Thursday, October 31, 2013

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Can't Wait Willow by Christy Ziglar

When the twins were little, they called the toy aisle at the story the "play area". They seemed to honestly think those toys were just there for them to go along and push the buttons on the noisy toys and move on. I don't remember them EVER asking if we could actually BUY the toys.

But Little Bit is another story. I think a big part of it is that she has older sisters and she sees them occasionally buying things they want when we go shopping. I think it must also just be personality, or something though. Whatever it is, when I got the chance to review Can't Wait Willow! by Christy Ziglar, I figured it would be a great resource!

This beautifully illustrated picture book is about a little girl named Willow who has been anxiously waiting for the circus to come to town. When it DOES come to town, as she walks to the circus, she is distracted by the ice cream truck, her friends inviting her to play, a lemonade stand, etc. . . so that by the time she actually GETS to the circus, it is closing for the day, and she doesn't have any money left to buy her favorite treat, cotton candy. She's given a "second chance" and makes better choices the next day.

Little Bit was happy to sit down and hear her new story as soon as we got it. I was amused to hear her also notice that Willow had "too much sugar" that day, with the ice cream, lemonade, and then wanting cotton candy. I don't know if the intended message of the book has sunk in, but it is certainly planting a "seed" of the importance of making good choices about how to use our time and money. We have read it several times, and she's also asked her sisters to read it to her.

One fun feature of the book is that there's a little star that follows Willow along and shows up on each page. One the pages where Willow makes poor choices, the star looks "distressed", on pages where Willow makes good choices, the star is happy and excited. I didn't even bother to point it out to her the first several times we read it, since the book was keeping her attention without it, but when Lexie read the book to her, she noticed the note about it, and pointed it out. After that Little Bit also enjoyed finding, and pointing out, the star on each page.

In addition to sending me a copy of Can't Wait Willow to review, I also get to host a GIVEAWAY!!!!!

If you would like to win your own copy of this beautiful picture book, do one, or all of the following:

  • Leave a comment on this blog post telling me your favorite picture book
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  • Sign up for the Shine Bright Kids Newsletter and come back and tell me that you did.
The rules:  Please leave a separate comment for each entry. Only comments made on this blog will be counted, not comments on facebook or via e-mail. Please make sure I have a way to contact you, if I can't contact you, I will have to choose an alternate winner.Contest open to readers in the United States. Giveaway will end at 9:00 Eastern Time on Thursday, November 7, 2013.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Blogging Through the Alphabet: D is for Daughters!

For some reason, before we had children, I always assumed we'd have all, or at least mostly, sons. I'm not sure why, but that was just a "fact" in my head. So when we first found out I was pregnant, and Rodney jokingly said that I was going to have twin boys, I replied with "boy, yes, twins, no!"

Boy was the joke on us!!! At approximately 20 weeks, we went in for our ultrasound and were rather blindsided to find out that we were having TWIN GIRLS! Even so, I didn't really trust the u/s to determine gender, especially for girls (not because I still was sure we'd have all boys, but because that whole "we don't see a penis, so it must be a girl" thing seems . . . subjective to me) so, as the pregnancy progressed, now with LOTS of ultrasounds, as the most non-invasive way to watch for some common twin complications, every time I asked them to double check that they were really girls (and we didn't tell anyone else the gender). By the end of the pregnancy, after having had PLENTY of "double checks" that they really were girls, I was pretty well convinced, and so, on March 28, 2009, we became the parents of two DAUGHTERS!!!

Six years later, on March 26, we were ready to meet another child. This time we hadn't had any ultrasounds, so didn't know the gender. I was very content with that. I loved the idea of having a boy so we'd have at least "one of each", but I also kind of liked the thought of another girl, I knew what to do with girls, I had plenty of STUFF for girls and, this baby was already going to be "different" because he/she wasn't a twin, so at least being one of "the girls" would be nice too . . . So we would have been happy either way, and were thrilled to welcome our third DAUGHTER into our family.

Life with all girls is FUN! We have plenty of pink and frills and nail polish and glitter. But they also love helping Papa with building projects and holding snakes and such, so it all balances out. Although much to Rodney's disgust, they are NOT at all interested in watching football (or baseball, or basketball) with him LOL.

So, I decided to take this "D Week" of Blogging through the Alphabet, to brag on my wonderful daughters!

I can't believe they are 10 1/2 and 4 1/2 already! They are turning into such lovely young ladies. They are full of spunk, and won't take any "guff" from anyone. But we also get frequent compliments on how well behaved, helpful, pleasant, they are.

