Monday, November 24, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up for the Week of November 16


Such crazy weather, but we've been having fun! 

Hands-on school is always the most fun, and this week it was tasty too. The girls worked together to make a catapult (that would be for medieval history class) out of bamboo skewers, marshmallows, a plastic spoon, tape & a rubber band. It was rather . . .  rickety . . . and the marshmallows holding it together had to be replaced rather frequently (but that may have been a plot . . . since the smooshed ones HAD to be eaten, so as not to be "wasteful"). But they had great fun shooting mini marshmallows across the room at each other (and, of course, eating the ammunition that was shot at them). Even Little Bit, who has, up to this point, been not so sure about all this history stuff that we are obsessed with, decided that history is fun, and yummy! To add to her change of heart, we've been listening to Jim Weiss's fairy tale CDs in the car (because, fairy tales are set in the middle ages, so it all ties together nicely . . . and we need every excuse we can find to listen to Jim Weiss stories!) and she's been enjoying those too. 

Much as we all love our planned school stuff, my favorites are always the things the kids come up with completely on their own. I have a big plastic drawer in the school room that is just random odds & ends that can be used for crafts. When I clean the school room bits of yarn, random (unused) stickers, etc get tossed in that drawer. If we make an art project and have some specific thing left over, I toss those in that drawer too. At some point I needed a kitchen sponge for some project, and tossed the rest of the package into that drawer.  One day this week, Little Bit noticed them, and, completely on her own created a pretend "lollypop"!!! She stuck stickers to the sponge and then taped it onto a popsicle stick and ta-da! It's a "lollypop" (or perhaps an ice cream bar, but she can call it whatever she likes, she created it, hee hee!).  An added benefit of this kind of completely independent creativity, is seeing how proud of herself she is when she creates something that everyone is genuinely impressed with.

As is typical of many, if not most, homeschool families, we tend to make lots of trips to the local library. I love that our county has it set up so that I can go onto the website, and search the entire county, and have the books I need delivered to our local library where I just have to go to the desk and pick them up. While I am doing that, Little Bit loves to play in the children's area. Often she plays a Dora game on the computer there, but this week when I went to find her and Lexie, they weren't by the computers, instead, I found them at the puppet theater, where they put on a "play" in which 2 girls fought over . . . whatever that little blue thing was supposed to be, and finally the 3rd girl suggested they share it, which they did, and then everyone was happy again. It was pretty cute, though at some point someone needs to work with Little Bit on the concept of having the puppets face forward, not down LOL. But it was pretty cute. And anything, especially something spontaneous and not Mommy-prompted, that encourages/re-emphasizes sharing and getting along is great in my book!

Lexie's excitement this week was moving up a size in her violin. Her teacher had mentioned a few weeks ago that she was ready to move from a half size to a 3/4 size violin, and I'd called the rental place to arrange to trade them out. I finally heard back from them this week and Thursday afternoon we went to pick up her new (rental) violin. She's super excited, but was abit sad to  be saying goodbye to "Vinnie" her first violin, so, at her request, I took a picture of her having her last lesson with "Vinnie".  I didn't think to take a picture of her testing out her new violin later that day. The man who owns the shop where we rent from is talkative and interested in ancient instruments so we ended up spending about an hour with him answering their questions, which raised more questions which he also happily answered. 
We wrapped up our week with a Christmas parade . . . walking in it, that is!  Our church had a float in the city's Christmas parade (you may remember I mentioned a couple weeks ago, that we got candy canes ready for a parade, this was that parade). The float was a simple live nativity, and the younger kids had the option to dress as farm animals and walk along with the float (and the rest of us) passing out candycanes. Doesn't Little Bit make a perfect curly haired sheep?  The big girls and I walked in it too, passing out candy canes (we didn't dress up though, just wore our red, t-shirts and jeans). I wasn't sure how Little Bit would do walking so far, she's never been as interested in walking (she LIKED her stroller, the twins hated being in a stroller, so that prompted them to learn to walk long distances pretty young. She'd still happily ride in the stroller if I let her, and often coerces her sisters into pushing her around the yard in it just for fun). But we talked about it ahead of time and she really wanted to do it, and she did great. No complaining at all until we were walking the last couple blocks from the end of the parade route to where Daddy was waiting with the car to pick us up. She also did excellent with our long wait for our turn to actually walk in the parade. We had to be lined up, ready to go (relatively speaking) by 9am, but, being approximately in the middle of the parade, didn't actually start moving until around 10am.

