Thursday, February 25, 2010

Homeschool Resource Review: Wanna Be: When I Grow Up I Want to be a Firefighter

TOS Magazine's Schoolhouse Store sent us an e-book from their "Wanna Be Series" to review. They sent us When I Grow Up I Want to be a Firefighter this e-book is available for $8.95 from the TOS store.

I LOVE the TOS store! They have a ton of homeschool resources and shipping is always free!

This ebook is designed as a multi-age unit study for children ages 4-10, adaptable for the whole family.

One thing I liked about this unit study, compared to some of the other ebook unit studies I've used is that it included plenty of information, I didn't have to get other books or hunt down the information online, I could just read it straight out of the e-book. This e-book was on firefighters so it included information on what firefighters do, the history of fire fighting in the US, equipment used by firefighters, etc. It also includes coloring pages, handwriting pages (both printing & cursive), writing prompts, suggestions for math, directions for making a styrofoam robotic arm, and much more.

We used this unit as an "extra" over the last couple of weeks. While A1 & A2 aren't necessarily interested in being firefighters when they grow up, they ARE interested in firefighting because Daddy was a volunteer firefighter/EMT when he was in college.

Overall, I found the language/tone of the information to be interesting, but written at a slightly more advanced level than is comfortable for my kids (and at 6, almost 7, they are near the middle of the stated age range, and while we've taken a relaxed approach to reading and writing, I feel that they are at or above age/grade level in their vocabulary comprehension). I found myself rewording parts of it into simpler words, and explaining other words. Similarly, I found most of the included activities to still be beyond my children's abilities. They enjoy word searches, but found the included one to be too challenging. The math also seemed to be geared at a higher level. So . . . I'd consider this unit to be more of a 3rd to 6th grade unit study, with the coloring pages and such available to keep younger siblings interested while the older children did the actual study.

I think this would be a great, fun option for a child who was very interested in firefighters! If, at some point any of my kids show a distinct interest in any of the other professions in this series, I'll probably get the ebook for them!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Gratituesday: Cell Phones!

When we moved to PA (almost 2 years ago now), we decided since we both had cell phones and generally used them rather than a home phone anyway, we wouldn't bother getting a home phone. And that worked wonderfully, until about a year and a half ago when Rodney's phone was stolen. He never took the time and spent the money to get a new phone. Which had it's moments of frustration but since he was pretty much always at work it wasn't a HUGE deal. I could call him at work, and if he was at home chances were he was working (or playing) on the computer so I could instant message him. So, while I randomly reminded him that it would be helpful if he'd get a new phone, it wasn't an end of the world kind of thing. Then, just as he was actually to the point where he'd picked out a phone and was all set to get it, his job changed. And with that job change, 2 things happened. First, the new job with came LOTS of travel, both multi-day trips (that we generally go with him on) and day jobs. So that whole "just call him at the office" ceased to be an option most of the time, as did Instant Messaging. Second, BECAUSE he travels so much, he gets a work cell phone, which is great but instead of moving forward to get the new phone on our current plan, it meant taking the time to jump through the hoops to get one through his office. So . . . for the past 2 months (give or take) we have been sharing my phone! Which has been challenging . . . it's been a daily (sometimes hourly) thing of who needs the phone right now. Not in the sense that we fight over it or anything, just a matter of who needs to make calls or whatever.

Finally TODAY hubby got his new phone! He picked it up at the office, dropped my phone off at home (he'd been going to have it today), and headed out to meet with a treasurer. It was SO nice to have him call when he was on his way home! And for that matter, earlier in the evening, he needed some information from me, he tried IM'ing me but I was busy with the girls and wasn't at my computer, so he could actually CALL me! That's been the big frustration, no matter who had the phone we couldn't call each other because ONE of us was always without a phone.

So, while I know that people have survived for thousands of years without cell phones (and w/o ANY phone for that matter), and I survived the first 20-some years of MY life without a cell phone, tonight, I am very thankful for cell phones! Especially with all the variables of dh's job, us each having a cell phone will make the logistics of our life so much easier!

