Friday, December 18, 2009

The Tortoise and the Hare

I always loved “The Tortoise and the Hare” as a child, but had never heard it set to music. Maestro Classics has done just that. They have taken many classical stories and put them with music performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Stephen Simon. I was privileged to receive a sample of “The Tortoise and the Hare” to review.

First, on the CD is the story itself. I popped it into the CD player. I was curious, and my kids love music. I had no idea the results would be so entertaining. My seven year old was fascinated by the story. He started wandering around the couch in a circle. As the story progressed, it got much more interesting. As the hare was racing, little one would race around the couch. As the tortoise was racing, he would tiptoe v e r y s l o w l y and dramatically. He definitely enjoyed the story.

It doesn’t end there. The CD also contains lessons about the story and about the music. There is also a fun sing-along song. In my opinion, this is a fabulous way to develop a love of both classic literature and classical music within your child. The case also contains a little booklet. The booklet has a ton of information in it. It shows the instruments of the orchestra, notes and time signatures, information about the animals in the story, dot-to-dot activity, music for the sing-along, and more.

The CD is very affordable at $16.98, or 3 for $45. I am looking forward to ordering Peter and the Wolf. That is one of my all time favorite musical stories, and I can’t wait to share that with my boys. To see other reviews, click here.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Fun Math?

Math. It’s one of those topics that you either love or hate. In my house, I have one child that loves it and is very, very good at it. I have another one that does not like it in the least. He fights about every little thing. It’s not that he doesn’t understand it. He is actually quite good at math when he stops fighting and puts his head into his work. So, I get very excited when I am allowed to test a new math program. Maybe, just maybe this will be the one to work. We were given a little over a month to try out www.mathletics.com from 3P Learning. This is a subscription based math program that has a few different aspects to it.

First, the kids get to make an avatar (little character). They earn credits to be able to buy new clothes, accessories, or backgrounds. My boys love this kind of thing. It can be a little bit of a distraction, though, depending on the child. There is a curriculum section where they do lessons to earn credits. L, the fifth grader, would do a lesson and then spend 20 minutes decorating his avatar. Then, after some prodding and whining, he would do a couple more lessons. After a couple of days, he did get the idea that he had to actually do some work. There was a lot less whining after that. E, my first grader, is a different story. He is working in second grade math, so I signed him up for second grade. He finished it in less than two weeks. For the rest of the time, he was working in third grade. I would actually have to stop him and pry him off if we had something else to do. I would not call it a complete curriculum, but rather a very effective tool for practice and helping cement concepts. The subscription, compared to a lot of subscription sites, is very affordable at $59 per year. However, if you know the human calculator’s favorite number, you can get the subscription at a discounted rate of $49.95.

There is also an area to play “Mathletics Live”. This gives kids an opportunity to drill and compete against kids from around the globe. It is very secure and no communication takes place between the children. It only shows their first name and what country they are from, along with their avatar. My oldest just discovered this, and thought it was cool when someone popped up from the UK or Australia. There are five levels to choose from in competition.

My little one is very disappointed that our trial period is running out. I am sure we will be renewing after Christmas. I would hate to deprive him of his math game. Oh, and just in case you don’t know, the answer is 9.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Spelling Success!! Finally!!



Sometimes, the most difficult things to teach are the things we do really well. Spelling, in school, was never a challenge for me. With a semi-photographic memory, I could look at the list once and remember how to spell the words. I did not have to incessantly drill to get 100’s on my spelling tests. I did care why words were spelled a certain way. I just knew how to spell them. I don’t really ever remember learning the rules. They were just something that everyone knows.

Unfortunately, not everyone has a semi-photographic memory for spelling words. Everyone does not automatically know the spelling rules. I felt like my 11 year old son was way behind in spelling. No matter how many times we practiced spelling words, he still could not spell when it really mattered. I found from talking with my network of homeschool moms, that this is actually a common problem, particularly with boys. When I found received the All About Spelling program in the mail, I was hoping it would not just be the same old routine. They claim to be a multi-sensory approach to learning spelling that will work for students of every learning style. I opened the package, and was a little overwhelmed at first. Once I got everything sorted, it wasn’t so bad.

Here is how the program works. With each level, you get a teacher manual and a student material packet. The teacher manual is pretty self explanatory. The student material packet is quite unique. It contains flash cards, divided into groups. There are phonogram cards, sound cards, cards to learn the key concepts and word cards. The materials also contain a couple of fun extras. The teacher manual/student material combo sells for $29.95 for level 1 and $39.95 for levels 2 through 5. Level 6 is still in production. In addition, you will also need the letter tiles, magnets, and phonogram CD-rom. This is sold in a kit for $26.95, but is used for all levels. You can also order extra student materials if you wish, but that is really only needed if you have more than one student working in the book at the same time.

I started both my kids at level one at the same time. I have a 5th grader and a 1st grader. The books are not labeled for a grade level, so if you have an older child who is struggling, they won’t be offended by doing 1st or 2nd grade work. My boys love using the letter tile magnets (which you have to cut out and stick on the magnets). At first, in level one, my fifth grader was able to get through several lessons a day. Even though he seemed to fly through them, I still made him do all the lessons to make sure we didn’t miss any important concepts. Now he is working through level 2 and I can definitely see the results. Each concept is taught in a very logical order, and then reviewed in following lessons. He is finally remembering the rules and applying them to his other writing work. I cannot believe the progress he has made in two months compared with the last five years. I will definitely be continuing through all levels of this program. My 1st grader is now almost finished with level 1 and just amazes me day by day with what he is accomplishing. We had to spend some extra time on the concept of “th”, because he is only seven and still has a hard time saying that sound. Now he is hearing the sound finally and knows when it is used in spelling, even if he still refuses to say it properly. Yes, I said refuses.
To read more reviews, click here.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Great Free History Resource


America's Heritage: An Adventure in Liberty is a free educational program developed originally for the Houston Independent School District. It has been made available from the American Heritage Education Foundation for all teachers. You can visit their website to download the free e-book or request a free CD. If you'd prefer, you can order a print copy for $19.50.


I received the CD to review. The CD includes lessons for elementary, middle grades, and high school on the same CD. The basic information is the same for each level, but the activities are tailored to the proper level. My children are in elementary, so we started those lessons. Because the program was originally designed for the public school classroom, I thought it would be more fun to include some friends in the lessons. I had a total of 6 students, ranging in age from 4 to 14. We had to make some adjustments and skip some things with the 4 and 7 year old, but the others all did very well. There are a total of 16 units. Each unit gives a breakdown at the beginning. It tells the purpose, objective of the lesson, and theme for that unit. It also tells what educational requirements that lesson meets based on grade level. It gives and approximation of how long it will take, what materials are needed, and what to prepare. I found the program very easy to use. I also love that the activities for each lesson are very different from each other. It is great for keeping the student's attention, so that they don't get bored by doing the same thing each week. It is not a comprehensive American history curriculum, but rather teaches an understanding of the foundation of our country. It helps the students understand why the government is set up the way it is.

Wow! What a Picture!


Since I've started teaching my children at home, I have begun learning history in a whole new way. There are many things that I learned about in school in different classes that I now know actually happened at the same time. The Amazing Bible Timeline puts that into even more perspective. It is fabulous to see the overlapping of history and get an actual picture of when things happened. This incredible timeline includes 6,000 years of history all in a 37" x 45" chart. It is a great supplement to any history curriculum, really helping the visual learner. You can find out more information and order your Amazing Bible Timeline here for $29.97 plus shipping. When you order, they also have some interesting bonus downloads for you. I love the interactive map of the Holy Land. It gives you a base map, and then you can overlay the map from different points of history.

