Thursday, September 27, 2012

Crew Review: Music Together


When the older girls were toddlers, we took a mommy/toddler class that included lots of fun action songs. The girls loved it and we were sad when it ended. I've thought about looking for something similar for Little Bit, but we travel so much now, that it hasn't seemed practical. We would miss too many classes with our traveling.

PhotobucketSo when we got the chance to review Music Together I figured that would be the best of both! We received the Music Together Family Favorites CD and the Family Favorites Songbook for Teachers. The songbook is so much more than just a songbook, it is a manual for teaching a toddler/preschool music class. Before each song it gives basic suggestions for how to introduce and use that song. After each song there are a couple more pages with suggestions for using the song with different ages (infant, preschool, etc.), special needs children, etc.

Even though Sassy and MiniMe are older, we included them in our fun.  I had good intentions of getting pictures of the girls enjoying the action songs but I never wanted to interrupt what we were doing to take the picture, so I'll just tell you about what we did.

We all sat in a circle on the floor, or, on some of the gorgeous, not too hot days recently, on a blanket in the yard. We started with the welcome song, then did 3 to 6 other songs, a mix of ones we had done before and new ones. Some of the songs are action songs, others use instruments. We already had some instruments, maracas and shaking eggs and some little toy drums. When we needed things we didn't have, we looked around the house. Wooden spoons make great rhythm sticks, an empty oatmeal container makes a good drum, if you can handle the loudness, so does a kettle. . . So we didn't have to buy anything extra to go with this. If we hadn't had maracas, dry beans in small Tupperware containers work well.  However, the site does sell instruments if you prefer.

PhotobucketSo, what do we think? Little Bit thought it was great fun, the older girls, while obviously not the target audience, participated willingly and didn't complain, which says a lot LOL. I think the CD would make a fun CD just to listen to whenever, the songs are fun & catchy, it would also be a nice "supplement" to have if your child is taking a Music Together class. For an actual class, like the songbook lays out, an actual pianist would be ideal. If MiniMe had been taking piano lessons longer I would have made that her job. Since we didn't have a pianist, I wish we had an accompaniment type cd without singing, or that the CD included accompaniment only tracks as well. Often the book suggested letting the children make up words, or otherwise modifying the songs, which was hard to do with the cd having words. Alternately, you could memorize the songs well enough to sing without accompaniment but my singing isn't good enough for that LOL.

This would be a great product for a family with several little ones (the classes are listed as being from babies through age 7, so anywhere in that range would work well, older siblings may enjoy joining in too, like my 9 yr olds did), or for the younger kids at a homeschool coop. Alternately, anyone with young kids, looking for a cd of fun kid songs could just get the cd. Music Together also offers classes, you can check here for classes in your area.

You can purchase the cd for $14.95, or an mp3 download of the album for $9.99 and the songbook for $29.95, or you can get the CD and songbook together for $39.95, you can find the combo on this page.  AND You can use coupon code "Schoolhouse" for $2 off your purchase.

Be sure to check the crew blog to see how other reviewers used this product.


Disclaimer: I received one or more of the above mentioned product at no charge as part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Weekly Wrap-up September 23

 We finished off last week with the 150th anniversary of the battle of Antietam. While we were there, the girls started working on their Junior Ranger for the Maryland Campaign in the Civil War. They got the Antietam piece signed off on, but to complete the Junior Ranger they had to visit several other sites connected to the Maryland Campaign, so that was our entertainment for the next couple of days.

We stopped at Washington Monument State Park, and the South Mountain Inn across the street, and read the historic markers there for one requirement. Little Bit was right in there in the middle of things :)

Another stop we didn't get a picture of was the Frederick Historic Society, where we learned more about Barbara Fritchie. A couple weeks  ago we read Whittier's poem about Barbara Fritchie, so it was fun to see more about it. As a fun sidenote, while we were at the Historic society, they also had a display about Cunningham Falls, including a big "life size" picture of the part of the falls that my friends and I often visited on Sabbath afternoons when I was a teenager. The girls thought it was pretty cool that I could point out the exact rock that Daddy & I sat on and watched people on our very first date :)

The most exciting stop was to go to Monocacy Battlefield to see Special Order 191. I have absolutely NO recollection of ever learning about Special Order 191 in school, despite taking an entire semester of Civil War History from a truly excellent history teacher. BUT now that I know about it, it's definitely a highlight of the Maryland campaign, and the war in general. In a nutshell, Lee's entire battle plan was left behind when the army moved to a new camp and a few days later the Union army ended up camping the same place & found the copy of the battle plan and delivered it to McClellan. Normally the original is kept at the Library of Congress but in honor of the 150th anniversary, it's been loaned to Monocacy Battlefield. Unfortunately, they didn't allow pictures around the actual document, but while we were there, we had some fun dressing up in the confederate uniform they have there. The fun thing about this particular "dress-up area" is that the pack is "weighted" to be the weight of the packs soldiers actually carried, it was rather amusing to watch MiniMe helping Sassy get the pack on, it was HEAVY!!!

Little Bit decided she'd just stand next to the "soldier" for her picture :)

We also got the C&O canal signature, but we got there just as they were closing, so just got it signed real quick, and the girls did the activity for that one at home.

Our other adventure was to start geocaching, as I mentioned here.

Since we were all fighting colds, we mostly just hung out at Mama & Papa's house the next day. The girls helped mama harvest squash from the garden (that picture ended up on Papa's camera and I forgot to get copies of his pictures), and all 3 girls had fun playing in the playhouse. They've moved the play kitchen from the basement out to the playhouse so Little Bit has great fun "cooking" in their house. And we did some of the geocaching talked about above.

Tuesday was rainy, but we had chosen to wait until then to go to our final stop for the Maryland Campaign Junior Ranger. Newcomer House is at Antietam Battlefield, one of the only original farm houses that is open to the public, but was a separate stop on the Junior Ranger, and we figured it would be easier to get to if we waited until AFTER all the 150th stuff at Antietam was over. So, since the actual battle anniversary was Monday (the 17th), we headed over to Newcomer House on Tuesday.

When we got there the girls noticed right away that HERE there were UNION uniforms to dress up in AND they had the boots too! Sassy had to try them out, and then, when we showed the ranger, he pulled out his own fife and showed the girls how to play it. You can be glad these are SILENT pictures, the girls made quite a racket trying out the fife.

And of course, MiniMe had to try on the whole get-up too. This pack was empty, so it was much easier to try on than the weighted one LOL.

