Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!!!

Is it bad that I'm glad New Years Eve falls on Friday night this year because it's a great excuse to not stay up or otherwise "celebrate" it? I must be getting old, but staying up till midnight just doesn't hold much appeal these days . . . maybe it's because I'm often up AGAIN by midnight with Little Miss Never Sleeps . . . hee hee.

Oh, and a small, thing. Over a year ago, A1 went through a brief phase where she wanted to be called by her full name, which starts with an A, rather than the nickname we'd used for her since birth. At that time, on this blog, I switched from calling the twins L & A, to calling them A1 & A2. It was a brief phase and now she's back to going by her nickname. I think a new year is a nice "neat and tidy" time to switch back to calling the twins L & A on the blog. So, L = A1,  and A = A2.

ANYWAY . . . I've never been much for resolutions, maybe because I never stick with them anyway, but I did want to share a "plan" we've developed for the new year.

I'd been thinking about several things for awhile now. Figuring out a way to  get one-on-one time with each kid when I have a toddler who doesn't sleep and a husband whose job keeps him from being home very much. Figuring out a way to have one-on-one time with my husband once in awhile. While I don't see a need to "separate the twins" significantly (as is considered necessary in some schools), I think at this point it would be good for them to occasionally have an hour or two away from each other.

I already have a book club that I attend on the 2nd Tuesday of each month. Little Bit comes with me (though at some point I suspect they're going to want me to leave her home, we'll have to rearrange things then (or quit the book club). So, that week was pre-determined as "Mommy/Little Bit" time and "Daddy big girls' date night".  We fit everything else around that and came up the following (other than book club, we didn't assign a specific NIGHT, just a week, which night it is that week will vary depending on Rodney's work/travel schedule and occasionally our travel as well):

First week of the month = Mommy & Daddy date night. This will require a baby sitter. I'm assuming between various friends, we'll be able to find someone willing to watch our three monsters-I-mean-blessings one night a month

Second week = book club as already mentioned

Third week =  A's week.  On the determined night, she will get to choose to go on a "date" with either Mommy or Daddy. The other parent will stay home with L & Little Bit.

Fourth week = L's week. Same as A's week only for L instead of A.

The girls are SOO excited about this. They love the idea of having a "babysitter", they love the idea of going out with a parent. They already love Daddy date night on my book club night. When we presented the idea, they said "we get something fun EVERY WEEK" so that's a good thing :)

We already have a babysitter lined up for next Thurs night so Rodney & I can go out, woo-hoo! The big girls are excited (they adore Miss Starla).  Fingers crossed that Little Bit does well with it. She did great when she stayed with Judy (our neighbor and the girls' "adopted grandma") for our anniversary but she doesn't know Starla as well. I'm counting on the fact that her sisters will be with her to make it ok.

So that's our main "resolution" for the new year.  I'm also hoping to move us toward more healthy eating. I purchased a nutrition curriculum that we'll be starting in the next couple of weeks and my hope is that, as the girls learn WHY we should limit sugar, eat more vegetables, etc. They'll be more "on board" and it won't be "Mean Mommy" saying we have to eat whole wheat bread instead of squishy white bread, it will be their own choice because it's healthier.  We shall see . . .

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Holiday Crafting . . .

When I reviewed the Homestead Blessings Art of Crafting video, I promised some pictures when we actually tried some of the crafts.  Well Christmas snuck up on us this year, but we DID make potpourri and  gave it to a few people as Christmas gifts.

First we went on a walk in the woods to see what great nature stuff we could find for the potpourri. We discovered that our woods have very few evergreens and those we do have don't have pinecones (at least this late in the year) but we did get a couple different types of evergreen branches and some red berries.

We also ate LOTS of oranges (no hardship, all 3 girls LOVE clementines, the 3 of them will easily eat a 3lb bag in a day!) and dried the orange peel. Then we admit defeat in having completely natural, from our property, potpourri this late in the year, and went to the craft store for some little pine cones and red beads and little silver ball things.

We dumped everything together in a bowl and mixed it together and added cinnamon and sweet orange essential oils.

Then we put it all in a gallon jar and shook it a few times a day. Don't we have a cute jar-shaking-helper?  Yes she's sitting in the middle of the table, it's her favorite spot.

Right before Christmas we put the potpourri into little bags, tied them with ribbons and gave them to the grandparents, etc. for Christmas.

And I had great intentions of getting a picture of the 2 big girls with all the pretty bags of potpourri, and completely forgot, so you'll just have to take my word for it . . .

But, bottom line. We had fun, and it was super easy!! You should try it!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Gratituesday - Snow (that doesn't stay around too long)

Saturday night (you know, CHRISTMAS) Rodney told me that they were calling for snow, up to a foot, starting overnight that night. EEK!!! The whole "go stock up on milk & bread" thing doesn't work on CHRISTMAS!! And to add to it, we buy our milk & eggs from a Mennonite (or Amish, there are so many "levels" of each & I can never tell and don't know how to politely ask, not that it really matters LOL) farm so they weren't going to be open on Sunday either. Now the reality is, we keep a deep freeze stocked and a pantry stocked and we could probably live for a year and not actually starve to death, but we DO like our milk and eggs and I usually stock up on those before any predicted storm.  We live at the bottom of a steep hill and the snow plow got stuck plowing us out once last winter, so after that he left us for last, so we do need to plan for being "stuck" for awhile if we really do get a big snow (and for where we live, 10-12" is a big snow!).

Sunday morning we woke up to no snow, so I at least went to the regular grocery store and made sure we had other food for the week (way to encourage me to get back into menu planning!) I also got a box of powdered milk so at least we'd have SOME kind of milk if we were stranded for very long (dh is a big milk drinker, the rest of us only use milk in things, but those "things" include hot chocolate which the kids like to have when they come in from playing in the snow, I figured powdered milk, while nowhere near as healthy, would do in a pinch for hot chocolate (and still be better than the powdered hot chocolate mixes) and in cooking.

It started snowing Sunday afternoon and snowed all night, but we only got a couple inches. Woke up to a beautiful white world and an already plowed driveway. So we were never stranded, and the kids had a great time playing in the snow yesterday (though the 4 degree F wind chills kept Little Bit and me inside, I figured she'll see snow again this winter).

She was so cute today though, as we were running errands. She saw the snow (what hadn't melted) and kept pointing to it and saying "no" for snow.

So, this week I'm thankful for the beauty (and kid-fun-factor) of snow and I'm thankful that we weren't snowed in on a week when I was feeling unprepared for it.

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up - December 27

This past week was, of course, all about Christmas!!

We were busy cleaning, getting presents ready, making cookies, cooking and such.  We did continue with school, to keep up with our review items, and our Jesus Tree devotions.

Rodney was home on Wednesday & Thursday so that gave him and the big girls a chance to make dozens of cookies and other such fun things.

The girls were very proud of themselves for making the alpine casserole for Christmas dinner "all by ourselves" (though Mommy DID chop the onions, they haven't yet found a way to do that without "crying" so they don't like to do it)

We celebrated Christmas, with all the grandparents and such here, on Friday, so did our typical "Christmas Eve" traditions on Thurs evening.

They eagerly opened their new Christmas nightgowns (from Mama & Papa, Mama made them and sent them home with us after our anniversary weekend). Little Bit, despite being a confirmed nudist, was excited to put it on (she likes clothes in theory, she just doesn't like keeping them on LOL). And then was VERY excited when, abit later, she realized that hers was just like big sisters' nightgowns. It was so cute to see her realize it and "tell us" by pulling on her nightgown and then pointing to A1's.  And with the incentive of being "just like sisters" she actually kept hte nightgown on ALL NIGHT (and most of the next day LOL, the big girls also decided to wear their new nightgowns all day Fri. instead of getting dressed).

Then they moved on to their Christmas Eve gifts. Which are always books, games or videos, that we can play, read or watch on Christmas Eve. This year I opted to get a game the big girls would enjoy, and a video, Elmo's Christmas Countdown  that I figured was primarily for Little Bit. My thought was that she could watch the video while the big girls & I played the game, without her "help".  As it turned out, while they liked the game, they also liked the video, so we started it over after we finished the game, so they could see the whole thing LOL. I must admit, if we must watch the world's most annoying red monster, this video was less annoying than most Elmo things. After that we made our annual monkey bread, read their new book, and sent them off to bed.

