Monday, April 30, 2012

Weekly Wrap-Up - April 29

First of all, can I just say, it is WRONG to be having freeze warnings, in this part of the country, at the END OF APRIL!! I loved having a nice, mostly, snow-free winter, and a warm March, but NOT if it means  freeze warnings at the end of April!

Ok, tantrum over . . .

MIniMe is over-the-moon about her piano lessons. She is practicing every day and telling her sisters all about the songs and every other little detail. She got an extra "lesson" during her lesson this week. She heard her teacher's husband playing his french horn in another part of the house, so after her lesson, Pat took her over to where he was and he showed her his french horn, and how it worked and such, she loved it all! :)

Pat also spent some time during her lesson, helping her to match her voice to various notes on the piano, and then mentioned that when we sing songs in Sabbath School (where Pat plays for us), MiniMe could listen to the piano and try to match her singing to the piano (it's a no-brainer that nobody should be trying to match their singing to MY singing, but I figure the toddlers in our class don't know the difference LOL), so whenever MiniMe wasn't preoccupied with helping pass things out and with the kids, she was over near the piano really listening to it while we sang, it was fun to see her so focused :)

We're continuing to read great books about the War of 1812 for history. Right now we're reading a biography on Francis Scott Key. Methinks next time we're in Maryland we're going to have to check out Fort McHenry (which I don't think I've ever been to, despite living in the general vicinity of Maryland since I was 6! How sad is that?).  I was hoping we'd be able to tour the plantation where FSK grew up, but an internet search revealed that while there IS a marker there, the house no longer exists, it was replaced in the 1800s, and it's not open to the public. Oh well . . .

This has been the spring of science reviews, so we're continuing to focus on review items for science, the girls are loving all this science, since it's one of those things we don't always find time for!

Little Bit continues to love her "school" (hopefully tomorrow I can write about her week of "Letter B" fun), and since Daddy was home the day of MiniMe's piano lesson again this week, Sassy got to play "teacher" for a day.

There's a family of geese that lives on the pond right across the driveway from our house. They had 7 goslings a couple weeks ago, and at the beginning of the week I noticed they were down to 6 babies (not surprising, it's part of life, and in addition to our cat, and the various feral cats and strays that take advantage of the cat food on our porch, there are foxes and at least at one point someone had seen a coyote on the property . . . ).  Anyway . . . Wed. morning, Sassy came in from feeding the cats and said she'd seen something in the grass up by the swing, and it was a dead gosling. We assume one of the cats got it, though not sure why that cat, or another cat, didn't eat it. The big girls moved it out of the main play area, since we were having "Moms' Group" here that morning, but did show it to Little Bit. She spent the next couple days telling anyone and everyone about the baby goose that died.

Before the extra cats started joining our "family", our original 2 cats liked to leave us "presents" on the front porch, so the girls would take whatever presents showed up out into the woods and have a "funeral" for each and every one. They haven't had the chance to have any funerals in the last year or so, since either the presents were coming from Socks (who ran away last summer, we still see him at a distance once in awhile), or Moccasin decided we weren't worthy of presents once we let so many other cats hang around, or the other cats eat the presents before we see them, or some combination of all of those), but they felt the gosling needed to have a funeral. My parents stopped through here Wednesday night on their way home from a trip, so my mom got the dubious honor of attending the gosling funeral. Which was nice for me since Little Bit wanted to "help" and Mama going meant I didn't have to LOL.

So we aren't sitting around twiddling our thumbs by any means. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Menu Plan Monday

I'm trying to be better about menu planning, AND following through, sigh . . . but I'm trying . . . so in honor of that effort, here are the meals I'm planning for this week:

Breakfasts (fruit included with all of these):
Cinnamon Pancakes (I want to try this recipe, using whole wheat flour)
Coconut Rice (another new recipe I want to try. I found it on the Food on the Table site)
Banana Muffins
Scrambled or fried eggs
Regular pancakes
(Sabbath breakfast will be leftover muffins, or granola)

Corn Chowder
Wednesday will be a picnic if weather cooperates, if not we'll have picnic foods at home. So . . . deviled eggs, raw veggies and hummus, and quinoa salad
Black Eyed Peas with Spinach (another new recipe from Food on the Table)
Crockpot Taco Soup
Greek salad
Sabbath dinner will be a potluck at our church

Mexican Rice and black beans
Vegetarian Calabacitas (another new recipe from Food on the Table), with salad and rolls
Quinoa burgers
Spaghetti and red sauce
Potato noodle soup (Fri)
Popcorn, fruit and salad (Sat)
Broccoli Garlic Pizza (want to try this recipe, with broccoli instead of chicken)

So that's the plan anyway . . . See what other people are planning at orgjunkie

TOS Crew Review: The Critical Thinking Co.

Photobucket I have to admit, I wasn't sure how well this product would work for us. It's essentially a workbook and we're not really a  workbook-kind-a-family. But, while I can't  being to express how thankful I am that most of the time we get to choose what we review, and review items that mesh well with our family (as evidenced by the fact that most of our curriculum choices for next year are items we've reviewed and want to keep using!), there is a certain kind of "fun" in being stretched abit by reviewing something that we don't expect to be a perfect fit. This was one of those times, that turned out wonderfully! Inference Jones: Beginnings is a workbook, geared toward 3rd and 4th grade, to teach children about inferring information. Each lesson begins with a short story, then asks questions about the story. Some questions require the reader to consider what is explicitly stated, and answer the question with true, false, or unknown. So even though something is STRONGLY implied, if it's not explicitly stated, the answer is "unknown". Other questions ask the reader to infer information and give a reason why they inferred that. For example, one question stated that the story took place on a Saturday and the student would circle "PF" for probably false, and then write as a reason, that the story says the children were walking to school, and people usually don't go to school on Saturday.