Last month we spent a week in Philadelphia while dh was working down there, but he was at different people's houses different days, he ended up borrowing their phones to call me when he needed to, but it would have so much less stressful to me (yes, I like to plan everything down to the smallest detail) if he'd had a phone so I could just touch base with him and see when he wanted me to pick him up or whatever . . . Now we'll have that again, woo-h00!!!

See more Gratituesday posts here.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up

We enjoyed a week of no new snow, whew! And Daddy working at home (the big girls especially appreciate not having to go grocery shopping with me when Daddy's home).

We're working on reviewing a firefighter unit study for TOS Magazine so we've added that to our normal schoolwork, the girls are enjoying learning about firefighting and robots and such.

Little Bit is expanding her climbing skills. She's decided it's great fun to stand backwards in the child-size rocking chair and make it rock, she finds it highly insulting that Mommy doesn't allow this! We'd also used a chair from our child-size table to block the space between the recliner and the end table beside it (because she likes to go behind the recliner and poke her fingers in the electrical outlet back there) and she was very excited to figure out to climb up onto that chair which gave her unlimited access to all the treasures on that end table (the chair is still being used to block that area but it's now turned around so she can't get to the seat part LOL). One day this week I brought her feeding seat (that straps onto a regular chair) and set it on the floor in the family room so she could eat a messy snack (I don't remember what) along with her sisters. Later that day she figured out to use the seat to climb up onto our oversized ottoman and was happily sitting on the tray there . . . so the climbing is well underway. I suspect this is the child that I will someday find perched on top of the refrigerator LOL.

Friday night I'd finished Little Bit's bath and Daddy had taken her back downstairs while we continued with the big girl baths (I read to them while they take their baths) all of a sudden the bathroom door slowly pushed open (it was shut, but not latched because it's an old doorknob and tends to stick) and there was Little Bit. DH said she climbed all the way up the stairs (with him behind her in case she fell) and walked down the hall to the bathroom to find her sisters. She was so proud of herself, hee hee. And promptly threw a stuffed toy in the bathtub, sigh . . .

While we didn't get any new snow (except for a dusting Tues. night), we still have plenty of white stuff out there, so the big girls have continued to enjoy playing in the snow, lots of fresh air & exercise, always a good thing!

Mid-week, Miss Tami from our church e-mailed me and asked if the big girls would be willing to tell the children's story at church this week. Tami was scheduled, but wouldn't be there so needed to find a replacement. So, the girls & I went searching through Uncle Arthur's Bedtime Stories for a good story. We found one, they practiced it, and they did a lovely job of telling the children's story this week. After church we stopped to talk a few minutes with the people who were running the sound system this week, and the girls started asking how it all worked, they got quite an extensive lesson on the running of our church's AV equipment LOL.

We've been enjoying watches bits and pieces of the Olympics this week. The girls are learning to recognize the US flag more easily, and in true girl fashion, enjoy the figure skating but (in non-typical girl fashion) think the skaters really ought to be more modest.

A2 has been "writing songs" I love seeing how she sounds out the words, and the ideas she comes up with. I think my favorite is one where she talks about how she can use all her senses for Jesus . . . I can use my eyes to see Jesus, I can use my ears to hear Jesus . . . etc.

Today begins a couple busy weeks that includes me having a wisdom tooth removed, and us traveling some with Daddy. . . hopefully we can keep up with everything :)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Winner of the Butterfly Giveaway

My big girls helped me draw a name for the winner of the butterfly packet giveaway this morning. I put numbered slips of paper in a bowl & they worked together to pull out a piece of paper & check the number. They chose #2, Sara.

I've already e-mailed her and given her the directions for getting her free download.

Congrats Sara, it's a great product, I hope you & your children enjoy it as much as we are!!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Gratituesday: Snow

I really want to get back into the habit of writing a Gratituesday post each week. I have SO MUCH to be thankful for!! (we all do! After all, God tells us to be thankful in everything!) It's just a matter of remembering it AND finding time to type on TUESDAY LOL).