Monday, November 2, 2009

ABC Teach

Are you looking for supplemental resources for your curriculum? Do you like to print worksheets? If so, you might want to look at abcteach. abcteach is an online resource with many valuable teaching tools. They have over 5,000 free printable and resources. But, for only $40/year you can get much, much more.

I was given one month to check out all the member site has to offer. Unfortunately, due to our busy schedule, I don't think I even made a dent in trying all the resources. What I did try, however, was fabulous. I was able to create my own handwriting worksheets. I chose to use Bible verses, but you can type in anything you want. There are many different fonts to choose from in both printing and cursive. You can also customize and print your own math worksheets, or puzzles using your own spelling lists. With over 35,000 printable worksheets, and updates being added all the time, the possibilities are endless. You can see why it was impossible to try everything in a month. I have used other websites in the past that offer printable worksheets. However, they were all mostly preschool/early elementary resources. I have never seen one that offers so much at so many different levels. I was able to find things that are perfect for both my first and fifth graders, and saw some things that would even be suitable for middle school and high school.

I generally do not like membership sites due to the cost and trying to keep up with it. However, abcteach at only $40 for the whole year is, in my opinion, well worth saving up for. I am definitely going to be renewing. It is even a great resource if you have kids in public/private school for extra practice just where they need it.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Modern Education

Technology today seems to be moving at the speed of light. Fifteen years ago, I loved all the new technology and being "up" on everything. Twelve years ago, I got married to a man who absolutely loves technology. I became very lazy after that. I would let him do things, because he really enjoyed it. Fast forward to today, I have really lost touch with technology and am a little behind. I hate to admit that there are even times I have had to ask my 11 year old for tech assistance. That being said, I appreciate the importance of familiarizing my kids with up-to-date technology in order to keep them successful in the highly competitive market of the future. The question is, "How do I integrate modern technology into my child's education?"

Educaching GPS Based Curriculum for Teachers is one answer. Allow me to explain. Geocaching is a fast growing outdoor hobby involving a handheld GPS device. Geocachers are on a treasure hunt of sorts. High tech hide-and-seek would be another name. A similar hobby that is very popular in our local homeschool community is letterboxing. A box is hidden somewhere with a logbook inside. You "sign" the logbook with your stamp, and there is usually a stamp in the box to "sign" your personal book to show that you were there. Educaching effectively combines those two hobbies to make a high tech educational experience.

The Educaching curriculum is 128 pages of resources for how to get started. The first section is teacher training. Even if you know nothing about how to use a handheld GPS device, you will be able to learn from and use this curriculum. Next, there are 20 lesson plans for you to follow with your children or class full of children. There are lessons on averages, money, collecting and organizing data, cause and effect, chemical or physical change, paleontology, nature, and more. My kids like the treasure/scavenger hunt idea so much, they don't even realize they're learning. Also included are printable worksheets to go along with the lessons. Though the book is well laid out, it is not the kind of curriculum that you can just hand to your kids and say "go for it". It does involve teacher planning and preparation. It is not difficult, however. I just want to to be prepared.

The curriculum is available in two formats. There is the electronic (PDF) format available for $32. If you prefer, you can get it already printed in a 3-ring binder with CD for printing worksheets. This is also $32, but you must add $6.95 for shipping and handling.

For more information, please visit the Educaching website.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Update on Sarah Books

Author Jim Baumgardner has offered a very special discount to my blog readers. This offer is not available online, only by a special order form by mail. If you are interested in receiving the order form, please leave a comment with your email address or contact me personally. These are great books, and the owner/author is great.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Great Historical Fiction

To me, it does not matter if you sell the most amazing product in the world. If the service is bad, I will not buy your product. However, if you have a good product and good service, I will not only keep coming back but will tell all my friends about it. Sarah Books is one such company. Jim Baumgardner, the author of Sarah Books sent to all TOS Crew members a copy of Sarah's Wish to review. Not only did he send me the book, but also signed it. He went over and above with all his friendly communication and extra touches when sending this out.


Oh, that's right, I'm supposed to be reviewing the book. Sarah's Wish is a story about a girl of 12 years old. Sarah lives with her mother who is a hand on the Underground Railroad. After her mother dies in a tragic accident, the story goes on to tell of Sarah's journey to find a new family. It is a great story to give kids a glimpse into what life was like during the days of slavery. The story is begins in the free state of Ohio. Just across the river in Kentucky, Sarah discovers what life is like in a slave state. I really enjoyed reading Sarah's Wish, and cannot wait to read the other's in the series. It is written at a level perfect for tweens. It can be a great read-aloud for the whole family, too. It's also fun for mom's who can steal a chance to escape and read, without taking too much time. You can read excerpts from all three Sarah Books here. You can order Sarah's Wish here for $9.99.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Guardian Angel Publishing




Guardian Angel Publishing is an online children's bookstore. They have tons of fun, educational book choices for babies through elementary age. All their books are in e-book format. They are even beginning to offer some apps for your i-Pod Touch or i-Phone. I don't personally have either of those, but they look fun. There is even a freebie section on the website that offers some free mini-books and coloring pages. I received from Guardian Angel Publishing seven e-books to review.
Maybe We Are Flamingos by Safari Sue Thurman - I'm starting with this one, because it was our favorite. This is a cute story about two baby flamingos that wonder why they are a different color than all the other flamingos. They found out that flamingos get their color as they grow from what they eat. They go on to imagine what they would look like if they ate different foods. The boys were laughing their heads of by the end of the story (and I was too).


Hamster Holidays (Noun and Adjective Adventures) by Cynthia Reeg - This was a cute story. Even better, was the educational material mixed into it. All the nouns and adjectives are highlighted to help young readers learn about them. It also is a great book to learn about the months of the year.



Stubby's Destiny by Dixie Phillips, Rainbow Sheep by Kim Chatel, and Andy & Spirit Go to the Fair by Mary Jean Kelso were all great stories also.


No Bones About It... by Bill Kirk and Earthquake by Susan J. Berger are not really story books. These are both great science lessons. No Bones About It... is about bones. It is presented in a really fun rhyming manner to really help kids remember the bones of the body. Earthquake covers a ton of information, but is still presented in a way that is fun for kids.



Click on any of the book titles above to link to more information about the books. Also, be sure to check out the rest of Guardian Angel Publishing's website to view all their other e-books. They even have video previews of the e-books to view. Most e-books are around $5. They do have print books available for varying prices plus shipping.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Scrub a Dub, Dub

Reviewing homeschooling products has been a great joy over the past few months. It is always fun to go check the mailbox or email and find a new surprise. You wouldn't believe my surprise when I opened a recent box to find soap.


Virginia Soaps & Scents was developed by a homeschooling family. It started as a school project and has blossomed into a great family business. They make handcrafted soaps from all natural ingredients. In other words, they make good, old-fashioned soap. In the letter that came with the soap, they claimed it to be very good for your skin and could even help clear up acne. That made me immediately skeptical. I have suffered from acne for about 20 years now. I have tried all kinds of products, including prescriptions. About five years ago, I found a product that I loved and that helped dramatically. I was not looking for a new product. However, since they sent it to me, I figured I may as well try it. WOW!!!!!! Now really, my face has been mostly clear for the past five years. The heat and humidity does not work well with oily skin, though. Add in a dab of hormonal issues, and I do still get quite a few breakouts. Virginia Soaps & Scents sent me three of their varieties of soap. The first one I tried was Oatmeal, Milk, & Honey. Within two days, my face was so clear that I hardly needed any makeup. I also received Coconut Lemongrass and Fresh Orange. I do currently have a couple breakouts, but still not nearly as bad as what it was before. When I order, I think I will stick with the Oatmeal, Milk & Honey. The other benefit, is that I have one bar that I use for my face and whole body. I do not have to have two different products, do not have to mess with opening bottles, and actually save water by taking shorter showers. Oooh, and I can't forget that it makes the whole bathroom smell yummy all day. The soaps are available online for $4.50 each or 3 for $12.


