Sunday, October 19, 2014

Weekly Wrap-up for the Week of October 12

Our week began with Mama and Papa here to take advantage of the non-rainy days in the forecast. A big project that we needed to get done while the weather was good was tarring the roof where the previous owner cut the shingles, leading to leaks. Dad brought his scaffolding up for that project and the girls were all happy to "help". Little Bit was so excited to be able to climb around and occasionally hand things up to Papa or back down to Mama and me on the ground.

Papa also made progress on the shelves he's going to put in my kitchen, AND did the wiring so we could put an extra fridge in the basement. YAY!! It was so nice to come back from the farm this week and put most of the milk and eggs in the basement fridge instead of having that take up half of our main fridge!

Rodney and I also finally went out to eat for his birthday, only a month late, while Mama and Papa were here to watch the kids.

The rest of the week was pretty low key. . . we did school, the girls soaked up the beautiful fall weather whenever it was available. . . I did a bit of getting ready for winter by making some sage honey cough syrup, now I'm impatient for it to be done so I can try it! Lexie's comment "I can't wait till someone has a cough so we can try it!" Ummm . . . we can try it without anyone actually having a cough, dear! Someone online had mentioned they like it with herbal tea, I think I like that idea to try it out.

And that was pretty much our week.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Schoolhouse Review Crew: iWitness Books from Apologia

Over the last several years, as a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, we have enjoyed reviewing several amazing books from Apologia Educational Ministries, most recently, we were asked to review their new series of iWitness books by Doug Powell.

We received 3 books:

New Testament iWitness
Old Testament iWitness
iWitness Biblical Archaeology

In an interview with the author, he tells Apologia that he wrote these books because they are books he wishes were available when he was looking for answers to questions such as "where did the Bible come from?"

Each of these little books packs a TON of information into a small, easy-to-read format. As the titles suggest, these books respectively, talk about how the canon of the New Testament was determined, how the canon of the Old Testament was determined, and what archaeological evidence is there collaborates the Biblical accounts.

If we got these books a year ago, it would have been pretty much 100% new information for all of us. I have to admit, I don't remember ever questioning where the Bible came from, and if I ever learned it, growing up, it didn't make enough of an impression for me to remember it.  However, our study of Ancient history last year provided us with much fascinating information about the archaeological evidence to back up the Biblical account, and we learned briefly about how the canon of scripture was determined for as part of our Bible curriculum last year.

All of that has done a good job of whetting our appetites for this information, so when I told Lexie and Ashlyn about these books, we were all excited to check them out. Conveniently, there are 3 books, and 3 of us, so as soon as we received them, we each took one, read it, then traded . . . and traded again :)

These aren't huge books, I easily read each book in a couple hours (broken up into a million little pieces because I'm a mommy, and that's what mommies do). The girls read a bit slower, and they found the font, which resembles handwriting, hard to read, but they were able to read each book in less than a week (and tht was in the midst of all the travelling and house projects and such we've been busy with lately).

As soon as we got the books and started reading them, Ashlyn started sharing things with me. I frequently heard "Mommy did you know . . . ?"  That's always a good sign. The girls also asked many questions about what they were reading. The books got them thinking, I like that!

Instead of being written like a "normal" book, these books are designed with little tidbits of information that appears to be jotted down on scraps of paper with pictures of artifacts and such in the background. As I mentioned above, the downside of this is, the "handwriting" type of font was sometimes hard for my children to read. These books are described as being for a reading level of age 11 and up, and my girls are 11, perhaps one reason for this is the font? I don't think my girls found the content itself, to be at all challenging to their reading ability, but we don't really pay attention to reading levels, I suspect that, from a comprehension standpoint, they are "above grade level". I think I, personally, would have been just as happy reading clear text on one page and having clear artifact pictures on another page, I didn't really see where the layout added anything to the information but perhaps some children would find this layout different enough to catch and hold their attention.

One thing that disappointed me was that the Archaeology book strongly hints at the idea of Noah's flood being a local, rather than worldwide flood.

Overall, despite the flood-references, we enjoyed these books. They are available for $14 each from Apologia Educational Ministries.

