Thursday, April 28, 2011

Day at the Creek

While we were visiting my parents, we had a different kind of nature lesson. We spent a lovely morning with some friends, playing in their creek. Actually we spent Monday afternoon, playing in the creek with them, and then as we were leaving, Laura, knowing that I was planning to visit another of our friends, Vicki, the next day, and invited us all to come back and play in the creek some more. And Vicki's a lovely photographer, so here are a few pictures of our fun day at the creek!

All the big girls ran on ahead, complete with their buckets and traps, they were hoping to catch minnows, but they got side tracked once they got to the creek LOL.

The first day, not planning to wade in the creek, I was wearing a denim skirt, and found it, errr . . . challenging . . . to keep the skirt out of the water and help Little Bit wade in the creek. And she LOVED it! The rough rocks didn't phase her in the least! For that matter, when she got tired of wading, she was running around in the woods barefoot too.  So . . . the second day I planned abit better and wore a lightweight skirt that I could just let get wet, and then dry out.

When Little Bit wasn't wading, she was running around the woods. The ground was COVERED with little white wildflowers!

Laura had kindly brought a couple chairs out for the adults to sit in. But as you can see, Little Bit thought the chair was a great place to relax once she wore herself out running around. I had to bribe her with nursing to get her to share her chair with me, hee hee.

Meanwhile, the big girls were busy playing in the creek. THEY got soaked both days. Monday, I just had them take off the wet stuff once we got in the car, and handed them their car blankets (I keep some thin fleece blankets in the car for when someone whines about being cold) for the ride home. The second day, we brought changes of clothes, o they could get wet without worries, not that they'd worried the first day LOL.

Of course, wading in the creek wasn't enough, they had to REDIRECT the creek abit too. . . everyone except the littlest littles were working together for awhile to make a "pool" by building a rock wall around a sandy area they were digging out.

We all had a wonderful time. The weather was lovely, the company was perfect, and the woods and creek provided plenty of opportunity for limitless creative play.

It also inspired me to make it a priority to take them out to the creek in OUR woods this summer. Now to get it to be sunny (or at least not raining) and warm enough to actually do it!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter! We've enjoyed a fun day at Mama and Papa's house this year. A friend had told us about an idea she'd seen somewhere to roll hot (just boiled) eggs in crayon shavings before you color them. So we tried that this year. This morning we shredded some old crayons that Mama had from when my brother and I were growing up, and boiled some eggs. The girls had great fun rolling the eggs in the crayon shavings. We discovered that different brands of (really old) crayons definitely melt differently. Some melted completely, covering the part of the egg that had been rolled in them with a smooth wax coating. Others stayed more little bumpy  blobs. But both looked pretty cool.  After we did that we needed to let the eggs cool before we could color them. So we had a yummy waffle breakfast. My grandparents came up for that, so MiniMe and Sassy showed Grandma their eggs-in-progress.

After breakfast, and cleaning up, the eggs were cool so then we added normal egg color to them. We discovered that it takes longer for the color to "stick" for some reason, but eventually they took the color nicely where the wax wasn't.

Little Bit and Mama worked together to color a couple eggs while the big girls were coloring the rest.  She had great fun with it. She still generally chooses to sleep sans clothes, and this morning I decided that was just as well since first we had waffles with all kinds of yummy, stain-y things like blueberries and strawberries. And then for egg coloring, I was definitely glad we'd opted for the nature baby look. I think she got more color on HER than she did on the eggs. But she had a blast.

Here's a picture of her hands when she was through (her legs were almost as bad).

And the final result. Three happy girls and their masterpieces. 

Once the eggs were all decorated, Mama pulled out the Easter baskets, err buckets. Little Bit wasn't real sure what to expect when Mama told her we were getting "Easter baskets" but she figured it out pretty quickly, hee hee.

One of the things they all got in their easter buckets was a lollipop, so here are the three musketeers sitting on the hearth eating their lollipops!
After all of that we took a break in the festivities so Little Bit could take a nap. Once she woke up, we jumped back into the fun with an Easter egg hunt. We encouraged the big girls to leave the most obvious ones so that Little Bit could find some. But I think other than moving slower than her sisters, she held her own just fine. 