I also received from them a Ginger Lime Shampoo Bar. That one really baffled me. How does one use a bar of shampoo? Let me first say, that I have tried for years to find products to add volume to my hair and get it to cooperate with me. I decided, that if I was going to try the all natural shampoo bar, that I would need to try it without adding other products to my hair and just keep it all natural. I was amazed. After just the first washing, my hair had much more volume and I didn't have the need for gel or hairspray. I couldn't believe my eyes. It did point out the fact that I was overdue for a haircut. Once I got a trim, my hair cooperated even more. I can diffuse it and make it curly, use a round brush to make is soft and wavy, or straighten it. All the styles look great, and keep without using any other product. Unfortunately, I ran out and had to use my regular shampoo and conditioner this morning. My hair is once again out of control. I will definitely be ordering more and soon, possibly in some different scents. The shampoo bars are $5.50 each or 2 for $10.


But wait...there's more. I also received a kit to make laundry soap. The kit consists of a grated soap bar, along with a powder mixture of washing soda and borax. This is something I have been wanting to do for a long time, but just have not gotten around it. The kit made it very easy. I was a little nervous about how well it would work. I have some seriously tough laundry. My husband works outside in the Florida heat. His work shirts get just a little stinky (sorry honey). We have to buy the expensive laundry soap, or it doesn't even begin to take the smell out. My little one also still has some bathroom issues that make for stinky laundry. I was very eager to try the soap out on my laundry. The first load I did was the kids clothes. I really liked the clean, fresh smell. The next load was the stinky work shirts. It did not completely take the smell out. But to be quite honest, the expensive soap does not completely take the smell out either. So in my opinion, it did not work any better or worse than my normal brand. I think once I use up my supply, I will be switching to the homemade permanently. It is a great feeling to not use all the added chemicals and preservatives from the store bought products. The kit sells for $4.95 and makes 2 gallons of soap. They say this is enough to do about 64-72 loads of laundry. There are also other options for added savings, so be sure to check out the website.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Mystery of History

What does the U.S. government have in common with Ancient Rome? Who was Nero? What do heart shaped cookies have to do with St. Valentine? These are just some of the questions answered by the "Mystery of History, Volume II". Bright Ideas Press sent me a copy of this book to review and explore with my kids. (Volume III is pictured below)I was thrilled to get this. I have been searching and trying various programs to try to find a history curriculum to fit. My boys are four years apart, and have very different needs academically. Regardless, in the end, they need to know the same information. There are some classes like language, reading, and math that need to be taught seperately. History, on the other hand, is something that can be shared if it can be made adaptable for each level. "Mystery of History" is exactly the kind of program I've been searching for. The book is designed to be used with students from Kindergarten through 12th grade. There are 28 weeks worth of lessons. Each week contains a pretest, three lessons, review, and excercise or quiz. The lessons all include a short reading and activities. The activities are what make the curriculum customizable. There are some activities recommended for all students, but do include some adaptation for the younger ones. Then each lesson has activities listed that are broken into younger (K-3), middle (4-8), and older (high school) categories. I have been able to do some of the middle activities with my 5th grader, or sometimes I just have them both do the activity for younger students. It is great to have the suggestions and options available. Volume II starts at Pentecost in A.D. 29 and continues to the invention of the printing press in 1456. I love how it integrates Bible and church history in with what was going on in the rest of the world. When I was learning history those were very seperated. We learned about church history at church and world history at school. It is very cool to see them interact with each other, because they are not seperate. For example, Nero was Emporer of Rome during most of Paul's journeys. This curriculum is also not overwhelming. I was able to add books from the library and add some projects to suit our needs. In a book my son was reading he came across a character named Nero who was modeled after the Roman Emporer. I had him write a paragraph to compare and contrast the two "Neros". That is not something he will soon forget.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the timeline. Part of the review activities is to create a timeline to hang on the wall as a visual reminder of what we've studied. Here is a picture of what we've done so far. (Sorry, it's not a very good picture.)

Bright Ideas Press also has tons of other great products for history, geography, and even a bit of science. Mystery of History Volume 2 is available in book form for $49.95. If you prefer, you could get an audio CD for $48.95 and CD-ROM with printables for $19.95. Visit the Bright Ideas website to see all the other products they have available, including Mystery of History Volume 1. I will absolutely be looking at the other volumes when we finish this one. I am also looking forward to going back through it in a few years and doing the projects for older students along with it.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Nature Friend Magazine


Nature Friend magazine "Helping Families Explore the Wonders of God's Creation"

I recently received two issues of Nature Friend magazine to review. My boys and I thoroughly enjoyed exploring nature through the pages of this magazine. I personally am not much of an outdoor person, and do not like hands on contact with animals. I do, however, love learning about animals. My boys also really love learning about animals. The articles in Nature Friend are all presented in a way that is easy to understand, but does not talk down to the students. The target audience is 8 - 16 year olds, but can be enjoyed by younger siblings, parents, and grandparents. We had a great time going through and working together on some of the activities as a family. It was a great spark for some fun conversation. We were going through a word search, finding names of animals. We came to the word "gorilla", and my six year old bursts out with, "Male gorillas over the age of 11 are called silverbacks." He sounded just like a documentary. My fifth grader's favorite part was the learn to draw segment. He learned how to draw a sunflower. Both the boys love looking at the submissions from other kids their age. Nature Friend is also filled with amazing nature photos. A one year subscription will run you $36.
For an additional $2 per issue, you can get a study guide to go along with the magazine. The study guide is a great way to find out what your children are comprehending. It is filled with fun activities plus features on writing and photography. Right now through November 30, 2009, you can get $3 off a new subscription. Simply use coupon code BLOG93 when ordering. Visit the Nature Friend website to view some of their nature photos and for ordering information.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Write Like Dickens


Would you like your students to be able to write like Jules Verne, Charles Dickens, or Robert Louis Stevenson? Or, maybe you’d just like them to be able to write a complete paragraph. “Write With the Best” is a two volume writing curriculum from Educational Diagnostic Prescriptive Services (EDUDPS). It is designed for students in 3rd through 12th grades who already have a basic understanding of the parts of speech. Each volume is designed to last about 18 weeks or one semester.

I started Volume I with my 5th grader. It is broken up into 9 units with 10 short daily lessons each. The lessons are designed to take from 15 to 45 minutes, depending on the student. Each unit starts with reading an excerpt from classic literature. Unit One is about descriptive paragraphs. They used an excerpt from Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”. It was a paragraph that describes the undersea creature. If you know anything about boys, you’ll have an idea about how excited my son was to read about a monster. Then for the next nine days, it helps the students break apart the paragraph and learn how to create one on their own. I think that for the right student it would be a great curriculum. For mine, it really has showed me some gaps in his language arts skills. So I am going to back up and go over some of the basics with him again. After I do that, we will definitely be finishing this curriculum, and probably continuing on to Volume II.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks

What is a lapbook? It is a collection of mini books on a topic, put together into a folder. There are a number of ways to do lapbooks. Many people are very creative and can come up with the ideas on their own. Other people, like me, need to rely on the creativity of others. Paula and Nancy from A Journey Through Learning are two such creative people. They have put together a collection of lapbooks and unit studies to help out us non-creative people.

