Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Weekly Wrap-Up - Aug 28

Busy busy busy . . .

So our last wrap-up was all about our trip to TN, and ended with us heading back to my parents' house. We got to their house Monday evening.

Tuesday was our "catch-up" day. . . laundry, garden, fun stuff like that.

Wednesday we headed to Mount Vernon. We went last December, and decided to get season passes so we'd be able to come back this summer, when the farm and gristmill were open. And we were planning to go a couple months ago, but that trip to my parents' house, the weather didn't cooperate. So it suddenly hit me, as we were driving home from TN, that we needed to get back there before stuff closed down again for the winter!

Wednesday was PERFECT! It was hot, but considering it was August, not hot enough to complain (though that didn't stop the kids LOL). This is a great time of year for such things, schools have mostly started, so the summer tourists weren't there, but since schools are JUST starting, they aren't doing field trips yet, so no school groups either. We spent quite awhile at the farm, learning about the 16-sided barn (for threshing wheat), and how flax turns into linen and such. Once we finished at the farm we headed over to the Gristmill and Distillery. The distillery tour was abit over my girls' heads, and mine, for that matter . . . assuming we have ANY understanding of how whiskey is made would be, inaccurate . . . but overall it was a great day!

DH had a meeting down closer to my parents' house on Wed, so he decided to come spend the night at their house to see all of us. For the last several days Little Bit had been saying she missed her daddy (and Joy, the kitten). I wasn't sure how late he would get to my parents' house, so hadn't told her he was coming. She was dancing around the kitchen when he walked in the kitchen door, it was priceless! She stopped dead and stared at him, then was SOO SOO SOO excited to see him!

The next morning, when he brought his suitcase out, she turned to me and said "Mommy, can we go home TODAY?!?" She's definitely daddy's girl!

Thursday we went to Antietam Battlefield. We are planning to go back next month for the 150th anniversary of the battle (the battle was Sept 17, the "festivities" run that whole week), but it occurred to me that it would be too hectic/crowded/chaotic for the girls to actually do the Jr Rangers when we're there for the 150th, so it made sense to go do it now, so they knew abit more about the battle ahead of time. When I'd posted a picture from Mt. Vernon on fb on Wed, my friend, M, had commented that she & her kids had actually talked about going to Mt Vernon that day, but had decided not to. So . . . when, on the way home from Mt. Vernon, we decided to go to Antietam on Thurs, I e-mailed M, and told her we were going to Antietam if they wanted to come too. They decided to come and we all had a great time! M has triplets a few months younger than MiniMe and Sassy, and a 5 yr old. Sassy & MiniMe had met one of the triplets this spring when he came with M to CHAP (homeschool convention), but hadn't met the other kids since we lived in MD (and didn't remember them from then). This was M's kids' first junior ranger, and it was a great one to start out with, fun, little to no "busy work", not so hard that it's frustrating . . . it was great!

Friday we finally headed home. We had a great trip, but it's good to be home, and back to our normal routines. And for some reason, my computer is charging my phone, but not "seeing" it, so for now I'll post this without pictures.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Crew Review: Heroines of the Past Bible Study


In case you haven't noticed, we LOVE history around here!! And we're a family full of girls (poor Rodney, sooo outnumbered!) so when we got a chance to review a Bible Study about Girls and Women in History, we jumped on it!

PhotobucketAmy Puetz from Golden Prairie Press gave us a choice of several options to review. We chose Heroines of the Past Bible Study.

Heroines of the Past Bible Study is a thirteen week Bible study that tells stories of courageous, virtuous women throughout history. It is designed to be used 5 days a week, and each day's lesson includes a short story about a woman from history, and then a few discussion questions focusing on the virtues the woman in the story displayed and Bible verses to help us apply these virtues to our lives.

We have been using this Bible study for our evening Bible time. I have been reading the story aloud to Sassy & MiniMe, then we go over the discussion questions orally together with the girls taking turns looking up the suggested Bible verses.

We've been enjoying this study and plan to continue using it going forward. We did notice, in the case of a story we've read/heard from 2-3 other sources, that the details in this story didn't line up with the other versions we've heard. While it can be hard to know which is most accurate, the fact that we've heard more than one other version that were more in agreement with each other, and seemed more plausible, made me question the accuracy of this version, which leads me to wonder about details in the other stories, however since this is primarily a Bible study, and not a history textbook, it gave us a good chance to discuss the fact that we need to recognize that history is full of stories and sometimes details get lost or changed over time, so everything should be taken with a grain of salt.

Overall the girls have enjoyed it. They do complain sometimes when there are a lot of verses to look up, but it's good for them LOL. I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a good way to combine character studies and history for their daughters.

We received the Kindle ebook version of this book. The ebook is also available in mobi (for Nook and similar ereaders) or .pdf formats. Or you can purchase the print version of the book. This book is currently on sale for $21.60 (regular price is $27). In addition to this book, several other products from Golden Prairie Press were also reviewed by members of the Crew. Check out all of their reviews, here.


Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received the above mentioned product in exchange for writing an honest review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are those of myself or my children, as stated.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Book Review: Be the Mom by Tracey Eyster

I recently signed up to write reviews for Tyndale Blog Network. The first book I received from them was Be the Mom by Tracey Eyster.

In this book, Tracey explores the many "traps" that moms fall into trying to be all the things that society tells us we should be. She points out how each of these traps (comparing yourself to others, trying to do it all, etc) is, indeed a trap and gives practical tips on how to recognize if you are in the trap, and what you need to do.

I enjoyed this book. It was easy to read, and, while I didn't see myself in all of the traps, it did give me some good advice to ponder related to the traps that do tend to trip me up. Even the traps that don't typically trip me up (I'm one of those weird people who has never really understood the need to "fit in", so I don't tend to worry too much about what others think of me), were things I've seen friends struggle with, and I could see the value in the advice given.

