Oriental Trading and the High School Student

I am one of the many educators (probably hundreds of thousands) who simply adores Oriental Trading and eagerly takes advantage of their back to school sales for school supplies. I have been a fan of Oriental Trading for many, many, many years and I fondly remember the catalogs coming in the mail when I was a teenager. We ordered and stockpiled supplies for crafts and scrapbooking, I would circle everything I wanted for my birthday or Christmas wishlists, and I planned imaginary parties in my head.

Now that I am older, I still get excited when the Oriental Trading catalog comes in the mail. I think I’ve passed that onto my son as well. He enjoys catalogs just as much as I do. For me, as a mom, catalogs in general are a handy way of getting ideas for Christmas and birthday presents. I carefully keep an eye on what he shows interest in as he flips the pages of whatever catalog he is browsing.

When it comes to the Oriental Trading catalog, he mostly drools over the insane amount of candy they sell. You know how teenage boys are. Everything revolves around food. When we were asked if we wanted to join in the back-to-school promotion of Oriental Trading, of course we said yes and it was my son’s idea to share with you the top 7 items from Oriental Trading that will help a busy high schooler get through the week.

Seven items to make your week easier (as chosen by my teen)


Of course candy and chocolate are high up on the list. A couple of Twizzlers or a mini bag of M&M’s or gummy bears are a perfect pick me up, or a self reward for finishing a task.

You might also be interested in: 10 Tips for Feeding a Teenage Boy


Huge pillows are a must when reading on the couch or working on your laptop. These pillow are 23″ x 18″, soft but firm and come in a variety of colors.

On top of the pillow you can see small globes that double as stress balls for my son. Stress balls are actually proven to help some people focus when reading or studying.


When you are a student who needs a dozen or more books for all of your classes, bookmarks are a must. Bookmarks vanish in my house worse than socks do. It is really sad. I have no idea where they go. There must be a fairy here that steals bookmarks, socks, and screwdrivers.

Oriental Trading sells a set of bookmarks that we love called Cultures of the World. The best part is that there are 48 of them!


This is one that I am adding to the list, simply because maps and globes make me happy.

Disclosure: we received these product free for a back-to-school promotion. 

Oriental Trading Back to School

*Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links.

How I Made *That* Doctor Who Background Screen

How to survive college as a high schooler (5 practical tips from my son)

Last week, I wrote a sponsored post on behalf of HP called 5 Tips for Surviving Dual Credit High School, in which I showed off the laptop they sent me. This laptop is now my son’s because it is newer, lighter and faster than his old one.

Lots of you were very impressed by his desktop background.


It is not an app or anything fancy schmancy, it is just an image I made myself. It was very easy to make in Photoshop and only took me a few minutes.

I came up with this idea for my own laptop because I have a very bad habit of throwing anything and everything onto my desktop and only organizing files into proper folders about once a month. There are documents, spreadsheets, images, shortcuts to programs…you name it. So now, at least with my little sections, I can be semi-organized until I decide to clean off my desktop and file things away properly.

Belle and TARDIS Laptop

This image of Belle and the TARDIS was created by the very talented Karen Hallion and she sells prints in her Etsy store

My son is like his father, he doesn’t do this, but he still wanted a background like mine. I used an image from the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special.

  1. Find the image you want to use.
  2. Crop it to match the resolution of your screen.
  3. Add a few colored boxes around the edges of your image. (I used the rounded rectangle tool.)
  4. Add the text that fits your interests or the things you most frequently save.
  5. Find the setting to personalize your desktop background.


*Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links.

Our Favorite Literature: Win a Gift Basket

This giveaway is closed. Congratulations to Heidi G. in Iowa!


Every year around this time, the bloggers of iHomeschool Network come together to bless other homeschoolers by hosting a massive gift basket giveaway. Each blogger creates her own basket and gives it away on her own blog. This year we have a whopping 52 participants! Be sure to visit them all! Since each blogger is conducting her own giveaway, you never know…you may end up winning more than one!

My gift basket this year is full of my family’s favorite literature sets, along with a special book written by a friend. The photo above shows my well-loved and worn copies, but yours will come straight to you from Amazon.

This basket is valued at $115 and includes:


Harry Potter (7 Book Boxed Set)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.


