Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Summer School is NOT a Dirty Word!

PhotobucketThe farther I move from the "school mindset" that I grew up with, the more I'm amused by how completely brainwashed we are . . . school was originally in the winter because of an agricultural society where every able bodied man, woman and child was busy working on the farm in the summer.

Interestingly, if you read books set in that society, you'll find that often the youngest children DID go to school in the summer, and the older boys, only went to school in the dead of winter when farm work was at an almost complete standstill. And yet, now we all seem to think that school is only for August through June.

People act shocked to hear that we "do school" in the summertime, and occasionally let my children know that they are being mistreated to not get their summers "off".  When Sassy and MiniMe first began to hear this from people (as they hit the point of being obviously school aged, so that the questions about homeschool began), I think they bought into it a little bit.  Even though they've always loved learning, including our "school" times, I began to see that little seed of doubt sprouting in their minds. Maybe it really WASN'T fair that they "had to" do school in the summertime. . .

And then, time passed, they also heard me answering those people, and as the seasons rolled around, I became a little bit more intentional about pointing some things out to them. When we had a week of awesome sledding snow and every morning after morning devotion time I bundled them up and sent them out to play in the snow all day, I'd comment that "we can do school when there isn't awesome sledding snow, go have fun!". . . when spring's gorgeous, amazing, practically perfect weather came around we'd sit under the pine tree to read our morning Bible and then I'd leave them to play outside all day, commenting "we'll have plenty of time to do school when it's too hot to play outside, soak up this wonderful weather while you can!!!

And THEN, when it WAS super hot, sure enough, we were all more than happy to settle in our comfortably air conditioned house and do school . . . and it all started to make sense to the girls. Now, they are just as quick as I am, to let the naysayers know, summer's a great time to do school! It's too hot to do anything else, and that means we have time to enjoy the snow, or spring weather or whatever else might come along the rest of the year!

There are many reasons why we choose to school year round, but a definite advantage we've found is that, when it's 95 degrees and 100% humidity, it's a great time to settle down and read a great history book, or gather at the table to paint a picture or any other typical "school" thing that is typically done inside anyway!

School in summer is one of the ways that we beat the summer heat, but be sure to check out the blog cruise for other ideas for beating the summer heat!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Weekly Wrap-up - July 29

We spent lots of time in the car this week!
Whew! Having fun is EXHAUSTING!!!!

As you may remember, we were in the Boston area last weekend for my cousin's wedding. After we got Dennis and Emily safely married off, we plunged into a week of National Park fun before heading home yesterday.

Sunday we headed to Saugus Iron Works. The girls have decided that iron forges have the best Junior Ranger programs. This one had a whole "Junior Ranger Bag" for each kid. Binoculars, magnifying glass, field guides, etc, all for the kids to use while working on their Junior Ranger. Great fun!!!

As a part of the tour, the girls, along with the other kid on the tour, got to stop the waterwheel (right).

And see if they could lift the iron poles that were used to pull the molten iron out of the forge (below). The ranger also took time to take us back to one of the buildings, after the tour to show the girls something that their Junior Ranger worksheet asked about, that he hadn't mentioned on the tour. It's always awesome when the Rangers and volunteers are "into" the Junior Ranger Program too!

After we finished up at Saugus, we headed back to Minuteman National Park to finish up that Junior Ranger.  Much to our disappointment, The Wayside House (where Louisa May Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, AND the author of "The Five Little Peppers" all lived) is closed for renovations. We walked by it, but that was as close as we could get, *pout*! Guess we'll have to make another trip up there in a couple years (yes, YEARS, sigh!) once it's open again.

 Little Bit LOVED LOVED LOVED this tree in front of the Minuteman Visitor Center. After I took the picture, Sassy discovered that getting up INTO the tree was much easier than getting down. Once she finally got down, Little Bit told Mama "I know how she could have gotten down, she could have pretended to be a sloth and hung from the branch and put her legs down". I love how her mind works!!!

The other amusing Little Bit quote from that day. We'd been sitting listening to a volunteer, dressed as as Minuteman, talking to various visitors. Finally he was free, and Little Bit went up and stood right in front of him. My mom told him that she was hoping he'd ask her where she was from (since she'd heard him asking other people where they were from). So he did, to which she replied "a hotel" LOL.

We finished up their Minuteman Junior Ranger about 10 minutes after the visitor center closed, sigh . . . so we stopped back by Monday morning and the girls got their Junior Ranger badges :)

The rest of Monday was spent at Lowell. We spent more time at the museum, MiniMe seriously would have spent ALL DAY there, weaving, carding cotton, etc. Then we headed to the "Mill Girls House", finished up the Junior Ranger, and then went on a pretty cool Trolley tour. The ranger was great about involving the kids in the tour, which was good, because there were quite a few kids on that tour. It was fascinating, seeing how the canals were used for water power, I think even MiniMe got her fill of "how does it work" on that tour! LOL

An amusing side note. Ever since we moved to Pennsylvania, when the twins were 5, we haven't had a house phone, just cell phones. And because of that, and the fact that neither of their parents are big phone-talkers, none of our kids have ever really used phones much. The big girls know how to dial the cell phone in case of an emergency, but to just chat on the phone, not something they've ever done. BUT at the hotel we stayed in most of the week, our room and my parents' rooms were on different floors and different sides of the building. So if the girls wanted to go to Mama and Papa's room, we'd tell them to call when they got there, or we'd call between rooms when we were going to breakfast and such. The girls discovered that THEY could call! And you would've thought it was the most fun thing EVER!! Each of the big girls would position themselves in one room, with Little Bit begging her turn in whichever room she was in, and they'd call each other back and forth pretending to be lawyers or "advice services" or whatever struck their fancy.  Before the week was over even Little Bit knew how to call between rooms, and did so every chance she got!