So that was our "Christmas Eve". Friday morning everyone actually SLEPT IN!! We're in a nice little pocket of time where the big girls are big enough to figure the stockings will still be there, so they don't have to get up at the crack of dawn, and Little Bit's too young to know she needs to wake up at the crack of dawn LOL. Got up, the girls opened their stockings, the monkey bread baked, we did some final cleaning & dinner prep type stuff, then read the Christmas story out of the Bible, and the girls put Baby Jesus in His nice, soft manger. At the beginning of the month we made a paper nativity set (since all my other nativities had the baby attached to the manger), minus the baby, and any time I "caught" the girls being kind without being told, they got to add a piece of "hay" (yarn) to the manger, so Christmas morning they got to put Jesus in the manger.

By then family was starting to arrive, and so the present-opening began. I realized when I looked on my camera just now, that I really didn't take any pictures, will have to get pictures from my Dad and SIL. The big girls were thrilled with their new American Girl dolls (A1 got Ruthie, Kit's friend, and A2 got Elizabeth, Felicity's friend (not that she has Felicity, but she wanted Elizabeth because she has "removable earrings" and Felicity and co were being retired as of this Christmas, so if she was going to get Elizabeth it was going to have to be now). My mom surprised me by giving me Felicity (my favorite), so now the girls are quite sure that I should "play American Girls" with them sometimes, we shall see LOL. They were also thrilled with the AG accessories they got from each other, and from us, as well as the plethora of books, Schleich animals, etc. Another hit was the doll A1 got for A2.  When we were in Goodwill a week or so before Christmas, Little Bit was loving all the dolls, and A1 said she wanted to get her one for Christmas. I have to admit, I was less then thrilled, since I knew she was getting several other dolls for Christmas and felt like another one was really not needed, but also didn't want to discourage generosity, so agreed. The doll she chose was a larger, nicely weighted baby doll. Little Bit loved it, and enjoyed carrying it around. But A2 *also* fell in love with it because of it being a good size to be a "real baby" for her, and being weighted enough to feel more real as well.  At some point (I'm not sure when, A1 decided to give it to A2 instead of Little Bit, which was fine with me, though A2 has had to "share" some, since Little Bit does love the doll as well).  A1 was excited to give A2 the doll and A2 was thrilled to get it, so it was a hit all around and fun to see A1 being excited about the "giving" side of Christmas. The picture on the right shows A2 "wearing" her new doll in my Kozy Karrier.

Little Bit loved her dolls and Schleich animals, the obnoxious Elmo puzzle that will be going to live at Mama & Papa's house next time we got there, TWO stuffed Elmos (and yes, we must bring them BOTH with us, everywhere we go), and the felt house that my mom made. It's a fitted "table cloth" to go over our card table (the idea being, it can be folded up and put away when not in use, but that seems to be several months down the road, as much as she's loving it LOL). It's currently in the middle of our (rather small) living room, I'm trying to decide if I should make room for it in the girls' room, or in a corner of the living room. I'm thinking for right now, the living room is the better option. It will allow the big girls to play house in it during Little Bit's naps, and give her more time to play in it since she can't go upstairs to play w/o the big girls up there with her. I THINK with a little rearranging, it will fit into a corner where it won't be TOO in the way, we shall see . . . But she definitely LOVES it!

After presents were open and Little Bit was napped, we fixed, and ate lunch, then visited some more before everyone headed home.

After everyone left, the big girls got dressed (after wearing their new nightgowns all day), and we put together a plate of cookies to take up to our neighbors, and adopted grandparents, the Butlers. I'd told Judy ahead of time which dolls the girls were getting, so she'd made an outfit for each of their new dolls, as well as getting Little Bit a very cool book, and making her a basket bed for the doll we gave her for Christmas.  Then the big girls & I (and the Butlers) headed to the church to go caroling, while Rodney took Little Bit home (he decided watching Little Bit was preferable to being out in the cold, singing LOL. And I was just as glad to not have to keep track of Little Bit during caroling). The girls LOVED caroling, and want to do it every year (I told them that would, obviously,  depend on whether the church does it every year, I don't think they have in the past, so not sure if this was a one time thing because Christmas Eve coincided with Friday night).

It made for a late night after a busy day. Sabbath morning I had to wake all 3 kids (and Rodney) up at 8:30 which meant we didn't make it to church in time for the big girls to do a craft at 9:15, but it was my week to provide the craft, so the girls just did it in church instead (using pipe cleaners and red & white pony beads to make "candy canes").

And that was our week. I hope all the rest of you had a wonderful Christmas as well!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Weeky Wrap-Up - December 19

Ok, so I'm a couple days late, close enough . . .

Last week was a good week. SOOOO nice to be home all week! But even so, Christmas is sneaking up on me, yet again this year, sigh . . . oh well.

We're continuing with school, focusing mostly on things we're reviewing.

- Bible (Christmas), we're doing a "Jesus Tree" devotional for Christmas. Each day includes an ornament to color and a short Bible story, going through the plan of salvation from creation to Jesus's birth (we'll read that one on Christmas eve)

- Bible part 2 - we're reviewing a Bible curriculum right now as well, so we're doing that in addition to our Christmas devotionals. We're learning about creation in that study.

- Spanish - we're taking a break from our regular Spanish curriculum, but I got a fun Spanish calendar that teaches us the days of the week, numbers 1-31, and months of the year (by having us say "Today is Tuesday, the 21st of December" in Spanish each day (only using the appropriate day/date/month, obviously). It also has a "sentence per week" split over the days of the week, so we learn a couple words/phrase each day and put them together each Friday to learn a new sentence in Spanish. It's a fun, quick, way to add a little bit of Spanish into our days.

-Spanish part 2 - we're reviewing a series of online Spanish videos. The big girls are less than excited about them so far (it's an immersion-based program, they prefer a vocabulary approach), but Little Bit LOVES them. The "character" on the videos is a purple puppet with no nose and big ears named Speekee, and for some reason, she thinks it's a wolf, so she'll point to my computer, do the sign for wolf and say "bee bee" when she wants to watch it.

- World History - We finished listening to the first volume of "The Story of the World" on CD late in the week (I think I'd mentioned that we were listening to it from the library). We're taking a few days off from World History to get past Christmas, then we will dig abit deeper into some of the events/stories we've heard about (using resources I already have, this is why I save every free resource that crosses my path LOL) while we wait for Vol 2 to be available from the library (I've reserved it, but there are still 2 or 3 people ahead of me, so we probably have a month or more to wait).

- Time Line - In conjunction with world history, we're doing a time line. I printed out the figures from Homeschool in the Woods' History Through the Ages and am working on gluing them onto index cards. Then we took a wall of the dining room and hung ribbons that we can clip the index cards to. My goal was to keep up with the CD we were listening to, but I got behind, so I need to get caught up before we move on to Vol. 2  LOL.  In addition to adding things from the World History CD, if we learn about "history" in other topics (for example, if we continue with the above mentioned Bible curriculum, that I believe is chronological, we can add the Bible events as we learn about them), we'll add those in as well, to help us get a visual overall picture of when things happened. Not sure how much the girls are getting out of it, but I'm finding it fascinating LOL.  I chose to use index cards so that we can adapt it as needed. If we go with American History next school year, we can hang just the time line related to American History, or whatever we're learning about. Whatever cards we're not using, we'll keep in chronological order in an index card file box.

 In non-school news. We're continuing to get back in the "groove" of chores (awwww . . . Mom . . . do we HAVE to?), and laundry and groceries and other fun things.

When our neighbor was over (the week before, I think, but close enough) she snapped this picture of Little Bit "helping" me in the kitchen. It can be challenging to have her able to reach everything (and yes, that's pretty much my only counter-work-space in the kitchen, there's a low "desk-height" counter in what used to be the fireplace, but it's low and dark and you have to duck into the fireplace. It works well as a workspace for the girls, when it's not piled high with stuff, it's a TERRIBLE hotspot for me, sigh . . .). Anyway . . . she LOVES to "help". That is her "toll" (stool) and she gets very annoyed if anyone moves it. While we certainly don't let her stand there unattended when the stove is on, she knows that it is "hot", and will say it before I can LOL.  One time after hubby made breakfast there was an iron skillet sitting on that front burner closest to her and a wood spoon still in it (and the remains of the scrambled eggs stuck to the pan until I got around to cleaning it), and she had great fun "stirring" the cold pan.