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Monday, October 13, 2014

A Family Toolbox for Parents and Teens (a review)

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I attended my first homeschool convention in 2009. Ashlyn and Lexie were 6 and Little Bit was only a couple months old. One of the seminars I attended was a parenting seminar, I don't remember the specific topic, by Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller from the National Center for Biblical Parenting. As I was sitting there, struggling with the challenges of guiding my older daughters through the transition of a new baby, Scott and Joanne's words were exactly what I needed! I attended at least one more of their seminars that weekend, purchased the cds of all of their other seminars from that weekend, and purchased several products at their booth. . . and I've been a huge fan of their products ever since!

Now, Lexie and Ashlyn are 11 and we are all navigating this new world of teens and tweens. And some days it's challenging. When I was given the opportunity to review NCBP's brand new program for parents and teens, The Family Toolbox, I was more than happy to oblige!

The Family Toolbox is a DVD and "workbook" designed to help guide parents and teens through constructive discussions about 16 Life Principles, presented in 8 lessons. It is available for $99.95, or a downloadable version for $79.95.

Each lesson includes several "pieces".  Before sitting down with your teen(s), there is a page in the workbook for the parent to read, then it is helpful to pre-watch the short (just a couple minutes long) video segment that you will be watching with your teens, and scan over the discussion questions you'll use with them. There is also a longer video segment for each lesson that is Scott and Joanne talking about parenting teen in these scenarios presented in this lesson, and a workbook page for the parent to jot down specific challenge related to this lesson, as well as ideas to improve things in their family. All together, plan on about half an hour of "prep time" before going over a lesson with your teens.

The time spent with teens includes reading a couple sentences "setting the stage" for the video clip, watching the short video clip, and then going over a couple pages of discussion questions together, looking at what the people in the clip did wrong, and could have done differently, and finally applying all of this to your particular family situation, and discussing changes to be made.

Ideally, I would go over one lesson per week, or perhaps even every other week, or once a month, allowing time for all of us to really focus on making improvements to the life principles presented in that lesson before moving on to the next lesson. I also like the suggestion of making this a special time with an ice cream treat while watching and discussing, or making each lesson a "date time" for parent(s) and teen(s). However, because I wanted to get through most of the program during the review period, we have moved through it more quickly during the review period.

It was interesting to note that even when discussing things hypothetically, using the video clip "family", my girls tended to get defensive over areas where they need to work on things. The lessons that didn't "hit as close to home", they enjoyed the discussion, in some cases, despite my best efforts, strong feelings were involved. Especially with those areas, I think taking the time to make the discussion time a special "treat", and then spending a week or longer following that discussion, all working together on making improvements in our family, followed by some "check-ins" to see how we're all doing, would not only be more beneficial, but also would have led to less . . . heated reactions from my girls. I think being hit in such quick succession made them react more strongly.

Overall, as with all of the products I've used from National Center for Biblical Parenting, the principles presented, and the focus on relationships and "heart issues", is wonderful! I was disappointed to find that most of the video advice to parents was very similar to the advice I already had heard in the other products, I was hoping for something more specific to teens, and didn't find that to be the case. However, since most people probably haven't already read pretty much everything available from Scott and Joanne, the advice is EXCELLENT!!!

One thing that I think would have worked better for my girls, is if Scott and Joanne had also spoken to the teens. I think some of the information presented by "me" as I read through the discussion questions with them, would have been better received coming from an "expert" instead of it being one more instance of "Mommy telling us what to do".

In conclusion, I asked Lexie and Ashlyn what they thought about it. Lexie's response was "it takes too much time" which I think comes from (a) the fact that we were doing this several times a week instead of once a week and (b) that in most cases it did spark quite a bit of discussion and that discussion took awhile. Ashlyn said she liked it but that she felt that it wouldn't work well for a kid who didn't already want to improve communication and relationship with their parents. I think that might be a valid observation, but perhaps that would be true of anything?

Overall, this is a great resource for opening discussion with your teens, and moving toward a relation-based family dynamic. If you aren't familiar with the National Center for Biblical Parenting, the parent videos that are a part of this package are very helpful, and quite honestly, I can't imagine parenting with having these concepts as a part of our family's belief structure!