Lexie, the "oldest", has such incredibly strong ideas about what she wants out of life. While, what she wants isn't always what I would WANT her to want, but at least I don't have to worry about her giving in to peer pressure LOL.  This has been a challenging year with her. She has all the answers and doesn't want to hear if she's wrong. But she has such a soft heart for little kids. She "melts" when Little Bit is upset about anything, and pretty much always "gives in" to any of her requests. She never.stops.talking! We've joked, since she was a toddler, that the reason we have twins was that she talks so much she "split" so she'd always have a twin to talk to, and she does (always talk to her). And if she's alone, she talks to herself.

I have to admit, I pray about this daughter a LOT . . . I see too much of me (the parts of me that I struggle with) in her some days. . . she challenges me, and worries me, but she also inspires me!

Ashlyn, will be very quick to tell you that she is ONLY 4 minutes younger AND if they'd been delivered c-section, SHE would be the oldest. And she's right . . . when they were babies, I read somewhere, advice from a mom of multiples to NEVER say one was "older", and for awhile I tried to do that, but I got SOO tired of people just NOT letting it go . . . they'd ask who's the oldest, and I'd say "they're the same age" and they would say "but who was born first?" and STILL wouldn't drop it, even when I said "that doesn't matter", so I gave up, and just answered the question, and now, yes, it's an annoyance to the girls (so tip-of-the-day: Do NOT ask twins, or their parents, who's oldest, it's an idiotic question!). Ashlyn is my perfectionist. She gets sooo frustrated with herself if she can't do everything perfectly. Whereas Lexie rushes through most school work, Ashlyn moves through it painfully slow, making sure to do it as thoroughly and perfectly as possible. She thinks everything to death! She craves alone time with Mommy to the nth degree. The preschooler who begged to come with me to the grocery store, when Daddy was home so she didn't HAVE to come with me, for once, will still sometimes choose to run errands with me, just for the time with me. The "reward" of a "date" with Mommy will motivate her more than anything else. She blossoms under praise, and needs it CONSTANTLY. She wilts under the slightest criticism, no matter how deserved . . . I still struggle with that mightily . . . She still mothers her dolls, and enjoys playing "mommy baby" type games with Little Bit.

And then there's Little Bit. Such a spit-fire! When I was pregnant with her, I said that this baby was going to have to either be SUPER laid back, so much so that s/he didn't mind big sisters walking all over him/her, or SUPER strong-willed to successfully stand up to his/her sisters. And, we definitely got the later. She holds her own quite well against her big sisters. She is my "feeler". She has a natural empathy that her sisters (and I) do NOT have. If someone is sad and upset, she cannot bear to leave them alone, even if one of her sisters is upset because of consequences that resulted from them doing something mean to HER. She's bossy and loving and full of life! I often thank God for allowing me this baby that I waited so long for . . . she is so different from her sisters, and so very, very special!

So those are my daughters. They challenge me, but they also inspire me and I am so blessed to have each of them in my life!

Blogging Through the Alphabet

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Schoolhouse Crew Review: Rosie's Doll Clothes Patterns

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If you read my blog regularly, you know that last summer during our trip to Boston, the girls got to try on "authentic" (or at least relatively authentic) colonial clothes at Paul Revere's house. This led to us deciding to make them "authentic" (ish) colonial outfits to wear to Williamsburg. And, not only did we accomplish that, with alot of help from my mom, BUT the girls actually did a good bit of the sewing on those outfits (under my mom's guidance, on my mom's sewing machine).  AND thanks to all of that, they were hooked, and ready to do more sewing!

So the timing was PERFECT for us to have the opportunity to review Learn How to Make Doll Clothes Video Course with 8 Free Doll Clothes Patterns from Rosie's Doll Clothes Patterns.

 photo Rosies_zpsc853bd7c.jpgThis is an online video course, recommended for ages 8 and up, that teaches you how to sew doll clothes. The 8 included patterns are for American Girl type dolls, though on her site she indicates that if you'd rather have the patterns for cabbage patch dolls, you can e-mail her and she will make that switch.  The course is laid out as a 6 week course, and all together it includes over 130 short, online videos.  The purchase price of approximately $48 (the actual price is $49.94 Australian dollars, so the US price will vary depending on exchange rates) includes access to all of the online material for 1 year.

The included doll clothes patterns are downloadable .pdf files of printable pattern pieces and brief instructions. As long as you download these .pdfs during your 1 year subscription, they are yours to keep. During the subscription period, you also have access to video instructions for these patterns which are more in-depth than the printable instructions.

A couple months ago, my husband saw a new "gadget" that he HAD to have, even when it meant scouring area electronics stores to find one in stock. I have to admit, I didn't even pay attention to what this new gadget was when he was talking about it, just figured if it was that important to him, I wasn't going to stand in his way. The gadget turned out to be "Chrome cast" which allows me to "cast" whatever is on my computer (in Google Chrome), or phone or iPad (in youtube, and a few other things, I have only used it from my laptop) up onto our TV with the simple click of an icon on my screen. This little device was INVALUABLE for this review, since the entire course is online videos, and having both girls crowd around my laptop to watch things gets old very quickly.