The ranger at Newcomer house was very friendly and we spent quite awhile there talking to him about the civil war medical equipment that was there, and the Lee statue that is nearby, and not accurate for the battlefield it's on. It shows Lee riding his horse, holding the reigns with one hand and looking through a spy glass with the other hand, however right before Antietam he had fallen from his horse and injured his hands/wrists, so wouldn't have had full use of his hands at this battle. (see all the fun trivia we get to learn).

Once we finished at Newcomer house we headed back over to the main Antietam Visitor Center to get their badges and certificates for the Maryland Campaign Junior Ranger. A lady who was there while the girls were getting their certificates, suggested that we take a picture of the girls with the ranger who gave it to them, so we did, but the lighting wasn't real good, and by then Little Bit (who had stayed in the car with Mama) was WAY past naptime so I didn't want to take very long.

Wednesday we headed home.

Friday was gorgeous weather, so we ended up spending time at one playground with friends in the morning, but then couldn't resist stopping by another playground later in the afternoon too. We had the place to ourselves.

The girls had fun swinging, and playing on the monkey bars.

And climbing on the dragon:

While they were all having fun on the playground I decided to check for geocaches in the area, so on our way home we had to check out a nearby geocache. We're still getting the feel for things and I was wanting to see if we could find the necessary coordinates using my car's GPS and/or the free app I currently have on my phone. What I discovered was that my car GPS, even when set in pedestrian mode, just isn't "exact" enough for geocaching. It assumes I'm looking for a building, so once I'm close enough that I'd be able to easily find the building, it tells me that I'm "at my destination", it won't lead me to specific latitude & longitude coordinates. The app I have on my phone would, I think, work fine for a simple cache. It will take the coordinates off the website and lead you to them. However, this particular cache involved finding information and then using it to determine the final coordinates of the cache, I couldn't figure out a way to enter my own coordinates into this app, so we got close, but couldn't find the cache. 
Additionally, the area we determined it to be also had some fallen trees, so it might have been recent storms had further "hidden" this particular cache. Still, the girls had fun looking for it, and climbing around on said fallen trees to try to find it LOL.

Sabbath we had our typical church, and potluck, then came home to relax for a couple hours before we headed off for more fun.

A local area church had arranged for a free Jaime Jorge concert Saturday evening, so the big girls and I went to that. I'd first heard Jaime Jorge 20+ years ago and have always enjoyed his violin music. Since Sassy is wanting to learn violin she was very excited to go to a violin concert and sat completely engrossed through the whole concert. Since piano is MiniMe's instrument of choice she was slightly less into it all, but still enjoyed it, and the stories and antecdotes he shared between pieces.

Since we figured Little Bit wouldn't do so well sitting through an evening concert, she and Daddy had their own date to Chuck E Cheese. Rodney said it was PACKED, so not as much fun as sometimes, but she still enjoyed herself. Of course, the thing that made the biggest impression was going for ice cream afterwards LOL.

So that was our busy week. Believe it or not we DID fit some school into the cracks, LOL.

And now I need to get off the computer and join my children outside to continue enjoying the lovely weather we're having!!!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Crew Review: Knights and Nobles! Once-a-Week Unit Study


Much as we LOVE history around here, I have to admit, when Homeschool Legacy's Once-a-Week Unit Studies came up as an option to review, my first thought was "No more history!" not because we don't LOVE it, not because I didn't think the girls would enjoy it, but because we seriously are NEVER going to finish American History if we don't keep with it! And I just felt like we needed to not sidetrack from Civil War stuff. So, as I went through the EXTENSIVE list of options to review, I listed several fun sounding SCIENCE units for the girls to choose between, but then I saw Knights and Nobles. And I just couldn't not at least include it in the list, it just sounded TOO fun! So, I sat down with the girls and gave them the option of things like birds, trees, weather, but also Knights and Nobles.And wouldn't you know it, while they thought they ALL sounded fun, the first choice was Knights & Nobles (with birds being a close second, I have to admit, I'm anxiously waiting to read the reviews about birds, it might just go on our wish list!).  And so, into our already history-laden days, came a whole different time period, and country. And the girls have LOVED LOVED LOVED it!!!

So what exactly is this? The Once-a-Week Unit Studies are designed, as the name suggests, to be used once a week. The thought being, this can be a way to add a little "spice" to homeschooling. Once a week, you take a break from all your normal curriculum and instead use these fun, educational, unit studies.

PhotobucketKnights and Nobles is, a four week study on Medieval times. These unit studies are advertised as being "no prep work", as is generally the case with no prep work unit studies, you DO need to reserve the books from the library ahead of time, and pull together a few needed supplies so that you have everything ready to go. This study does a very good job of listing the necessary books and supplies, making it as close to "no prep" as is possible. The one complaint I had about the supply lists was that the book lists didn't always include authors. They DID include call numbers which, if you live near a large library, would add a nice element of teaching children to find books by call number, however, we live near a very small library, BUT I can go online and reserve books from any library in the county, and have them delivered to our small library. Our online system doesn't allow for searching by call numbers though, so without the authors, in some cases I had to guess at which book (when the title was general enough to have multiple books by that title) we needed.

The book lists were extensive including a wide selection of books for the children to read on their own throughout the week, as well as a suggested read aloud for each week (the independent reading and read aloud are intended to be used all week, in addition to your normal curriculum, everything else is intended to be done on the day you choose to be "Knights and Nobles day".

On the day chosen for the unit study, there is a devotional, and then a variety of activities ranging from learning about the art of the time to, building a castle out of legos, etc. Each week has a specific topic related to Medieval life (castles, knights, etc).

We actually have used this almost exactly as intended (shocking isn't it? I'm not sure I've ever said that in a review before LOL). The one "change" we made, other than substituting a couple books that weren't available at our library, is that I decided we needed to spread this out over more than 4 weeks. I found the amount of read-aloud time to be too much for us considering that we do quite abit of read aloud and discussion time with our normal schoolwork. Little Bit can only self-entertain for SO long each day. So, much as I was hoping to have completed the study before the review was due, I decided it was better for all of us to slow down, we are working on finishing up the week 3 read aloud (would be done if I hadn't caught a cold which has meant I've chosen not to expend voice and breath on any read alouds the last 2 days) and then we will start on our final week's read aloud, independent reading, and choose a day, probably next week, for our final week's study.

What did we think? We all loved it! The girls really got into it all. I had to laugh, after they had read several books about how castles were built, and laid out, it came time to build a lego castle. Conveniently I had a lego castle from when I was a kid, that I had kept separate from the general mass of legos that live at my parents' house, so I got it out for them to use for this project. They started out following the directions, but then when they looked at the pictures of the "finished project" they objected, it simply was NOT authentic, thankyouverymuch! So they designed their own castle, and declared it much better, hee hee. (I thought I took a picture of their finished creation, but I'm not finding it, so I must have just thought about taking the picture, sigh . . .)

