Thursday, June 27, 2013

Book Review: The Christian Parenting Handbook by Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller

The Christian Parenting Handbook by Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller encourages parents to develop a biblical philosophy for parenting. It then provides 50 strategies to help follow through on your philosophy.

Each strategy is only a couple pages long, making it an ideal book for busy parents who can only find a few minutes at a time for reading.

I first "met" Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, when I was looking for SOMETHING that would help my (then) 6 year old, work through her anger and stop having frequent, violent temper tantrums over EVERYTHING. Their seminars at a homeschool convention were just what I needed to hear, and I ended up purchasing some of their CDs and we were on our way to stopping the tantrums AND (me) learning to focus on my children's hearts, not just their behavior. Ever since I've been a fan of Turansky and Millers' parenting books. So I was excited to see a new one coming out AND to be given the opportunity to review it, woo-hoo!!!

This book did NOT disappoint. Most of what it has to say is a repeat of things they've said in their other books, but I love the short-and-to-the-point way this book is laid out. It packs a TON of parenting advice into a relatively small (around 200 pages) book. This was just the reminder(s) I needed of things I've heard before, and embraced, but haven't kept up with.

Since I knew I needed to get the book read, so I could write my review, I read the book straight through. Now that I've done that, I plan to go back through and really pray about each strategy, decide how to implement it in our home, if needed, and spend some time focusing on that with my children, then move on to the next strategy.

Every Christian parent should read this book!

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

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Recipe: Chocolate Kefir Milkshake

I think this is our current favorite kefir recipe. Even the big girls (who are extremely picky about yogurt-like-substances) like this, woo-hoo!

As you may have noticed, I tend to not use real exact measurements, and this is no exception LOL.

You will need:
2 c prepared milk kefir
2 c milk
approx 4 Tbsp cocoa powder (to taste)
stevia and/or maple syrup (or other sweeteners) to taste
mint leaves
mint flavoring
vanilla extract

Freeze 2 cups prepared milk kefir (I use wide mouth pint mason jars. Make sure to use wide mouth for 2 reasons, first, and most importantly, the wide mouth jars are marked as being ok to use in the freezer, the regular mouth are not, for good reason, the smaller mouth means as the liquid expands the jar is more likely to crack.  Additionally, you need to be able to remove the kefir while it's frozen, since the mouth of the wide mouth jars are as wide as the rest of the jar, all you have to do is run hot water around the outside of the jar to loosen the kefir and it will slide right out. Alternately, you could freeze the kefir in freezer zip bags or BPA-free plastic containers.

Once your kefir is frozen, you're ready to make your milkshake. If you're using fresh mint leaves, put these in first. Pop the frozen kefir out of it's container into your blender (my blender isn't top of the line but it IS listed as being ok for ice, make sure you're using a blender that can handle a big chunk of frozen stuff), then add 2 cups of milk (because I'm lazy this way, I just pour milk into the jar I popped the kefir out of and use that as my "measure"). Add cocoa powder (I use a generous 4 Tbsp, but we like REALLY dark chocolate around here, I'd say start with less, it's easy enough to add more) and a little sweetener (I usually use stevia, so a few drops to start with). Now blend it all up. I usually have to stop a time or two and push the big chunk of kefir down into the milkshake so it all gets blended up.

Taste, and adjust the cocoa, sweetener, and other flavors, if using, to taste.

My kids like a thick milkshake, and this is usually abit too "melted" for them at this point (the starting point recipe I read called for ice cubes, but even though my blender says it will do ice, I try to not test the theory too often, so this is my way around that). At this point I put the blender pitcher in the freezer for however long my kids will leave it alone before they drive me batty asking "is it ready yet?".

When it's time to serve, I pull it out of the freezer, blend it again briefly, and pour it into cups.

The leftovers, I pour into popsicle molds and freeze the same way I do the Orange Cream Kefir Popsicles.

I'm linking up to Try a New Recipe Tuesday at Home to 4 Kiddos

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Blog Improvements!

Today I needed to find one of my older reviews to check something, and I realized that I have written a LOT of reviews, and unless you know what word to search for, it's not real easy to FIND specific reviews, and it is most definitely NOT user friendly to just browse and see what all we've reviewed over the last few years. So, I decided to make a "directory" of sorts of all our homeschool reviews.

If you'll look up at the top, you'll see that I now have THREE tabs up there. "Home", that's where all my posts are. "Recipes", which is a "directory" of the recipes I've posted, and now . . . drum-roll please . . . Reviews! Again, a "directory" of all my homeschool reviews. It's not super fancy, or anything, but it at least gives you a way to see what we've reviewed and find the reviews.