She had a BLAST too. After our "official" egg hunt, we had to divide up the "loot". To avoid the competition that is such an issue between Sassy and MiniMe, we've always had the rule for egg hunts, that they all have fun finding the eggs and then once we're all done, we bring them all in and dump them in a pile and divy up the loot equally. Avoids, or at least lessens the "BUT I SAW IT FIRST" squabbles. And then it was time to fix lunch.  Which, of course, included pasta salad (with boiled eggs in it).

After lunch, we did several more egg hunts for Little Bit using the plastic eggs and hiding them over and over again. The big girls got into the fun of hiding them so they weren't left out either.

And that was our Easter celebration this year.

Lest you think we completely ignored the religious aspect of Easter. We've been working on that for the past week or so.  I finally remembered and made a set of Resurrection Eggs this year (something I've wanted to do for the last 3 or 4 years, but never remembered in time to pull all the pieces together or order a pre-made set). I even happened upon some Easter stickers when I was cleaning one of the bookshelves in the dining room a couple weeks ago, so I could decorate the egg carton too. We started 12 days ago opening one egg per day, so that today (and empty egg, naturally, to represent the empty tomb) was our final egg.

I also got a nice selection of Easter books (that tell the Bible story in a variety of ways) from the library a couple weeks ago, and we enjoyed reading one or two of them per day while we were home.

The same ebook I found the list of Easter books to look for at the library also recommended the Matthew video as a good Easter video. I knew my parents had the VHS version, so figured we could watch it at their house.  So we've watched the first part of it, and will be watching some more this evening.

Weekly Wrap-Up - Easter Edition

We had a busy, and not very school-filled week, which is one of the reasons we school year-round. That insures that we can have school-less weeks and not have to play catch-up at some point.

Sunday was a church "garden party" social. The big girls listened quietly through all the gardening tips, and then helped to plant container gardens that the church later distributed in the apartments near our church.

Monday, one of the coordinators of the garden party e-mailed me and asked if Sassy and MiniMe wanted to come help her finish planting the containers that hadn't gotten done at the party. So during Little Bit's nap I took them over to the church where the 3 of them planted more in 45 min or so than everybody had at the party.  Tami said that she could barely get the dirt in the containers fast enough to stay ahead of the girls as they planted the flowers and vegetables.

Tuesday, we had some friends over for a playdate.  H (age 4) had been asking her Mommy to play with her "friends that are girls" (otherwise known as my 3 girls) so she and her brother , D (2 1/2) and their Mommy, Rachel came over for awhile on Tuesday. I think everyone had a good time. Rachel and I enjoyed the chance to get to know each other better and visit more than we ever have time to do at church. And all the children got along quite well. Unfortunately the "scattered showers" were more of a steady downpour by my definition, so we didn't get to play outside or explore the woods like I'd hoped we'd be able to do.

Wednesday was a GORGEOUS day, and all 3 girls had great fun having lemonade and cookies on JuJu's deck and then riding their bikes on the road by her house (don't worry, it's a traffic-less road, and much flatter than our steep driveway).  Wednesday evening MiniMe and I went on our monthly date to Chipotles and Dairy Queen.

And Thursday the girls and I headed to my parents' house for Easter. We met my parents at their old office (they're retired, but still stop by once in awhile), and went in to visit people. When Sassy and MiniMe were little that was a weekly occurrence, so "everybody" (more or less) knows them, though they don't remember everybody. Little Bit has only been in there a few times, so people were all amazed at how big she's getting.

Friday we mostly hung out at Mama and Papa's house. When it wasn't raining the big girls helped Papa by taking nails out of the boards on their deck (he's repairing/replacing it in preparation to build them a playhouse that will be off the side of the deck.

They also helped Papa mix the cement to go around the posts for their playhouse. They're definitely more "construction-minded" than their mother has ever been, hee hee.

While the big girls were busy helping Papa, Little Bit was thrilled to get to ride her "bike". She's discovered the fun of having her picture taken, so now she tells me "Mommy, picture" when she wants her picture taken. In this case, "Mommy. Picture. My. Bike"

Sabbath afternoon ended up being another GORGEOUS afternoon. Papa suggested that we load up the bikes (My parents' and the big girls') and drive to a rail trail not too far from their house. They all went biking while Little Bit & I stayed in the car while she napped & I enjoyed the sunshine and read a book. Once she woke up we played with her Schleich animals on a picnic table near the parking lot for awhile, then we walked a little ways down the rail trail and met the rest coming back.  They rode 6 miles round trip which isn't too bad for having just taken the training wheels off a few months ago.  Mom and Dad figure with a few more "practice" runs, the girls will be able to go the 10 miles between this stop and the next on the rail trail, and then they can all ride and Little Bit & I can drive to the next stop and pick everybody up.

