Friday, November 29, 2013

Lilla Rose Sale!!

I recently reviewed Lilla Rose's wonderful hair clips (you can see my review here), so I wanted to let you know about the wonderful Black Friday sale they are offering!!!

Jennifer tells you all about it in her blog post. Or you can check it out on the website.

If you've been wanting to try any of the Lilla Rose items, or give them as gifts this year, now's the time to get them! AND a special holiday Flexi is being released as well, so check that out!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Book Review: The Passionate Mom

This post contains affiliate links.

I was given the opportunity to review the Kindle book, The Passionate Mom: Dare to Parent in Today's World, by Susan Merrill.

Susan Merrill is the director of iMOM and mother of 5 children. In this book, she looks at the story of Nehemiah, in the Bible, and uses his passionate approach to rebuilding Jerusalem, as a guidebook for being a Passionate Mom, building our children's lives as they grow. She looks at the steps he took in building the walls of Jerusalem and relates them to the steps we should take in raising our children in a way that protects them as they grow, while preparing them for today's world.

I thoroughly enjoyed this very different way of digging into Nehemiah's life, and found most of her advice to be spot-on. She has a wonderfully down-to-earth writing style and transparently shares her struggles as a mom, as well as her triumphs.

As is typically the case when I read parenting books, there were a few things that I disagreed with, and things that I know don't work with my kids (ever since the twins were babies, I've joked that they forgot to read the parenting books, and don't respond to things the way books say children will), but all-in-all, this book made me think and helped me to be a better mom!

Disclaimer: I received the above mentioned ebook free, in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review and no other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.

H is for Hanukkah

Isn't it convenient that the letter H comes up the very week that Hanukkah starts this year! One of the challenges of celebrating Jewish holidays is that the Hebrew calendar is a lunar calendar and the Gregorian calendar (that's the one you're used to) is a modified solar calendar, so the two don't really line up . . . AT ALL . . . that means that the Jewish holidays "float" quite abit on the Gregorian calendar. Most years Hanukkah is in December, that's how it's come to be thought of, rather inaccurately, as the Jewish Christmas. The first year we celebrated Hanukkah, Christmas fell during Hanukkah. Another year, our anniversary (at the beginning of December) was during Hanukkah . . . this year, for the first time since 1888, Hanukkah and Thanksgiving line up! AND, while I've seen various calculations on when it will happen again, they've all been well over 10,000 years from now, so not gonna happen in any of OUR lifetimes!

So what is Hanukkah? Hanukkah is an English version of the Hebrew word for Dedication. The holiday is also called the Feast of Lights or the Feast of Dedication. John 10:22+ talks about Jesus being at the Temple in Jerusalem during the Feast of Dedication, so while Hanukkah is never commanded, it IS mentioned in the Bible.

Hanukkah commemorates the re-dedication of the temple by Judas Macabee after Antiochus IV defiled it by worshiping pagan gods and sacrificing to them, in the temple. Jewish tradition states that only enough consecrated oil for one day could be found. The lamps were lit, and the oil burned for 8 days. Hanukkah commemorates those 8 days.

The Hanukkah Menorah (candlestick) consists of 9 candles or oil lamps. One is the "servant" candle, and is used to light the others. On the first night of Hanukkah, the servant candle lights one other candle, on the second night, 2 candles, and so on, until all 8 candles are lit on the final night.

Traditional Hanukkah foods include latkes (potato pancakes) and jelly donuts. These and other foods cooked in oil, remind us of the oil in the temple menorah.

So how, and why, does our family celebrate Hanukkah?

For several years I had wondered about celebrating the Biblical holidays. After all, while portions of them pointed to the (then) coming Messiah, other parts commemorated past events and still others point to Messiah's second coming. Perhaps God wants us to continue these holidays . . . and then, 2 or 3 years ago, it hit me . . . I don't have to study and determine if we are REQUIRED to celebrate the Biblical holidays, my kids LOVE any excuse to celebrate, there is most certainly nothing WRONG in celebrating them, so why get hung up on whether or not we "have to"? Why not just embrace a fun way to worship and celebrate God's amazingness! And so, that fall, we started with the Feast of Trumpets, and have never looked back. We don't stress about doing everything "right", we worship God and enjoy extra time with Him and with family!

Hanukkah was never commanded in the Bible, it is strictly a commemoration of God's providence and love, and it is a wonderful, fun way to remember exactly that.

A few weeks before our first Hanukkah, I walked into Goodwill, and came out with a menorah (pictured at the top of this post) and candles to go with it. In this darkest time of the year, it is so fun to light candles each evening and watch them flicker and burn low. By the next year I had read the suggestion to give small gifts themed gifts each night of Hanukkah, and discussed with Lexie and Ashlyn, whether they'd rather receive Christmas gifts from us (as we'd done in the past), or the themed Hanukkah gifts. They chose Hanukkah, and when given the choice the next year, chose Hanukkah again. We enjoy lighting the candles, reading the nightly Bible verses as well as Hanukkah books, along with our Christmas books, when the two overlap, making latkes and going out for donuts . . .