Hopefully this will be helpful to someone as they plan for next school year :)

Weekly Wrap-Up - June 24

Hiking at Hawk Mountain
Last week can be summed up in one word . . . campmeeting! :)

But for the more detailed approach . . .

Sunday, actually there are no kids' meetings during the day on Sunday. There's a waterslide in the afternoon, but since that's just entertainment, not enrichment, I'm not real excited to go sit up there while the kids do that. This year, we spent Sunday going to IKEA to get shelves to finish off the girls' bed. They are really happy with the way it turned out, I'll have to remember to take a picture of it (when they're not sleeping in it)!

Monday was back to campmeeting (well, actually the big girls had a meeting Sunday evening, so they (and my parents) headed back then). Family Worship was a hit as always. Interestingly, while Little Bit was often abit restless during it, she was excited to go each day. Monday we happened to sit right in front of a lovely woman (whose name I never caught) who Little Bit immediately bonded with. The rest of the week Little Bit made sure we sat in front of "my friend" and was excited to see her each day. The excitement seemed to be mutual :)

Hawk Mountain Lookout
During song service there's always one song when the children are all invited to come up front to help sing, Little Bit really got into going up with her sisters this year. I was sitting too far back to get any pictures, but the "photographers" for the PA Conference facebook page got a few. Here's a link to one (I hope that works, if you're my friend on fb, it should, but I don't pretend to understand facebook stuff LOL).

Monday morning I insisted that Little Bit give her meeting another try. Which she did, without complaint, and participated for the most part, but the rest of the time, I left the choice to her, and she chose to not attend any more meetings.

The big girls enjoyed their meetings, as always, and were thrilled to have a chance to learn archery in the afternoons (they enjoyed archery 2 years ago, and were disappointed when it wasn't an option last year). They also got to go swimming with their class a couple times and while they said the pool was COLD, they seemed to have fun.

Let me just look at my map . . . at Hawk Mountain
Evening meetings (for the big girls) included some typical "playground" games that they've never been exposed to since we're not real big on organized sports. MiniMe was pretty frustrated that the "instructions" on how to play kickball were "it's like baseball only you kick the ball". That's not very helpful for a kid who also doesn't know the rules of baseball LOL. But they seemed to figure it out at least enough to survive :)

Little Bit's week can pretty much be summarized as spending every available minute at the swings :)

I was proud of her though. One morning when we went to the swings, there was trash all over on the grass in that area (apparently some group had used it the afternoon/evening before and not bothered to clean up after themselves). Without any prompting, she said "we need to clean this mess up!" and we proceeded to spend the next half hour or so picking up trash, all at her initiative :)

The big girls have declared that Junior (age 10-12) crafts are WAY better than Primary (age 7-9) crafts, but that Primary has better songs LOL. They thoroughly enjoyed the more challenging crafts, that resulted in a useful, pretty end product :)

Fish tanks at Cabela's
There's a Cabela's sporting goods store right down the road from the campus where campmeeting is held. So one afternoon while the big girls were busy with their activities I took Little Bit over to see the taxidermy animal displays. She enjoyed it, but was sad that the animals had died :) Such a sweetie!

One evening I was feeling lazy so instead of cooking supper I took the girls to Taco Bell, which is conveniently close by. As I was waiting in line to order, Miss Linda came in! She and Pastor Mike moved away about a year ago, and they have been much missed! When Sassy and MiniMe heard that Miss Linda was going to be at campmeeting. She agreed to come up and fill in and do some seminars for someone who had to cancel last minute. Yay!!! Every day, the girls asked "when can we see Miss Linda" but when I'd checked with her early in the week, she'd said she was swamped, getting ready for her seminars, and would hopefully have time later in the week, so I told the girls we weren't going to bother her, she'd let us know when she had time :) And now, thanks to my laziness, we'd run into her at Taco Bell! Woo-hoo. I suspect she used time she really didn't have to come sit and eat with us, but we sure appreciated it! Little Bit didn't remember Miss Linda, but instantly re-bonded with her.  I have declared that evening to be proof that sometimes laziness DEFINITELY pays!

When I got to the motorhome after church on Sabbath, MiniMe was rather annoyed. There had been some questions/answers in their class and Sassy had answered a couple questions (after raising her hand and being called on), and then both of them raised their hands to answer another question and the teacher said that "you girls" had answered enough questions, and should let someone else have a chance. I think that might be the first time that they experienced that blatant a "lumping together" and MiniMe was NOT amused!

Sabbath there weren't any kids' meetings in the afternoon, so we ate a quick lunch and went hiking at Hawk Mountain. That's where most of the pictures in this post were taken.

The first thing that struck us all when we got there was the cicadas! We didn't see very many, but we sure could HEAR them! We saw a few so at least the girls can say they saw the 17 year cicadas.