While Papa was loading the bikes back up the girls had fun playing in the field of dandelions we'd parked next to. And I took the opportunity to get a picture of all 3 girls to replace the snowy picture I've had in my sidebar.

So, other than Easter preparation and today's Easter fun, that's pretty much been our week. I think I'll do a separate Easter post to keep this one from being TOO long.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Homeschool Review: Growing Healthy Homes (and a COUPON!)

I was excited when I heard I'd get to review Nutrition 101 from Growing Healthy Homes.  I've been considering it as a science/nutrition option for our family for quite awhile but kept putting it off. 

Nutrition 101 is available as either a "real" book ($99.95), or an electronic version on CD-ROM ($79.95). A combo pack including both is also available for $129.95

Nutrition 101 is a Nutrition curriculum written by moms as they sought to learn how to feed their family nutritiously. It's designed to be used for both elementary and high school students, so families can use it multiple times as their children grow older. This 400+ page book (or e-book) is full of beautiful color pictures. The print book and the electronic version have identical content. The benefit of purchasing the combo of both lays in being able to read the print book, but then print individual recipes, charts, checklists, etc. from the CD-ROM. It is suggested that each lesson be use for one week. What we found worked best for us was to read the chapter, and go over the discussion questions the first day. While we were doing that I would also glance over the activities and decide which we would be doing and make note if there was anything I needed to gather or purchase for the chosen activity(ies). Some weeks, if the activity was short and/or I anticipated we would be short on time later in the week, we'd do an activity that first day as well. Also on the first day we'd read over the week's recipe together and make our grocery list if needed. Then, once we'd been to the grocery store (if required), we'd make the recipe another day.  So far most of the recipes have made nice lunches, which work well in our schedule since we try to be done with "school" by lunchtime. 

This is a very comprehensive nutrition and anatomy curriculum. You can see a sample .pdf of the book, including the table of contents, here. I'm finding that, for my girls (age 8), I needed to skip over a good amount of the text, it's just way too detailed and technical for their level of understanding. They concur, when I asked them what they thought of it, Sassy told me "too many big words"and MiniMe said "say that it's over our heads". I can see this working well in a multi-age family, including young elementary children, but for us, I'll be setting this aside for a couple years and then re-visiting it when they're older. The suggested activities are great, and do a good job of including a variety of ages and learning styles.  This really is an amazing product, but the text itself, I would classify as more of a high school level.

I'd absolutely recommend this product to anyone looking for an indepth study on nutrition, just be aware that it IS in-depth. I'd love to see this product include some type of shortened, simplified text for younger children. I'd recommend this as a junior high or high school level curriculum OR a great study for moms (or dads, or any adults) looking to learn a LOT about nutrition and how our bodies really use food. Given the size and complexity of this book, I would highly recommend spending the extra to buy the print book rather than just the electronic version. If you're planning to use this with multiple children in a homeschool setting, you will probably want to choose the combo pack so that you can print copies of recipes, charts and checklists for each child.

In addition to Nutrition 101, Growing Healthy Homes offers several other books to help in your family's journey toward better health. You can see them here.

Growing Healthy Homes has generously offered a coupon code for my readers. Use TOSCREW11 to receive 15% off your order.

I reviewed this product as part of the TOS Crew, visit the TOS Crew blog to see what others thought of this product.

Disclaimer: I received an electronic copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Book Review: The Story of the Bible by Larry Stone

I was asked to review The Story of the Bible by Larry Stone by This beautiful book tells the history of the Bible in an interesting, "story" way that I found interesting and enjoyable. Additionally, it includes quite a few copies/reproductions of historic documents related to the Bible, which makes this a great teaching aid and resource.

I enjoyed this book, and plan to use it at various times and in various ways while homeschooling my children. I think they will especially enjoy the hands-on aspect of the various reproductions included with the book (in vellum sleeves so they can be removed to examine more closely).  One thing that surprised me was how BIG the book is. While it makes it nice for use in teaching, and allows for plenty of beautiful pictures, it makes it awkward to read the actual narrative. This was a challenge for me since it's size made it difficult to read while nursing my daughter, or carry it with me to read in the car, etc.  Still, this is an amazing book, that our family will enjoy and treasure for years to come!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review: Max, On Life by Max Lucado

I've loved Max Lucado's books since I first read some of his books when I was in college. So when BookSneeze gave me the opportunity to review Max On Life, I was thrilled. This book is in a question and answer format. Max answers over 150 questions that he frequently hears about all aspects of the Christian life, about everything from prayer to parenting. The book includes both topical and scripture indexes, to make finding things quick and easy.