We started out doing these together orally, partially so I could make sure the girls understood, partially because it's alot more fun to sit together reading and discussing something than for everyone to go to their own corners and work alone LOL. The girls "got it" right away, and rarely needed prompting to come to the correct answers (note that, when doing it orally they couldn't refer back to the story, so it was actually HARDER this way). Once I confirmed that they knew how to do it, we've mixed things up, sometimes still doing them together, other times with them each working on one independently. They seem to do fine either way.

Inference Jones: Beginnings, is available as a paperback workbook for $11.99. It is designed for 3rd and 4th grade level, with the suggestion that it could be used for remedial work for 5th to 8th graders. I'm pretty useless at judging how something compares to a specific grade level since we just move along in each subject at our own pace and don't pay much attention to grade level. I will say that, my children (just turned 9) are enjoying this book, but not finding it especially challenging. So for THEM, much older/more advanced, and I suspect they would find it boring. But if I had to guess at a reading comprehension grade level for them I'd guess 4th-5th grade, so that seems in line with the stated grade level for this book.

While we've enjoyed this, and made it work well for us, overall, I think this would be a better fit for families who use workbooks, workboxes, etc. I think the fact that my children did pick up on this so quickly "proves" that our unschool approach to English and thinking skills is serving them well and they have learned these thinking skills, without realizing it, from other activities we've done.  So, I'd recommend this as a fun way to learning inference for those looking for a workbook to teach this skill. Also if you have a child who seems to be struggling with these skills, this might give the added boost they need in a fun, short-lesson, way.

One thing I liked about this was the complete lack of teacher preparation required, this would be great in a workbox, just toss the book in and tell them to do the next lesson, or put the relevant pages in their workbox :)

In addition to the book we reviewed, The Critical Thinking Co. offers a second volume of Inference Jones, geared toward 5th and 6th graders, and a whole plethera of other products, go check them out!

My fellow crew mates, reviewed a variety of products from The Critical Thinking Co., be sure to visit the Crew Blog to see what they thought of these products.


Disclaimer: I received a .pdf download of 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, April 22, 2012

Weekly Wrap-Up - April 22

Some highlights from this past week:

  • The girls began their "dog walking job". Our neighbor is working full time for the next couple months, and asked them to come let her dogs out to potty mid-day each day. They are loving it!
  • Mama and Papa stopped by mid-week on their way to New York. Papa brought a copper pipe so we could try some of the fun experiments from the Amazing Science videos we've been enjoying.
  • MiniMe and I had "date night" this week, always nice to have one-on-one time with one of my girls!
  • I've already told you about Little Bit's new "school", she is LOVING it!
  • There's a pair of geese who return to our pond every year. They've been sitting on eggs for the last month or so, and the eggs hatched Tuesday. Now we get the fun of watching the 7 little goslings grow up.
  • Our friends, E and J came over for a couple hours on Thursday morning, that's always fun. And we got to show them the baby geese.
  • The highlight of MiniMe's week was having her first piano lesson. After much discussion, making sure she REALLY wanted to commit to daily practice and weekly lessons. She's taking Suzuki method piano lessons from a lovely woman at our church. She was giddy about going to her first lesson, and equally giddy to tell Sassy all about it when we got home (Rodney was home that day so Sassy and Little Bit stayed home with him, I'm still not sure how it's going to work to have them along at lessons, we shall see . . .). 
  • As a way to keep both Sassy and Little Bit busy while MiniMe and I were gone to her piano lesson, I suggested that Sassy could do Little Bit's "school" with her. I gave Sassy some of the ideas we hadn't used yet for the week. Sassy was soo excited to get to "teach", and apparently it went well. Rodney said she did a good job too. And Little Bit was excited to tell me about her "school" when we got home.
  •  While it's hard to believe, considering how cold and rainy it is today, Friday's weather was beautiful, so the girls gathered wood and Daddy built a fire in our fire pit, and we roasted hotdogs and marshmallows for supper, Little Bit spent the entire time asking if it was time for marshmallows yet LOL.
And that's a bit of what we've been up to this week.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Today's Post Brought to You by the Letter A!

Little Bit is almost 37 mo old

I mentioned in our curriculum plans post, that Little Bit had asked to start "school" of her own, so we are starting some "Letter of the Week" activities.  This past week was our "A" week, so here's what we did for Letter A:

