Friday, May 27, 2011

Little Bit-isms

Little Bit has become quite the chatterbox. I've been sharing some of her cute sayings on facebook, but thought I'd record them here too:

  • One morning she was laying on my lap and trying to put her foot in my face. I caught her foot before she kicked me in the nose, and was holding it away from my face. She said "Me. Stinky toes. in. Mommy's face. Pwease" at least she's polite about it huh?
  • At our neighbor's house yesterday there was a fan blowing and Little Bit kept standing in front of it and saying "wind. blow me awaaaaaaay"
  • The big girls stayed for an extra day at Mama & Papa's house. This morning when Little Bit woke up and said "Mama Papa", I reminded her that they were at their house. "Sissies", I reminded her that they were at Mama and Papa's. She said in a dejected voice "all my fends. gone." (guess Mommy and Daddy don't count)
I'm sure I'm forgetting some, but those are at least a few of the current ones.

Book Review: A Reluctant Queen by Joan Wolf

I love Biblical novels. I love the extra history that is in them, and the "fleshing out" of the Bible stories. So I was excited when BookSneeze had the ebook version of A Reluctant Queen: The Love Story of Esther by Joan Wolf available to review. I happily downloaded it onto the Kindle app on my phone, and started reading.

On the surface this is a novel based on the biblical account found in the book of Esther in the Bible. However, while I fully understand that biblical novels must add fictional details and make assumptions,  in my opinion, this author goes too far. Adding details is fine, changing the facts found in the Bible is not ok. If you want to write a love story set in ancient Persia, fine. But to say this is the story of Esther bothers me. This author freely admits (in her note at the end of the book) that she "took liberties" with the Biblical account. Some examples include, having Esther's "interview" to become queen last only an hour, and only include Esther and the King talking. While I know most children's versions of the story are ambiguous on this point, as they should be, and simply say that Esther "went before the King" or "met the King", the Bible is pretty clear on this:

In the evening she went, and in the morning she returned to the second house of the women, to the custody of Shaashgaz, the king’s eunuch who kept the concubines.  Esther 2:14

I don't think there can be any doubt that these interviews were not simply sitting and chatting in the garden.

This book also states that Haman went behind the king's back (while he was gone, fighting a battle) and decreed the destruction of the Jews, so that the king didn't even know the decree had been made. That Mordecai was taken prisoner at the same time the decree was made (so the whole sack cloth & ashes and conversations between Esther and Mordecai never happen in the book, instead her Persian grandfather informs her of the law, and Mordecai's imprisonment).  Additionally the book reduces the time of fasting and prayer from 3 days to 1 day, and Esther only invites the King and Haman to one banquet, not two. And the book skips the scene where Haman comes in to ask to kill Mordecai only to have the king tell him to honor Mordecai by leading him through the city.

All in all, if you're looking for a fictional story, set in ancient Persia, this is a good book (though I don't know how historically accurate it is, there were aspects of the history that I question as well, but since I am not an expert in ancient history,  I can't say for certain). If you are looking for a biblical novel based on the book of Esther, I would recommend looking elsewhere.

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.”

Homeschool Review: Read for the Heart

Today I'm writing my LAST post for the 2010-2011 TOS Crew. I love that I'm ending the year on such a high note, I think for me personally, regardless of whether or not I homeschooled, as a book-loving Mommy, this has to be one of my favorite products I've gotten to review all year. 

I was so excited to get to review Read for the Heart by Sarah Clarkson. I've read several books written by Sarah's parents (Clay and Sally Clarkson) and I've loved every single one! So I was anxious to read a book written by their daughter.

Read for the Heart is, at it's heart, a book of books. The "meat" of the book is reviews and recommendations of hundreds of books sorted by topic. But this book is so much more. Sarah writes, much like her mother, in a personal, friendly style that makes you feel as if you're sitting down to tea chatting with her about her favorite books. She includes numerous memories and personal anecdotes on why a specific book or certain genre is so meaningful to her.

This book is written from a distinctly Christian worldview. Books were chosen with Christian beliefs in mind, and it is noted if a book includes things that might be objectionable to some Christians (taking the Lord's name in vain, for example).  At the beginning of each chapter (category), Sarah includes information on why this category is important to include in your family/child's reading, and also the things she took into consideration in deciding what to include.

Sarah makes no claim to have provided an exhaustive, all-inclusive list of great books. Most of these are books that she and her siblings have read and loved.

This is a book that I will turn to over and over again as my children grow. I can turn to it for ideas to suggest to the grandparents for birthday and Christmas (and while I thought we had all the picture books we could possibly need, there are SO MANY great sounding ones in this book, I know I'll be adding several of them to Little Bit's wish list come Christmas time). As we study various time periods in history, this will be a great resource since the history chapter is categorized by time period so I can quickly turn to the time period we're studying and find appropriate books (each book review includes recommended age range to further simplify the process). 

I was sent this book by Apologia. In addition to Read for the Heart, which is available for $17.00, they provide many other great Christian homeschool resources from books for parents to Science and other Curriculum. 

Visit this TOS Crew blog post to read more reviews on this product.

Disclaimer: I received the above mentioned product in exchange for writing an honest review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Home Keeper's Journal - May 26

In my kitchen this week ……I've done absolutely nothing, since I haven't been home. . . I have, however, started thinking through foods I want to have prepared ahead for campmeeting in a couple weeks, so I predict the kitchen will busy the next two weeks.

Doing this and that …. this has been a week of fun for us, we went to a live butterfly exhibit, spent time with friends, went to a train museum. . . we've been having fun. Now Little Bit & I are heading home while the big girls spend more time having fun with the grandparents.