On Tuesday we had planned to go into downtown Boston, but it was rainy, so we decided to go to Quincy, and Adams National Park instead. We toured the house where John Adams was born, the house where John Quincy Adams was born, and the house that John and Abigail Adams bought and lived in later in life. The rain cooperated pretty well and only rained hard when we were inside a building or the tour bus, whew!

We're only on Tuesday and already this post is absurdly long, I think I better hit Publish and share about the rest of our week later. . .

Part 2 is here.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Crew Review: Gryphon House

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My kids love art! From the time the twins were Little Bit's age, or younger, art and crafts have been one of their favorite things! And that hasn't changed. So, when art resources come up for review, I'm pretty much always happy to review them.  In this case, Gryphon House asked us to review Global Art: Activities, Projects, and Inventions From Around the World.
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This book, by MaryAnn F. Kohl and Jean Potter, uses fun art projects including painting, sculpture, collages, etc to teach children in Pre-Kindergarten through 5th Grade about places and people groups all around the globe.  It retails for $16.95

Ideally, I'd choose to use this to supplement a world history or geography class, but since we aren't doing any world history/geography this year, I decided to just let Sassy and MiniMe pick countries they find interesting, and we would at least look at the art project(s) for that country. In some cases, the projects for countries they suggested included more skill level than I wanted to attempt with our age range or required supplies that weren't in the budget, but we still were able to have alot of fun with this book.

The first project we tried was from Antarctica, and involved painting on paper with watercolors and then sprinkling the picture with different types of salt to make sparkly "snowflakes".  For once, the younger kids' tendency to SOAK the paper, paid off, the big girls had a harder time getting their salt to stick, but all of the kids enjoyed it.  I wish the book gave a little bit more information about the countries/continents the art projects are from, or provided a better idea of where to find that information. Though, as I mentioned above, the way I would normally use a book like this would be in conjunction with World History or World Geography, so in that case, that part would be taken care of.

I think the project that ended up exciting me the most, was that one of the suggestions for Germany was to use modeling beeswax. On the "con" side of things, I didn't find anywhere local to purchase modeling beeswax (I figured, if I could find it at the local craft store, with a decent coupon, I'd get enough to include our neighbors in the fun), BUT, I had a small box of it that I purchased as part of a group buy when the twins were 4 or 5 and somehow we'd never used it, but I had found it in the packing/unpacking process surrounding our move. So, that was an easy one to do. Little Bit found the beeswax abit too stiff for her liking but the big girls LOVE sculpting with it. I'm THRILLED that this book prompted us to finally try something that I'd had sitting on the shelf all these years! Since it's a small box, I now carry it in my purse to provide entertainment if we need to be quietly entertained somewhere. If you don't have modeling beeswax lying around like I did, you can order it from Amazon or any Waldorf school supply store or site.

Another sculpting one we tried was from the Congo, and suggested soaking a bar of soap, in water to make it squishy, and then sculpting it into "ivory-like" animal sculptures. I'm not sure if I didn't have the right kind of soap or if we did something else wrong, but it didn't really work as described. Little Bit was thoroughly UNIMPRESSED and after about 30 seconds (during which I snapped this picture LOL), wanted her hands cleaned and she was done. MiniMe, on the other hand, loved it. Even though it was a weird consistency, she spent a good halfhour or more squishing the slimy soap around and ended up turning it into a kind of dish filled with little balls. Not sure what she plans to DO with that, but she had fun LOL.

Those are only a few examples of the projects in this book, it has tons of suggestions from all over the world!  I plan to keep it on my shelf to pull out when I need an art project to keep the kids busy, but then I'll pull it out regularly when we finish up US History and start on World History in a year or two. Even though, by then, the twins will be "too old" for the suggested age range, I think there are plenty of art projects in this book that will still hold their interest.

To see what my fellow crew mates thought of this, and a Preschool book from Gryphon House, click on the banner below.


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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Crew Review: Circle Time

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One of the things that is central to the preschool curriculum I used with Sassy and MiniMe when they were 3-5, and that I'm now using for Little Bit, is "Circle time".  In that curriculum, it is a time of songs and poems and stories enjoyed together. It worked beautfully and effortlessly with Sassy and MiniMe when they were little, but we've struggled abit more this time around. Little Bit has her own personality, we also have added demands on our day, and she didn't have anyone else her age to join us. The older girls join us sometimes, but they have their own school they need to be working on, so asking them to take too much time out to sing nursery rhymes and such seems like poor time management. . . then this summer, our neighbors, E (6) and J (3) began joining us for school some days. And I was thrilled at the thought of having more kids for our circle time. But still, we struggled . . . all 3 of them are wiggly and interrupt a gazillion times and, some days it's just a struggle! So, just as I was being discouraged, and trying to figure out how to make this concept, that I had so enjoyed with my older girls, and looked forward to introducing to Little Bit, work, Kendra from Preschoolers and Peace offered the Schoolhouse Review Crew the chance to review her ebook, Circle Time.

Circle Time Book Logo photo CircleTimeLogo_zps63dd95c9.jpgI JUMPED at the chance to get some ideas for making circle time work better, not only for the three little ones, but to include the older girls too.