Friday, Rodney was home, so he and the big girls had a cookie-baking day.  I had a headache, so didn't get any pictures (or do any of the 101 other things I was planning to do that day, sigh).

Sabbath, the big girls had been asked to tell children's story at church. After much discussion during the week, they decided to tell "the legend of the candycane" and hand out candy canes to the kids. I'm not sure how much the kids got out of the "legend" (there aren't really any kids A1 & A2's age at our church, so when they TELL the story, their audience is primarily 3 & under), but they were more than happy to get candy canes (we printed out the "legend" and tied it onto the candycanes too). And I think the adults enjoyed the story, so it worked well.

Gratituesday - Christmas Edition

I know, I know, I haven't even written last week's wrap-up yet, so obviously I'm running behind (not to mention the things I have to ship, yesterday, and the house that's still not clean (we host the grandparents for Christmas every year), and and and . . . BUT . . . perhaps BECAUSE of the long to-do list, I wanted to take a moment out of all that busyness and just be thankful!!!

We have SO MUCH to be thankful for! And what better time to remember that, and express that, than this time of year, when we're supposed to be remembering the greatest gift of all.

So today I'm just taking a few seconds out of all the busyness to say I'm thankful for family. I'm sitting here listening to A1 "read" a book to Little Bit as Little Bit squeals with excitement (we've found that stories are lost on Little Bit, but she loves to have us describe the pictures and point things out to her, so that's how we read to her right now), and I'm SO thankful for these special children that God has blessed us with.

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Review: Tiny Planets

As part of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I was asked to review the website  This is a free, educational game site for kids, ages 4-12. It's designed to be safe for kids because they never actually type anything in. They can "talk" to other players, but only by choosing from pre-programmed phrases & emoticons. The site is ad-free too, to keep it safe for kids.

To be honest, the girls haven't spent much time on this site. While we don't limit screen time, they don't spend much time on their computers, and other than helping them set up their accounts, I didn't "require" them to spend time on the site. They've been busy with all our traveling and such, so it may be that once our life slows down, after Christmas, they'll revisit the site some more, we shall see.

The site, which has a space theme, includes online books to read, tv shows to watch, "My Tiny Planet" for your kids to design and decorate, and games to play.

Some of the features require the purchase of "keys" (starting at $1.95 for 10 keys).

My impressions of this site, so far. . . keeping in mind that I've never been a big fan of video games & such.  The user names are chosen from options provided by the site. This is another safety feature, however, the downside I saw was that they were hard to remember, and we didn't realize until after the girls had chosen their user names, that they would have to type their names in repeatedly (perhaps with a different browser, the site would have saved their information, though even then, if they were sharing a computer they would need to be able to type them in. Many of the words in the user names are quite long/difficult. Especially considering that this site is for children starting at age 4, many children are going to have trouble spelling their user names.

The games (at least the ones the girls tried) also require a reading level equal to or above my girls (we don't use reading books, so I don't know what their exact reading level is, but they read American Girl books, and similar on their own).

The "books" I looked at, were easy reader level, so I assume those, and the tv shows are what is intended for the younger children.

I didn't find much that I considered educational on this site, but I might have been looking for more than what they intended.

All in all, if you're children enjoy space and you're looking for a site they can play on without encountering ads, this is worth checking out.

Disclaimer: I was offered an allowance of "keys" to use on this site in exchange for writing this review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up - December 12

Well, *I* had a quieter week last week, but the big girls were busy LOL.

They were at my parents' house for our anniversary & my parents kept them busy!!  They went to the train museum in Baltimore, the Holiday lights display at Brookside Gardens, took Metro into Washington DC and went to Union Station, the office of the Mint (or something like that, something to do with the US Mint anyway), and were planning to see the National Christmas tree and all the state trees, but discovered that they hadn't been lit yet, were scheduled to be lit, this weekend I think? Seemed late . . . but oh well. They did see the National Menorah, and the trees were in the process of being decorated. Went to several favorite restaurants, and I'm sure I'm forgetting some things.

My uncle was there (at my grandparents')  for the weekend too, so they got to spend time with him as well.

Little Bit and I enjoyed a quiet first half of our week, at home. Just hanging out. Then on Wednesday we headed down to my parents' to pick up the big girls. Little Bit did great on the drive down. She slept the first couple hours, and when she woke up, she told me she needed to go potty & then held it until I could stop at a gas station (it was bitterly cold so I didn't want to have to potty her in the car if I could help it), went potty, then we got back in the car and she ate snacks the rest of the way. She's still rear-facing in her carseat (I figure its safe AND when the big girls are with us, she's as happy or happier rear-facing because that means she can see both sisters, whereas if I turned her around, one of them would be behind her), but she figured out and would sign what she wanted  (water, cracker, or "fish" (for goldfish crackers) in the mirror on her seat, then reach her hand back over her head so that I could hand it to her, it worked pretty well (but is certainly easier when she has a sister sitting right next to her to "hear" her and give her what she wants).

Once we got to Mom & Dad's we spent the afternoon just hanging out with them, and that evening, went to a small, local (free) drive-thru lights display. Mom & Dad had taken the girls another night, but they (the girls) had wanted to go again and thought Lina would like it too.  She did :o)

Thursday we came home. I've been struggling with finding an inexpensive/free not-time intensive, overview of World History for the girls this year, and finally had found that our library has the Story of the World CDs. I'd reserved the first set, and they came in while the girls were gone, so we started listening to them on our way home. The girls enjoyed them, so I think this will work well for us.

Earlier in the week, I'd found out that our neighbor, Judy, was watching the girls' friend, L, after school that week, so we'd talked about getting the kids together once my girls were home. So before we came home, I talked to the girls about it and told them that on Friday we could either go up to Judy's house or have L come to our house BUT if they wanted L to come to our house, then when we got home on Thursday they'd have to buckle down and get their room cleaned up. They wanted to be able to show L their cats, and various toys, so decided to clean their room (I did point out that, if they chose to go to Judy's we'd be cleaning their room THIS WEEK, because it needed cleaned regardless). There was some initial whining, but in the end, we got their room and the upstairs hall and bathroom cleaned that afternoon. And got a good start on the main floor on Friday morning (I gave them the choice of spending the morning doing extra copywork, or helping me clean LOL).

And they had a fun afternoon playing with L, while Little Bit and I visited with Judy. Little Bit was thrilled to have a new "audience" to show her books and puzzles to.

While they had a blast at their grandparents' and all the other "fun stuff" we've done in the last 6 months, I think they (especially A2) are as ready as I am to just STAY HOME for awhile!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Homeschool Review: Apologia Press book "Good Morning God"

Apologia Press sent us the book Good Morning God ($14.00), to review.  This is a cute picture book to help teach children, age 1-8 learn to pray and build a personal relationship with God.

The pictures are nice, and so is the text, for each day of the week, the book has a short "prayer" that talks about things the child does during the day "in the kitchen I make a sandwich", ways the child's parents teach him/her about God "Mom and Dad teach me when I'm sitting, when I'm standing, and especially when I'm walking", etc. I took a week and read each day's "prayer" to the girls as part of our morning school time. 

In my opinion, the age range stated for this book is abit wider than it should be. Little Bit (20 mo) isn't ready to sit and listen to this book yet, and the art work, while beautiful, isn't animals, so doesn't keep her attention. Obviously the animal thing is just her, she loves all things animals, but The concept of having a short conversation with God each day is still beyond her comprehension as well, IMO. I'd say a starting age of 2 or slightly older would be more accurate. I also feel that this book was too "young" for my 7 1/2 yr olds. They didn't dislike it, but didn't love it either. At this age, they already know to have daily prayer time and talk to God, so a short "scripted" prayer seems unnecessary at this age, at least in a family where daily prayer is a part of family life. So I would set a target age range of something more like 2 1/2 to 5. 

In the back of the book, there are short "lesson plans" (for lack of a better word) with a some suggested discussion questions, etc. to go with each day. I chose not to use these with my children since we were currently doing several other Bible things as part of school and, after reading over the questions, I felt it, like the book, was better suited for younger children (and older than Little Bit, who isn't to the point of answering thought questions, hee hee). I did think they were well-done, and can see this book, with the lesson helps in the back, being used as a simple morning worship or homeschool "Bible class" with an older toddler or preschooler. 