  • I made an "A" sensory bin. I went around the house and found small toys that start with A, and rounded it out with a couple new things from the Dollar Store. I put them all in a bin and filled it with rice (couldn't come up with an "A" filler, so just went with rice). This was a HUGE hit, she spent time every day (that we did school), digging the toys back out of the rice and just running her hands through it and such, LOVE it (though the vacuum's going to get to eat lots of rice next time I vacuum, despite my attempts to keep the bin on a placemat so the rice would stay contained.
  • We sang the "A" song from Songs for Saplings. Each song is a Bible verse that corresponds to a letter of the alphabet (with some other songs at the end of the CD to correspond to holiday,s etc), so this also led to her learning a memory verse over the course of the week
  • I purchased this Letter of the Week curriculum, which includes printables to make an "Alphabet book" so she colored the cover for that  the first day in preparation for adding more things throughout the week.
  • I purchased this Letter of the Week curriculum, which includes printables to make an "Alphabet book" so she colored the cover for that  the first day in preparation for adding more things throughout the week.
  • I printed, and laminated the letter A from 1+1+1=1's Animal ABCs. We put it on our white board for the week.
  • The above Animal ABCs also has a plain letter A, and then alligators to cut out and glue onto the A. Little Bit didn't feel like cutting the day we did that, so Sassy cut them out for her and she glued them on. This was one of the pages we added to her "ABC book".
  • We had apples, apricots, and almonds for snacks on various days, and asparagus for lunch one day, yum!
  • I printed and laminated these "road" letter A's for her to drive a matchbox-type car on.
  • I printed the Alligator "magnet page" from this site. One day we laid the page on a cookies sheet and used some round magnets (I'm not finding ones like ours, but these would work well)   in the dots. One the last day I gave her some dot stickers and she put stickers on the dots, then we added the page to her book.
  • I printed an "A" cut and paste page and let her cut out the pictures and glue them around the A.
  • I printed and laminated the letter A pattern block page from this site. That page also has the pattern blocks you can print out. We already have pattern blocks similar to these, so we used them. Since Little Bit enjoyed using magnets for other things, I may pull out our Melissa and Doug magnetic pattern blocks for next week and let her use them instead.
  • We played with the letter A beanbags from the sets of alphabet bean bags the grandmothers made for Little Bit for her birthday.
  • I poured a layer of salt into a plastic shoebox and we practiced drawing A in the salt.
  • I also printed a couple different A coloring pages for her to color, and we added them to her ABC book. She put some A stickers on one of them too, because stickers are fun!
  • We read lots of A themed books, and alphabet books this week. I went through our bookshelves and pulled out any that seemed in her age range. I also got some from the library.
  • On Friday, I was gone, so I left some A activities for Sassy to do with Little Bit while MiniMe and I were gone. To make it more special I dumped all the rice out of the A sensory bin and replaced it with animal crackers, needless to say, THAT was a hit! (and interestingly enough, when she was eating the leftover animal crackers in church this morning, it occurred to her that they weren't in the "blue bin" any longer and asked me about it. I told her there was new stuff in her blue bin (when I fished all the animal crackers out I went ahead and switched it to the "B" stuff for tomorrow morning), she was very excited, and wanted to see her bin as soon as we got home from church. I told her it had to wait till tomorrow. So, the bin continues to be a HIT with or without animal crackers LOL.
  • The one thing I wanted to do and didn't get a chance to do was start a "chicka chicka boom boom tree". I would have done that Friday, but didn't want to try to explain it to Sassy, so will do it first thing tomorrow before we start with the "B" stuff. . . that an I'm still thinking on how I want to do it . . . I got an inflatable palm tree at the dollar store (they have "luau" stuff right now) so I'm going to blow that up and we're going to put a letter sticker on the tree at the end of each week.
So that was our letter week. It seems like a lot, but was only 2-3 things per day, and most were short.

You can see most of these ideas, and others, including various coloring pages, on my "Alphabet" Pinterest board. And I'll continue to add to it as we go.

Visit 1+1+1=1 to see more Tot School posts.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Curriculum-ish Choices For Next Year

With the homeschool convention coming up in less than a month, it's the time of year when I start trying to think through what we're going to be using next year. This is when life would be easier if I just followed a boxed curriculum, but this is the only time I think that LOL. Besides, what fun would there be in wandering the vendor hall if I knew what I wanted, right?

So, I thought about it, and talked to the girls about it, and here's what we came up with:

Bible - We will wrap up our chronological journey through the Bible over the summer, then for next year we are going to revisit Polished Cornerstones. We went through this comprehensive study of the Proverbs 31 woman the year Little Bit was born, now that the girls are older, it's time to revisit it. I'm looking forward to being able to dig into these lessons at a more "in depth" level AND to include Little Bit in some of this with the "youngest" suggestions in the curriculum.

History - We are going to continue with American History. I am LOVING how much more in-depth TruthQuest History is, compared to what we've been using. Of course the flip of that is that we'll take even LONGER to go through the rest of American History if we have MORE great books to read on each topic, sigh . . . so many books, so little time!

We decided to do some of out other subjects just one or two days per week:

2 days: Science - The girls are enjoying Christian Kids Love Science, so we decided we'll continue with it. We'll plan to do science 2 days per week, which works perfectly for this curriculum.

1 day: Art - We enjoyed Artistic Pursuits when we reviewed it earlier this year, we're hoping to get back in the groove of doing one lesson per week.

1 day: Music - Well, sort of one day . . . when we started talking about music, MiniMe informed me that she wants to take piano lessons. So I did some research and called a lovely lady in our church who teaches piano and MiniMe will be starting piano lessons tomorrow. So that's her music which means one day a week of lessons and all days a week of practice. . . Sassy isn't interested in piano lessons, so we decided to use the Hymns for a Kid's Heart books to learn about hymns/music. We'll start with Passion Hymns, since I happen to have that one, if we like them, we'll get more as we need them.

1 day: Nutrition/Health - Last year we went part way through Vintage Remedies for Girls, and enjoyed it. We've decided to re-visit it this year, one day a week.

So that, along with continuing to review products for the TOS Crew, should keep us out of trouble LOL. As has been the case this year, I consider Language Arts and Math to be well covered through life and the above subjects so I don't find it necessary to have specific "subjects" for them, though we might start moving toward abit more formal math at some point next year . . . I haven't decided yet . . .