We’re getting geared up for summer by ….. planning for campmeeting. We will have my parents' motorhome at campmeeting this year, so the planning is different as we figure out what we need to make ahead and have on hand for actually staying at campmeeting. It will be nice to not have to juggle the logistics of the big girls' meeting schedule . . . an evening meeting that isn't over until past bedtime doesn't mesh well with living at home, 45 min away. But since hubby's work doesn't lend itself to him staying up there (and his back, that doesn't even like most hotel beds, doesn't lend itself to staying in a 20 yr old motorhome), that means the challenges of "camping" will be interesting to navigate with a two year old without a second adult there the whole time (my parents are still deciding how much of the time they'll be there).

My summer plans include ….. campmeeting (notice a theme here?), I need to pin the girls down on VBS, if they want to go, or not. They loved it when I could stay with them, but opted out of it last year when I pointed out that I couldn't stay with them, with a toddler in tow. Same applies this year, but they've become more willing to venture on their own, so we shall see . . . Otherwise, I think our summer is going to be trying to hit some of the close-to-home tours and museums that we somehow never make time for.  And of course, possibly traveling some with Daddy.

The weather here has been …… overall, very nice, BUT there's been thunderstorm/rain predicted every day which makes planning outdoor activities a challenge. The girls had really wanted to go biking on a nearby rail trail with my parents yesterday (and Little Bit and I would have headed home) but the chance of thunderstorms vetoed that idea, turned out to be a gorgeous day, but we had fun at the train museum, so the day wasn't a total loss.  

Visit ChristianHomemaker to see other HomeKeeper's Journals for this week.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Review: Rejoice Women of Faith Worship CD

I was asked to review the Rejoice Women of Faith Worship CD from Thomas Nelson.

This CD is full of songs that communicate the joy, adoration and reverences that the women who are singing, feel toward God.

I found that, for me personally, the music wasn't really my style. I like to be able to easily hear, and appreciate the words to songs when I'm listening to music, and I wasn't able to do that with this CD. I felt the music was too loud and over-powered the words. Obviously no one CD or style of music is going to appeal to everyone, so just because it was too "contemporary" for my tastes, certainly doesn't mean others might not like it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this  CD 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.”

Weekly Wrap-Up - May 24

Yes, I realize I'm a couple days late.  The girls and I are at my parents' house, so my computer time is . . . structured differently. Not necessarily less, but, different.

Anyway . . . we somehow had a busy, but uneventful week this past week. It was rainy most of the week so we didn't get much outside time, though the girls generally were outside at least for a little while each day. Rodney needed Walmart gift cards to give out at a training seminar he was holding this weekend, and we had to go to 2 or 3 different Walmarts to find "generic" Walmart gift cards. Figured he didn't really want to be handing out ones that said "Congrats on your new baby" or something LOL. As it was, the ones I ended up getting were all flowers, which are rather "girly" but we decided since it was spring, they'd work, and I was tired of hunting LOL (I did tell him if he really didn't want to use the flower ones that I'd check another store the next day, and figured I could always use up the flower ones just with our regular shopping over time). So that seemed to take a big chunk out of the week, and other odds and ends or errands. . .

We continued with our chronological Bible reading, and one day for a change of pace, we'd read the chapters in Job that describe Behemoth and Leviathan, so I had each girl choose one of the creatures and draw what they thought it looked like based on the Bible's description. That was kind of fun, they enjoyed really digging into the verses to come up with ideas and I enjoyed seeing what they came up with.

We also did another chapter of our Bible Names Biblestudy, learning about Caleb, which Little Bit was excited about since, for some reason, she really latched on to her Sabbath School lesson about Joshua and Caleb and even though that was weeks (perhaps months?) ago, she will still, if asked what her lesson is about, answer "Joshwa Caaalb".

Interestingly, upon being told that they didn't "have" to continue with the math drill program we'd been reviewing, Sassy decided she wanted to keep using it. . . .this is why I think "unschooling" has its merits, my children are much more likely to use things when it's not "required" LOL.

We decided near the end of the week, to come to my parents' house this weekend/week. So that meant getting things ready for us to be gone.

We finished our 3rd (or 4th?) time through the Jonathan Park CDs and had decided to take a break from Jonathan Park and listen to Bible in Living Sound instead, and did for a day or two, and enjoyed them, but then I asked the girls if they were ok with me listening to some of the mp3s from the homeschool convention. My original plan, was to listen to one seminar and then let the girls listen to Bible in Living Sound for the rest of Little Bit's nap &/or our errands, but the girls decided they liked the homeschool seminars better, so they've been listening to them with me as we've run errands and such, and then as we drove down to my parents on Sabbath. Among other things we've been learning about Creation Science from Ken Hamm, Family devotions from Steve Demme, how to teach Ancient Civilizations from Tyler somebody, an employee at Bright Ideas Press,  So they're getting a widely varied "education" this week, hee hee.

And that's my late, and rather boring, update on last week!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Homeschool Review: Wordy Qwerty

Last fall, one of the programs I was THRILLED to get a chance to review for the 'TOS CREW
was Read, Write, Type, an online typing program that did a great job of teaching my girls to type in a fun, easy way. When I was asked about reviewing the "sequel" to Read, Write, Type, I was abit less sure. . . Wordy Qwerty focuses on reading and spelling for 2nd and 3rd graders. And, while my girls read fluently, and love to "write" stories, I haven't stressed proper spelling, and up until a couple months ago, their writing was all VERY phonetic. I'm fine with that at this age, and figured accurate spelling can come later, and to a large extent will come automatically as long as they continue to be voracious readers. So, a "spelling program" didn't seem like an ideal fit for us. But I said we'd try it. Somewhere about the time I was stressing about this, but before we actually got the review item, they both started asking me how to spell EVERYTHING when they were writing. I think a big contributing factor was setting them up with their own (highly supervised) e-mail accounts. Gmail automatically flags misspelled words, so that brought their spelling errors to their attention without me having to point them out to them, and once they were aware of them, they started asking how to spell things they hand write as well. So, as it turns out, Wordy Qwerty came to us at a great time!