Anyway, this week, in the spirit of "in all things give thanks", I am thankful for snow. We have SO MUCH of it around here (not at all normal for our area). And yet, it's meant lots of cozy days together as a family. It's meant lots of fresh air and exercise for the kids (and hubby, all that shoveling!). It's SO BEAUTIFUL!!! We've lived here for almost 2 years, and still I am daily blown away by the views out my windows! So much land, trees, ponds . . . SO MUCH of God's wonderful, amazing nature, right on my doorstep! And right now that amazing, beautiful nature is all white sparkling snow and it's just beyond breathtaking!

So, while I know many people are struggling in many ways because of all the snow we've had (lost revenue for businesses, lost income for employees who couldn't get to work, people who went without power for days . . .), I'm still so thankful for the beauty of the snow God has sent us this winter!

See all the Gratituesday posts here.

Ps. Speaking of God's Beautiful Nature, you have a few more hours to enter my giveaway for an amazing Butterfly notebooking (and so much more) pack here.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Homeschool Resource Review: Exploring God's Creation Butterfly Lovers Writing Pages and More Super Pack

A few weeks ago Debbie at The Whole Word Publishing contacted me and asked if I'd be willing to review one of their products on CurrClick's website. They gave me the choice of any of their products and they would give it to me free in exchange for my promise to post an honest review on CurrClick's site. So I agreed and after much deliberation (they have a TON of great products), I chose Exploring God's Creation Butterfly Lovers Writing Pages and More Super Pack I thought it sounded like a fun addition to our nature studies and something nice and "spring-like" to take our minds off all the cold weather. I was figuring it would give us enough for a week or two (we have nature studies 2 days a week). So they sent me a coupon code to get the free download.

OH. MY. GOODNESS!!!! This products is totally & completely MIS-NAMED!! This is SO MUCH MORE than a few writing pages!!! This is a 247 page .pdf! We have barely scratched the surface of this! There's information about different kinds of butterflies (that's what we're using right now) but then there is in-depth information about moths, there are coloring pages, there are pages upon pages of clip-art (I expect I'll use that for years to come!) there are the writing pages mentioned in the title. There are pages & pages of information about life cycle and anatomy and geography and . . . there's EXTENSIVE information about planting a butterfly garden (something I'd love to do this spring!) . . . it just goes on and on and on! This pack is a bargain at regular price, but did you notice, right now it's all on sale for $2!!!!!

You seriously CANNOT go wrong buying this pack (though I would guess it would be difficult to download if you have dial-up? Don't know that for sure, just guessing, since it's 247 pages with LOTS of color pictures all through it).

And as if that wasn't enough, The Whole Word Publishing has agreed to give a free copy of this great resource to one of my readers! Just leave a comment on this post by Tuesday, 2/16/10 to enter for a chance to win. Be sure I have a way to contact you, either through your blog or include your e-mail address in your post.

The winner will be given information to e-mail the vendor, who will send them a coupon code to purchase the product for free from CurrClick. The winner will need to register for a (free) account with CurrClick (you want to do this anyway if you're a homeschooler, CurrClick has a free product each WEEK! Just sign up for their newsletter to be notified each Monday, or check their site each Monday for the new week's freebie). Winner will be drawn at random on Wednesday, February 17, 2010. Winner will have 2 days to reply, or a alternate name will be drawn.

Little Bit's First Time in the Snow

From Winter 2010

I finally bundled Little Bit up and took her out in all this white stuff today. We didn't stay out real long, but snapped some cute pictures of her and of her with her sisters. You can see those, as well as some videos of her crawling and playing by the stairs, and pictures of her playing with Pooh and such, all at the above link.

Organizing the Homeschool Shelves

Org Junkie issued a "28 Day Challenge" to organize either a whole room or a "small space" during the month of Feb. I decided to tackle our homeschool shelves that were rather out of control, I was constantly scrambling to find the books or school supplies that I KNEW we had, but couldn't find. Plus, boxes had taken over the spot where our extra dining room chair goes and having it sitting out in the middle of the room (it's an arm chair so won't slide under the table) made it that much harder to even get to the homeschool shelves). Here are our before pictures:

I should have stepped back and taken a "whole area" shot, but you can see part of the window in each picture, the 2 bookshelves sit one either side of the window at one end of our dining room/school room.

