Monday, December 31, 2012

Out of the Boat



{click picture for credit}

January 1st. 

It is a big day here in our family life.  This is the first official day of Daddy working from home.  Full time.  100%.  No distractions (beyond the ones we create for him).

My dear, sweet husband has wanted his own business for most of the 15 years of our marriage.  I, on the other hand, have been content to kiss him good-bye in the morning and hug and kiss him hello in the evening.  I grew up that way and it worked. 

Besides, it is safe. I hate to admit it, but I like safe.

These past few years have been hard on my husband;  he has a unique job situation with multiple demands that sometimes conflict with one another.  He had outgrown his job a few years ago, but…..well…he stayed because nothing similar was quite right.

So now we are walking on water.  Dave has been listening to God, praying, and making plans to launch Life, Version 2.0.  He has “side work” and his baby business – – and a business partner. 

God has always provided for us in times of job loss, layoffs, and stress.  Dave reminds me we’ve never gone hungry…we’ve never lost our home…we’ve never been without. 

I’ve spent months this year being supportive (to a point), dreaming along side him, asking “devil’s advocate” questions, and --- finally in November – releasing my fears to God’s capable hands.  How do I know I’ve successfully submitted to Him?  I sleep at night.  Well, OK, I don’t always sleep at night, but when I do have insomnia, it isn’t because I’m worried about Dave’s job.

Of course, the big test will be in late January, when we need to skim a bit more from our savings to pay bills.  Will I sleep through the night then or worry through the night?  I’m prayerful that I’ll sleep – and if I don’t, I know how to “fix” my problem:

I will reach out for the Helper that has never left me. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas



May the mercy and grace promised

by the birth of the Savior

for all the world

bring you peace this Christmas

and in the year to come.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mid-Year Assessment of Our Work So Far ~ Writing


Hmmm, seems like I’ve missed a few weeks of reports.  Oops.  The last 8 weeks of so have been pretty stressful – my husband is transitioning to a new work set-up (self-employment!) and it has impacted my concentration for  school, reviews, and life in general.

With everything as in place as we can arrange it and our full confidence in God’s plan, we are ready and I am determined by faith to walk forward and move on with my jobs.

Usually at this time of year, I assess where we are in our different subjects and decide if we need to make any drastic changes from materials that are not quite working. I’m pleased to say that this year, we will not be needing to make huge changes. Everyone is learning, progressing, and we are chugging along just wonderfully!

I decided since I’m way behind in writing weekly reports and I need to assess our curriculum this year, I’d throw them both together.  First up is looking at the boys’ writing programs.  I’ll also discuss science, grammar, and spelling.

photo credit:  Flickr User Phing (Creative Commons)

Luke and Levi’s writing program was shelved for about a month because we were just running out of time during the day. Ditto with science.  I think that Write Shop Jr. A is a little young for Levi.  He is a little bored with topics that are suggested for writing, but we are chugging through and adapting when needed.  I hope to be able to look through the rest of the curriculum and pick and choose a couple projects that he can work through as well as consult Tapestry of Graces Writing Aids more for ideas for writing. We’re also using lapbooking for accountability with our history topics for the week and for sentence formation and copy work – I think I’d like to do a bit more of this to help Levi with sentence formation and Luke with paragraph writing.

Luke is having a good time writing creative stories with Write Shop Jr. D’s program.  He needs to finish up his Science Fiction story – which has a Christmas setting.  Luke is all boy, and I do have to guide him a bit in his story-telling so that not everything blows up! 

With both of my younger boys, I am thinking about setting aside some free journaling time.  Since they both seem to have lots to say, this might give them the opportunity to express themselves freely (spelling and grammar don’t count!) and without barriers or limits.

Ben is making good progress using IEW’s Continuation Course level B.  We are working on finishing the Continuation Course (you’ll see on IEW’s website that it is called SICC-B) in one year. Last week, he finished up a biographical essay using the DVD’s model of Clara Barton.  I know many people dislike formulaic writing, but I’m pleased that Ben is required right now to use lots of different sentence structures and elements to give his writing some pow!  He is not naturally a pow! writer.  At this stage in the game, I’m just happy that he needs to meet requirements that challenge him beyond short, simple, declarative sentences.  This is my kid who left to his own devices would declare “very” is a descriptive adjective, lol!  He has a great receptive vocabulary, and this program is forcing him to grow and expand.