Throughout the book, Tracey draws on personal experiences, giving the book the feel of sitting down and chatting with an older "been there, done that" mom. I'd recommend this as a great read for all moms!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of the above mentioned book from Tyndale in exchange for writing an unbiased review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

Weekly Wrap-Up - Aug 21

As I mentioned in the last wrap-up, we've been travelling.

Last Sunday we left my aunt & uncle's house and started toward Chattanooga. On the way we stopped at Andrew Johnson National Historic Site. The rangers there bumped it squarely into our list of favorite National Parks. The tour of his house was awesome! Both because it is completely furnished with the actual furnishings from when they lived there, and because the tour guide was excellent, including Sassy & MiniMe, and encouraging their questions. When we arrived back at the visitor center to get the girls' Jr Ranger certificates and badges, that ranger was equally great, encouraging them to do a couple extra things that we hadn't taken time to do, talking to them about what we'd seen, and then having them stand by the flag to take their pledge.  Another thing that won points for me, is that the Jr Ranger book was written such that Little Bit could legitimately earn her own badge, though it said ages 5+, there were sufficient pre-reading activities, that she could do the required number for a 5 year old.

Then we headed on down to the Chattanooga area. That evening we had supper with my Great Aunt and Uncle. One of the reasons for our trip on down to Chattanooga was because the girls have heard stories that Uncle Bruce (who was a missionary) tells, and wanted to meet him and hear his stories from him. He's now 95, and his health is failing, though he still loves to tell stories. I hadn't seen him in several years, and he is definitely much "frailer" than he used to be, but he was also obviously thrilled to meet the girls (technically, they met him when they were 3 or 4, but they don't remember him and were too young to appreciate his stories then) and kept telling them "I've got stories for you!". After we ate, they stayed at the table with him and he told them several stories, before we had to leave because it was bedtime.

Monday we went to Chickamauga Battlefield. It was the first Jr Ranger book that we just plain gave up on. The whole park seemed very "academic" oriented, the film had been over their heads, and the girls were quickly getting frustrated with how difficult the answers were to find (even I had trouble finding some of them) and how much there was to do. As I saw them getting frustrated (and it was a legitimate frustration, of spending several minutes looking for one answer that was supposedly in the brochure, not a "kid frustration" of "I can't find it in 5 seconds, this is too hard"), I reminded them that there's nothing that says we HAVE to get Jr Rangers everywhere we go, so if it wasn't going to be fun and add to their learning and enjoyment,we could just look around the park instead. They opted for that, and we had a nice time exploring the museum (one of the Jr Ranger requirements was to go through a whole room of civil war rifles and find the specific ones listed and write down their catalog numbers, shudder! As my dad pointed out some boys who are REALLY into guns, might have enjoyed that, but to make it a REQUIRED item for everyone is just setting kids up to hate history, if you ask me!). After exploring the visitor center, we headed out to drive around the battlefield abit. My great great great grandfather fought and died at Chickamauga, so we found the area where his regiment fought. Mom & Dad said when they were there several years ago the rangers were able to look up and tell them pretty much the exact spot where he died, but the rangers this time either didn't have the information, didn't know how to find the information, or couldn't be bothered. But at least by finding where that regiment fought, gave us the general area he had been.

After leaving Chickamauga, we headed to the Lookout Mountain site (there was a battle there, but it's not a field, I don't remember what they call it). The Jr Rangers for both battles were in the same book (though separate badges) so I already knew that this Jr Ranger would be equally frustrating, though at least there were no guns to catalog LOL. So again, we just enjoyed the site. MiniMe was FASCINATED with a huge painting of the battle, commissioned by General Hooker before, or right after, the battle. The artist rode with him in battle, and then returned to the area the next year (maybe 2 years?) and took additional photographs and sketches, and talked to many of the Union generals and soldiers to get their perspective on it, so it's considered one of the most accurate depictions of a civil war battle. It takes up a HUGE wall in the visitor center there, and then there's a touch screen computer that gives additional information about it, and lets you examine each small section of the painting. I think she would have stayed there all day if we hadn't seen a storm coming in and wanted to get out to the actual site before the weather got bad.

There is just no way to describe how unreal it is, to stand at the top of that mountain and picture soldiers fighting UP that steep slope! Or even the thought of the confederates standing up there an seeing the union soldiers coming at them up the slope. I can't imagine!!

Tuesday we spent the morning visiting some people I still know around campus at Southern Adventist University (where I went to college, 15 *gulp* years ago). It was interesting to see the changes to campus and talk to friends I haven't seen in years.

Tuesday afternoon we went to McKay's Used Books! It was a small, but wonderfully well-organized used bookstore when I was in college. With a great selection of all kinds of books, thanks to the many colleges in the Chattanooga area, and I visited regularly while I was living down there. It honestly spoiled me for all (or at least most) other used bookstores. When I got home to MD and excitedly went to check out a well-known used book chain there, I pretty much turned around and walked straight out, it was so unorganized in comparison, I just couldn't stand it.  Now, McKay's is a HUGE store, but still just as well organized! The girls and I had a blast! Sassy was excited to find a good number of the original Boxcar Children books. I grew up loving these books and was thrilled to share them with the girls, but we discovered that sometime more recently (in the 80's or 90's, I think), someone had written a whole bunch more to add to the series. While not horrible, and I wouldn't be opposed to getting them out of the library to read, they aren't as good as the originals, IMO, so suggested to the girls that we just buy ones from the original author (which list her as the author, the new ones don't list the author on the cover, they say "created by . . . " the original author, so you have to look close to catch the difference, sigh. But after showing Sassy how to tell, she went through the whole stack of boxcar books and pulled out the ones we didn't have of the original books. She got 5 or 6 and has already read them all LOL.

Both girls also got several books from the Dear America series (like this one) and some other biographies and such.