OOOOOHHHHH WAIT!!!! One more thing!!! Little Bit heard us talking about school and said "what about MY school?" I asked her if she wanted to start having school too and she said yes so, starting this week, we are going to go through a "Letter of the Week" program with her (I'll do a separate post about the specifics of that). My current plan is to go through the alphabet from now through November (what? That's more than 26 weeks? shhh . . . I know me, we'll miss some weeks! If we get done "early" we'll do a "number a week" for awhile or something . . . ) Then include her in Thanksgiving stuff and Hanukkah stuff and Christmas/Advent stuff along with the big girls. And then, starting in January, I want to use the Waldorf preschool program that I used w/ the big girls, I'm not sure it's still available online so not going to bother trying to find a link, but I actually have all the files saved, and even can find them, or could a few months ago when I wanted something. For some reason, it runs for a year and a half, starting in January, so we'll go with that . . . how scary is it that THAT will take her to "Kindergarten" age? EEK!!!!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Book Review: Then Sings My Soul, Book 3 by Robert Morgan

Then Sings My Soul, Book 3 by Robert Morgan tells the story behind some of the world's greatest hymns. This is the 3rd volume of hymns and in addition to more great hymns, the author also includes the
history of worship, some of the biblical hymns, and biographical information about some of the great composers.

The stories about the songs includes the words and music of those songs.

When I saw this book available for review from BookSneeze, I thought it sounded like a fun way of teaching my girls (and myself) more about some of the hymns we sing in church. So I flipped through, looking for hymns they would recognize. And I found few that *I* recognized, much less ones my children knew. If I played piano, or the book came with a CD, this might still have been a fun way to learn some new hymns, but since I don't, I decided just to read it myself and not try to use it with the children. I found the information interesting, but it wasn't a format that worked well for this busy mom as "pleasure reading". None of this is really a criticism of the book, it matches well with the description given, just didn't work for what I was wanting it for. That said, if you're interested in learning about some lesser-known (at least to me) hymns, and the history of hymns in general, this is a great book! I suspect that for someone like me, who has grown up singing hymns in church but is far from an expert on the genre, or music in general, the first book might have had more hymns I recognized.

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.”

TOS Crew Review: Amazing Science DVD

I've mentioned that my kids love science. And they REALLY love it when they get to do "experiments". Of course, they have this annoying, boring mommy who is abit leary of things blowing up and ummm huge messes and stuff so they don't get to do nearly as many experiments as they'd like.

PhotobucketSo when we got the chance to review a DVD full of easy science experiments it seemed like a win-win! They get to see tons of COOL experiments, and I get to NOT have the mess, or potential explosions!

Amazing Science! Volume 1 from is 2 DVDs full of easy experiments you can do at home! Some of my kids' favorite  experiments from this volume include:
  • Color changing milk
  • Build a Lemon Battery
  • Unburnable money
Each experiment is simple and to the point. I love that, even on days we're running short on time, we can still fit in time to watch one or two of these experiments.

For each experiment Jason (the . . . guy on the video, I'm not sure what to call him . . .the host? the scientist? the video guy?) tells the viewer what they will need, mostly things you'd already have around the house, sometimes some simple ingredients from the grocery or hardware store. Then he does the experiment. Finally, he explains why/how it works.

Photobucket What I like:
  • Quick, short, I can pop the video in when we're short on time.
  • The kids LOVE it!
  • The experiments ARE cool, I want to try them too!
  • The experiments are low-mess and don't use tons of specialized stuff that I can't easily pick up during normal errands.

What I think could be improved:
  • Even though the ingredients are usually simple and easy to come by, I would have loved to be able to print out a list, either from the website or by sticking the DVD into my computer, and have the stuff on hand when we watched it. 
  • I noticed at least one time where he says "heck", I think it was in the context of "how the heck did that work" or something like that. Not a huge deal, but I know some families would object.
  • Along the same lines, in at least one of the experiments he suggests that you could "bet someone" that you could put paper underwater without it getting wet. He then explains the experiment (which IS pretty cool!!!), and at the end says something along the lines of "so you can do that and then tell the person you bet 'the paper's not wet, now pay up!".  Not an issue for me, but again, I know some families would consider this to be "gambling", and object.
All in all, I would recommend this as a fun video for any child who enjoys science. Alternately, even if your child does NOT enjoy science, this might be a fun resource for the parent to watch, and then impress their child(ren) by doing some of the experiments together.  You can purchase the DVD (actually 2 DVDs in one case) for $19.95 or a download for $17.99. Science and also has a variety of math DVDs and some Physics and Chemistry DVDs.
To see what other crew members thought of these DVDs, check out their reviews here.


Disclaimer: 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.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Weekly Wrap-up - April 16

Ever have a week when you just go . . . hmmmm . . . what DID we do  this week?  That's where I'm at right now LOL.

So, let's see . . .

It's spring, which means the big girls run to the woods every chance they get, I love that we have that available for them! What better way to learn about . . . EVERYTHING . . . then exploring the woods!!!!

We've been discussing curriculum-type-stuff for next year. I think we have the basics figured out, I'll do a separate post about that sometime in the next few months LOL.

Ummm . . . we're reviewing something like 3 science products back-to-back, kind of overlapping, so we've been doing lots of science-y stuff around here, that's always fun, still boggles my mind that science is FUN . . . how did I miss that aspect of it in school? Oh yeah, the boring textbooks, memorizing boring facts to regurgitate onto tests LOL.

I'm pretty sure there was more going on last week that I'm blanking on, but I'm just going to go with this . . . it was a a quieter than some week, I like quiet weeks LOL. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

TOS Crew Review: Christian Kids Explore Science

I have to admit, even after several years, it still boggles my mind abit at how much my kids LOVE science!! I was never a fan, though I agree that the stuff we do now is alot more fun than I remember science class being.