The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (4 Book Boxed Set)

The Hobbit, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King.


Chronicles of Narnia Box Set (7 Book Boxed Set)

The Magician’s Nephew, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Horse and His Boy, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Silver Chair, and The Last Battle.

Literature GB 8

Give Your Child the World

Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time is a new book by my friend Jamie Martin of Simple Homeschool.

There are many ways to enter…

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links.

4 Reasons We Love These Historical Audio Stories

G.A. Henty is one of my favorite authors. Over a period of 39 years, he wrote a total of 122 works of historical fiction! We have read dozens of his stories throughout our 10 years of homeschooling, and even some more than once. Of course, the best way to learn history is to throw yourself in head first and immerse yourself in the world of whoever you are studying. One fun way to do that is to include movies or audio books.

Honestly, I am not a big fan of unabridged audio books, so we have used them sparingly. I guess my imagination and the voices I make up in my head are more exciting to me than listening to a dry narrator reading the story straight off the pages of a book. My son agrees that it is really challenging to find decent narratives of books that don’t put us to sleep.

That being said, these audio dramas that I am about to tell you about are far from boring. Heirloom Audio is a company from the former sound designers of Adventures In Odyssey™. They have taken the best of G.A. Henty and made it even better.

4 Reasons We Love Historical Audio Stories

1.  Non-stop Action

Time is precious, to adults and children, so when an audio book is putting you to sleep, should you waste your time trying to force yourself to get through it? Of course not. But you won’t have to worry about falling asleep through these. I am not exaggerating when I say these are 2+ hours of on-the-edge-of-your-seat fun.

There are currently 5 audio dramas available on either CD or immediate download.

Under Drake’s Flag

Ned Hawkshaw is about to take the greatest adventure a boy could ever imagine…with one of the most celebrated heroes in history—Sir Francis Drake! Ned fights off a shark attack, survives a shipwreck, engages in fierce battles on sea and land, and comes face to face with the Spanish Inquisition. Experience the swashbuckling tale that pits faith against fear, and helps Ned grow from a boy into a man. Live the Adventure® and board The Golden Hinde for an epic quest of courage on the high seas!

Beric The Briton

This tale of the Roman invasion of ancient Britannia remains one of G.A. Henty’s most popular novels of all time. Join Beric and his best friend Bodouc as they live the adventure of a lifetime – captured by the Romans, trained as gladiators, and placed in the service of Emperor Nero himself! When the story of a mysterious “Christus” begins to circulate the Roman Empire, Beric and Bodouc are forced to confront their pagan past. Will the two young prisoners be able to overcome their thirst for revenge and discover the source of true forgiveness?

The Dragon And The Raven

The Danes have swept over every kingdom in England, laying waste to everything in their path. Join Edmund and the one man who is willing to stand against the invaders – the young King Alfred of Wessex. From standing in the shield-wall to sailing on the whale-road, Alfred and Edmund realize the nation’s only hope is to turn back to the God they have abandoned. Can the two young warriors turn the tide of the war and save their world?

With Lee In Virginia

Fifteen-year old Vincent Wingfield finds himself in a thrilling adventure when he joins the cavalry of the Army of Northern Virginia. He is soon fighting alongside many of the most famous Confederate generals, including Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and Robert E. Lee. General Lee’s steadfast sense of duty and his dauntless devotion to God inspire Vincent to take a stand for his country and his fellow man that could save his life.

In Freedom’s Cause

Can one man’s faith and vision inspire a group of farmers, shepherds, and merchants to defeat the mightiest military force on the planet? William Wallace, by his undaunted courage and strength of character, forever changed the history of Scotland. His stand against oppression—despite overwhelming odds—inspired the heroic leader who would eventually gain Scotland’s freedom, King Robert the Bruce. The source of Wallace’s fire was his faith in God. He loved the Psalms and meditated on them daily. At his execution, Wallace had his psalter placed before him so he could read the Psalms as King Edward’s men tortured him. This is the untold account of Wallace and “The Bruce”— a story that continues to stir our hearts even today. A story that teaches us that true freedom is worth fighting for.

2.  Story Guides

There are also very helpful study guides available. These study guides can help you turn each audio drama into a unit study. Each chapter contains these three sections:

  • Listening Well: asks simple questions about the story content.
  • Thinking Further: asks more in-depth, open-ended questions…perfect as conversation starters.
  • Defining Words: vocabulary words from the chapter.