The "themes" of the gifts remind us of God's provision . . . one night is something to do with light - that might be fun glow-in-the dark toys, or small flashlights, or a candle (for the older girls) . . . some year, when money allows, I plan to get each of the girls a pair of Shabbat candlesticks for when they are grown and on their own. Another year I'd like to get them each a Menorah. This year, since we sometimes walk home from the neighbors' house after dark, I'm giving them each a small flashlight of their own, and, as a gift to our whole family, a miniature menorah for the times when we end up travelling during Hanukkah.

Another night, as is traditional, we give to those in need. Throughout the year the older girls save a percentage of their allowance for charity, and during Hanukkah, they decide how to use that charity money.

Hanukkah starts tonight at sundown, so Happy Hanukkah to you!

Blogging Through the Alphabet
Blogging through the Alphabet @ Ben and Me

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Weekly Wrap-Up - November 24

We had a BUSY week! On Monday Mama and Papa came up so Papa could help us get the sump pump ready for winter (it doesn't dump, underground, far enough from the house. Long-term we plan to tunnel a new pipe under the drive, but for this winter we now have a "speed bump" across the drive where the pipe lays across), and they could take their motorhome home (it was our "guest house" any time they were at our house all summer, but now it needs to be winterized).  Little Bit was thrilled to have a couple days of lots of "play with Mama time". When Mama wanted to accomplish a few other things, I pulled out the arctic animals and some "icebergs" (various containers of water) I'd frozen when we read In Arctic Waters for circle time the week before. Little Bit played with it off and on the rest of the week (I just threw the ever-shrinking icebergs in the freezer between uses. She also figured out, after I took the picture, that she liked to have the icebergs sitting on a towel NEXT to the bowl of water instead of in the water, so that's what she usually did. 

Last year for Christmas Lexie and Ashlyn received a slackline, but we had never figured out where, at this house, it would work. Finally this fall, I noticed 2 trees, in the weedy part on the back of our land that looked like they might be the right distance. They weren't, but in checking them, we figured out 2 that WOULD work, so the girls cleared the weeds and Papa helped them get the slackline set up. They discovered it was MUCH more challenging than they'd expected. I told them it's a win-win, not only is it teaching them balance, it's also teaching them cooperation LOL.  Even Little Bit tried it out, and as long as someone held her under the arms, she didn't do too bad. After watching videos on the Gibbon site, they stopped trying to walk on it right away and just practiced STANDING (we have  rather oddly trimmed tree now, as we trimmed the branches that were in the way, but left ones that made good "handles" for the first part of the slackline LOL).  It's going to take them awhile, but that's a good thing! And it's great exercise. They both commented on how shaky their legs felt after standing on it for awhile :)

On Thursday, Mama and Papa took the motorhome home, and we tagged along to spend the weekend at their house.  The big girls had ridden in the motorhome on the way up to campmeeting last summer (and probably home from campmeeting too), but Little Bit hadn't ridden in the motorhome since we took a trip to Tennessee in it a year ago in August. All three girls commented on how high up it feels to ride in the motorhome :) 
When we got to Mama and Papa's, they all headed for their playhouse and the "craft room" that is the upper floor of the playhouse. That is definitely a hit, though I fear that means my grand scheme of getting all the random "craft supplies" out of my house by sending them to the playhouse craft room, may backfire if they insist on bringing all their creations home LOL.

Friday, we headed down to Washington DC and the National Museum of American History. It was closed for renovations for quite awhile, so if the girls were ever at that one, it was when they were younger than Little Bit is now, and they didn't remember it.  We spent the whole morning looking at the First Wives dresses (they declared emphatically that the older ones were much prettier, and were disappointed to discover there wasn't one for the first couple of presidents' wives), and the rest of the President exhibit. 

Little Bit wasn't too thrilled with that museum, most of it was over her head (making me think we probably didn't ever take Lexie and Ashlyn to that one pre-renovations), but the big girls didn't have long enough. We never made it to the Transportation exhibit and I think one, maybe two, others. One exhibit that all three girls loved was the Little Golden Books exhibit. There were pictures of the artwork and such, and then, at the end, there were some of the actual books that could be looked at and read. The three of them settled down on a bench to read together :) 

Sabbath we headed back down to DC and spent the day at the National Museum of Natural History. That one was more Little Bit's speed. We all spent the whole morning in the "ocean" exhibit, since that's where we happened to go first. The big girls commented that they could spend all day in just that exhibit, but of course, there was lots more to see. So after lunch we looked at the map and they chose their "must sees".  They remembered (or at least had heard me talk about it), getting to hold bugs at the Insect Zoo (it was memorable for me, they were 3 or 4, and one of them, after holding the huge hissing cockroach for a few seconds, decided she was done, and pretty much dropped it in my hand, SHUDDER!!!!!!).  The path into the Insect Zoo took us through all different animal skeletons, so that was interesting too. Little Bit got to see for herself that her favorite animal, giraffes, have the same number of "neck bones" as humans. 

At the Insect zoo, I wish I could have gotten to an angle to take a picture (but it would have been disruptive to those listening to the demonstration and I didn't want to do that), Little Bit and Ashlyn had wiggled their way to the front of the group listening to the woman talk about, and show them, tarantulas, and then, to make sure THEY weren't blocking anyone (I assume), they laid down and the 2 of them were laying there side-by-side, chins in hands, listening with rapt attention :) After the crowd dispersed, they went up and Little Bit joined in with her sisters, asking all kinds of questions. It's fun to see her starting to follow in their inquisitive footsteps :)

Abit later they DID get to hold creepy crawlies. Since the big girls were there to help Little Bit, I stayed way back where I'd have no chance of having to hold anything. Little Bit opted to just hold the caterpillar, but Lexie said she held the hissing cockroach. 