This book could be used by any Christian family with young children, homeschooling or not, and would work with any teaching style. 

 In addition to the worship/Bible time idea mentioned above, a parent could help a child to memorize the prayers (the repetitiveness and pictures would make it easy for a pre-reader, to be able to look at the pictures and know what to say for each page), and use the book as a personal devotion/prayer time in the morning. It would also serve to help a preschooler learn the days of the week.

One other thing that I need to mention, as a Sabbath-keeper (and knowing that many of my readers are also Sabbath-keepers), is that this book does refer to going to church on Sunday. This would be a consideration in using it as I mentioned above, where the child worked toward using it on her own. But, depending on the age of the child, could be discussed and the book adapted as the parent saw fit. It would be a consideration though, and might make me pause in purchasing this book, because of it's format.  I've never had a problem reading stories to my children about people worshiping on Sunday, they are very much aware that many Christians do worship on Sunday, however because this book is written in the first person, that makes it more of an issue. 

Apologia Press offers several other books, on topics such as history & geography, world view, and writing. I also wanted to mention that they offer a coloring book (for only $4) to go along with this book, it can be seen here
This product was sent to me to review because I am a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew. You can go to the TOS Crew blog to see what other crew members thought of this product, as well as seeing reviews on a wide variety of other products. 

Disclaimer: I was sent a free copy of this book in exchange for writing this review. No other compensation was received, and all opinions are my own. 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Bi-Weekly Wrap-Up - November 28 & December 5

Apparently I can only accomplish bi-weekly updates at the moment, hee hee. So let's see.  . .

Week ending Nov 27:

The big girls got home from their Indiana  trip on Monday. They were much more excited to see their baby sister and their cats, then they were me, but I guess that's as it should be, hee hee (and kinda makes me want to go hunt down some of those people who told me I was "ruining" my children by not forcing them to be more independent as babies/toddlers/preschoolers . . . and stick my tongue out at them, but I'll try to refrain LOL).

Tuesday was a farewell get-together for our conference secretary, Pastor Barry. The girls have always enjoyed talking to, and teasing, Pastor Barry when we go to Daddy's office, and at campmeeting, so we went over to let him know he'd be missed (he's going to be a Bible teacher at Southern Adventist University (where I went for all of college & dh went for 2 years), A1 has decided that when she gets older she wants to go to SAU, so she can take classes from Pastor Barry).   To give credit where credit is due, the picture of the girls giving their cards to Pastor Barry was taken by Tamyra Horst.  I swiped it off the PA Conference facebook page, hope Tami doesn't mind :o)

Thursday was, of course, Thanksgiving. We enjoyed our quiet, "just us" family Thanksgiving. The girls helped me to make their chosen menu. A1 chose angel hair pasta with browned butter and broccoli, and brownies for dessert. A2 chose Sabbath Roast and Taco Salad, with homemade chocolate ice cream and frozen raspberries on top.

We also put up the Christmas trees (we're using the small pink & purple ones again this year) and otherwise decorated for Christmas on Thurday & Friday.

Sunday, we left for Pittsburgh (for Rodney's work). Hadn't thought that through so well, Sunday after Thanksgiving = NOT the day to be travelling ANYWHERE! But we survived.

While in Pittsburgh, we started back into our school routines (all our travelling has = very little "school time" and now I have some curriculum reviews that are due soon and we need to actually USE the curriculum before I write my reviews, so that is dictating our school-time at the moment), and of course, enjoyed the hotel pool.  I was surprised to see that Little Bit apparently REMEMBERS the hotel/pool from when we stayed there in July. Rodney had taken the big girls to the pool during her nap, so when she woke up, I walked down to the pool to see if they were going to stay there enough longer to be worth getting swimsuits on Little Bit & me. I hadn't said anything about swimming or going to the pool, and we were still wearing our regular clothes, but as soon as I started walking down the hall toward the pool (long before you could see it), she started doing the sign for "swim", so she MUST have remembered, from this summer, that that was the way to the pool.  One of the reasons we went with Rodney on this trip, despite all our other travelling, was because he was going to be meeting with a church treasurer who has a 9 yr old and 5 yr old, and he figured that it would work well for her to bring her kids to the hotel and all the kids could swim together while he went over her books with her. So that's what we did. The kids had a BLAST! L & S taught A1 & A2 how to play Marco Polo and Sharks and Minnows, and they all got along swimmingly (hee hee). Little Bit and I hung out at the opposite end of the pool from all the splashing, and she had fun too. However, I discovered that all floaties are not created equal. I'd brought along a second pair in case the pair we had in FL got popped or something, so when S (the 5 yr old) mentioned that she'd forgotten her floaties (so she could go in the deeper water with the big kids), I loaned her a pair, and she asked for the "pink ones", I figured Little Bit didn't care, so let her use them. BUT discovered that the other pair I'd brought (a pair of that came with some kickboards I got at Ollies awhile back) is designed differently and didn't keep Little Bit quite high enough to keep from getting water in the face all the time, so that was abit frustrating, but she could still jump off the side and stuff, so she had fun anyway.

Some "school" highlights:

We're tripling up on Bible right now as we work to review 2 different Bible resources AND do a Christmas devotional. But the girls don't seem to mind.  For while we were travelling we JUST did the Bible resources, and a math computer program, and another semi-educational, computer program.

I brought along some "tot school" ideas for Little Bit as well (gotta keep her occupied in the hotel room). The main thing was a bag of pony beads, along with a shoe string, plastic spoon, and a couple bowls. She had great fun, pouring the beads between bowls, using the spoon to move them from one bowl to the other, and also stringing them on the shoe string. Great way to help her build her motor skills, easily portable, but of course, requires close supervision since she does sometimes put the beads in her mouth.

A recent conversation with the big girls about "earning money" led to me mentioning that if they would stick with knitting, or sewing or whatever, to the point where they could do it without mistakes, they could sell things even now, on the computer (and to friends & family, consider yourself warned LOL). So, that inspired A1 to ask to learn to knit. So I brought along knitting needles and some cotton yarn to teach her to knit. So we worked on that too. Seeing A1 starting to knit, inspired A2 to want to re-learn (she was very gung-ho to learn to knit when she was 5, and we got her a video, etc to help her learn. She stuck with it for awhile, but then moved on to other things, and hasn't knitted since). I had a second, small ball of cotton yarn and a second set of knitting needles that had been in the car, so I set her up knitting too. She picked it up quickly, since she'd learned before and I think will soon be quite proficient at it. A1 gets frustrated with the learning curve, but is sticking with it.

We went home from Pittsburgh on Wednesday, Thursday was Rodney's company Christmas party.  The big girls enjoyed picking on (and being picked on by) various of Rodney's co-workers. Little Bit's gift from the office was a pop-up toy. By the time the party was over, she'd mastered it, hee hee. And it worked well to keep her entertained. I also was amused, while she was playing with her new toy, the adults were doing a gift swap game (where they go around the circle and people either open a gift off the gift table or steal one from someone who already has one). Needless to say there was lots of laughter coming from the adults, and Little Bit alternated between thinking they MUST be laughing at her (she's a ham, so that's a good thing), and laughing along with them, and then telling me (in sign language) that they were silly.

Friday my parents came down and picked up the big girls to take them home with them for the weekend for our anniversary. For some strange reason, they're not willing to take Little Bit for the weekend yet (something about the fact that she doesn't sleep . . . I don't understand, hee hee). So, the big girls are off on another adventure as we "speak" (errr. . . write). Based on the plans I heard ahead of time, they should be having lots of fun and come back beyond exhausted when it's all over LOL.

We've been enjoying a quiet weekend finding out what it's like to have an only child LOL. As we were getting ready to leave for church yesterday, Little Bit was signing something to Rodney that neither of us could figure out, but then during Sabbath School, I'd taken her out to go potty and when I said "ok, let's go back to Sabbath School" she made the sign again and it hit me, she was signing school, for Sabbath School.  I also had to giggle, during Sabbath School, her friend, J (just turned 1) was standing in a toddler rocking chair, much like she tries to do with our toddler rocking chair at home. Every time he did it, Little Bit would sign and say "sit" because whenever SHE tries to do that, I tell her to sit down. Good to know that she KNOWS the rules, even if she doesn't bother to follow them, hee hee.