The "final project" for this unit study is to plan and host a Medieval feast, they have been planning this feast since we started the study. Because of our travel schedule, the feast won't happen for a couple more weeks, but they are anxiously looking forward to it.  We also plan to spend a day at the Renaissance Faire now that the weather is cooling off (I much prefer attending Renaissance Faires in late Sept or early Oct. rather than in August when it's still hot!).

The one caution I would mention is our current read aloud, a book about King Arthur, has abit more references to extra marital affairs than I would prefer, and I would have appreciated being warned of that. The references are quite vague in language, nothing explicit, but since children result in some instances, it is obvious what is going on, and I wouldn't want to field the questions that would arise if my girls were a year or two younger. The unit study is listed as being for grades 2-12, and while we generally say they are in 3rd grade this year, Sassy and MiniMe are currently 9 1/2, making them more in line, age-wise with most 4th graders.

Speaking of age ranges, I think this one is pretty accurate, however I love that some picture books are included to use with younger children. Even Little Bit, at age 3, has enjoyed having her sisters read her some of the "youngest" picture books that were on the list, and she likes being a part of our "school" days. This truly is a study that can be used with the whole family, even including some "stump Dad" trivia so the children can draw Dad into the fun in the evening when he's home.

I should also mention that if you have children in Boy Scouts, there is information included throughout the unit study so that he can earn a boy scout badge for the study as well (I'm sure some of the other reviewers who have children in scouts will go into more detail on this, that's all I know LOL).

So who do I recommend this to? I really can't think of any homeschoolers I wouldn't recommend it to. If you're like us and eclectic, leaning toward unschooling, this is so hands-on that it fits in wonderfully with our normal way of doing school. If you're a more structured homeschooler, be it classical homeschooling, or Charlotte Mason or . . . whatever it might be, because of the "once a week" nature of this it can be used alongside any curriculum and simply provide a fun change of pace for a month or so. Even if you're not homeschooling, this might be a fun summer or weekend activity for your family to enjoy learning about together.

The Knights and Nobles unit study is available for $15.95. You can see the complete list of available unit studies here.  Also don't forget to check out out the Schoolhouse Crew blog, because we were given so many choices to review, you'll be able to see what crew members thought of most, if not all), of the available studies.


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, September 19, 2012

C is for Cache

Blogging Through the Alphabet
I first heard of geocaching when Sassy & MiniMe were toddlers, I filed it away in my mental file of "things to look into when they're older" and kind of forgot about it. A few times since then, something has brought it forward in my mind and I've thought "I should look into that" and that's as far as I got. Last spring I was talking to a friend who mentioned that her children, about the same age as MiniMe and Sassy, enjoy it, so that moved it up some on my mental "someday" list. At that point I actually got as far as googling it, and getting on the email list at That meant I started getting "reminders" every couple weeks in the form of emails from

Fast forward to earlier this week . . . we're visiting my parents, busy doing lots of fun field trips and such, but then I happened to get an e-mail from Sunday morning, and seeing it, led to me checking, just for fun, to see if there were any caches near my parents' house. And one was not only near my parents' house, but at a tiny little civil war marker that I had been thinking we should include in our Civil War studies, but kept not thinking about it when we had time. So, I mentioned it to my dad, with MiniMe and Sassy within earshot. And they wanted to know what geocaching is, so we explained it and they were ready to go RIGHT.THIS.MINUTE!!!!

We didn't even actually USE a gps for that first one, we knew where it was, it was such a small location, so we just went and read about the skirmish that happened right there, literally in the "middle of the road" now . . . and hunted around the fence and rocks and trees and finally found what we were looking for.

If you're not familiar with geocaching, you can read all about it on the site I mentioned, but in a nutshell, people hide "caches" (small  boxes/containers) various places, then post to the geocaching website giving the latitude & longitude coordinates of the location along with some clues. They also indicate how difficult the terrain is (if you have to hike 50 miles through the wilderness or just stop by the side of the road LOL), how hard it is to find (I'm not sure if the HIDER determines this or people who've found it, seems like that could be a pretty different perspective LOL), and how big a container you're looking for.  INSIDE the container is (supposed to be), at minimum, some sheets of paper or a small notebook so that each person who finds it can sign saying they found it. If the cache is big enough, it often also includes "tradeables", the person who hid the cache puts some type of "prize" in for whoever finds it first. That person, in turn, takes the prize and leaves something of equal or greater value, and so on . . . anyone who finds it has the option to "trade" or to just leave the item for the next person. When you get back to your computer (or, right away if you have the app on your smart phone) you also log your find on the website.

So, back to our first hunt . . . we finally found it, and there WAS a cute toy in it (rubber ducky) but since I was still figuring out how it all worked, we didn't have anything to trade, I'd pre-warned the girls of all this, so they were ok with it). There was NOT a log book in it, sigh . . . so we just re-hid it and continued with our day. I logged our find online when we got back to my parents' house that evening (I do have a smart phone, but want to make sure we're in this for the long-haul before I spend $10 on an app, I'm cheap that way LOL).

As we were driving away, the girls were asking "are there more around here?", "when can we find another one?" so it was a hit, even without getting to keep the "treasure".

That evening dad & I both looked at some other caches nearby and the next day we headed out again, leaving Mama and Little Bit at home so Little Bit could nap. The girls are SOO into it! Even not being able to find one didn't phase them, although we may stop by and take another go at that one before we head home this afternoon. The ones we found the second day were too small to have tradeables in them, but the girls didn't mind that either, though they are looking forward to finding more with "treasures" in them (I ordered some little toys from Oriental Trading to have for trading, though when we went hunting on Monday I'd told them that if we DID find any tradeables, we could go into the Walmart that was nearby and buy some type of do-dad to trade).

This is a great way to learn about geography, map skills, latitude/longitude, and get some good exercise and fun family time! After "helping" Papa, out in the yard, figure out how his GPS would work for this, Sassy came in and asked me "do YOU know how many degrees are in a circle?" she was rather disappointed to learn that I did LOL.

To see what other bloggers think of when they think of the letter C, visit Ben and Me!

Crew Review: A Cry From Egypt by Hope Auer

I have to admit, when I first saw that one of the vendors being reviewed was Raising Real Men, I assumed it wasn't anything we could use. Afterall, I'm not raising men, I'm raising 3 women. But, when the information about this review came out, it specified that it wasn't just for parents of boys, so I read about it afterall. And I'm SO glad I did! One of the options to review was A Cry From Egypt by Hope Auer.