As with Luke and Levi, I would like to look through the suggested assignments in TOG and Writing Aids and incorporate a project.  0r, maybe I’ll have him write something from science.  Regardless, I would like to work with him on managing two writing projects at a time.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

{Not So} Wordless Wednesday - Christmas!

At the beginning of December, Grandma came up to see Luke's first band Christmas concert.  The concert was *adorable*. {I'll post the concert clip soon!}

One of  Levi's favorite Christmas traditions is making a (premade) gingerbread house.  I thought it would be fun for Luke and Levi to build it with Grandma!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Field Trip: Battleship Cove

In just a few words I can safely say that the boys LOVED this field trip.  I know we will go back again when it is warmer.  A battleship is a big boat, and we did not have enough time to see it completely!







Sunday, December 16, 2012

God Spotting: Women of Faith -- Not My Plan, But Yours

If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. 
God must've been rolling on the floor in early November when four girlfriends and I changed our Women of Faith weekend plans from a two-night getaway to a one-night getaway.

Four friends and I volunteered at the Women of Faith conference in Hartford, Connecticut.  It was a great time of singing, praying, crying (I always cry at these things), and serving.  We had planned on returning home late on Saturday night so that we could cuddle our hubbies and enjoy church on Sunday morning with our families.  Great plan, we had.

Except God intervened to teach me us a lesson. The short story is that we left the arena and discovered we had a flat tire.  My friend's van didn't have a spare and all the usual places you would purchase a tire were either closing in less than half an hour (it was a Saturday night, after all) or didn't have it in stock and  were closing in less than half an hour.

We ended up deciding that we had to spend a second night in Connecticut.  And the God spotting kicker of it all was that our tow truck driver was a Christ follower and invited us to his church! We decided at this point that God must be trying to get our attention and we needed to follow His lead on this detour.  So, husbands were called, Plan B (rides home with others from our area who were at the convention) was cancelled, and we went to sleep (thanks to my friend Susan's husband's Hilton points!) waiting to see what God would teach us on Sunday morning.

Now, I will interject here that the end of October was a pretty stressful month for me..  Plans for a life/ career change were accelerating for my husband and we'd had some growing-up issues with one of my boys. I was struggling to trust God with these issues/ changes.  As a matter of fact, these challenges really made me not excited about attending Women of Faith in the first place.  Isn't that just like the enemy?  Right when I needed God the most, the enemy attacks us and tries to put a wedge between our Father and us?

But after a day of worship God at Women of Faith on Saturday, I was feeling better about God and his plan. Not fully surrendered to it, but better.

Sunday morning was sunny and beautiful in Hartford.  Our two taxis drove us to the Missionary Baptist Church  and we were enveloped in hugs and warm welcomes!

We found our seats and participated in the most joyous worship I'd ever had inside a church!  Life! Energy!  Love! It was heavenly.  Prayer was inspired.  There was love and acceptance and worship in those walls, and it was something we all let soak into our souls.

The message that God had sent to the pastor was right on -- like it was written for me.  Only God can orchestrate a right-on message preached at an African-American church for five white women from several states away who just happened to walk into their church. 

It's a new season, it's a new day
A fresh anointing coming our way
A time of (healing?) and prosperity
It's a new season, It's a new day 

I'm fairly certain that this song was song for me.  We definitely have a new season coming soon in our family (my husband is going to be self-employed January 1st) and I've been worried about all that this implies for our family and our lifestyle.  This song was a salve to my soul that God is in control of everything.  This is our time to get out of the boat and focus on Christ.

God orchestrated a few more gifts and miracles so that we could return home after four hours of worshiping at church.  (Yes, I said four hours.  It felt like one.  Honestly.) We got our van, repacked it with our things, and drove home.




Safe, as we always are, in Jesus' loving arms.

Sometimes, though, we just have to get outside of our plans to see that.