Wordy Qwerty is an online spelling and reading program that takes the "next step" after Read, Write, Type to teach spelling rules through 20 consecutive lessons of fun games and songs. We received 2 licenses, so that both MiniMe and Sassy could continue with the program. You can purchase the online program here. The price starts at $25 for one license and goes up from there depending on how many licenses you need. I believe (but didn't try to do it), that you can "deactive" one child and set up a new name all in the same license, so if your children won't be using the program at the same time, you might  be able to have them share a license. Check the other reviews on the TOS Crew and or contact the company for the details on this though, I really don't know how that part of it works.

You can go here to see a list of the spelling rules covered, and there's a link at the bottom of that page for a short video clip from Wordy Qwerty.

One thing I LOVE about this program is that there is NO teacher prep or participation required. Since my girls already had logins set up from doing Read, Write, Type, I literally just had to assign the Wordy Qwerty licenses to them (from my login on my computer) and tell them to go try it out. I check with them to make sure they're doing some of it every day that we do school, and I login periodically from my computer to see how they're progressing, but that's all I've had to do. I love that!

And my girls are LOVING the program. I will say that their scores are all over the place, some lessons they are at or close to 100% other lessons they are below 50%. I suspect that part of this is whether the spelling rule is one they already were aware of, and part of it is whether or not they were distracted by other things going on around them while they're working on the lesson. I will probably have them go back and either do select lessons over, or go through the whole thing again once they finish going through it the first time, to reinforce and improve on the low scores. But given that they came into it with zero "schooling" in spelling rules, they've done great! And the best part is, they are ENJOYING it! 

These programs are a great hands on style of learning that I would think would be helpful to all learning styles. They can be used in a relaxed school environment like ours, but could be "assigned" and monitored more closely if the parent desired.

I'd recommend Read, Write Type as a great introduction to typing for 1st or 2nd graders, and Wordy Qwerty and a great follow-up to it, for most any homeschool style.  Obviously those who prefer to not have their children have "screen time" as a part of school wouldn't want to use these products, but otherwise, it's a great fit for most anyone, as far as I can tell!

Disclaimer: We received 2 online licenses in exchange for writing this review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Yay! The Home Keeper's Journal is back! This week’s Journal is all about Home and Garden
This week in my kitchen ………. we've been trying some new recipes, loving in season strawberries! 
My gardening thoughts this week …….nothing like a garden to make me love the rain . . . yay for no watering! 
What I’d like to can, freeze or put up this year …… as much as possible! I'm really hoping that our tomato plants do well this year &/or I find a cheap/free source for tomatoes. I'd love to get a GOOD supply of spaghetti sauce and tomato soup, and maybe some salsa (MiniMe has become a big fan of mild salsa, so if I could find a recipe she likes, I'd love to have homemade for her to eat) canned. Also need to re-stock on applesauce, the big girls weren't eating much, so I didn't do much last year, but Little Bit LOVES it, and went through my entire supply the week she had a stomach bug).  Need to freeze a LOT of blueberries again this summer (we didn't do enough last summer, we ran out). . . if my pepper plants do well, or again, I find a cheap/free source, I'd like to get a decent amount of bell peppers chopped and in the freezer. . . and really anything else I can get my hands on!
My plans for my home this summer  …….. decluttering, organizing . . . as always . . . now to actually DO it!
This absolutely positively has to be done to my home this year ….  ummm . . . decluttering and organizing . . . seriously, desperate need!

Homeschool Review: Mad Dog Math

One of the growing experiences for us this year, as we've reviewed products for the TOS Crew has been reviewing products that are much more "school-like" than our typical approach to learning. While I wouldn't want to switch to a "school at home" approach by any means, I think it's been good for the girls to stretch their comfort zone and try new things.

Mad Dog Math falls into that "new things" category for us. We typically take a very "unschool" approach to our math. So a program for doing math drills isn't something Sassy and MiniMe are used to using.

We received the downloadable, "at home" version of this product (price ranges from $19.99 to 39.99 depending on how long you want a license for). It's a simple math drill program that allows the child to do progressively more difficult "worksheets" on the computer. I downloaded the program onto each of the girls' netbooks and set them up, and pretty much turned them loose. I ask that they do 2 "pages" each day that we do school.

One nice thing, it doesn't require any real "teacher preparation" or supervision. On the downside, since we each have our own computer, I can't really "check their progress" when I think about it at odd times while I'm nursing the baby or whatever, since I have to go to their computer to check it. This wouldn't be an issue if you all share a computer obviously. 

This program is designed for K-5th grade, as well as remedial middle school and high school. This is probably accurate. The child needs to know at least 0-6 addition to start with this program, so under K, or in some cases, including K, isn't likely to be ready for it. I can't speak to upper limits, it seems to me that an older child would get pretty bored with the repetition pretty quickly, I know I did when I did some to see how it all works, but then again, I'm not "remedial", so perhaps if they've struggled with math, they won't mind the repetition if it helps them understand the math facts? The practical upper limit of this program would be mastery of basic math facts.

This is a straight forward math drill program, I would expect it to work best for a learning style leaning more toward a school at home approach, there's no "game" that the math is hidden in, which would be more likely to appeal to those leaning more toward unschooling. I would expect it to work best for visual learners, but a kinesthetic learner might prefer it to pencil and paper worksheets because of the computer? Not really sure about that.