I love books. I've been a bookworm since I learned to read. I had a teacher who used to tell me I HAD to play at recess, I couldn't just sit under a tree and read a book every day, he wasn't my favorite teacher LOL.

These days I don't find alot of time to read "for fun", but one genre that I still make time to read once in awhile is Biblical fiction. I love it when an author does a good job of taking a well-known Bible story, and does the research about the time period and such, and "fleshes" the story out. And that is what this book is. Hope Auer, a recent homeschool graduate, wrote this book about a young Hebrew slave girl in Egypt during the plagues.

We used this as our bedtime read aloud, and my girls and I LOVED it! In fact, we are waiting impatiently for the sequel to come out!!! (I fear we may have to wait awhile, since I KNOW books like this don't write themselves overnight, and A Cry from Egypt is still available in limited quantities as advanced reader copies, sigh).

It is so easy to read about the plagues of Egypt and not really think about the PEOPLE involved, both Egyptian and Hebrew! Obviously we don't know alot about how the people felt, but I feel this book did an excellent job of "guessing", and bringing these people, with all their trials and joys, to life! I especially liked that the author didn't portray all Egyptians as evil, as we approached the Passover in the story, my girls started being so sad, "Oh no! So and so is going to die!" (or so and so's son, or so and so's brother . . .), we hurt along with some of the Egyptians who were victims of their Pharoah's cruelty in a different way.

I seriously can't think of anyone I DON'T recommend this to! The recommended age for this book is 8+, I think for younger children (and probably even for some 8-10 yr olds), use your judgement. Consider what the basic story here is, there is violence, bad things happen to people, it wouldn't be realistic if it weren't that way. If you have a very sensitive child you might want to wait until they are abit older, if your child won't be disturbed by the violence, then I would think a couple years younger would be able to follow, and enjoy, the story if it were used as a read aloud. If your kids are too young, get it anyway, you can read and enjoy it now, and share it with them when they're ready! My one complaint, and I know I noticed it more because I was reading it out loud, was there were several small typos, a missing the, or a word typed twice, little things like that (which I'm sure are quite prevalent in my blog, but then, if I took time to proof read and double proof read every blog post, I'd NEVER get anything posted), it's a small thing really, but since I know that some of my friends are as picky, or picker than me about such things, I did want to mention it, so you can mentally prepare yourself to overlook that when reading it.

You can purchase a pre-release copy of the book from the publisher for $12.50, including shipping.

Also be sure to look around Raising Real Men to see all the other great products they have (that are NOT all just for those raising boys!). You can also find them on facebook.

Some of my fellow crewmates reviewed this book along with me, others reviewed a parenting book about children in church, you can read reviews of both these books on the crew blog, 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.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Weekly wrap up September 17

Another busy week. The first few days were extra hectic because, not only were we getting ready for a trip, but MiniMe still wasn't really walking on her foot. Thankfully by Tues she was walking relatively well, and by Wed, the blister had popped and she was fine, whew!! 

Thursday she had her piano lesson and then we headed to Mama and Papa's house. After HORRIFIC traffic, we finally got there. As always, one of the first things is to check on the playhouse. Much to their delight, they discovered a new addition, a TIRE SWING!!!  Last spring Papa had added the arm to put a swing of some sort on but up until now it had just been a rope with a loop in the end to stand in. Still fun, but this is better. Little Bit isn't too sure about it yet, but the big girls are loving it, as long as Sassy doesn't push MiniMe TOO high so that she gets too close to the end posts LOL.

Friday we went to a life size model of the wilderness Sanctuary. The girls would have much preferred a self-guided tour where they could examine things and ask questions at their own pace, and not quite so much "lecturing" much of which was basic enough that they weren't learning much. But it was still interesting to get a better idea of the size (not very big, really) of things. 

And then we get to the reason for this trip, Antietam's 150th anniversary celebration. Today (the 17th) is actually the anniversary of the battle, but the schedule was set up so that the "fun stuff" for kids anyway) was all on the weekend, today they were just having lots of lectures and some guided tours and such. This weekend was wonderful though! The weather couldn't have been more perfect, sunny, breezy, not too hot, wonderful!!! 

The "family tent" was one of our main destinations. It included supplies to make their own commemorative ribbons (crafts are always good!). They also had an activity where you found out information about one member of the 125th Pennsylvania (for the union, they could have chosen a confederate instead but they're all about winning LOL), then answer questions about the 125th Pennsylvania, around the battlefield, and finally come back to the family tent & find out the "fate" of their soldier. I had to laugh when we found out that the soldier that Sassy "was", had broken his jaw. I told her that to be authentic she would need to not talk the rest of the day, but she didn't buy it LOL.

We also went to a living history program where we heard from "Clara Barton" about her experiences at Antietam and during the war in general, and also a free black soldier who was awarded for picking up the flag and carrying it when the color bearer was shot.

Later we heard cannons shooting and the big girls said "cool, let's get closer!!!" and took off. Little Bit said "no, let's go back to Mama & Papa's house!" no matter how many times and how many different ways I tried to explain that the guns weren't going to hurt anybody, they were showing how they worked, she wasn't convinced, and kept saying she hoped sissies were ok, and refusing to go closer. 

The big girls enjoyed seeing the muskets & cannons shot, and then after that, the gunman from one of the cannons did a "kid's artillery demonstration" where he brought the kids up right around the cannon and explained how all the parts worked and such. Great fun!

There were also "camps" set up so the girls spent quite awhile talking to one of the soldiers in the confederate camp asking about all the different things he'd brought with him and anything else they could think of to ask him. 

Both Pennsylvania and Virginia had brought their mobile exhibits as well, the 2 exhibits were very different but both were interesting and added a different perspective on things related to the war. 

So, a busy day but lots of fun, and lots of learning :) 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Crew Review: Family Time Fitness

Photobucket  I've never worried much about the "PE" aspect of our homeschool. I don't believe there is inherent value in learning organized sports, we struggle with competition too much as it is, I'm not going to go out of my way to ENCOURAGE it between my children. So I've made sure that most days include free outside time, which generally includes running around, hiking in the woods, etc. But as they've gotten older, they're more likely to spend their outside time reading a book, or talking together under the apple tree, etc instead of being active. I still wasn't worried about it, the fact that they can walk 7+ miles in one day (all over Washington DC and Great Falls) without a single complaint about being tired or sore, and that they think it's "fun" to find the steepest hill in our woods and try to climb it, and such tells me that they are doing fine. But, when we got the opportunity to review Family Time Fitness, I figured it would be a good addition to our days, and certainly would be good for ME to get more exercise.