After the Insect Zoo, we spent some time learning about mummies, and other skeletons they've dug up. I wish the language used on the exhibits was abit simpler, because Lexie and Ashlyn were interested, but the vocabulary was challenging to me, which made it hard to explain it down to their level. I don't expect it to be at a typical 5th grade level, but if it were at least at a high school level, I think they'd have understood most of it, and i could have better defined the few words they didn't understand. We still spent quite awhile there though.  Then headed to the Gems and Minerals. That was more interesting to the girls since we've been learning about elements and such in Chemistry.

We spent our last while at another exhibit that Little Bit would enjoy (she wasn't much into bones or rocks), the Mammals exhibit. 

And finished our evening by heading to our favorite Chinese restaurant. YUM!!! 

So that was our super busy week! 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

G is for Gratitude

How convenient that the letter G came up in November.

I always try to do SOMETHING extra to focus on Gratitude/Thankfulness in November.

This year, with Little Bit being involved in school more, I wanted to focus on helping her see the importance of being thankful.

At the beginning of circle time, we always do a couple Brain Gym exercises to help the kids concentrate. For the month of November, I found a series of "Thanksgiving Yoga" poses.  We only added a new one after everyone had figured out the last one, and I changed the wording to be giving thanks to God. So, what we have so far is (doing the poses mentioned in the link):

Thank You God, for Sun and Sky

Thank You God for Birds (stand on one leg) that fly (stand on the other leg)

Thank You God for Trees (stand on one leg) so high (stand on the other leg)

Thank you God for the rain . . .

After we've done our exercises, each of the kids who's at circle time has a chance to tell me something they're thankful for. Whatever they tell me (I love hearing what little ones come up with), I write on a leaf punched out of fall colored construction paper, and then each kid gets to tape their leaf to the "thankful tree".  I added our thankful tree to our autumn nature table. I told the girls to go gather some sticks that could be bunched together. Then I had to figure out a way to keep them together. I finally decided on a pottery honey jar (that the lid broke on) and then filled it with hickory nuts (we have a hickory tree in our yard, so the girls had great fun gathering the hickory nuts this fall, now to see if they stick with it enough to actually crack them so we can eat them LOL) to hold the sticks in place. I love how it turned out.

Beyond that, I made some changes to our circle time poems to include some about thankfulness and we've been reading some Thanksgiving stories interspersed with our regular circle time stories.

The last couple of years we've used our special Thanksgiving table cloth (just a cheap solid tan tablecloth) for Thanksgiving dinner and use Sharpie markers for each person writes something they're thankful for, and their name and the year, on the tablecloth near their place. It's fun to see what people have written different years, so that's a tradition we definitely plan to continue.

There are lots of other great ideas out there, but these are a few of the ways I help my children remember to show gratitude during the month of November, and not just think of Thanksgiving as a day to eat tons of food :)

Blogging Through the Alphabet
Blogging through the Alphabet - Letter G

Review: Lilla Rose Hair Clips

My friend Jennifer is a consultant for Lilla Rose. Several weeks ago she asked if I'd be interested in reviewing a Lilla Rose flexi hair clip. I think I actually squealed! I have a couple of these that I got at LEAST 7 years ago and I LOVE them! Every time I see a Lilla Rose sale or giveaway I drool.  How fun to get to review one of my favorite hair products!
Lilla Rose Flexi clips are awesome! You can use them to pull your hair back, or in all kinds of different up-dos. They are durable (Did I mention I've had some for 7+ years? They still look like new!), and they are one of the few hair clips I've found that work well for my super-thick hair! Others, with thin hair, love these hair clips too. It's all about getting the right size.  Since I already had some Flexi clips, I knew what size(s) I liked, so that saved me a step. If you don't know, make SURE you take the time to figure out what size you need, here. It's going to depend on how you plan to use your hair clip, how thick your hair is, and how long your hair is, and if you get the wrong size, it won't work right.

I actually have, use, and love two sizes. I have some smalls, which I really like for pulling back just the top of my hair, referred to on the Lilla Rose site as a "half up".  I also have some larges, which are great for pulling my thick hair back into a pony tail and for some up-dos (some up-dos just do NOT look right with as much hair as I have, much to my frustration).  So I told Jennifer I'd love to review either size, and she sent me pictures of what she had in stock.  THAT was the hardest part of this whole review! I seriously, looked at the first picture and said "oh, that's gorgeous, I want that one!", scrolled to the second picture, "oh wait, no, maybe that one!" . . . and so on with EVERY. SINGLE. CLIP!  After much deliberation, I chose the large clip pictured here. I love that it has color but it goes with EVERYTHING! I have not found a single outfit that it doesn't look great with! And I've been wearing it almost every day! 