So, when we had the chance to review one of the books in the Christian Kids Explore Science series from Bright Ideas Press, I talked to the girls about it and they enthusiastically agreed. The hard part was deciding WHICH book to choose. After much arguing discussion, they decided on Christian Kids Explore Earth and Space. I think it was the promise of building a volcano that finally swayed them LOL.

Christian Kids Explore Earth and Space is a 30 week, science curriculum for grades 3-6, covering the Lithosphere, Hydrosphere, Atmosphere, Weather, and Space.

Each lesson includes a short lesson to read and then a hands-on activity. In many cases there is a second hands-on option for younger children as well. We have been working through this as quickly as we can, with everything else we've had going on, to get a good feel for it during the review period. Now that the review period is over, we're planning to fall into the rhythm recommended, which is 1 lesson per week, spread over 2 days, one day for the reading, one day for the hands-on activity.

While the stated age range is grades 3-6, my girls definitely aren't finding it too advanced (granted we're only on the 2nd unit). We don't really "do grade levels" here, so it's hard to say exactly what grade level they equate to, but I would guess they are roughly 3rd-4th grade. In the instances where there has been a "younger child option" it has seemed too young for them. So I would say you could use this for 1st and 2nd graders as well, as long as you're reading the lesson to them, not asking them to read it on their own. I would guess that by the time my girls are 5th-6th grade age they would find this too simple, but they love science so that might make them more advanced than their age would indicate, I don't really know. Because of the hands-on activities, this works well for a variety of learning/teaching styles. If you follow the suggestions on how to structure things, to the letter, this would be a very structured program, but we've found it easy to adapt to our eclectic style, as well. By following the 2 day format, there is very little teacher-prep required. I read the text to them the first day and at the end of reading it, I also read the basic directions of the hand-son portion to them. In doing that, it also tells us what supplies we will need for the next day and we can gather them.

In addition to Earth & Space ($34.95), the Christian Kids Explore Science series includes several other science books. You can see them here. The TOS Crew reviewed several of these titles, so be sure to go to the crew blog to see other reviews on all of these!


Disclaimer: 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, April 10, 2012

Crockpot Taco Soup

This is a quick, easy lunch that we enjoy. It's roughly based on the recipe on this site, but we don't have a "large family" so we've adapted it.

1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can corn
1 can black beans
1 can some other kind of beans
1 can tomato sauce or diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp oregano

Mix in crockpot, cook on high, 2-3 hours.

Serve with sour cream, shredded cheese, fresh cilanto and tortilla chips

Sunday, April 8, 2012

TOS Crew Review: TruthQuest History

Photobucket We LOVE history around here! LOVE IT!!! And we love using living books to learn about history. I've been very happy with the curriculum I've been using, which, as I use it, is basically a list of books to get from the library, going through American history chronologically. We used it, as read alouds, when the girls were 5, and we're using it again this year as a combination of read alouds and independent reading.

Providentially, when the opportunity to review TruthQuest History came up, complete with the option to choose from several products to review, we were just wrapping up the Revolutionary War, ready to start learning about the Louisiana Purchase. And one of the options to review from TruthQuest History was American History for Young Students II (1800-1865). For those who don't remember their American History dates, the Revolutionary War was late 1700s, and the Louisianna Purchase was 1803. What are the odds?!?!  So, needless to say, I jumped at the chance to review a history product that was timed exactly perfectly for where we were.  And I fell instantly in love!!!

Remember what I said we love to do for history? Read real books (Charlotte Mason calls them living books) in relatively chronological order. . . guess what TruthQuest is?  A huge list of real books on topics of (in this case) American history, listed chronologically!!! BUT, they make a point of including books with a Christian point-of-view.  AND they managed to have almost NO duplication with the list I was already using. I'm not sure how that's even possible when both had such awesome books, but it is.

PhotobucketThe curriculum started, in 1800, with the building of the "Federal City" (better known as Washington DC) a topic that we would have completely skipped over if we hadn't gotten this review right when we did! I did find that our library doesn't have all the books listed. In most cases, the library has at least SOME of the books listed in each section, so we go with the ones they have. Sometimes, not so much (starting TOMORROW we're going to be reading a book about the Barbary Pirates (another topic we would have missed if we didn't get this curriculum), our library didn't have ANY of the ones listed, so I ordered the one that I thought would work best for us from a used book website), I think it's because this is such a thorough guide and the library just doesn't have that selection. The way I see it, if the library doesn't have any of a large list of resources about a topic, it's probably a good idea for us to own at least one or two resources on that topic anyway.  I've also run into some books listed that I just can't bear to NOT use, so even though the library's had plenty of others on a given topic, I've ordered some new (to us) ones as well.

Most topics include at least a brief summary that I read to the children before we dive into the books of that section. As I glance through the rest of the book, I see that some are longer, and some include a short "writing prompt" asking a question about the topic being discussed. So far there have been SO MANY great books recommended, and we love great books, so we're not moving through this very fast. I think how fast we move will vary greatly. We spent 3-4 weeks (granted we were traveling during that time) on the Louisiana Purchase and Lewis and Clark. We'll probably spend less time on some topics (hopefully, if not, we won't get to the Civil War until the girls are teenagers LOL).

I didn't ask the girls what I thought of this curriculum, because it fit so perfectly seamlessly into what we were already doing that I don't think they even realized we were reviewing something. I *can* say, with certainty, that we have already discovered some wonderful books thanks to this book and we've only made it through the first couple topics.