So, as soon as we got access to the course, I "cast" the first video from week 1 up on the screen and we dug right in. We moved through the first couple weeks pretty quickly, but by then the girls were asking me "when do we get to SEW?"  I was assuming (incorrectly, as it turns out), that when she finished the "preliminary" information she would tell them when to start sewing, and which of the included patterns to start with. But once the girls started asking about it, I scanned down through the rest of the video titles and realized that it doesn't appear that she EVER tells them to start sewing. The entire course is just showing you how to do various things, it never tells you to follow along (that I've seen, I'll admit, I haven't watched all of the more advanced technique videos yet, I want the girls to master the basic techniques first).  So, with that realization, we stopped going "in order" and just watched the videos that sounded like they pertained to "basic" techniques.

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Then I looked over the 8 included patterns, pictured here. They include a (1) "summer nightie" (the pink "sundress" in the picture), (2) a halter top (white with blue print), (3) sarong (blue "skirt"), (4) underpants (5) crop top (white with red print), (6) shorts, (7) pumpkin costume and (8) sun hat.  There was no real indication of which ones were easiest, and we had the added consideration that, in deciding on guidelines for our family, we typically don't wear shorts or sleeveless tops, and we don't celebrate Halloween. Hmmmm . . . with that in mind, AND looking for a simple pattern to start with, I decided we'd start with the sarong. It's actually more of a "mock wrap" skirt, since it has an elastic waist instead of tying on.

So, we got all set to start on it, and I got out my sewing machine and . . . the power cord wasn't with it. AAARRRRGGGHHHHH!!!! I haven't used my sewing machine since before we moved last winter, so if the power cord isn't with the machine it must be in some random box SOMEWHERE in the garage. THAT wasn't going to be found anytime soon. Now what?

I had decided, when I signed up for the review, and after seeing how into sewing the girls were just from helping make the colonial outfits, that if this review worked out and got them even MORE into sewing, we'd at least consider getting a better sewing machine for "them" (with the understanding that I could use it too) for Hanukkah this year, but I'd figured mine (really cheap and basic, and 10 years old) would suffice for during the review period, and to see how they liked it all. Now, change of plans. . . talked to Rodney about it all, and then made the girls the offer: Do you want your main Hanukkah gift early? We'll get you a sewing machine (that you'll share with each other, and me, and eventually, Little Bit) NOW so you can sew something during this review, but that means you won't get anything "big" for Hanukkah. They were THRILLED! So after some FAST reading of reviews and comparing prices, we ordered a sewing machine from Amazon, and continued watching the Rosie videos while we waited for it to get here.

FINALLY, it was here! The girls had already set up a whole sewing corner in their room (one of the early videos talks about setting up a sewing area), so once it was here, we got it out, set it up and were ready to go. Since NONE of us had used this machine before, we did a few practice seams and then I turned the girls loose. They did EVERYTHING completely on their own to make their doll sarongs!

The sarong pattern gives two length options, so they chose a longer one, since that's more in keeping with the skirt length we wear. They dug through my fabric bin and interestingly, chose pretty similar fabrics. Since all of the shirt patterns that came with the course are sleeveless, for now they just used clothes they already had for their American Girl dolls, but they've asked that we find shirt patterns WITH sleeves, so we'll have to work on that LOL.

And the finished products:

So, what do we think? A video course is definitely the way to go for my kids to learn to sew without me pulling my hair out LOL. While I can figure things out on my own, I'm not good enough to be able to explain things to teach them without us all getting frustrated. And being able to SEE someone do the various techniques works best for my children.

That said, we found some things frustrating about this course. The big thing, I've already talked about. I was really expecting the sewing of at least one item to be integrated into the main videos of the course. Sitting and watching hours of video without being able to DO anything doesn't work well for my children, and I can't see it working well for any of the children I know. As a non-sewer myself (despite having a machine, I have no illusions that I "know how to sew), I found it frustrating to have to try to figure out which project was "easiest" and then which videos they NEEDED to see before making this project.  Another thing the girls found frustrating, especially since they were anxious to sew, is that there is a LOT of repetition. To have one video show "how to use a rotary cutter" and then the next video show 'how to use a cutting mat" is rather redundant. By later in the course, the girls were to the point of seeing a title and saying 'it's going to tell us to do xyz, and she's already told us that in 3 other videos, let's skip that one", and, after a few times of me saying "let's just make sure she doesn't tell us something new", and it being exactly what they had predicted, I just went with it.