Last night, our lovely neighbor, Judy babysat Little Bit for a couple hours while we went out ALL ALONE! It was nice to have some alone time, and I think Judy & Little Bit had great fun together. When I went to pick her up and asked if she was ready to come home, she promptly said "no", hee hee.

And that was our week(s). I'll go down later this week to pick the girls up at my parents' house, and then the plan is to STAY HOME for awhile, woo-hoo!!!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Kids Say the Darndest Things - Homeschool Edition

The next Blog Cruise (will be posted on Tuesday) is perhaps my favorite topic yet. The suggested topic is to ask our KIDS the following questions and see what they have to say. Unfortunately Little Bit doesn't talk yet, because I suspect she'd have some great answers, hee hee. But I did ask the big girls (separately). Their answers weren't as LONG as I expected, considering how much they chatter, but that's ok.

A1's answers are in red
A2's answers are in purple

Why does your family Homeschool?

Cause we like it.

We homeschool so you can help us, and we can spend time with our family and have school when we go on trips. And skip school when we need to. And it's shorter so we have more play time. And we can go on our own family field trips and be a family more often.

What is your favorite part of homeschooling?

Stories, actually everything  but writing.

When we get to color pictures 

What do you want to be when you grow up? 

A preschool teacher

A Mommy, ONLY a Mommy.

From their responses to the "favorite part" question, it occurs to me that, when they think of homeschool as only being the "sit on the sofa and talk about stuff" part of our day, not all the travel and cooking and listening to CDs in the car and playing outside and . . . but I guess that's ok, hee hee.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Homeschool Review: Nanuq (My Animal Family)

I LOVE books!! And all three of my kids LOVE animals!! So I was excited to hear I'd get to review an animal book! What more could I ask for? We were sent Nanuq from the My Animal Family (MAF) series.

We received the book, and I was immediately impressed with the look of the book. It's full of beautiful pictures and bright colors, to catch children's attention right away.  And tucked inside the front cover is a DVD and access code for the MAF website.  You receive all of this for $12.99.

We all snuggled down to enjoy our new book. It's an adorable story "told by" one baby polar bear (Nanuq) about him and his brother Suka. We all enjoyed the story, it's cute and entertaining while still teaching us about polar bears. After we read the story, we popped in the DVD and enjoyed another story about Nanuq and Suka on the DVD. Also on the DVD is more information about polar bears, and a song.

These books are geared toward children, age 3-8 and this seems accurate. My 7 year olds enjoyed the book and the DVD. While this seems like a good target age, this book works well as a read-aloud the whole family can enjoy, Little Bit (1 1/2) liked the pictures, and while an older "tween" probably wouldn't choose the book for themselves, I don't think they would object to hearing it in a family setting, or reading it to younger siblings. 

When I asked the girls what they thought of the book and DVD, they both said they liked the book, and that the story was the best part of the DVD, but they watched the whole DVD without complaint, so didn't dislike the "educational" part too much, just liked the story better.

The third "piece" of this product is the secret code to give access to the MAF website "habitat".  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get our code to work and before I had a chance to contact customer service to see what the problem was, I stepped away from my computer and, I assume, Little Bit walked off with the card that had the code on it. So, we haven't been able to try out this part of the product. Since this is a TOS Crew review item, I'd recommend going to the TOS Crew blog to see everyone else's reviews of this product, including their use of the online program. 

Even without getting to try out the habitat, I think these are great books for anyone with kids who love animals. These would make great Christmas presents for any children age 3-8 on your list too.

In addition to the polar bear book that we received to review, My Animal Family includes stories about an elephant, lion, dolphin or chimpanzee.

Disclaimer:  I was sent a free book, including DVD and online code, in exchange for writing this review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Chocolate Coconut Ice Cream

I adapted this from this recipe.

1 can full fat coconut milk + enough raw milk to equal a total of 3 cups (if you don't want coconut flavor, use all raw milk)
2/3 c cocoa powder
6 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla

Whisk together, pour into ice cream maker and follow the directions on your ice cream maker.

Bi-Weekly Wrap-Up - November 14 & 21

So obviously I never got a Weekly-Wrap Up written last week. Life just got too busy, or something. And really it's all good, this was a pretty quiet week so doubling up isn't a big deal.

The big news for the 2 weeks is, the big girls went on their first big solo trip!  (Solo, in the sense of, without Mommy or Daddy, that is. Obviously they don't drive and such yet, hee hee).  They went with Grandmom (Rodney's mom) & Aunt Lynette (Rodney's sister) to Indiana to visit their great grandparents and other assorted relatives.

But now, back to chronological order because, it's how I think . . .

We drove back from Florida on Sun-Tues. It was uneventful. Little Bit was less thrilled with long periods of car-time at the end of the trip than she had been on the way down, but she survived AND as long as we didn't try to go TOO long at a time, she even kept her diaper dry, woo-hoo!!

Got to my parents' house on Tuesday, and just kind of hung out there the rest of the day. Visited with my grandparents, and such.

The girls and I came the rest of the way home on Wednesday. Ahhhh . . . good to be home! But of course, we had to jump right into preparation for the big girls' Indiana trip. So we had a fun few days of laundry, and grocery shopping, and generally trying to get back to normal. Just in time to get the big girls all packed and send them off to Grandmom's on Monday. They spent the night at Grandmom's Monday night and then headed to Indiana on Tuesday.

I guess they're doing great, when they call, the main thing they want to know is "How's Little Bit", so apparently she's the only one they miss LOL.  They also try to talk to her on the phone most evenings. She's still abit confused by it all. Doesn't get that she's supposed to actually TALK, but likes to listen to them talk and also is fascinated by the green "android" picture that shows on my phone when I'm on the phone.

The Indiana trip included 2 days at the Indianapolis Children's Museum, a day visiting with the Great Grandparents, and a day visiting with a bunch of family (the only one they told me about was their second cousin, Mia, so I'm not sure who all was there, I know most of Rodney's aunts and uncles on his mom's side were planning to be there, not sure how many of the cousins were there.

The girls apparently thought that I should just stop "living" without them around, they were most annoyed to hear that Little Bit and I still did things like going to visit our neighbor, Miss Judy without them LOL.  They were also less then thrilled to hear that they missed book club. I wasn't going to mention it, but they happened to call while I was there, so I told them where I was. They were quite certain that Pastor Mike must be very lonely without them there (our bookclub is at the pastor's house, the big girls generally spend the time talking Pastor Mike's ear off and generally torturing him upstairs while we have our book club downstairs.

Little Bit and I had a quiet week of just us.  I tried to use at least part of each nap to get some cleaning and decluttering done. Didn't get as much done as I'd have liked (of course I COULD be doing that now instead of writing this blog post, but I'm pretty happy sitting here right now), but got a good start on things. I was concerned that she would miss the big girls too much, and keep looking for them, but she really hasn't. She did ask about them the first time we got in the car, pointed to their seats and made her "questioning" sound (I don't know how to describe it, it's a little grunt that she uses when she has a question LOL), but I just said "sister's aren't here" and she was fine with it. Here at home, she never really asked where they were.

This week has confirmed what I've always felt, that it's not "easier" to have the big kids gone . . .that whole idea of "how can you get anything done if you don't send your kids off to school?". Now obviously if ALL the children were in school it would be different, but for this season, when I have a little one at home, it's actually easier to have the big girls around too. In addition to their chores, that I have to do when they're not here, the main thing is the ability to leave them with Little Bit for short periods of time, or send them to do things that it's difficult to do WITH Little Bit. Laundry was a challenge this week without them here to either stay with her while I went to the basement, or go to the basement for me. Typically, they stay with Little Bit in the family room while I start the laundry each day, and then they get the laundry out of the washer and carry the basket up to the clothes line, then they watch Little Bit outside while I hang the laundry.  With them gone, I tried to get the laundry started in the morning before Rodney left for work (so he could stay with Little Bit upstairs), but then I had to take her down to the basement with me while I got the laundry out of the washer and have her walk up the hill next to me while I carried the laundry basket. She did fine playing outside on her own while I hung the clothes, she likes to love on the cats, who are, thankfully pretty tolerant.