I might have ignored my children and told them to find their own supper so that I could read this ebook the day it arrived. But it wasn't really what I was expecting. Circle Time, as described in this ebook, is really more like the way we do our entire school day. I would call it "family school" or something, more than circle time. And I have to admit, I didn't get any magic remedies for perfecting our preschool circle time (but, with time, the kids have all gotten more used to the routing, we've realized that J is still abit too young to ask him to sit still so much, so sometimes just E joins us, and he and Little Bit are falling into a pretty good routine. The big girls usually at least stay in the room, quietly working on their math or other independent school work and joining us for the parts that interest them, so OUR circle time is working for us now). But once I got over it not being what I expected. There's a LOT of great information in this book!

I think the title might be abit misleading, it's more about ways to include multiple ages in a group family learning time on a regular basis. If you've never considered doing that in your homeschool, I'd encourage you to consider it! It was a logical pattern for us to fall into with the girls being the same age, but it's also been fun to see Little Bit slowly integrate into our family school time. And, as I add some school for Little Bit into our days, it's been natural for the older girls to join her for much of it as well. Afterall, you never really outgrow nature walks and art projects and such do you?

Since we've been doing this, in our own way, since the beginning, I mostly pulled some great resources to add to my wishlist, from this book, but if you have been considering adding some multi-age time to your homeschool day, or if you've never considered it, and want to, this ebook is a wonderful resource to help you decide how to begin, and make it work in YOUR family! It's not a precise, one-size-fits-all "how to" manual, but a wonderful resource giving lots of examples of how it might work with different ages and family sizes and learning styles. In the back are printables to help you plan out what will work for you, and how you want to see this time look in your house.

One of the huge benefits that I see to homeschooling is allowing my children to interact together instead of being separated into different age-levels the way schools do it (which honestly, I'm not sure how else a school COULD do it, so I don't fault them for that, but it's also not what I feel would be best for my children) and this idea of spending time learning together is one way to capitalize on that in a homeschool family.

This is a quick-to-read, .pdf ebook and at only $4.99 it's well worth the price!

To see what other members of the crew thought, click on the banner below.


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Monday, July 22, 2013

Weekly Wrap-up - July 22

There should be a law against being sick in the summertime! Just sayin . . .

So our week started with Little Bit sick. Thankfully, after throwing up Saturday night, she was done with THAT phase. She just slept in really late Sunday morning and was extra "touchy" most of the week, all a person had to do was look at her wrong and she'd burst into a tantrum, sigh . . .

Tuesday we had music lessons, since we'd be gone on Thursday. That morning Sassy woke up saying her throat hurt. By the time we left music lessons she said she wasn't hungry, which was HUGE. They are usually STARVING. TO. DEATH!!!! when they leave music lessons AND since we'd switched to Tuesday, we'd also bumped half an hour later to fit into Miss Pat's schedule, so it was even later than usual. Ideally, when we're out for music lessons I like to cram in the majority of the week's errands BUT with it SOOOO hot! Even with ice chests, I don't want the milk, eggs, and other groceries that I buy DURING the girls' lessons, to sit in the car while we do other errands, so these last couple weeks I've been going home after music lessons, unloading the car, and then we go back out to finish the errands, saving any additional groceries for last. But Tuesday, when we got home Sassy went upstairs and slept the rest of the afternoon, so errands didn't get done.

Wednesday morning Sassy still wasn't feeling good AT ALL.  She never threw up, but from Tues evening until Wed afternoon said she felt like she'd feel better if she did. E & J had gotten a new airplane/teeter-totter that they wanted to show the girls, so I took MiniMe and Little Bit over to see it, while Rodney stayed home with Sassy. Penny said the girls were welcome to stay and play if I needed to go get stuff done at home, so I went home and worked on getting ready for the trip, and ran those errands I'd planned to run Tuesday afternoon. By mid-morning Sassy was starting to talk, so I knew she was feeling better. We decided to go ahead with our plans to leave Thursday, figuring even if she wasn't 100% she'd just be sitting in the car all day Thursday anyway.

Mom and Dad got to our house Wed. evening, and we spent Thursday morning finalizing details for the trip.

My cousin, Dennis was getting married on Saturday near Boston, so we had decided to drive most of the way Thursday, so we could spend Friday at Sturbridge Village. But by Thursday night, with the weather predicted to be equally hot on Friday, we decided it wasn't worth spending the money to go to Sturbridge when it was going to be miserably hot again. Instead we spent some time at Minuteman National Park.

Friday evening was the rehearsal dinner, which we'd been invited to as well. It was at The House of the Seven Gables!! How cool is that!?!?!? AND they had arranged for us to be able to get a discount on tours ahead of the dinner, so we got there in time to tour the house SOOOO cool!! Now Dad and I are plotting ways to build a secret staircase into our house when we do the addition we're hoping to do in a couple of years LOL. Little Bit decided the ship wheel on the grounds was the best part LOL.

The dinner was amazing! I'm used to having pretty limited options at dinners like this because of being vegetarian, and further complicating things by not liking mushrooms. But there weren't ANY mushrooms and SEVERAL vegetarian options. The caterer had been asked to make sure there were vegetarian options but usually that means one thing, this food was amazing!!! Pasta salad a vegetable frittata, roasted asparagus and beets (YUMMY!!!) . . . plus of course regular salad, and bread.

Saturday during the day we headed to Lowell National Park, an old textile mill area. VERY cool! SOO much to see! Little Bit thought it was great fun to pretend to drive the trolley, and THEN we went and rode a REAL trolley!