Lexie and Ashlyn did great too, but I would expect no less from them :) And they had a blast doing it! They're already talking about doing it again next year! 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up for the Week of November 9


So apparently this past week was the cut-off for nice fall weather. When I checked the weather early in the week and saw that it was going to be nice for the first half of the week and then get really cold, I knew we had to soak up that final bit of nice weather to the fullest!

Conveniently our science curriculum cooperated.  To help understand how the sun, moon and earth all move around each other, we headed outside. Little Bit was the sun and the twins took turns, but in this picture Ashlyn is the earth, orbiting the sun and also rotating, and Lexie is the moon, orbiting the earth, but always facing the same side toward the earth. It was definitely a challenge, and they all had a blast.

Later we also tried using a magnifying glass to concentrate the sunbeams to melt chocolate, but I think the colder temperatures, and less direct sunlight of this time of year kept that from working. The girls plan to re-attempt that one next summer, along with, also mentioned in the science book, using a magnifying glass to burn a hole through a leaf.

Now that the driveway is actually done, the neighbor boys came over and everyone had fun riding bikes and scooters and playing basketball and such. More great soaking up of the nice weather while it lasted. I was rather amused, to note that Ashlyn, who has never liked "competitive games" of any sort, made a great cheerleader for E, age 7, when he and Lexie were playing "PIG" (like Horse, only shorter) with the basketball. So apparently she doesn't like to compete but she likes to see her, ever competitive, twin sister be competed with, LOL.

The fun with the neighbors, and the fact that E actually beat her once, inspired Lexie to spend lots of time practicing shooting hoops over the next couple of days. And once she felt cocky confident in her ability, she challenged Daddy to a game of PIG. Both girls were pretty excited when Lexie was able to beat him rather soundly.  I may have to remind all of them of this next spring when it warms up, it's good for all of them to get the exercise and fresh air :)

Unfortunately, by mid-week, the lovely fall weather was at an end and it was COLD! So we shifted from outside activities, to indoor ones. Little Bit has decided perhaps history is kind of fun afterall, when it means stories about Dragons and Princesses and other fairytale like things, so we're having some fun with that. while also watching lots of documentaries on the early kings of England and what information is available to indicate that the Dark Ages weren't really so dark, just not well-documented for later generations :)

At music lessons on Thursday, their music teacher sent them home with Christmas music books so we've been hearing lots of Christmas music since then. I might have an uncontrollable urge to sing along when Ashlyn plays, which annoys her greatly LOL. I've also realized that I've FAILED as a mother! Much as I LOVE LOVE LOVE Christmas music, my children know very little of it. Why? Because our house is always so noisy in general that I never think to play music as "background" as we go about our day and we are always listening to some kind of audiobook in the car so whereas pre-kids I always had Christmas music playing in the car from Thanksgiving till Christmas, now I never do, and therefore my poor, deprived children know very few Christmas songs. They're still having fun learning to play them however.

With extra time in the house, my children get creative. Little Bit decided she needed to paint Daddy's toenails. She roped Ashlyn into helping, so they painted them dark red and then Ashlyn drew Christmas trees on some of them. He's a very long-suffering Daddy LOL.

Blue Ribbon Awards, and Some News

2014 Blue Ribbon AwardsFour and a half years ago, with two seven year olds, I started reviewing homeschool products for the Schoolhouse Review Crew. Over those 4 1/2 years we have reviewed soooo many amazing products. We have been blessed to use products I never would have heard of, products, we couldn't afford, products that I never in a million years would have dreamed would work for us, that were just what we needed. I semi-jokingly said that our homeschool method was "review schooling". It exposed us to different learning styles, different subjects, soo many things, and it was so perfect for us. So it was difficult for us to decide, this fall, to take a break from reviewing next year. Lexie and Ashlyn have more things they're working on, or want to be working on, than they have time for, so we need to focus on that for the next while. Little Bit is still too little to be reviewing much. So we're taking a break. And this time next year, we'll re-evaluate, and, perhaps, re-apply. . . but for now, you'll be seeing alot fewer reviews in this tiny corner of the internet.

But, before we completely close this chapter, I had to share. As they do at the end of every year, the Schoolhouse Review Crew has posted their Blue Ribbon Awards.

And I thought, along with sharing the Crew's Favorites, I'd share our favorites from this past year as well.