3.  True Stories With a Christian Focus

Heirloom Audio prides itself on providing wholesome entertainment with a powerful Christian message. As a Christian family, this is such a treasure. All 5 of these audio dramas teach important values like determination, godly commitment, and honor.

As the company founders state: “Our mission, simply stated… is to engage our listener’s imagination by taking them back in time and immersing them in the story.”

At Heirloom Audio Productions, we are especially passionate about bringing real history to life. This inevitably means a bit of detective work as we try to figure out what actually happened in the story we’re attempting to tell. Our task is further complicated by the fact that so much of what passes for any type of history today has been “sanitized” by secularists and is often beyond the point of historical recognition. That said, our passion and love of history takes us to some amazing places and allows us to do some pretty unusual things as we sort out the details of a sometimes murky past.

Doesn’t that make you fall in love with the company?

4.  Professional Actors

I am SO impressed by the actors and actresses involved in the Heirloom Audio stories. Several stars from Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, Chronicles of Narnia, Downton Abbey, Call the Midwife, and even two Doctors (4 and 7) from Doctor Who! 

Dragon cast Freedom cast Lee cast Beric cast

Ready to order?

This special link will give you a very special discount! You can use the coupon code MAC1 to receive a stunning 67% off. There is also a “double your order offer” so click over and read more. And there is a 100% money back guarantee if you’re not satisfied, but I can’t imagine anyone taking them up on that offer.

Disclaimer: I received a set of audio CDs from Heirloom Audio and was compensated for my time in writing this review. However, all opinions are entirely my own and I would never mislead my readers and friends into buying something that I was not 100% happy with. 

*Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links.

5 Tips for Surviving Dual Credit High School

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #BTSwithHP #CollectiveBias

How to survive college as a high schooler (5 practical tips from my son)

Whether your kids are homeschoolers or public schoolers, dual credit is an invaluable program that I think all families should look into. With dual enrollment, your child can take one class and earn both high school and college credit for it. These classes are often free, since many states have programs that will pay for a certain number of credits per school year. This year my son is allocated 12 credit hours. That means that 3 to 4 classes he takes during the school year will be completely paid for by the state of Ohio. Beyond that, we are responsible for paying for any additional classes he takes. As homeschoolers, we are also responsible for the cost of the books.

To find your state’s requirements just Google “dual enrollment [insert your state’s name]”.

Dual credit can be a huge time saver for teenagers who are self-motivated and eager to get a head start on college. My son is one week away from his first final exams and following that, he will have 6 college credits to his name!

How to survive college as a high schooler

(5 practical tips from my son)

1. Take online classes

So many classes are now available online. Especially the easier courses that are typical completed in the first two years of a student’s college education. As a 14-year-old, my son is thrilled that he won’t need to attend an actual class on campus for quite a while. Online classes allow students to teach themselves and complete their work at their own pace.

From an early age, we felt it was important for him to have his own laptop. School has always taken place in various rooms of the house, from doing science experiments in the kitchen (requires a laptop or tablet for instructions), online math on the couch, writing essays and research papers at his desk, and of course we cannot forget gaming in his spare time and Skyping with his friends!

Now that he is a teenager, this freedom is even more important than ever. His workload is much greater and he needs to be able to move around the house with his laptop, doing work when necessary, without the burden of being required to do anything between certain hours.

How to survive college as a high schooler (5 practical tips from my son)

2. Test out organizational techniques

Test out organizational techniques until you find the one that works best for you. We have always used a very simple planner to keep track of what we are covering and what my son is learning on a day-to-day basis. Because he moves at a faster than average pace and we rarely had due dates, I’ve never needed to schedule anything for him. We were never really worried about this adjustment phase, but it did come with a lot of trial and error. We tested out several new organizational methods to help him keep up to date with (what seemed like a million) assignments and due dates. It turned out that the simpler, the better.

A color coded at-a-glance spreadsheet on Google Drive is what he ended up liking best.

How to survive college as a high schooler (5 practical tips from my son)

For privacy reasons, this is an entirely made up version, but it will give you an idea of what I mean. Each class, requirement, or activity has a color. This gives him a very easy at-a-glance idea of what is coming up and how much time there is to prepare.