Thank you, sweet Lord Jesus.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Creating Joy at Christmas

Light brings Joy.
I love lining the Dining Room with Christmas lights.  Sometimes the boys argue about who gets to turn them on in the morning.  I don't really like the arguing part, but it gives you a sense about how much joy this gives us. 

Memories brings Joy.
The boys think my love of this little angel is weird.  I don't care.
My dad used to work as a bookkeeper/ accountant for a trucking company when I was a little girl.  Sometimes he'd bring home a toy or doll or something that came off one of the trucks.  I don't remember when he brought this angel home (I'm fairly sure it was before I had memories), but I do remember every year getting excited to take her out of her box, gently having a minute or two to hold her, and watching Mom hang her from the light in the foyer of our home.  She has  a sweet little pudgy baby belly, a golden crown, and the most delicate wings.  I know it looks like she had a below the knee amputation on the left leg, there, but it is actually just wrapped behind her right leg.
I used to cry when it was time to put her away each year.  I admit that I cried when my parents passed her down to me, and I could place her in my own home.  And, I'll admit that one year I totally forgot to put her away until about June.  Those silly boys make fun of me, but I don't care.  

 Simplicity bring me Joy.  
I have always loved simple, uncluttered decorating (though you wouldn't know if you looked around my house right now!).  At Christmas, nothing bring me greater joy than to set out simple candles in the window.  One year, I lined the front windows with white lights.  It stressed me out, however, because there were cords and plugs everywhere.  No, just give me simplicity, please.  Then I can breathe.

 My Children bring me Joy.
This year, Levi had some definite ideas about decorating outside with lights.  He explained to Daddy what he wanted, how he wanted it done, and then worked with Dave to accomplish his goal.  Our little Japanese red maple tree was the object of his wishes, and it brings me such joy to see him accomplish what he set out to do.  

Celebrating Jesus brings me Joy.
I think we have been reading Arnold Ytreeide's triology for 7 years or so.  The books include Jotham's Journey, Bartholomew's Passage, and  Tabitha's Travels.  If I had a million dollars I would buy a set of these for everybody I know.  Truth.
Ben was probably in 1st grade when we read through our first of the books; now Levi is in 1st grade.  Our Advent tradition involves a nightly reading from one of these adventure stories -- all which culminate in the 10- or 11-year-old protagonist's witnessing of the Christ child's birth.  
I cry each year.
I will admit that Ben's initial reaction to pulling out Jotham's Journey this year was less than enthusiastic (I mean, I think this is the third time we've read this book!).  He rallied, however, and has been patiently listening like his brothers.  
When we first started the books, I didn't read a majority of the devotions that accompany each night's cliffhanger.  It was when Ben was about 10 that I started making sure to read them.

What brings you joy during Christmas?

To read how other Schoolhouse Crew members celebrate and remember Christmas, you can visit our Crew Blog Cruise!


Friday, November 30, 2012

Field Trip: FDR Home and Presidential Library

While my parents were visiting for Thanksgiving, we ventured over to FDR's home and his presidential library.

A couple interesting facts:
  • It opened while he was still president, in 1941
  • It has not changed since then, but is undergoing renovations now.
  • Our ticket to the library will be honored throughout 2013 so that we can return and see it after the renovations are complete (a great bonus I didn't know about!).
  • A great place to lunch before or after a visit would be at the Culinary Institute of American less than 10 minutes down the road.  But not on a Saturday, as we sadly learned.
I let the boys play photographer for this trip.  Luke seemed most interested in capturing our trip:
The Library in mid-restoration

The roof of the stables

I love how Luke's point of view captures the size of the home

FDR had a fasination with the sea.  His mother's family were sailors to the East Indies.
The library
Turkey is not real, lol!

He had a hand-operated dumb waiter/ elevator that FDR used to pull HIMSELF up to the second floor.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Where'd I go?

What happened to me?  I finished up the 2012 Crew Review season, and bailed on my blog!

Well, not really.  Life had just gotten very busy by mid-November and writing got pushed further than the backseat.    I'm not even sure what happened that made everything seem so busy, but all at once it seemed that schoolhomepetskidsactivitiesgroceryshopping exploded in my life.