Favorite Literature Curriculum: Jim Hodges Productions
Favorite Writing Curriculum: Write Shop
Favorite Grammar Curriculum: Fix It! Grammar
Favorite Language Arts Supplement: IXL
Favorite History Curriculum: Veritas Press
Favorite Science Supplement: Purposeful Design
Favorite Math Supplement: Science and Math dot com
Favorite Foreign Language Curriculum: Mango Languages
Favorite Fine Arts: ARTistic Pursuits (but Kinderbach and Maestro Classics were close runners up)
Favorite Christian Education Curriculum: Apologia: What on Earth Can I Do?
Favorite Christian Education Supplement: New Liberty Videos
Favorite Preschool Curriculum: Kinderbach
Favorite Middle School Curriculum: Veritas Press
Best Resource I Didn't Know We Needed: My Student Log Book
Best Digital Resource: : Veritas Press
Favorite Audio Book: Jim Hodges Productions
Favorite "Just For Fun" Item: Learning Wrap Ups
Little Bit's Favorite: Kinderbach
Ashlyn's Favorite: Grammar of Poetry (Roman Roads Media)
Lexie's Favorite: Heirloom Audio Productions
My Favorite: ARTistic Pursuits

Monday, November 10, 2014

Schoolhouse Crew Review: Purposeful Design



As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew we had the opportunity to review Purposeful Design: Understanding the Creation by Jay Schabacker. This is available through Purposeful Design's website.

Purposeful Design: Understanding the Creation by Jay Schabacker is a beautifully illustrated "coffee table" book about God's amazing creation week. As the title suggests, the focus is on showing that God's loving, PURPOSEFUL design was behind this creation and is shown in the amazing scientific principles that keep our world working.

The book arrived while we were out of town. My friend, who was cat sitting, mentioned that a package had arrived on a rainy day (and for some reason that continues to boggle my mind, the mail person consistently leaves packages on our uncovered back porch instead of our covered front porch, even in the rain, WHY?!?!?). Anyway, because the package was wet, she opened it to make sure the contents were undamaged. The envelope had a plastic lining so the book was fine, but my point in all this . . . my friend couldn't resist raving over how beautiful the book was!

As I began reading the book to my daughters, my 5 year old was excited to recognize the first words "In the beginning God created . . . " from her Bible stories! "Mommy! I know that story!" the book continues through each of the days of creation. On each day, the author briefly explains how truly amazing the systems created on that day are and how they all work together.

The beautiful pictures and simple explanations make this book ideal for young children. But the science that is explained is complex enough to capture the attention of older children and adults as well.

Included with your purchase is the Purposeful Design: Young Explorer's Club. This is a .pdf download of a workbook for children to use in conjunction with reading Purposeful Design: Understanding the Creation. The download includes a few pages of comprehension type questions about each of the 7 chapters (which coincide with the 7 days of creation). There is also a teacher's answer key and printable certificates of completion to motivate your children. My older girls have never been fans of workbooks, we do sometimes use reading comprehension type questions as starting points for discussion, but as I glanced over the questions in this workbook, I felt my 11 year olds would find them abit on the young side. My 5 year old is still at a preschool level, but shows more interest in workbook-like activities, so she might enjoy this workbook in a couple of years. I'm keeping it in mind to use with her when she's at a 2nd or 3rd grade level. The workbook also includes Bible verses to go along with each chapter, in addition to the relevant verses in Genesis 1, so it could also be used for a church class or as daily devotions at home or at school.

Because I didn't feel the workbook would be a good fit for any of my children, we simply enjoyed reading the book together, soaking in the beautiful pictures and marveling all over again in the beauty and amazingness of God's creation.

As we approach Christmas, this would be an ideal gift for adults and children alike. It is available for $18.95 and includes the above mentioned downloadable curriculum.

Social Media:
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LinkedIn: Jayschab

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All prices and information are accurate at time of posting.

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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up for the Week of November 2



Whew! Nothing like sitting down to write a wrap-up to help me figure out WHY I'm so tired . . . let's see . . . at church a week ago a friend noticed Lexie knitting and after church asked both Lexie and Ashlyn to make her some washcloths to give as Christmas gifts. So that meant that Sunday needed to include a trip to the yarn store and while we were out, we hit a few other stores. Lexie had suddenly realized that (a) skirts are comfortable too and (b) she likes autumn colors, so the result was her new outfit, she was pretty excited about it LOL.