I am loving this! The only "teacher prep" that's required is to line up the books you need. I try to check the library about 3 weeks ahead of where we're working, I enter the books the library does have into my "list" on the library website, ready to request about a week before we need them (to give time for the library to collect them from around the county for me, I love my library!!!). But by checking a few weeks early it also gives me time to decide if I want to purchase any of the books the library doesn't have, and have time to order them and have them shipped media mail.  And that's it. . . one of the books we used with Lewis and Clark included hands-on projects and we enjoyed a few of them (I was hoping we'd have pictures of the moccasins the girls are working on, but we've been too busy enjoying the lovely spring weather to get much sewing done, the girls are very excited about it though, so when the weather is less conducive to spending hours outside I'm sure they'll get them sewn up quickly), so if you were to choose this book you might choose to go through it ahead of time and choose projects and collect the supplies. I'm not that organized, so as we read through the book, if we came to a project that looked interesting, I mentioned it, if the girls wanted to do it, we added the needed supplies to our shopping list for that week, and went on. . .

I highly recommend this for history! Reading REAL books about history is such an awesome way to learn history! Sassy and MiniMe looked at me like I had 3 heads when I mentioned (I don't remember how it came up) that many people find history boring and I really think that's because they've never had to listen to a dry history lecture or read a dry history textbook, or ignore the fun anecdotes in order to make sure to have time to memorize the dry facts that the teacher thought were important. You can purchase a physical book for $24.95 or a .pdf ebook (like we are using) for $19.95, and you can use this for all your children!!!

Be sure to check out the website too. In addition to the volume we reviewed, there are 2 more volumes for American History (Grades 1-5), and several volumes for World History (Grades 5-12). There are also additional resources for maps, lapbooks, etc. available.

Be sure to check the TOS Crew blog for additional reviews of this and the rest of the TruthQuest History products.


Disclaimer: 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.

Weekly Wrap-up - April 8

We had a busy week this past week, as evidenced by the fact that it took me half the week to post LAST WEEK's Wrap-up, sigh . . .

Sunday we went to a friend's house. E (5) was sooo excited to show off his new racetrack and other fun new toys (his birthday is in March too). Then when he discovered that MiniMe and Sassy knew how to blow up balloons, his mom gave them a bag of balloons and all the kids had great fun playing with, and popping balloons. Fun times!

Monday was a much-anticipated day!!! Miss Sara used to live with our neighbor, Miss Judy, but moved to Hawaii last summer. We LOOVE Miss Sara and she has been much missed. So, a month or so ago, Miss Judy told us that Sara would be in NY the first week of April, and was planning to come to Judy's house one of the days. At that time we thought Daddy would be in Pittsburgh the first week of April, but Sassy and MiniMe were instantly ready to give up a trip to Pittsburgh to be here to see Miss Sara. As it turned out, Daddy's trip was cancelled, so that was a non-issue. Monday we enjoyed a lovely lunch and afternoon at Miss Judy's visiting with Miss Sara and other friends. Little Bit didn't seem to remember Miss Sara when I talked about her, though she was also in a bad mood so may have just been saying "no" because she could . . . but once we were there she warmed up to her pretty quickly, and told me in no uncertain terms that she wanted Miss Sara to sit by her at lunch instead of me LOL.

Tuesday and Wednesday were just boring errands and cleaning and school and stuff.

Thursday I had slatted as my "clean for Passover" day, and had warned the girls of those plans. But that morning a friend called and asked if I could possibly watch her children. Her normal babysitter was sick and she couldn't take off work that day. So, we scrapped all plans for school and housecleaning and spent the day playing outside and building with Wedgits and otherwise having a fun time with friends. In the afternoon we did our Passover grocery shopping and came out from the store, set to make a quick run to the library before going home and throwing together something for supper, and the car battery was dead. URRGGGHHH!!! It was dead a week or so ago (at home) after a light got left on inside the car, and I commented to dh then, that I was pretty sure that meant the battery was going. That a single "map light" shouldn't have drained the battery in one night. But then I promptly forgot about it. When we got to the grocery store that afternoon, Little Bit had fallen asleep, so we sat and listened to Adventures in Odyssey while she slept. It was a pretty day and without thinking about the bad battery, I turned the engine off too save gas. So, listening to the tape without the engine running must have been what ran the battery down. Thankfully, dh was at the office, and not in Philadelphia or York or somewhere, so he came and jumped the car for me, then went and got a new battery that he installed for me the next day, woo-hoo!!!

Friday MiniMe learned how to install a car battery, and both she and Sassy helped me prep food for Passover.

Friday night was officially Passover, but we had decided to have our Seder on Sabbath afternoon/evening instead. We did have matzo instead of Challah bread for Friday night though. And decided to try our hand at Matzo ball soup too. In looking for vegetarian Passover recipes I had discovered a recipe for Moroccan style Vegan Matzo Ball Soup so we made it (minus the carrots since none of us are big on cooked carrots, and mushrooms because I don't like mushrooms, and the cook gets to decide things like that LOL), but just made regular Matzo balls instead of the vegan ones in the recipe. Matzo balls were a BIG hit, and the soup was declared acceptable too. So woo-hoo!!! a new Friday night soup option.

Sabbath we got home from church, ate a quick lunch, put Little Bit down for nap, and the big girls and I got busy working on our Passover meal.

After Little Bit woke up from her nap we began our Seder. I had combined 2 or 3 different Messianic Haggadahs (the booklet with who says and does what, when, during the Seder), to come up with a short, simple one that worked for us.  It was nice. The girls really enjoyed it and it was a wonderful way of remembering Jesus' sacrifice. We included foot washing where we think Jesus might have washed the disciples' feet during their Seder/Last Supper, and also remembered Jesus' admonition to remember Him when drinking the wine and eating the bread, I think doing all of this as a part of a Passover Seder helped the girls, and me, see the symbolism of it better than our typical church communion, removed from the Seder context.