Also, I assume, to make sure the videos load on slower internet connections, each video is VERY short, but that makes it all very choppy. If I were purchasing this course, I think I'd opt for the DVDs, just to avoid that choppiness.  My other complaint was that she seems to really "sell" the "need" for a lot of "gadgets". I find it interesting that she talks alot about how much money you can save by making your own doll clothes but if you go out and buy a sewing machine, serger (yes, she recommends a serger, an awesome tool, but not cost effective for making doll clothes unless you plan to go into business), rotary blades and cutting mat, and all the other gadgets (that I'd never even heard of) for turning casings and such, you'd have some SUPER expensive doll clothes when it was all said and done. I don't like that, for a program, marketed for children, there's so much emphasis on needing all the "gadgets". Thankfully, my children realized from the start that we weren't going to go out and buy all kinds of gadgets, so they just kind of rolled their eyes at it, but I can see it being an issue with some children.

All in all, there are some great things about this course! If you need short videos, because of your internet connection, and want to make sure that EVERYTHING is video-based, with no need to read text, this is great. She speaks clearly, and shows what she is doing, and is very detailed. If you have basic sewing knowledge, you might be better off buying one of her patterns first and see if the videos that come with it, are sufficient :)

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

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All prices are accurate at time of posting.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Weekly Wrap-Up - October 27

It was a BUSY week last week! Sunday started a new unit for Little Bit and E's preschool. This unit, is all about water, so to kick things off, we created an "ocean" in the entrance to our school room, complete with a bridge to cross the ocean into the room. It's hard to get a decent picture of it, but it's pretty fun. And sneaks a little balance beam practice into each day before we sit down for circle time :) That meshes nicely with the Brain Gym exercises I've been having them do at the beginning of circle time.  After the kids' had their fun surprise of the ocean and bridge, I got my own surprise as we started circle time on Sunday. We heard E's little brother, J, outside and he came in and said he was ready to start joining us for circle time again! When E and J first started joining us for school, they both came, but J (who was 3 1/2 at the time), just wasn't ready, so his mom and I agreed that there's no reason to push school on someone so little (we initially offered it so he wouldn't feel left out), and gave him the choice, and he chose to stay home, and just come over and join us during outside playtime.  I guess more recently, he'd been saying more often that he wanted to come to circle time, and Sunday, he declared that "now that I'm 4" (Sunday was his birthday), he was coming to circle time, and he did :) He did GREAT! I was amazed at the difference a few months, and it being his choice, made :) He was not only sitting (relatively) still, but was bound and determined to join in with everything, even repeating all of our "We Choose Virtues" cards after the other kids, since they've memorized them, and he hasn't.

Sunday afternoon, the girls and I enjoyed an afternoon at the corn maze.

Monday was J's birthday party at Ballocity.  I didn't get any pictures, but all the kids had a BLAST! We stayed until suppertime, and even the big girls were EXHAUSTED by the time we left :)  Lexie even asked to go to bed half an hour before "bedtime" that night LOL.

Tuesday we began Christmas in October . . . Last year we were able to review a "Once-a-Week Unit Study" on Knights and Nobles, and thoroughly enjoyed it. So when the company contacted me about reviewing their new Christmas unit, with the "catch" being that we'd need to review it NOW so that the review would be posted in time for customers to order it to use this December, my girls jumped with excitement at the idea :)  A fun bonus, no worries about finding the books in the library this time of year LOL.  So, since it's designed to be done Once a Week, we've designated Tuesday as our "Christmas day" and we're having great fun learning about Christmas traditions from different countries and doing fun things like making hot chocolate and watching Christmas movies :) 

Friday we spent the day visiting Rodney's mom (Grandmom).  Little Bit was thrilled to get to play with glitter glue. And all 3 girls enjoyed playing Go Fish with Grandmom.

Sabbath, in Sabbath School, the story was about Peter in prison, so on Thursday we stopped by the church to set up a "prison" as part of our Sabbath School room. The rest of the front of the room looks like this:

 Then off to the left we added a "jail" by setting up the plywood "barn" and adding electrical tape "bars" to the window. We also added a barred window to the (windowless) side of the barn, but I didn't get a picture of that. Sabbath morning before the other kids got there Ashlyn had to "test it out" LOL.

The kids had fun with the Sabbath School program. They got to help act out the story, complete with wrapping a chain around Peter's (Lexie's) wrists while she was in jail :)

Sabbath afternoon we visited Ephrata Cloister. It's been on my "places to visit" list for several years now, but I knew that the PA Heritage Membership applied to the fee there, so have been waiting until we get that membership. We got it in anticipation of visiting some sites on our western PA trip (and then never managed to actually visit those sites, sigh . . .) so now that we HAVE the membership, I'm determined to visit the places on my list that it will get us into. And Ephrata Cloister seemed like a good way to spend a nice, fall, Sabbath afternoon. While I knew from the website that it was a historic site where a religious group lived way back when (in the 1700s), I didn't realize until we went on the tour there, that they actually kept Saturday as Sabbath. Some of their other ideas were . . . far fetched . . . IMO, but it was interesting to hear about a group of Sabbath keepers from so long ago.