The trolley took us to the Boott  Museum, that included interactive stuff like carding cotton and hand weaving and such. The girls all LOVED that, and we spent the rest of our time there :)
Clocking in, like the Mill Girls did

Carding cotton

Spinning cotton into thread

Saturday evening was the whole reason for our trip, LOL. Dennis and Emily's wedding.  It was a lovely outdoor wedding. Thankfully, a rain storm came through about an hour before the wedding and cooled things off enough to be bearable. 

Dennis had a few minutes to talk to Grandma while he waited for the rest of the wedding party to make their entrance

So that was our week! 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Crew Review - Homeschool Programming

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When Homeschool Programming's KidCoder Web Series came up as a possible review product, I wasn't sure what Sassy and MiniMe would think. They really don't spend much time on the computer, and web design isn't something we've ever even talked about. But I threw it out to them, as a possibility and they both JUMPED at the idea. MiniMe especially was REALLY excited about this one, so I figured we'd give it a try.

Kidcoder Web Series is a web design (.html) course for grades 4-12. While it assumes basic computer knowledge (how to open and close files, etc), it doesn't assume any prior web design experience, and doesn't require any special software.  
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This is a BRAND NEW product, so at this time, only the first semester (Beginning Web Design) is available. It can be purchased for $70. When the video is available (which I suspect will be soon, because the vendor was able to send it to us the last week of the review), you can purchase one semester, with video for $85. Once second semester is available, you can purchase both semesters, with videos for $145.

Sassy and MiniMe use their iPods pretty regularly to look things up online and such, but they rarely use the computer. However, they were VERY excited about getting to learn how to make a website, so I figured we'd give it a try, recognizing that they would need to learn some of the basic computer navigation skills as well. Because of that, we have moved slowly, but that's the beauty of homeschooling! Each chapter is divided into lessons, so most days they read the lesson one day, and then work through the activity to go with that lesson, if there is one, the next. I'm not sure how much they understand of what they read, but with someone nearby to answer questions (mostly about the basic computer navigation that they are supposed to already know), they've been able to follow the directions to begin building a website without any problem. 

As mentioned above, the videos were not available until the final week of the review. I did have them watch the video for the lesson they are currently working on and they felt that it gave the same information they had read, and they preferred to read it. However, the video would be great for someone who needs someone else to "tell them" things rather than reading it for themselves.

I knew, going into this that it would probably be abit over their heads, and I wasn't wrong, however they are enjoying it, and learning valuable skills. If I'd been purchasing it, because they don't spend much time on the computer, I'd probably have waited another year or two, but a 4th grader who spent extensive time on the computer would handle it fine. As far as I can tell, it follows a pretty typical format for computer classes (based on the ones I suffered through took in college LOL), and is written in language teens and preteens should be able to follow without any problem. All in all, if you have a computer-loving 4th-12th grader (or yourself, for that matter) who's itching to learn web design, this is a great product for it! If I had a tad more spare time, I'd probably go through it myself, it would help me move my blog beyond a basic prefab template LOL. Maybe someday . . . then again, maybe I'll just wait until Sassy and MiniMe can do it FOR me!!! :) 

Members of the crew reviewed several different products from Homeschool Programming, so be sure to click on the banner  below to see reviews of all of them!


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Friday, July 19, 2013

Curriculum Plans - 2013-2014

This year is very much just a roll-forward of last year, but for the sake of having an ending/starting point, we line up with the reporting the state requires, and call July the start of our new school year.

So, I thought I'd do a quick run-down of what our school plans are for this year.  As always, reviewing plays a big, unpredictable, part in our planning, so I intentionally plan the "bare minimum" and expect review products to fill in (the first time we reviewed, I planned a full schedule, and was frustrated when we didn't have time for 90% of it, so this works better for me LOL).

Bible - always my number one priority.  We actually have 2 Bible times, but this refers to our morning Bible. At the moment we are reviewing a curriculum that I will post about in a couple weeks. After the review period is over we will wrap up the quick Fruit-of-the-Spirit lapbook that I pulled out of my archives when E & J began joining us for school, then we'll move into the curriculum I'm excited about for this next school year (and if we like it, going forward)! Bible Road Trip I love that this uses the BIBLE as the textbook! I love that plenty of discussion is expected. And I love that it's designed for multiple ages.  Little Bit is still very young for this, but most of the time she'll be playing quietly in the room and will be picking up on things even if she's not actively participating.

Circle Time - this is for Little Bit (and E &J when they join us) we will be continuing with the waldorf preschool curriculum that I used with the twins at this age. Our current unit is on weather/season/frogs, every 6 weeks (roughly) there's a new unit. Circle time includes songs and poems, the Bible story to coordinate with Little Bit and J's lesson at church that week, a book from the book basket, that follows the theme of the current unit. This year we are also doing a bead calendar. Starting in January we took a long piece of yarn and pony beads. Each month we choose a color of bead to represent that month, and add a bead for each day, it's fun to see the year unfold this way and a good introduction to calendars for littles. Since our current unit is about weather, we also have a "weather vine" (green ribbon on the wall) and each day that we do circle time, we decide what kind of weather that day is, and put the appropriate colored leaf on the vine. We'll probably continue this into the new unit(s) as long as the children are enjoying it.

Outdoor Time - this varies. Most days it's just getting the kids' wiggles out for at least a few minutes. When the Waldorf curriculum includes something outside, that happens during this time too. When the weather is amazing, outdoor time becomes much longer

US History - our hope is to finish US History this year (post Civil War to modern).  We are currently reviewing a curriculum that MiniMe likes and Sassy doesn't, once the review period is over we'll re-evaluate whether we continue with it, or go back to Truthquest.

