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.