Thankfully, we had less laundry than usual this week because Little Bit is SO close to being potty trained!! So, whereas I generally do 2-3 loads of diapers/towels per week, I did a load on Monday before the girls left, and haven't had to do one since.  When we're home, I leave her nakey butt full time, and I don't think she's had any misses at home this week.  When we're out, it's still hit or miss. The car can be a challenge, because she will tell me, and hold it briefly, but if I'm somewhere that I can't quickly get stopped to potty her, she'll go ahead & go in her diaper (this is my fault, since I haven't ever focused on stopping when we're driving, so I don't think she's confident that I WILL stop).  The other on-going issue is that she likes to "drive" the car & at this point, the only place I have to set her potty in the car is on the driver seat, so she gets distracted with "driving" and forgets to actually go potty, if she doesn't need to go badly). I need to either make it a priority to keep the passenger seat cleared off, or see if I can arrange things such that I can set the potty on the floor behind my seat to help with that. Still, she did pretty well. At Miss Judy's house, she gets busy playing or whatever and doesn't want to take time to potty,  so we sometimes end up with a wet diaper there, other times she tells me, and goes on the potty.  For the most part, when shopping, she stayed dry, though she had one accident when she was wanting to walk and was busy looking at the shoes and didn't tell me she needed to potty. . . so we're not to the point where I'm willing to put her in panties yet, when we're out, but that's ok.

In bigger (potty training) news, she's now diaper-free at night. A couple nights ago, when I was getting ready for bed, after she went potty I got out her diaper to put on her and she said "no" and took the diaper back to the diaper basket. So, I took a chance, and left her diaper free that night. She did fine, BUT I knew that she's not been consistently keeping her diaper dry overnight, so, the next day I set up the bed for diaper-free sleeping. There's already a wool blanket under the sheet to protect the mattress, but I wanted things set up such that, if she peed, I didn't have to either change the bed in the middle of the night, or have her &/or me sleep on wet sheets. So I laid a fleece throw blanket down, on top of the sheet, in the area where she sleeps, and then laid a beach towel, folded in half, on top of that, and let her sleep on the towel. I put an extra beach towel at the foot of the bed, in reach, so that if she did pee, I could just switch out the beach towels. I also used a lightweight fleece blanket over her, and then the comforter over that, so that the comforter wouldn't absorb any pee if she peed and I didn't notice right away. And that's how she's slept the last 2 nights!! Both nights, she's ended up getting REALLY wiggly in teh early morning hours, and so I've taken her to the potty. She doesn't like it, but she DOES pee, and then after she's peed, she sleeps much better the rest of the night. So, as I've suspected, alot of the wiggling and disruption to our nights has been because she needed to pee. I'm hoping that as she gets used to this new routine, she won't fuss about being taken to the potty during the night, but for now, the little bit of fussing seems like the better alternative to an hour or more of wiggling and keeping us both awake. So that's another step toward Little Bit being fully diaper free :)

And now, the big girls are on their way home, and then we'll be jumping into Thanksgiving preparations this week!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Homeschool Review: KBTeachers

This week's review for the TOS Homeschool Crew is We received a subscription to their Premum (members only) site.   This would be an amazing resource for anyone who loves worksheets! We're not much on worksheets around here, and we've been traveling so much, that I haven't been able to explore the site to find many things that fit with our homeschool style, but there is a LOT here if you use worksheets.  One feature I like is the e-mails they sent that link specifically to upcoming holidays (major ones & just small "moments in history" . . . on a famous person's birthday they might link to a worksheet about that person's life/accomplishments, things like that). So even if you're in a hurry, you can quickly check to see if there's anything you can use RIGHT now. 

I wanted to have the girls try SOMETHING from this site before the review was due (and between our Florida trip & their Indiana trip, we didn't have much time at home), and in the Autumn section I found a cute acrostic poem form. They had fun with that, and it was something different from what we usually do. There are also some mazes in the Thanksgiving section that I've printed and am going to use next week.

The site is laid out by topics, so if you want worksheets about anatomy, or winter or dinosaurs or . . . pretty much anything you can think of, you just go to that section. One thing I would like to see is either a search feature (their FAQs say they feel the site is designed such, that it isn't necessary), or to also have things categorized by type of worksheet. For example, since the girls enjoyed the Autumn acrostic poem, I'd like to see what other acrostic poem worksheets are available, without having to look through all the various subjects, and I haven't found a way to do that. But for normal people, who start with a topic, instead of a type of worksheet, it IS very easy to find what you want. I also really like that many of the subjects list the worksheets by grade level, so that I know which might work well for my children without having to look at them all.  I've seen worksheets ranging from pre-K and K (simple matching type things) to 7th grade and I believe I saw some that were high school level, but I'm not finding them now (being able to search by grade level across the site would be another nice feature).

All in all, I would highly recommend this site to anyone who uses worksheets/workbooks extensively. There is a TON of content on this site. At $29/year, that's less than $2.50/month or $0.56/week!!!! (and even LESS if you get the 2 year membership for $49), you really can't beat that.

Disclaimer: I received a free 2 year subscription to KBTeachers Premium in exchange for writing this review. No other compensation was received and all opinions stated are my own.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Review & GIVEAWAY!!! - Homestead Blessings The Art of Crafting

This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to our winners, #4 Lisa E. and #11 TNQuiltbug. Both have been notified, if I do not hear back by Wed, Dec 1.  alternate winner(s) will be chosen. An alternate winner was chosen due to not hearing back from one of the original winners. Congratulations to #5, Guiding Light.
Franklin Springs Family Media has sent me another awesome Homestead Blessings DVD to review and GIVE AWAY!!! This time we got to review Homestead Blessings: The Art of Crafting.  Anyone who knows my girls know that was an INSTANT HIT at our house!! They LOVE anything related to crafts! So we were all excited to watch this video and learn some fun new craft projects!!!  

And of course, the West Ladies did not disappoint! I was hoping to have "action photos" for you all, but this video was waiting for us when we got home from Florida and had less than a week before the girls left on their trip with Grandmom & Aunt Lynette, so fitting craft projects into that time didn't happen. AND I really wanted to tell you about this right away so you can get the video (or win the video) in time to make Christmas presents from the ideas if you so desire. So I'm not going to wait for the girls to come home so we can get the action shots.  PLUS some of those action shots just might be of Christmas presents WE are making. So . . . I'll write my review now, and do the giveaway, and then AFTER Christmas (if I remember, we must be realistic here), I'll post some action shots of us having fun with the ideas in this video. Fair enough?

Ok, so for now, I'll just post a picture of one of the West ladies' crafts. Isn't their fall potpourri pretty? And I'm sure it smells lovely too! Because they used some of my favorite essential oils for this particular one!  And not only would this make a great gift (or just a great addition to your own home), it's an easy craft that kids can help with too! That was one of my concerns about this video, that all the crafts would be beyond the ability of my seven-year-olds, and then I would have sad, frustrated little girls who wanted to make the things we'd heard about. But, really these were all things that kids could enjoy helping with. We might even get Little Bit involved in some of these! 

As with all of the Homestead Blessings DVDs, the West ladies are just delightful! They make you feel like you're a close friend, visiting their home, and their love of homesteading skills is contagious!  I have to admit, as I watch these 3 young women working side by side with their mother I can't help hoping that my girls and I will have as much fun and be as good of friends when they grow up! 

Ok, so now for the part you've been waiting for.  Franklin Springs Family Media is giving away 2 copies of Homestead Blessings The Art of Crafting to my wonderful readers! (That's you!).  To enter, go to Franklin Springs Family Media and look around, then come back and leave a comment telling me one product you'd love to own! (mandatory entry)

For additional entries do any (or all) of the following, and leave a separate comment for each:

  • Follow my blog with Google Friend Connect (if you already do, just leave a comment letting me know)
  • Follow my blog using Networked Blogs, or tell me if you already do (below the Google Friend Connect on my side bar)
  • "Like" Franklin Springs Family Media on Facebook (or tell me if you already do)
  • Follow me on Twitter (or tell me if you already do)
  • Post about this giveaway on Facebook
  • Post about this giveaway on your blog (including a direct link to your blog post)
  • "Tweet" about this giveaway
And now for the rules:
  • This giveaway will close on November 28, 2010
  • Winners will be picked on November 29, 2010
  • Please make sure I have an easy way to contact you. If I can't easily find your e-mail address or post to your blog, I will have to choose a different winner.
  • You will have 2 days to reply to me with your address or another winner will be chosen.
  • This giveaway is open to US residents only.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Homestead Blessings The Art of Crafting in exchange for writing this review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own. Giveaway items are provided by Franklin Springs Family Media.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Homeschool Myths

Today's TOS Blog Cruise is about debunking homeschool myths. . . all those things we wish people understood about homeschooling . . . I'm jumping in at the list minute, but just had to add my 2 cents to this one, even though I should be doing about 100 other things with my computer time right now LOL.