We received a download of the Fitness 4 Homeschool curriculum.  This is designed to be used 5 days a week for 25-60 min per day. It is designed for grades K-8, but can be used by the whole family. It includes 260 lessons complete with video demonstrations.

We received it right before we left on our motorhome trip with the grandparents. We didn't use it often on the trip, but it was nice to pull out at rest areas on the driving days and get some wiggles out.

Once we were home, we started using it more regularly, however, it emphasized to me how that yes, we do still get exercise, not everyday, but regularly. . . I wasn't going to insist they do jumping jacks the same day they had helped stack a bunch of firewood, for example.

After reading through the first lesson, I figured I'd be sore afterward (I'm not good about getting exercise regularly), but I was surprised when the girls also complained about being sore the next day. Honestly, I wasn't happy about that, I don't buy into the "no pain, no gain" thing, certainly not for children, and even re-read through the introductory material to see if it gave guidelines for easing into the program to avoid this, if it did, I didn't see it, even with re-reading. Obviously, different exercises use different muscles, and apparently these exercises used muscles that they don't typically use with all their bike riding, walking, hiking through the woods, etc.

After that, we dialed things back and didn't attempt to do as many reps as were suggested on some exercises. I also found that some of the "outside activity" were things that worked better with more children (freeze tag, with 2 people doesn't work very well, nor does it work well when participants are very different sizes, if they'd tried to include Little Bit &/or me in the game, pretty sure I can't crawl through Little Bit's legs to unfreeze her), and often the outdoor activity, and sometimes other exercises included competition, which I'm not fond of. So we adapted or skipped things as needed.

Little Bit joins in when she feels like it, and sits out what she doesn't want to do. The big girls came into it with a negative feeling because of being sore that first day. As we've continued through it and I haven't insisted they do more than they feel comfortable with, they've been accepting of it, though I can't say they jump up and down when I say it's time to do it. Some of the activities, they've enjoyed, some not so much. As we continue to use this I suspect we will end up revisiting some activities more often than suggested, if they enjoy them.

The articles on the website can give you a better idea of the philosophies behind this program. The introduction included when the product is purchased also explains this. I certainly agree that movement and regular exercise is important. I don't agree that the best/only way to accomplish this is through a formal, planned, adult-directed curriculum, any more than I feel that other "academics" are best learned in that way. I didn't set up scheduled "let's learn to walk" times with my children as toddlers, we played, they watched us, and when they were developmentally ready, they began figuring it all out. Likewise, when we do things together as a family, Little Bit sees her sisters balance on a rock wall, and asks to walk on it also, so one of us holds her hand and she  tries it. I didn't have structured "bike riding" times for the girls to learn to balance on a two-wheeler, they rode, with training wheels, and when they were ready, we took the training wheels off and worked together to figure out that final balance. . . So, as with most things "educational", there are different theories and philosophies, and we each have to decide what is best for our families.

So, do I plan to continue using this? Yes! Will we use it 5 days a week? Rarely. if we are getting other exercise, I'm good with that. I'd RATHER my children get exercise hiking in the woods than hopping back and forth across the yard. But on days when time or weather doesn't allow for the hikes in the woods or walking all over a battlefield or whatever, I'm glad to have this as a resource to fall back on.

I have the current section of this downloaded on my iPad, so even if we're travelling we can pull it up and use it wherever we are.

This really is a great value, for $57, you get a download that can be used year after year, for all your children. It can suggest some fun new things too, like bouncing (dribbling) balls in hula hoops on the driveway.

I would encourage all homeschoolers to evaluate how much physical activity your children are getting on a regular basis, and how varied that physical activity is and consider if this seems sufficient for optimal health, if not, consider Family Time Fitness as an inexpensive, "easy" way to incorporate this into your days.

To see what other crew members thought of this program, read 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.

B is for Beanbag!

Blogging Through the AlphabetI'm convinced that stuffed animals reproduce all on their own, that's the only way to explain how there are always SOO MANY of them! When Sassy & MiniMe were younger, they really couldn't have cared less about them, and yet still they seemed to multiply faster than rabbits. The nice thing was, since the girls couldn't have cared less about them I regularly weeded out the unloved stuffed animals and kept the menagerie under control.

Fast forward 6 years (give or take) and things are different. The stuffed animals are still reproducing as fast as ever BUT, Little Bit most definitely DOES notice if one goes missing. She considers each and every one her friend, I don't dare get rid of them, sigh . . . then I saw an idea on pinterest, the idea was to make a beanbag & fill it with stuffed animals instead of the normal stuffing stuff. I loved that idea, so I headed to Bed Bath and Beyond. The bad news was, there were exactly TWO choices of empty bean bags to be found (there are more online if you want more variety), and one of those choices was skeletons (NOT my thing, thankyouverymuch), but the other one, while not my first choice, was pink and black and do-able. The good news, since there were only the 2 patterns left, they were clearanced, so instead of paying $12+ for a small beanbag online, I spent $10 for a LARGE beanbag and have instant gratification, woo-hoo!!

So I brought it home and filled it with some of the not currently favorite animals (and some that are "mine" that I use as needed in the toddler class at church). Did some shifting around in the girls' room, and made room for the beanbag full of animals next to the bookcase, ta-da, no more stuffed animals spilling over every surface AND a nice new reading corner for their room.

See how nicely it works!

This post is a part of Blogging through the Alphabet from Ben and Me.

Weekly wrap up September 10

Sigh, I just realized I never posted a wrap up for last week.

Let's see, what were we doing? Lots of school, the girls are still loving our unit study about knights and nobles. As a result, my 3 yr old is having great fun with the "bow" Sassy made her. A stick with a rubber band tied to it, no arrows required, just pull the rubber band and let go, the whole bow flies. Great fun.

Since we are also learning about the civil war, and have seenvlotsvof national park battlefield films, Little Bit has also decided that the phrase "you're fired" means you were shot. After all, when the guns shoot, fire comes out in those films.

MiniMe was overjoyed to be back at piano lessons!