This book is quite different from the rest of the Max Lucado books that I've read, but still a great book. I can see this book being a good resources for pastors, teachers, Bible study groups, parents or anyone who comes in contact with those who are searching for answers. As would be expected, this book reflects Max's beliefs and specific theology, so those from different denominations will need to be aware of those possible differences. But all in all I found this to be an interesting, helpful book that I can turn to for reference over and over again.

isclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up - April 17

Wow, I didn't manage to do ANY posts this week, oops! (or as Little Bit would say . . .oooopsh)

We had a good week. We've got alot going on with school & reviews right now, but the girls are handling it well. We seem to be in a pretty good routine for school now.

Tuesday night was my normal bookclub. BUT at the last minute, Daddy agreed to take Little Bit too. He took all 3 girls to Chuck E Cheese and I got to relax abit more than usual at bookclub. Rodney said both big girls did a great job of helping with Little Bit and such.  MiniMe, true to her nickname, was VERY into it. Since Little Bit is potty trained I don't carry a diaperbag per se, and figured Rodney wouldn't really go for carrying my orange purse hee hee. So . . . earlier in the day MiniMe and I went through her purses and bags & found a smallish black purse that was big enough to put Little Bit's sippy cup, my bare minimum first aid supplies, that I went over with MiniMe how to use them (arnica tablets, rescue remedy spray, bandaids and my oil blend that I use on cuts & scrapes  - lavender essential oil, tea tree essential oil blended with a little bit of olive oil as a carrier oil. But since lavender is such a gentle oil, I don't dilute it much). She also took her iTouch along . . ."in case Little Bit wants to play tic tac toe on it".  Rodney said MiniMe carried the purse most of the night, finally gave it to him when she realized it was getting in her way trying to follow Little Bit through the climbing structure.

Wednesday, our neighbor, Judy had invited us for dinner, and egg dying. Judy's niece Sara, who is ADORED by all 3 of my girls, and one of her friends, came too. Sassy & MiniMe had a BLAST egg dying. I think the combination of being older and also having Sara & Laurel to show them what to do and help them when they needed help, really helped them to figure it all out. Little Bit "helped" dye a couple eggs, but most of the time Judy and/or I just played with her in the other room, or held her so she could see the "pitty" eggs.  Since we took most of the eggs home with us, MiniMe and Sassy made bread Thursday morning, and we invited Miss Judy (or JuJu, as Little Bit calls her) to come have egg salad sandwiches with us for lunch. Yummy, yummy! After lunch the girls took Judy on a "tour" of our garden that they've been working on.

Thursday evening was our moms' book club. Our usual hostess was busy, so we had it at my house. Thankfully, I'd straightened things up some, so things weren't as messy as they often (usually) are. This book club is just 3 of us, so this month it was just Penny and I. She'd brought her 2 boys with her (usually she leave the 4 yr old home with Daddy, but Daddy was busy this time). It worked out well. The big girls were outside ("gardening" I think) when they got here, so the 4 yr old stayed outside and played with them. Later they all came in and played up in the girls' room. Other than the little ones (Little Bit and J (18 months-ish)) wanting to play upstairs with the bigger ones, and the older ones not being real thrilled with that, things went well.

So that was pretty much our week.  We had a mix of sun and rain, but on the sunny days Sassy & MiniMe managed to dig up all our garden beds, and get the "early" seeds planted. They assure me that they'll stick with things better this year, we shall see . . .

And the final "news" for this week, really is part of next week's news, because it was this morning. But I'm going to include it here anyway.