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Weekly Wrap-Up for the Week of October 5

Our week began in the Cincinnati area, but you can read about that here.

We got home Monday evening and were well occupied with unpacking and getting settled back into our normal routines.

Once we were home, the girls spent a large part of one day harvesting miniature pumpkins and using all 22 of them to decorate the front porch.  Partway through the summer we noticed a pumpkin vine growing in our compost pile. Eventually we determined it was the miniature pumpkins (the girls had each gotten one at church last fall and when they got squishy, I tossed them in compost, apparently one of the seeds grew). When we got back from our weekend trip, the pumpkins were ready to harvest, so the girls picked them, and then used them, and ribbon, to decorate the front porch. I thought it turned out great!

The rest of the week we enjoyed the fall weather, Bible Road Trip, lots of read alouds, independent work in math . . . music lessons . . .

And wrapped up our week celebrating the beginning of Sukkot. Much to Little Bit's delight, the fairies came to visit, and at their suggestion we made rather untraditional "sukkahs" by hanging shower curtains, decorated with sharpies from hula hoops. Unfortunately, Mommy failed to follow through and we haven't actually HUNG the hula hoops anywhere (I need to figure out where the girls want them, and find my command hooks (because it's much too rainy to have OUTDOOR sukkahs this year, grumble, grumble) . . . hopefully before Sukkot is over, sigh . . .  Still they had fun decorating them :)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Our Field Trips in Western Ohio Area

At the beginning of 2014, I learned that the Creation Museum was running a year-long "Kids Get in Free" promotion, and made a mental note that we should definitely go to the Creation Museum sometime this year. But, the first half of the year was filled with the uncertainties surrounding my husband's heart surgery, so we couldn't even tentatively plan until late summer. We discussed going in September, but then the opportunity to spend a week with friends at the beach presented itself and we jumped at that . . .now, with winter looming, we knew we HAD to fit this trip in now or never. So, despite various attempts to combine it with dh's work engagements in western PA, we finally decided to just take a weekend and make the trip.

Thursday afternoon was spent getting everything we could possibly do ahead, done, including packing the car as much as possible. When Rodney got home from work (after the girls were already in bed) and I told him that I was aiming for leaving at 8:00, but wouldn't stress if we were a little late, he declared it impossible, and predicted we'd leave at 9:00 or after. But, the girls all pitched in and we made it out of here by 8:30!! (and shhhh . . . don't tell anyone, but we probably could have left by 8:15 if we hadn't been waiting for Daddy to shower and drink his coffee, hee hee).  And so our 9+ hours of driving began. GPS said it would take right around 9 hours, but with traffic and stops for bathroom and gas, it took us closer to 10 hours. 

The first "glitch" we ran into was that I'd loaded several mp3 audiobooks onto my tablet, planning to play them through the car stereo for Lexie and Ashlyn to listen to while Little Bit watched videos on the built -in DVD player (with headphones). We've done this thousands of times, but for some reason the tablet sound would NOT turn up high enough for it to work, even with the car's volume turned to max. So we listened to the audios that I had on CD, and then I had both big girls ride on the back bench and listen to some of the audios directly from the tablet. For some reason, they decided they could hear better if they were under a blanket, so there you have it . . . Little Bit was grouchy because Lexie had been sitting in the middle row with her and "deserted" her to ride in the back with Ashlyn.

We arrived at the hotel, ate supper, got settled in, and went to bed.

Saturday morning we headed to the Creation Museum, purchased our (adult) tickets, and got the free kids' tickets, and began exploring. While there were a lot of people it didn't ever feel oppressively crowded like is the case at some museums (Smithsonian, on weekends, comes to mind), but it WAS crowded enough that I focused mostly on keeping track of kids and didn't take many pictures. I did have to snap this picture though. The raptor was mechanical and moved it's head, eyes, etc. The sign says:

He's not friendly, and neither are the costs to repair him.

I was amused. The museum included lots of interactive exhibits and, while I'm not sure the big girls and I "learned" much, because we've studied creation science quite abit over the years. It was all very well done and informative. If I'd visited a museum like this before I started homeschooling my children, I would have learned TONS!