So that was our week, today we're enjoying Firstfruits, and the continuing week of Unleavened Bread.

In  between all the above activity, we've been enjoying lots of history (there's a review coming in the next day or 2) and Science (that review is still a week or so away).

Friday, April 6, 2012

Book Review and Giveaway: The Five Love Languages of Children

CONGRATS to Laura Lane, for winning this great book! 

As I mentioned in my review of A Perfect Pet for Peyton (have you entered the giveaway yet?), I also got to review The 5 Love Languages of Children.

I actually read this book (from the library) about 4 years ago, and loved it then, so I was thrilled to get to re-read it and have my own copy of it! It did NOT disappoint! I found it just as relevant now, with two 9 yr olds and a 3 yr old as I did 4 years ago with two 5 year olds! I don't know about you, but sometimes I get so busy focusing on helping my children learn all the things they need to learn, that I forget to focus on just LOVING them! Not that I don't love them, but I'm not always good about showing them that love, and definitely not always good about making sure I'm showing that love in ways that speak to each of them individually!

That's where this book comes in. In this book Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell, describe how each of the 5 love languages look in children, followed by a chapter telling how to determine your child(ren)'s primary love language(s). The last several chapters address specifics like single parenting, dealing with anger, etc.

Showing our children that we love them unconditionally, in ways that they "hear" us is sooo important! So this book is, in my opinion, is a "must read" for all parents!

And now I get to GIVEAWAY!!! a copy of this book to one of my readers!!!

So leave a comment on this post (mandatory first entry) for your chance to win!

The fine print:  Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. Only comments on this blog count, if you are reading this in a reader or on facebook, please click through to my actual blog. Giveaway ends at 10pm  edt on Sunday, April 15. If you do not provide me with an, easy-to-determine method of contacting you, I will choose a different winner.If I don't hear back from the winner within 2 days, I will choose a new winner.

After you have done the mandatory first entry, you may earn additional entries by doing any or all of the following (leave a separate comment for each entry): 
  • Follow my blog in Linky Followers (see sidebar) - 2 entries for this
  • Follow my blog in Google Friend Connect (see sidebar)
  • Like Gary Chapman on facebook.
  • Like my blog on facebook.
  • Follow Gary Chapman on Twitter
  • Follow me on Twitter

“Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or
services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it 
on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally 
and believe will be good for my readers. 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.”

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Review and Giveaway!!! A Perfect Pet for Peyton

CONGRATS to Monica!! Winner of our Giveaway!

I think I first learned about the 5 love languages three for four years ago, as I was searching for ways to help MiniMe adjust to our move. I got a book about love languages out of the library and gleaned some great tips. So, when I was given the chance to review, The Five Love Languages of Children (that review, and a GIVEAWAY is coming soon!) AND a children's book about the love languages, both by Gary Chapman, I jumped at the chance.

I have to admit, I didn't even read the description of A Perfect Pet for Peyton before I signed up for this review. I knew I wanted to review the Five Love Languages, and my kids love books, so sure, I'm always up for reviewing a good kids' book! 

So I was THRILLED to see just what an AWESOME book this was when it came! This is not your typical picture book! The pictures aren't just PICTURES!!! Every page has something to look for, or something else fun to do, plus the story is great! Even my "we're too old for picture books" 9-year-olds loved it, and happily listened to it a second time!

The story is about twins who go to Mr. Chapman's "Perfect Pet Pal Emporium" for their birthday party. As they visit the petting zoo, aquarium, etc etc etc, and have their party, the book shows how each of the children at the party shows their love for their friends in different ways. At the end of the party Mr. Chapman presents each child at the party with a new pet that is perfectly matched to that child's love language. 

MiniMe is completely enthralled with the concept of Love Languages, and HER primary love language(s). Sassy, not-so-much, but both enjoyed the story and figuring out each of the character's love language. The concept of love languages was, naturally, over Little Bit's head, but she loved the pictures and being able to find things in the pictures. So this book was an all-around hit!!!

It was a great way to open dialogue with the older girls about not only accepting love, but showing love to others in a variety of ways to meet everyone's needs. The back of the book includes some questions to help parents and children determine each child's love language.


Not only did I get a copy of this great book, I get to give a copy of this book to one of you too!! Woo-hoo!! If you have children 3-10, you WANT this book!! 

So leave a comment on this post (mandatory first entry) for your chance to win!

The fine print:  Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. Only comments on this blog count, if you are reading this in a reader or on facebook, please click through to my actual blog. Giveaway ends at 10pm  edt next Thursday, April 12. If you do not provide me with an, easy-to-determine method of contacting you, I will choose a different winner.If I don't hear back from the winner within 2 days, I will choose a new winner.

After you have done the mandatory first entry, you may earn additional entries by doing any or all of the following (leave a separate comment for each entry): 
  • Follow my blog in Linky Followers (see sidebar) - 2 entries for this
  • Follow my blog in Google Friend Connect (see sidebar)
  • Like Gary Chapman on facebook.
  • Like my blog on facebook.
  • Follow Gary Chapman on Twitter
  • Follow me on Twitter

“Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it  on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. 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 - April 2

I started this post on Monday, it's been a busy week LOL, but, better late than never . . .

I've already blogged about most of our adventures last Monday.

Tues and Wed we were at Mama & Papa's house, working on the playhouse, visiting with friends, and, on Wed, celebrating birthdays. Little Bit insisted that birthdays require balloons so my mom found some and the girls had great fun blowing them all up and hung them around.