If I were looking for a straight forward math drill program this would be high on my list. It's divided into short segments. The "math families" are designed better than some worksheets and such that I've seen, where the "3 family" includes up through 3+12, here, the 0-6 section will ONLY involve the numbers 0-6, the highest answer will be 6. That makes more sense to me. On the other hand, the "addition" in this program is set up as 5+___ = 3 and the child would need to fill in the 2. Maybe I'm weird (ok, we all know I'm weird, but bear with me here . . .) but the way MY brain works, that's subtraction. When I see that I automatically switch it in my mind and say 5-3=2. So, to me both addition & subtraction in this program drill subtraction. And if I'd had to explain it to my children, I'd have told them to make that conversion in their mind, they didn't ask, so I don't know if they made the conversion the way I do, or not. I'm sure different people process math differently, but that is a consideration.

Things I'd change: 

As far as I can tell, the program doesn't "advance" automatically. The child (or parent) has to decide "I've done enough 0-6 addition, I'm ready to move on to 0-6 subtraction". I'd like to see it set up so that there's at least an option the parent can set that says "after the child had successfully answered x problems, advance them to the next section"

The program does not save the "login" information. In order for the program to record your progress you have to remember to login every time you use it. The program can be used without logging in. It seems more logical to me for the program to open a login screen at start-up, perhaps with the option to opt out if you, for some reason, want to do the problems without logging in.

Similar to the logging in, the program allows you to do math problems without hitting "time me", but if you don't hit "time me" than the program doesn't time the page. I have to admit this was something that *I* struggled with. I would hit "fetch" to get new problems, and then I'd start doing the problems, only to get to the bottom of the page and realize I hadn't hit "time me", so it didn't "count".

One other comment that I feel compelled to make. This program operates under the same assumption that my high school math operated under, the assumption that hated of "math" stems from not understanding math. Apparently my children and I, who understand math easily, and use math easily in daily life, but find MATH DRILLS boring and therefore, don't like them, are in the minority? I don't know. I just remember my math teacher saying, more than once, that "if you understand math, you'll like it" and me looking at him and saying . . . uhh . .. nope, still not a fan! (he did, eventually learn, when I was in the class, to tack on "unless you're LaRee", and we had a good relationship overall, I think I was like a math problem he couldn't quite crack, an interesting challenge LOL). And, as I read through the Mad Dog website, I came across that same idea, "Where students once said, “Math is hard; I hate math!”, they now say, “Math is easy; math is fun!” I don't understand this, to me this is like saying that you could change someone from saying ""making a pie is hard, I can't stand the taste of pie crust" but, by teaching them an easy way to make pie, they would then say "making a pie is easy, I LOVE the taste of pie crust". Finding an easy way to make a pie, wouldn't change my dislike of pie crust (as evidenced by the fact that I can buy frozen pie crust & just throw the fruit in it & bake it). AND, I've never found math difficult, but I don't find sitting here doing seemingly endless math drills to be fun, if anything I find them EXTRA boring because they are easy. . . SO . . . while this is a common assumption in the education world, I disagree with it.

Not surprisingly, my children who've never sat and done math worksheets, were less than thrilled with this one. They did it willingly enough because it was quick and easy and they could check it off their list and move on with their day, but when I sat down to write this review and asked them what they thought, they said "boring". I did ask them "if you had the choice between Mad Dog Math or regular paper math worksheets, which would you choose?" and they said Mad Dog Math. So, if you're looking for a way to do math drills anyway, this is probably a good option. Personally, for K-5, I suggest teaching math through life - cooking, etc. And skip the math drills, but that's just me!

Disclaimer: In exchange for writing this review, I received a 4 month license for this program for my family's use. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up - May 15

We had the most GORGEOUS weather this week! We spent so much time outside just soaking it all up, it was lovely!

The big girls finished spreading the mulch for me, and did some other planting and such, but mostly I just turned them loose outside.

Our "date schedule" is all convoluted this month. Normally Rodney & I have our date the first week, and I have my bookclub (when Rodney takes at least the big girls someplace fun) the 2nd week. But this month, we had rescheduled bookclub for the first week (because of other people's schedules). So, we figured we'd just flip the two, and Rodney & I would have our date this (2nd) week. But our schedule didn't mesh with Starla's this week, so we flipped things AGAIN, and MiniMe and I went on our date (normally 3rd week) instead. We're in a "rut" but as long as she likes it, that's fine with me LOL. We go to Chipotles for supper and then Dairy Queen for dessert. Last month when Sassy had her date, I wanted to look for something at the Dollar Store (next to DQ, so it's convenient) and Sassy ended up getting a "magic kit" that she's been having fun with. So MiniMe wanted her own magic kit (the Dollar Store has 3 different "kits" so she could get one with different "tricks" from Sassy's). She's only learned one of the tricks so far, but she's having so much fun with it.

We had our "Moms" bookclub this week. The big girls had fun playing frisbee outside with Pastor Mike, so that was a hit. Just as we were gathering things up to leave Little Bit fell ALL the way down their basement stairs. None of us saw her "start" so not sure what caused it, thankfully she rolled "sideways" not head over heels. She was obviously scared (so we the rest of us!) but otherwise ok. She has a little scrape on her forehead but other then that, not even any bumps or bruises. As soon as I'd made sure there wasn't any blood or broken bones, I started nursing her to help her calm down, and asked MiniMe to find the Arnica in my purse, and gave Little Bit a dose of that as soon as she was ready to take a break in nursing. By the time we finished gathering things up and got out to the car she was chattering away about how "me fall down stairs". . . "me scared". So she doesn't appear to be any the worse for her journey down the stairs, though I could hope (probably a futile hope) that it would make her more cautious on the stairs, and in general (since she just dove head first of my lap while I was typing this post, I don't think there's much chance of that).