So let's see  . . .

Myth:  Homeschooling is (always) some type of correspondence school thing where everything you teach must be reported to & signed off on by, some authority.  I just ran into this one recently, and it really threw me. I had someone ask me if I could "count" a trip to the science museum as school. I seriously just gave them this blank look and said "count it how?" . . . when they elaborated, I discovered that they thought I had to get everything we did "ok'ed" by the school district and the school district would say whether or not it counted as school (or something like that).

Truth: Every state's reporting requirements are different, but even in the most strict states, homeschoolers can choose what, how, and when to teach their children. Some states require a minimum number of hours or days, but it is generally up to the parent to determine what to include as school (and yes, if I had to record hours/days, which I don't yet, but will have to record days starting next year, a trip to a science museum most definitely WOULD count). Some states require certain subjects be taught, but again, what specifically within that subject is up to the parent.

Myth:  All school, including homeschool, must have a "grade level".  This is probably the one that annoys me the most right now. It seems like every time I turn around someone's asking me "what grade" the girls are in.

Truth:  Grade levels are used in a school setting to keep track of large numbers of children who must be taught at approximately the same level to keep the teachers sane and to provide accountability and reportability to parents and authorities.  Homeschool doesn't require that. Yes, some people use grade levels in homeschooling, and yes, starting next year, we will have to report an arbitrary "grade level" that the girls are at, though it's my understanding that the state doesn't actually check to see if the work they are doing is at the stated grade level. We have the freedom to do each subject at the child's own speed. If that means we're studying history that's typically studied in 5th grade and math that's at Kindergarten level and reading at a 3rd grade level, that's all good. AND we don't have to KNOW (or care) what grade level we're at. My girls have taken off with reading this year. I have no idea what "level" they're reading at (another question I  get with some regularity). As long as they're enjoying reading and reading things that interest them I couldn't care less what "level" it or they are at. So, if you must ask homeschoolers what "grade" they are, please don't be offended if they shrug and say "I don't know".

Myth: I, as a homeschooling parent, must know everything there is to know (or at least more than my kids) about everything we study.

Truth: One of the things I LOVE about homeschooling is how much *I* get to learn!! Things that I completely missed, ignored, or forgot when I was in school, I get a second chance at.  I've learned more about the scientific evidence for creation in the past month (from listening to Jonathan Park CDs with the kids) than I EVER learned in school.  Anything we study, I can learn right along with the girls, and in the process it helps them to learn that learning is a lifelong endeavor, AND if we all sit down at the computer together to look things up (or they see me working through the directions in a book or game), it helps them learn to hunt for answers themselves. One of the main "lessons" I'd like my children to learn from homeschooling is how to read directions and look things up and figure things out for themselves, once they can do that, they can learn ANYTHING regardless of whether there's a "teacher" available.

Myth: All homeschoolers operate on a "school at home" model in which they are "doing school" from 8-3:30 every day.  I've lost count of how many people have seen my kids playing outside during hte day and asked them or me if it is "recess time" umm no, it's play outside time.

Truth: Some homeschoolers DO use a "school at home" approach and that's fine. We're pretty relaxed homeschoolers. We spend at most a couple hours in the morning doing "school" that's the time when we currently learn about church history, do copywork, have a quick spanish lesson, do any current TOS Crew  review products, and usually have a history read aloud. Other learning happens throughout the day. The girls don't get "recess" but they do generally have outside time every day. It's not a specific "scheduled" time, it's just a time when they are done with chores, etc. for the moment and ask "can we play outside". Yup, go have fun! They are also learning throughout the day when they help me cook, or watch a video, or we listen to books on CD in the car while running errands or I have them help me find things, or price compare at the store, or they sit down to read a book when they're "bored".  Everything we do isn't fit into the terminology of "real school", and quite frankly, I find it annoying when people assume it is.

Myth: You have to be super organized to homeschool

Truth: Bwwwaaaaahhhhaaaahhhhaaaahhhhaaaa . . . have you MET me?!?! Have you SEEN my HOUSE? Organized is NOT a word that's used to describe me . . . EVER!! Honestly, while certainly not THE reason we homeschool, ONE of the benefits of homeschooling, as far as I'm concerned, is NOT having to be organized enough to get everyone up and dressed and fed and out of the house at a specific time EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. And plan EVERYTHING else I/we do around picking kids up from school at a specific time!!! We have a rough schedule for our "normal" days. The girls have chores they know they need to do. During various seasons of our lives we have to schedule different things . . . last year the big girls were feeling the lack of "Mommy time" so we started scheduling specific fun things that were difficult to do with Little Bit's "help" for during her naptime.  We still have to take her nap needs into account in planning errands and such. Once we have to report to the state we'll have to keep a certain amount of records for that, and I'm trying to start us in that habit this year, with varying success, given how much we've been traveling. But no, super-human organizational prowess is NOT required for homeschooling!!! Certainly nowhere near as much organization as is needed by moms who work outside the home and have to fit all the "house" stuff AND parenting stuff into their nights and weekends. Now THAT would require major organizational skills that I do NOT possess!

And those are just a few of the Homeschool Myths that are out there . . .

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Too Cool Not to Share!!!

I just had to pass this on, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine has a Digital Holiday Supplement, and here's what's really cool, it's FREE!!! I can't begin to list everything that's in this supplement, recipes, crafts, you name it for BOTH Thanksgiving AND Christmas!!!

Check it out here!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up - November 7

We've had a BUSY week, and I was all set to include a bunch of pictures in this post, but for some reason my computer isn't "seeing" my phone/camera, so if I'm bored in the car tomorrow I'll e-mail them to myself & add them in later).

Meanwhile . . .  Since I wrote last week's post a day early, we'll start with last Sabbath:

My Dad's cousin & family had been vacationing about an hour from where we were in Tampa, and were heading home that day, so we were able to spend a few minutes visiting with Dad's cousin & his wife at our hotel before we left it, and then a few minutes visiting with his daughter (my second cousin, for those who keep track of such things) and her family, at the beach that afternoon. It was great to see them again! I don't think we'd seen them since the big girls were babies or toddlers.

Little Bit got her first beach experience and the big girls hadn't been to a beach since they were 3 or 4, so all were excited.  When we first got there Little Bit wanted NOTHING to do with it. She didn't want to touch teh sand or water, but after sitting on Daddy's lap for a few minutes watching big sisters & I play in the shallow water, she got over it and then had a BLAST running down teh sand and into the water then back up the sand. She also ventured out to where her sisters were in the water several times, which meant she was walking out into chest-high (on her) water. Being knocked down by the waves didn't seem to phase her, silly kid.

I teased A1 that she was turning into a mermaid, she spent the whole time we were there (more or less) in waist  to chest deep water, just splashing and swimming around. A2 wasn't quite so thrilled, she was happily gathering shells until she picked one up and something (I'm guessing a hermit crab) stuck it's head out at her, she dropped it too fast for us to know FOR SURE what it was LOL. And then a few minutes later she claimed that a crab pinched her, but that might have been her imagination (and a sharp shell tumbling by in the tide). She was much more "brave" than when she was 3, and was terrified to even get near the water LOL).

After our fun at the beach we headed to Orlando and the time share we rented for the week.