Papa hung a makeshift rope swing from the "catwalk" on their playhouse (that will eventually have swings hanging from it) and all 3 girls spent TONS of time swinging on it. Even Little Bit was able to stand in the loop of rope and keep her legs stiff enough to swing.

Our birthday dessert was a HIT!! The girls had decided they wanted "chocolate strawberry pie" so we started looking at recipes. What we finally decided on was this recipe for "Death by Chocolate" but with sliced strawberries added to each layer. It was SOOOO good!!! Definitely a keeper!

Thursday we headed home.

Sabbath was an eventful day for Sassy & MiniMe. They had decided several months ago that when they turned 9, they wanted to start helping in Cradle Roll (the class for children 0-4) instead of attending their own class. So, this was their first time helping in Cradle Roll. They were SOO excited, and did a great job! The timing was perfect too. Little Bit was NOT in a good mood. That is especially challenging when Mommy is leading the program. It's not like I can just take her out, if I do that, the whole program screeches to a halt. But since the older girls were there, it worked well. I took Little Bit out to the hall and left her there with MiniMe, who was probably better at comforting her and calming her down than I would be LOL. A couple songs later we were getting ready for her FAVORITE (the parachute!) so I stuck my head out and asked if she was ready to come back, and she was, whew! So much less stressful than if I'd had to hand the program over to another mom and worry about how long we were taking and such. And then Sassy and MiniMe told children story for church. They enjoy doing it, and it's fun to see how much more comfortable they are each time they do it. I wasn't sure how they'd do now that there's a large group of children (ranging from 5 to 12, roughly, though the oldest ones don't always go up for story) from a nearby neighborhood who come for church. That's abit more intimidating than telling a story to 3 or 4 toddler and preschoolers as has been the case in the past, but they did great.

So that was our week.

Oh, one more milestone! Two days before we left for my parents' house, Little Bit announced, at bedtime, that she was going to sleep in Sissies' room. She's said that before but never actually DONE it. She has her own bed in there and sleeps in there for naps, but had never slept there at night. The logistics are complicated since she stays up later than the big girls, and even when I thought about trying to decrease or eliminate nap to move her bedtime earlier, it still seemed challenging since they typically read quietly in bed for a little while, wasn't sure how that would work with her there. . . But when she said she wanted to, I decided to try it. I reminded her that I couldn't lay with her (her bed is right against MiniMe's (both are "featherbeds" on the floor), so for naps I can just lay on MiniMe's bed but that doesn't work when she's already sleeping there. But told her I'd sit at the foot of her bed. She was ok with that, so I sat and read a book while she went to sleep, and slept there all night! It was kind of fun to go in to wake up the big girls the next morning and "surprise" them with their baby sister asleep in their room LOL. She repeated all of it the next night. But then we were at my parents' house. She actually DID ask a few times to sleep with Sissies, but since they sleep on the floor in Mama & Papa's room, and Mama & Papa were still getting ready for bed and such. I wasn't sure what would happen when we got home. The first night she did start toward her bed in our room, but when I asked "are you sleeping in Mommy's room or Sissies?" She changed direction and went to the girls' room. And that apparently was the end of that. She's slept all night every night in the girls's room, and now refers to it as "my room too" instead of "Sissies' room"). It all seemed a little too easy . . . guess she was ready :)

Monday, April 2, 2012

TOS Crew Review: Amazing Animals by Design

PhotobucketAll three of my girls love animals, so when I had the chance to review Amazing Animals by Design by Debra Haagen, I was thrilled!!!

This is SUCH a cute book.  In the story, a family goes to the zoo and discovers all kinds of amazing animals, some "typical zoo animals" that my 3 year old easily recognized, some that even the 9 year olds and I hadn't heard of. The children in the story notice that each of these animals was designed especially for the place it lives, and at the end of the day, talk with their parents about how all of these amazing designs couldn't have happened by accident, animals, like the rests of our world, was designed perfectly by our amazing Creator!

Little Bit loved the pictures, the cover art, above gives you a good idea of what the illustrations are like and they're on every page which is essential for keeping my wiggly little one's attention. The book is also relatively short, 22 pages, half of which (roughly) are pictures), this is another key to keeping her attention! Sassy and MiniMe generally consider themselves "too old" for picture books, but once we got to the cat who can jump 12 feet in the air, backwards, I had their attention too!

We received the ebook version of this book, so we all snuggled close around my laptop to read it. The one downside I found with this, is the book layout is, in most cases, picture on one page, writing on the other. But even when I made the pages smaller so we could view 2 at once, it didn't let us see the right picture with what I was reading. I'm assuming this is because Adobe was considering the "cover" as a page. So it showed the cover & first page together as a "spread" and then the "spreads" were off for the rest of the book. Obviously this would be a non-issue with the physical book and as much as I love the cost savings (and storage space savings) of ebooks, for young children, I think "real" books are still the way to go. But you can choose whichever you prefer, this book is available as both a book ($8.99) and an ebook ($7.99) here.

While my older girls enjoyed listening along, I'd say this would be best for younger children. I'd recommend this book for anyone whose young children loves animals! If you're looking for a book that your children will love, that will reinforce for them that God created all the animals, not random chance, this is the book for you! Your little ones will love it, and I bet any older children will at least pause to hear, and might come over to check out some of these unusual animals mentioned.

While you're visiting Tate Publishing to look at this book, browse around abit, they offer a wide selection of  books and music.

To hear what other people think of this great new book, stop by the Crew blog to read the rest of the reviews!


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.