Mid-week, MiniMe somehow developed a large blister on the bottom of her foot. Her shoes are certainly not new, actually NOW they are, since getting both big girls new shoes was on the "to do list", but that didn't happen until THIS week, and we did significantly LESS walking the few days before the blister than we did when we were in TN and such, plus it appeared overnight, so I'm quite sure it wasn't a "rub" kind of blister. She HAD mentioned that she might have a thorn in her foot the night before and I didn't get a chance to look at it that night (she told me while I was washing dishes and I forgot to ask her about it when I was done), so best guess is that the blister formed to protect the  foot from the thorn BUT the blister meant I couldn't see if there was a thorn, or get it out. When it didn't get better in a couple days (and I couldn't find any useful information online (people either said to let it run it's course OR were sure that your foot was going to fall off ANY SECOND if you didn't get to the doctor instantly, I've found that when you search for ANY ailment online you'll find those 2 opinions, so I ignore those & look for the "middle ground"), so we did  finally go to the doctor, and she confirmed that we should just let it run it's course, but it all meant that Miss MiniMe wasn't doing her normal share of chores and things like going to the grocery store took FOREVER because she was kind of hobbling along after me (or hopping on one foot). But we survived, and the blister has finally dried up and she's walking mostly normally, so all is well.

And that's pretty much our week.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Blogging Through the Alphabet: A is for Alphabet

Blogging Through the Alphabet
Marcy at Ben and Me is starting an alphabet series. Each week we blog about something that starts with that weeks letter. This week is "A" week.

So, since I have been negligent in posting about Little Bit's alphabet fun, I figured this would be a good place to catch up on that.

To recap, last spring Little Bit asked if she could do "school like Sissies" so we started a letter of the week study. I wasn't sure how much she'd do with it or how long she'd stick with it, but she loves, loves, loves it!! Originally I figured that we would skip the weeks when we travel, but I found that this is a great way to entertain her in the car and in hotels and such. So we are already on letter R.

Her favorite things is the sensory bins. (which I apparently have no pictures of, probably because she plays with it at home & she's generally nakey when she's in the house, at home LOL). We've decided that dry pinto beans work best, they are easier than rice to clean up when they spill, but are small enough for stuf to hide in them lol. Each week I switch the stuff to be things that start with that week's letter. Most of the time I just find toys and household items we already have. Sometimes I'll get small dollar store toys. A few weeks we've had enough stuff to do different things in the bin different days during the week.

Right now she is really into tracing letters. I honestly figured she would just color the picture and ignore the tracing part. I remember the older girls not being into tracing until they were closer to 5. But she is loving it. Sometimes I laminate the page and she uses a dry erase marker or crayon. Sometimes I leave it and she uses regular markers and I put it in the alphabet book she is making.

Tracing letters was a wonderful way to keep her entertained when we were on the motorhome trip last month, her carseat made a great "booster" to let her sit at the table and trace letters.

And while I might be abit biased (who me?) I think she's doing quite well at tracing letters for not quite 3 1/2 years old.

Different weeks we do different things. When she's in the mood to be read to, we read lots of books (I add books that start with that letter to her book basket each week), some weeks, she's not in the mood, and that's fine too.  Some days she enjoys lacing cards, for "P week" she "sewed" a pumpkin. A favorite most weeks is cutting and gluing. We have a couple different activities where she can cut out pictures and glue them to a page.

The picture on the left was one of our fun "M" activities. I printed a page that was an "M" maze with Mickey & Minnie on it. The page was full of random letters, but the Ms formed a path from one character to the other. Since it was M week, we used M&Ms to make the path.   Needless to say that was a hit LOL.

Another favorite has been the alphabet "roads". I've been printing them from this site & laminating them. While other activities I tend to vary some from week to week, I've made sure to include this each week, so now she has letters A through R. In addition to driving little cars on them, she likes to put them in order, match the upper and lower case, and is starting to spell words with them. This picture shows her playing with them on the floor next to our pew at church a few weeks ago.

So that's some of the alphabet fun we've been having around here.

Don't forget to to visit Ben and Me to see what other people are blogging about for the letter A this week.

I blog with BE Write

Monday, September 3, 2012

Crew Review: Reading Kingdom


This summer we had a chance to review Reading Kingdom. This is an online program to teach children to read. The stated age range is 4-10, and the program teaches children to read up to a 3rd grade level. I needed to choose one child to use this with. Little Bit is 3 1/2, the twins are 9. I have never had their reading "assessed" for grade level, but I am quite sure they are beyond 3rd grade level. So, I decided to use it with Little Bit even though she's "too young". I'm not a fan of "early academics" as a rule, BUT she begged me, last spring to "do school too" so I started some "Letter of the Week" stuff with her and she has been eating it up. She also has some alphabet and early reading videos that she watches whenever I let her so that, each week she asks me for our new letter without me even telling her what's next. So, I figured she was a better fit than the older girls, and we'd give it a try.

Since we have laptops only around here, and while she's quite proficient on the iTouch and my smartphone, she hasn't really used the computers at all, so rather than try to teach her to use the touchpad for this review, I opted to have her tell me what to choose but I ran the mouse for her.

We began the assessment and it was just too long for her attention span. In this case, her being younger than the recommended age definitely was an issue. And while the older girls know that the "price" we pay for all the awesome opportunities we get by reviewing, is that even if its not their cup of tea, we still give it a fair try, I'm not willing to force a 3 yr old to sit through academics that are frustrating her. So, I turned her loose and I finished the assessment and did a few lessons to at least get a feel for it.

And here's what I realized . . . one of the beauties of homeschooling is that there are so many theories on how to teach things, and homeschooling allows each family to choose the theory that they feel is right. I know there are others on the crew who are loving this program, and I encourage you to read their reviews. I also encourage you to read through the information on the Reading Kingdom website explaining the theory behind this approach - here. See if it sounds like what your child needs.  I can see this working well for a child who is motivated to learn to read, this could be a great tool for them. I can also see it being a good way to fill in gaps and help someone who needs some remedial help. I don't think it would be a good fit for the average 4 year old, the lessons are just too long and repetitive for such young children, but I also don't advocate teaching 4 year olds to read in general, so take it for what it's worth. Only you know your child and what will work well for them.

This is an online program, with wonderfully flexible pricing. First of all, there's a 30 day free trial! This is wonderful, try it for yourself, SEE if it fits well for your children! After that, you can choose to pay per month for $19.99 per month, or per year for $199.99 per year (that's like getting 2 months free!). Additional children can be added for 50% off the above prices.  And, if you truly can't afford this, they have a scholarship program, you can read about it here.

And again, please don't take my word for this product, see what my fellow crew mates thought 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, September 2, 2012

Weekly Wrap-Up - Sept 2

What a fun, busy week we had!

We had just gotten home from my parents' house when the week began, so of course, all week included playing catch-up with laundry & such, made more complicated by threat of rain several days in a row, which gives me fits since I try to only use the dryer for towels & sheets.