My six year old and I worked together on the Autumn lapbook.

It was loaded with information. There is a one page informational reading followed by one or more mini books to stick into the big folder. Then, there is another informational reading followed by more mini books. I love all the different ways to make the mini books. Since, a picture is worth a thousand words, here are some pictures of the finished product.



This particular lapbook can be purchased from A Journey Through Learning’s website (click here) as a download for $13, CD for $14, or printed for $21. Here are some of their other lapbooks:






















I am personally looking forward to the study “The Parables of Jesus”. My six year old is looking forward to learning about reptiles. Though, I will probably use the other books as a guide for making a notebook rather than a lapbook. I do not personally like making lapbooks, as I don’t know what to do with them when they are done. If I make it into a notebook, it fits nicely into each child’s portfolio binder. I will also be checking out some of A Journey Through Learning’s unit studies. When the boys get it in their head that they want to learn something, they have a one track mind for a while. This is a great way to thoroughly cover a topic without a lot of extra work for the teacher.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Making My Home a Little Healthier

I am probably one of the pickiest eaters on the planet. It is not a big secret. I am always very up front with everyone I share a meal with that there are certain foods I just will not eat. On the other hand, I have many foods that I really love. Of course, not too many of them are on the good for your body list. I do know how important good nutrition is. I did study health and fitness in college, after all. However, having a head knowledge of something and applying it practically in my life are two very different things.



All of a sudden, that is changing. Well, maybe it's not all that sudden. I have been making an effort for a while to get my family to eat better. Then, I got the curriculum Nutrition 101: Choose Life. Like I said, I studied nutrition in college. But it was a very general, overall picture of foods that are good for you, foods that you should avoid, and the science of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. This book is so much more than that.



Nutrition 101: Choose Life is broken up into six units. Each unit covers a system of the body. We started with the brain/nervous system. There are several chapters in each unit that break things down even further. It really goes into detail about how the system works, what nutrients are good for that system, and what to avoid. The information is incredible. It is really making me realize why good nutrition is so important. The boys love listening and learning even though some of the information gets a little too detailed for them. Next, we went to the digestive system. This was a great unit for my family. For those of you who don't know, my 6yo suffers from some digestive issues (severe constipation). Initially it was caused by diet, but we have been trying to correct that. This unit gave us even more information on how to do that.



I haven't even told you the best part yet. It is great to have all this information, but really, how practical is it to apply this to everyday life in busy households? How can I make these foods into a meal my family will eat? Every single chapter has a recipe to go with it. Did I mention how much I love to eat? We studied the countries of the world last year, and had to make a dinner from that country as we studied it. I was thrilled that we could do the same thing with this. I like that it is only one recipe though. We make the recipe and then combine it with something more familiar. That way, we get to try a little something new without being overwhelmed. Some of the recipes are guacamole for the brain, spice cookies for digestions, No Dairy No Chocolate "Chocolate" Pudding for respiration, and hummus for the joints. We are only to the second unit, but our favorite recipe so far are the spice cookies. They are loaded with high fiber foods that my 6yo desperately needs. I was afraid he wouldn't eat them. I told you I was a picky eater, but he's even worse. He loved the cookies. I think I am going to be making these cookies a lot.



The 448 page curriculum is available from Growing Healthy Homes in two formats. The book format is $99.95, and the CD is $79.95. Let me just say, it is worth every penny. I like having it on my computer, because then I can print out the recipes and not have to worry about the book getting spilled on in the kitchen. This is definitely a must have book, especially if you (like me) struggle with making healthy choices.



Visit the Growing Healthy Homes website for more information and ordering.



Thursday, September 24, 2009

God Gives Me Just What I Need, Just When I Need It

Sometimes life can get in the way of God. It is difficult to see the forest through the trees. There is so much garbage and stress everywhere we turn. I received a great package in the mail today of another curriculum to review, but it was oddly discouraging at first. Not the product, but it made me think of something else. I am purposely being vague about what it is and why it was discouraging because I do not want that to reflect poorly on my future review of the product. And the product actually is an answer to prayer and something I've been looking forward to teaching my kids. So what's my point? After being discouraged, I took a few moments to stop and pray about it, but then had get kids ready for activities.

After the activities finished, we came home to start the bedtime routine. Chris always reads the boys a story, and then reads from their boys' devotional Bible. Tonight, their reading was from 2 Chronicles, chapter 20. When I'm looking for encouragement, 2 Chronicles is not normally the first book that pops into my head. That is one of the history books that talks about wars, and Israel doing evil in the eyes of the Lord, then repenting and repeating the circle all over again. I should know by now that the Living Word is meaningful and encouraging in every book. It just always amazes and awes me that scriptures seem to show up just when I seem to need them.

I am going to highlight a few verses from the chapter that hit me the hardest, but I highly encourage you to read the whole chapter for yourself. At this time, Jehoshaphat is king of Judah. They are at war with Moab and Ammon. It appears that the people of Judah at this time are in the stage of serving the Lord. A Levite named Jahaziel is speaking in verse 15 "Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: 'Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's.'". Jahaziel may have been speaking to Jehoshaphat and the Judeans, but the Lord was speaking directly to me today. In verse 17, he goes on to say, "You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you." Goose bumps. Then, they get ready to go out to the battle. Verse 21 says, "After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army saying: 'Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.' As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated." WOW!!!!!!! Seriously? They sang praises to God, and He did the rest.

That reminds me of another story. Let's skip ahead several hundred years to the book of Acts, chapter 16. Paul and Silas were in prison. What would you do if you were thrown in prison today? I imagine most of us would carry on some sort of whoa-is-me act. What did Paul and Silas do in prison? Why, they prayed and sang praises to God, of course. I'm sure most of you know what happened next. Verse 26 says, "Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody's chains came loose." Through that incident, the jailer and his whole family were saved.

The bottom line is simple. No matter your battles today, "Give thanks to the Lord, for His love endures forever." Sing praise, sing praise today, tomorrow, and always. Let God handle the tough stuff. Peace and blessings.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Really Cool Gadget

I think the picture says everything, but I am going to tell you about this cool gadget anyway. Wasn't I shocked one day to get my mail and find a book holder? Honestly, I was not all that excited. I was thinking in my head, "what am I going to do with a book holder?" Let me tell you, my opinion quickly changed when we started using the STUDYPOD. It is probably the greatest thing for students since the pencil. At first, I didn't think it would be valuable to us because my oldest child is in 5th grade. He does not use books at the computer to take notes and write reports like the picture shows. After I took it out of the box and set it up, I had to find a book to try. My son's 5th grade math book was conveniently left on the table, so I opened it and set it on the STUDYPOD. Several weeks later, the book is still there. My son absolutely loves it. There is no longer a need to worry about the page accidentally getting turned, because the STUDYPOD holds them in place. It also is portable. You can fold it up to the size of a book and carry it to the library, school, or wherever else you might study. Our STUDYPOD is black, but they do come in other colors (including my favorite, pink). The regular price is $19.95, which is very reasonable and worth the price. Of course, I know you love a deal as much as I do. The company was kind enough to offer a coupon code for my readers who would like to order online. Visit the website to place your order, and enter coupon code TOSBLOG5. Then, enjoy your new cool gadget.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Boy, Oh Boy!