We all hiked up the first (easy) little ways. There weren't as many hawks (etc) soaring around as there were last time we were there, but it was a gorgeous day and the lookouts were still breathtaking! Once the path went from "walking" to climbing over rocks, we used the excuse that Rodney wouldn't have time to get to the top and back before he had to go work his shift at "Information" at campmeeting, and Rodney, Little Bit, my mom (because that was the only way we could convince Little Bit to come with us) and I turned back. We went to the nature center there for a little while, and then visited the native plants garden. There were a BUNCH of little frogs hiding in the lilypads in the pond there, so Little Bit had fun seeing how many she could spot :)

Meanwhile Papa and MiniMe and Sassy headed on up to the North Lookout. Even Papa was worn out when they made it back, but the girls loved it :)

Saturday night was the end of campmeeting. Rodney was working Information, Little Bit and I headed home, and the big girls and my parents headed to their (respective) meetings.

After the meeting one of the people who'd been working in Juniors all week called Sassy and MiniMe aside and thanked them for being some of the most well-behaved kids in that department this year. This Mama's proud! And glad to know that even if they seem to lay awake nights thinking of ways to test MY patience, they are still "good kids" for other people :)

So that was our week, and Campmeeting 2013.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Recipe: Orange Cream Kefir Popsicles

Last week I shared how we make milk kefir, and promised that I'd add some of the ways we use that kefir soon, so here's what I do most often. Why? Because it's quick and easy and Little Bit loves them! The big girls aren't as impressed with these, but the things they like involve the blenders and such, so this is still my go-to recipe :)

You will need:

-  finished milk kefir
-  frozen orange juice concentrate
-  stevia drops (plain, vanilla, or orange flavor)
-  popsicle molds (I LOVE these)
- plastic or wood spoon

Now you're ready to get started. Honestly, I'm not sure if, at this point, the whole "no metal" thing matters, but just in case, I go ahead and use a plastic spoon to stir this.

This is very much a "to taste" kind of recipe. I start by adding a couple big spoonfuls of orange juice concentrate and a few drops of stevia to the kefir, stir it all up, taste it, and add more orange juice concentrate and/or stevia until it tastes yummy!

If Little Bit's around I let her do the taste testing, and usually give her at least one glass as a "milkshake" (that's the jar (we use those for cups) and straw in the above picture), the rest gets poured into popsicle molds and frozen.

I've found that it works best to put the popsicles in a glass mug in the freezer, it keeps them upright until they're frozen, and the glass seems to help them freeze (I tried putting them in a sour cream container one time and the plastic seemed to keep them from freezing as fast, but that might have been all in my head).

Once they're frozen, Little Bit happily eats 2-4 per day and I'm thrilled to know she's getting plenty of great probiotics without any added "gunk", or the expense of store bought kefir and/or popsicles :)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Crew Review: Baker Publishing Group

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We live in Pennsylvania. Each week we go to an Amish (or Mennonite?) farm to buy raw milk and free range eggs. I don't think we've ever gone to the farm without seeing at least one horse and buggy on the roads. Even the Walmart near that farm has hitching posts! One of my favorites is in the spring when we go past fields where the farmer's plowing with a team of horses. . . Somehow none of it ever gets old. It fascinates my girls, AND me! So when Baker Publishing Group asked members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew to review Life with Lily and A New Home for Lily, the first two books in a series about a little girl, growing up Old Order Amish, I was THRILLED. Oh wait, they're supposed to be for the kids aren't they? Well, don't worry, Sassy and MiniMe were thrilled too.

 photo lifewithlily_zpsc0af8377.jpgThese books are the stories of Lily Lapp, a little girl, being raised Old Order Amish. In the first book, she lives in New York and her adventures include a new baby brother, starting school, and much more.  In the second book, she moves to Pennsylvania and gets settled into a new house, new school, and new community.

One of the authors, Mary Ann Kinsinger was raised Old Order Amish. After she and her husband chose to leave the Amish church, she started a blog, A Joyful Chaos where, among other things, she shares stories of her life, growing up Amish. These stories, things that actually happened to her, while growing up Amish, are the basis for most of the things that happen in the Lily Lapp books. She has changed the names, and the order that things happened, and some other details, but most of the things in these books really did happen.