I think it's easier to summarize by park, rather than by day (we spent 2 days at each park):

Acquatica (Busch Garden's water park in Orlando). On Sunday it wasn't at ALL crowded (I was nervous about it being busy on a weekend) and was great weather for it.  The girls LOVED the wave pool, they wore life jackets and spent as long as we'd let them out in the 5 ft water just floating & paddling around. Little Bit nursed to sleep so I sat on a beach chair under an umbrella and held her and read a Kindle book on my phone while Mom & Rodney (Dad had a cold, so opted to stay home that day) took the girls on various water slides & such.  After Little Bit woke up we took her to a wading pool & she found a slide that was her size. She LOVED it!! Then the girls really wanted me to go with them on a rapids ride they'd been on while Little Bit had been sleeping. We read the "rules" and it didn't say we couldn't take Little Bit, and Rodney said he thought it would be fine, so we took her. Basically it was a "lazy river" type ride, with the water flowing around a circular "river" but instead of riding inner tubes you just swim/float/walk straight in the water, and the "current" is stronger than most river rides. Kids have to wear life jackets, adult can (we all did). Little Bit LOVED LOVED LOVED it! As soon as we got out in that moving water she got this big grin on her face and kept it there until we got out (except, for some reason, she would NOT let my mom or Rodney hold her, only me, which is weird, because out of the water she generally prefers my mom to me unless she wants to nurse), so the few times I tried to give her to one of them, she cried, and when we got out she wasn't too happy.

When we went back to Acquatica on Thursday, it was rainy, BUT we figured if you're wet, who cares about rain & was supposed to be cooler temperatures on Friday. It was great, NOBODY was there! The water was heated so teh cool breeze that came with the rain wasn't a problem & while it rained off & on, it never POURED and never stormed. As soon as we got there & started to walk past the Rapids ride, Little Bit recognized it & started pointing to it & making her "grunts" that mean "I want that", so we did that first thing, she loved it just as much as the first day LOL. Then she nursed to sleep while Mom & Dad did stuff with the big girls (Rodney flew home on Thursday, that pesky thing called work . . .). That afternoon we got the girls on some of the bigger slides, including one where you lay on your back (in the water, no tube or mat) and slide through a "tube", looked claustrophobic to me, but they loved it. Then just before closing time, they saw one that you lay head first on your stomach on a mat and go down though a tube for awhile & then down a STEEP slide at the end & wanted to try it, they LOVED it! I told them they officially were NOT allowed to say any of the water rides at Sesame Place are "too scary" (so far they have never been willing to try a couple of the water slides there) because nothing there is ANYTHING like that one, so we'll see what happens next time we're there.

Sea World - was crowded both days we were there, but since it's mostly shows, that's not too horrible, especially since our Sesame Place passes gave us "Premier Seating" at some of the shows.. The girls had been looking forward to the "Shamu roller coaster" (kids roller coaster) but after one time on it declared it "boring". The first day we went, Mom's ribs were bothering her so she decided she better go to a doctor, so she & Dad spent most of their day doing that instead of coming with us (the diagnosis was muscle pain & the "cure" was not to lift Little Bit so much LOL), I wanted to go on the log flume type ride (I've wanted to every year but the other times the girls have been afraid to go, now that they'd rode the log flumes at Busch Gardens, that wasn't an issue anymore). So Rodney was going to stay with Little Bit while I took them, but then we realized that the seating was 2 people per seat & A2 wasn't willing to sit with A1 (and me in teh seat behind them), and A1 wasn't willing to risk sitting with a "stranger", so A2 opted to stay with Daddy & Little Bit instead. A1 & I had a BLAST! And they seemed to be letting single riders sit alone, so A1 said if we went again, with A2, she'd ride alone, but something happened and whereas we'd pretty much walked right one when A1 & I went, by the time we went and found the rest of them and the 3 of us went back there was a 40 min wait, so we didn't take time to go again.

Disney - so funny what a couple years does . . . the girls now declared the mine train "too slow". So Rodney & I took them on Space Mtn. Even it was "slow in spots" according to them, silly girls. They also decided it wasn't worth wasting time waiting in line to get pictures with characters (something we spent a LOT of time doing last time we were down here). When we got off Space Mtn. they saw the race cars (where you drive the car) and wanted to do that. When I asked A2 (who I rode with) if she was going to keep from jerking around she was very confident . . . "I've seen you drive LOTS of times Mommy, it's EASY" once we were in the car, she conceded that "it's not as easy as it looks" LOL.

Before we even came on this trip, A1 had decided she wanted to collect pins from our travels, so each of the girls got one at Busch Gardens, Acquatica, and Sea World. Then at Disney, we went to a pin shop and I explained about the whole "trading pins" thing that Disney encourages & they were very excited about that. When they chose their initial pins, we got a couple "trading pins" as well, and they were able to trade those for Ariel & Belle pins, which they were excited about. Then when we were at Epcot (our second Disney day), we were going to go on the Mexico ride, but it was temporarily closed, so the girls decided to ask the lady who was standing there telling people the ride was closed, if they could see her pins, to possibly trade (A2 had one that she was still wanting to trade), and lo & behold, she had a PURPLE ARMADILLO pin!!! A2 was SOO excited!!! Later, I was in a shop & noticed that the purple armadillo pin is part of a set of Toy Story pins. Since the girls have never seen Toy Story, the rest of the pins in that set wouldn't have meant anything to them, so trading was the only way A2 would have been able to get the purple armadilllo (unless we bought the whole set just for that one pin & traded the rest away).  It made her day LOL.  In general, Epcot was a hit with the girls.

And that was our week in Orlando. Yesterday (Sabbath) on our way out of town, we went to the Holy Land Experience (the girls had seen it advertised on TBN and thought it looked interesting). It was VERY interesting, and the big girls enjoyed it, however, the map gives NO information about any of the shows/attractions, and most of them were not only not interesting to toddlers (that was to be expected), but were designed such that toddlers couldn't be a part of things at all! There's a "museum" sort of that has lots of artifacts of the "'Bible" (starting with clay fragments from thousands of years ago) through the ages, it's pretty cool because you "move through history" and each room has a recording that tells about the stuff in that room, BUT there's no leaving or joining in the middle, so when Little Bit needed to go potty part way through, I had to find my way through a maze of rooms (and I suspect, I messed up the recording for a couple other groups along the route, but what else could I do? There wasn't anyone to ask how to best get out & I was pretty sure they didn't want her leaving a "puddle" in their museum (she was wearing training pants but had just woken up from a nap & training pants don't hold a full post-nap pee).

So anyway, VERY cool park! Highly recommend it for older kids & adults, however, if your group includes anyone under 5, I'd recommend an adult just stay at the hotel with them, it's not worth the adult's admission price to have ot try to keep them entertained in the park IMO.

And now we're working our way home.  . .

In other news, Little Bit is "growing" by leaps & bounds right now. She's finally started talking. Has probably added 20 words to her vocabulary on this trip! The moving water of the rapids ride &/or the life jacket she had to wear for that ride, at Acquatica apparently "taught" her to balance in the water, because when I took her to the pool at the time share on Thurs evening, she was able to stay afloat with just the arm floaties (at the hotel in Tampa she still "tipped over" when we tried just the arm floaties, though I'd gotten a "swim ring" on end of season clearance & that PLUS the arm floaties worked to give her abit more "freedom" since she doesn't like being held in the water.), and was SOO excited about that.

AND the potty training continues . . . she had some misses when shows & ride lines meant I was pushing my luck, and for some reason, one day after her nap I asked her if she wanted to go potty & she said no and proceeded, no more than 2 minutes later, to pee all over the ground (again, training pants don't hold a full post-nap pee . . .). But overall she did well. . . she DID hold it long enough for me to wend my way out of the maze of a museum I mentioned above, and THEN when we got out & I tracked down the nearest bathroom there was a LINE!! only 2-3 people waiting but I figured it would REALLY be pushing my luck (and I really didn't want to get peed on) to stand in the line, so I tried holding her over the sink, but we haven't done that since she was pretty young and she loves to wash her hands, so she didn't pee, just asked to wash her hands, so we did, and by then the line was gone (thankfully) so I took her in the stall and she peed on the potty, woo-hoo!!!

Today, even with driving all day she stayed dry!! I had no hope of THAT, but we stopped once mid-late morning at a rest area and she peed there, then again at our lunch stop and then fell asleep and napped until we stopped for gas, so I took her to potty there, and then not again until the hotel (granted, we only drove about 5 hrs today, but still . . .) not holding my breath that it will happen consistently on driving days, but I'll take it LOL).

And that was our week . . . now I better get some sleep while Little Bit's sleeping since her sleep has been pretty hit or miss on this trip . . . I think all the "strange beds" give her fits, instead of waking up enough to ask to nurse, she wakes up, sits up, looks around . . . and by then she's AWAKE so it takes forever for her to nurse back to sleep, sigh . . .