Friday Rodney took all 3 girls to his mom's while I was at the homeschool convention. And the big girls spent the night there, then Rodney & Little Bit went back down on Sabbath.

And that was our week. Not alot to write about, but a good week just the same!

Homeschool Convention 2011

I spent the last 2 days soaking up huge amounts of homeschool-related information and encouragement and things I "need" to buy!!

Despite a bad headache yesterday afternoon, it was, once again, an encouraging, uplifting, rejuvenating experience! I can't begin to imagine how much money people who actually buy CURRICULUM spend at conventions LOL.

Some highlights . . .

A little boy coming and asking to sit on my lap during one of the seminars. He was such a snuggle bug. His parents apologized profusely, and offered to take him several times, but he was so sweet and snuggly, it was all good!

Great speakers, as always. Giving timely messages about things like parenting our children with compassion, not fear.

I'm, errr . . . unusual, in the world of, well, this world, in that one of the things I LOVE about going to homeschool convention is being ALONE (in the midst of thousands of people, LOL). Others go looking forward to talking to other homeschool moms and such, and I understand that, in theory, but I love just being alone. I adore my children, but the little extroverts attract attention EVERYWHERE we go. I thought it was just the "twin thing" but it's not, Little Bit attracts attention all by herself. So, for these two days, I could sit in corners and walk through crowds, and smile pleasantly, but be mainly invisible, and that was exactly what I wanted and needed and cherished!

Adding countless (well, I COULD count them, but it might give dh a heart attack) books and resources to our wish lists!

Getting Bible highlighter kits for Sassy and MiniMe. I'd been wanting to get them for awhile, and when I found them there, I went ahead and got them. MiniMe especially was so excited to start using them this morning (she's been using one highlighter from a set I already had, but now she can color-code too).

Hearing Ken Hamm from speak.  This past year of listening to the Jonathan Park Adventures has really whetted my interest in Creation science, so it was great to hear Ken Hamm speak so passionately about the importance of learning about and believing in the WHOLE Bible, not just pick and choose the parts we want. And giving scientific EVIDENCE for creation. I'm amazed when I listen to the CDs and now, listening to him speak, at how MUCH evidence lines up with the Bible account of creation, and yet evolutionists refuse to consider it. I don't understand why so many Christians seem to just shrug and say "we have to take the Bible on faith" which is true, of course, but WHY stop there when there IS evidence to support a young earth and literal creation week? So, it was encouraging and fascinating to get to hear Ken Hamm in person.

And those are a few highlights from this year's convention. I'm already looking forward to next year, LOL!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Review: Robert Pierre EP - Christian Contemporary Music

I don't get a chance to listen to much music "for me" these days. Usually if we have music going, it's for the children. And that's ok with me. But it was kind of nice, to get the chance to review a new, young, Christian artist, and "have" to listen to "my music" for a change! I'm not up on all the current music, by any means, but I enjoyed these songs, the words and the message, I love hearing a young person using his talents for God's glory!

Robert Pierre is an 18 year old high school senior, balancing school, fun, and a music career!

You can preview his new album, and download the songs for free here

If you like his music, let him know by posting a note on his facebook page

And if you want to see what Robert and his friends do in their free time, here's a fun video of them doing some pretty impressive water basketball shots.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Happy 10th Anniversary TOS!!!

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine (TOS) is turning 10! And in honor of that momentous occasion, they're inviting their fans on a blog hop, to share what we like best about TOS!

But really? There's no way I can choose just one thing!

I love the magazine! It's one of VERY FEW magazines I'm willing to spend money on! (and by the way, they have a GREAT promotion going right now where you get NINETEEN free gifts when you subscribe! Go check it out!)

The TOS store is one of the places I go to when I'm looking for a homeschool resources (shipping is always free! LOVE that!).

And, as most of you know, I've had the great pleasure of being a member of the TOS Crew this past year. Not only have I gotten to review some amazing products! But I've made friendships too!

So there are a few of the things I love about TOS! How about you?

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Gratituesday - SPRING!!!!

I usually forget to write posts for Gratituesday, even though I LOVE the idea! But I'm actually remembering this week!!

It's going to be a short post though (shocking, I know!). I am SO SO SO THANKFUL for Spring this year! And I'm thankful that we are GETTING a spring this year! When we had such a cold April, I was afraid we were going to miss spring altogether and go straight from winter to summer, and that may still happen to some extent, but this week the weather has been absolutely PERFECT!! Not hot, not cold, sunny, breezy but not windy . . . absolutely gorgeous! And we are LOVING it!!! So, on that note, I'm going to stop typing on the computer and go enjoy this weather some more!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Little Green Project . . . Homemade Toiletries

Way back on St. Patrick's day, I posted as part of the "Little Green Project", and promised to follow up with details on my "top 10", and then I got busy and forgot. So . . . better late than never right?

A friend sent us an e-mail this week about a project they're helping with to make up personal care kits to send to the tornado victims in the South. While I think this is a wonderful way to help, and would make a great service project for my girls, if I'd been given more than one day's notice on when they were sending them out, something that always strikes me when I see this lists (and I've seen them various times, and various places after various "disasters"), is how few of the items on the list I actually use, when these are always listed as "the bare necessities". . .

So, I thought today I'd go over the list in the e-mail I got, and address how to easily make a natural alternative, or perhaps skip it all-together.