Today has been one adventure after another. It is, however, nothing unusual for the mother of boys. I, myself, have one sister. Growing up, I was a shy child. Other than a couple of boy cousins, I had very little interaction with boys. Really, it wasn't until I met my husband that I said more than a few words to anyone of the male species. I really wasn't even very good at talking to my dad. But, meet my husband I did. We got married, and 14 months later God blessed us with a bouncing baby boy. I was quite intimidated at first, not quite sure what to do with him. I had practiced all my life taking care of my dolls, doing their hair, dressing them up in cute dresses, etc. I was one of the girliest girls you'd ever want to meet. I don't like animals, and really don't like bugs. The name we gave him means enlightenment. Oh, did he enlighten me. Not only to the challenges of boys, but also the joys. Then, four years later, we were blessed with another boy. Don't get me wrong, there are times I long to have a little girl, but I would not trade my boys for the world. In a million years, I would've never dreamed I would grow up and have two boys. I'm glad God had other plans.

As I've already said, boys bring one adventure after another. Today was no exception. First, we were in the car on our way to the park. We had picked up some friends on the way. I am driving along listening to the conversation of my 6yo son and his little 6yo friend (who is a girl). They start talking about money. They both are wishing for all kinds of money and trying to out do each other. Then, our little friend says, "I'm broke". My son replies, "I have some money. Cents is money, do you have any cents?" She says, "I had some cents, but I can't find it." He says, "I have more cents than you." Mind you, I am listening to this while driving. I cannot contain my laughter. I am getting tears in my eyes from laughing. I think the cutest part is that they each knew exactly what the other was talking about. It was just an innocent conversation about how much cents they had. It makes me smile just thinking about it. That, however, was just the beginning.

There are a lot of "firsts" that children go through in their lifetime. It is always an emotional time for parents. We are excited because they are growing up, and we are sad because they are growing up. When you think of firsts, there are a lot of events that come to mind. First steps, first words, first day of school, first date just scratches the surface. There are some firsts, on the other hand, that a mom doesn't really think about until all of a sudden it happens. Especially with boys, there are firsts of things that I never went through and, therefore, had no reason to think about them. Today was one of those firsts. My almost 11yo is in band. Sports are a new thing that we are experiencing with my 6yo. Last fall, he started playing baseball. He wanted to sign up because his friend was playing. He really had no interest in baseball. I didn't think he would ever want to play again after that first season. Well, he decided to sign up in the spring again because he heard they got trophies. That was all it took. One little trophy, and now he is hooked to baseball for life, I think. This fall, we signed him up for the 7 -8 year old group even though he won't be 7 until the end of October. He was so much bigger than all the kids on his team in the spring, and I knew there would be new 4 year olds starting this fall. Even on his new team he is one of the tallest, though everyone is much closer to his size. I can't imagine him on the team with little tiny 4 year olds. Sorry, I am off on a tangent. The 7 and 8 year old group hits the ball from a pitching machine. The pitching machine is set to pitch at 40-something mph. Many of those kids can really hit that ball hard when it is going that fast. Therefore, we decided it was probably important that he be protected. Herein lies the first of today. That is an item I never would've imagined buying in a million years. So I'm standing in Target just a little bit intimidated again. How does one know what size to buy? Does he really need it? Should I buy it or not? Oh, the questions that were running through my brain. I did finally decide on one to buy, now I hope and pray that it is the right one. Just another ordinary day being the mom of boys.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Quarter Mile Update

I just received an exciting message from Christopher at Quarter Mile Math. He is offering a discount to all my readers to receive $5 off any standard or deluxe product. All you have to do is visit http://www.quartermilemath.com/ and enter coupon code 7L7R7. Happy Shopping!!!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Lowdown

Things have been absolutely crazy in my world lately. It's been super busy, but in good ways with one exception. We had to make an unexpected trip up to Indiana because Chris' dad had some major complications after a surgery and we weren't sure if he was going to make it or not. Thankfully, he is doing much better and is almost ready to go home finally.

The boys are growing up so fast. My oldest will be 11 very soon and has started 5th grade. I don't feel old enough to have a fifth grader. I remember some very significant events from when I was in 5th grade. That was the year we moved to Wisconsin. I was not happy about that at the time. In January of my 5th grade year was when the Challenger accident occurred. Back to my son, he has started piano lessons. I think in a few short weeks, he has surpassed anything I've ever been able to do on the piano. He is very musically gifted (gets that from his dad). He may be starting percussion in band as well. Little one, who is in 1st grade now, is mathematically gifted (like me). He just started 1st grade and is about halfway through his 2nd grade math book. Amazing. He has also become very taken with the game of baseball. He started playing last fall because his friend played. He hated every minute of it, played in the sand, and would not do anything he was supposed to. Then, time for spring season came around and he announces that he wants to play again. He found out that they gave away trophies in the spring. He was much improved. I still wasn't sure if he would consider playing again. A few weeks ago, he saw a sign on the side of the road advertising football. He said he wanted to play football. OK. I start looking into various football programs. I find one that will fit, and ask him if he is sure he wants to play football. "No mom, I want to play baseball again. I want to get more trophies than (my friend)." No, he is not competitive at all.

I am working with some other homeschooling families to open a new non-traditional private school. The paperwork and fundraising for that has kept me very busy in between schooling and extracurriculars. Glory Bound Academy should be sending out enrollment packets starting next week. If you would like more information on that, please email gloryboundacademy@gmail.com.

Getting chosen to review homeschooling products has been such an unbelievable blessing. When we order our curriculum every year in February, we usually just get the basics. Occasionally throughout the year we have the opportunity to get something a little extra, or try something new. But since July we have been receiving all sorts of new things to try, and having a blast doing so. If you haven't seen the reviews, please go back through the history and take a look. I have definitely found some great products to add to our regular shopping list. We will be making some changes for now, and the future. I think our favorite product that I've written about so far is the Grapevine Studies. The boys are still enjoying that. Though we are taking a break this week because I am waiting for new ink for the printer. There are a bunch more things that we are working on and some we need to get started on. I will give you a little sneak peek into what we are doing. We started a new history book yesterday and so far really enjoying it. We have a nutrition course to get started on. We have five lapbooks about various topics and I am trying to decide which one to do before I have to write the review. We have a very interesting writing program that we started with my oldest one this week. Writing and spelling has been something that he has struggled with. So if this helps even a little bit, it will get a glowing review from me. It utilizes some great classic literature. This week we are working with a passage from "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea". I can't wait to see what will be delivered next.

What Boy Doesn't Love a Car Race?

The Quarter Mile Math is a self-competitive software for practicing math skills. Children solve math problems to make either a horse or a race care move up the straight, quarter mile track. They are racing against their previous best scores. I love that concept. I am very competitive with myself. I love to try to beat my past times, scores, goals, whatever. Unfortunately, I'm afraid, my children did not inherit that same passion. Or maybe it is just because it involves math. The graphics of The Quarter Mile Math are very simple. There are not a lot of distractions all over the screen. It is just practicing math, and challenging yourself.

There are over 70,000 problems ranging in level from kindergarten through pre-algebra. The Standard CD version is split into three levels. Each level is $39.95 each, or you can get the complete set for $89.95. The Deluxe version comes with student progress tracking, includes all levels, and is a very good value at only $2.95 per month for the whole family. Yes, you read that right, two dollars and 95 cents. That includes printable progress charts that would be a great addition to your child's homeschooling portfolio.