 Another part of their beliefs was that too much sleep was bad, so their "beds" were narrow wooden benches with wood blocks for "pillows". Now they have one that people can try out, so Little Bit checked it out while we were there. She declared it to be "weird".  The big girls said it wasn't as uncomfortable as they thought it would be :) They didn't go for my suggestion of saving space in their room by getting rid of the beds and having wood benches instead though LOL.

We finished off our week with popcorn and hot chocolate while we all watched Master Chef Junior (recorded from the night before) on Saturday night.

The big girls' other excitement this week was the arrival of their early Hanukkah present!  Much to their excitement, their sewing machine arrived on Tuesday.  They had a corner of their room all set up ready for sewing, so as soon as I had time, we unpacked their sewing machine and figured out how to wind the bobbins, and thread the machine (much easier than my old machine!).  Then I suggested they sew a few bathroom wipes* to get a feel for things, and then turned them loose to get busy making doll clothes (be looking for our review of Rosie's Doll Clothes Patterns, in the next few days).  They're full of plans for all the sewing they're going to do, so we shall see :)

I couldn't resist snapping a picture of Ashlyn on Sabbath morning before we left for church. Something about her hair up, and the cut of her dress, there was NO hint of "little girl" left in her, sigh . . . my babies are growing up!

* When the twins were potty training, it was only logical to continue using the flannel "wipes" that I'd use as part of our cloth diaper routine, to wipe their hineys.  Once I got used to the idea, it is a much more comfortable option, adds very little laundry, and saves us going through the copious amounts of toilet paper that a family full of girls would otherwise go through. The wash routine is no different than it was for cloth diapers, and only adds one load per week. BUT most of our wipes are the ones I bought to use for cloth diapering when the twins were babies. 10 1/2 years later, they are literally falling apart, so I figured making a few new ones with some scraps of flannel in our fabric box was the perfect way for the girls to get used to the new sewing machine. I intend to continue having them "practice" by trying out new stitches and such that way as well. Woo-hoo! 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Schoolhouse Crew Review: VocabularySpellingCity

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VocabularySpellingCity is an online game site for grades K through 12 to help teach vocabulary, spelling, and other aspects of language arts.  They gave our family a free VocabularySpellingCity Premium Membership for up to 5 children in exchange for my honest review.

Even without paying a penny, you can access quite abit of game-based language arts learning on their free site. The Premium membership ($29.99 for one year for up to 5 children) gives access to a bunch MORE games, and also increased record-keeping options.

This is all designed for schools, or a more "traditional" styles of homeschooling than we use. It has lots of great features for setting up your own spelling lists, and assigning daily assignments and giving tests and all kinds of things that I'm sure are extremely helpful for both teacher/parent and student, if you are using a typical language arts curriculum with spelling lists and vocabulary lists and such. I'm sure I would have greatly preferred to learn my weekly spelling words using the fun games on this site instead of sitting there and drilling them into my head like I did when I was in elementary school.

 photo wordorama_zps693e47d4.jpgI tend to hesitate to sign up for computer based reviews because my girls just don't get much computer time, so adding in a "required" computer time, especially for both of them, can be challenging. But one thing that I noticed right away, was that VocabularySpellingCity has a free app for iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch. Lexie and Ashlyn each have an iPod Touch, and I have an iPad, so that really increases our options.

As soon as I got the information about setting up our account, I set things up on my computer, and then downloaded the app onto my iPad and both of the girls' iTouches, and told them they "had" to play this new game at least some every day LOL.  To begin with, since we don't have spelling lists per se, I told them to just use the pre-made lists on the site. I was interested to see that, while they started out with some of the first grade lists, to get a better feel for the games and how things worked, then they started choosing word lists based on interests or other things we were studying. Until this week, we'd been doing a sun/moon/stars theme for the little kids' circle time, and a few times, I noticed Ashlyn had gravitated toward (ha! no pun intended) the list of space related words.

A couple days after we started using it, the girls had a writing assignment in another subject. I've taken a very laid back approach to correcting spelling, believing that, like grammar, when they are ready, they'll ask me to help them find ways to "get up to speed", and I've seen them become more aware of spelling in the last year or so. But, since we're reviewing this spelling list program, and I was looking at something they'd each written, that did have some misspelled words, I decided to combine the two.

So now, if I notice one of them misspelling a word on something, I go in and add it to their spelling lists on VocabularySpellingCity! It helps them work on "problem" words, but is still low-key enough to fit nicely into our eclectic style of homeschooling.

One thing I noticed, that I think would frustrate me if I were trying to make sure my children "did their homework" regularly on this site, is that it is possible for them to do things on the app without being logged in. If they do that, there's no record of what they did (this may be true on the website as well, but it was using the app that we ran across it). Not a big deal in terms of the practice they're getting, but might be problematic from a record keeping standpoint, especially since, apparently, it automatically logged Ashlyn out without her even realizing it. She "noticed" when she wanted to use a feature that was only available on the premium site, so she couldn't access it without being logged in.  Not a deal breaker, by any means, but something to be aware of.