Well, I'm back.  I have a wonderful God Spotting memory to blog about, and my new favorite stuffing recipes (thank you Pepperidge Farms!).  And I still want to make progress keeping track of where we are in our school year.

See ya 'round!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Vocal Coach {A Review}

Product:  The Vocal Coach Singer, a set of 7 CDs, 4 training workout CDs +  instructional guidebook and CD with additional PDFs. You can purchase this set as CDs ($119.99) or MP3s ($99.99). The CDs can also be purchased individually.

Vocal Coach is the creation of Chris and Carole Beatty.  Chris is a professional singer, songwriter, author and mentor to singers of all calibers.  Listening to his CD instruction, you can sense that he has decades of experience and has a passion for music.

Vocal Coach Singer is designed for any type of singer – from beginner to accomplished.  It consists of CD tracks covering the following skills:
Complete Breathing
Complete Warm-Up
Complete Tone
Complete Expanding Your Range
Complete Diction
Complete Performance

You also get 4 CDs which contain a “daily workout”.  There are two for higher register users and two for medium to low register.

There is also a PDF file set which contains (from the website):
  • Guidebook – Full-size Instructional Guidebook to ensure success
  • Printable Lead Sheets – each exercise in our course, plus track lists
  • Personal Singer’s Journal (Getting Started Journal & Workout Journal) to track your progress as you become a better singer
  • Vocal Coach Song Evaluation – Evaluation form to enable you to make more thoughtful song selections
How We Used This: OK, you have to understand that it has been 13 years since I sang in our church’s choir.  My range is not more than 5 notes.  I have enough breath support to be heard from the basement yelling, “Can someone help me get these groceries upstairs?” And, I hate to admit, my posture is great for someone who sits hunched over a laptop late in the night working on lesson plans and reviews.
So when I mentioned to Ben once that he actually had a nice voice, and maybe he should consider singing more, I never imagined that there was a product we could use at home to help him start at ground zero and move up.

We haven’t moved much beyond ground one (is there such a thing?), but Ben is interested and is trying some new techniques. 

Vocal Coach is aware that all homeschools are different, and have presented information to help homeschoolers develop a plan to use their program. Click on the link, then look on the left column:

We followed their recommended plan:  Complete Breathing (which included Posture), the Complete Warm Up, then Complete Tone. 

We haven’t really gotten beyond this (like I said, we’re complete novices with this), but the Beatty’s suggestion is that:
Beyond these foundations you can divide the topics into as many sections as your curriculum timeframe allows. Remember: Return frequently to the first three foundations. They deserve and require regular review make the other areas possible. Also, print and use the Getting Started Journal and Workout Journals. They can be photo-copied from the Guidebook or, even better, printed directly from the Singer Printable Lead Sheets and Journals disc.
Complete Breathing: I think the Beatty’s do a nice job with their chosen medium for Vocal Coach Singer.  Since it is just an audio CD (no video), they must be very clear with their descriptions of movements and exercises, and I found them to be fairly precise and clear, without taking themselves too seriously.  After a detailed description of posture, Mr. Beatty remarks, “Now I’d like to introduce you to Mr. Wall,” and proceeds to explain how backing up to a wall can help you check your core body positioning. 

After some beginning breathing exercises, I was pretty surprised that the breathing exercises were put to music.  Again, excuse my ignorance of vocal instruction, but this was not what I expected.  These were a little hard for me to do, because am a mimicker – I have a hard time picking out my soprano part when I only hear lower parts, but after the first two or three examples, just music remained and I was able to complete the exercises by myself in my own range.

The Complete Warm Up starts with a biomechanical explanation of why we need to warm up before singing: warmed up muscles are more flexible and can move faster – definitely something you want when singing.  The Complete Warm Up reminds me of some of the exercises our church choir completed before we practiced on Wednesday nights:
  1. Posture review
  2. Stretching
  3. Beginning singing exercises (like a hum-chew singing of the scales) which are called Principles.
  4. The remainder are singing exercises with simple syllables.  One- and two-syllable scales, lip trills, and chromatics.   I found these to be very challenging for someone with little to no previous voice experience.  I felt like I had walked into the middle of a class and missed all the introductory information.
The Complete Tone CD is really an interesting education on vocal function and health.  I have a background as a speech-language pathologist, so much of this was a review for me.  There are lots of activities within the first 15 or so minutes of the CD that help educate everyone about their voice. This is good information for practically everyone on the planet!  The first half of the tracks on the CD help you to explore a good tone. The remainder of the tracks include exercises (some of which were on previous tracks I listened to) to help practice tone.