We have only had the program a few weeks, and to this point my children are not that excited about it. In this world of 3-D graphics and Wii games they are a little bored by the game. But I am going to keep at it for a while. I think after another month, I will post a follow-up to share if they have enjoyed it anymore, or made any progress.


Friday, August 21, 2009

"Hank the Cowdog" Maverick Books



I love getting packages in the mail. When I got the package in the mail from Maverick Books, I was expecting a book. Wasn't I surprised to find so much more inside. We did get a book. It is titled "The Case of the One-eyed Killer Stud Horse". It is book eight in the "Hank the Cowdog" series by John Erickson. This is definitely a book series for boys. My boys found it hysterical. Unfortunately, I found it a bit lacking in manners. It did not use any bad language per se, but it did occasionally word things in a way contrary to our teaching.

We also received a CD of songs and excerpts from several of the stories. Again, I got the same feeling that it was OK, but just not the manners I want my children to imitate. "Hank's Tornado Game" was also in the box. The game is pure, good, family fun. It reminds me a lot of the game "Trouble", but instead of a popper it uses a spinner. The pieces you move around the board are characters from the book. My 10 year old found it a little boring, but my six year old loves it. The great thing is that it is portable. The board folds in half and locks together, keeping all game pieces safely inside.

If you are interested in learning more about Maverick Books and "Hank the Cowdog", click HERE. The books sell for $4.24 each for paperback. "Hank's Tornado Game" sells for $12.99.

HTML - What Does It Mean?

We hear the letters all the time, but what really is html? Is it possible that I could ever understand it well enough to design a website? What if I told you it's so easy that a child could design a website?

We had the privlege of reviewing a DVD lesson called "Web Design for Kids...and Curious Grown-ups". The DVD is one hour and 22 minutes long, but is broken up into seven chapters. Each chapter is a very simple lesson on how to use html codes to design your very own website. It transforms the technical into simple language that anyone can understand. They call it Sesame Street language. It is specifically targeted for ages 10 to adult. The only computer software required is notepad and internet explorer. Notepad comes free with most PC's. Also, you do not have to post anything on the web to see the results.

We tried the DVD with my 10 year old first. We just popped it in the DVD player and hit play. He sat on the couch with the laptop and followed along with the DVD. I was able to pause the DVD to let him catch up with typing (that's definitely the next skill we need to work on). It was very cool, because as he completed a step, then he would go check to see how it looked. He loved typing in the code and then quick checking to see what he did. The great thing is that we left the DVD paused and just let him play and experiment for quite a while. Overall, my son really enjoyed the program. I love anything that will get my kids excited about learning. The problem we ran into was that my six year old also wanted to participate. After much prodding on his part, we finally let him give it a try. As expected, he struggled and did not get much out of it because dad ended up having to do most of the work. I should add that my six year old is quite a bit ahead academically, working mostly at a 2nd and 3rd grade level. He just was not quite ready for this.

For a limited time, you can order "Web Design for Kids...and Curious Grown-ups" for only $19.99. Click here to check out the website.

Monday, August 17, 2009

ALEKS Math, Take Two

ALEKS math is an online math curriculum that is smart. It keeps track of the lessons your child has completed and mastered. When beginning, it starts with an evaluation to see if there are any lessons mastered before you start. It is great to have that, and to know that yes my children have actually learned something. ALEKS uses a pie chart to keep track of progress. The kids love the bright colors and seeing the chart get filled in. The programs are designed for third through twelfth grades, and even beyond.

I signed my 10yo up for fifth grade. He did his initial evaluation, and tested out of about 1/4 of the lessons. He loves that he gets to decide what to do. I am not crazy about that idea. He picks all the "easy" lessons, and then never gets to the things that are really important. The other problem we ran into with him is that he doesn't test well. He would do his lessons, know the stuff, but would not get the questions right on the test. That causes the lessons to be added back into his pie. Then he gets to redo things that he already knows, and again doesn't get to the important stuff. He loves doing it, which is a huge challenge. But he just doesn't seem to progress.

I signed my 6yo up for the third grade. It really isn't as crazy as it might sound. He is currently starting first grade, but is working through second grade math. I thought, it couldn't hurt to try. He did the evaluation, and also tested out of about 1/4 of the lessons. I was very impressed. He was able to do a few lessons, but many of the things were way beyond where he's at right now. If we had already done regrouping, I think he would've done very well with the third grade program. He is a much different learner than my older son. Little one takes direction much better and would not hesitate to do difficult lessons. I wish we could have done more with him, but it was just a little above his head and I did not want him to get frustrated and burned out.

I also got to sign up and give some things a try. I tried Algebra. I really love the program, and think it is a fabulous way to lay out the lessons. When I was in school, I would have loved a pie chart like that. I am very competitive, especially with myself. I love to see the pie getting filled in. I think for an independent, goal-oriented learner it is a fabulous program. Sometimes, though, the explanations don't really make much sense. It is good for practice, but not necessarily great for teaching. I would love to see a little more explanation, or maybe a video demonstration. I think my oldest son would do much better with the challenging lessons if explained better.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Fun with Stickfigures

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am not an artist. My children, at a very early age, have far surpassed my artistic abilities. So when I first saw Grapevine Studies: Learning the Bible through Stick People, I had to laugh. Stick people are right within my range of artistic ability. We chose to study the New Testament, Level 1 so that it would be suitable for my first grader. I was worried that it would be a little beneath my fifth grader, but figured it couldn’t hurt.

The first week of the study was an overview timeline of the entire New Testament. I printed the pages. There are about three to four events on each page of the timeline. I took out the dry erase easel and started drawing stick figures for the boys to copy onto their timelines. There is a short description of each event to go along with the picture. I read as they drew. Now, I should clarify that my boys do not like to do anything that is related to school. I struggle on a daily basis to get them to do their work. They LOVED this. First, they thought my drawings were hilarious. The 10yo decided that he would rather look at the computer screen to see the pictures. I think that was just a 10yo thing, because my pictures really did look just like the ones on the computer, and his weren’t any better. I was a little worried how the 6yo would do, if he had the fine motor skills to be able to draw the pictures. But, they both did fabulous.

The second week went back to the beginning to really study each event, starting with John the Baptist. There is a Bible verse to copy, several stick figure drawings, and Bible reading. It is very simple, one page each day. The boys do not get overwhelmed at all. In fact, they beg to do the stick figures. Here is a sample picture that my 6yo drew for week three.

I don’t know about you, but when I find a curriculum for anything that my kids beg to do, I am thrilled. I also love that it is already all planned out and very simple to use. I wish that I could find a program like this for all the classes. I will certainly continue to use this study, and probably order others.

To check out all the studies that Grapevine has available, click here. They offer both hardcopy books, or e-format (which I love). Also, Grapevine Studies has been kind enough to offer a 30% discount to all my readers. Upon checkout, simply enter coupon code CREWS. Offer expires September 15, 2009.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Thankfulness

Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in our day to day drama, worry, and stuff going on in the world. We tend to dwell on what is wrong so that we can fix it. We forget to think about what is right. We forget to think about how many blessings we have. We live in the richest country in the world, even during a recession. The news keeps talking about the gloom and doom of how bad the economy is. Well, I'm here to tell you how good the economy is. Do you have a place to live? Then you are blessed. Do you have a car to drive? Even if it's old and beat up, you are blessed. Do you have $1 in the bank or your wallet? Then you are more blessed than 80% of the world. So today, instead of worrying about tomorrow, count your blessings of today. Be thankful for what you have, and don't worry about what you don't have. Continue to work hard in all you do and remember God is with you.

Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" Luke 12:22-25

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:14-19

Monday, July 13, 2009

Spelling Helper



Spelling, in our house, has been a bit of a struggle. My 10yo ds tries to spell things phonetically, but makes up his own phonetic rules rather than following the ones set forth in the English language. I do have to agree, though that the phonetic rules of English can be overwhelming. There are so many rules, exceptions, and then exceptions to the exceptions. I spent a long time studying Spanish, and am just amazed by the simplicity of their phonics. All the vowels have one sound, period. Just imagine how much easier it would be to teach spelling. No more long hours of spelling practice, drilling, and quizzing.

Daniel Hite has created a program that he hopes will help with the drilling and quizzing. The program is called Spellquizzer. It is a simple program to be used with your own spelling lists. You enter this week’s spelling words into the program, and record an audio to go with them. You may either just say the word, or say the word and a sentence, or whatever you feel like. There is also a function to import lists from others, including your child’s teacher if they use the same program, or export your lists to others.


Then the program takes over. Your child gets quizzed on their spelling words. They play the audio, type the word, the program tells them if they got it right or wrong. If they get it wrong, Spellquizzer shows the correct spelling. At the end of the list, the child is asked if they would like to practice the missed words again.

I don’t know if the program will work for us or not. We have never spent hours practicing spelling words. Maybe we need to do a bit more of that. My son seemed to like the program for a minute, but then got bored with it. And when we do practice spelling words, I rather enjoy spending the time with my kids. Usually, we practice them during dinner time. But if your time is limited, and need your child to get the extra practice, you may want to check it out. Spellquizzer is available for $29.95, and the website is great at showing exactly what you are getting. There is also a free trial available if you’d like to give it a try for yourself. Happy spelling!!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Looking for a Plan?

Who wouldn’t like for their life to be easier? I’ve always wanted to have a schedule, a plan, goals, and be able to stick to them. A couple of weeks ago I saw an e-mail advertising the 2009 Schoolhouse Planner from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. I read over the description and then dreamed about being able to buy it so that I could create a plan. Needless to say, when I was asked to review it I was overjoyed.

What is the Schoolhouse Planner? Wow, it is so much more than just a calendar. It is a 375 page bundle of calendars, forms, educational material, and more. The planner is broken into sections. The first section is the actual planner, broken up by month. The month is split into two pages. The first page consists of Sunday through Tuesday, and Wednesday through Saturday on the second page. You can type information for each day, and then print out the calendar. Following the calendar, each month has its own little unit study. I am especially fond of February’s study on the miracles of Jesus. I can’t wait to dig into that one further. There are also studies on American government, the planets, letter writing, and more. They also have included lists of additional resources (with links) available from the Schoolhouse Store to go along with that month’s study. Each month also includes two recipes.

After all twelve months (July 2009 to June 2010), there is a section of additional educational information. There are charts on measurement conversions, states and capitals, US Presidents, timelines and more.

The next two sections are my absolute favorites. Forms, forms, and more forms. The first part is all kinds of homeschool forms. There are annual, monthly, and weekly plans, report cards, transcript forms, forms to use for co-ops and more. All of them allow you to enter information and print them out, or print them out and write in the information. The second part is household forms. There are forms for menu planning, chore charts, budgeting, garden planning, and more.

Overall, I would call the planner very useful. I love the forms. I love the bonus material, a.k.a. the lessons. There is even a Bible reading schedule. I really need that. If only it came with accountability as well. What I don’t like is the way the monthly calendars are split in half. I guess if I were to print it up and hang it somewhere, I wouldn’t notice. Also, on some of the planning forms I wasn’t able to type in as much info as I wanted. But again, I could always print them out and write in what I want.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Bats

"They're creepy and they're cooky, mysterious and spooky, they're altogether ooky..." That line from the "Addams Family" theme song pretty much sums up most people's opinion of bats. At least it was mine, until we started studying them. Bats are not creepy or spooky. They are amazing, helpful creatures that this world would be a nasty place without. Part of bat's public opinion problem is that they are nocturnal. They come out in the dark. Darkness is associated with so many scary, evil things. Therefore, it is logical to assume that bats are scary and evil. Bats are also associated with Halloween and vampires. Let's put that to rest once and for all. Yes, there are a few species of sanguiniverous bats. That is a big vocabulary word that the kids and I learned. If you studied animals at all, then you know the "iverous" part of the word has to do with what animals eat. And, if you've studied Latin or any of her related languages you will be able to figure out that the "sanguin" part means blood. But these saguiniverous bats do not go around turning into vampires or drinking human blood. The animals they do bite are usually sleeping and are less affected by the bat than by mosquitoes. The majority of the bats we have in the U.S. are insectivores. I don't know about you, but anything that eats insects immediately is a friend of mine. If there is any creature I am not a big fan of, it's insects.

Yesterday, we had some friends over for the afternoon. The kids wanted to do some art projects. I instructed them they needed to make bats. And then I left them to their own creativities. The 10 and 11 year old boys immediately asked if Batman was allowed. "Of course," I said. They did not end up drawing Batman, but instead plain old bats. It was the scenery that went along with the bats where it got a little interesting, including alien ships. The girls and my 6yo ds had very different ideas. Their bats involved glitter. Lots and lots of glitter that ended up on the bats, the sky, my dining room table, the kitchen tile, the living room carpet. But, it was well worth it to see the resulting pictures. They took something that most people think is scary and turned it into something sparkly, shiny, and pleasant to look at. After the glue is well dried, I am going to attempt to scan their pictures without glittering up the scanner.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Homework

Homework: Juggling Home, Work, and School Without Losing Your Balance

This book from The Old Schoolhouse is packed with inspiring stories of families who not only homeschool, but also run businesses. It is their unique story. Each family has their own style of schooling. Each family has a unique business. All the families have a passion for what they are doing.

I have tried my hand at multiple ventures. The problem I had, was that I was doing it for the wrong reasons. I knew I needed something to make extra money, so I followed every whim. Somewhere in the middle of my last whim, I realized that I had not found what I could truly be passionate about. This book really inspired me to begin that search. It talks about so many different types of businesses. Some of them are very unique, designed by the family to meet their specific needs and passions. Some of the businesses are consultant businesses, working with a bigger parent company. The variety was very helpful, giving me some ideas to take to the drawing board. Most of the contributors talked about daily life. How do they balance all they do? I found this book to be inspiring. Even if you don't want to run a business, it is an inspiring tale of how to organize and balance school and life.