So, my main problems were:
  • more books than would fit
  • books were completely unorganized, we moved in, I unpacked books onto these shelves, and have kept adding them as we went.
  • I started out with all craft/school supplies in a basket on the small wood cabinet (which is full of hubby's stuff, I didn't touch it except the top) but over time the kids had thrown extra stuff into the baskets and we'd outgrown it.
  • The windowsill is one of the few that gets enough lights for plants to grow, but it also had other random junk stacked there, and because of lack of room on the shelves, when the girls got a set of Bobbsey Twin books for Christmas, I set them on the windowsill . . .
  • The last few times I cleared off the dining room for guests I put hubby's random work stuff into a box & it got set under the windowsill, then that box got full & I started another one, and those had never been dealt with. Other over-flow books and such were also stacked in that area between the bookcases.
  • More craft stuff and other things I needed out of the baby's reach had been randomly stacked on top of the bookcases.
So, here are the after pictures:

These show the whole area.
  • Windowsill has the plants, and a calendar on it
  • cleared off the top of the brown cabinet & put the scale & hourglasses on it (those hourglasses may have to move up to the windowsill if Little Bit notices them, and can reach them, but I like having the "weights & measures" stuff together like that, so hopefully it will work).
  • The boxes of hubby's stuff were carried up to the office and the other junk on the floor was put away so the arm chair could re-claim it's spot.
  • I sorted through all the books, I have a bag to take to the used book store & hopefully sell, I also have about a box & a half that are books I want to keep but don't see us using in the next few years (Shakespeare and other "classics", etc) I wrote down what was in what box to put in storage so we can easily find them if we do need them but for now they're not taking up valuable real estate on our main shelves.
  • On the brown bookcase I designated one shelf for resources for our current Bible curriculum (Polished Cornerstones) and one shelf for resources for our current Unit Study (Prairie Primer) since each of these are curriculums I plan to re-use I've purchased many of the books and resources so that we have them, having them all together makes them easy to find when we need them. Once we finish using these I'll either box them up or shift them to a less-used bookcase, keeping them all together so that when we do re-use the curriculum we can just move it back to our main shelves.
  • The rest of the brown bookshelf has a shelf of my books that I reference often or are on my "to read" list (top shelf that the children can't reach yet anyway), and the lower shelves have not currently used homeschooling resources sorted by subject: history, science, art, etc. There was also room to put the Bobbsey Twin series so I could move it off the windowsill. All but the top shelf still have room on them to add books as we get more (yes, that's a given!).
  • I decided to leave extra baskets and hat boxes on top of the brown bookcase. They have nothing to do with homeschooling, but I just don't have another good place to store them and with young children I end up using a basket for storage one week, and then as needs change not using them for awhile, so keeping them easily accessible is helpful, and at this point I don't have anything else that I need to put there.
Bulleted List
Close(er)-up of the white shelf area. The picture leaning against the wall is waiting for hubby to hang, the bottle on the chair rail is diaper rash oil for Little Bit, it's the only place I've found to keep it that she leaves it alone but I can grab it when I need it (I change her diapers on the floor in the doorway of the dining room/living room). Now on to actual organization stuff:
  • On top of this bookcase I have the playdoh bucket (it used to live under the extra chair, but Little Bit has discovered it and so now it needs to be out of her reach) and a basket that holds extra "carschooling" resources. We now travel with hubby for work, I have a file box that I keep in the car, and set between the middle row seats when we go on trips, but I'm always collecting additional resources so these are things to switch out with what's currently in the car box. I want it out of the big girls' reach/sight so they have the "surprise" aspect to keep trips interesting.
  • The top shelf is adult books (again, since it's out of the kids' reach anyway it's not real useful for actual homeschooling use) and the McGuffy Readers we're not using yet.
  • The 2nd shelf holds misc. current homeschool resources. Things we have available all the time, like nature reference books, Bible reference books, etc. And also some random current books we're using like the Draw Write Now books.
  • The 3rd shelf became our supply shelf. I got the boxes from Lakeside and sorted all the stuff that was piled in baskets on the brown cabinet & on top of the bookcase into these boxes, we have one for school supplies, one for craft supplies, one for our microscope, one for sewing things, one for the "Ruby dolls" that the girls are making as part of Polished Cornerstones, and one for "stationery" (envelopes, thank-you cards, etc). Then we have buckets of pens, pencils, and markers, and the 3 hole punch, pencil sharpener and stapler.
  • The 4th shelf holds childrens' classics
  • The 5th shelf holds books for the big girls to read or look at on their own. Easy reading books are piled since that's what they use most often and tend to not like putting books back on shelves correctly, books too big to stand on that shelf are piled under the easy reading books.
  • At the bottom is a small shelf sized for paperbacks, most of these won't be used right away, but are things like Dickens that we might delve into within the next year or two.
  • On the floor in front of the white bookcase is a basket of Little Bit's board books, I decided to go with a basket on the floor for 2 reasons, first, hopefully if none of "her" books are on the shelf it will at least delay her discovering the fun of pulling books off shelves (I can hope, right?) and/or this way if I DO see her pulling something off the shelves I know I need to stop her. Second, right now she likes to EAT books, so if she starts eating these, I can easily move that basket up on top of the bookcase or otherwise out of her reach.
And that's our small organizational challenge for this month! We tried it out for the first time this morning, it was so nice to be able to go straight to the shelf and pull out the book that we needed for school this morning. And with all our snow, the girls have been doing lots of coloring and such, being able to point them to clearly labeled boxes to find school supplies and such has also been wonderful, and I can just as easily point them back to those clearly labeled boxes to put things away when they're done. I don't think they've "discovered" the shelf of "their" books, but I'm hopeful that once they do, having it easily accessible and all together instead of scattered through all the shelves will encourage them to spend more time reading.