I was surprised at how long these books were, we used the FULL review period to read the two books, but we loved every minute of it!! And the girls are excitedly playing games on the Adventures of Lily Lapp website in hopes of winning the 3rd book :)

All 3 of us thoroughly enjoyed the books, and we learned alot about what life is like for a child growing up Amish.  One thing that I noticed, there were a few things, that my girls expressed surprise about, that would have been typical, even for the "English" (that's the rest of us), when I was growing up. So I wonder if some of these things are because the story is about the life of a little girl who is now an adult. For example, it talks about them , riding in the neighbor's car without carseats (for the little ones). I would think that NOW, they would be required to comply with the state's carseat laws, same as the rest of us, but when I was a child, there weren't carseat laws, so that wouldn't have been an issue.

 photo anewhomeforlily_zps899a6825.jpg There were also a few places where I noticed inaccuracies or inconsistencies. At one point, they pick ripe plums in June, when plums don't ripen until Aug/Sept.  I also noticed that the layout of the house the bought in PA, changes between the two books. The first book describes the house as having both bedrooms upstairs, but the second book describes the house as having her parents' room on the main floor, and apparently only the one bedroom upstairs. This kind of thing only bugs, or is noticed by, super picky people like me. And certainly wouldn't keep me from reading the books, they're awesome! I was surprised, right along with the girls, at some of the things the Amish are, and are not, allowed to do. It's fascinating!!!

The books are available for $12.99 each.  The suggested age range is 8-12, but honestly, I would happily read these books just for myself, so perhaps 8 and up would be better, hee hee. I think Sassy and MiniMe would have enjoyed these books starting more around age 6, and our 6 year old neighbor boy, E, caught a chapter or so when I was reading to the girls while all the kids worked on an art project. While I think the book(s) are too long to have kept his attention for the whole thing, he seemed to enjoy the chapter he heard. The Lily Lapp website even includes coloring pages which would work well to help keep a younger child's attention during read aloud time.

When we finished reading these books, I asked the girls what their "review" was, to which MiniMe replied "Great!" when I pointed out that my review needed to be a little bit longer then that, she said, "fine. then just write "great, great,great,great, great,great . . ." LOL.

All in all, this would make a great family read-aloud for all ages! And can spark some fun discussions about the ways the Amish are the same, and different, from the "English" (that's us!).

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


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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Weekly Wrap-Up - June 16

How in the WORLD is June half over already? For that matter, how is it JUNE already? Sigh . . . life moves too fast . . .

So anyway, our week . . .

Sunday we did school and played outside and . . . I guess that was it, because I don't remember anything else about the day LOL.

Monday we watched E & J all day. It was a rainy day, which adds a challenge since this house doesn't lend itself to wild indoor play and that many children not able to get the big wiggles out is . . . challenging. But God is AWESOME and stopped the rain right on schedule for our morning outside time, and again for a few short breaks in the afternoon.

One of the challenges of watching them all day is that J still normally naps, but I don't really have anywhere I can put him down for a nap. So we've just been doing an afternoon "quiet time" where all 3 littles watch a tv show so they at least get some "veg time". My hope was that he, and sometimes, Little Bit ,would fall asleep while watching tv, but it never happened. BUT, around 5:00, the littles were watching Magic Schoolbus and I walked through the room and saw this :)

Actually when I first walked through, Little Bit and E were on the sofa too, but then the tv show was over and they went off to play.

Monday evening my parents came up, so that on Tuesday we could take their motorhome over to campmeeting. Thankfully Monday's rain was (mostly) over, and we were able to get the motorhome parked and set up without too much trouble. Then we went over to play on the swings there for a little while before heading home. The swings are "old" and go much higher than the swings at most playgrounds, so all 3 girls enjoyed it :)

There were still big puddles under the swings from all the rain, but we worked around it.

Wednesday was uneventful. We did school and got things ready for campmeeting and just kind of had a laid back day :)

Thursday was music lessons and errands. I think, with the realization that campmeeting meant missing a violin lesson, Sassy ALMOST considered skipping at least that one day of campmeeting LOL. She didn't do it, but it was a close call for her :) I love that the girls are loving their music so much!!

Rodney's project on Friday was mowing. When Mom and Dad came up to take the motorhome over to campmeeting earlier in the week, they also brought us an extra riding lawn mower from their house, for us to use since our lawn here is abit much for a push mower, though it's good exercise LOL. BUT something wasn't working right. Rodney and our neighbor, Brian, spent a good part of Friday figuring it out, but finally did, and Rodney got the whole yard (on this side of the creek) mowed, including the really overgrown area behind the garage that he hadn't bothered to attempt with the push mower.

Friday afternoon, while Rodney was mowing, the girls and I headed up to campmeeting, got the big girls, and Mama and Papa all settled into the motorhome, ate supper with them, then they headed off to meetings and Little Bit and I headed home.