Math - Life of Fred ALL THE WAY!!! Sassy LOVES LOVES LOVES it! MiniMe isn't quite as fanatical about it, and isn't moving as quickly, but she does it willingly whenever I ask. It's definitely the perfect fit for them.  I'm also looking into finding a good iPod app or something to help them increase their speed for multiplication tables.

Art - Waldorf is heavy on art, so for the most part, art this year will be from Little Bit's curriculum. Even though it's "preschool", it's things like water color painting and such that the older girls still enjoy. And at this point, they "follow the assignment" whereas Little bit pretty much covers the whole page with water/paint no matter what she's "supposed" to be drawing LOL. We do have a couple more See the Light videos that the girls are anxious to do, so we'll slip those in on a few rainy afternoons or somesuch as well.

Science - For now I'm going to rely on the nature studies in the Waldorf curriculum (and review products) for this.

Music - Piano and Violin lessons are our main music curriclum. We are slowly working through the composer lapbook we reviewed last spring, as time allows.

Language Arts - I stick with my overall method of reading lots of books being the best way to learn language arts. Both girls have chosen to continue using at least the handwriting portion of PreScripts. MiniMe is also asking me to teach her grammar and punctuation. For the moment, I've just been going over her writing assignments from other subjects with her, showing her where the punctuation and capitalization should be. I'm on the hunt for something to use more intentionally, we shall see . . .

And that's a brief overview of our curriculum plans for this year :)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Molly Crew Review: Christi, the Coupon Coach

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Growing up my mom used coupons, and when I was first married, I used coupons, but over time I drifted away from it. When I was asked to review Couponing Made Simple from Christi the Coupon Coach.

 photo christithecouponcoachbook_zpsfd7911d1.jpgCouponing Made Simple is a "quick-read" book, or e-book that gives simple, easy-to-follow steps for setting up a system to collect, organize, and use coupons to save money on products you use regularly. The book is available $18 or the Kindle version for $4.99

As I mentioned above, I used to "do coupons" when we were first married, but as we moved our diet to more whole foods and more cooking from scratch, I found that the number of coupons I could use was too small to be worth the time and effort, I found it worked better for us, to simply avoid pre-packaged foods and watch for sales on the whole food ingredients we needed.

BUT I was willing to give this book a chance to see if there WAS a way to make it work with our lifestyle, as well as to see what I thought of her approach compared to how I did it several years ago.

The book is well laid out, and simple to follow. She is clear on only buying things you will use, no recommendations to add on an extra garage stall just to house 3 million rolls of toilet paper here! Couponing HAS evolved in the last 15 years! There are now websites where you can buy or trade coupons, as well as websites that match up coupons and sale ads, those are GREAT resources to have available!

In order to feel like I'd given this book a "fair shot", I did look at some of the websites for matching up coupons. I knew I didn't want to buy newspapers for the coupons, or buy coupons from the sites that sell bulk coupons, but the "matching" sites do also include links to printable coupons when available, so I thought I'd look into that. And after about 30 seconds I remembered the OTHER reason I stopped even considering using coupons . . . it is a HUGE temptation area for me! I can walk by the ice cream aisle in the grocery store and not even glance at it, ice cream is expensive, almost all of it is chock full of added STUFF that shouldn't be going into my body, or my kids' bodies. I can even scan the weekly ad sheet, see that it's on sale, remind myself that it's full of gunk and move on. BUT when I see that it's on sale AND there's a $1 off coupon, making it almost free, THEN I have alot harder time moving on. . . so, couponing does not work for me. BUT I'm also really, really, NOT normal! Even if you don't buy Hamburger Helper and Pop tarts, you might still find lots of coupons you CAN use! Things like shampoo and toothpaste and paper products, meat,  etc. . . We're vegetarian. We don't use many of the "normal" toiletries (and make our own for most that we do use), make our own cleaning products, use cloth for almost all of the normal "paper" products. . .

So, my verdict. If you'd like to save money (who wouldn't) and you're not super weird in how you eat and live, it's probably worth at least considering. Do some looking online, or buy a Sunday paper, to try to get a feel for how many coupons you'd likely be able to use. Then, if you're committed to figuring out how to save money with coupons, this book gives really good step-by-step instructions on how to do it.

I know several of my fellow crew mates were excited to see how quickly they were able to save money using the methods in this book, so be sure to read their reviews as well, by clicking the banner below.


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Monday, July 15, 2013

Book Review: Ed Douglas Publications

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We were asked to review the 25 Truths, from Ed Douglas Publications. Ed Douglas is an author, high school tennis coach, and retired bank CEO. He compiled a list of 25 Truths that he believes lead to a happy, successful life and, after sharing them with various people, was encouraged to put them into book form. This book is the result of that.

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The book, which retails for $12.50, is a relatively quick read, with a short chapter for each Truth, followed by some discussion questions. The Truths are simple, but profound. Examples include "Be Slow to Judge" and "Take Life One Step at a Time".

