Ishtar’s Odyssey – an Advent Story for Families (& a Giveaway!)

Many years ago our family was introduced to an Advent series for families when I was literally cornered by a 10 year old boy in church and told about the many adventures of Jotham. He and his family were reading through the book Jotham’s Journey (aff link), and he shared in great detail all that was happening as they were reading. The story pulled him in, and in more recent years the life of Jotham has been something that our family has enjoyed as well.

Advent stories for families by Arnold Ytreeide

The author, Arnold Ytreeide, weaves the lives of four children through his stories: Jotham, Tabitha, Bartholomew, and Ishtar. After Jotham’s Journey (aff link), there were additional stories written about two of the other children, Tabitha and Bartholomew, and finally this year a NEW story has released just in time for the upcoming Advent season: Ishtar’s Odyssey (aff link)! I cannot tell you how excited our family was when the new book arrived!

About Ishtar’s Odyssey

Ishtar's Odyssey

Here is a quick overview of the book from the author:

Ten-year-old Ishtar has a great life.  He’s a Prince of Persia, son of the chief of the Magi (wise men who advise the king), and lives on the top floor of the royal palace.  With his bodyguard, Kazeem, never more than a few paces away, and with all the delicacies of the empire to eat, servants to take care of his every need, and a stream of exotic visitors coming for dinner every night, Ishtar has a great life!

Of course, he does have to attend lessons all day long — languages, mathematics, politics, history, and so on.  It’s during his astronomy lesson one night that Ishtar sees something strange — a new star in the sky that no one has ever seen before.  His father and the other magi get all excited, and Ishtar doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about.  He also doesn’t understand that his life is about to change drastically.

Soon Ishtar finds himself amongst a caravan of smelly camels, walking in the heat and dust of the desert, with little to eat, little to drink, and having to learn all sorts of new lessons.  His new tutor is the wilderness, and his new lessons are in survival.

Daily Readings

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Ishtar’s Odyssey (aff link) is divided into daily readings for each of the days of Advent, leading up to Christmas morning. There is an Advent chart in the back of the book giving the Sunday on which Advent begins (through the year 2081…so you should be good!). This year Advent begins on November 29th, so the first reading would begin that day.

Because Christmas falls on different days of the week, the readings in the final week are much shorter so multiple days can be read together, allowing the last story to be read Christmas morning.

Time for Reflection

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The daily readings take between 10-15 minutes to read, and a discussion and application section is at the end of each of the daily readings (see example above). I love that this is included because Advent is intended to be a time for pausing and reflecting – something each chapter gives you a chance to do as a family.

Bring the Book to Life!

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Ishtar’s Odyssey (aff link) also includes explanations of different Persian foods – which would be SO much fun to tie in with the readings! Children can experience a little taste of what Ishtar might have eaten and in doing so – create a lasting memory of their Advent learning.

A Little More about the Jotham’s Journey Series

One thing our kids groan about with each book are the chapter endings. Somehow each chapter manages to leave you on the edge of your seat, wanting to read more (and that’s a GOOD thing). There have been days when we’ve read an extra chapter (or two) because we didn’t want to stop!

Even though each of the children in the story ultimately end up in the same place, their paths are all different. There are similar scenes in the various books as the characters meet one another at separate times, and it is much fun to see a character from a different perspective.

Overall, these are books that you will want to cycle through and re-read over the years. We’ve read the first three books in the series (two of them twice), and the kids cannot wait to start Ishtar’s Odyssey this year!

There are a few parts of the story that can get a little intense for younger children, but when our youngest was reading along, I just modified the story a bit so it wouldn’t be quite as overwhelming for him. You may want to pre-read each chapter and decide for your family. The Amazon recommended ages are 8 and up, but we have read these with our youngest (so around age 5).

Purchase the Jotham’s Journey Series

Your family can start the Jotham’s Journey Advent series with any of the characters (although I would recommend Jotham first!). These are four stories that your family will be re-reading for years to come and establish a wonderful Advent tradition: Jotham’s Journey, Tabitha’s Travels, Bartholomew’s Passage, and Ishtar’s Odyssey.


Win a Copy of Ishtar’s Odyssey

Kregel Publications has generously offered to give away FOUR copies of the book Ishtar’s Odyssey by Arnold Ytreeide – so four winners!! Yay!!

Giveaway is open to those with a  US address and will run through Monday, November 16, 2015 at 11:59pm. Winners will be chosen and verified via Rafflecopter and have 48 hours to respond to email or another winner will be chosen.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This book and giveaway items were provided to me at no charge by Kregel Publications. All opinions expressed in the post are solely mine.

Life of Fred Math Giveaway

Life of Fred elementary math series giveaway

A few weeks ago I shared a  review on a set of Life of Fred Beginning readers we received from Educents. We are absolutely loving the readers and have more on the way for our reading fun – and now  a few more books in the Life of Fred math series thanks to the kind folks at Educents. Kaleb is literally in educational heaven. (You won’t hear me complaining!)

Are You Familiar with Educents?

homeschool_ad300x250Educents is an online marketplace where you can find  affordable educational products. They provide daily deals to students, parents and educators by working with established educational suppliers. Whether it is a science kit, curriculum pack, books or art supplies, they make sure that Educents has the lowest price – helping more than 300,000 teachers, homeschoolers, and parents gain access to affordable educational materials.

Click here to browse and discover all affordable deals at Educents.