Additionally, we have a LOT of review products in progress right now, and a couple of our "core" school items for this year that I'm feeling we desperately need to keep moving forward with, so this week had as much school crammed into it as possible, including:

Finally started Polished Cornerstones for Bible (we had planned to start in June, but review products bumped it back), I had mixed feelings about how this study, which focuses on Prov 31, would be received by one of my daughters who is currently struggling mightily with a belief that "nobody can tell me what to do, not even God!" PC comes from a very conservative Christian perspective, and only time will tell how she will receive it, but at least for this first week, she received it well, participated willingly and seemed to enjoy our discussions, God is good, I'm praying that this study will be just what she needs during this season!

The other "core" that I feel we canNOT drop even though we're busy, is American History, I continue to LOVE LOVE LOVE Truthquest for history, but it is SO comprehensive and I really feel we MUST keep moving with it. Sometimes that means reading fewer books on a topic than I would like, but I do feel like we need to continue with forward momentum. At the moment, part of that "push" is that we are currently at the Battle of Shiloh (in the Civil War) and I desperately want us to cover the battle of Antietam before the 150th anniversary of that battle in 2 weeks. I think we'll make it, but it's motivating me to not just drop it completely since we are currently reviewing another history study.

Review items:
A unit study on salt - this is so much fun, we're enjoying it, and it's wonderfully organized into individual ziploc-bag modules, each with a required supply list on the front (all of the modules require nothing but a "pencil" except for the one we started today, which comes with salt & ice melt in the kit and requires us to provide water, a freezer, measuring cup, ziploc bags, and a pencil), so, a very nice thing, given how busy things are, is that there is no prep work for me, whew! And the girls are enjoying it, it's very different from anything we've done, and that is always fun.
I kind of balked at this one, we had a chance to choose between a nice list of unit studies, many of which were science-based, but others were history based. I'll admit I didn't even give my kids the option of the early american history ones (from earlier than Civil War, much as I love history, I didn't want us "backtracking" right now), but I just couldn't bring myself to not at least give them the OPTION of the "Knights & Nobles" one. And guess which one they chose . . . yup, Knights & Nobles. This one is designed to be used once a week instead of "normal studies" but with independent reading & read alouds throughout the week, so that's what we're doing with it, and the girls are LOVING it, so it's all good, but between Civil War & now this, we are putting our library to very good use LOL.
This is mainly for Little Bit, a preschool music cd and accompanying song book, but I'm involving the big girls because "circle time" needs more than 2 people LOL, it's a nice change of pace for all of us a couple times a week.
This one is certainly a change of pace for me, and in some ways for the girls too. It's a pretty intense (IMO) fitness curriculum designed for homeschoolers. My goal is to do it 3 days a week (the recommendation is 5), but that didn't quite happen last week . . . somehow requiring "exercise" the same day that my children had help stack a bunch of firewood and went on a nature walk in the woods seemed . . . redundant LOL

Plus we have a book we are reviewing that we're using as a bedtime read aloud.

So, we're staying busy with school.

And THEN, I realized that it was the last week that Sesame Place was going to be open during the week, and we wanted to go at least once this year, and prefer to NOT go on weekends when it's more crowded. So my parents came up Wed evening and went with us on Thursday.

We hadn't been there in 2 years, so Little Bit, of course didn't remember it AT ALL, and hadn't been able to enjoy much other than splashing in the water when we went last. The big girls thought everything seemed much smaller LOL. They were appalled when Papa suggested they go on the "roller coaster" with him, that little thing? no way!! Though at least Sassy said she'd go if Little Bit wanted to, but Little Bit had no interest LOL. We split up for the morning, Papa took the big girls to the water rides and Mama & I took Little Bit to the "kiddie rides", she had a blast, then we met back up with the rest and all did some water stuff, and a show and ate lunch, and then more water stuff . . . it was a fun day, and Little Bit's ready to go back, though that likely won't happen till next year.

Friday my parents stayed for the morning and helped with stuff. This summer the landlord had hired some big branches taken off a tree in our yard and the tree cutter had said we could have the wood if we wanted it, so I'd stacked it on the patio but it was in huge long, unusable, pieces, so dad brought his chainsaw and cut it into lengths that we can use in our fire pit. And he also took recycling in for us. Once the logs were cut, and we all had stacked it on the porch, mom spent a good part of the morning sweeping and decluttering and patio so Little Bit can ride her bike there. Then took the girls on a nature walk.

Sabbath we had church, and friendship meal at the church afterwards, so that took up a good part of the day.

And that was our week. Oh yeah, and Thurs was also my birthday LOL. It kind of got lost in the shuffle, though I got some awesome gifts! The girls had enlisted my parents' help and ordered me a cheese grater that will work for parmesan cheese (the kind they have at Olive Garden and similar), though I'm guessing it was Sassy's idea and she has an ulterior motive, she LOVES parmesan, so I'm guessing she's hoping we'll have it more often now LOL. My parents' main gift was part of the Sesame Place passes (at my request, I wanted to take the girls AND we can use these passes when we're in FL to get into Sea World, Busch Gardens, and Aquatica (water park), so we'll get our money's worth, but still couldn't quite fit them all into our budget), but they also got me the cheese slicer I've been wanting for quite awhile (they have one and it's the only cheese slicer I've ever used that I thought was worth bothering with), and a book on Abraham Lincoln (that Sassy promptly stole from me).  And dh's gift was . . . an iPad!!!! I'm so excited! Still figuring it all out, but I'm hoping to eventually get to the point that I can take just it on trips instead of my laptop. I am already LOVING having it for using ebooks with the girls! I don't mind my phone for reading my books, but stuff for hte girls, a bigger screen is helpful AND stuff that's in .pdf format is generally cumbersome on my phone, my ipad screen is about the same size as my computer screen (since it's a netbook, I go for compact LOL), and I am loving it!!!

So, a good birthday and a good week all around!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Crew Review: Everyday Chores

PhotobucketAnother part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew is the Molly Crew. And this is our first Molly Crew review.

Every year when I attend our state's homeschool convention, I attend as many seminars as I can, but there are always more that I want to hear, so I buy the recordings of the seminars that I don't get to attend in person.  This year, a couple of the seminars that I purchased were by Vicki Bentley from Everyday Homemaking..  As I listened to her seminars in the weeks following the convention, I was intrigued by the chore system she mentioned. I was wishing I'd gone to her seminars during the convention so I'd heard about it then and could have at least LOOKED at her book, The Everyday Family Chore System.

And then, a couple months ago, I was given the option to REVIEW The Everyday Family Chore System for the Molly Crew. Woo-hoo!!! Needless to say I was pretty excited. I have to admit, my children weren't quite as thrilled to hear that we "get to" review a new chore system. And when I first went over it with them, they asked "why can't we just stick with the one we have?" (which would have been ok with me if it wasn't for getting to review this one that so intrigued me.

