward the elementary student and it engrosses children deep into the science of God’s creation.  This latest edition of Exploring Creation with Astronomy takes an already fantastic curriculum up a notch.  It has been expanded with even more beautiful photographs, illustrations, infographics, a wonderful layout, and a fantastic schedule.



All of the Apologia Science curriculums, including this Astronomy series, use a combination of reading aloud with a student notebooking journal.  As a six year old I had my daughter use the Jr. Notebooking Journal which includes lapbook like projects such as minibooks, word search puzzles, scripture copywork, and other hands-on activities.  One of the beautiful things about this curriculum is that you can combine children of many ages into one study since older elementary children can use the Notebooking Journal meant for their age.  It is a delight in our home to study together whenever possible.

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The Audio CD is a beautiful edition to this program.  It is a clear and enjoyable reading of the text aloud.  We do a tremendous amount of reading aloud in our family and it is something I treasure. However, the opportunity to let someone else take that over from time to time is a blessing for this poor momma and my tired voice.  It can also help children be more independent with their studying since they can listen and read along in the book at the same time. The brand new  Astronomy 2nd Edition Science Kit looks really exciting with a wide variety of activities to take your family’s study of Astronomy even further.

How We Used Exploring Creation with Astronomy

My daughter Joyanna who is six was just so excited to be given the opportunity to review this curriculum.  She’s aware that her brothers have used other science studies from Apologia before and this made her feel like such a big girl.  I decided right off the bat that we’d be using the Mp3 Audiobook most days.  As I said, we already read aloud in this family for hours every day, I am grateful for break.  However I did sit right along side her so I could listen to every word with her.


This program is certainly open and go.  There is a brand new Daily Lesson schedule near the beginning of the Notebooking Journals complete with little check boxes for you to check off as you complete an activity. I’m enjoying this schedule.  It’s pretty easy going.  I remember the schedule in the previous edition was a bit intense and I found myself breaking up the reading and assignments into smaller chunks over more days.  This schedule is more relaxed and easier for my family to keep up with.


At first I was a bit confused by this schedule because it does include all of the activities in the new science kit.  I didn’t realize the directions for those activities are mostly in the kit.  I assumed the kit was just the supplies for those activities.  I was hunting around trying to figure out how to do these activities and the information isn’t there.  HOWEVER, there are directions for plenty of other activities and we found the curriculum to be plenty rich without the extra kit. There are links and information for downloading all kinds of interesting activities to expand your studies. In fact, as a busy mom of four I’m not 100% sure I want to do all of the extra activitieswith the activity kit.  This curriculum is incredibly in dept on its own.  So no pressure to buy that kit.  I simply didn’t understand how it all worked at first.


We work on this curriculum just about 3 days per week.  We listen to the audio CD and then complete the assignment notebook activities. I often pause the audio just to put emphasis on some point or thought or to ask my own question.  Sometimes I just like to bring awe and wonder to what we just heard.  “Can you believe God thought to….!!”  My daughter so enjoys this time in her science curriculum.

The Jr. Notebooking Journal is a good fit for her in general.  It is meant for children who are early writers. There isn’t a tremendous amount of writing involved but this is still an emerging skill for her.  So I help her.  I will sometimes fill in the blanks with her answers or maybe write a bit down on another piece of paper for her to copy.  In this instance my goal isn’t to develop her writing but for her to learn science.  So we learn science and I make it easy.

The Notebooking Journal for the older elementary student is designed to make the children think more about what they’ve learned.  The responses are longer and children draw conclusions about their reading.  There are fewer puzzles and minibooks and more longish answer type activities. If my 10 year old wasn’t already deep into Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy it’d be perfect for him.


Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition from Apologia Educational Ministries is fantastic!  The science is so rich.  The biblical world view is refreshing.  The text is engaging.  The notebooking activities are fun.  The learning is fantastic.  If you are looking for a rich science curriculum, one that dives deep and immerses your children in learning and God’s worldview than you really can’t go wrong with this study.

Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition Review

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I Came…. Announcing a move and my new site

By the end of the year I plan to close down Crystal Starr.  I have a new adventure I’m getting off the ground… take a look.  

I have a brand new blog site Living Abundantly.  I’ve been blogging for years at Crystal Starr.  That was a blog I originally created to support my photography and design business.  As life has taken my many directions over the years that site has served me well.  At this time I have felt called to start fresh with a new title and a fresh direction and voice.  And here we are… Living Abundantly.

The name Living Abundantly came to me after reading this verse from the Bible.



to read more about my new blog adventure please visit


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