Edited to Add: Now that the 28 days are over, there are specific questions to be answered, so here are my answers:

1. What was the hardest part of the challenge for you and were you able to overcome it?

Probably finding time to do it. The big snow storm that kept all of us home for most of a week, helped LOL, but still, Little Bit is extremely "busy" these days, so I couldn't just pull everything down onto the floor & start over, she'd have carried all the books off before I could get them back on the shelves LOL.

2. Tell us what kind of changes/habits you have put into place in order for your area/room to maintain its new order?

Mainly just making sure we put books back where we got them when they're done. And at least for now, the girls think it's great fun to pull school supplies & craft supplies out of the boxes and put them back, I'm sure the novelty will wear off, but for now they're inventing reasons to use school supplies just so they can dig through those boxes LOL.

3. What did you do with the “stuff” you were able to purge out of your newly organized space?

Toys went back to the girls' room where they belonged, 2 boxes of books we won't use for a few years are waiting for the snow to melt enough to be able to easily take them to our storage shed (dh managed to get in there to get the gate we needed to keep Little Bit off the stairs, but there's still a good sized drift in front of the door, so we'll take heavy book boxes up once that melts), and really that was the main things that shouldn't be there (oh and a bag of books waiting for me to take them to the used book store (there's another box of books to sell up in teh shed so I want to take them all at once).

4. What creative storage solutions were you able to introduce in order to create additional space as well as establish some limits and boundaries?

Nothing real creative, organizing the books by purpose, and using the boxes to organize/hold supplies.

5. Why do you think you should win this challenge?

Honestly, I doubt I will, I'm sure other people had much more creative and impressive solutions, but the contest gave me the added incentive to get an area organized that I'd been being frustrate with, so I've already won the real prize LOL. (which isn't to say I wouldn't LOVE to win the challenge, just don't think I will!)

And Still MORE Snow . . .

We had MORE snow Tuesday night and all day yesterday! I think we probably got another 20" give or take! There is a LOT of snow out there!!!