My recommendations & thoughts: There is a lot of good and great information in these CDs. Since I’ve never had formal voice lessons or instruction, I do still  feel like I’m missing some basic information about vocal music (my music theory background is not great, in spite of years of music lessons). Because of this, 
I think this would be a good product if you have a little bit of music background.

As I mentioned above, it won’t tell you what to do day-by-day, but it will give you all the tools you need to work on all the facets necessary for improved singing – and communication. , so I would definitely consider using this with older students (teens on up). 

Vocal Coach also sent an elementary program for voice instruction called Teaching Kids to Sing to Review Crew members.  To read what other homeschool-blogger-moms thought of these two products, please click on the banner below:


Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product as a downloadable product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Learning About Missions & Growing Up Wild {Review}

Growing Up Wild is absolutely awesome, and I so thank the Wild family for following God’s lead: not only into missions but in sharing their life and their calling through these entertaining and educational DVDs.

Even before the Review Crew knew about this product, I began to wonder, “Are there any hip, cool guys out there doing mission work?  Who can be a model for my sons?”  We have read many missionary stories from the past.  We even know some young adults who have done short term missions.  I’ve even read some great websites from 20somethings young women who have been called into the mission field.  But I had a burning desire to have a missionary lifestyle primarily with men modeled for my boys.   This series is surpassing my expectations!

The Wild family is on mission in Papua, Indonesia.  They have four young sons (pre-teen on down) who, with their parents, tell the story about what mission life is like.  They show how they harness water for indoor plumbing, how they track and manage their supplies and go on shopping trips for more (it requires a 2 hour hike, a plane ride, and a helicopter!). They share their love of the gospel and God’s people. 

Each set contains a DVD as well as a CD-Rom Activity Guide.  Each 2-disc volume is $18.99 + shipping/ tax.
   Growing Up Wild Volume 1                                                                       Growing Up Wild Volume 4
         Home Sweet Hut                                                                                Amazing World Around Us
            Supply Trip                                                                                        Adventures in Culture
          Sun and Water                                                                                            Tribal Calling

Besides these two volumes there are three others!  You can read previews about the entire set at the Wild Store.

For whatever reason, I cannot get the Wild trailers to load on my blog, but if you click on About Growing Up Wild, you can preview several.

At the end of each of the videos (which last about 15 minutes), the Wild family suggests some related activities – ways to connect the culture, living situation, and/or Word of God to your child’s life.  Levi hunted all over the house for supplies to try to make a Wano hut just like the ones the Wano people live in.  I like the idea of keeping track of our supplies that we use on a weekly basis – just like the Wilds have to do so that they can make careful purchases on their supply trips.

Well, to make these activities even easier to do, the Wild family has included a second disc which has a PDF Activity Guide.  The guides are under 20 pages and can   be printed or read on your computer.  There are activities for all ages and types of learners! I can easily adapt the activities for all my kids – 1st grade through 8th grade. Here’s an example of one that you can easily print off and  complete as you watch the episode again.  This uses a Venn Diagram to compare our house to a Wano house:


I really like the episode ‘Adventures in Culture.’  In this segment, the two older Wild boys get their noses pierced with a stick– ouch!  What I appreciated about this episode was (1) the Wild boy’s mom admitting her initial reluctance to letting the boys do this, (2) her gradual acceptance (by God’s grace and teaching) of this Wano cultural trend, (3) her willingness to be transparent about this issue with the audience, and (4) being able to watch the boys go through the piercing process.  It helped me to grow in my own walk with God to understand that the issues of culture are worldly, and God’s love transcends culture, trends, and hip-ness.  What other issues of “culture” do I allow to get in the way of seeing God’s love for all people?