I'm horrible at remembering to take pictures, and even worse when it means getting someone ELSE to take the picture, but I did get a few pictures of the flexi clip in my hair.  A ponytail takes about 2 seconds,  and pulling my hair back in a pretty clip looks soo much better than just pulling it back in a rubber band!
When I want my hair up, after playing around with some of the suggestions on the Lilla Rose site, I've settled on 2 or 3 that I really like. Sometimes I just roll my hair into a bun and stick the Flexi-8 through kind of like a hair stick. Other times I roll the bun so that the "tail" is at the bottom and clip the Flexi-clip across the bottom. Another one I like is an up-do I sort of learned from the site. It's based on the "extra long" But I let some of the hair kind of sneak out so that the clip can hold it all. I wish I could have gotten a better picture of it, but I do really like it, as something a little different once in awhile.

So, with the holidays coming up, a Lilla Rose hair clip would be a great gift for any of the women with long(ish) hair on your gift list! Or add one to your wish list and let others know you'd like it! The large size starts at $16, some smaller sized clips are less, that is a great deal considering how long I've had mine without any of them breaking! 

One other consideration, if you are left handed, or have any lefties you're buying for. I had never thought about it, but because I'm left handed, I apparently do my hair "backwards" from other people. One of the Flexi clips that I got several years ago has a "right side up". The charm in the center is a heart, so if you put it on with the "wrong" hand, the heart ends up upside down. Doesn't seem like a big deal, but I rarely wear that one because it's awkward for me to put it on with my right hand. Most of the designs, like the one I got for this review, are interchangeable and work just as well for a lefty.

Check out Jennifer's Lilla Rose site here.  And like her on facebook here

Disclaimer: I received the above mentioned hair clip free in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received and I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Weekly Wrap-Up - November 17

This post contains affiliate links

This has been a week of organizing and such . . . we've been working to declutter and organize the girls' room and we're making good progress in there. They are starting to "own" the project abit more, and that helps a lot. It's not just Mommy saying they have to clean, they're seeing progress and want to see more, finally . . . :-)

In the midst of all of that, as I continued to be frustrated with the awkward "flow" of our room (the dresser was all the way around the bed, the door bumped against the bed . . . it's a small room for a "master bedroom" and it works but, things I thought we'd "get used to", I wasn't getting used to. . . when we first moved in, a friend had suggested one other place in the room that the bed might work. When she suggested it, I dismissed the idea because I was afraid the "posters" on the bed would be in the path of the ceiling fan. Now, as I continued to be frustrated with the bed placement, it occurred to me that, much as I love our 4 poster bed, it was those posts that were giving me fits and they are removeable. . . .so I removed the posts at the foot of the bed, did a marathon decluttering and putting away to clear off the floors and such, pulled everything out from under the bed and then started shifting furniture. I discovered that the posters WOULD miss the fan with the bed in the new location, but for now, I'm leaving them off. I think they make the room seem smaller somehow, so for now, they're off.  The picture above is standing in the doorway, the dresser is right inside the door (the wood top in the bottom left corner of the picture). It feels so much more open this way, I am loving it!

Something else that had been bothering me was that we didn't have bath towels that "matched" our bathroom. When Rodney and I first got married we had navy and hunter towels to go with our navy and hunter bathroom, but needless to say, those towels have mostly become rags over the past 16 years AND navy and hunter don't go with the dusty lavender and sage of this bathroom. But buying all new towels, when we HAD towels, they are just random beach towels, hasn't been in the budget (mismatched towels didn't bother me when I had closed cupboard to keep them in, but having them out on the open shelves of this bathroom bugged me).  So anyway, when I pulled out the boxes that were under my bed, I discovered that one of the boxes that, for some reason was under my bed, was a box of "extra towels" INCLUDING the towels that I'd completely forgotten about from our GUEST BATHROOM in our first house. THEY were plain white! I'd been hoping to slowly, over time, replace the mismatched towels with plain white, so that, going forward I didn't have to worry about matching even if bathrooms changed or whatever, and now I had enough, sitting in a box that I'd forgotten about! AWESOME! So now that THAT is done, while I was taking the picture of my bedroom, I took a couple picture of this summer's projects in the bathroom too.

 When Dad added the shower, he had to remove the heat vent in the bathroom. He was nervous about adding a new one, since that would mean cutting a tile, and we don't have extra tiles if it were to break. I suggested that he could build shelves under the window, and put the new heat duct under those shelves, that way he could just remove one complete tile, and leave the floor behind the vent (under the shelves) w/o a tile. So, in this picture you can see the shelf he built and my newly found white towels. The shelf is a great place for plants. My spider plants love it! The plastic container is from the girls' science class - we put dirt and a cup with water in it, in a plastic container, planted spider plant babies in the dirt, and put the lid on to "see" the water cycle. The water collects on the lid and runs down the sides of the container.

 The rest of this summer's bathroom projects can be seen here. The mirror was originally several inches higher, with an outlet between the chair rail and the bottom of the mirror. That made the mirror too high to look right OR be functional. Dropping the mirror was easy enough, but that left it with no outlet next to the sink, which actually isn't a big deal for us, since none of us use curling irons, hair dryers, or an electric shaver, but for "normal people", including potential guests in our home, that would be a problem. So Dad added teh outlet (that the night light is in) next to the sink and, while he was adding it, agreed to also add a light OVER the sink. I'd seen mason jar lights on pinterest and thought the look would be perfect for the rustic look of the rest of the bathroom, I LOVE how they turned out! As a part of all that, Dad also added shelves next to the sink to coordinate with the ones under the window (before he did that, I had the crates" that are now my nightstand in that space in the bathroom.