The suggested age range for this book is Grade 6-12 and up. Even though Sassy and MiniMe are slightly below this range (4th/5th grade), I used this book as a part of our bedtime routine. I read a "Truth" to them, and we discussed it. A few led to deep discussion, but in most cases, even at 10, they could see that it was pretty common sense, though the reminder is good. The discussion questions are very similar for each Truth, and often didn't work well for my children at this season of their life. The standard questions essentially ask if you know someone who's lived this truth, how did it seem to impact their life? And, conversely, do you know someone who didn't live this truth, how did that impact their life? In most cases, the girls couldn't come up with someone, and honestly, while I probably could have come up with someone *I* had known at some point, I couldn't easily come up with people they would know. Part of that is that we don't interact with hundreds of people regularly, since the girls aren't in school or group sports or similar. By part way through the book, they were frustrated with the discussion questions and we moved away from the questions to just discussing the truth in general, answering THEIR questions about it, etc. That seemed to work better for us.

I love the idea of this book, to get teens and young adults (or older adults) to think about how they live their lives and what their goals, priorities, etc need to be. It's a quick read, helpful for times of life when young people are swamped in general and don't have alot of time to read. For MY children, I wish, since it is marketed as a Christian book, and does include a few Bible verses, that the focus was more on living a life to please GOD rather than focusing on worldly success (making money and being seen as successful in your community), and personal happiness. I also found a "Truth" about investing your money using compound interest to be "out of place". Saving is important, but this seemed very specific compared to the rest of the book, and I found it . . . misleading, in today's economy, to use examples of investing at 12% interest when most places a new investor could easily, and safely, invest funds are offering less than 1%.

MiniMe enjoyed the book. About halfway through, Sassy mentioned that it seemed like every chapter was all about how great the author was at living out that truth which, kinda makes sense, given the overall premise of the book, they ARE the truths that HE chose to live by, but to her, it felt like "bragging" and she found that took away from "hearing" the truths.

So all in all, I love the idea of this book and it can certainly be a valuable resource for helping a teen think through how to live their lives.

Be sure to see what other crew members thought of this book, by clicking on the banner below.


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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Weekly Wrap-Up - July 14

What a week!

Sunday, E & J were both down with a stomach bug, so didn't come over to join us for school. In the afternoon, Rodney suggested that we go check out the farm stand we'd driven by on our way to Sesame Place. It is a WINNER!!!! It's actually the farm that was one of my favorite stands at the farmer's market I used to go to, woo-hoo!!! We had a yummy supper Sunday night of roasted veggies!!! (baby potatoes, candy onions, and yellow squash) YUM!!!!!!

Monday Rodney took the girls to his mom's for the day. I love my children dearly, but I thoroughly enjoyed having a day all to myself! :) It was expensive though LOL. While shopping for a wedding present for my cousin's wedding, I stumbled upon matching twin and full size quilts for a not-horrible-for-quilts price. When we moved here, and decided on a full bed with a twin trundle in the girls' room, we got coordinating duvet covers for the beds. But we've found that 2 wiggly girls in a bed with a duvet = a comforter crumpled in the bottom of the duvet cover. The original plan was for Sassy and MiniMe to alternate sleeping with Little Bit in the double bed, but it's fallen into a routine of Sassy and Little Bit in the double bed and MiniMe in the twin. A couple of weeks ago Sassy completely gave up on the full duvet, and it's now in a pile in the corner of my room (waiting for me to wash it and pack it away LOL) she was just using blankets from the basket of throws in the living room on that bed. So . . . I was trying to decide what to do about that. When I found matching full and twin quilts for a reasonable price AND they're  pink and purple, I went with them. The girls are THRILLED and LOVE IT!! And we're back to having the bed made and looking nice, so it was worth it!!! (I'd take a picture, but Little Bit threw up last night so everything's in the laundry today, sigh . . . )

Tuesday, Penny came down with the stomach bug that the boys had over the weekend, so we kept the boys all day.

Our preschool unit is on weather/seasons (and frogs), so we've been doing a week (or, more accurately, a week's worth of lessons, since we miss days for Sesame Place and sick kids and trips to Grandmom's and such) focusing on each season. We started with summer, and Tuesday was our first day of "Autumn". So, what can be more autumn-like, and still fun (and possible) to do on a hot summer day, than bobbing for apples?!?!

The kids had a blast!!! I love that Little Bit figured out and put her hands IN the water, to brace herself better!

In the picture of Sassy bobbing for apples (above), you can see one of my new "sanity savers" in Little Bit's hand. Something that was driving me batty with the little kids, was the constant arguing over "me first" or "I want the straw", so when I was looking through my frog-theme printables, I found some number cards. I printed out 1-5, colored them, cut them out and laminated. Now anytime we need to know who gets to "go first", I just shuffle and pass out the cards, things have gone SOO much smoother, and I had to laugh, when we sat down to watch tv for quiet time on Tuesday, I said that E could choose first since Little Bit and J had chosen last week, but E asked to "use the frogs" to choose instead LOL. Ok, works for me :) (he did still get to choose a tv show, so it all worked out).

Wednesday we did school in the morning and ran errands in the afternoon.

Thursday was music lesson day.

Friday morning when my alarm went off I REALLY felt like turning it off, but I'd promised MiniMe that she could walk with me that morning, and I figured I was just "being lazy" wanting to sleep in, so I got up anyway. By the time I got home, I went to pour coffee and my stomach churned at the thought, and I still felt exhausted (usually walking "wakes me up"), so I sat down in the recliner and took a nap, I continued to feel "off" but couldn't say for sure that i was "sick" vs. "tired". When the Penny and the boys got here, I went outside to greet them, and the weather was GORGEOUS!!! Not at all "hot" just practically perfect in every way! So I figured that, combined with me not having ANY energy, aligned nicely for a "play outside morning". Even so, by mid-morning, I knew for sure that I was getting the stomach bug that had been floating around, sigh . . . told Penny I'd be spending the rest of the morning near a bathroom, but she was welcome to let the boys continue to ride bikes and such here if they wanted. She opted to go home, but invited Little Bit to go home with them, which she did.