I finally got around to bundling Little Bit up and letting her at least sit in the snow for a few minutes.

After the weekend snow the big girls dug a "snow castle" (tunnels and such) through the pile the snowplow left at the end of the driveway, here they are this morning trying to re-discover their snow castle, that second "snowpile" on the right side of the picture is actually our Saturn.

The icicles out our upstairs, bathroom window. The ones on the front of the house got enough sun on Sun-Tues to fall off, but this side is shaded so they just keep growing, they're now longer than the window is tall.
Our super-snowy horizon!

And those 2 "snowdrifts" are the 2 minivans. Hubby has since at least semi-dug mine out, can't do too much until the snowplow decides to come clear our driveway though.

And that's what we've been up to LOL. It snowed ALL DAY yesterday. Hubby was able to work from home, the girls & I did school and chores and they played and I worked on organizing the homeschool bookshelves (more on that in abit). In honor of all our snow we did a mini-unit on snow for our nature time, including seeing some really cool online pictures of real snowflakes under a microscope, they are SO PRETTY!!! They seriously look like they're made of crystal! God is amazing!!!! We also, OF COURSE had to have snow ice cream, and plenty of hot chocolate. While I was organizing the homeschool shelves the girls re-discovered the Disney Princess coloring posters that my aunt & uncle gave them when Little Bit was born, so they've been enjoying coloring those yesterday and today.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Friends came over and went sledding on the HUGE hill up from our house, Little Bit wouldn't have enjoyed it, so we stayed home, but Starla took the big girls to sled with them. Here's all 3 of them (A2, Starla and A1) on one saucer sled.

A2 making silly faces
All 3 of them on the sled again
A2, Starla and A1

Saturday, February 6, 2010


We're getting snow!!! It started around dark last night (Fri), and is supposed to keep snowing all day today. They were predicting 6-8" overnight (and 2-4" more during the day today) but by the time we woke up this morning it was over a foot deep! Here's the view out our front door.

After breakfast, of course the big girls had to go out and play in all that whiteness! They're having a blast, I had to go take a picture showing how high the snow is on them! That's A2 standing in our front yard!

And the snow's still coming, supposed to keep snowing most of the day!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Book Review: Raising Maidens of VIrtue

The 2 second review: EVERY Christian mother of daughters NEEDS this book!!!

I've had it on my wish list for a LONG time. But it never came through at a nice low price, and I'm cheap. Finally I went ahead & bought it new, and I'm SOO glad I did! It's designed to use with girls age 12 or older, and I agree, some of the content is certainly not things I want to discuss with my 6 yr olds. BUT I think even mothers of young daughters will benefit from getting it now, read it yourself, there are lots of good reminders even for us moms, and it also gave me some reminders of things to emphasize, or avoid in training my daughters now.

Raising Maidens of Virtue is designed as a Bible study for mothers & daughters to read together. The author recommends making this a special daily or weekly time, making a scrapbook/journal as you go. Each chapter focuses on a topic young Christian girls SHOULD be aware of, but many today are not. Purity (in thought, not just in deed), modesty, valuing sibling relationships over friendships, hospitality, serving others, to name a few. I believe there are 19 chapters in all (being logical, I left my book upstairs and am now trying to write the review downstairs while the baby nurses LOL). At the end of each chapter are discussion questions. The chapters and questions are mostly worded to be speaking to the daughters, though there are some questions that specify they are for the mothers.

In the introduction, the author "warns" that some chapters will make us feel guilty or uncomfortable, or perhaps defensive . . . "there's nothing wrong with that!" she urges us to not dismiss these sections to read them, pray about them, and follow the Holy Spirit's leading.

The teachings of this book are certainly more conservative than what society today, even Christian society, seems to think is needed or even desirable. And that, in my opinion, is why there is such a dire need for just such a book. Christians have bought into the world's views that we must look out for "number 1", dress seductively, and not be "just a housewife". This book reminds us, the God tells us to put others before ourselves, dress modestly, and, as women, to be our husbands' helpers and "keepers at home".