What did we think? I love that it's educational and on the iTouch! I like being able to check in from my computer and see how they're doing. I'm not "using it to it's potential" because of our homeschool style, and because of that, while I appreciate the premium features, I'm not sure I'd find them cost effective. If you need to keep close records of what your child does, the premium features are definitely worthwhile! Anyone who "does spelling" in their homeschool, will find this helpful, and if your child is in school, it would probably be well worth your time to input their school spelling lists and let them "practice' this way.

Lexie's favorite game is Hangmouse (as the name suggests, it's like hangman). Ashlyn is less enthusiastic, I think if she was required to "do spelling" in some form, this would be better than traditional methods, since I don't require that, but DID require her to use this program during our review period, she's not into it.

To see how other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew used this program, click on the banner below.


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All prices are accurate at time of posting.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

C is for Corn Maze

Blogging Through the Alphabet
I've decided I am NOT going to stress about the weeks I miss blogging through the alphabet (like last week, sigh . . . ), I'm just going to join in on the weeks I DO remember.  So, without further ado . . . C is for Corn Maze!

When the twins were little, we went to a corn maze every fall. I remember them as little 18 month olds, running along the paths while my mom and I tried to keep them in site, and my dad was in charge of finding the way out LOL.  Even more memorable, was when I took two 4 yr olds to a corn maze and we got lost in it! You can read about that adventure here. Since moving to PA, I had never gotten around to finding a corn maze for us to go to. But this year, there's one right down the road (more or less) from our house, so I really had no excuse! Even so, it's taken me almost to the end of the season to actually find time to go! So, when the weather on Sunday was AMAZING, I decided this had better be the day! After we did school, I told the girls that if they could quickly fix, eat, and clean-up-after lunch, we could go to a nearby corn maze that afternoon.  It's amazing what a little motivation does to their speed LOL.

I was kind of surprised to find that this corn maze had no "directions".  I was used to ones that give you a map, or "clues" or SOMETHING. This one, we were just on our own, but it wasn't too huge or convoluted, so it worked. After the first couple turns, Little Bit and I were cramping the big girls' style, so I told them to stay together, and wait for us at the end, and turned them lose. Little Bit had a BLAST getting to choose which way to turn at each branch in the path, which, of course, led to us walking in many, many circles, but she had fun, and it was a beautiful fall day, and I was able to pretty much keep my bearings, so I knew I could find our way out if we needed to, so it was all good :)

All our going-in-circles meant that the big girls found their way out much faster, so by the time we got out, Ashlyn was worrying about us LOL. She had, apparently thought they should come back in and find us, but Lexie told her she had to wait until some set time, and we made it out ahead of Lexie's deadline :)

Besides the cornmaze, there were lots of other things to do, more for Little Bit's age, but a few for the big girls.

The big scooters were pretty cool, and their track had enough slope to it, that the girls could pick up speed going down the one side, so they spent quite awhile doing that. I wish I'd been able to get a picture (but was afraid it would disturb the moment) later in the day when Lexie was helping Little Bit ride one of the scooters :)

The pile of hay behind the scooter track was some type of hay tunnel to crawl through, but the big girls checked it out and said that it was only one person wide and there was no guidance requiring that people all go the same direction, so it was just frustrating.

Since the scooters were abit bit for Little Bit, except when Lexie helped her, she preferred the tricycles. They were pretty awesome with nice big inflated tires to go easily over the rough ground. And while the place wasn't deserted, it wasn't so busy, but what she could ride to her heart's content without having to take turns with other kids :)

There was also a "track" with a bunch of "cozy car" type riding toys, that she tried, but found she was just too big for those to work well.

She also spent quite awhile playing in a plastic "play house" that had a window that she decided was for selling ice cream out of, I bought LOTS of ice cream that day, interestingly, it all looked like straw, no matter what flavor  I asked for LOL.

There was also an "igloo" (for lack of better word, I'm thinking it might have been intended to be a "house" for calves or something?)  that had a bunch of corn cobs that the kids could shell, so Little Bit spent awhile playing in that, shelling corn, and playing with the already shelled corn that was in there among all the corn husks and cobs.