My recommendations & thoughts:  I LOVE this DVD set.  I want to get more of them, and use them systematically with the boys.  I want to talk with them about culture, God’s love for everyone, and missions.  Even if my boys never step out of the US, I do want them to see that their own life is a mission for the Lord no matter where God places them. 

To read what other homeschool-blogger-moms thought of Growing Up Wild, please click on the banner below:

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Grace and Truth Books {A Review}


Do you ever look at your home library and wonder which books you will pass down for your grandchildren to enjoy?  Each year, as I prepare for our homeschool support group’s used curriculum sale, I ask this question to help me separate the wheat from the chaff of books that I own.

I have tons of books that the world considers Great Literature (I consider it great as well).  Most of these copies I own because it is a convenience to have them, instead of making trips to the library.  Others I own because they are classics, but not “classic” enough to take up some shelf space at our public library;  other books are a little to “Christian” for our library, I think. 

The books from Grace and Truth Books, however, are classics because they are beautiful…they up life the soul…they honor God.  These books will – Lord willing – be a legacy to pass to my grandchildren. Period.

Grace and Truth Books is more than an online Christian bookstore.  They are preserving a literary past by publishing some of the best Christian literature of the 19th Century.  You can read the story of how Grace and Truth Books came to be.

The boys and I were blessed to Review two books from the Gundersen’s Character Building Collection for Children.  This is an 11 volume set of reprinted books (from the American Tract Society) that sells for $49.00.  You can also purchase the books individually.

These books are great for elementary aged students (I would especially say ages 7-12 because of the lyrical 19th century writing style and vocabulary).  However, as I’ve observed in my house, my 13 year old easily came out to listen in as well – so I think there is some appeal to slightly older students as well. Score!


The Reward of Childhood Truth ($4.75)                              The Little Medicine Carrier ($4.75)


The boys and I started with The Little Medicine Carrier as a mid-afternoon read-aloud.  We read a chapter a day (ok, sometimes two-a-day because they begged me!).  This book tells the story about an industrious English 11-year-old who wants to help his mother with expenses and earns the job as a courier for the village doctor.  With the blessing of his mother and Sunday School teacher, George treats his job honorably and is trustworthy in his work.  In the 6-chapter book, he learns lessons about temptation, envy, and staying true to his word. The boys really enjoyed it (Ben even sat in to listen to the story – and I was grateful that he enjoyed it). It is a touching story with a bit of a sad ending (a little girl dies in the story), but in all, George – and my boys – learn the value of hard work and honor. I know with 100% certainty that George’s name will not be forgotten in future conversations we have about diligence and temptation.

The second book, The Reward of Childhood Truth, is composed of two shorter stories, the first bearing the books name and subtitled “Truth Insures the Future for Charles and Harry.” This story is 50 pages long.  The second story is called “Little Mary’s First and Last Falsehood” and is 22 pages long.  I chose to read the “Mary” story to the boys this time, because it seemed relevant to some issues (*ahem*) we have been dealing with.  It is a short story about a 7 year old girl, Mary, who feels the burden in her heart for not confessing a lie to her parents for some time. Again, Ben crept out of the schoolroom to hear to story. 

I was only disappointed in one aspect of the books:  the boys and I did not care for the illustrations.  The illustration of George (remember, he is 11 in the story) made him look like a man!  However, this is really a small issue, and the stories are so worth it, that it is easy to overlook.

Members of the Schoolhouse Crew had the blessing to review the following books:

Your Child's Profession of Faith, Dennis Gundersen

Raising Maidens of Virtue, Stacy McDonald

Courtship or Dating: So What's the Difference?, Dennis Gundersen

Of Knights and Fair Maidens, Jeff & Danielle Myers

With the Children on Sundays, Sylvanus Stall

Collector's Edition: Seven Favorite 19th-Century Children's Stories

Too Wise to be Mistaken, Too Good to be Unkind, Cathy Steere

From the Boys Heritage Series:
- Gerrit and His Dog
- The Young Christian

From the Girls Heritage Series:
- First Impressions of God
- Behind Mr. Bunyan

To read what other homeschool-mom-bloggers thought of Grace and Truth Books, please click on the banner below:


Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received these books, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Eve Party

Tonight, the boys and I are going to hook up the laptop to the TV and stream some election results.  Depending on how the results pour in, we might even get out the sleeping bags and I'll let them fall asleep to the sound of results coming in.