She invited the big girls too, but by that time Rodney had started working on the swing set, and they opted to help him with that. Awhile back someone was getting rid of a swingset and Brian found out about it and took it off their hands BUT they already have a swingset at their house, so Penny asked if we wanted the extra one. We've all been busy, but Brian, Rodney and the big girls finally got as far as moving it from leaning against a tree in THEIR yard to leaning against a tree in OUR yard a week or so ago. Once it was in OUR yard, Little Bit was REALLY antsy to actually SWING on it, she LOVES LOVES LOVES swinging! So, that was Rodney's Friday project. He said the big girls helped a LOT. They didn't get it ALL done before the afternoon rain set in, but they got a good bit of it up (It's a BIG swingset!) and to the point that Little Bit can swing, so she's happy LOL. (the picture doesn't show the slide that will go on one end).

Sabbath, I was feeling better, but still drained and nauseated if I moved around too much, so I decided to stay home while Rodney took the girls to church. By Sabbath evening, I was feeling better, but as we were getting ready to go over to Penny and Brian's for supper, Rodney commented that Little Bit felt "hot", we took her temp, and she had a low fever, so she and I stayed home. She mostly slept and watched TV while they were gone.

Rodney had gotten a pack of fireworks (small ones) for the 4th, but between weather and people being sick and "dark" being past bedtimes if little ones have to get up at a certain time in the morning, we hadn't found time to do it that worked for all of us, so we were planning to do them Sat. night. We decided, since we were going to do them  at our house anyway, to go ahead even though Little Bit wasn't feeling good.  It was GREAT! They weren't "big" fireworks, but the kids loved them. E definitely loved them the most. It was fun to watch his face :) He was disappointed that there were ONLY 3 sparklers per kid (and that was more than there would have been, we had 12, but Little Bit was afraid of them, so that left 4 kids). I told him that SOMEWHERE in our garage there are more, but I don't know when I'll find them in the unpacking. I think he thought I should go unpack the whole garage that night LOL. So I know there will be much excitement if/when I DO find the sparklers that I know were in our basement at the old house.

We had a less than ideal end to the week, with Little Bit throwing up right after I'd tucked her into bed, sigh. I got her cleaned up, and put her to bed in our bed (with MiniMe to keep her company (and a bowl to make sure she didn't throw up on MY bed)) while I at least semi-cleaned up the bed upstairs, though I left the vinegar to dry on the mattress pad, and told Sassy to just make herself a bed on the floor for the night.  Little Bit didn't throw up any more during the night, and today she was "touchier" (more likely to melt down at the drop of a hat) but otherwise seemed to be fine, whew! Now I'm praying the big girls and Rodney can avoid the stomach bug, we shall see . . .

Friday, July 12, 2013

Book Review: Goldtown Adventures Series

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A couple years ago we had the opportunity to review a book by Susan Marlow and LOVED it! So, when Susan Marlow and Kregel Publications gave us the opportunity to read on the books in her new series, Goldtown Adventures, I was pretty sure it would be a hit.  We were given the option of reviewing either Badge of Honor or Tunnel of Gold. I was confident that we would LOVE these books, and as an added bonus, we're learning about "westward expansion" in history right now so, while this jumped us ahead slightly, it still fit in pretty well with our current history.  At that time, I was ordering from one of the sites that carries the Badge of Courage, so I decided to order Badge of Honor and ask to review Tunnel of Gold. That way we got both books for the price of one :-)

 photo Badge_cover_125_zps8bb09710.jpgGoldtown Adventures are set in a fictitious gold town, creatively named, Goldtown (hee hee), in California. The books begin in 1864 and center around the life of Jem (age 12) and Ellie (age 10), and their father (their mother died when they were little). In Badge of Honor, Jem and Ellie come to terms with their father being made the first sheriff of Goldtown and their aunt and cousin moving in. then Jem, Ellie and cousin, Nathan, work together on a grand adventure to find their missing prospector friend, "Strike".

 photo Tunnel_cover_125_zpse0323f20.jpgIn Tunnel of Gold, Jem is caught in a miner riot, and discovers that the gold mine, that is the life of the town, has dried up. Jem, Ellie and Nathan meet a young (age 12) Chad Carter (who is older in the Circle C Adventures books). If the mine closes, the town will become a ghost town. A new, deeper vein is found, but only if Jem's friend Wu Shen and his family agree to give up their scavenger rights to an abandoned shaft. There's lots of adventure in this book, with angry, volatile miners, a mine owner who will get his way at any cost, and a risky plan that almost costs the children their lives.

We received the books, and I read them to the girls for history reading and bedtime reading. The books are fast paced, and not terribly long, so we had no problem reading both books in the review period, with time to spare. After we finished with them, I passed them along to our neighbor to read to her 6 yr old son, and while, the stated age is 9-13, he has been enjoying them as well.