Ever since we went to Erie a couple weeks ago, Sassy's cat, Socks, has been missing. He's been gone for several days at a time before, but never THIS long (2 weeks, I think it's been).  Sassy was doing really well with it. Saying he must have found a new home. So then this morning, he showed up on the porch.  He wanted to come in the house (he's usually been the one who wants to come in, at least if he's hungry, so I wasn't surprised).  Sassy wants to keep him inside for a little while, so we're seeing how it goes. He shows no interest in going outside, even when the girls are out there. So we're going with it. He seems ok overall. He definitely has some "battle scars" that look pretty fresh, so not sure what all he went through while he was gone. But he's fine with the girls, spent a good part of today sleeping in Sassy's lap, accepted Little Bit's "love" . . . The one thing that's a little bit concerning, when MiniMe brought her cat, Moccasin in to "see his brother" (he wasn't around this morning when Socks got home), and said that Socks hissed at him, and ran away. So . . . not sure what's up with that. Hopefully over time the "boys" (as we call our 2 male cats) the re-bond with each other.

So that was our week.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up - April 10

We began our week away from home.  As I mentioned in last week's wrap-up, we were in Erie, PA on Sunday. Monday we left Erie and headed to my parents' house (but they weren't there, we just borrowed their house as a self-service bed & breakfast, hee hee).  Little Bit was very confused to be at Mama & Papa's house but not be able to find them, she was never upset, just kept asking where they were.

Tuesday the girls and I spent a little while at the outlets while dh had a meeting, then we showed the girls around the boarding school that we both went to for high school, and then headed over to a friend's house for awhile before heading home.  It had been around a year since we'd gotten together with these friends, but all the children picked right back up with their friendship as if it had only been a few days (after lots of comparing of their new ages and such, so cute to listen to them all). Even the littlest ones (newly 2, and almost 3), who I'm sure don't remember each other, did great. 

So, we finally made it back home Tuesday evening. The rest of the week was pretty routine. 

We're continuing to read through the Bible chronologically for Bible (but I didn't take the Daily Bible with us on our trip, so ended up finding a chronological reading plan on You Vision (the Bible app on my smartphone), so now I'm going to stick with that, it's more portable LOL). And continuing with our Spanish word-per-day calendar, though I'm threatening to add a few extra words because they're memorizing them so fast (once they both know a word I move the flashcard to the "once a week pile" instead of the every day pile), that they're down to 4 or 5 flashcards in their daily pile right now.

Still loving nature walks. We took longer walk on a nice day. Little Bit did a good job of keeping up with us. We were looking for signs of spring, and found plenty including the daffodils blooming (both in our flower beds, and down by the creek), forsythia in full bloom out in the meadow, the mama goose is setting on a nest by the pond, and some trees are starting to show hints of green.

The girls are loving the spelling computer program we're reviewing.

We also started reviewing a new math computer program. They're not too excited about it (it's basically just math drills), but go through it quickly & don't whine, so that's good enough for me. 

And that was pretty much our week.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Homeschool Mother's Journal - April 8

The Homeschool Mother's Journal
In my life this week… I was blessed to have extra time with my husband, as we traveled with him. The travel time also provided me with reading time to get some books read that I'd been wanting to read for a long time. I was also blessed to spend a couple hours visiting with a long-time friend whom I hadn't seen for way too long, and finally, this week was our monthly date night, so nice to have a couple hours of uninterrupted couple time! 
In our homeschool this week… we had some extra "PE" otherwise known as taking full advantage of the hotel swimming pool, we started 2 new review products (a spelling program & a math program), and the girls are making sure I don't "forget" to include nature in our schooltime each day.
Places we’re going and people we’re seeing… we spent Saturday night through Monday morning at a hotel in Erie, PA. Lots of pool-time, made this a fun break from routine. Tuesday morning my husband was meeting with someone at the boarding school we both attended for high school. After his meeting was over, we took the girls on a tour of campus. They thought it was pretty cool, but once all the students flooded into the cafeteria as we were finishing up our lunch, they decided it was all abit overwhelming, hee hee.  So we left, and went over to visit a friend who lives nearby. her 5 children get along beautifully with my 3 (and the irony of the girls finding the noise of the cafeteria "too much" considering the chaos of Kim's house (to which my children were key contributors) just a few minutes later, is quite amusing).  
My favorite thing this week was… Little Bit in the pool. She LOVES it! And keeps asking "More swim? Foaties. . . wait . . ." (for those who don't follow Little Bit Speak, she's asking if we can swimming, and then saying that she will need her floaties, and that she will have to wait beside the pool while I put things down & put the floaties on her arms). She quickly reacquainted herself with the logistics of keeping her head above water with the arm floaties and from that point on, propelled herself all over the pool quite independently. Jumped off the side with me holding her hands, climbed up & down the steps 101 times (at least), and if I offered a hand to help her step back down, she emphatically stated "no! Self!" Yes ma'am! She also discovered the fun of jumping (without assistance) from one of the steps into the water.  The first time she did it, it splashed water on MiniMe and me, so I said "you splashed us" from then on, when she was getting ready to jump she would first tell me "splash. us."  Too cute!
What’s working/not working for us… Little Bit's not sleeping as long/much in the car as she was, that was a frustration with our travel this week, on the plus side, she's sleeping through the night most nights, and being in strange beds didn't seem to phase her as much this time, as it has in the past.
Homeschool questions/thoughts I have… I recently read Read for the Heart(watch for my review, coming next month), one thing that struck me was how completely we've neglected art appreciation (I tend to figure all the drawing and craft projects count as art, and they do, but not at the exclusion of learning about the greats), and poetry . . . I'm adding some of the recommended books to my wishlist to remedy that!
A photo, video, link, or quote to share…