The main exhibit hall "travels" through from Creation to the Flood to the Tower of Babel, teaching about creation science along the way. That took us all morning, and part of the afternoon.

After the "main exhibit" there were some "miscellaneous" exhibits that didn't tie together per se. The first was  a dinosaur exhibit (the sign got in the way, but Lexie and Ashlyn are standing next to a small (about the size of a turkey?) dinosaur that was adorable, they decided it would have made a great pet!

There was also an exhibit about ancient writings. That included Torah scrolls, cuneiform tablets, beautifully illustrated Bibles from the Middle Ages, etc. The big girls and I found it fascinating, and it fit in perfectly with what we're learning about in history (we JUST learned about the illustrated writing), and what we learned last year (the cuneiform and such). Little Bit and the men weren't as interested (or maybe the men were just tired by then), so they found a nearby bench and she picked on them (or they picked on her, or both).

Finally there was an "insect room".  Shudder! Thankfully all the bugs were dead, but there were some MASSIVELY HUGE bugs on display. ICK!!! I wish it gave more information about exactly where these monster bugs live so I know to NEVER visit those places. I did find it interesting that there were some huge winged bugs (a grasshopper and something else) that seriously looked like they had "fairy wings" I wonder if the legends about fairies originated with catching glimpses of  these bugs?  They were gorgeous but I still would prefer to not have one land on me or anything!

In the afternoon, while Rodney and I were taking the big girls through parts of the main exhibit we hadn't hit in the morning, my parents took Little Bit to the petting zoo where she happily spent most of the afternoon. 

For dinner we headed into Cincinnati to visit The Old Spaghetti Factory! It's one of our favorite restaurants and for some reason, while the decor/attmosphere seems PERFECT for the mid-Atlantic big cities (Philadelphia and Baltimore especially come to mind), there are NONE on the East Coast. So anytime we happen to be near one, we try to fit in a visit. YUM!! It did NOT disappoint!

Our tickets to the Creation Museum gave us admission for two consecutive days, but it doesn't open until noon on Sunday, so we decided to see if there was something else nearby to do in the morning. We decided to drive abit farther than we'd originally planned, and visit the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Park. The main focus is on the Wright Brothers who lived in the Dayton area and since the girls had just earned the OTHER Wright Brothers Junior Ranger, at Kitty Hawk when we were in North Carolina last month, it seemed like a good idea to visit this one while that information was still fresh in our minds.

I'm not sure if it was good to have the information fresh in our minds, because it kind of highlighted how much each park "took credit" for the Wright Brothers doing most of their "work" at that location, but it was certainly interesting. The museum here was extensive and well done, we enjoyed our morning exploring the museum while the girls worked on their Junior Ranger requirements.

To add to our enjoyment, we were reminded again that great rangers make national parks even better. Both rangers who were there that day were excellent! Friendly, personable and informative. The only possible "down side" in this case was that it took Lexie and Ashlyn a lot longer to finish the Junior Rangers because of the time we spent visiting with the rangers, which made us later than we'd planned heading back to the Creation Museum, but it was a very enjoyable and educational morning, at a national park site that I'd definitely recommend anyone visiting the Dayton area add to their itinerary. 

As is usually the case when we do Junior Rangers, Little Bit finished her Junior Ranger well ahead of her big sisters. So it worked out well that she discovered a "leaf bug" on the wall in the courtyard that kept her occupied for quite some time. I was busy helping the big girls, but my mom said that the rangers were talking to her about the bug and told her it was named "Fluffy" and had a cousin named "Igor" hee hee.

In addition to the exhibits about all aspects of the Wright Brothers' lives, and some exhibits about poet, Paul Laurence Dunbar, there was also an exhibit about parachuting. The Junior Ranger book didn't cover it, so I didn't end up spending much time there, but Little Bit thought it was pretty cool to get to pretend to be a parachutist.

And of course, we wrapped things up in Dayton by all three girls earning their Junior Ranger badges, accompanied by some good-natured teasing from the ranger who gave it to them.

We'd packed a lunch, so we ate lunch in the car while driving back to the Creation Museum. The main thing we knew we still wanted to do there was attend the planetarium shows. After all, where else can you find planetarium shows from a creationist point of view? As luck would have it, we arrived just AFTER one of the shows started, so we had a couple of hours to spend doing other things at the museum while we waited for our show times.