Tuesday evening, my cousin (technically she's my second cousin, our grandfathers were brothers), Katie came over with her 4 yr old son. Katie & I roomed together in college, and she now works at Southern. The girls had never met her and loves that they are almost as tall as she is LOL. It was fun catching up with her, and the girls enjoyed talking with her and getting to know her too.

Wednesday we headed to the Atlanta, GA area to visit Kennesaw Battlefield. After the disappointment with Chickamauga's Jr Ranger, we checked this one out online first. It was extensive, but not quite as . . . absurd. My dad, always prepared, actually had a printer with him in the motorhome, so he printed out some of the "busy work" parts for the girls to work on in the car on the way down. It still took a good part of the day, and included a "1 mile" hike that I'm quite certain was closer to 2 miles (and while I make no claims to being anywhere near in shape, I do, do quite abit of walking when we are at parks and such, so have some idea of how long a mile "feels like"), but the girls had fun with it, so it was all good. The rangers were the least talkative of any park we've been to, and must not get many Jr Ranger requests, it took the guy forever, in the back room, to even FIND the Jr Ranger books. But once he found them, they had a "Wee Ranger" book for Little Bit's age range (2-5, I think it was) woo-hoo!

AND, once we finished the requirements and went to get their certificates and badges, we discovered that Kennesaw definitely wins the prize of "most loot" Jr Ranger.  All 3 girls got badges (of course), pencils, "stress ball" bison (the National Park emblem has a bison on it, so it's kind of their "mascot"), and Jr Ranger hats that say Kennesaw (to distinguish them from the generic Jr Ranger hats they got at a different park awhile back). The big girls got bumper stickers that say something along the lines of "My kids earned their Jr Ranger at Kennesaw National Battlefield, have yours?" and Little Bit got a little wood ball toss game that is actually quite cool, she and her sisters enjoyed playing with it for the rest of our trip.

Thursday we headed into Alabama to visit Russell Cave, and earn another Jr Ranger. Little Bit was able to earn that one too, woo-hoo!

Thursday evening Uncle Bruce & Aunt Adele (and my grandma, who had come down with us and was staying with them while we were down there) came to the motorhome for supper. They brought Little Bit a stuffed leprechaun from Ireland (that they'd gotten during their travels sometime), and the big girls some hand carved . . . statues, I guess, from Africa, and some cut paper pictures (gorgeous and intricate) from Hong Kong, and some notecards with flowers drawn by Uncle Bruce's sister. The girls were thrilled with all of them, and are old enough to recognize how special they all are, now to find a place for them in our house where the tornado otherwise known as Little Bit can't get to them. Uncle Bruce told the girls a couple more stories while he was there too.

Friday we visited with my Kindergarten, and 11th grade English teacher (yes, that would be the same person). She even thought to bring bread so the girls could feed the ducks & geese at the pond/creek that runs through Southern's campus. So the girls had fun with that while we visited. And, she may have given Sassy a new name. She (Mrs. G) spent several years in Russia awhile back, and when she heard Sassy's full first name (not the nickname she goes by), she mentioned that it is a very common name in Russia, but that they have a different nickname for it. Sassy really lit up at that nickname and has grinned when I've called her that a few times (when I think of it) since then. So we shall see if she decides to go with the "new name" and stick with her regular one.

Friday afternoon we went to Mayfield Dairy to take their tour, and have ice cream. The tour was shorter than I remember, but the girls enjoyed it, and thought it was fun to try to "milk" the big plastic cow in the store there:

I love how Little Bit is watching MiniMe trying to figure out what she thinks she's doing LOL:

And ice cream makes everything worthwhile LOL.

Sabbath we went to Collegedale church, the girls were rather amazed at the sheer size of it, after our small church at home LOL. MiniMe was properly impressed with the huge pipe organ too. After church we went to Uncle Bruce's daughter, Linda's house for dinner, and a chance to see more of the extended family. Uncle Bruce wasn't feeling well, but did talk to the girls some, and had Aunt Adele read them a story he had written down because his breathing wouldn't allow him to tell it.

One of Uncle Bruce's grandson's, Mark, took over Little Bit duty, downloading a drawing app onto his iPad and setting her up playing with it. He made a friend for life, Little Bit told me, as we were leaving, "I love Mark" LOL. He really was good, with her and the older girls too, and even sat at the "kids table" with us during lunch.

A couple different afternoons/evenings, when we got back to the campground in time, we went swimming in the pool there. The last time, someone had left a ball there, so the big girls, Papa, and I played keep-away with that, when Little Bit wasn't using it. That was quite the workout, but the girls LOVED it.

Sunday morning as we were packing up to leave, Grandma called and said Uncle Bruce's breathing had gotten worse, so they'd taken him to the hospital that morning. She ended up deciding to stay in Collegedale to help Aunt Adele however she can, and mom & dad will go down and pick her up in a week or 2 (or howeverlong she decides to stay).  There's a "branch" of McKay's Used Books in Knoxville now too, so we stopped at that one, and got more wonderful history books for the girls (yes, I'm tickled pink that in a store full of books my girls gravitate to the history books!), before heading on up to my aunt & uncle's house for the night, and then on home (to Mom & Dad's) yesterday.

So that was our busy, adventure-filled week!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Crew Review: Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers

One of my "goals" for this new school year, was to be more intentional about including music in our curriculum. Part of that was taken care of when MiniMe decided to take piano lessons, but I still wanted to include some learning about the stories behind some of the hymns and biographies of hymn writers and such. So, it fit in beautifully with my plans, when we were asked to review Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers from Christian Liberty Press.

Written by Douglas Bond, Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers is the first in a series of books about hymn writers. In this book, 2 American children are frustrated with being "stuck" in a small town in England for the summer, until they meet the church organist, known by all as Mr.Pipes. Over the course of the summer, he takes them on all kinds of adventures, while telling them stories about many of the famous British Hymn Writers, and leading them closer to God in the process.

We received the ebook (.pdf) version of this book to review. I read it as a read aloud to the girls either during our morning school time, or as a bedtime story, depending what else we were doing that day. It is a pretty long book, 298 pages, but held the girls' interest throughout and they are already asking when we can read the rest of the series.