Our final, minor, "decorating" project this week was the top of the piano. A few weeks ago, a friend brought Ashlyn a piano lamp that she no longer wanted BUT ever since Lexie started violin lessons, her violin has "lived" centered on top of the piano. Finally this week I did the necessary rearranging to make room for the piano lamp. The HUGE aloe vera plant was turned the other way (it lives in a (fabric covered) box because it's growing out of the pot LOL) so turning it, and removing the jar of pens that lived at the other end of the piano gave us enough room to set the violin to one side, at a slight angle, and those who are into perfect symmetry would probably note that the piano lamp isn't really centered, but it works.  A couple weeks ago, we stopped at our nearby farmstand on the last day they were open for the season and the owner told the girls they could have some of the indian corn free, so that adds a nice touch of "fall" now that we organized things :)

So that's taken up a good bit of our week.

School is fun as always. On the days that J joins us, he wants to make sure that he gets to "do math" when the older kids are doing math. Little Bit has a workbook that she enjoys doing, but J isn't quite ready for that yet, so it challenges my creativity to come up with "math" for him AND Little Bit. This week he only joined us one day, so that day I pulled out our magnetic pattern blocks. After attempting to have them work together on one, it hit me that we could use the easel and they could each work on their own picture AND there are benefits to working vertically instead of flat on the floor too. So that's what we did. I didn't notice until I cropped the picture how perfectly their outfits are matched. It's really no wonder that lots of people at church think my girls and E & J are all siblings, huh?

Lexie and Ashlyn have hit the point in their math, where they really NEED to memorize their times tables, so that they can figure out division and such more quickly. I think it is AWESOME that they have a strong understanding of how the numbers work FIRST, but now it's time to memorize . . . to keep that from being too painfully boring, we've been pulling some ideas from Waldorf, having fun making pretty number wheels on the chalkboard and such. Somewhere I'd seen the idea of using chalk pastels on the chalkboard, so that's what we've been using, it's so much more fun than just a couple boring colors : ) So that's been a fun change of pace from Life of Fred for math.  We also pulled out a math game we reviewed the very first year we reviewed for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. When we reviewed it, we played using just addition, now we're focusing on multiplication, and it's a great way to practice.

We're continuing to move right along with Bible Road Trip, our Waldorf unit on water, American History, and Chemistry and Physics. I feel like we've finally fallen into a good routine where we at least get MOST of it done most days. I've started reading history to the kids while they (at least the little ones) eat a morning snack, that helps alot, not only because it means we don't have to fit history in later, but because one thing that had been frustrating me was that the kids would play and talk instead of eating during snack time, making it take up half the morning. Now, since they have the story to keep them focused, they finish up their snack in the time that we read, or less.

I wait and do the big girls' math in the afternoons, and now that we don't have review products vying for our attention, we'll also get back to doing Grammar in the afternoons.  We also moving along with Polished Cornerstones at bedtime and we've been using bedtime read aloud time to fit in some of the longer read alouds from Bible (we just finished Tirzah) and history (we're getting ready to start Pollyanna), and just to make sure we squeeze every bit of read aloud time out of life, we're currently listening to All-of-a-Kind Family in the car. Little Bit's current favorite car entertainment is Signing Times videos, and whenever we aren't listening to an audiobook, her sisters watch along with her, all three are becoming pretty fluent at sign language and have fun "talking" to each other in sign.

So that's been our week.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Homeschool Review: Christmas Unit Study

Last year we had the chance to review a Once-a-Week Unit Study about Knights and Nobles and LOVED IT!!! So when Homeschool Legacy contacted me about reviewing their NEW Once-a-Week Unit Study, Christmas Comes to America, we were thrilled!

Of course, there was a slight "catch". Naturally, Homeschool Legacy wanted my readers to be able to use the unit study THIS Christmas, which means, writing the review . . . now! So, we've had the added fun of getting to have a little taste of EARLY Christmas fun :)

As the name suggests, Once-a-Week Unit Studies are designed to use once-a-week, as a fun change of pace from your normal curriculum routine. The Christmas unit could also be used to add a little bit of "school" to your week if you, like many families, choose to take the month of December "off".

One thing I like is that, in consideration of the general busyness of the holiday season, the Christmas unit is less "intense" than the Knights and Nobles unit that we reviewed.  You can easily fit this one in during the busy Christmas season, and have a blast doing it!

You can see a sample week on the site, but to give you a general idea, each week focuses on Christmas traditions from one country, leading up to the diverse traditions that make up our American Christmas. Each week includes a short devotional time, and then reading and hands-on activities covering history, culture, music, etc.

If your children are involved in Boy Scouts or American Heritage Girls, the unit also includes all the requirements to earn a specific badge.

Naturally, we had to make some adaptations since we were doing the unit a month (plus) early. Some of the most fun sounding parts just weren't practical for us to do in October/early November, including attending a Christmas concert, though we DID get to make our own instruments. Lexie even found directions to make a "string" instrument, since violins are her passion.  We also listened to a variety of Christmas music on CDs to make up for not being able to go to a concert, there just aren't any Christmas concerts to be found around here this early LOL.

Our other "musical" hands-on activity that we decided to save for later was going caroling. We went caroling with a group from chutry the rch a couple years ago and the girls enjoyed it, but even at Christmas time, I'll admit we got some strange looks, apparently it's just not "done" around here. And I figured we would get VERY strange looks if we knocked on peoples doors and started singing Christmas songs in October LOL.  Though people should have liked it, better to offer a song than to beg for candy like all the other kids were doing that time of year, right? :) So, we skipped the caroling, except to sing our own songs at home, but we DID make the wassail recipe (the suggestion was to have it waiting when you got home from caroling), and LOVED it! So much, in fact, that the girls chose to make it again that weekend instead of our traditional Saturday night hot chocolate :)

A definite ADVANTAGE of doing a Christmas unit early is that I was able to reserve all the books we needed from the library without any waiting lists :) And the librarians are so used to me getting tons of books about odd topics that they didn't even question it, hee hee.

I think all three girls' favorite part was making Gingerbread Houses (though be aware, the suggested read aloud to go with it is Hansel and Gretel and it's a more "authentic" version than, say, the Nick Jr version the girls had heard when they were little. Instead of being ambiguous about how the children get lost in the woods, this version tells of their step-mother (the Grim Brothers certainly had something against step-mothers didn't they?) convincing their father to LOSE them in the woods because the family didn't have enough food. The girls were abit horrified by that, but since it's a "happily ever after" ending, it was all good :)

We opted to make graham cracker houses, and our selection of Christmas candy was still abit slim, but we made do, and the girls had great fun with it! Little Bit got frustrated with the fact that if she pushed too hard the house collapsed, so she went with a deconstructed gingerbread house, which still served her main purpose which was, eating the candy over the next week or so LOL.

This unit study is available for $17.95, be sure to order with time to leave shipping time and still have it for the whole month of December :)

Disclaimer: I received one or more of the above mentioned products, free of charge in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received and I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC Regulations.

All prices are accurate at time of posting.

F is for Fingers, Feeling and Fun

Fingers can have lots of Fun Feeling different things with Sensory Play! And as we move toward cold, stay-inside-more weather, sensory play can be a real sanity saver for mom, as well as beneficial for kids!
I'll admit, up until now I haven't done much structured sensory play with my kids, beyond sand play, a form of sensory play that we all have probably done at some point. It continues to be a good one! 

For winter, you can fill a small plastic under-the-bed box with sand, and set it on a plastic table cloth to let your child have an "indoor sandbox". 

When Little Bit wanted to "do school" at age 3, I turned to sensory play as an element for "school" for such a little one, and introduced the bean bin. She still remembers them fondly :)

More recently, the combination of continuing to read about the benefits of sensory play on countless homeschool blogs, and the fact that, with our neighbors joining us for school part-time, I have more little ones, and more varied personalities, to consider, I'm finding that sensory play can be something that all of the children enjoy, and I feel it helps with school overall. Sometimes I'll set kids up with something sensory while I read (the challenge with that when the neighbor boys are here, is that all 3 littler ones want to talk about what they're playing with instead of listening to what I'm reading, so that works better when it's just my 3.

Last month, on a warm day, we had a fun sensory table with baking soda, vinegar, and water in the old sand and water table. E & J were spending the afternoon with us that day and it kept the 3 little ones busy for half the afternoon!

A few weeks ago for science we mixed cornstarch and water. It was showing states of matter, but it was also addictive . . . all 3 girls, and I, were fascinated with that one!

Another brief, un-planned sensory experience, thanks to science class happened last week when we mixed hydrogen peroxide, dish soap, food coloring, water and yeast in an empty water bottle and let it foam out into a bowl. Little Bit and E had great fun "turning into smurfs" for a few minutes before we rinsed it off.  The big girls didn't want to be anywhere near that one because it smelled . . . odd, and they didn't like that.

While I was sick I needed something to keep Little Bit quietly occupied so I could rest, so I pulled out one of the sensory activities I had planned to use sometime during our current preschool unit (Water in Our World) anyway.  For awhile now I've seen bloggers raving about how fun water beads are for sensory play, but I must admit, I was somewhat skeptical, but I bought a pack and figured we'd give it a try. 

We put sea glass, marbles, "jewels" (the little flat marble thingys for putting in vases) and clear water beads in a 9x13 baking dish and added warm water (it was a chilly day, warm water was nice . . .).  Then I told Little Bit to go get some of her plastic "ocean animals" . . . she has a broad definition of "ocean animals" but whatever makes her happy.

I intentionally didn't tell any of the girls what the water beads were supposed to do (when you get them, they are tiny (smaller than bb's) hard little balls). Little Bit enjoyed playing with her animals in the water and stirring around the sea glass and marbles for awhile, then suddenly said "Mommy! These are GROWING!"  after that, we were all pretty fascinated, over time, the water beads grew to the size of the marbles, which makes it fun because they look the same but one's hard and one is like really stiff jello.  The water beads absorbed all the water, but she continued to have fun with the beads, marbles, and animals for a couple more days.

Some additional sensory play that I have planned for this winter includes:

Arctic play - freeze some containers of water and pop the "icebergs" out, then float them in a dish of water and let the kids play with the plastic ocean/acrtic animals on the icebergs. 

Jello - I'm going to put the plastic ocean animals and some marbles/sea glass/jewels in the bottom of small plastic containers (knowing the kids involved, I suspect that small, individual ones will work better than a big shared bin). Then mix up some plain gelatin with blue food coloring and pour that on top. Let the kids dig through the jello to "save" the animals and such.

"Snow" - I'll let the kids mix up their own moon dough (water and baby oil), and then make mini snowmen or whatever they want.

So those are some fun sensory activities to keep children busy during cold winter days :) 

Blogging Through the Alphabet
Blogging through the Alphabet at

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Book Review: At Home at Dogwood Mudhole

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Usually Schoolhouse Review Crew products are for the kids. Or for the "teacher" part of my job description. But this final review product of 2013, was just for me!

At Home in Dogwood Mudhole Volume 1: Nothing that Eats by Franklin Sanders is the first of three volumes, consisting of the newsletters that Franklin Sanders sent out to subscribers to his Moneychanger newsletter over a period of seventeen years.

When the book begins, Franklin is, as many of us were, concerned about Y2K. Partially motivated by these concerns, he and his wife buy land in Tennessee and end up moving not only themselves and their still-at-home-age children, but also some of their older, married children onto this property and begin moving toward a more self-sufficient lifestyle.

 photo Franklin_Deal-300x451_zpsb3f59745.jpgIn case you were wondering where the title comes from. Dogwood Mudhole is where the Sanders family lives. I'd say "only in Tennessee" except since I live in Pennsylvania where we have towns named everything from Bethlehem to Blue Ball, I guess I can't really say much about Tennessee's interesting addresses, hee hee.  The first volume gets it's subtitle "Nothing that Eats" from the frequent plea of Sanders' wife, Susan whenever he and various of their children attend livestock auctions or flea markets. Despite her plea, they seem to always come home with more livestock or pets and many of the stories in the book revolve, not surprisingly, around those animals, including various dog stories, and many humorous incidents revolving around the family's attempts to figure out how this whole farming thing works, from raising pigs to plowing fields with, not-well-broken, very LARGE, horses. . .

This book was unlike anything else I've ever read. It is humorous, and "down-to-earth" and in many ways like sitting down and listening to an interesting granfatherly-type tell stories of his family.

Franklin Sanders is an interesting guy. He, and several members of his family, enjoy participating in Civil War reenactments as confederates. He provides a fascinating, more pro-confederacy, perspective on the war, the reasons behind it, etc. Definitely not what you're likely to read in any textbooks :)

You can purchase At Home in Dogwood Mudhole Volume 1: Nothing that Eats for $22.95 for paperback or $16.95 for Kindle/ePub/PDF. This is a good book for older teens and adults, I don't think my ten year olds would enjoy it yet.

If you're looking for an entertaining book about life in Tennessee and interesting tips and tidbits on a variety of topics, I'd recommend this book, as a great read!

To see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought, click the banner, below.


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All prices are accurate at time of posting.

Weekly Wrap-Up - November 10

We started the week with both Rodney and I fighting colds (and losing, sigh). We squeezed little bits and pieces of school in between my naps, and I was struck with how much reading/talking I do for school on a normal day - having an almost gone voice makes a person much more aware of such things.

As we continue to enjoy Chemistry and Physics, the girls were learning about atoms and elements and all that fun stuff. To better visualize "water" they made hydrogen and oxygen atoms using gobstoppers and nerds on paper plates. Even Little Bit gets into science when it involves candy LOL.
Showing off their finished H2O!
We had some wonderfully warm weather and, after ignoring the sandbox all summer, Little Bit re-noticed it this week. I love the . . . homeyness . . . of her playing in the sandbox with the laundry on the line :)
Sandbox time
We're continuing to enjoy our "early Christmas" studies on Tuesdays, as we review a Christmas unit study (look for that review in just a few days!).  This week's study was about Germany and included making gingerbread houses. All three girls thought that was great fun, though I think getting to lick the frosting off their fingers, and then eat their creations was the biggest draw LOL.

I wish I'd gotten some pictures of Sabbath School this week. It was a fun program. We were learning about Paul on the road to Damascus. We started by trying to guide balloons along masking tape lines using brooms, but not our hands or feet. And we talked about how challenging that was as a lead-in to learning about how challenging Saul found being blind.

Lexie played the part of Saul to tell us all about it. 

And we finished off class with an obstacle course. We blind-folded the kids and lead them through the obstacle course to help them see what it would be like to be blind.

Sabbath afternoon we took advantage of another day of not-too-cold-yet weather and headed to Hershey's ZooAmerica! Little Bit was really excited to be able to feel a real giraffe skin (her favorite animal), and we all enjoyed seeing the animals. It was chilly but not too cold to have fun. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

E is for Eggs!

I decided to "multi-task" today.  This week's Blogging Through the Alphabet letter is E AND I haven't posted a recipe on Try a New Recipe Tuesday for awhile, and have an egg recipe that I've been meaning to post . . .

Last summer we attended the rehearsal dinner for my cousin's wedding and the food was wonderful! One of the things I really enjoyed was a vegetable frittata. So once I was home, and realized how easy it is, I added it to my list of recipes to try. And a few weeks ago, Lexie made supper one night, and tried it out for me.

This is a wonderfully versatile recipe too! Whatever vegetables you have on hand, whatever herbs . . . I LOVE that!!!

14 eggs
2 c cheese
chopped vegetables of your choice (we used onions and broccoli and spinach)
herbs of your choice (I don't remember what Lexie snipped from our herb pots)
salt to taste

Preheat oven to 400.  Heat butter, coconut oil, or olive oil in a large, oven-safe skillet. Saute vegetables until tender (since the spinach just needed to "wilt", I waited to add it right before adding the eggs). Meanwhile, stir together eggs, cheese, salt and herbs. When vegetables are tender, spread evenly in skillet, then pour eggs on top. Do NOT stir them. Cook until the sides begin to look firm, 1-2 min. Move skillet to the oven and bake until the eggs are set (10-15 min). Slice into wedges and serve.

This was a HIT all around! Super easy, tasted yummy, and just about the perfect amount for our family of 5, with a salad and some bread to round out the meal.

Blogging Through the Alphabet   

Monday, November 4, 2013

Schoolhouse Crew Review: Apologia Science

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You can't spend very long on (Christian) homeschool sites and forums without hearing someone sing the praises of Apologia science. When it comes to Creation-based, homeschool science, it's definitely the one I've heard mentioned most often. Last winter the Schoolhouse Review Crew reviewed Apologia Elementary Science, but, since we were mid-move, I didn't beg as hard as I otherwise would have, to be on the review, and we didn't get to review it. We DID get to review one of Apologia's Bible curriculums last year, and enjoyed it!

 photo chemistry2_zpsf5580e2f.pngSo, when Apologia Educational Ministries asked the Schoolhouse Review Crew to review their NEW Science book, Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics, and the Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics Notebooking Journal I really hoped we'd get a chance this time, and we did!!!! Wooo-hooooo!!!!

This is a K-6th grade, creation-based, science curriculum, based on the Charlotte Mason approach. It consists of 14 lessons, and if you follow the suggested schedule in the Notebooking Journal, you will spend 2 days per week, 2 weeks, per lesson, so the curriculum will cover 28 weeks. You can download a sample lesson here.

 photo notebookingjournal_zpsaa83790f.pngThere are 2 notebooking journals available, the Junior Notebooking Journal, for younger students and the Notebooking Journal for upper elementary students. For this review, I was sent up to 2 notebooking journals of my choice. Initially, I considered asking for one of each, so that Little Bit (Pre-K), and/or our neighbor, E (K, who joins us 4 days a week for homeschool), could share the younger one and the twins (5th grade) could share the older kid one). But after looking at the online samples (available at the links above), I determined that, while the little kids would probably like the coloring pages in the Junior Notebook (for that matter, so would my older girls), overall, the Junior notebook still assumes pretty advanced (IMO) writing ability, and would be well beyond Little Bit and E's, pre-reading, level.  So, I just requested 2 of the older kid journals, one for each of the twins.

The lesson plans for this curriculum are included in the Notebooking Journals, rather than the textbook. That can be frustrating, since I don't normally have the girls' notebooking journals with me when I'm doing lesson plans. Since I write my lesson plans in Evernote, I solved this problem by snapping a picture, in Evernote, of the lesson plan pages of the Notebooking Journal so I have it right with me when I'm writing my lesson plans. As mentioned above, the suggested schedule is 2 days a week, 2 weeks per lesson. I found for us, considering that I was including the younger kids in at least some of it (ometimes the reading, usually the hands-on stuff), I found the suggested lessons were sometimes too long (the sample pages of the journals on the website include one page of the lesson plans, so you can see how it is laid out). My default is to split the reading/try this days into 2 days, but we generally do science 4-5 days per week, so it all evens out. The  "workbook" pages, I usually don't have to divide, so overall, we are moving as quick, or quicker than suggested, just dividing things up differently.

I think, because of the lesson plans being included in the Notebooking Journal, I'd for sure recommend purchasing at least one Notebooking Journal (or Junior Notebooking Journal, the textbook assignments appear to be the same), for $24, in addition to the textbook for $39.  Whether to purchase a notebooking journal for each child is going to depend on your educational approach. My girls have enjoyed the pretty notebooking pages, but the same journaling could be accomplished in a regular notebook. The journals include word searches and some lapbook type pages, as well as a quiz at the end of the chapter, so if your child enjoys those types of pages and/or, quizzing is important to you, that would also be a reason to purchase the journals for each child.

This is an AWESOME curriculum! I really can't sing it's praises loud enough! As much as we generally don't go for textbooks, this one is just amazing! It has TONS of hands-on stuff, mixed all through the lessons. Most of it is very easy to accomplish with common household items and they are FUN and COOL!!! Just yesterday (I didn't get a picture because my hands were abit messy), we mixed yeast, hydrogen peroxide, and dish soap to create a really cool (I'm running out of adjectives here!) bubbly reaction that oozed out of the bottle and half-filled the bowl we had the bottle sitting in.

Lexie and Ashlyn are loving it! When I asked them if they had anything to add to the review, they said "it's really fun! There are PLENTY of experiments! And some even involve candy (that would be the hydrogen and oxygen "elements" we made out of Gobstoppers and Nerds the other day)!

Every day when E (6) gets here, one of his first questions is "do we get to do Science today?"  Little Bit (4) is still abit young, but she thinks the experiments are fun. She liked the candy one too LOL.

We are definitely planning to continue using this curriculum until we've completed it, and we're already talking about continuing to use Apologia for science after we finish this book (our current plan is to "trade" with a friend who is currently using Astronomy, after that, we'll have to see . . .)

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


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