Sabbath Little Bit and I headed back up to campmeeting for Sabbath School and church. This year she's in Kindergarten, though I haven't moved her at our church. I wasn't sure how she'd do with it, and I'm still not. She wasn't overly impressed with it for Sabbath School and church, but that's a LONG program (3 hours) and there were more kids, so alot of time was spent just kind of managing kids, which meant some "boring" time for kids who were already managed (since I was with her, I could quickly get her, and keep her, sitting in her seat when they asked, then significant time was spent as the leader and helpers tried to get the kids whose parents weren't there (for Kindergarten (age 4-6) campmeeting, parents can drop their kids off/pick them up, or stay with) to sit down, as asked) . . . when we first left church, she said she wasn't going to any more meetings. And had no interest in going to her afternoon meeting (which I didn't push, since, while she rarely naps, she DOES still get  . . .less adaptable . . . late in the afternoon so a 3:45 meeting seemed like not a good idea unless she REALLY wanted to go to it). But that evening as we were getting ready to head home and the big girls were getting ready to head to their evening meeting, she asked about going to her meeting and I had to tell her she didn't have another meeting until Monday, so we shall see how Monday goes. The big girls are now in Juniors, and are loving it as much as ever :)

My other project throughout the week was putting together Sassy and MiniMe's third grade portfolios, ready to send into the state. I don't send any originals just in case they were to get lost in the mail or something, so my challenge is always how to include samples of art. So far my solution has been to lay out a sampling of each girls' art and take a picture. Last year I printed and included that picture in their portfolio. This year our color ink is wonky on the printer, so I just included a link to the pictures. But thought I'd also include the pictures here so you can see a brief sampling of their art (not necessarily their "best" more like, what I could lay my hands on quickly when I was ready to take the picture LOL).



Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Recipe: Milk Kefir

This post contains affiliate links.

This is more of a "how to" rather than a recipe as such, but I have a couple recipes that I'd like to share that use milk kefir, so I figured the logical first step is with making milk kefir.

Milk kefir is similar to a thin yogurt, only it has even MORE probiotics then most (if not all?) types of yogurt! You can purchase it in some grocery stores, usually in the "health food" section, sometimes in the regular yogurt section. It's the consistency of a thick drink, and usually flavored. Last winter I started buying it sometimes for Little Bit and she LOVED it. But, of course, just like yogurt, the store-bought, flavored variety has sugar and other added "stuff" in it. And it's kind of pricey, given that she happily drank several glasses per day. BUT . . . especially during "cold and flu season" I was thrilled to be getting plenty of good probiotics into her. Sassy and MiniMe were not fans, however.

As soon as I confirmed that Little Bit loved kefir, I wanted to start making it from scratch BUT at that point we were up to our chins in house hunting and moving and all that fun stuff.

Once we had moved into our new house and were at least somewhat settled, I was finally able to order kefir grains.

Now this part is kind of confusing, kefir isn't a grain, and kefir grains don't grow in a field like wheat or barley . . . the kefir grains are the culture itself. If you've ever looked at a container of yogurt, it almost always (I've never seen one that doesn't, but there might be one, I can't imagine why though!) mentions that it contains "live cultures".  That's the stuff that turns the milk into yogurt. It's also what makes yogurt so healthy. In the case of yogurt it's itty bitty tiny, can't see it, kind of stuff. It's spread all through the yogurt and to make more yogurt you (simplifying here, because this is a post about making kefir, not yogurt) stir a little bit of the yogurt into milk and let it sit and the culture grows and spreads all through the milk and it becomes yogurt.  Then, if you just wanted that batch of yogurt, you eat it. If you want more yogurt, you make sure to save some of the newly made yogurt to add to more milk to make more yogurt, and so the cycle continues.

Kefir is different. The cultures, instead of being microscopic, are about half the size of a grain of rice, and you keep re-using those same cultures.

So, the first step was to purchase kefir grains (alternately, if you have a friend who makes kefir, check and see if they have extra grains, they do multiply over time). I purchased mine from Cultures for Health (it's also important to have a not-metal strainer, so I chose to purchase the Milk Kefir Starter Kit which comes with the strainer). If you purchase kefir grains they will most likely be dehydrated, and will come with directions for rehydrating. If you beg them off a (local) friend, they'll be all ready to go.