·         One towel and washcloth  - ok this is good to have!
·         Travel tissues  - while I see the value of disposability in a disaster situation, for daily use, I highly recommend hankies! Not only are the re-usable, but they're so much softer! Most of our "hankies" are actually old cotton t-shirts that I've cut into big squares. I didn't even bother to hem them & we've been using them for several years now. Just toss them in the wash with your towels (or really, any load).
·         Small bar of soap - I'll agree with some basic soap, for handwashing. Look for something basic, or natural. I use Dr. Bronner's liquid soap and put it in a foamer pump with distilled water. In the shower (and the children's baths), I use plain water unless we're dealing with something out-of-the-ordinary (vomit in the hair, or something). . . 
·         Shampoo (& Conditioner) - no no no no no!!! Shampoo is NOT GOOD!! It's a detergent and much too harsh for our hair or scalp.  It's a great racket they've got going though . . .see that harsh detergent strips the natural oils from your hair/scalp, which causes your scalp to say "OH NO! that protective, moisturizing oil is ALL GONE, I must not be making enough, let me make more!" so then your hair feels too oily, so you use more shampoo, which makes your scalp think it needs even MORE oil . . .and you see where this is going. STOP THE CYCLE! Seriously! Throw out the shampoo! Now go to your kitchen and find yourself a box of baking soda. Make a paste of baking soda and water and scrub that through your hair instead. The baking soda will absorb EXCESS oils, without stripping out what your hair/scalp needs.

Now conditioner - while a high quality conditioner probably isn't horrible for your hair, it's also not necessary. Instead, head back to your kitchen and find some apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar if that's all you have, but ACV is better). While you're in the kitchen find a large cup or jar (might want to go for plastic for this since you won't be eating it, and glass and the shower might not mix well. You're call). Now go to wherever you keep your essential oils (you DO have a basic selection of essential oils (EOs) don't you? No? Ok, we'll work on that in another post. For now, you want lavender, or tea tree, or lemon EO. I like lavender. If you have dandruff, you might want tea tree (TTO), which you can usually find in the toiletries section of Walmart, so that's a plus if you want it now). Lemon EO is good for dry hair. Ok, so now you have your large cup, some ACV, and a bottle of EO. . . back to teh shower. You've just washed your hair with baking soda. Rinse it out if you want, or don't, doesn't really matter. Now pour a little ACV into your big cup. Add water to the cup to dilute it (you want something in the range of a 6 to 1 ratio, water to ACV, but honestly, I don't measure, I just dump). Now add a couple drops of the EO. swish this all around a little bit, and pour it through your hair. If you're like me, and have long hair, I usually dip the ends into the cup/jar first, to make sure they get a good "dose" of it, then pour the rest over my head. Be careful, vinegar in the eyes does NOT feel good! I usually leave the ACV on my hair for a few minutes while I do other shower-stuff, then rinse it out.
·         Deodorant—neutral scent - Ick! Aluminum, chemicals, nasty fake scent . . . SOO unnecessary! All you need is a small spray bottle, plain white vinegar, and some essential oils (why yes, I DO love EOs, how did you guess?).  Now, if you don't have a selection, you can stick with Lavender EO and/or TTO. Fill the spray bottle with white vinegar and add several drops of EO. Shake, and use in place of deodorant. I've found that it actually works better if I wash each day with water but NOT soap (seriously, don't ask me why, but it's true!). You DO need to apply it every day. Once in a great while, on really hot days and/or when I'm being very active on hot days, I need to re-apply but, ummm . . . that's true of regular deodorant too. If you're concerned about this, keep a small spray bottle in your purse (the Dollar store usually has purse-size empty spray bottles for perfume if you want something smaller than the spray bottles in the travel supply section of Walmart), and reapply as needed. Bonus, I use this same spray to disinfect/clean nasty surfaces my children might come in contact with when out and about.
·         Hand Sanitizer - that deodorant spray I just mentioned, yeah, it works as hand sanitizer too! 
·         Toothbrush & Toothpaste - Toothbrush is good, but baking soda or salt makes a great "toothpaste".  Did you know that even most of the "natural" toothpastes contain glycerin? Do you know what glycerin is? It's about the stickiest sweet substance on the planet. Seriously, it makes honey seem very non-stick! So the stuff that most people use to get sweet/sticky stuff OFF their teeth is actually putting sweet sticky stuff ON their teeth . . .does that make sense to you? I won't even go into the whole flouride thing, do your own research, don't take the government's, or your dentist's word for it! If you feel the need to do "more" for your teeth and tongues, you can add a few drops of TTO to water & use as a mouthwash and/or use hydrogen peroxide as a mouthwash.
·         Lip Balm - I'll admit, I keep a tube of natural lip balm (I used to make it, need to get back into it, but it's abit more complicate to make than, say, the deodorant spray. If you're interested in making your own, google it) in my purse. But for at home, smooth a little coconut oil on your lips. Natural, non-toxic, and works great! I've also found that when I drink plenty of water, I generally don't need lip balm.
·         Sunscreen - Ugh! Here's a handy dandy little fact that the manufacturers forget to mention. All those stats about how sunscreens prevent skin cancer? Yeah, those are all referring to carcinoma (the type of skin cancer that is rarely fatal and very easy to treat by removing the spot in a quick, out-patient procedure). What they DON'T tell you is that some studies have shown that chemical sunscreens (that would be most of them) actually INCREASE the incident of melanoma (the rare, but deadly type of skin cancer). Now if you ask me, I'd alot rather take my chances at having to have a small spot removed, than increase my chance of a hard to treat, deadly form of cancer. This is one of those areas that each person has to decide for themselves (and their children). What I've found is that if we slowly increase our outside time each spring, and wear sunhats, and rash-guard type swimwear if we're going to be out in it all day, we rarely burn, but gradually develop a healthy tan. This is allowing our bodies to absorb that good, natural, God-made Vitamin D, and the tan helps to naturally protect our skin. If you do choose to use sunscreen, I'd encourage you to use a mineral one, not a chemical one. 
·         Hand lotion - making sure to drink plenty of water, and not over-drying your skin with soaps and detergents and other "stuff" should make lotion not very necessary, but my skin does tend to get dry in the middle of winter when the air is so dry. I've found coconut oil to be great! And often you can use "wasted" bits of it. When I cook with coconut oil (in the winter, when my house is colder, so the coconut oil is solid) I generally scoop it out with a spoon. Then, rather than tossing the spoon straight in the sink I'll wipe the oil off the spoon and rub it into whatever patch(es) of skin are feeling dry.