Ashlyn didn't need any new clothes, but she was as excited as Lexie to find scarves for sale at the craft store and has been wearing them most, if not all, days since.

On Sunday afternoon my parents got here for their last week of fall projects here. We had wonderful weather for it!! Including one day with warm enough weather for Dad to remove the back door from the hinges and get it painted. It had never been painted, it was just the primer that comes on it, so it desperately needed some paint. Dad humored me and painted the inside with chalkboard paint. I have to admit, it's hard to get used to the door being black instead of light gray, but the kids (and I) are excited to be able to use it as a chalkboard. We're semi-patiently waiting for the paint to cure sufficiently to be able to write on it, sigh . . .

Ever since Little Bit was itty bitty, it's been a "thing" between her and Papa for him to draw, paint, etc. on her tummy, so I wasn't too surprised when she came up from the basement, where Papa was painting the door, with a big blue heart on her tummy.  . . and that's the color I chose for the outside of the door. Dad also painted the outside of the basement door the same color and we'll probably use it to paint the metal garage roof (currently green, but desperately in need of re-painting) next summer.

Another project that we were thankful to have nice weather for was filling in the ditch across the driveway with concrete. The girls are thrilled to be able to ride scooters and bikes over it again! And I'm hopeful that before TOOOO much longer my hubby will find time to clean out his no-longer-driveable minivan and get rid of it which will then allow us to DRIVE and PARK on our whole driveway as well. Though knowing our luck, he'll get that done just in time for a big snow and we never bother to shovel the whole thing so we'll be back to just using the ends of it till the snow melts. Most winters, that's only a few days, last winter, I think the drive was snow-covered for most of January to March, so we shall see!

The other piece of the "clear the driveway" project, was moving the pile of rocks that we collected from the ditch when we dug it. We are hoping to use it for a landscaping project next summer but in the meantime, needed it off the driveway. The big girls, my mom, and I filled many wheelbucket-fulls of rocks that Dad took and dumped out of the way behind the garage. I must say those are arm muscles I don't normally use! But again, so nice to have the driveway cleared and available for bikes and scooters.

On Wednesday we sadly waved goodbye to Mama and Papa AND their motorhome, otherwise known as our guest house. With the guesthouse gone they aren't likely to be up here very much between now and next spring, though of course we'll still go visit them, and we have holidays coming up and such.

Thursday, in addition to the girls' normal music lessons, they had a short recital. It was mostly for one of their teacher's other students, who had just finished a book, but Miss Pat asked us to attend and had each of her other students play one piece as a part of the recital.  Lexie was happy to play her favorite piece, Perpetual Motion (anyone who's been around Lexie can see how fitting that piece is for her LOL). I wasn't at an angle to get a decent picture of Ashlyn,  but she played a piece as well.

Friday, the girls all headed to Grandmom's house with Daddy. I had an exciting day of catching up on errands that I'd put off all week because of everything else going on, and soaking up the quiet of having a house to myself (I even snuck a nap!!!).

Sabbath was "Jean Sabbath" at our church. Which means that those who choose to participate wear red t-shirt with the church's name on them and jeans. After church, and a quick sack lunch, people head to various community service projects. This was our first time participating (we've only been attending thsi .church for a couple of months and weather, sickness, etc interfered the last couple months). The twins had their shirts, and had gone to great pains to make sure they were dressed exactly the same! Same white long-sleeve t-shirts under the red shirts, same jeans, same sneakers, hair in buns, held with the same hair clips. To see if they could fool anyone at church. Most people have figured out little freckles and such that they use to tell them apart, but much to the girls' delight, the pastor, who also happens to be their Sabbath School teacher, couldn't tell them apart. And to further confuse him, after he thought he knew who was sitting where in Sabbath School, they changed seats when he left the room for a minute, and confused him again.

Little Bit was sooo excited about the idea of Jeans Sabbath, but they don't have any kid-size t-shirts right now. Some of the kids who've been attending the church from the beginning have shirts that one of the moms made for them, so she sent me pictures of their shirt and I m made Little Bit one.

She had to make sure I took a picture of the front AND back so everyone could see her whole shirt.