We subscribed to God's World News this year, and they put out a huge election e-booklet, which we'll go over tonight.  Plus, we have our C-SPAN Education electoral college map laid out, and the boys will color in states blue or red as results come in.  Then, they'll transfer the results to a simple graph I made:
Ben is going to work on fractions and percentages for me.  Our map shows which states voted Republican or Democrat in the last presidential election, so his job is going to be to tell me what percent of states stayed the same in 2012.  Hopefully, there will be some interesting results!

I'm planning on making a little spread for us:  the boys have been begging for Pioneer Woman's Crash Potatoes, we want chocolate chip cookies, and we'll probably have spaghetti and meatballs.  A weird collection of foods, but it promises to be a fun night.  I hope.

Friday, November 2, 2012

My Brilliant Idea For The Year

I really like Spell to Write and Read for teaching spelling.  It isn't perfect, but it does a good job of trying to take the confusion out of spelling, IMHO.  And, after the learning curve, using SWR is second nature.

I've had trouble while starting out with the program of helping my boys make up sentences with their words.  One suggestion was to make flash cards with the words, but that was just too many cards getting lost.  I had a light bulb moment, however, and decided to create a colorful word bank using a plain file folder:

You can see that I have nouns and verbs labeled -- prepositions and conjunctions, too.  Oh, and articles.  Levi has not run into the word "adjectives" or "adverbs" yet, but those words are grouped for when he does encounter them.  When we have new words, I just add them to the folder.  This has really helped him to make up some great sentences using his words, and he loves being able to see all the words and make up some long ones! 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Weekly Reports: #10-11

{I started this post several weeks ago}

There comes a point in our school-sport-scout schedule where I am just hanging on until the end.  I am at that place right now.

Ben's cross country season ends on Oct. 30 and Luke finishes up soccer in just two more weeks. It's not that their meets/ practices/ games have picked up in intensity.  There just comes a mid-season time when jobs/ chores/ activities I've been putting off for a few weeks snowballs with current demands and needs, and I feel like I am drowning.

The boys and I have put in quite a few volunteer weekends selling Boy Scout Popcorn to raise funds for their scout accounts.  We're hoping to send Luke to Cub Scout camp over the summer, and I'd like to have a nice stash of cash for him in his account that we can use towards it.  Depending on when day camp is, both Luke and Levi will probably attend day camp as well.

Aside from scouts and sports, the boys are all progressing well in their coursework.  Over the past few weeks we've learned about the prohibition and the Roaring 20s.  Ben has touched on FDR's pre-presidency, Stalin.

One of the things I make Luke and Levi do nearly every week is make a President's Page.  After looking at several and considering the resources I have here, I decided to adapt one for our early elementary needs:
I have Homeschool In The Woods Timeline figures and we use pictures of the presidents to tape on as well.

One of the casualties of school so far this year has been our read aloud.  I really want to be better about that. Also, science has been on hiatus for the past week+ because I've been feeling swamped with Life. 

{Not So} Wordless Wednesday

October has two birthdays, and Luke's was recently.

It was the big 10!

This baby was the grouchiest baby in the evenings!
  He and I would pow pow from 10pm until 11:30 or so because he would keep his daddy and brother awake.

But in the mornings, he cuddled between his Daddy and I so sweetly.  He was particularly fond of his dad's loving arms.

He's grown into an active boy.  
Loves loves loves sports.
He reads the sports page each morning and tells us the scores of his favorite teams!
I love to watch him play soccer with his team - he shows some leadership skills as he calls out to his teammates.  

He's got a great imagination.

He is very in tune to my emotions, and knows just when I need a hug or a cuddle.

I love you, Luke.
These 10 years have gone by fast!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Science Experiments are in the (Activity) Bag! {Review}

Necessity is the mother of inventions.  That idiom perfectly explains how Activity Bags was born.  

One 3 year old boy.  One mom who needs an octopus of arms, yet only has two.