The ebook is $8.79, the print book is $9.89. Christian Liberty Press lists this as being for grades 7-10. Honestly, I don't understand the grade level. . . my girls are roughly 3rd-4th grade level and they loved the story. I think by grades 7-10, some would find the story too "young". While the information about the hymn writers is valuable and age appropriate for the older children, the story seems written more for 3rd to 6th grade. I'm not good at gauging reading level, my girls read anything and everything, they would have been able to read the book as an independent reading book, without any problem, though the long chapters and length of the book overall, would have been daunting for MiniMe. As a read aloud, it worked wonderfully for their age, and accomplished exactly what I was hoping, taught them (and me) about some hymn writers (it should be noted that this book focused on the writers of the "lyrics", often originally written as poetry, and later put to music, not the people who wrote the music itself) and whetted their appetites to pay more attention to the hymns we sing in church. MiniMe, especially, has been asking her piano teacher to help her learn some of the hymns that we have learned about in this book.

I would recommend this as a read aloud, it could be a wonderful family bedtime read aloud or even used for family worship, for families with children of all ages. I think, while they might not have understood it all, even age age 5 or 6, my girls would have enjoyed this story if we'd broken it down and read it in small pieces. I enjoyed it myself, so, other than teens who think stories about "little kids" are beneath them, I think this would work up through adult.

As I mentioned, the girls enjoyed the book and immediately asked when we can get the rest of the series. In some places, I felt like there was too much detail, which I tend to notice more when I'm having to read out loud LOL, but the girls didn't seem to mind. I find it cumbersome to read .pdf format ebooks, either on my phone or on the computer. And with the print book being only a couple dollars more, I'm not sure it would be cost effective to buy the ebook and then print it out. One nice thing about the ebook, given MiniMe's interest in learning to play the hymns mentioned, was that I could print out the hymns (which are included, with music, at the end of each chapter) and not have to have her trying to play them out of the book itself.  The one thing I would love to see is an accompanying (or included) CD or mp3 of the hymns. I was able to hunt some of them down on you tube, and many of them were hymns that I was familiar enough with, to be able to sing the words enough to give the girls the general idea, but having a good version (with you tube, you never know which one is going to have understandable words and such) right at my finger tips on a CD or mp3, would have really enhanced the learning aspect of it for us.

In addition to this book, and the rest of the Mr. Pipes series, Christian Liberty Press carries a wide selection of books for families and homeschoolers, be sure to check them out! Also, don't forget to see what my fellow Crewmates thought of this book. You can read their reviews, here.

Editing to add: Over the last couple of years we've purchased and read the rest of the Mr. Pipes Series. While I found book 2 to be quite similar to the first, books 3 and 4 seemed to slip progressively into the specific doctrinal beliefs of "Mr. Pipes", much more legalistic than I believe. There was also some "bashing" of modern praise music, which I found disturbing. Additionally, it seemed like less hymns were presented in these books. So I'll stick to my recommendation of the first 2 books, but if I had it to do over, I personally wouldn't purchase the last 2.

Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received the above mentioned product in exchange for writing an honest review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are those of myself or my children, as stated.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Book Review: Sonrise Stable: Rosie and Scamper by Vicki Watson

Usually when I review books, I review books for ME. But just as I recently reviewed a "homeschool product" just for me, I decided the girls would enjoy helping me review a book for the Christian Women Affiliate Review Crew.  Rosie and Scamper is the first in the Sonrise Stable series of books by Vicki Watson.

The Sonrise Stable series follows the life of a homeschooling family as they learn about life while visiting their grandmother's horse farm.

In the first book, Rose and Scamper, 8 year old Rosie is excited that her pony, Jet is having a baby, and makes a new friend when a girl moves in next door to her grandma's horse farm. Two years later, after some challenging times she's riding a new pony, Scamper in the horse shows and continuing to learn lessons about life.

I decided I would read the book first, to get a feel for it. My kids are great, but I didn't think I wanted to 100% take their word for what a book is like LOL. I really enjoyed the book. It's well written, wholesome, and weaves "lessons" and reminders of how to live a Christian life into an entertaining, interesting story.

Next I handed the book to MiniMe. She was going pretty good until she hit the section about some of those "challenging times", she is definitely a "happy ending" kind of girl, and was ready to abandon the book then and there because there was "sad stuff" in it. I convinced her to keep going, actually I said "fine, then let Sassy read it" and for some reason that motivated her (no, we don't have any issues with competition or anything, sigh . . . ), once she finished it, she grudgingly conceded that "it's pretty good" and then mentioned that she'd like to read the rest of the series (because she figured the objectionable (to her) "challenging times" wouldn't be repeated in the other books). So I think her true review would be positive!

Finally, I handed it to Sassy. She read it in about a day, and asked when we could get the rest of the series, so I'd say that pretty much sums up her opinion LOL.

Disclaimer: I received the above mentioned product in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own (or my daughters').

Not Back to School Blog Hop: Schoolroom Week

Not Back to School Blog HopAs I was thinking about Schoolroom Week this year, I was leaning toward just skipping this week. For one thing, we're traveling, so it's not like I can take pictures of our "schoolroom". For another, for all practical purposes, at home, our "school room" is the same as it was last year, so it didn't seem like it would be a very interesting post, even if I was organized enough to pre-write it to post while I was gone, or (more likely) posted it late, after I got home.

Then it hit me! I can share some of the less traditional "school rooms" that are, from time to time, a very important part of our school. So, without further ado:

The Motorhome:  My parents have a motorhome that we sometimes get to travel in with them. While we drive the girls often read books (either for history, or books of their own choosing, which still counts as "reading books" . . . I don't see a need to assign specific "reading books" as long as they're reading a variety on their own).  When we stopped for gas, the girls lined up with me in the "walkway" in front of the sofa and table and we did part of our "PE" from the Fitness program we are currently reviewing (I couldn't figure out a good way to get a picture, but it was pretty amusing to watch). At least one evening on this trip, we'll turn the motorhome into a "movie theater" to watch a video for history.  The girls also listened to part of Women in Blue and Gray.

Whatever house we're in.  We don't just learn at our house. Wherever we are we can read books:

We've been visiting my aunt and uncle, who are avid birders. Aunt Darla spent a bunch of time getting the girls "hooked" on birding, so our "school room" those days included the large family room window that looks out at the bird feeder area:

And of course outdoors is always part of our school room. On this particular day, that meant going on a birding walk with Aunt Darla:

When there is cooking to be done, or cookies to be made, the kitchen is an important part of our school room.

More outdoor schoolroom time, came when we visited a park with a mini-zoo of sorts. The birds of prey area was an awesome classroom since we were lucky enough to be there while they were feeding the birds, and the volunteers were wonderful about answering the girls' questions.

And of course, that's just from a couple of days. We also enjoy National Parks, historic sites, museums . . . the world truly IS our classroom!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Weekly Wrap-Up - Aug 12

Busy week! And I think there are pictures on my phone, that may or may not make it in, but I'm hoping to get this written real quick while I for sure have an internet connection.

Monday our friends J&E came over to feed the geese. Backing up slightly, Sabbath after Friendship Meal, there were some pretzels that were going to be tossed, so I said I'd take them home and let the girls feed the fish & geese on our pond. Little Bit will seriously ask if she can save part of her dinner to be able to go feed them, so I knew she'd jump at the chance. Penny, asked if she could bring J&E over to join in the fun, so Monday was decided on. The geese cooperated beautifully, flying in and landing on the pond just a few minutes after Penny & the boys arrived.

After we finished feeding the geese, Sassy & MiniMe went up to the barn and got the little kittens and we showed them to the boys, then, since we hadn't given them any formula yet that day, the boys got to join in that fun too. The kittens drink from a dish fine (thankfully, since they tore the bottle nipple to shreds in a minute or less when we first tried to feed them), so it's just a matter of putting the kitten formula in 2 jar lids and letting them at it.

In case I forgot to mention the kittens, the (feral) mama cat is extremely skinny, and doesn't seem to be producing enough milk, so we're "supplementing" the 2 kittens (both very cute little calicos). Our neighbor Denise is going to try to take the mama in to the vet to find out what's wrong with her. Daddy has told Sassy that she can keep one of the kittens (named TigerLily Socks, or somesuch, nickname Lily).

Other then that Sun-Tues was all about getting packed and ready to go.

Wednesday we loaded up and headed to Mama & Papa's house. Then spent the afternoon helping to load the motorhome to get ready to go.

We did take a break from unloading/loading to visit with my friend Vicki and her children. The girls, E&K had fun playing with my girls, and my girls and I all ooohed & ahhhed over new baby, L. He's only 3 weeks old, and sweet as can be. Little Bit was FASCINATED and didn't leave his side the whole time they were there. The big girls were great about playing with E&K but did each take time to have a turn holding baby L too.

Thursday we headed out, and pretty much drove all day (well, rode all day, Papa did the driving).

The big girls each took a turn (and actually fought over, sigh) helping to keep Little Bit entertained. We'd thought she'd be able to watch videos but the plug thingy was broken (now, thankfully, fixed), so that made for a challenge since I'd planned on videos being a large part of her entertainment. She did pretty well though. The big girls, of course, did fine.

We got to my aunt & uncle's house in TN that evening, ate supper, visited, and went to bed. For this part of the trip, the big girls and Mama & Papa are sleeping in D&J's guestroom, so Little Bit and I have the motorhome to ourselves.

Friday was the whole "reason" for this trip. Back in March, for the twins' birthday, Aunt Darla had given them the promise of going to a live theater performance of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. So this trip was to be able to go to that. It was a girls' day out, with my aunt, mom, grandma, the big girls, and me. Papa stayed "home" (at D&J's house) with Little Bit. I wasn't sure how that would work (and was open to the possibility that I'd end up staying with her instead, didn't want to put her OR Papa through the nightmare that leaving her in a strange place for several hours against her will, would be), but when the time came I just explained that Mama & Sissies and I were going to a "meeting" and she was going to stay with Papa. I explained that she wouldn't like the "meeting", that she'd have to not talk at all and just sit quietly for a very long time, but that with Papa they could watch videos, and play with her toys and such. And she was fine with it. Even took a nap for Papa (with the bribe of ice cream when she woke up).

The performance was AMAZING!!! It was done in a small "lab" type theater and the actors actually came out and talked to people before the performance. So the girls got to carry on quite a long conversation with "Edmund". There were no curtain drops, and all the "props" were essentially some blocks of wood (I assume), painted to look like rocks, but it was awesome! The girls loved it, we loved it! A wonderful time was had by all.

The other fun has been that the big girls have caught the "birding bug". D&J are very into birding, and have a lovely bird feeder area set up right outside their family room window, and have binoculars conveniently placed near that window. Aunt Darla has spent a bunch of time telling the girls what all the different birds who feed there are, and how to tell them apart and all kinds of fun things. I suspect that a new obsession has been born :)

Sabbath we visited a wonderful "park" that was more of a nature reserve/zoo. There were turtles that were more active than any turtles I've ever seen. The small "pond" area was just crawling with them. There were wolves, and deer and snakes and bobcats (not sure anyone saw any of them. The rest went over there during Little Bit's nap). And we were lucky enough to get to the "birds of prey" area just as they were getting ready to feed them. The volunteers were great about answering the girls' questions, and it was definitely interesting to watch the different birds eat.

So that's been our week. I think I'm going to go ahead & post this now (Sat. night), since tomorrow will be another busy day as we head down toward the Chattanooga area for more adventures.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Not Back-to-School Blog Hop: Curriculum Week

Not Back to School Blog HopYay, I have so much fun with this blog hop every year!  Though it's coming at a busier than usual time this year, so I don't promise to get a post in each week, but I'm going to try!

This week is the first week, so it's CURRICULUM week!!!

First a quick "intro" to those visiting as a part of the blog hop! We're super eclectic, made more so by the fact that we LOVE LOVE LOVE to review homeschool products and are blessed to get to review lots of things, so we keep our options open for whatever opportunities come our way.  To add to our eclectic-ness, my husband's job includes quite abit of travel within the state where we live (PA), so we often tag along and visit museums and historic sites wherever he's working. AND my children are blessed with grandparents who love to travel, so we also tag along with them quite often. The girls' "Papa" (my dad) is very into the National Park Passport stamps, so we tag along and the girls earn their Junior Ranger badges while Papa's collecting his stamps :)

My 3 girls are:
Sassy and MiniMe - 9 1/2 yr old twins, and Little Bit a 3 1/2 yr old ball of energy, who insists on trying to keep up with her sisters in all things.

Since we school year-round, it's abit anti-climatic, it's not like we're starting "new" with everything this time of year, but that's ok.  Here's what's going on in our "school room" right now:

Bible:  Always my top priority! We have two Bible times each day. In the morning during our normal school time, and in the evening as a part of our bedtime routine.  For the last while, we've been using the Heroines of the Past Bible Study for our morning Bible time and Apologia Who is My Neighbor in the evening. We finished Who is My Neighbor last night, so starting tonight we're shifting Heroines to evening. The girls and I will be leaving Daddy at home while we travel with Mama & Papa for the next couple weeks, so while traveling, we'll just use Heroines in the evening and not have a morning Bible time. When we get home, we're going to start Polished Cornerstones for our morning Bible time.

History:  We are slowly moving through American History, using TruthQuest as our guide. We all love reading all the great books, so we tend to move pretty slowly. This past spring, I realized that because we were moving so slowly, we weren't going to get to the Civil War until sometime this winter. Which would be fine except that my parents live near Antietam Battlefield, and the 150th anniversary, and all the celebration that accompanies it, is next month. So . . . we talked it over, and decided to skip over "Westerward Expansion" and move on to Civil War, then we'll double back and learn about westward expansion when we finish the Civil War. I like to think that we will get well into the 20th Century this school year, but we shall see . . .

Language Arts:  We don't have a "curriculum" or "time" for this. The girls regularly read for history, they have their own personal Bible time each morning when they read, they generally have at least one book (each) they are reading "just for fun". I just don't see a need to "assign" a reading book when they are reading anything and everything on their own. Most days at least one of our Bible times includes them reading at least a verse or two, so I regularly can see how they're doing with their reading. They are learning spelling while they read. How? By seeing words, spelled properly. If you ask me how to spell a somewhat difficult word, I'm going to either grab a pen & write it out, or flip to a blank something-or-other on my computer and type it out. (Swagbucks must really wonder about some of the words I "search" for, since that's my most common way of SEEING the word, and once I've typed it, I might as well hit "search" and get a few swagbucks out of the deal) Once I can SEE the word, I can almost always tell if it looks right or not, and see what looks wrong and adjust as needed. Why? Because I read tons of books as a child, and well, until I had babies. And even now I try to fit in SOME reading time (besides devotions, and reading to my children) every day. All that reading put a whole bunch of words in my head, even if I can't stand in front of an audience and spell them orally. Grammar, same idea . . . reading, or having read to you, quality things, helps instill basic grammar into them without those boring workbooks we all suffered through.  Writing, generally comes in the form of notebooking for other subjects, or free writing they come up with on their own.

Math:  This is a subject that I believe strongly should be delayed. I'm hopeless at keeping track of links to things, but when the girls were toddlers, I read about the idea of waiting until a child's developmentally ready to understand the logic of math, and it was just so . . . logical (sorry, couldn't resist LOL).  Instead of trying to teach a pre-logic child math, which ends up being rote memorization, because they just don't get it, and then wondering why the child hates it so, why not just wait. Once they have those logic skills (this has been tested/shown) they can work quickly through the simple math and be at or beyond grade level in a year or less. So, we talked some, this summer, about when to start formal math, and we're thinking maybe this time next year, we shall see. For this year, we'll continue to reinforce fractions and such in the kitchen, and they love to have Papa teach them random math things, how many 9 yr olds can figure square root? I think, after using a math workbook for a review we were doing, they are also convinced of the value of memorizing their multiplication facts (they can calculate them, which is probably more than I would have been able to do at that age, but they saw the value in having them memorized to be able to do problems more quickly), so we may use some games or computer games to work on that. I'd also like to at least teach them the basics of long division this year, but we shall see.  . . Lately they've been helping with the menu planning and grocery list-making, so we're building math and economics into that as well. Choosing items that are on sale or in season, etc.

Science: We've been learning about animal care, as we take care of the stray kittens we found in the barn near our house. Our overall plan for this year is to continue working through Christian Kids Explore Earth & Space. We reviewed this last year, and the girls enjoyed it, but we set it aside after the review period to focus on other science. Now they want to get back to this. We'll try to have science 2 days a week.

Music: MiniMe has her piano lessons. Sassy has requested violin lessons, which we will probably start in January. We are currently reviewing Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Writers, so that's giving us plenty of music theory. Once we finish reading it, I think we'll either continue with the Mr. Pipes series or try the Hymns for a Kid's Heart series. Probably one day per week.

Art: We enjoyed Artistic Pursuits last year, and are excited to get back into it. We'll plan to have Art one day per week.

Health and PE: We end up having impromtu health/nutrition discussions as we menu plan, grocery shop, cook or eat dinner. As time allows, I'd like to continue working through Vintage Remedies for Girls, probably one day per week.  For PE, we are getting ready to start reviewing a family fitness program, so will go with that, at least for the time being. I'd also like to become more intentional about doing some simple Brain Gym exercises at the beginning of our school days, but so far I've been really bad about that, sigh . . .

Little Bit is only 3 1/2, but she desperately wants to be big, so when she was asking to have MY SCHOOL, I started a "Letter of the Week" program with her. You can get an idea of what we're doing here.  We are currently on letter O, but will have some travel this fall that will likely slow us down (though sometimes traveling is a good week to do it, we can use the letter-theme to keep her busy in the car). We may try a few "number of the week" weeks too if we need to, and will just incorporate her into whatever the big girls are doing for holidays. Then, in January, I have a Waldorf Kindergarten curriculum (that I can no longer find online, I used it for the big girls when they were this age), it's very season-specific, so we'll need to start it in January. I LOVE Waldorf for preschool age because it focuses so much on art and nature and doesn't push the academics.
I'm probably forgetting something, but that's the general idea. All year long we have additional things adding in at least for a few weeks, while we review them, so sometimes the "planned" things get set aside.

Check out what other bloggers are doing here.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Crew Review: A Thomas Jefferson Education


Regular readers of my blog know that we LOVE history! And are always thrilled to get to review history resources! So none of us complained when we were given the opportunity to review a subscription to This Week in History from A Thomas Jefferson Education.

PhotobucketSo, what is "This Week in History"? It's a weekly e-mail that you can subscribe to for $9.99 per month. It gives a wide variety of historic happenings on each date that week. But it's not JUST a list of dates and events. It's a mini-unit study, and sometimes it's not so mini, for most, if not all, of those events. There are links to relevant sites, suggestions of activities to do, etc. You can see a sample week here, to get an idea how detailed this is!

The e-mail goes out weekly, but you can access the information anytime you want from their website.

If you're more organized than I am, you can look ahead and lesson-plan around historic events from that date.

But even if you're like me, this still works great. Most mornings, as we start history, I just click to the website real quick, and read them that day's things, if something catches our attention, we dig into it more deeply.

What did we think? We always love learning about more history, it's a fun bit of trivia each day. I REALLY wish there was a clickable calendar so that, when I go into the site each day, I can click straight to today's date. Because there IS so much information for each item, it can be annoying (yes, I'm impatient, why do you ask?) to scroll down to try to find the current day when we're in the middle, or near the end of the week.  Alternately, a daily e-mail with that day's events would be IDEAL for the unorganized like me, right in my inbox ready for me to read to the girls.

The girls always enjoy learning about new things. Some days, it took us off on long tangents, which are always a love/hate thing. They are so interested while we're in the midst of it, but then are sad later when it means skipping something else. Gotta love kids who love to learn!

I think this could be a great option for a year when you're not really focusing on history! While it might be hard to believe, considering what a large percentage of our days this year are focused on history, a couple years ago, we took a break from history for a year. We did a very brief overview of World History, just listening to audiobooks in the car. That year, this would have been a great way to incorporate a smattering of history without being overwhelming. This would also be a great way to whet a reluctant child's appetite for history, because the things they include are SOO varied, there's something for everyone, if not today, then coming soon! LOL.

I'm intrigued by the whole A Thomas Jefferson Education website! I signed up for their free newsletter and it has really interested me to learn more about the whole philosophy. I love the focus on teaching children to love learning, and delaying "heavy" academics until they're older. You can see all of their products here.

Be sure to read about how other crew members used their subscription, here.


Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received the above mentioned product in exchange for writing an honest review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are those of myself or my children, as stated.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Weekly Wrap-Up - August 5

How in the WORLD is it August already? Didn't this year just start? Sigh . . .

We had an uneventful week this week (I LIKE uneventful weeks)!! My house is slowly getting cleaner. We're reviewing a chore chart system and one option is to do extra chores to earn "stars" toward rewards. Little Bit is loving the candy and bubbles that are in her reward box, and since she doesn't do well with delayed gratification, she chose candy, ate it, then said she'd "changed her mind" and wanted the bubbles LOL. (yes, she's definitely a creative thinker), so her sisters helped her find extra chores she could do to earn enough points to get the bubbles too.  Meanwhile the big girls are earning points to  get Adventures in Odyssey episodes. What I first said, was that for every 50 points, they could download one mp3 episode. But then as we looked at the site, we discovered that we could save quite abit by buying a set of actual CDs, so now they're seeing how quickly they can earn 300 points, each, to get the set of 30 CDs that they want LOL.

Not surprisingly, we have been enjoying the Olympics. I had good intentions to do a unit study of some sort, but decided not to try to add something else in right now. But we've enjoyed watching it together most evenings.

We're FINALLY getting closer to the actual Civil War in history. This week we were reading about Lincoln's life, there are sooo many books, not enough time, sigh . . .

Last week I found an awesome deal on organic apple juice, so I thought it would be fun to make some apple juice popsicles, the girls loved them! I need to make another round. Awhile back, I got these popsicle makers and I am LOVING them! Even Little Bit can eat popsicles out of these without making a mess. I'd like to also make smoothie type things to take in lunches sometimes, it would keep the lunch cool, and others have said that it melts about right by lunchtime.  I've also had a dab of applesauce left one time and rather than put it in the fridge, I put it into one of these popsicle molds, Little Bit LOVED her frozen applesauce treat, and the big girls were disappointed to hear that I didn't have more, so I'm thinking we'll have some applesauce pops when it's apple season, and then if we don't eat all the applesauce over the winter, it will be a good early summer snack next summer :)

Oh, and I remembered to take pictures of our Sabbath School room, decorated as a farm. I took the pictures standing inside the door at the back of the room. Usually I shift everything so that the awesome mural (you can see the rainbow & duck of the mural in this picture, but the rest of the wall is even more impressive) is the front of the classroom. BUT since our room is essentially in the attic, and the only a/c is a window unit (you can see it in the second picture), I decided to turn the room so that I could be near the a/c unit some of the time. So, as you can see, we have a pond, with ducks, along the right wall, then a barn in the corner, you probably can't see our chicken sitting on her next in front of the barn. Then we have our sheep pasture, with the sheep dog keeping watch.

The brown "patch" is our garden. At the beginning of class it's just the plain brown blanket, then throughout the program we "rake" the garden, add worms. Put seed packets in the wheelbarrow "for the farmer to plant", then later, we add flowers and vegetables. To the right of the garden, is a beehive on the wall, and then our cow and horse pasture.

So it's not super fancy, but I was happy with how it turned out. And the kids seem to be enjoying the program.

While I was taking pictures of the room, I figured I'd snap a picture of the Bible Story time. Miss Penny is our wonderful Bible Story Teller, you can see Little Bit, and Penny's son, J listening to the story, and helping to put up felts.

I was being sneaky to snap the picture without being distracting, so you can see another little girl, A's arm in the picture. She has latched on to MiniMe, so is sitting on her lap instead of on the floor with the others.

Speaking of children latching on to MiniMe, we now have 2 semi-regular visitors, little girls, who seem to have taken a real liking to MiniMe. MiniMe is doing great with it, sitting with them, when needed, making sure they know what to do, and encouraging them to participate. It's been a wonderful experience for her, and she loves it, calling them "my girls" :)  Sassy has stepped up and does most of the passing out & collecting of props. She's also taken over the taking of attendance. So all in all, I'm happy to see the growth in both girls as they learn to serve others by helping in our 0-4 class.

And finally, we have a new sofa!!! Woo-hoo!! I may have mentioned that our neighbors who are moving had an extra sofa they were selling. I told them we wanted it, but then we were having a hard time getting our old sofa out (our house has narrow, low doorways and weird corners because it's such an old house, love the "character" of it, but makes moving furniture around a total pain). So finally today we figured out and shifted things around to take the old sofa out and then, with a LOT of help from our neighbors, managed to get the new sofa in. Not looking forward to figuring out how to get it back OUT whenever we end up moving, but in the meantime, it's a huge improvement. The big girls are loving having the recliners in the sofa, and have pretty much claimed it as their own.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Crew Review: King Alfred's English

PhotobucketUsually Crew Review items are for the kids, and that's great, but I have to admit, to being abit excited to get to review something for the Crew all by myself.  Laurie, from The Shorter Word sent me a copy of her book, King Alfred's English -- A History of the Language We Speak and Why We Should Be Glad We Do to review. This would be an awesome study for older students, combining History & English. But since my girls are still pretty young, I just got to read the book for myself. Since I *love* history AND writing, I was excited. And this book absolutely did NOT disappoint! It's a quick (for me) read, in my days when I had uninterrupted reading time, I probably would have read it in a day or two (these days, it took me a week or two, but that was reading a couple pages at a time, then stopping to, you know, be a mom).

I have to admit, this book really made me realize how completely lacking my education (or retention of that education) was when it comes to world/European history. I learned SOOO much history about how Britain/England came to be, including why it's called Britain AND England.

The book moves chronologically through from the early Britons, and their Roman invaders (that happened BEFORE Jesus was born, somehow I just never think about the fact that there were people groups OTHER than those in the "Holy Land" way back then . . . did I mention my education was lacking?) right on through to,well, today  . . . It weaves in history and grammar and makes it all interesting! I was fascinated to learn that standardized spelling and grammar is a rather "new" thing in English, makes me wonder why we bother . . . but doesn't keep me from getting super duper annoyed when people don't know how to use 's appropriately on facebook, or online forums LOL.

Since my girls aren't quite ready for this book, I just read the book, however, if you're using this with older students, be sure to check out all the free learning aids on Laurie's website, here. I should clarify, I think, if we had already been learning about world/ancient history, they would have enjoyed this book as a read-aloud, since they don't really have any understanding of it, we didn't go there. Amazon lists this book as being for 7th-12th grade, I suppose for reading on your own, maybe, I can see it being used as a read-aloud in conjunction with a world history curriculum by 3rd or 4th grade. And of course, I'm a few years past 12th grade and still thoroughly enjoyed it :)

I think this is an interesting read for anyone who speaks English (which is probably all of my readers huh?), and a great resource for anyone whose children are learning world history. It could probably be used as a way to get kids to "appreciate" their grammar lessons too, if you're the type to actually teach grammar lessons as such (I'm not, so what do I know?).

King Alfred's English retails for $16.95 (or $5.95 for Kindle), you can find a list of retailers, here. As a special gift to my readers, the author has offered a 50% discount, good through September, for up to 5 of my readers. So the first 5 people to leave a comment on this post, asking for the discount code (don't forget to give me your e-mail address!!!), I will pass along that information.

Be sure to check out what other Crew members thought of this book, and how some of them used it with their older children, here.

Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received the above mentioned product in exchange for writing an honest review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are those of myself or my children, as stated.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Book Review: From the Heart of a Woman by Sylvia Hensel

From the Heart of a Woman: Love Letters to My Lord, is a collection of the prayers that God has put on Sylvia Hensel's heart over the years. For years, she has felt such intense love for, and from Jesus when she prays. For a long time, she felt the Lord was telling her to keep these prayers, these love letters, to herself, private between her and her God. Now, He has led her to share them with all of us, by collecting them into this lovely book.

This book is a beautiful collection of inspirational poems/prayers. Not surprisingly, some of these prayers spoke to me more than others, because we all have unique experiences and personalities, we will all be drawn to different aspects of God's amazingness.  I think the author found a unique way of sharing her intense, personal love for God, through this book, and it is likely to speak to each of us differently depending on where we currently are in our own relationship with God, and our life experiences.

If you enjoy poetry, songs, and psalms, you will probably find this book inspiring and uplifting. If you're looking for some nuts and bolts, basic prayers, you'll probably want to look somewhere else. But I think this book delivers what it promises, and speaks eloquently to it's target audience.

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.”