Visit The Homeschool Chick to see what other Homeschool Mothers are doing this week.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Homeschool Review: Kinderbach

One of the products we've enjoyed reviewing for the TOS Crew is Kinderbach. This online music program for children, age 3-7, has been so much fun.  Since this is a piano program, you do need access to a piano or keyboard. Since we don't have a piano, I opted to purchase a basic keyboard to use for this review.

Each week includes 4 short (just a few minutes long) videos, one for each day, as well coloring pages, and other activity sheets to go with each day's video.  Because we were mainly doing this with Sassy & MiniMe who are at the top edge of the age range (they turned 8 last week), they found the lessons too short, so, we opted to have music class once or twice a week, but complete an entire week each time we did it.

My children were at the 2 extremes of the suggested age range, with Little Bit just turning 2 and the big girls just turning 8. Little Bit enjoys watching the videos with her sisters, but I don't feel that she understands what is going on well enough that it would be worth having JUST for her, at this point. 3 seems like an accurate starting age range for being able to utilize the program enough to sign up for it. But certainly younger siblings can enjoy following along. She claps the beat with her sisters, and  enjoys the songs and characters. The older girls are enjoying it. In retrospect, for them, I should have presented it to them as a "music program" rather than "piano lessons", because it is geared for preschoolers, it spends a LOT of time on the pre-piano skills, learning to keep a beat and such, even with doing a week of lessons at a time, they are getting restless to "really play piano". So again, while I think older siblings would enjoy following along, I don't know that I would choose this program specifically for a 7+ year old, at least not my 7+ yr olds, different children are different, obviously.

This program does a great job of incorporating and teaching to a variety of learning styles, with the video allowing children to see, hear, and participate in each lesson.

Each week, includes a very short "introduction" video that includes a list of what is needed that week (rhythm instruments, piano, crayons, etc). So all that I need to do for teacher prep is print that week's activity sheets, and have the children gather whatever supplies are needed for that week. As soon as we've done that, we're ready to go, I *love* things that require little, if any, mommy/teacher prep!

I think this is a great, fun, intereactive program for preschool-age children. It introduces them to "music lessons" in a fun, game-oriented way that generally appeals to this age group.  For my 8 year olds, it has been too slow-moving, even with going through multiple lessons per day, they are getting very antsy to "play real music". When I asked what they thought of it, they said "we're too old for it, we already know loud sounds versus soft sounds and high sounds versus low sounds. But they also agree that "it would be fun for little kids".  Seeing how much Little Bit enjoyed it, even though she couldn't fully follow along, I agree. We will continue to use this program while we have access to it, but personally, I wouldn't pay for a membership right now. I will keep it in mind for Little Bit in another year or two, however.

In exchange for this review, we received access to the online membership, which is available for $19.99/mo, billed monthly, or $95.88/year, billed yearly (that works out to be only $7.99/mo!).  The program is also available on DVD. You can see the various packages and options available, here. If you're considering this product, be sure to check out their FREE online trial, a great way to make sure it's a good fit for your children, before you buy.

Disclaimer: I received a free 3-month subscription to the Kinderbach online program in exchange for writing this review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up - April 3

NOTE: I wrote most of this on Sunday, so references to "yesterday", "today" or "tomorrow" are from that perspective. But, as so often happens, I got interrupted and didn't actually finish or post this on Sunday. So am finishing it up now to post.