The community service project we chose to join was taking soup, water, and some warmer clothes downtown to hand out to those in need. The group for the church goes to the same corner every month, though don't I think they usually have the clothes, usually just food and water. So people have learned to expect them. When we first got there and I saw the boxes of clothes I couldn't imagine we'd give away ALL THOSE CLOTHES in the time we were there, but it went quickly. I mostly helped sort the clothes and find the sizes people wanted. Little Bit and Daddy passed out water to people. The big girls helped serve up soup and fruit salad to people, and then handed out granola bars once the soup and fruit were gone. You can see pictures of it on the church's facebook page.

Now the girls are talking about knitting scarves and making mittens to take next month. I'm sure we won't have very many, in only a month's time, but every little bit helps :)

Schoolhouse Crew Review: IXL


A couple of years ago, we had the opportunity to review the online site, IXL.  At that time, all that was available was elementary age math. However, IXL has been busy these past 2 years dramatically expanding their site, and this year we had the opportunity to review IXL Math (PreK through Grade 12) and IXL Language Arts (Grades 2-8).

IXL is not a teaching site, it is a site for children to practice what they've been learning in school, or their main homeschool curriculum. However, be sure to check the other reviews (see the banner on the bottom, I know at least one mom mentioned that she did find it possible to use it as their main curriculum, with parental involvement).

Pricing is complex because of all of the options available, starting at $9.95 for one child, one subject, one month, you can choose to add children, add the other subject, and choose a yearly plan for added savings. We received both math and language arts for 3 children for one year, a value of $169! Check their pricing to see what your specific configuration would cost.

The site itself does not limit or dictate what specific skills or grade level the child works on. With over 100 skills for most grade levels, your child will have lots to choose from, or you can assign your child to work on areas you know they need to practice.  Since we don't pay much attention to grade levels, I also appreciated that we didn't have to be limited to a specific grade level, we could choose from any grade level to match up with the skills my children are currently mastering.

When a child chooses a specific skill, they are given a series of questions. For the lower grade math, the child has the option to click on a "speaker" button and have the question read to them, however I found Little Bit (age 5) still needed me or an older sister with her to help her understand what the question was asking. This might be less of an issue for a child accustomed to workbook type questions, which we rarely use. Also I felt the lesson length should have been significantly shorter for the lower grades. While Little Bit used the program a couple of times, I don't think she ever finished a lesson and without the incentive of "getting a metal", she rather quickly lost interest.

Lexie and Ashlyn (age 11) both willingly worked on this whenever asked, and sometimes asked to work on it. I think would have worked on it a lot more if their computer had been available (it needs  a new power cord). As it was, they either used my computer, or sometimes their dad's if he wasn't using it. We also installed the IXL app on my android tablet and they sometimes used it, however the android app is only available for math, and only through 6th grade, so that limited it's usefulness. I attempted to install the app on our iPad, but we have an older operating system on the (older) iPad, and were unable to install it. However, we had good success with accessing the site through the browser on the iPad and did use it that way some of the time.

Math Awards
Ashlyn, especially, was excited to see that IXL now includes Language Arts since grammar is currently a favorite subject for her. However, she was disappointed to find that while the site gives  metals/awards for finishing a section in Language Arts, those awards don't show up anywhere, like they do for the math section. I assume this is an oversight due to the Language Arts section being new, but I can see this being a real let down, especially to a younger child. At age 11, while she enjoyed seeing the awards accumulate, the fact that they didn't in Language Arts didn't keep her from using it.

Both Ashlyn and Lexie did mention at various times that they also found the lessons to be quite long. I think a series of shorter lessons in order to fully master a skill, would be better, and certainly would fit our chaotic lifestyle better, so that they could hop on the computer or tablet and complete a quick lesson in between other things.

One of my favorite things about this site is the reports it e-mails to the parent. It lets me know how much my children are doing on the site and how well they're doing. Those quick e-mails are a great quick update. Whenever I want, I can go to my parent account and see detailed graphs of how each child is doing as well.

So, to summarize:

  • This is a great option if your child needs additional practice in mastering any or all math and language arts skills. 
  • I feel the format isn't ideal for itty bitties, but would recommend it for approximately grades 3 and up.
  • My children happily used the program without complaining, and asked to use it.
  • I especially appreciate the reports available to the parents, and the progress e-mails sent to the parent.
Things we hope they'll consider changing:
  • shorter lessons
  • include language arts awards/metals on the award page along with the math awards, or provide a separate page for the language arts awards.
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All prices and information are accurate at time of posting.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Easy Fall Craft


I'm blogging today over at the SDA Homeschool Blog, come on over and see the fun fall leaf lanterns we made last week!