The actual details of each assignment are in another tab on the same spreadsheet.

3. Use Google Chrome and Google Drive

In addition to his laptop, my son has a PC, a phone, and a Kindle. I have a laptop, a Kindle, and a phone. That is a lot of devices to keep up with. This is why a Google account is crucial. Google Chrome can sync your account across all of your devices. All of your documents on Google Drive can be accessed on any of your devices as long as you are logged into your Google account.

This is so important because although my son is taking college classes and I am not his teacher, he is still a teenager and I am still his mom. Being his facilitator and support system does not stop just because the classes are college level and I am no longer in charge of the content. I still need to teach him good habits and to do this, I need access to his documents, his email, and his schedule so that I may help him learn the right way to stay organized and on track.

Synchronization is very beneficial. Take this hypothetical example…my son has a paper he has to write and he is in the brainstorming stage. He types out a rough outline in Google Docs on his laptop in the living room and puts it aside. It is automatically saved. Later that night, while playing a game on his PC upstairs, another point pops into his head. He pauses his game, loads the same Google document and adds his thought. The next day, on the way to taekwondo, another thought comes to him and he adds it to his outline via his phone. He asks me to look over his outline, which I do, on my Kindle sitting in the car.

See how convenient that is?

4.  Use Quizlet

Quizlet is an online study portal. Think of any college and any class and there is probably a study set already available for it. The study sets can be comprised of flash cards, fill-in-the-blank questions, multiple choice questions, and animated games.

My son’s new HP laptop has a touch screen, and it makes playing the study games so much easier than using a mouse.

5. Work hard, but take breaks

When I asked my son for some of this best tips, this was actually number one: work hard, but don’t overload yourself. College is naturally harder and the professors have higher expectations than high school teachers. Encourage your teenager and remind him or her to not be too self-critical. It is OKAY to need downtime. Breaks in between homework and studying is necessary to prevent burnout. This balance may be something that your son or daughter needs your help with. But do it politely. I am sure you know what it feels like to be overwhelmed and just wish you could have some much needed downtime, so treat them as you would like to be treated. Although they may not say it, they will appreciate your kindness.

How to survive college as a high schooler (5 practical tips from my son)

My son’s new HP laptop is one of the newer brands that can be found at Walmart in the electronics section. It is an incredibly affordable model that packs a punch and is the perfect fit for a teenager.

Empowered to do more: Tackle all your daily tasks with an affordable laptop that comes packed with the features you need.

Product overview for our HP Touch

  • Dependable performance: With the latest Intel processor and plenty of hard drive space, you can multitask and store more.
  • Vibrant display: The crisp HD screen lets you enjoy your photos, videos, and web pages in detail.
  • Measurable quality: Enjoy outstanding performance backed by over 200 tests.

HP Laptops at Walmart

Do you have experience with dual enrollment? I’d love to hear your survival tips! How has your equipment empowered you to do more?

If you love YOUR HP computer like we do, be sure to visit Walmart to share your thoughts! Your online reviews will encourage other parents to shop smart this back to school season.

*Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links.

Inspirational Target Gift Card Giveaway


This post is sponsored by Grace Hill Media. Be sure to check out the Target gift card giveaway at the end.

The second season of the heartwarming hit series BORN THIS WAY premieres this Tuesday, July 26 on A&E Network. BORN THIS WAY is a reality television series, featuring seven adults with Down Syndrome who work hard to achieve goals and overcome obstacles. The cast pursue their passions while defying society’s expectations. The series also follows their parents who share their own journey of joy, sacrifice, and unconditional love.

Below, please find a clip that shares the heart and depth of this show. In this clip you will meet Rachel, one of the cast members. Rachel, like the rest of the young adults featured in this series is an inspiration – facing the challenges and obstacles of life with courage, grace, determination and love.

Set your DVRs or tune in live to watch BORN THIS WAY on July 26 at 10:00 pm ET. Get inspired by reading the biographies of cast members Steven, Sean, Rachel, Cristina, John, Elena, and Megan, on A&E’s website.

Enter the giveaway below for a chance to win your own $25 gift card to Target. There are four ways to win. Complete only one, or do them all.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links.