To start things off, I've decided to make a slight change, I'm finding that at times it feels awkward to write "A" and "L" for the older girls names. I'm still not wanting to use their real names, but Little Bit helped me out by calling L "Sassy" (it sounds slightly like her name, but not really, however it DOES fit her personality (in a cute way, not a rude way), so we've kind of embraced that as a nickname for L), so from now on, I'll refer to L as "Sassy" on this blog. Which brings us to A. I finally decided, since my husband is always teasing me that A is my "Mini Me" because she has long hair & tends to wear it in the same styles that I do, prefers similar styles of skirts, etc. So, I'll call her "MiniMe" at least until something else seems to present itself.

We've had a busy week! Perhaps the biggest change was, we started the week with a new schedule. I'd been thinking for a few weeks now, that it might work better to move school back to the dining room table, and give Little Bit things to play with that can be done at the table to keep her better contained, and entertained. AND, for my personal devotions I'm reading The Family Meal Table and Hospitality by Nancy Campbell, which is re-inspiring me to move our meals back to the table (instead of on trays in the family room). So now we eat breakfast at the table and while we're eating or right after we eat, depending on what we're eating, I read our Bible reading for school. I've been using The Daily Bible, but not sticking to the "schedule" I just read however much seems like a good fit for us. The Daily Bible puts things in chronological order though, which is nice. After we read the Bible, we clean up from breakfast and then, depending on the day, either go back to the table, for Spanish or, go outside while I hang laundry (depends on the weather, whether or not I'm doing laundry that day, and whether the morning went smoothly enough that I got the washing machine going before breakfast, if not I start the laundry while the girls clean up the kitchen.).  When we're outside to hang laundry, we also go on a nature walk at least some days.

I've really been wanting to get nature back into our routine & finally seem to have managed it, and the girls are thrilled, so I think they will make sure that it's here to stay!  This week our nature activities included:
An "I See God" walk - we walked around the house (it was COLD, we kept it short), and wrote down things in nature that reminded us of God. When we were back in the house the girls wrote about what they'd seen, and drew a picture in their nature journals
A Listening Walk - We quietly (except for Little Bit, she kept up  constant commentary on all we saw LOL) walked down by the creek and past the pond, and wrote down the things we heard, then wrote and drew about it when we got home.
Started our salad garden - a few weeks ago in nutrition, the suggestion was made to grow lettuce in a shallow bowl/pot on your kitchen table and always have fresh lettuce for salads, I finally got everything together this week and we started it. Playing in the dirt, INSIDE, no less, is always fun.
Learned about Blue Herons. I think I mentioned a couple weeks ago that we'd gotten home from errands and saw a Great Blue Heron at the edge of the pond, since we were in the car, he didn't fly away so we were able to watch him for a few minutes. One morning this week, as I was having my morning Bible time, I looked out my window (I love that I can look out on the pond and fields and NATURE during my quiet time and combine BOTH of God's books in my time with Him) and there was a HUGE bird roosting at the very TOP of a tree near the pond. I called the girls and Rodney to come look at it, and we finally decided it was the Great Blue Heron (we just didn't realize they ever perched in the top of trees).  So, that day for nature time, Sassy and MiniMe went out and sat in the rain (it was just kind of misting) to draw the heron in the tree and then came inside and we looked up on the internet (because our really cool bird sound book (I'm not sure it's that exact one, but its like that) didn't have a heron in it, sigh . . .) and read about herons, and the girls wrote about what we'd learned.

Little Bit's nap still seems to work best if it falls during lunchtime. If I try to keep her up until after lunch she's too fussy to let me fix the food without wanting me to hold her the whole time and then by the time I try to put her down, she's over-tired and doesn't fall asleep easily in the swing. So for now I'm just accepting the fact that her lunch is a light snack before nap & another one after nap and we will eat lunch while she naps. So, I put her down for nap while the big girls do the "no supervision required" part of our school morning (drawing/writing for Bible and nature), then I exercise (still loving my rebounder) and then we fix lunch. While we eat lunch (at the table), we listen to The Story of the World CDs we've been getting from the library.

Our afternoons are free for errands, housework, play, etc. BUT we make sure to clean off the table after lunch so that it's ready for us to set the table and eat supper at the table as well.