These are AWESOME books!! We used them as read alouds since that's how we do history in this house. We have the Circle C books on their way to us, and I will turn the girls loose with them. They're realistic books, the kids get in trouble, and make bad choices, and sometimes remember to make good choices, and sometimes think about making a good choice and still make the bad choice. Life in the "olden days" isn't made to look glamorous and perfect, it was hard, and often dangerous. Parents then had to find the line they were comfortable with as far as freedom vs. safety, and that's something I struggle with too. In Tunnel of Gold, we clearly see that as the family settles into life with father's sister and her son, from an east coast city, living there too. . . she wanted to keep the kids closer to home, the kids wanted to roam farther, like they were used to doing, and of course cousin Nathan wanted to go where they went. . . I LOVE LOVE LOVE that these are books written about Christians. Jeb prays when he's in a tight spot. And sometimes it's great, prayers that only a kid who has a relationship with God will pray, like "Please God, don't let Pa notice that I messed up".  When they are all in a REALLY tight spot, and scared, Jeb uses Bible verses he's memorized to comfort and encourage them all. I love that!

I asked the girls what they thought of the books. Sassy said she can't wait for book 3 to come out! And that she likes that there's action right away. MiniMe said she wants the 3rd one, and she liked that it was interesting and had lots of adventure, it wasn't just a boring story of someone's life.

These books are available, autographed, for $7.99 each or $13.95 for both, plus s&h.

To see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought of these books, click the banner below:


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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Recipe: Cream Cheese and Spinach Taquitos

A couple months ago, I had the chance to review 3 ebooks from Simplified Pantry. My review focused on Paperless Home Organization, which I am still LOVING!! The other 2 ebooks were recipe/meal planning related, and I found that, since we're vegetarian, and some members of our family are rather picky, I needed to more pull general ideas from these ebooks (if you're NOT vegetarian, click on the link at the bottom of my review, to read other reviews of the ebooks, many people really liked them!).  So anyway . . . one of the general ideas I got from the ebook was taquitos, but the suggested varieties all included meat. I decided to try this combination and the girls LOVED it! (dh wasn't home the night we made it, but I suspect he'd like it too).

As usual, I didn't really measure.

1 (8oz) pkg cream cheese
a good sized handful of frozen chopped spinach, squeezed dry (I buy it in large bags, and can just pull some out as needed for recipes)
1/2 a can green chilis (approximate, we'd used part of a can for something else, so I threw the rest in this recipe
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 1/2 c shredded cheddar/jack cheese

Stir all together.

Preheat oven to 425. Put a spoonful of filling down the middle of a whole wheat tortilla, roll it up, and lay it, seam-down on a baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the filling and tortillas. Spray with cooking spray (or to be healthier, brush with a healthy oil like coconut oil, olive oil, or butter (yum, butter would be AWESOME!). Bake 15-20 minutes, or until they're slightly browned.

I cut these in half, to serve the kids. They were YUMMY!!!

I'm linking up to Try a New Recipe Tuesday at Home to 4 Kiddos  (some week I'll actually get the recipe post done on TUESDAY LOL).

Monday, July 8, 2013

Crew Review: Dig-It Games

Dig-it Games Logo photo dig-it-games-logo_zps61887cb9.pngOne of the many benefits of being a homeschool reviewer, when you're the child, is getting to hear your mom say things like "have you played your computer game yet today?". We were asked to review the Mayan Mysteries Online Game from Dig-It Games.

In Mayan Mysteries, you are part of "Team Q" trying to find an artifact thief. and find a lost Mayan city. Along the way you will learn a LOT about the Mayan culture, and complete challenges ranging from map activities to quizzes to calculating things using Mayan math.We received a single user license for the online game for one year ($21.99).

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The single user license can be used by the whole family, but only one game can be active at a time, so we decided to let Sassy play through the game (stated to take about 12 hrs of playing time, I didn't time her, but would guess that is about right) and then, as time allowed, let MiniMe start through it.  Our biggest challenge was that the girls' can't find their computer, so have been playing the game on mine, That means finding a block of time when I don't need my computer :) If they'd had their own computer, I suspect they would both have been through the game in the first week or so.

After showing Sassy how the game works, for the most part, she did the entire game on her own. The one area that she couldn't figure out was the Mayan math. It IS tricky, we worked together on those challenges, but other then that she did the whole game without any problem. She loved it and it has whetted her interest in the Mayan culture. Her only complaint, and it's a big one (that I concur with). After completing the game, instead of "catching the bad guy" the game ends by saying something about join us for Mayan Mysteries II, coming soon, to continue our adventure. So now she's frustrated wanting to FINISH her game, but the 2nd one isn't available, and even if it was, that would mean spending more money.

MiniMe is still working through the game. I suspect she hasn't come to the math part yet. She is also enjoying it, and when I turned her lose with the computer one afternoon, played it for at least 2 hours and would have kept going if I hadn't needed her to do something else.

The game is for grades 5-9. I never know how to evaluate "grade level" stuff, since one of the benefits of homeschooling, to me, is not being tied to a grade level. We arbitrarily called the girls 2nd graders the first year we had to report to the state, so to the state they are going into 4th grade. For review purposes, I have decided to assume approximately a 5th grade level. I would guess when it comes to history and reading, they are abit higher, because they read so much, and because we have focused so much on history. As noted above, they were able to play the game without any problem (except for the math), so that seems to fall in line with them being pretty solidly in the recommended age/grade for this game.
I'm torn in my opinion of this. It's fun and educational and has whetted their appetite to learn more about a topic, that is AWESOME!!!!! On the other hand, I would be EXTREMELY frustrated to have spent over $20 on a game, only to get to the end and find that it's not the end, and I have to spend MORE money to finish it. That is my main complaint.

To see what other Schoolhouse Review Crew Members thought of this game, as well as the iPad app for the same game, click the banner below.


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