Writer's Workshop

Writer's Workshop: Getting Kids Excited About Writing by Maggie Hogan

This is a great resource for anyone thinking of organizing a co-op. This will take you step by step through the process of organizing, planning, and running your "Writer's Workshop". It does not, however, give any actual writing lessons. Many of the steps and ideas given are similar to what I use for a science co-op. But, there are many unique elements that only apply to writing. I have not been a fan of the WeE-books up to this point because of their broad generalizations. This one, however, is perfect for its purpose.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Homeschooling the Rebel by Deborah Wueler

I was really excited to dig into this book. My oldest son is ten years old. We started homeschooling him after first grade. I was scared to death. When he was in first grade he had homework. It was very simple work that should have taken about 15 minutes. It would end up taking three hours, and usually involved some yelling. In fact, I wish I had this book then. It could have spared me from the downward spiral of the last three years. It is extremely frustrating trying to teach someone that refuses to learn, follow directions, and do their work. Opening this WeE-book I thought, "great, finally I will learn how to change my child." I really should know better than that by now. Instead, I opened the book to find clear directions on how to change me: my teaching style, my attitude, my reactions to his rebellion, and what I teach. The book reminded me that I need to spend more time in prayer. Overall, I don't think the book really told me anything that I didn't already know. Partly because I have been researching this topic for some time now. It's the practical application that I struggle with. Though it was very encouraging. This is the second WeE-book I have reviewed. The problem I see with them is that they are very generic. There isn't a lot of space to go into great detail on the topic. I would be interested to read Part 2 of the series before I recommend this one way or the other.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Flying Creatures

We have been studying birds for several weeks now, but I have been lax in posting about it. I am thoroughly in love with this study. The reading just cracks everyone up. I will read part of a section, and then stop for discussion. We always come up with some great conversation about what I just read. Then I will start reading again, and I swear almost every time, it will say exactly what we just talked about. The kids have been drawing some amazing pictures of birds. We built birdhouses. We made bird feeders out of juice bottles. I will have to see if I can scan some of the kid's pictures and post them here. I have also been having a blast photographing birds. It all started several weeks ago when we went on a nature scavenger hunt. I did not want the kids actually gathering all the "nature stuff" on the list. I am more of an indoor kinda girl, and don't do well with dirt, bugs, or most other outdoor stuff. So I thought, rather than collecting the things on the list, we would photograph them. Since then, I have been taking my camera everywhere and getting pictures of all sorts of different birds. It probably helps that we also just got a new camera that I absolutely love. It is a Nikon Coolpix P80. I highly recommend it for the non-photographers like me. It is so fun and easy to use, that even I can take good pictures with it. And don't get me started about the stop motion feature it has. I have gotten some great shots of birds using that. So last night, I was looking online at ordering some owl pellets and some caterpillars or butterfly larvae. I think those would be great fun to add to our lessons. Next week we are talking about nesting. Our project is to see if we can build a nest as well as birds. Of course, that involves mud, dirt, and other "yucky" stuff. I may have to look for an alternative craft, that uses some materials that are less gross.

Monday, March 23, 2009

"Just How Important Are Communication Skills Anyway?"

"Just How Important Are Communication Skills Anyway?" is a WeE-book from The Schoolhouse Store. My first encounter with author JoJo Tabares was online through a homeschooling support group she organizes. I am an avid reader of her Art of Eloquence blog, and have wanted, for some time, to try one of her communication studies. Therefore, when the opportunity arose to review one of her books, I was genuinely excited.

This is a great book for parents just beginning their homeschooling journey. I remember starting out, wondering, "What do I need to teach my child?" Communication skills are essential for everyone, student or not. Each person has their own unique way of communicating. This book is a great reminder of how God intended us to communicate. This book, however, is just the tip of the iceberg. It is really a lead in to the "Say What You Mean" series by JoJo Tabares. It did reiterate the importance of, not only teaching my children good communication skills, but also working on my own.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Time to Catch Up

Wow, have I been slacking lately. At least as far a blogging is concerned. I knew it had been awhile, but I didn't realize it had been nearly 6 weeks. So here is what we've been up to.

First, my headaches are nearly non-existent. I have probably taken some ibuprofen no more than once a week. That is a huge difference from every day. I have completely cut out the allergy meds. Not only that, but the vitamins have made a huge difference in how I feel over all. I am sleeping better at night, and have more energy for the day. It is even helping some of my unexplained muscle weakness. I am trying to exercise more as well, but that is not happening as much as I would like. We made the leap and invested in a Wii, but do not yet have the Fit. If nothing else, it takes what the boys were already doing and makes it a little more active. At least we will all have nice looking right arms :)

For school, we just went through a period of restructuring (I guess you could say). Last fall, we purchased the science curriculum from Answers in Genesis. They were three books on more physical, mechanical science. I thought it would be what my son was interested in. It is a very good program, and I love the material. However, the reading was really dry and I felt it did not capture the kids' attention. We absolutely loved the Apologia Astronomy that we did last year, so I decided to go back and try another one of their books. We ordered the book Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day, and it arrived on Tuesday. It is as good as the Astronmy book. I am interested, and I am not a big fan of birds (not to mention the six-legged flying creatures). We started the reading yesterday. Lesson one is all about zoology, what is it, how do scientists group things, how species are named, etc. I had my 10yo journal the classifications, and then make up his own mnemonic to remember the order. The journal is another part of the restructure. Today, we did a review of what we learned yesterday. We had some friends with us today. I listed the classifications up on the board. They all worked together as a group to make up a mnemonic. They came up with: "Kids Play Catch Or Find Giant Squirrels". They remember the sentence, but I'm not sure they remember what it means. We will have to keep working on that. Then, I had each child draw a picture of a different species of bird. We then looked up the latin name for each species. It was great.

The next part of the restructure is History. Last February, we ordered Veritas Press Old Testament and Ancient Egypt study. We did a few lessons, but the problem was that there were a lot of extra books that needed to be ordered along with the curriculum, and we did not have the funds to do that at that time. Then, I had heard some great things about My Father's World. So I thought we would give that a try. That was June. We did that for a while, but it just got overwhelming for me. So around October, we sold that. We have kind of been in History limbo since. When we ordered our new books this month, I decided to order some of the books that went with the Veritas Press study, and we are going back to that. Of course, come to find out, I have still not ordered all the right books. But I am going to stick it out this time, and order some more books if I have to. I think it is a good program. And really, every program can be as good as what you make it.

Math has been a huge struggle this past year. My 10yo is learning right on schedule, but he fights it terribly. We have had some severe power struggles over doing math. At the beginning of January, I read a review about Aleks online math program. They were offering a free trial, so I took it. It was wonderful. My son had control over which lessons to choose. He was no longer fighting me about doing his math. But then came the tests. He would take the tests, and get questions wrong that I knew he knew how to do. He was repeating lessons over and over again, and not really getting anywhere. After much inner turmoil, I decided not to pay for the subscription. Last week, we had a week off due to some out of town guests. We started fresh this week back with his Saxon. So far, he has been doing very well. He has not fought me too much about doing his math, and has even done much of it independently. That is a huge leap for math kind. Just pray that this new attitude continues.

Now, my 6yo is amazing. Yesterday, he started Learning Language Arts Through Literature for 2nd grade. He is in kindergarten. He is nearly done with Saxon 1st grade math. He amazes me how quickly he learns the concepts and remembers his math facts. He is also doing a book called Language Smarts (level B) which we will probably alternate with the LLATL. The Language Smarts really focuses on phonics concepts and the roots for spelling. I think that is where I went wrong with his older brother, and why he doesn't read and spell at a 4th grade level yet. Little one is also more involved with history and science now too that he is getting older, has a longer attention span, and I know what he is capable of.

The bottom line, is that we are spending much more time on schoolwork every day, but much of it is just listening or doing fun projects. I feel really good about what we accomplished this week, and pray that I can continue this momentum. I will try to be better about posting special projects and such as well.

Oh, and we also started a little lesson for Lent. I will have to see if I can find the link to the website where we got it, because it is quite fun. There are a list of activities (one for every day of lent). We cut them out and put them in a bucket. We draw out one activity to do every day to help remind us of Easter coming and what Jesus did for us. Some of them are activities, some are Bible readings, some are singing songs. I had wanted to make a Lent lesson, but again Ash Wednesday snuck up on me before I could get it done. I really should work on it now, every day during Lent, then it will be ready for next year.

I think that's all I have for now.