Friday, August 30, 2013

Book Review: Look Left, Look Right, Look Left Again by Ginger Pate

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Most of our review products are, understandably, for the older girls. After all, they're the ones who are school-age, and we ARE reviewing mostly homeschool products. So when the package from Greene Bark Press got to our house and I told Little Bit that it was for HER! She was very excited!

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Look Left, Look Right, Look Left Again by Ginger Pate is an adorable board book to help children, age 3-8, learn about crossing the street safely.

In this adorable little story, Wally Waddlewater's mother helps him learn to cross the street safely by teaching him to "Look left, look right, make sure the cars, are out of sight. Then, look left again."  As the story progresses, in addition to cars, he has to wait for trucks, buses, and even an elephant to move out of sight before crossing the street.

As soon as Little Bit heard the package was for her, we, naturally, had to read it IMMEDIATELY! She enjoyed it, but, not one to sit still long, moved on to other things.

Later, I walked into the living room to find her sitting in the recliner, "reading" the book to herself.  Of course, by the time I grabbed my camera, she had noticed and, instead of a nice, candid, picture of her reading, I got this:

Why yes, she IS, a four-year-old, why do you ask? LOL.  With some coaxing, I got this picture:

but could NOT convince her to stage a picture of her actually "reading" the book, sigh . . .

Over the last several weeks, she's asked me to read it several more times, which is pretty high praise, considering how many books we have in this house, only the best of the best get requested for repeat reading! And perhaps even more telling, as we were walking to the neighbors' house a few days after the first reading, when we got ready to cross the street, without prompting she said "Look left, look right, make sure the elephants are out of sight" so obviously the message had sunk in!

Now in reality, she's always been good about crossing the street, but still, she's enjoying the book, and the message obviously is easy for little kids to remember :)

If you're wanting to teach your preschooler to cross the street safely, this little book would be a great resource.  I do feel that the upper age limit of 8 is unrealistic. I think 6 is probably about the oldest that my older girls would have found this book entertaining, and even then, they might have found it abit too "babyish", but they had also learned to look both ways before that age, so perhaps if a child was still struggling with that concept, they might find the book helpful?

This book is available for $8.50.

Check out what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought of this book by clicking the banner below:


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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Day in Our Chaotic Life

This week's Not-Back-to-School Blog Hop is Day-in-the-Life Week.

No two days in our life are the same, but here's a glimpse of what our Sunday was like this week.  Several years ago, when my husband's job changed, and he often works Sundays, but theoretically has a day off some other time during the week, so at that point, we opted to consider Sunday the same as a "week day" and then, if Daddy was home some other day and we wanted to do other things, we could.

One other bit of information before we get started, our neighbor, E joins us for school 4 days a week, including Sunday, and his little brother, J, comes over for outside time and snack. So, with those disclaimers, here's a "tour" of our day . . .

We get up, get dressed, do a few morning chores, and eat breakfast. Breakfast is generally kind of "fend for yourself", there's toast, yogurt, usually kefir popsicles, anyone can cook themselves and egg . . . in this case, we had some ripe bananas so Ashlyn's making her favorite breakfast, banana pancakes (mash a ripe banana, mix in 2 eggs, and fry like pancakes).

By the time breakfast is over, and (hopefully) cleaned up, it's usually pretty close to 9:00, which is when E comes over for school.  Once E gets here, we head upstairs to our school room for the first part of our school day. (once in a great while, we actually get breakfast done, and the kitchen cleaned up and have extra time before E gets here, in that case, the girls either play outside, or I sneak in some extra read-aloud time with the big girls).

We being school with circle time.  Little Bit and E join me in a circle, of sorts, in one corner of the school room. The big girls sit off to the sides working on independent school work, but close enough to join us if we do anything that they deem "interesting".

I have our Circle Time poems and schedule in Evernote on my iPad. Circle time starts with a poem, and lighting a candle. Then Little Bit and E do their calendar notebooks, and we add a bead to our bead calendar.
We began the bead calendar (for Little Bit), in January. Each month we decide on a color bead for that month, and then add one bead each day (or, enough to catch up when we miss days).  After the bead calendar is another poem, then We Choose Virtues. Another poem, and the kids choose a book from our book basket. Then another poem, and prayer, ends our circle time.

After Circle time with Little Bit and E, comes Bible for the big girls and E (since E's between Little Bit and the big girls in age, he bounces between the 2 age groups depending on what we're doing.  We are using Bible Road Trip for the big kid Bible curriculum. Little Bit is welcome to join us, or play quietly in the room, or in her bedroom, or if Daddy's home, sometimes she'll go down and hang out with him.

Normally, after Bible, the kids all head outside for outside time while I hang the laundry, and prep for snack if I'm providing it (some days, E's mom brings snack over). On Sunday, before we went outside, I wanted the kids to make nature collection bags, since we were going on a nature walk during outside time. So we did "art" before we went outside. Each of the kids chose a rectangle of felt, and a color of embroidery floss, then I showed them how to fold the felt in half, and stitch up the sides to make a pocket. Once they did that, I stitched ribbon (of their choice) onto the bags for shoulder straps.

When they finished their bags, they headed outside to play, and I texted E's mom to let her know the kids were heading outside and she could bring J over. The kids rode bikes and played on the swingset (those red legs way up in the air are Little Bit, swinging on the ladder-thingy) while I hung laundry.

Once the laundry was all hung, it was time for our nature walk.  Sunday was the first day of our "autumn" preschool unit, so I had cleared off the nature table and told the kids they could find things on our nature walk to decorate the nature table for fall. I did mention that we'd only leave some things on the table for a little while and then make room for more things, which I'm glad I mentioned, because otherwise, by the end of this unit, we'd need a 6-foot-long table to hold all their treasures LOL.

After exploring the yard, we headed down the road to a nearby bridge. The kids collected sticks, acorns, rocks, and alot more fallen leaves than I expected to find this early in the season.  They had a BLAST!

Of course, when we got to the bridge, some of the "treasures" were re-purposed, and thrown into the creek to see how well they'd splash LOL.

As we headed back home, the kids detoured into E & J's yard to look for treasures there while I went on home to set up snacktime.

Since we never have a "back-to-school" per se (we school year-round), I decided starting a new preschool unit at the end of August was as close to "back to school" as we'd get, so for a fun treat, I served apples and worms.  Also on Sunday, our We Choose Virtues lesson was about "Kettle Gretel" who serves hot chocolate to her friends in her grandmother's special tea kettle, so I included mint tea in my special tea pot for snacktime as well.

After snack time, we had history read aloud, and by then it was lunchtime (on "ideal" days, we have time for math after history, but that didn't happen this time. For math, one of the big girls works with E on Life of Fred - Apples, while the other big girl does her own Life of Fred, and I do something with manipulatives or worksheets with Little Bit, and J if he's here. I had no intention to "do math" with Little Bit or J, but when everyone else has "math time" they insist that they need it too. I'm currently working to pull together what I need to introduce Waldorf math gnomes, so then I can do that with the little ones during math time, unless E wants to join us too. If he does, we'll probably do the math gnomes during circle time.). 

After lunch the girls had free time. Ashlyn had recently gotten a paint by number kit, so she settled down at the table to work on that.

Lexie practiced her violin, then I would guess that she read a book while Ashlyn practiced piano.

At 5:00, it's chore time. Everyone helped tidy up, and then Ashlyn headed outside to get the laundry off the line while Lexie swept the main floor, and I washed the dishes that hadn't fit in the dish drainer after lunch. 
After they finished those chores, it was time for Zone chores. Each day we have a different "Zone" where we do extra cleaning. On this day, they got to do their current favorite, "outside chores", they have taken over making sure the flower beds are weed free, and they take their job seriously.  You know they're doing a great job when even Daddy noticed and commented on how great the flower beds looked!

Little Bit wanted to "help" but after a little while the big girls ran out of jobs for her to do, so she came back inside.  When I cleaned out their toy closet last week, I found a princess dress-up dress that she'd forgotten she had, so she decided this afternoon would be a good time to try it on.  She had to go outside to show her sisters, and after they finished weeding, they joined in with her play. Finding a convenient stump to be her "thrown".  I believe they told me that Lexie was her "lady in waiting" and Ashlyn was her guard.

They played until I called them in for supper. After supper, they do a few final evening chores and get ready for bed and then we do a Bible lesson with the big girls, I'm working on transitioning Little Bit into have a Bible story at this time too, just figuring out the logistics. After that, Little Bit watches a TV show while I read a chapter book to the big girls, then all 3 girls head to bed.

And that's what one day looked like in our chaotic life. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Book Review: The Prayer Box by Lisa Wingate

**links in this post may be affiliate links. This means I receive a small commission on purchases made through the link, your cost is not affected**

The Prayer Box by Lisa Wingate is a novel about a young, down-on-her luck, woman, Tandi, and her 91 yr old landlord, Iola. Tandi goes to beg Iola to give her time to find rent money, and discovers the woman dead. The church that inherits Iola's property, including the cottage Tandi's staying in, asks Tandi to clean Iola's house out in liu of her rent.

As Tandi cleans, she discovers a closet full of "prayer boxes" and through the letters to God in these boxes, she gets to "know" Iola, the history of the island, AND the God who Iola loved and worshiped.

When I was younger, I read tons of fiction books "for fun". But once I had kids, my reading time decreased dramatically and in the last 10 years, I've read very few novels. But when The Prayer Box came up as an option to review from Tyndale, I decided to check it out.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. In addition to being a clean, entertaining novel, it weaves in the importance of trusting God and having an ongoing personal relationship with Him. The idea of keeping a prayer box is one I hadn't heard before, but I LOVE it!! I *have* kept prayer journals at various times, and know the value of writing prayers down, as a way to keep my focus. the Prayer Box is similar to a prayer journal, but makes it better! With a prayer box, anywhere you are, you can jot down a prayer on whatever paper is handy, and add it to your prayer box. You can include small momentos, newspaper clippings, or photos. You can use pretty stationary, or a piece of scrap paper. This is an idea I plan to use in my own life, and suggest to my daughters.

Tyndale provide me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Weekly Wrap-up August 27

I'm seriously baffled as to where this month WENT! Didn't it just start? Sigh . . .

The weather has been amazing, so we've spent as much time outside as possible. Biking and swinging and just having fun :)

This week we wrapped up our summer Waldorf preschool unit AND the fruit of the spirit lapbook we've been doing for Bible. There's always some bittersweetness with transitions . . . the kids were sad to say goodbye to our frog unit, and the seasons leaves, but they were ok with it when I pointed out that we'd be learning about NEW things starting next week (that would be today) :)

The big girls have discovered the fun of Nancy Drew Mysteries. I was looking for something else on the library website and was reminded of how much I enjoyed Nancy Drew at their age, and even better, since we have other books we're reading for bedtime, and I kinda wanted an excuse to re-read them, the library has at least some of them as audiobooks, so I got the first one and we've been listening to it in the car this week.  They are HOOKED! :)

On Wednesday evening, we got to dog sit, Rodney's co-worker's dog, Queenie. The girls had a BLAST!! and while I'm sure Queenie slept VERY WELL that night, she seemed to have fun too.

Thursday, we FINALLY had music lessons again! We had missed a full month between our trip to Boston, and their music teacher's vacation, and then me being sick last week.  Their teacher said they are still doing well, despite the break and they were THRILLED to be back to lessons.

We did manage to have abit more "free time" this week then we often do, and the big girls took advantage of that to revisit weaving.  Visiting the Lowell textile mills (national park) while we were in the Boston area, had whetted their appetite, so they dug out some looms Lexie had when she was younger, and both spent all afternoon one day weaving.  Ashlyn's other current passion is spinning. When we were in Boston she saw the drop spindles in the gift shops and was desperate to try one, and shockingly, I managed to find the ones that my dad helped me make, but then I could never figure out how to get them to work, when I did the Waldorf preschool curriculum with the big girls. I handed one to her and told her I didn't know how it works. She googled it on her iPod, and figured it out, so she's been spinning as much of my wool stash as I'll share, and loving every minute of it :)

In the summertime, our Friday night tradition, weather permitting, is to build a fire and roast hotdogs and marshmallows, with corn on the cob from a nearby farmer's stand to go with it all. This week the weather was gorgeous, AND the big girls built the fire all by themselves, and did a good job of it too.  We ended up sitting outside later than usual because the weather was so perfect, and I suppose it doesn't hurt that it is getting dark earlier too, so that made it FEEL later than it probably was. But as we sat there, we got to watch several bats swooping around our yard.  The girls had seen them one other evening when they were outside a dusk, but this time they were right up near the house and really active. We could hear their little squeaks too, so that was pretty cool.  Now the girls think we need to build a bat house :)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Schoolhouse Crew Review: Doorposts

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In our homeschooling, we've used various Doorposts products over the years, most notably, in our house full of girls, Polished Cornerstones. I've found it to be a great resource to help my girls mature as Godly young women. When we were given the opportunity to review their BRAND NEW Bible study for young women, I was immediately interested!

 photo BeautyCover_zpsd1ccc789.jpgBeauty in the Heart is an in-depth Bible study about Godly beauty, modesty, and women of the Bible such as Ruth and Esther. The vendor lists this study as being for ages 12+ but also mentions that it can be used with girls from ages 10-12 and up.

Each study teaches different Bible study techniques, giving the student tools they can continue to use for other studies for the rest of their lives.

The paperback version of this study is available for pre-order for $14, or a .pdf version for $10. You can view sample pages here. Also if you're considering this product in the near future, don't miss the special bonus offers if you purchase before August 31. Information is on the product page.

Ashlyn and Lexie are 10, so they are at the very bottom of the suggested age range, but since this fit so well with Polished Cornerstones, we were excited to try it.

The .pdf version was a perfect fit for us, since this book is designed as a "workbook". I printed a copy for each of us, and we've been using this together for our evening Bible study time. We've found that we're moving very slowly through this study because it sparks so many great discussions. Digging so deeply into the verses (the first study uses the inductive Bible Study approach), has been a great springboard for all kinds of conversations and I haven't been willing to squelch that to "stay on schedule". Most nights we work independently on our own "workbooks" but all together in the room, so that if anyone has a question or observation, we can discuss it. Not surprisingly (knowing the girls' personalities), Lexie has gone more quickly through the study than Ashlyn, but, by all being together while working on it, there have been times that she's gone back to add to or change an answer based on questions that Ashlyn asks.  I haven't "graded" or even read, their answers. I feel strongly that Bible study should be personal unless a person chooses to share, and have acted accordingly.

This study has been a stretch for my girls because they are so young, but they're handling it well, enjoying it, anxious to do more. I suspect it will take us a long time to finish it, but that's ok too. It's a great way to dig into the Bible with your tween/teen girl(s)!

A couple considerations: Both girls balked at underlining their Bibles (as is suggested in the first study), so we opted to visit a nearby overstock store that normally carries Bibles, and get them each a new Bible to use for this study. If you don't want to do that, consider how your child will react to this, or if you're comfortable skipping the underlining aspect of the study (which would be easily done, as well).  The vendor indicates that this would work well for ladies Bible studies as well, but, as I've worked through this study with my girls, using my own copy, not just helping them with theirs, I've found the questions to be pretty specifically for tween/teen girls. Some questions, I've skipped, others, I've adapted. It's worked well to do WITH my daughters, but I can see it being awesome for a group of mothers and daughters together, but I don't see it being ideal for a group of adult ladies.

Be sure to see what other crew members thought about this product, as well as a Bible study for boys, by clicking on the banner below:


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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

School Picture Day!

This week's topic for the Not-Back-to-School Blog Hop is School Pictures.

I have to admit, I've never really done this in the past, but I needed pictures for our homeschool ID cards (you can make your own for free here). So I figured why not. AND to remind myself that I needed to take the pictures during our outside time, I added it to my, and the big girls' schedules. The girls got SOO excited about it LOL.  Somehow they inherited a "girly" gene that skipped me :)  Our neighbors E, and sometimes J, join us for school 4 days a week, so they're included in these pictures too.

So, here's what we ended up with:

Lexie Age 10
Ashlyn Age 10
Little Bit Age 4
E Age 6

J Age 3

We don't "do grades" per se, and to further complicate things, since J's so little, but hates to be left out, we kind of let him join in when he wants. Little Bit and E do some things together, but others separately . . . but here are our sort-of age groups. J wasn't here when we took most of the pictures, so I took his id card picture when he was here for snack. Little Bit saw me taking the picture and joined in, but E wasn't outside yet, so I didn't end up getting a picture of the 3 littles together (or the 2 brothers together, for that matter). 

Big Kids

Middle Kids

Little Kids (being silly)

And now some other pictures we took while we had the cameras out:

Three Sisters

When I first called Ashlyn to come stand by the tree for a picture, THIS is how she stood, nothing dramatic about her LOL.


Silly Face

When I was done taking pictures, the girls asked for my camera to take some of their own. THEY came up with the standing by the tree poses, which turned out quite nicely, I think :) 

Schoolhouse Crew Review: In the Hands of a Child

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We've always enjoyed lapbooks. It's a fun, creative way to document what the children are learning about. So, when In the Hands of a Child gave us the opportunity to choose from a huge list of their lapbooks, we were excited. There was MUCH debating between Sassy and MiniMe before they finally agreed that our first choice would be Natural Wonders. And that's what we got!

We received the download version of the Natural Wonders project pack.  This is a ready-to-use lapbook kit to learn about the 7 natural wonders of the world. It includes directions for making a lapbook, printable minibooks for the student to fill out (or, the .pdf is available with a "type it in" option that allows the student to type the answers into the minibooks before printing), a short write-up about each of the natural wonders that gives all the information needed to fill in the minibooks, additional recommended books on the topics, and a schedule for completing the lapbook in 6 days.

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This project pack is intended for grades 4-8. The regular price is $12, but it is currently on sale for $5!!!! (that is an AMAZING bargain!)

As soon as I recieved the download I headed over to my library's online catalog and reserved the recommended books that our library had available. Once they came in, we got started. I printed out one copy of the information about the natural wonders, and also the directions for assembling each lapbook. Then each morning when I gave Sassy and MiniMe their day's assignments, I told them which natural wonder to read about, including checking the library book basket to see if any of the library books related to that topic, and gave them the printouts of that day's minibook(s). I opted to have them hand-write their minibooks because, quite frankly, they need th handwriting practice AND that way they could work on them anywhere, and anytime instead of fighting over my computer.

I opted to spread this over 2 weeks instead of one week, dividing each day's suggested activities in half. That was a good pace for us, with everything else we have going on.

I've used a few other In the Hands of a Child project packs over the years and I have to say, this truly is the GOLD STANDARD of lapbook packs! Of all the lapbooks we've done, theirs are the most complete and well laid-out. The girls were able to do this lapbook completely independently, which was great! Really the only thing that's kept me from using LOTS of their lapbooks over the year is the price. You "get what you pay for" and I do think they are worth the money, but my budget still doesn't allow for many of them. The current sale makes that a non-issue! While we were able to complete this quickly, even with doubling the time suggested, and it would be great to use this, as suggested, if you are looking for a more in-depth, and longer-term, study on the subject, you could easily make this take longer, spending a week or more on each of the natural wonders, using the suggested resources.  So whether you're looking for something quick to fill in a short gap in your other curriculum, or something to last a couple months, this would be a great option!

Since I pretty much turned the girls loose on this one, I asked them to tell me what "our" opinion of this specific lapbook is.  MiniMe, not surprisingly, thinks there should be more extra art projects. Both agreed that it wasn't too challenging, and that the directions for making the minibooks were clear. Sassy found some of the questions "boring" (she's 10, pretty everything is "boring" these days. The fact that she didn't groan and whine when I told her to do the assignments is, in and of itself, high praise, and a sign that, by normal peoples' standards it is NOT boring LOL.

I had to laugh, pretty early on, she declared that it was "too much work" to go through the library basket and read or look at the additional books I'd gotten on the various "wonders".  I decided to not force that as long as she could complete the lapbook without it. Now, as I was asking her what she thought of the lapbook overall, her "complaint" was that there wasn't enough detailed information and there weren't enough pictures. Umm, sweetie, that's what the library books were for!

To see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought of this and a whole slew of other products from In the Hands of a Child, click the banner, below.


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