The big girls agreed that they'd thoroughly explored the main exhibits the first day, so we decided to head back to the petting zoo. All three girls had fun there, and the weather was warmer than the day before so it worked out well.

After spending time at the petting zoo, and exploring the book store abit, it was time for the planetarium shows. Two shows were available, and they showed back-to-back, so we watched them both. Little Bit preferred the first one, which attempts to give an idea just how VAST the universe truly is. Not that we KNOW exactly how vast, but it at least did an impressive job of showing that it's really, really, really HUGE! The second show was about comets and I found it fascinating, and I think the big girls did, but it was rather over Little Bit's head, and not as fun to "watch" as the other had been.

By the time we finished both planetarium shows, it was only half an hour until closing, so we headed back to the book store to buy the things we'd considered earlier, and headed back to the hotel.

An uneventful trip home on Monday finished up our field trip(s).

While we loved the trip, in retrospect, I wish we'd been able to figure out to make the trip in the summer. In most cases we intentionally plan museum trips and such for the school year when less "tourists" are around, but in this case, it meant that the extensive gardens were mostly just green, instead of the flowers of summer. It was still nice to walk through the gardens, but I think we would have spent a lot more time exploring them and savoring their beauty in the summer. But, of course, hindsight is always 20/20 and we can always go back another year.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up for the Week of September 28

I'm running late this week, because we went on a trip this past weekend and just got home last night. Watch for a separate post on the trip, but in the meantime here's a quick run-down of last week:

Sunday we spent at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire. I apparently didn't take any pictures, but we had a great time all around. It's been a couple years since we've gone, so this was the first year that Little Bit could really get into it at all. She liked the juggling and magic shows. The jousting was still abit much for her, but with me keeping up a constant commentary on how it was all just pretend, she made it through without completely freaking out.

Monday was a rather frustrating day. I was hoping to get LOTS of school done, and research some things I needed to figure our for our upcoming trip, and work on some blog posts and reviews, only to wake up and discover that our router was out, sigh!!! That meant no internet, no Chrome cast (I often cast YouTube videos and similar, for history, up onto the TV so we can all watch it without huddling around my laptop screen), AND no printing (because that runs through the router too). To further complicate things, we don't get decent phone reception at our house without a booster, which means that, if the internet is out, I can't use internet on my phone either, sigh . . . we did a modified approach to school (much of what we do on a daily basis, floats out on the cloud, it's nice most of the time because I can access it anywhere, but it does become a problem if we don't have internet. AND to avoid printing things we don't use, I don't pre-print coloring pages, etc, I just print them when we need them, so that further messed up our school plans, sigh. . . By early afternoon I figured I at least needed to check my e-mail and double check that I didn't have any reviews due asap (my calendar/to do list is also online), so we headed to a nearby playground where I could at least check e-mail on my phone. I did the necessary internet stuff on my phone while the girls all had fun playing. And we squeezed in an impromptu science lesson as they experimented with sitting closer or farther back on the teeter-totter-thing to figure out if they could balance it with Little Bit and one of the big girls on it. They determined that by Little Bit sitting as far back as possible, and Ashlyn sitting as far forward as possible, they weren't completely balanced, but Ashlyn wasn't sitting all the way on the ground either.

Thankfully dh was able to fix the router/internet late Monday afternoon, whew!

You already heard about our "typical" day last week, I think that was Tuesday or Wednesday.

Since we were planning to leave first thing Friday morning or our trip, there was no reason to drive to the farm for milk and eggs during Lexie and Ashlyns' music lessons, so Little Bit and I went to the playground near music lessons during their lessons. She played and I actually got to sit and read a book, woo-hoo!

Thursday afternoon was filled with all our final trip preparations, including loading the car as much as possible. So we'd get an early start on Friday morning.

Stay tuned for another post all about our trip to the Creation Museum, and Wright Brother's Memorial!

What? You Don't Take Summers Off?!?

I'm blogging today at SDA Homeschool Families about why we homeschool year round. Come check it out!