·         Hair Comb - ok I'll agree this one would be helpful! 

So there you have it, my take on the "essential" personal care products!

Sauteed Chard

My whole family likes spinach, which is great, but greens tend to be high in pesticides, and organic spinach can be expensive, and I've been a complete failure at growing spinach.  I've heard that Chard is easier to grow, so I decided to see what we think of chard.  I combined 2 or 3 recipes, and came up with a winner! But in typical LaRee fashion, it's not a real exact recipe . . . 

2-4 Tbsp butter
1 onion, chopped
1 bunch chard
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
juice from 1/2 lemon
salt to taste

Melt 2-4 Tbsp butter in large cast iron skillet.  Add onion, and cook till soft. While onion cooks, cut the stems out of the chard, and chop. Add to skillet. Saute until soft. Meanwhile, chop chard leaves. Once stems & onions are cooked, add chard and cook till wilted (if needed add a little water). Remove from heat, add garlic, lemon juice, and salt.

Homeschool Review: Monki See Monki Doo

When the TOS Crew offered the Monki See Monki Doo DVD as a review product, I thought it would be fun for Little Bit (age 2) to get to "review"something after all the fun things her big sisters have gotten to review this year. We received the first DVD in the program, Baby's First Words (retail $24.95) and the book Know Your Monkey (retail $11.95).
The concept of this program, as I understand it, is that by seeing words, hearing the words and seeing pictures of the words, even babies/toddlers can learn to recognize sight words. Quite frankly, I have no interest in "teaching my baby to read". As long-time readers of my blog know, I strongly believe in the concept of "Better Late than Early" and not pushing academics for young children. So, my goal in this program was not to "teach Little Bit to read".  That said, this is still a cute video for babies and toddlers. It uses puppets, children, animals, etc. in a way that captured, and for the most part, held Little Bit's attention.

The recommended way of using this video is to have the child watch it daily and also have them "review" the flash cards, and slide show. The video includes a "slide show" of all the words used in the video. The flash cards are a separate product that we did not receive.  I chose not to "require" any of this. I did try to offer "monkeys" when/if Little Bit asked to watch TV but if she asked for something else, I went with it. I have not used the "slide show" aspect of it. She has the book available to her with her other books and I've taken the book along in the car some since she tends to "read books" in the car. So, we have not used the program "as designed".  

As for the video, it's cute. Little Bit likes it (and so does our cat, LOL). While I don't know that it's teaching her to read, per se, she remembers what's coming next and repeats various words and phrases after they're said on the video. So it could be argued that it is teaching her speech/language.

 I was amused to hear the video ask "who changes your diaper". My 2 yr old might not know how to read, but she IS toilet independent and hasn't been in diapers for 6 months or so! Struck me as amusing that the makers of the video apparently believe that a child can learn to read as a baby/toddler, but not learn potty independence until later, as is typical of our current culture (I'll stay off my soapbox on WHY I think this is true in modern western culture).

I would agree that the recommended age range of 3mo to 3 years is the group that would enjoy these videos for the movement, music, bright colors, puppets, animals, etc. and I would guess that it would help to teach young toddlers to say the words presented.  I can't speak to how well it would teach them to read. This "first words" video includes 40 words, such as body parts, and other "useful" words for young toddlers.

So, who would I recommend this for? I don't like the idea of "teaching babies to read", but the video and book are cute, and children will probably like them. If you're looking for videos for young children these are a nice option. If you don't "need" videos to entertain your little one(s) while you do other things, I'd say that simply reading wholesome, age appropriate books to your children will, long-term be a better way of teaching reading, and a love of reading.

Disclaimer: I received the above mentioned products in exchange for writing an honest review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up - May 8

We are LOVING the spring weather that has finally arrive in PA!

This week we welcomed baby goslings to our pond! I haven't annoyed the protective parents by trying to get pictures yet, but the goose "couple" that has claimed the pond closest to our house (there are 3 ponds on the property, but only one we can see from our yard) hatched 6 goslings this week. They're so cute running along in a row. We've been keeping an eye on the Mama goose as she sat on her nest, and now the girls are loving watching them!

In other animal news, we took Moccasin (MiniMe's cat) in to be neutered this week. We had both cats scheduled, but apparently Socks got wind of what was going to happen and took off the morning before we were supposed to take them in, sigh . . . so he's tentatively scheduled for this coming Thursday, we'll see if he comes home in time. Our challenge, post-op has been the recommendation to keep Moccasin in the house for a WEEK post-op. Moccasin is our cat that has fully embraced his identity as an OUTDOOR cat, and is NOT at all happy at being kept house-bound! He goes from window to window, apparently hoping to find one magically glass-free so he can escape. He stalks the front door to grab his chance to escape (and found one that first morning, poorly timed to coincide with the lawn mowers starting up outside (he's always hated the lawn mowers), so he TOOK OFF!!! After much tears and worry, once the lawn mowers went away, I heard his, now familiar (after all the crying to please let me OUT) meow, and the girls ran down to the creek and brought him safely home, apparently none the worse for his excursion. . . finally this morning (his surgery was on Thursday), we decided to "set him free" and last I checked he was happily basking in the sun on the patio.