The book begins by explaining the theory behind it all, which I found helpful to help it all make sense. And then has detailed instructions for implementing the new chore plan. There are also lots of "options" depending on your family (how many children, age of children, etc). I love that there is lots of emphasis on teaching our children how to do the chores. And "setting them up to succeed" with built in reminders and such.
When I first heard Vicki's brief description on the seminar CD and such, one thing that absolutely did NOT seem like it would work for our family was that she talked about giving each child 2 daily chores and 2 weekly chores and that was it. We have typically had LONG chore charts and I don't feel that my children slave all day, so I was trying to wrap my mind around how I would get all that *I* need to do done if I cut my children back to only a few chores and WHY I would want to, when I didn't (don't) feel they were overworked . . . but as I read through the book, I realized the difference is that this chore chart is ONLY for the chores that rotate through the children. In the past our chore charts included everything from getting dressed to putting away your own toys each afternoon to brushing your teeth before bed, along with the chores that alternated. That was one mind shift we had to make, this "chart" is ONLY the things that change. They still are responsible for their normal daily routine items. AND partially because I didn't want to "mess with success" we did keep some chores as a part of the daily routine. Unloading the dishwasher works BEAUTIFULLY to have each of the big girls unload one part & Little Bit do the silverware, I did give them the OPTION of alternating and having one person unload the WHOLE dishwasher, but they agreed that they preferred to keep it the way it is. The other difference is how chores are defined. In the past, weekly chores included "clean toilet", "clean bathroom mirror", "clean bathroom sink", etc. Now one chore is "clean bathroom". That aspect of it, MIGHT change . . . I think it might have worked better for them to divide up the cleaning of the bathroom that way they could talk together while they cleaned the bathroom.

When a friend was telling me about this system before I saw it, one thing I mentioned that I didn't think would work for us was that all the chores cycle through all the children. It seemed unrealistic to expect my 3 yr old to do the same things that the 9 yr olds do. But after reading the book, I realized that the idea here is that mom "helps" young children when it's their turn so they start to learn how to do it but in reality mom's doing those chores. So that's what we have been doing for the review period, I may switch that around abit too, Little Bit feels "big" when she gets to help her sisters, and they have the added learning experience of teaching her, so for some chores, I think it works better to have them "help" her and for me to stay out of it. I have to admit, I've ended up giving them extra 'hole punches" (more on that in abit) to work with her on some of her chores, especially on days when I'm busy with other things and they have the time.

So anyway . . . after all the information for implementing the plan, there are the actual templates. This includes the small cards that can be attached to a clothespin or magnet, etc. for the main chore chart, AND the "how to" cards that the children use to make sure they understand what's expected of them.  If you buy the physical book, these pages can be photocopied for use in your immediate family, or they are one-sided pages so you can just cut them out of the book. If you purchase the ebook, you can printed the pages, as needed for use within your immediate family.

Here's the chart I came up with (I have to admit, I went for quick & easy, not pretty & fancy):

I had a small magnetic white board I wasn't using. So I used the tags I needed, laminated them, and glued magnets on the back, then just wrote the "headings" on the white board with a wet erase marker. This white board hangs on our big white board with a small magnetic pocket next to it with the "how to cards" in it.

Someday I'll probably go through and type up my own how to cards. They are about as good as "generic" cards can be and if you're "normal" and use store bought cleaners, and paper towels and such, they'd be fine. But I found that most cards required me to cross out things and write in different things because we try to use all natural, mostly homemade cleaners and reusable cloths. Still it gives a good starting point and I'm glad I have them.

Oh, I almost forgot, the thing that "sold" my kids on it all! In the book, she talks about using rewards especially with younger children or to get started with a new system. I liked the overall plan . . . more rewards if you do it without reminders and such, BUT the suggested reward was that the child builds up enough points (we use hold punches in an index card) and can choose a small prize out of the prize box (dollar store toys & such). Which Little Bit LOVES LOVES LOVES doing! And will help her sisters with extra chores to get extra punches to choose another prize. BUT I didn't see the 9 yr olds being excited about dollar store toys, and since it was a new system, I saw it going over better with SOMETHING for them at least at the beginning too. . . and then it hit me. . . awhile back we were given a bunch of cassettes of Adventures in Odyssey, the girls love them, but are frustrated because the stories aren't in order so the continued ones sometimes are missing parts and such. I had looked online and discovered that you can download mp3 episodes for $2, SO that's what I told them. Whereas Little Bit gets to choose a prize after 10 holepunches (these are things that come in multiple packs from the dollar store so they cost in the $0.20 ea range but she's happy), I told the big girls that for every 50 punches, one of them got (or they could pool their efforts) they could choose one AiO mp3 to download. They were THRILLED!!! You'd have thought I'd offered them a million dollars. Nevermind that they have plenty of spending money in their accounts to order however many of these mp3s they might want, they were ALL OVER this. . . works for me!  And THEN . . . we found a site where we could order the CDs of the storyline they most want to fill in the pieces on, for less, per episode than the mp3s. So we did the math . . . if 50 punches = $2, then if they want the CD set, they'll need however-many-hundred punches. And they are working on that! If we hadn't been gone for half the month of Aug, they'd probably be about halfway there, even with being gone, they have a good start. The fact that Daddy sometimes offers large numbers of punches for small chores, helps their total, but still, overall by the time they earn those CDs, I suspect they will have much better chore habits than they did going in. AND . . . considering how much traveling we'll be doing over hte next couple of months, I'm hoping that the incentive of the cds will start working on one of our biggest challenges which is getting BACK into routines after trips. That's an important skill considering all the traveling we do, and one that has, so far, pretty much eluded them. I'm hopeful . . . we shall see . . .

So, as with most things, we've tweaked this, and will probably continue to tweak as we go. BUT this is one of the best overall helps I've found for setting up a chore chart. This is a GREAT value at $19.99 ($17.99 for the ebook)! I was able to have both the ebook and the physical book for this review, I think if I had to choose, I'd choose the ebook. Being able to just print out whichever templates I need is awesome. Since I *do* have my own photocopier, it wouldn't be that big a deal to photocopy the pages I needed instead, but for sure if you'd have to go to a copy center to copy the pages from the book, unless you're more organized than me (I anticipate needing different chores in different seasons and losing some cards over time and such), if you're organized enough, you can just cut the cards out of the book and be good to go . ..  then again, if you're that organized, you probably don't need the book LOL.

Be sure to see what my fellow Molly Crewmates thought. Some of them reviewed the chore book, same as me, others reviewed a recipe book. Check them all out 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.