Once you have hydrated kefir grains, you're ready to start making kefir. You will need:
  • kefir grains
  • fresh milk (raw, pasteurized, I believe you can use non-dairy milks as well, but I haven't tried)
  • a clean glass jar with a non-metal lid (or a clean coffee filter and rubber band to use as a lid)
  • a non-metal spoon and strainer
Now you're ready to make kefir:
  • Place the kefir grains in the clean jar, add milk (I usually do a quart at a time, the higher the grains to milk ratio, the faster it will culture. When mine starts culturing too fast for my liking, I divide the cultures, more on that in a bit). 
  • Cover with a non-metal lid, or a coffee filter held in place with a rubber band.
  • Place the jar on the counter (or somewhere else that's room-temperature and you won't forget about it)
  • Let it sit there for a day or two, checking it occasionally.
  • When it starts to get thick, it's done. If the whey (thin clearish liquid) starts to separate out, it's very done.
  • Strain the kefir through the strainer. This step baffled me at first, because I assumed I could POUR it through. Not so. It's too thick for that. There are various options, but what works best for me is to make sure my hands are very clean, and then use my fingers to work the kefir through the strainer. 
  • Now you have 2 things. You have the kefir grains in the strainer. Add them to milk in a clean jar and start over again. And you have the finished kefir. 
You can do many things with the finished kefir. Our current favorites are orange cream popsicles and chocolate milkshakes. Recipes coming soon :)

Despite the fact that it's no longer Tuesday, I'm linking up to Try a New Recipe Tuesday at Home to 4 Kiddos

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Weekly Wrap-Up - June 9

We had a busy week. Penny was working all week, so we watched E & J Mon, Wed, and half day on Friday. 

The kids all get along great (most of the time), and have figured out how all 3 littles can play together on the seesaw :)

They also spend lots of time riding bikes and playing in the creek and such.

The insect unit we've been doing has been soo much fun! Hard to believe it's almost over, though I think the next unit will be fun too.

I had never received the results from the standardized tests that the girls took in April, AND nobody responded at all to the e-mail I sent in May. So I finally remembered and found time to call the testing place on Tuesday (I tend to think of things like this at midnight or thereabouts which isn't very helpful). They were able to e-mail me the results that same day, so we finally could see how the girls did. As I had told the girls was likely, I chose not to tell them their scores. We have enough issues with competition as it is, and I see no reason for this to be one more area where one feels superior and one feels inferior because of different numbers. BUT we did tell the girls some general information. They both had their lowest score in language mechanics and they both had the highest scores in math concepts and applications, with language comprehension close behind. So . . . basically they're great at applying and comprehending information but not as "good" at the rote memorization stuff that I've never asked them to memorize. I'm happy with that!! Their overall scores were 76% and 93% respectively, so while very different, neither of them is anything to sneeze at! Considering we have not in any way "taught to the test" or even attempted to make sure they have learned things that are typically taught in 3rd grade :) 

Wednesday afternoon, the girls decided to rearrange their room abit and set up their American Girl dolls (and Little Bit's Dora doll and LaLaLoopsies) in the corner instead of the dollhouse and stuffed animals (the dollhouse and stuffed animals are still sitting in the school room waiting for me to make time to put them in the attic storage area) the boys decided it sounded like fun to help so all 5 kids spent a good part of the afternoon working on that. Eventually J started just getting into stuff, so I brought him downstairs and read him stories for the last little while, but overall it worked surprisingly well, and the girls love having their dolls set up again.

Wednesday evening, Penny and another friend, Denise came over to watch Master Chef with the girls and me, it made for a late night for the girls since Master Chef was 2 hours long, but we all had fun :) 

Thursday the girls had their year-end homeschool evaluations. We are so incredibly blessed to have an evaluator who loves the girls and is 100% on board with our hands-on, organic way of learning. The girls excitedly told her about things they were learning, and Sassy gushed about Life of Fred math. Little Bit, not to be outdone, took Miss Karin upstairs to show off their doll corner :) 

Sabbath afternoon we headed to Great Valley Nature Center. Awhile back I purchased a Groupon deal that gave us a membership to Great Valley Nature Center, and reciprocal benefits to various other nature centers and science museums, so Sabbath we finally headed over there to check it out. It's small, but was great!! Not busy, the woman there seemed to enjoy telling us about things, and answering the girls' gazillions of questions as much as they enjoyed asking them. She let the girls hold and pet some of the animals and pulled others, like the legless lizard out for them to see up close. 

As we were walking around the grounds, after visiting the nature center, we saw this tiny baby painted turtle in the grass.  I told the girls to go get the lady from the nature center, and she came down and confirmed that it was a painted turtle (I couldn't think of the exact name, but knew it was something like that), and was no more than a couple days old. She let the girls pick it up (that's MiniMe holding it in the picture) and then suggested they carry it over closer to the pond to let it go so it wouldn't get stepped on. 

We also saw TONS of tadpoles and several frogs at the pond and in the wetlands near the pond we saw a baby snapping turtle not much bigger then the painted turtle. It hid back in the brush before I could get a picture though (and we didn't pick it up LOL). 

So, it was a great day! We'll definitely be heading back to visit again! 

And that was our week! 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Crew Review: Christianity Cove

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As you may have noticed, if you've been reading my blog regularly, our neighbors, E and J have been joining us for school some of the time. When we decided it would be fun for them to join us a few days a week, I realized that I needed to change from the "girls-only" Bible curriculum we were using, and as I flipped through my resources, came across a variety of "Fruit of the Spirit" resources that I figured would be simple enough for the younger kids but still hold the attention of, and be educational for, Sassy and MiniMe. About the same time, Christianity Cove came up as a possible review product, and I noticed that one of the options was (warning: if you're like me and don't like it when you click on a link and it starts talking or otherwise makes noise, be aware that the following link does talk to you when you click it) the Fruits of the Spirit Activity Kit, so I figured everything would fit together nicely.

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Once I received this product (a .pdf download), I discovered that it is all very "high level", addressing the fruits of the spirit as a whole and, it felt like, assuming the children already have a basic understanding of what the fruits are, collectively and individually. So, for our main Bible time we've been going through and talking about one "fruit" each week, coloring pictures, reading stories that highlight that character trait, etc. And then we've pulled ideas from the Fruits of the Spirit Activity Kit to supplement that.

This product is designed to be used in a Sunday School setting for children age 4-12. It's also designed to be a complete "script" so that teachers can read it word-for-word if they want. The kit includes object lessons, games, crafts, snacks, worksheets, a science experiment, and a song.

One of the first things I noticed, as I read through the activities, was that some of the "supplies lists" are either missing things, or completely wrong. In at least one case, the supplies list at the top of one activity is actually for one of the OTHER activities.  So I'd recommend reading through everything in advance.

As I read through the ideas in this kit, I found most weren't a good fit for us. For one thing, we tend to not be very "normal". The suggestion of making popsicles by putting chunks of fruit in water or juice (and freezing it in popsicle mold) is great, but then the "object lesson" breaks down, when it compares these "healthy" popsicles to "regular" popsicles. That doesn't work for kids who normally eat popsicles that are kefir and fruit sweetened with stevia. My kids would have just looked at me blankly if I'd suggested that popsicles aren't healthy. . . My very literal children, would also not have been ok with an object lesson that involved planting apple seeds and then NOT following through to actually GROW the apple trees . . .

Everything ready for our object lesson
One object lesson that we did use involved comparing and contrasting grapes (still on a "vine") to raisins, and talking about the verses in the Bible that say "I am the vine, you are the branches . . ." I found I needed to do some rather major editing to the script however. The script starts with discussing meanings of the term "fruitful" and uses examples that even my 10 year olds would not have heard of before, such as "The company had a fruitful first quarter"  This could have led to a whole economics lesson for my 10 year olds, but that would have taken us way off subject AND completely lost the interest of the littler ones, my 4 year old and our neighbors, E (6) and J (3).  

As the lesson progresses and the raisins are compared, the script suggests that raisins "lack nutrients" and "man has added preservatives" this is simply NOT TRUE! Even the cheap, generic grocery store raisins are JUST DRIED GRAPES! Most OTHER dried fruit has at least a little something extra added so the fruit doesn't discolor, and I'm sure if I'd hunted long enough I could have found a brand of raisins that have added preservatives, but raisins are a HEALTHY snack, and are, in most cases, preservative free! What I found frustrating about this was it meant I felt the need to "fact check" anything and everything that was presented in this kit, and, in fact, is the reason I didn't even attempt the, rather cool-sounding, science lesson, I simply didn't have the time to do the research I felt I would have to do to confirm that the scientific information was accurate, and I wasn't comfortable presenting it without verification.

Enjoying their fruit of the spirit snack
 The other "editing" that I attempted, was the idea presented that non-Christians aren't "as good" as Christians (the wording in the script is "Just like raisins takes okay, people of the world can be 'okay' . . . But separated from the vine, they are different. They're just not quite as good as grapes, are they?"  I have talked to my kids a LOT about not judging others, not telling others they must believe as we believe, but simply letting our lives be our "witness". The LAST lesson I want to teach my children is that we are better than others because we love Jesus! It is important to love Jesus, and serve Him, but that does not make us "holier than thou". So I did some rather major editing to the sections that presented this idea, even with my editing, focusing on how if *we* separate from the vine *we* will shrivel up like raisins, the message I was trying to avoid still came through, ever since, when I serve raisins or grapes for snacks, E asks for "bad people" or "good people" depending on which he wants, sigh . . .

The stated age range for this was 4-12. The above described object lesson was the one I thought was most likely to appeal to Little Bit (4) and J (while J is 3 1/2, I would put him at the level of most 4 yr olds as far as comprehension), they enjoyed making the snack, but the object lesson went over their heads completely. Sassy was busy with something else and unable to join us for this, but while MiniMe didn't dislike it, she didn't "learn from it" either. This object lesson seemed to work well for E (6).  Of more concern to me, when it comes to age range, is that some of the other activities focus on the verses that are right before the "fruit" verses, which list the acts of the flesh (listed in Galatians 5:19-21), call me a prude, but these aren't words that I would want my 4 year old, even my 10 yr olds, introduced to at Sunday School. Nor would I want to, as a teacher, address these with such young children. Obviously this could probably, again, be tweaked, but honestly, by the time you do all the tweaking that I'm finding necessary, I have a hard time seeing the benefit of purchasing the curriculum for $19 vs. writing your own.

I didn't find this to be a good fit for us, as homeschoolers, and while I can usually see where a different style of homeschooler would be excited about the product, I'm struggling with this one. The one "unknown" for me, is that I'm not sure how closely the children's classes at our church mirror those of other churches. I was raised in our denomination and have never really visited other denominations' children's classes. So, perhaps with tweaking it would work well for Sunday School? I can't really speak to that . . . this is only one of MANY products that members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew were given the chance to review from this vendor, so be sure to check out the other reviews to see what other products are available and to get other bloggers' opinion of this product. 


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Monday, June 3, 2013

Weekly Wrap-up - June 3

We had a good, if HOT week this past week.

Sunday we headed home from Mama and Papa's house.

I have to admit I'm drawing a complete blank on what we did Monday and Tuesday, so I guess it was just school as usual.

Wednesday was when the weather started to get HOT again. AND, on Wednesday, Penny had to work, so E & J were with us all day. We were continuing to learn about ladybugs, so for snacktime we made ladybugs.

The kids had fun with it, and it's a tasty, and healthy snack :) The picture below is of all 5 of them enjoying their ladybug snacks.

 By afternoon it was pretty hot outside, still bearable inside with the fans going, but the kids happily spent the last couple hours out in the creek.

That evening, my parents arrived. They brought the motorhome up, so it would be closer-by to take up to campmeeting (and so they'd have an air-conditioned place to stay for the couple days they were here LOL), and came so Dad could help us figure out what we wanted for window a/c units, and get them installed.

Thursday morning as I was coming back from my morning walk there was SOMETHING in the road in front of our house, but I couldn't figure out what it was until I got closer. When I got closer it was a BIG turtle. I wasn't sure if it was a snapping turtle or something else, but I knew it wasn't a box turtle. And I knew that I didn't want it to get smooshed right in front of our house, so I didn't want to leave it in the road. But I also didn't want to pick it up, not knowing what kind of turtle it was (plus it was all slimy/muddy). Conveniently my dad had apparently bumped the trunk button for his car so the trunk was ajar, and there was an empty plastic bag in the trunk. I decided to use that and come up behind the turtle to pick it up and move it off the road. It wiggled a LOT when I picked it up, so I just kind of tossed it into the grass (I don't do "critters" very well LOL). Then I went in to wake up the girls (it was close to the time they usually wake up anyway) and called Penny in case she wanted to bring the boys over to see it. E was still asleep, but she brought J over. I should have taken the picture before I moved it off the road, you could see it alot better on the road, and it's spiny tail was spread out then instead of tucked under, but I didn't think about it. There's a decent sized drainage ditch across the road from us, so I'm assuming that's where he lives. I was kind of concerned that, with him pointing toward the road, he'd go right back out in the road and still get hit, but when we went out to leave for music lessons a couple hours later he was gone, and not splatted in the road, so either he headed off in some other direction, or was successful in crossing the road.

Rodney said he thought it was a snapping turtle, and the girls googled for pictures and confirmed it, so we've now warned the kids to stay away from any turtles they might see while playing in the creek.

Thursday was a busy day of music lessons and a/c shopping, but by that evening we had an a/c unit in the girls' room. We had hoped that putting a unit upstairs, since heat rises, would be enough to cool the downstairs too, but it wasn't, so Friday Dad put a 2nd unit in the master bedroom. The 2 units are working nicely to keep the house comfortable.

Friday morning while Dad was working on the a/c, Rodney went out to mow the lawn, but MiniMe wanted to mow, so this is how Rodney "mowed" the lawn LOL. Meanwhile Sassy was busy playing with the little ones. Mama and MiniMe did a bunch of weeding as well.

Friday evening was the girls' recital. Sassy was SOOOOOOOO excited about her first recital LOL.

MiniMe was much more nonchalant about it all this time around. Both girls did well, individually and their duet. I wasn't sitting in a good spot to get pictures, but did manage to get one sort of ok picture of each of them.

So that was our week :)