I had bookclub this week, and Daddy once again took all 3 girls to Chuckee Cheese. At supper Friday night, as we were talking about our week, Little Bit told us. "Me Cuckee with daddy, sissies. Me drive cuckee's car! Mommy fends (friend's) house." So guess she had fun LOL.

Friday Rodney got me my "mother's day present" in the form of 15 bags of mulch! Woo-hoo! The girls are learning to spread mulch ("this is fun, Mommy!"  AWESOME!! YOU do it it!) and plant things.

In school we're fitting in little bits of the basics amongst our outdoor time, but I'm a HUGE believer in outdoor time being some of the best "school" we can get, and I know we'll have plenty of time this summer when it's too hot to spend too long outside and we can do more school then.

We did add in a new aspect of Bible this week. "Wholesome Learning - Biblical Names" it's set up in a way that we'll be doing it 2 days a week, and continue through the Bible chronologically the rest of the time. Last week was our first week and we learned about the name Samuel. The girls really got into it, so I think we'll all have fun with this.

Also included in the ebook is a beginning course on reading Biblical Hebrew. I thought it looked interesting, and recently reading Dahveed, Yahweh's Warrior and Dahveed, Yahweh's Fugative  (I read, Dahveed, Yahweh's Chosen when it first came out, and reviewed it here), got me interested in the Hebrew wording of things, so I printed it out and have been looking over it when I have time in the car when Little Bit falls asleep. I had no intention of trying to teach the girls at this point since we're already working on Spanish and half the time they whine about it LOL), but MiniMe noticed me going over the "flash cards" and wanted to know what it was. I gave her a brief, whispered explanation (since Little Bit was asleep), and it captured her interest. And once she was looking over them, Sassy wanted to too. So they randomly borrow the "flash cards" when we're in the car now. Not sure they really understand it all, need to bring the flashcards back in the house sometime and go over abit of the "theory" of it all with them when I can talk without worrying about waking a baby. Not going to push it at all, but hey, if they want to learn it on their own, fine by me :)

Oooh another "outside" thing they did this week.  The day that Moccasin was at the vet's, I suggested that they clean out/air out his "box" that is the preferred "cat house" on the porch (nevermind that we actually got them a REAL, insulated, cat house last winter, they like the box better). Which they did, and then Sassy said "is it ok if we clean up the rest of the porch too?" OF COURSE it is!!! They did a good job too. Sorted things out, took trash to the trashcan, organized the toys & such. Swept the whole porch . . . they're great little workers when they're in the mood!

At church yesterday they asked the children to come hand out flowers to all the mothers. I was just going to send the big girls down (we sit up in the balcony), but Little Bit would have none of it, she wanted to "go with Sissies!" So I took her down too. She did pretty good. I stayed with her, obviously, but she did a good job of carrying the plants and giving them to whoever I told her to give them to. She was very proud of herself LOL.

Today for Mother's Day, the girls talked Daddy into "helping them" make me french toast with blueberries for breakfast in bed. YUM! They also went out on the patio and made me a "Mother's Day card" with sidewalk chalk. They even had Little Bit add some "scribbles", hee hee. Then we spent most of the day doing mulch-related stuff :)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Homeschool Review: Circle C Beginnings Series

Nothing like HAVING to read a fun book about an old fashioned girl! I was soo excited when I found out that we would get to review a book from the new Circle C Beginnings series. Kregel Publishing sent us  Andi's Scary School Days to review.
The Circle C Beginnings series is a new series designed for children ages 6-8 and tell the story of six year old Andi (Andrea) and her life on a ranch in 1874. The book we got to review tells the story of Andi's first few days of school and how she adjusts to this new environment.

This is such a cute little book! It's a short chapter book. A couple days after we got it, MiniMe was whining about being bored because she'd just finished the book she was reading. So I handed her this book to read. She disappeared to her room and reappeared a couple hours later & handed me the book. She had read the WHOLE BOOK in one sitting! I was stunned (she tends to be my slower reader and generally not as big a fan of reading as Sassy). So, obviously this is an easy read for young readers. When I asked her what she thought, she said she LOVED it, and yes, of COURSE she wanted the REST of the series (so much for review products being free, not so much when it means we "have" to buy the rest of the series LOL.  We haven't yet, but we'll be adding them to the girls' Christmas list, and I'll keep them in mind as a possible surprise for any long road trips or similar that we have to do between now & then). One thing MiniMe said she liked was that there weren't any "hard words" so she could read the whole thing by herself.

While I prefer to use books like this as a fun "free time" activity, and in think alll children, homeschooled or not, should have good books like this to read for the pure joy of reading, if you wanted to incorporate these books into your history curriculum, the Circle C Beginnings website has some GREAT resources! There are FREE coloring pages and activity packs to go with each book. These could easily be used to turn each book into a unit study or lapbook. OR you may purchase lapbooks for a more complete study.

These books would make a nice read-aloud for preschoolers, and an easy chapter book for early elementary children to read on their own. I think much older than 8 or 9 would find it too simple to read on it's own, but as a "Tween" or early teen, I might have chosen to read the Circle C Beginnings series if I had already read, and enjoyed the Circle C Adventures series that is about the same girl at age 12. I would guess that older children would also be fine with listening to the story as a family read-aloud.

 At this time there are 4 books in the Circle C Beginnings series and they are available for $4.99 each. Or all 4 for $15.96. The website indicates that 2 more books will be available in August 2011. Also, as I mentioned above, there's another series about the same girl at age 12. It is designed for children age 9-14.

I was sent this review as a member of the TOS Crew. You can see what others have to say about this series, including the other books in the "Beginnings" series by going to this post

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