Reasons to Love Life of Fred Math

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Life of Fred math wasn’t on our original homeschool curriculum plan for this year, but after a few weeks of school Kaleb started asking when we were going to use Fred for math again. The last few years we have worked through the first five books in the elementary math series and loved them. Needless to say, I’d rather not say no when one of my kiddos asks to have a little more fun with math.

We have loved the Life of Fred elementary math books for many of the same reasons we love their elementary readers:

  • Laughter abounds – any curriculum that makes a subject fun is a huge win for a family.
  • Simple – the lessons seem easy, but kids are absorbing so much more than you realize through the simple format and presentation.
  • Short chapters and simple text – the text isn’t overwhelming.
  • Silly stories – there is a continuing story throughout the books that kids follow (the older kids even listen in to find out what is happening with Fred).
  • No extras needed – you don’t need any added manipulatives or extras to go along with the books. Just read together and learn.
  • Resuable – the sturdy hardcover books can be used by multiple children (and will withstand all the bending, dropping, etc).


The above video gives a quick summary on what you’ll find in each of the math books, but you can read more about the Life of Fred Elementary math series here.

Save 10% at Educents!

Currently Educents is offering discounted bundles of both Life of Fred Math and the Life of Fred Beginning Readers for purchase directly from their site.  Save an extra 10% off with the coupon code HSC10. It’s a special code JUST for my readers, so be sure to use it!!

If you’d like to learn more about the Life of Fred Beginning Readers and see our thoughts (and a video peek at the books), be sure to visit this post for more information.

LIfe of Fred beginning readers - simple, fun, and engaging for children

A Giveaway from Educents

Educents has also offered one of my readers the FULL Life of Fred Elementary math series! Giveaway ends Monday, October 26th at 11:59 pm and is open to US residents. To enter the giveaway, follow the directions in the Rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

$500 Instagram Cash Giveaway

There is a HUGE giveaway happening on Instagram right now (ending 9/11/15) that I want to make sure you all do NOT miss! Assuming that $500 cash sounds like something you are interested in. (grins)

$500 Giveaway IHN

A team of homeschool bloggers have put together an amazing opportunity for one family to take advantage of and help put a dent in your homeschool spending for the year.

To enter, you’ll need to click over to THIS POST on Instagram and follow the directions under the image. This is a loop giveaway, which means that you need to click on the picture, see the name of the person tagged in the image, click over to their profile and find the above image, follow that person on Instagram (if you aren’t already), like their image, and then repeat the process until you return back to my original picture. (I promise, it sounds more confusing than it is!).

In the process, you will find and follow some other great homeschoolers on Instagram and be entered to win the $500 giveaway. The giveaway ends September 11, 2015 – so be sure to start the loop as soon as you can!

$100 Grapevine Bible Studies GIVEAWAY

$100 Grapevine Studies giveaway from Homeschool Creations

Throughout many of the years of our homeschooling, we have turned time and time and again to Grapevine Bible Studies with the kids. We may stop and use another program for a bit, but the kids always ask when we can use Grapevine again.

esther grapevine example

Using simple stick figures, the kids have drawn their way through multiple Bible stories and learned so many Biblical facts and truths. They’ve even started using stick figure drawing in their other classes, like history, because they love it so much. This coming year we will be working through the New Testament study together with our 3rd through 9th graders.

Today I am SO excited to team up with Grapevine Studies to offer you all an AMAZING giveaway – your choice of any Bible study set from Grapevine (you choose!!!) up to $100!! You’ll be able to go on a shopping spree and find exactly what you need for your family.

Not Sure Where to Start?

Browse the Grapevine site a little and get an idea of what would be a good fit for your family. There are studies and ebooks for preschoolers through family studies.

About-Levels Books-or-eBooks FAQ-page

We’ve always chosen the ebook versions of each study, loaded the teacher’s manuals on my iPad, and printed off what we need for the kids. If you’d like to see a few of the units we’ve worked on in the past, click on one of the links below for more information.

Enter to Win!

Are you ready to enter? Follow the directions in the Rafflecopter widget below. One winner will be chosen for the $100 Grapevine gift card. This giveaway ends Wednesday, September 9th at 11:59 pm and is open to readers worldwide (for ebook versions) or US (for physical copies). Winner will be contacted by email and must respond within 48 hours or another winner will be chosen. Entries will be verified.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Homeschool Coupon Codes and Giveaways

It’s been a bit since I’ve shared any homeschool coupon codes and giveaways with you all. Here are a few deals (some may be ending soon, so be sure to check the dates!). Hope they help you out!

Win a FULL Level of All About Reading!


With the new homeschool year starting soon, you don’t want to miss this giveaway from All About Reading. We have LOVED all of their programs and used them with our boys. Enter this giveaway for a full level of one of their four reading programs.

Save 15% on North Star Geography


Laurianna usedNorth Star Geography this past year and LOVED it! She earned one high school credit (and I do have posts to share – but just haven’t had the time!). North Star Geography is on sale July 1-15, 2015 for 15% off (hardback version only).

FREE 4 Week Reading Trial


Reading Eggs is offering a free 4 week trial of their program. No future commitment needed – just register here.

FREE Lesson from Grapevine Bible Study


If you’ve been wanting to try a Grapevine Study, grab this free download of 10 Commandments this month as a download – no strings attached!  Our kids have really enjoyed using their studies and we’ll be working on them again this school year.

 Home Art Studio

Home Art Studio sale

As a great back to school special, purchase any two Home Art Studio DVDs and receive the Holiday Arts and Crafts DVD for FREE. Our kids have been using their DVDs for the last several years and they absolutely love them.