After we had exhausted the activities at the corn maze area, we headed in to the ice cream shop that is always there, and enjoyed some ice cream before heading home. It was a great way to spend a gorgeous autumn afternoon! 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Weekly Wrap-Up - Oct 20

This has been our "quietest" week in quite awhile. I like quiet . . . of course actual quiet NEVER happens,  but it was kind of nice to have a week when we weren't running 5,000 extra directions :)

We HAVE been busy though. The "review year" for the Schoolhouse Review Crew is wrapping up (if you're a blogger, and interested in applying for 2014, there's information about that here), and we're finishing off the year with a bang! So LOTS of review products in progress, plus, after a full year of awesome products, we're trying to keep up with some of the products we've already reviewed (for instance, this month is the last month of our membership to Time4Learning, and Ashlyn LOVES it, so she tries to make time for it every day while we still have it), so we've been busy :)

One thing Ashlyn and Lexie are reviewing is a doll clothes sewing course, and I'd assumed that my (really "basic", 10 yr old, sewing machine would be sufficient for the review, and then if they were really into sewing, we'd consider getting a better machine for them (and me) for Hanukkah. BUT when I pulled it out to set up, I discovered the power cord wasn't with it. And since I haven't used it since we moved, that means the power cord could be in any one of about 100 boxes that haven't been unpacked. So we decided to go with an EARLY Hanukkah present and go ahead and order a new sewing machine (affiliate link). The girls are impatiently waiting for it to arrive!

Meanwhile, we've been immersed in science!  As much as I'm not a "textbook" person, this textbook is A-MAZE-ING!!!! It's made for a messy, but fun week!

After missing a couple music lessons during our trip, the girls were thrilled to get back to their music, and Miss Pat confirmed that their time away didn't slow them down much.

That afternoon we headed to the church. Our new Sabbath School curriculum requires small changes to the scenery most weeks, so we stopped by to make those changes.

Friday afternoon I needed to get groceries, and stop by the library. Rodney was home, so I gave all 3 girls the choice to come with me or stay home. Little Bit said she wanted to come with me (not surprising), and the big girls opted to stay home. As we were getting in the car, Little Bit was struggling with not wanting to be away from her sisters OR me. Finally, Rodney pointed out that she'd have me all to herself "like a date". Since she's old enough now to know that her sisters go on "dates" (when they do their chores enough to "earn" a date, which hasn't been much lately, sigh . . . ), and she's mentioned wanting to have her own dates (one of many things on my to-do list is coming up with a chore chart for her that will let her earn her own dates), so she lit up at that idea and happily came with me. As we were driving to town, she pondered on it some more and told me that this wasn't like Sissies' dates, because they usually get to go eat somewhere, and we were just going to the store. I didn't say anything, except to commiserate but then after we left the library, instead of going straight to the grocery store, I stopped at Chik-fil-a, and we went in and had ice cream for our "date" she was SOOOO thrilled with it, it was $2.50 very well spent!!! :)

With the cooling weather, this week was our first "winter" Shabbat on Friday night.  In the summer, Friday nights are for lighting a fire in the fire pit and having roasted hot dogs and corn on the cob and marshmallows. Now that it's cold(ish), we're back to setting the table with our special Shabbat bowls, and lighting candles and having soup. As much as we LOVE the summer tradition, it was nice to get back to this tradition too. When I asked each of the children what their favorite part of the past week was, Little Bit answered "having Shabbat!!"  :)

Sabbath for Sabbath School, I'd asked Ashlyn to play the part of "Peter" and tell the story of his vision about the unclean animals. She went above and beyond and actually memorized the story instead of just reading it like I would have. She did great! Lexie told our mission story. And the little ones are seeming to really like our new curriculum, so it seems to be a good fit all around.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Review: God's World News

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God's World News sent us a subscription News Current magazine.

God's World News has a whole family of magazines for different ages, bringing the news, from a Christian perspective to children at the level they can understand. You can see their mission statement, and beliefs here.

 photo newscurrent28_zps24cff5ea.jpgAs with so many educational things, we struggle with deciding what "grade level" the girls are at, since they learn at their own pace, not based on a specific grade level. After looking at the sample editions available online, I decided that News Current, for 5th and 6th graders, would be the best fit for Lexie and Ashlyn.

We were sent 2 back issues, August and September, along with a nice big wall map of the world, a few days later, our October issue came.

Meanwhile, we were getting ready to go on a trip, so I tossed all 3 issues in my car bag and, when the girls needed something to do in the car, I handed one to each of them and I read one too, then we traded, though I think I only ever saw two of them.

The articles are quite diverse, and before long, both girls were telling me "Mommy, did you know . . . " that's always a good sign! LOL.  You can see a sample issue for yourself here.

One thing that was fun was reading about how knitters had made big yarn "panels" and decorated a bridge in Pittsburgh, which was where we were heading as we read it. The girls were bummed to see that the bridge wasn't STILL decorated, but still thought it was cool to read about the city we were going to.

I was excited about the map too! I've wanted a good world map for awhile, and couldn't wait to hang it in our school room, YAY!!

One thing to be aware of, there's a page of political cartoons that are definitely leaning strongly toward conservatives (which we are), so if you have any (politically) liberal leanings, this magazine probably isn't the one for your family, you can easily see the political leanings in the sample issue, mentioned above.