Two homeschool moms brainstorm some ideas for educational, self-contained activities to keep said 3-year-old busy while mom schools the older siblings.  They come up with some ideas…put them in plastic baggies…child uses them successfully…moms share ideas with other moms…..they swap bags to save time and money……

Then, they form a company, write a huge variety of ebooks with the same premise, and inspire great learning and fun.

In a nutshell, that is the genesis of Activity Bags – only  authors Shari McLean and Paula Reetz have moved way beyond preschool!

My boys (all three, but specifically the 10 and 7 year old) love science experiments.  Science elicits the same awe as a magic trick, only without all the slight-of-hand secrets to remember.  I become Best Mother of The Year whenever I announce a science experiment day.  So, I’m happy to be reviewing the set of three Science Experiment Activity Bags.  Each of the ebooks is designed for grades k-8 and includes the directions, lab worksheets, and question-answers for each of 25 experiments.  Click on each of the pictures below to go to Activity Bag’s page for each book (you can see samples there, too):   


Each of the e-books costs $15. You can purchase ebooks 1 and 2 as a package for a discounted price of $27 or you can get all three of the science ebooks for $39.00.
Each of these ebooks also contains directions on how to coordinate a science experiment swap.  What’s that?  Well, imagine getting the directions to make ten or 20 of one of the experiments.  You assemble the supplies in a plastic bag, then gather in a few weeks with 10 or 20 other homeschool moms.  You each share the bags you prepared and leave for home with a whole set of unique experiments to do with your kids.  Click to read more about an Activity Bag swap. 

How We Used Them:  For this review and the way life is going right now, I decided not to invest the time right now to setting up a swap.  Instead, the boys and I looked through the ebooks and picked experiments we wanted to try…based on interest and the supplies we currently had at home.

I was particularly interested in the Chemistry (books 2 and 3) experiments.  I haven’t tackled the concept of chemistry with the boys yet, and wanted to try the experiments to see how they might work as a stand-alone introduction to a topic.

Here are screen shots of the science experiments that are included in each ebook:

Science Experiment Book 1

Science Experiment Book 2

SE3Science Experiment Book 3

Each experiment has several sheets:
  • Assembly Instructions – this guides you in knowing how many supplies you’ll need to make a set of the same experiment bag if you are doing a swap.  There is also a page that has the experiment label printed 4 to a page so you can just print this out to help for the swap.
  • Experiment Log – this is your one-stop shop for all the ingredients for the experiment, the goal of the experiment and the step-by-step directions for your kids to follow.  Luke and Levi have been able to follow along and carry out a majority of the steps in the experiments we’ve tried but I am always nearby in case.  DSCN1526
  • Experiment Log answers – after each experiment is finished, there are sets of questions for the kids to answer to help them explore think about what they’ve seen and what it means.
Supplies needed for our yeast experiment

For our use, I just printed out the Logs and and an Answer Sheet.  The boys enjoyed recording their observations and writing out what they saw.
Turning pennies verdigris with vinegar
My Thoughts and Comments: I think this is a good set of experiments for the younger crowd – say grades 1st -4th or 5th.  I tend to like resources that are going to give me good information that explains why things happen – and with the chemistry experiments we tried, I felt like I wanted more information than the worksheets provided.  That’s not a bad thing – it gives you and/ or your kids opportunities to look up the “why’s” of science afterwards.  I really like the way the worksheet is organized for kids to record all their scientific method information. 

I think moms will appreciate the Science Experiment Categories chart.  It will show which experiments belong to which domain of science (biology, chemistry, general science) BUT it also show you which experiments are best done outside.  Let me tell you, I’ve started plenty of experiments that I which would’ve warned me a little more, “DO ME OUTSIDE.”
I really like the idea of an experiment swap – and I’m pretty sure I know a few moms who would eat up this sort of preparatory activity.  Come winter, who likes driving out to the store just to gather the required number of Qtip applicators?  Not this mama.

testing acids and bases – it finally worked!

To read what other homeschool moms thought of all the different kids of Activity Bags (including math games, travel games, reading games, and preschool bags) please click on the banner below:

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received a set of the three science ebooks, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine.