Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Crew Review: Home School in the Woods

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We have, and love, Home School in the Woods' timeline figures, so I was very excited to see this company show up on the list of review options.  We were given a couple different choices, and I chose Hands-On History Activity Pack: Composers.

Ever since MiniMe started piano lessons, and Sassy started violin lessons, the girls have been OBSESSED with their music lessons, but we have spent very little time learning ABOUT music, so I thought this would be a great chance to learn more about composers and music.

As you can see below, this is a pack to create a large lapbook, with tons of information in it. A really cool "bonus" is that it also includes mp3 downloads of the composers' music. This Activity Pack is designed for grades 3-8. The download is available for $18.95, or a CD version for $19.95
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I knew as soon as I saw this, that we were NOT going to be able rush through it and have the lapbook complete during the review period. Not even close. The composer minibooks alone are going to take us MONTHS!! I want us to take time to learn about these composers, not just do a quick google to find the required information to fill in the book and move on. So, we got started.  I decided a good starting point was the composer timeline. But rather than just gluing all the composers onto the timeline right away, we are adding them in as we learn about them.  Then we got busy learning about composers.

One thing that surprised me about this, is that there is no "information" in this pack. Most lapbooks that I have purchased include enough information to do a basic study, and complete the lapbook without extra resources. I think it's important to note that this one does not. The pack does include a general list of "additional resources", so for each composer, I have to go through that list, determine which ones relate to that composer, see if our library has those resources, and reserve them. So far that hasn't been too difficult, since we have started with some of the more well-known composers, but there are many composers listed that I don't see any resources for, in the list. For those we will have to find our own resources, I guess.

Because we started with some of the more well-known composers, I was able to get multiple resources for them, and we greatly enjoyed learning more about these composers. Interestingly, even after reading a book or two, listening to a CD, AND watching a DVD (all items listed as resources for this study), we STILL usually had to google to find the basic information asked for in the minibook, but at least I know that the girls (and I) have learned about said composer. Of course, this also meant that we only did about one composer per week, but we're having fun with it.

So, what do we think? I think we'll have a GORGEOUS lapbook when it's finished, and will have learned alot about a topic that my children are interested in and that I'm not familiar enough with, to create my own study. HOWEVER, for almost $20, I would have expected it to be less work-intensive on my part. While I often pull together unit studies on my own, I do that, partially to save money and partially to be able to do what WE are interested in. If I had spent the money to purchase this lap book, I would have expected, at the very least, an organized, extensive, resource list that provided all information needed, in a way that made it very clear which resources went with which composer.

Additionally, every single page is a separate file, making printing it, time consuming and somewhat frustrating.

All, in all, this product has SOOO MUCH potential!! AND, if you already have a good composer study that you're looking for a creative, beautiful way to document, this would be a great option. Be sure to see what my fellow crewmates thought of this, and other products from Home School in the Woods, by clicking the banner below.


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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Weekly Wrap-up - April 28

What a busy week!

This week we started the Pioneer study for history, and Little Bit started her unit on insects. We invited E & J to join us for school and they accepted. So, Sunday was our first day as a class of 5, instead of 3 :)  There are the inevitable challenges that come with change . . .the boys aren't used to doing structured things with us, so they are figuring it all out, but our first day went well.

We started working on wet-felted ants, as I expected, the little ones got bored with it long before even the first ball of each ant was done, but the big girls and I are continuing to work on getting enough felt balls made, I'm figuring by this coming Wed, we should be able to put the ants together :)

This time of year we also make sure to spend plenty of time outside, for school, so that's a big hit :) The boys had just gotten "new to them" scooters, so they brought them over to ride. Little Bit had fun trying them out, though she was pretty hesitant. The big girls were disappointed that both scooters were too small for them to try, since we've never had, or been around scooters at all.

Monday, we had a playdate at K & T's house. E & J were there too, so it was a full house, but a good time was had by all. Much to the big girls' delight, K & T have some bigger scooters, so they got to try out scooters too :)

Wednesday we were planning to have school with the boys again, but I woke up that morning with a stomach bug, so had to cancel. Penny offered to have the girls come over and play at their house so I could rest, so they were over there until J's naptime. It was very nice to truly be able to take a "sick day", instead of trying to still be mommy while I felt so icky :) By the time they came home, I was feeling better, so it worked out well.

Thursday was, as usual, our music/errands day. Now that both girls have music lessons, I drop them off and Little Bit and I go to the farm for milk and eggs, and to a grocery store near the farm. I dropped the girls off at 10:00, and didn't get back from errands until 11:30, but they were still very busily involved in their lessons. It was more like 12:30 before both lessons were done :) Their teacher comments often on how quickly they learn, and how they want to learn so much at each lesson, I'm soo thankful they have a teacher who's willing to keep them moving at their chosen pace, I really think that's a big part of MiniMe's continued passion for piano. I think if she had a teacher who stuck to short lessons and only added one or two new things per lesson, she'd get bored and frustrated and it wouldn't be fun anymore. The big thing with MiniMe right now is composing music. She is LOVING it! As we were visiting at the end of their lesson this week, their teacher, Pat's husband came home,  and Pat called him over to show him MiniMe's latest composition. He seemed impressed with it too.

Sassy is getting the hang of the violin quickly as well. She's very happy to have some "songs" (albiet, short ones) to  practice instead of just one, short, rhythm :)

Friday, we went to the Philadelphia zoo with Penny and the boys.  They have a membership that includes guests, so we could all go.  The weather was PERFECT!!! The downside of that was, the rest of the world thought so too, sigh . . . but it was ok as long as we stayed outside, the buildings were pretty chaotic.  Their membership includes the extra rides, so that was a fun treat too!

They have a carousel, with zoo animals instead of horses. Little Bit was very excited to get to ride the carousel! We were the first in line for the next ride, so had plenty of time to see what all animals there were AND know that we'd have close to first pick of which animals to ride.

The older girls were perfectly willing to go on the carousel with the little kids, but not overly excited about a carousel, per se (DURING the carousel ride I was standing next to Little Bit and Sassy, and Sassy commented that it would be a LOT more fun if it went as fast as the old one at Glen Echo Park in MD. I don't remember the numbers, but when we talked to a park ranger there about it, in the 1920s it went INCREDIBLY fast compared to modern carousels).  But then, as we watched it going around while we waited our turn, MiniMe saw that one of the animals was . . .

. . . an ARMADILLO!!!!!!

Needless to say, that made her much more excited about it :)

The kids also rode on a little train ride. I can't imagine paying extra to ride such a cheesy little train, but since it was part of the membership, whatever makes kids happy LOL.

I was surprised, when we got to the point of the day where we said that each kid could choose one more animal they for sure wanted to see, Sassy IMMEDIATELY said she wanted to see the orangutans. She MUST have remembered them from when we were at that zoo when she was 6. I ended up taking her an Little Bit to see them while the others took a potty break, and she just LIT UP when we got there. The orangutans did NOT disappoint, they were putting on quite the acrobatic show for us. I think she would have stayed there all day.

There were also draft horses to ride. They let the twins and E ride all 3 on one horse, and the 2 littles rode with their Mommies. Instead of a saddle it was . . . no idea what it's called, but more like what you see used for camel and elephant rides. I have to say, I MUCH prefer real saddles. That thing shifted around SOO much, was rather disconcerting. But the kids all had a blast! (And in addition to the person leading the horse there was a second person walking along side, so I think it was safe, just . . . disconcerting.

Little Bit has apparently claimed giraffes as her favorite animal. She was amazingly patient waiting to see them, they were the last thing we specifically went to see (we stopped and saw a couple other animals that we went past on our way out). And she did great with it.

One of the animals we saw on our way out was the flamingos. Last summer in Little Bit's class at campmeeting (church camp), they had a zoo theme, and the song for the flamingos talked about how they sift the water/sand with their beaks to get their food. If I'd ever learned that, I'd forgotten it (and yes, I did look it up and confirm it LOL). Now we're doing the zoo program at our church, and using the same song. It's one of Little Bit and J's favorites. And the flamingos we saw at the Philly zoo were eating when we went by. It was soo cool to see them shaking their heads to sift! I'm not sure how much the kids cared, but I thought it was cool :)

Yesterday afternoon it was finally warm enough again for the kids to get back in the creek. They ended up getting the plastic toboggans out of the shed and using them as boats LOL. I should have taken a picture, but I was too lazy to walk out to the creek LOL.

So That was our week. Busy, busy, busy, but lots of fun :)

Book Review: When Donkey's Talk by Tyler Blanski

When Donkey's Talk, is a book about the author, Tyler Blanski's journey to discover why, in the Bible, miraculous, amazing things (like a donkey talking, get it?) happened, but we don't hear about that anymore.

Tyler, invites us along as he discovers that Christianity is not "safe", God is so much bigger than we usually give Him credit for.

The title of this book caught my attention. I enjoyed the first several chapters of this book. Exploring the miraculous side of Christianity, and asking questions about what happens when we expect the unexpected from God.

As I continued to read, however, it lost me. . . I felt like the book started to ramble. I didn't hate it, I just felt like he needed to get to the point, and it was taking way too long.

One thing did bother me. In the first couple of chapters, there are quite a few puns related to a donkey also being referred to as an ass. I mostly found it corny, but I know some people would be highly offended by this kind of slang, and I found it unnecessary.

In the end, I felt like this was a book, that probably was extremely beneficial to the author to write, a way of documenting his own journey of discovery, and organize his thoughts as he dug deeper, however, just as most peoples' journals wouldn't make exciting reading to the rest of us, this book, didn't keep my attention, or help me on my own journey.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, April 25, 2013

GIVEAWAY!!!! - A Cry From Egypt!!!

I am so excited to be able to offer this to my readers!!!

Last fall, I reviewed an AWESOME!!! book, A Cry From Egypt. We LOVED the book, and are anxiously awaiting the sequel.  This is a fictionalized account of the plagues of Egypt. As I said in my review,

"I love it when an author does a good job of taking a well-known Bible story, and does the research about the time period and such, and "fleshes" the story out. And that is what this book is."

You can read my full review here.

So, when we reviewed this book, it was still in "pre-release".  Now, they are releasing it, and gave me the chance to giveaway a free, signed copy of the book to one of my readers!!  Isn't that great?!?! Seriously, if you enjoy Biblical fiction, this is a GREAT book! And I love that it's written at a level that my kids can enjoy it too .

So, without further ado, the giveaway!!  This giveaway will close on April 30 at 8pm, EDT. Please remember that only comments on the blog, not facebook, will count. Also please make sure to include your e-mail address so I can contact you if you win. Winner will have 2 days to reply with their contact information, or I will have to choose an alternate winner.

For your first entry, visit A Cry from Egypt, and tell me something interesting you read there.

For additional entries, do any or all of the following, and leave me a separate comment for each that you do:

Good luck! :) 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Recipe: Whole Wheat Challah Bread

When we started learning about the Hebrew feast days, we decided to become more intentional about making Friday night supper (Shabbat) more special. We typically have soup, and light candles, and then we started occasionally buying Challah bread. It goes wonderfully with soup, and is yummy. BUT it's also kind of pricey, and not especially healthy, with white flour, etc etc etc. So . . . I went looking for a recipe.

I found this one, and adapted it. Now, my kids like it BETTER than the white flour, store-bought kind :)

1 1/2 c lukewarm water
5 egg yolks (reserve white for glaze)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 c coconut oil
1/4 c honey
4 1/2 c whole wheat flour (we grind our own, fresh)
1 Tbsp yeast

I have a stand mixer, with bread hook, that I use for making bread. LOVE it! If you don't, you could stir and knead this by hand.

Combine all ingredients in the mixer bowl. Mix together, then let it knead until the bread is smooth and uniform. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise for 2 hours.

Turn dough out onto a floured counter or board. Divide in half, then divide each half into 3 parts and braid together (someday I'll learn to do the 6 part braid that is more typical, but for now, the 3 part one works), and place on baking stone, lightly covered with cornmeal (or flour). Repeat with second half of dough.  Cover, and let rise 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Brush loaves with egg white, and bake for 30 minutes, or until the loaf sounds hollow (while it bakes, scramble the rest of the egg white with some herbs, for a quick snack).


Monday, April 22, 2013

Book Review and GIVEAWAY!!!! Hey God, I've Got Some Guy Named Jonah in My Stomach And I Think I'm Going to Throw Up!

That is DEFINITELY my longest blog post title LOL! I love kid's books, so when this adorable
sounding kid book came up for review, I was excited.

Hey God, I've Got Some Guy Named Jonah in My Stomach and I think I'm Going to Throw Up!
by Troy Schmidt is the story of Jonah, as told by the whale.

Little Bit happened to be nearby when I opened the package and we HAD to sit down RIGHT THEN to read it.

It is ADORABLE!! She loved it! And, in fact, as I am typing this, she looked over my shoulder, saw the picture, and is now begging me to read it to her AGAIN lol.  This book is geared for age 4-8, and I think that is accurate. Little Bit is 4, and she loves it, but I'm guessing much younger wouldn't be ready to sit still for this length book.  Sassy and MiniMe (age 10) enjoyed listening in, but I don't know that I'd say they're the "target audience".

This is definitely a book for an audience that is already familiar with the Bible story. This is JUST the whale (and yes, in this book, it's a whale, I know some people are careful to point out that the Bible says "big fish", not whale) telling the story. In this story, the whale is kind of "paralleling" Jonah's experience. God tells him to "swallow a human" and he tries to run away, but "accidentally" swallows Jonah anyway . . . it's a cute "twist" on a well-known Bible story.

In the back of the book, there's a page of suggestions to turn this book into a "unit study" of sorts, with discussion questions and a "hands-on activity". AWESOME for those who want to help draw out the lesson without having to be creative :)

AND in addition to the copy of the book, that I was sent, I also get to give one away!!! If you'd love your own copy of this cute story, just comment on this post (on the blog, please don't just comment on facebook), telling me your favorite Bible story.

For additional entries:

  • Like the publisher, B&H Publishing on facebook
  • Like my blog on facebook.
  • Follow my blog on Linky Followers (in the sidebar)
Please leave a separate comment for each entry.  Please make sure I have a way to contact you, if not, a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway will close at 8pm (EDT) on 4/29/13. If your name is chosen, you will have 2 days, from the time that I e-mail you, to reply with your contact information or another winner will be chosen.

"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Weekly Wrap-up - April 21

Each month hubby's office has a "wellness challenge" for employees and spouses, and this month's was to walk and pray for 30 min. So I decided to give it a shot and get up a half-hour early to walk before the girls wake up. An added benefit has been seeing some great "horizons" and, since my phone is my "watch", I've snapped pictures of a few of them, and had to share this one :)

Another fun, busy week! I love spring! It means we spend as much time as possible outside and fit everything else in around it. This week alot of the fun of outside centered around "selling flowers".  MiniMe was the mastermind. She had great fun with all the weed flowers, and the birdbath that the last owners left her (I can't quite see the point of using it as an actual birdbath when there's a stream right behind our house, but the kids are sure having fun with it).

On Wednesday, I watched the neighbor boys in the morning and MiniMe found a willing customer in J. He kept bringing me big handfuls of flowers that he had "bought".  When I commented that the mason jar (that was my "vase") was getting too full, he said "you need to find another jar,because I need to buy more flowers"  such a sweetie!!

The kids also all spent lots of time riding bikes. Sassy commented that this house is "the best house we've lived in, for biking".

On Friday afternoon, it was super windy, so Penny invited us over to fly kites. It was GREAT! Though almost too windy, a couple times one of the kids almost lost a kite LOL.

Little Bit was very excited to have her kite stay up for a LONG time, and have the string all the way out.

J decided he didn't want to fly kites, so Penny found him a pinwheel that both he and Little Bit had great fun with.

The downside of all that fun wind, was that it blew thunderstorms in that kind of messed up bath time on Friday night, but such is life.

The big news in "school" this is week is that we officially FINISHED our study of the Civil War!! It's only been 9 months or so, LOL.  It's been fun, but now we're on to more fun, namely Pioneers and Westward Expansion.

And finally, a couple random pictures that I had to share :)

This was the sight that greeted me when I woke up one morning this week. The window is at the foot of our bed and both Moccasin and Joy (or maybe it was MiLady Underfoot, I can't tell the black cats apart unless I pick them up. Then Joy purrs and MiLady tries to get down LOL) were on the windowsill looking out :)  It's not as good as the time,when it was warmer out, that Moccasin had stayed outside overnight and I woke up to him sitting on the OUTSIDE the windowsill and both black cats on the INSIDE windowsill, but that was when it was still dark out, so the lighting didn't lend itself to pictures :)

And finally: Little Bit is very into dressing up these days, but since her favorite color is yellow, her favorite dress-up dress is Sassy's "Belle" dress :) Think she's a little "ham"? LOL.  And yes, the "Happy Birthday banner" is still up over the front door from the girls' birthdays last month, sigh . . . I never think about it when I have time to get a stool to take it down :)

Friday, April 19, 2013

Schoolhouse Crew Review: Progeny Press

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In case you haven't noticed, we love books around here. So, when we get the chance to review story books, we get excited. This one was abit of a twist for us though. Progeny Press, not only asked us to review a book, Hall of Doors: The Dragon's Hoard, but also their Hall of Doors: Dragon's Hoard Study Guide.

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Hall of Doors: The Dragon's Hoard ($6.99), is the first in the Hall of Doors series. In this book, a brother and sister, discover a hall of doors, and upon going through one door, find themselves in Middle Earth. Their adventures in Middle Earth help them to learn courage as they serve the King.

Since we recently read The Hobbit, and Lord of the Rings trilogy for bedtime, and Sassy and MiniMe LOVED them, they immediately recognized the references, in the book's description, to Mirkwood and such, and were excited to get the book.

When it arrived, we were surprised at how small it was. It occurred to me, in retrospect, that we are so used to reading older books, and books that, if they were assigned a reading level, would be higher, that none of us really think about what size most books that are geared for their age/grade would be. This book is for Grades 2-4, and I suppose, is a good size for someone reading at that level :) For us, it was a very quick read aloud. I thought about having them read it to themselves, but in addition to the potential for fighting over who got to read it first, I decided that, since we also had the study guide, it would make more sense to quickly read the book together, and then let them "read" it on their own while working through the study guide.

We enjoyed the book but, the girls felt like it wasn't long enough. I think, because we read so much, and often books that are at an older reading and comprehension level, they have gotten used to that, and found this too "easy" and the plot too simplified. This book would be great for a newer (or struggling) reader, it's a great story, and I don't think my girls would turn down the chance to read other books in the Hall of Doors series.

 photo a6473ab137a9e7725ad14_m_zps8a9801cb.jpgWe received the .pdf version of the study guide ($15.99), including an answer key.  I printed out two copies of the study guide, and pretty much turned the girls loose with it, asking that they do at least a page each (school) day.  The study guide is a mixture of reading comprehension, vocabulary, etc. So most of the time it worked out so that one of the girls could use the book to answer the questions that required that, while the other did vocabulary or something that didn't require the book.

There were a couple questions that were . . . ambiguous, and I ended up checking the answer key to see what answer they were looking for, in order to be able to reword the question to make sense to the girls. But overall, it was self-explanatory enough that the girls didn't need to ask for help often.

I was interested to see what they would think of a "workbook" type thing like this, since that's not our normal way of homeschooling. They both said it was "fine", and a couple times during the review period, MiniMe commented that it was "fun", so at least as an occasional thing, they seemed ok with it :)

Progeny Press offers many other study guides for various grade levels, and crew members were able to choose between several, so be sure to read the other reviews as well.

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Recipe: Apricot Oatmeal

I've never been a fan of oatmeal. I like the health benefits, and I like the cost, but I just don't like it! But those health benefits and cost keep coming back around, and I keep TRYING to like it.  While I'm still not going to beg someone to make it for me for my birthday, I HAVE found a few ways that I can eat it, and more importantly, the kids like it too!

This is one of our go-to ways to have oatmeal. I think I found the basic idea through a random internet search awhile back, but don't remember specifically where I got the idea.

3 1/2 cups water
1/2 c dried apricots, chopped
1/4 c honey
2 c old fashioned oats
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt

Stir everything together, bring to a boil, simmer until it's the consistency you like. Quick, simple. and healthy, gotta like that!

And gotta like that this is what the pan looks like after my kids get done with it :)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Crew Review: Knowledge Quest

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We love American history. And one of the "stories" of American history that we all really enjoyed, was the story of Sacagawea, so we were excited when we had the chance to review Knowledge Quest's new ebook, Sacagawea (Brave Explorers Every Child Should Know).

 photo SacagaweaBook_zps004a015c.jpgWe received a .pdf version of the book. This book is available for Kindle, either as a single book for $4.97, or in 4 parts (ranging in price from $0.99 to $1.49).  This is an "interactive ebook", meaning that there are links throughout the book, that you can click through to get more information about things. This was so helpful. Often when I'm reading to the girls, they will want to know what something is, or more information about something mentioned. In most cases, in this book, when they asked "what is that?" I could just click through the link and it would take me to an external link that gave more information, and often pictures, about whatever had been mentioned.

This story is told, in the first person, as if Sacagawea is telling the story. It begins with her telling the story to her son, Pomp, but at some point, quite early in the story, that seems to shift. For most of the book, she does not appear to be speaking TO Pomp, as he is referred to by name, which makes the story much easier to follow, but did confuse my girls. . . "if she's telling Pomp the story, why doesn't she say 'you' instead of 'Pomp'?"

There were a few historic facts in this book that differed from the other books we have read about Sacagawea, but I'm not an expert and won't even pretend to know which book is "right", one of the reasons we try to read multiple books on each topic in history is to get a variety of viewpoints.

Since we are currently learning about the civil war for history, we chose to use this book as a "bedtime story" rather than using it during school time. We all enjoyed it, and I look forward to more books in the Brave Explorer series. (I have also read, and enjoyed, Jacques Cartier).

For this particular review, crew members chose between 2 different products, some of us reviewed Sacagawea, while others reviewed a timeline app for the iPad. Be sure to click on the banner below to read the rest of the reviews of both of these products.


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Weekly Wrap-up - April 14

Another fun, busy week. And GORGEOUS weather!! Woo-hoo!!!

On Sunday we went to a "Dairy" near our house. Penny and the boys had gone before, and invited us to go with them. What a fun place! There's ice cream, and a playground, AND a little "zoo".

You can buy crackers to feed the animals, and all the kids had great fun with it.

MiniMe spent forever trying to coax the fallow deer to come to the fence to be fed, and finally succeeded. E thought it was great fun that if he walked along the fence of the goat cage with a cracker and have all the goats follow him LOL.

*I* thought the wallaby with a baby in her pouch was the coolest part :)

Monday was practically perfect weather, and by afternoon it was warm enough that the girls asked to go wading in the creek. They were out there ALL AFTERNOON.  After I had confirmed that they were really going to stay in (and not dip a toe in and declare it too cold LOL), I called and left a message with Penny letting her know they were wading in case the boys wanted to join them. J was napping, but E came over and spent the afternoon, and Penny brought J over when he woke up from his nap :)

 Tuesday was gorgeous again.  We gathered up our school books and headed out to the gazebo. What a perfect place to have circle time and read alouds!!

 Wednesday, Penny and I "traded kids". She needed to do some packing at the house they're getting ready to put on the market, and I needed someone to administer the CAT (standardized test) for the girls, since PA law requires that someone other than the parent administer it. So, she left the boys with me and she took Sassy and MiniMe with her. They took the test while she got packing done.  Then she took them out for lunch :) I wasn't sure how they'd handle the whole "testing" thing, since we don't "do tests" per se AND I most definitely have not "taught to the test" like some schools do. But, they declared it "easy" and finished all the sections within the allotted times.

Meanwhile at our house, I was being reminded how much I appreciate my big kids LOL. The 3 littles were great, but aren't big enough to leave by the creek alone, so I got to hang out on the creek bank while they played in the creek. The biggest challenge was them not all wanting the same thing (shocking, isn't it?). Little Bit and J were ready to leave the creek before E was, but I couldn't be 2 places at once. Then later Little Bit wanted to blow bubbles outside but E wanted to build with Legos. It all definitely runs more smoothly when the big girls are here too :)

Wednesday evening, Little Bit and I finally got around to coloring eggs for her "color unit" in school. We used beets, turmeric and purple cabbage and died some white eggs and some brown eggs in each.  The beets weren't as impressive as I'd hoped, they didn't really dye the brown eggs much at all, the white egg was kind of a brownish pinkish color. But the turmeric and purple cabbage was great! Since yellow is her favorite color, the turmeric was a hit with Little Bit, and I love the "surprise" of the beautiful robin's egg blue from the purple cabbage!

Thursday was, at all long last, Sassy's first violin lesson. Needless to say she was VERY excited LOL.

Since Little Bit got antsy enough during MiniMe's piano lesson, I figured it would be pushing our luck to expect her to sit quietly during BOTH lessons, so I made sure it was ok with the teacher, and then dropped Sassy and MiniMe off (with homework to do during the other one's lesson), then Little Bit and I went to the farm where we get milk and eggs, and picked those up during the girls' music lessons. Even with that, we got back for all of Sassy's lesson, so I think next week we may do some grocery shopping too.

Sassy's first lesson was mostly how to hold, and care for,  the violin and bow, but she did learn to play 2 notes, and has been practicing them non-stop ever since LOL.

Friday we had hoped to go to the zoo with Penny and the boys, but our gorgeous weather ended, and it was cold and rainy. Since the kids were all expecting to get to spend the day together, they couldn't bear the thought of NOT being together, so we ended up playing at Penny's house most of the morning LOL.

One would THINK the kids might be starting to get tired of each other, but E was disappointed when I said that the girls needed to do some school Friday afternoon, instead of staying to play, and he was disappointed that we weren't staying to eat lunch at the church on Sabbath. Almost every day that Penny works, Little Bit asks me about seeing the boys. This week, she asked if Penny was working that day, and when I said yes, Little Bit's response was "I don't like Miss A" (the boys' babysitter, who also goes to our church, so Little Bit knows her too). When I asked why, she explained "because WE should be watching the boys, not her!" LOL.

In between enjoying the gorgeous weather, the girls have been learning some Spanish (a review product), and learning about composers. Sassy has declared it "unfair" that Mozart was able to play musical instruments so effortlessly LOL. They're also wrapping up a "literature study" that we've been reviewing, and that I'll be writing the review for in the next couple of days.

We're reading our LAST book for the Civil War part of American History, then we will "jump back in time" to learn more about westward expansion since we skipped over that last summer. They're continuing to enjoy the Astronomy unit we reviewed, though now that it's not a "required review item" it isn't a priority to do EVERY day, this time of year, I try to keep "school" to a minimum to allow for plenty of outdoor time :)

That "plenty of outdoor time" has meant we haven't done as much with Little Bit's school lately either. In another week or two we'll be starting my FAVORITE unit from this curriculum though, so will be making it more of a priority LOL. It's all about insects, and soo fun!!!! I'm hoping she enjoys it as much as the big girls did at her age (and who are we kidding, *I* love it too!)

So, life's busy, and fun, and going great!!! :)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Schoolhouse Crew Review: Supercharged Science

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My kids have always enjoyed science, especially when it's "experiments" and "how things work". So when it came up as a review choice, I figured they'd probably enjoy the e-Science subscription from Supercharged Science. And I was right :)

 photo escience-full-600px_zps738b5d59.jpgSupercharged Science is an e-science subscription for grades K-12. I love how flexible it is! There are lesson plans, for those who want to have everything planned out for them. There is textbook-ish reading for those who want to assign reading. There are TONS of experiments. And THAT is what caught my kids' attention and we pretty much stuck with that. We're not much on textbooks or lectures or . . . "doing school". But experiments, that's right up our alley! Or, more accurately, it's right up Sassy and MiniMe's alley. And if Daddy's home and hears about it, it's right up his alley. And I WANT it to be up my alley. In theory, it sounds great! But . . . then I think about the mess, sigh . . . and that is where this is even MORE awesome!!!! Because, not only does Supercharged Science have tons, and I do mean TONS of experiments, AND they have really done their best to make sure as many of them as possible use simple household items that are probably already in your house, or can be easily, and inexpensively obtained. But, here's the best part, for this mess-averse mom. They ALSO have well-done videos of Aurora DOING the experiments. So in many cases, my girls were perfectly happy to just WATCH HER do the experiment.

Some, they needed to try for themselves.  MiniMe was fascinated at the very idea of cheerios being magnetic and HAD to try that! Daddy was happy to hear she wanted to try that one, he LOVES Cheerios and I usually don't buy them, so this was a great excuse for him (and Little Bit) to get a box :)

Today they thought we should microwave a grape to see the plasma burn. But . . . the little disclaimer warning at the bottom of the experiment, mentioning that it MIGHT break the microwave was too much for me (mean mommy, I know), it WAS cool to see the video of it though, if I had a cheap old microwave, I just might have to try it too!

We received a one year subscription to Supercharged Science, this costs $37/mo for K-8 or $57/mo for K-12. You can read more about the pricing here.

This is a great way to make sure your children are getting a comprehensive science curriculum without much prep-work time for you. It can be used by anyone from a "school-at-home" homeschooler (with pre-made lesson plans, textbook-like reading, etc) to an unschooler, which was how we used this, just turning the kids lose with the experiments and letting them have a blast :)

While the program is listed as being K-8 or K-12, I think, based on what I've seen, it would probably be best starting around 3rd grade. I definitely think younger kids would enjoy doing the experiments and learning alongside older siblings, but I'm not sure I'd choose to spend the money on a subscription JUST for K-2 children.

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

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Monday, April 8, 2013

Weekly Wrap-Up - April 8

After the busy, busy week of the girls' birthdays, this past week was a "quiet" week, but still lots of fun (and lots of time with our awesome neighbors! :)

On Monday we went over to E & J's house to play with them, and some other friends (T & K).  It was  not too cold, and windy, so J asked Penny if they could fly kites. And it was an awesome idea. All the kids had a blast. And the field across the street from our house (and next to E & J's house, is PERFECT for kite flying).

Tuesday was the end of Passover, so Wednesday morning we made bread. And of course, when you have fresh, homemade bread, you have to share with friends, so we invited Penny and the boys to come eat lunch with us :)

Thursday was a VERY  momentous day for Sassy. After piano lesson, we stopped by the violin shop and picked up a rental violin for her to use. She is SOO excited to start violin lesson this week!

Friday Daddy took all 3 girls to Grandmom's where they got to spend time with Grandmom and Aunt Lynette, and go to their favorite Chinese restaurant.

Sabbath we had a potluck lunch at church (as we do every 1st & 3rd Sabbath). Usually the kids all play for awhile after lunch, but this time, something had come up that Penny & Brian needed to leave right after the meal, and it was J's naptime. E was disappointed at not being able to stay and play, so I suggested that we could bring him home when we came. That worked well, and then, of course, once we got home, the kids all decided they needed to play. So E and the girls all played outside all afternoon, and J came and joined in after his nap, then we headed over to Penny & Brian's for supper :)

So that was our week. In between all the extra fun, we managed to squeeze in a good bit of school too. And while I had the house to myself on Friday, I got a good start on sorting/organizing all our books . . . :)

Friday, April 5, 2013

Book Review: The Magic Runes by Emma Leslie

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Our first year reviewing for the Schoolhouse Crew, we were thrilled to review some books from Salem Ridge Press, and we loved them.  Since then we have purchased other books, and enjoyed all that we have read. So, when we had the chance to review ANOTHER book from this great company, there was much rejoicing and excitement.

The Magin Runes photo sr-themagicrunes_zpse6d526fe.jpgThen came the hard part. How to choose ONE book from the list they gave us to choose from. After much discussion we decided on The Magic Runes.

This is a book set during the time of Charlemagne. It focuses on the conflict between Charlemagne and the Saxons. In this story, a Saxon family has been driven from their home by Charlemagne's army, all in the name of Christianity. They are found by a Charcoal burner and his daughter, who care for them, and show them what true Christian love is like.

We used this book as a read aloud, and if my girls had had their way, we'd have read it all in one sitting, LOL. All of us enjoyed it, and finished it in 3 or 4 days.

This story did a great job of weaving the history of the time period, including the atrocities Charlemagne's army committed in the name of "converting" the pagan Saxons, with the timeless lesson of the importance of witnessing by showing God's love to everyone.

This book is listed as being for ages 10-adult. Sassy and MiniMe (just turned 10) could easily have read it on their own, and probably WOULD have finished it in one sitting LOL.

One thing I love is that the publishers include definitions of unfamiliar words at the bottom of the page where the word first appears. I think that would be especially helpful with younger readers, though there were a few times I referenced it as well (and in several cases, as I read, they asked me what a word meant, and I was able to just glance to the bottom of the page and read the definition instead of having to think of how to describe it on my own.

My only "complaint" is that I wish the book had included a pronunciation guide for the names. I would have liked to make sure I was pronouncing the fictitious characters' names accurately, since they were reflective of the time period in which the story was set. If the girls had been reading the book on their own, I'm guessing they would have pronounced Charlemagne, phonetically (I would have, at that age), which might have led to confusion later when they learned about Charlemagne, and/or embarrassment if they were talking about him to others and mispronounced his name.

This book is great for history, Bible, or just for fun reading!

The softcover is $10.95 or you can choose hardcover for $20.95. My fellow crewmates and I were given a LONG list of books to choose from, so be sure to go read the other Schoolhouse Review Crew Reviews (just click on the banner below) to find out about a bunch of other great books from Salem Ridge Press.


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Recipe: Egg Salad

This is going to be another one of those "dump" recipes . . . but it's a favorite at our house, so I thought I'd include it. In fact, Little Bit has declared it "MY FAVORITE!" :)

You will need:
A bunch of boiled eggs, peeled
celery seed
whatever other herbs or spices strike your fancy

Chopping eggs is a great thing to have little ones help with. Little Bit was soo excited to be able to help make the egg salad and feel like she was REALLY helping. I just gave her a butter knife and let her chop away, using the plastic lid of the bowl that I was making the salad in, as her "chopping board". So, get those little helpers into the kitchen (make sure to dress them in yellow, with a yellow apron so they coordinate with the egg salad LOL), and chop away. Yu want all the egg whites chopped pretty small. The yolks are going to end up mashing in with the mayo anyway, so they don't matter. Once the eggs are all chopped, add a generous spoonful of mayonnaise, and a shake of whatever herbs and spices you're using (I'm not sure tumeric adds much flavor, but it's healthy, and adds yellow color, so I always include it), stir it all together, taste it, and add more of whatever it needs.  You can add pickle relish, chopped celery, whatever else you like too (I once had it with carmelized onions, that was yummy, but I think my kids would object if I did it that way LOL).

Serve it in sandwiches, or wraps. When we have sandwiches and a green salad, I often skip the bread and just add a generous spoonful of egg salad instead of dressing on my green salad. And I must admit, today for lunch, there was a little bit left, and I was the only one home, so I just took a spoon and finished it up LOL.

So there you have it, quick, easy, tasty, and great for little ones to help make!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Weekly Wrap-Up - April 2

Last week was insanely busy (LOTS of fun, just REALLY busy!)

Sunday:  Rodney and (neighbor) Brian, worked on setting up the basketball net the big girls got for their birthday, with some help from MiniMe. Despite the claims that it included all needed tools, ummm . . . not so much. But they eventually got it up and the girls have been enjoying it!

While they were getting sand for the base of the basketball hoop, I suggested they go ahead and get enough for the sandbox too. We've had it since the twins were toddlers, had it set up for awhile at the last house, but the big girls kind of out grew it, AND left the lid off a few times too many, so it hadn't been usable since Little Bit was old enough. She was very excited with her new toy :)

Penny and the boys (Brian's family) came over to play in the sandbox, and they all ended up staying for supper.

As they were leaving, Sassy pointed out that, if it snowed the next day, as predicted, we NEEDED to get together to play in the snow. And so, that brings us to . . .

Monday: it DID snow. We DID get together, and a great time was had by all! (except the poor men, who had to work instead of staying home to play with us LOL).

It's a good thing, the kids were impatient and insisted we go out and play in the snow that MORNING, because by afternoon, though it was continuing to snow, it had warmed up enough to melt what had stuck in the morning, as well as the new snow coming down.

All 5 kids worked together to build a snowman (though in some cases the help was . . . not real helpful LOL. Still, they managed to get one built, and it stood for at least 30 seconds before someone knocked   it down LOL.

Since we don't have any hills around here, the big girls decided to get the sled out and give the little kids rides. They wore out alot faster than the little kids did (especially when E wanted his turn since he's bigger than Little Bit and J), but it worked well, just the same.

After the big girls declared the sled-pulling-service to be ka-put, Little Bit and J figured out that the saucer worked pretty well on the handicap ramp that goes off our deck. 

Monday at sundown was the start of Passover. Daddy was working late that night, so it was just the girls and I for our seder. It was really nice. We opted for a simple meal of beans & rice, and used a simplified program to keep it from being too long for Little Bit, and it worked out very well. Even Little Bit enjoyed it :)

Tuesday was Little Bit's actual birthday.  When she woke up she discovered a path of yellow hearts leading from her bed to the "Birthday table". Yellow is her current favorite color, so I covered the table with a yellow playsilk, and made her a yellow felt birthday crown.  I'd LOVE to be able to afford a birthday ring or spiral, like this, but since I can't, at least for this year, I just made one out of modeling clay (it worked well, I may make one out of some type of air-dry clay so it can be permanent), and stuck birthday candles in it. For Little Bit, I used 3 yellow birthday candles and her "4" candle that we'd had for her cake. I set that on a pretty plate and had it on the table along with her presents and crown. She LOVED it all!!! 
She came downstairs and dove right into the presents. Once she'd torn through all her presents, she was ready to see what the candle ring was all about. Since her preschool curriculum is Waldorf-based, I've been reading more about Waldorf. One thing that is a part of birthdays in Waldorf schools and homes, is a "Rainbow Bridge" story. The traditional story starts with the child being an "angel, waiting to come to earth", which I wasn't comfortable with, so instead I modified it to start with a "tiny baby in a warm little nook" :) The story proceeds, personalized for the child, so in Little Bit's case, I mentioned how she wiggled alot. Then, when it was a time a "fairy whispered in her ear" that it was time, and she crossed the rainbow bridge and met her family. Typically, Waldorf schools use a large rainbow playsilk as the bridge (or might even have a wood bridge as part of their classroom), and I WOULD like to make a rainbow silk at some point (first I need to find my stash of undyed silks . . . ), but for this year, I used our large rainbow stacker, and just split the pieces up and lined them so that they formed a "path" for her to walk across. After that I lit the first candle, and said a couple quick things about when she was one, and so on for each year. When we had lit the 4 candle, she got to blow them all out. She LOVED it!! We ended up doing it at least 3 or 4 times LOL. The rest of the day continued with meals of her choice and, at her request, a trip to Target to spend her birthday money on LaLaLoopsies. 

Wednesday, Penny and the boys had invited us over to play (E was sad that he would be at the babysitter's on both actual birthdays, so we agreed to get together on the day in between). Sassy and MiniMe had told Penny about the miniature daffodils that grew wild by the creek at our old house and usually bloomed just in time for the girls' birthday. So E helped Penny pick out 3 pots of miniature daffodils to give to the girls for their birthday. They were very excited!! Penny also had a special birthday dessert ready for them. We had PLANNED to only stay until after lunch, but the kids were all playing outside so nicely that we ended up staying most of the day.

Thursday was the big girls' birthday. I did pink and purple hearts and pink & purple playsilks, and pink and purple crowns, and TEN candles on the spiral. Even though they didn't make a big deal about it, I think they enjoyed having all the same fun, Little Bit had :) 
Thursday is Piano Lesson & Errand day, so piano lesson took up part of their birthday (MiniMe was ok with that, but Sassy was rather annoyed, though I DID make a point of contacting the violin rental place that day to at least get the ball rolling on the violin lessons, STILL playing phone tag with him, sigh . . .), then we went to Chipotles for lunch, at their request. Instead of stopping to get groceries on our way home, I opted to go home first, figuring I'd have to run out on Friday to get groceries. But Rodney was working from home, so it worked out to leave them home, to play Legos all afternoon while I went back out to get groceries and such. We wrapped up the day with the supper of their choice :) 

On Friday E & J saw the girls playing outside and decided they needed to come play :) So they brought their basketballs over and all the kids played basketball and E, J and Little Bit played in the sandbox, and they all went out and threw sticks in the creek or somesuch. Since they were still here at lunchtime we decided to combine resources for lunch.

After lunch Sassy and MiniMe had to get ready for Miss Denise to pick them up to take them with her to rehearsal at the church for the Easter program.

So, Sabbath for church was an Easter program. I didn't have time to figure out "real" costumes for Sassy and MiniMe, but they used their baby wraps as headcoverings, and wore solid color dresses, and I think it worked. They passed out rocks (that everyone took up to the front as a "laying down of burdens" kind of thing, at the end), and then dismissed the rows at the end. AND it occurs to me, that I don't have any pictures yet. A friend who was already taking pictures said she'd e-mail hers to me, so I'll have them eventually :) 

Sabbath afternoon, since we hadn't seen Brian and Penny much (ha!) we went to their house for lunch, and finally went home at suppertime LOL. When the kids were all playing outside, J got out his motorized "motorcycle, and was taking Little Bit for rides on it :) 
And then, Little Bit got a turn driving :)  Once she figured out what buttons to push, she did pretty well, though she struggled abit with the concept of lifting her foot off the pedal to stop LOL. I think that smile says it all :)

And as proof that even after spending significant parts of FIVE days with Penny and the boys, on Saturday night we got home, ate supper, and Little Bit immediately asked "now can E & J come over to play?" LOL.

So, a fun week! Believe it or not we DID manage to squeeze school into the nooks and crannies of our packed week, AND do a relatively good job of keeping up on chores.