In other news this week, we had a visit from a flat friend:  Awhile back another mom on a homeschool forum I'm on had asked if she could send her "flat son" (inspired by the book Flat Stanley) for a visit to our fine state. He arrived a couple weeks ago, but I finally remembered and set him free from his envelope this week. The girls are having great fun "showing him the ropes" around our house. We'll keep him for a couple weeks, show him around our area, and then send him on to his next stop.

Thursday, hubby called and asked if we wanted to travel with him this weekend, and we decided to go with him, now that the likelihood of snow in a quantity to disrupt travel is low. So, we had a change of schedule and spent Thursday afternoon making healthy(ier),  portable snacks to have with us on the trip. We made granola bars, energy balls, cinnamon almonds, whole wheat vanilla wafers, and dried bananas (just sliced up the bananas I needed used, and put them in the dehydrator for the afternoon). It was a busy afternoon, but we're enjoying the results this weekend.
Friday we visited Grandmom (Rodney's mom). Sassy and MiniMe were excited to tell her about their birthday presents and show her their iTouches.  Little Bit started calling Grandmom "Bama" so at least for now, I guess that's her name.

Sabbath we went to Sabbath School and church, then came home, loaded up (including sandwiches for lunch) and headed out. It was a long drive but the girls did great.

Today the girls and I enjoyed the hotel pool while Daddy worked, and we'll be visiting a local Children's museum for an hour or two before heading out in the morning.

Little Bit continues to become more and more comfortable in the water. She loves to "sim" with her "foaties" (floaties). Today she started standing on one of the lower steps and jumping "self" into the water. When she figured out that she could "spash" me, that made it all the better.  When she first started doing that, MiniMe was with me, so I said something along the lines of "you splashed us" so the rest of the time, whether it was "us" or just me, as she got ready to jump she'd say "spash. us."

I wish I could capture the way she strings words together. I don't remember the older girls doing that, but it's so cute. She says each word as if there were a period after it, it's adorable!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Homeschool Review: ZeeZok Publishing ZGuides - Kit Kittredge

As you know if you ever read my blog, we are thoroughly into the world of American Girls around here. We first used the historic books as part of our history curriculum when the girls were 5 and 6, they received their first American Girl dolls for their birthday a year ago . . . and so it goes.  So, when Brenda from the TOS Crew posted that we would get to choose which ZGuide from Zeezok Publishing we wanted to review, I happily signed up to review the ZGuide for Kit Kittredge: An American Girl.

Needless to say, the girls were excited to hear that we "had" to watch an American Girl movie for school. A wanted to know why we were watching Kit (L's favorite) and not Josefina (A's favorite), but since they haven't made a movie for Josefina, she was just being silly.

I originally saw the Kit ZGuide listed as being for Elementary/Middle School, but when we received the actual guide it was listed for Junior High. I do think the level of this guide, vocabulary and language used, etc. is more of a Junior High level. And I question whether Junior High age girls would still be interested enough in American Girls to spend several days studying one of the movies, but we were able to adapt it to A and L's level without too much trouble.

The ZGuide is a downloadable .pdf file (also available as a CD, either version is $12.99 per guide), it includes a topic overview and synopsis of the movie, followed by 10 activities that take various learning styles into consideration as they use the movie to learn about critical thinking,  the period of history that the movie is set in (the Great Depression, in this case), some basics of movie-making, etc.  Note that the movie is not included, you will need to purchase or rent the movie to use this product. We were able to borrow the Kit movie from the library.

Very little, if any, teacher preparation is required. At a Junior High level, a parent/teacher could probably hand the guide to the student (minus the answer key in the back), and turn them lose. Since my girls are younger, we watched the video together, and did most of the activities together, orally. They aren't to a place where I am comfortable turning them loose to research things online, on their own, and while they can read quite well, they both lean toward being auditory learners, so prefer to be read to, and for us to discuss things orally. A couple of the activities I felt would be over their heads so we skipped them.

All in all, they had fun. Nothing like getting to watch a favorite video over and over. They thought it was cool to learn about things like foreshadowing, irony, the use of lighting and colors in movies, etc. And after we discussed it, point it out in other shows we watch. They also had great fun decoding "hobo signs".

We enjoyed using this product. In general, I would recommend it more for homeschoolers who lean more toward workbooks and more traditional schooling methods than we do. I can also see this being useful for junior high students during a busy season of homeschooling when the mother needs to be able to turn the student loose with something.

Disclaimer: We received the downloadable version of the Kit Kittredge Zguide in exchange for writing this review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.