In addition to 10 issues of the magazine, your subscription ($28) includes a bunch of extra resources, including access to biographies, quizzes and answer keys (we're not really a "quiz" kind of family, so we haven't used this, but it's a nice option for those who do use quizzes), an opt-in newsletter for parents and teachers, with links to the .pdf files of current and archived issues, quizzes, answer keys, etc. and an interactive website for kids with content that can be used, not only online, but also on a tablet or smartphone. The website gives your child access to grade-specific content, including stories from the print magazine, as well as extras only available on the website.

I think this magazine wouldn't be for everyone because of the political views, honestly, while I like seeing a magazine that isn't full of the liberal bias so prevalent in the media, I'd prefer to see a more politically neutral stance, as close to "unbiased" as it is possible for humans to be, but since I haven't seen anything that comes close to even attempting that, this is, at least, Christian, and conservative, and can lead to discussions about politics with our children as they grow older and more aware of what is happening in the world around us.

To see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought of this, and the other magazines that God's World News offers, click the banner below.


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All prices are accurate at time of posting.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Weekly Wrap-Up - Oct 14

As fast as time seems to fly (have we really lived in this house for TEN MONTHS already?) , sometimes thinking back to a week ago seems like forever . . . We've been busy!

A week ago we were tagging along with Rodney on a work trip to western PA.

Sunday Rodney had two clients to meet with, both animal lovers.  We dropped him off at the first place, and found a pretty cool playground to hang out at while he worked.

The girls played, we found a geocache, we ate lunch, then went to pick Rodney up.  Before we left, his client gave us a tour of her "farm". The girls enjoyed seeing lamas, goats, chickens, turkeys and some BIG goldfish!

Then we headed on to the next client. This was what the girls had been looking forward to this whole trip! Meeting Lily the skunk!  That's right, one of Rodney's clients, has a pet skunk named Lily.

The family also has a large puppy, who was very excited to have kids there to play with, and the puppy being hyper made Lily nervous, but she was still pretty sweet, and let all of us take a turn holding her.

The girls and I did some school while Rodney was working, and then we all went outside to play with the dog before we left to head back to our hotel.

Monday morning the girls and I stayed at the hotel and swam and did school.

In the afternoon we were PLANNING to go to Carnegie Science Center, but once we were stuck in horrific traffic we realized there was a Pirates playoff game that afternoon and Carnegie Science Center closes for Pirates and Steelers games so the stadiums can use their parking lot. The girls had lots of not-very-nice things to say about baseball that day LOL.

Since we were already downtown, we went to the Children's Museum instead. The big girls still love it there, and this year Little Bit was old enough to really get into it too. The building toy was a hit, and for that matter, so was everything else.

And painting is as much fun as ever.

All three girls did pretty much all the art options there were. It was fun to see Little Bit getting into it and doing the same things her sisters have loved since we started going out there when Little Bit was itty bitty.

Tuesday Rodney dropped us at Carnegie Science Center and left us there all day. You already heard about that day here.

Wednesday morning Rodney had one final client to meet with, so he went to do that while the girls and I packed, and then the girls played in the pool for a couple hours. Once Rodney came back, we loaded the car and headed home.

We got home and my parents had just gotten to our house. I hadn't told Little Bit they were coming, so she was shocked, it was hilarious!

Thursday the girls, my mom, and I went to the church and set up the Sabbath school room while my Dad did some rewiring of our generator (when we bought the house it came with a built in generator for power outages BUT for whatever reason the refrigerator wasn't on the generator and, since Dad put in a new circuit (or breaker or whatever it's called) for our basement deep freeze, it wasn't on the generator either. With winter coming, our likelihood of power outages increases, so we wanted to make sure those 2 things were on the generator, and that we knew what else was/wasn't on it).  I wasn't sure how the Sabbath school room was going to go. We needed to make it look like "Palestine" (as in, Bible times) and I wasn't coming up with much, but it turned out great.  I'd noticed, before our trip, that there was a carpet remnant in the closet of an unused classroom (that we used this summer when our classroom's a/c wasn't working), and had decided that laying that across the front of the room, upside down, would work well for sand. When I sent the girls down to get that, they also found a cut-out of a camel, and brought it up.  The camel definitely helps. In the end it all came together pretty well, and as always, the girls had fun doing it LOL.

Thursday was also at least an attempt to get back into a school routine of sorts after being gone :) While we had lots of LEARNING going on, on our trip, we didn't have alot of time to work on our current review items, so we've been trying to hit those pretty hard since we got back. One thing we're reviewing right now is a Chemistry and Physics Curriculum. We did some textbook work while we were travelling, but it was hard to do the experiments, so we caught up on those on Thursday, including learning about density. Layering colored salt water, of different densities, in straws was the hands-down favorite experiment that day :)

Friday morning my parents headed home, and our friend, Judy came over. Judy was our neighbor at our last house, but she moved last fall, and of course, we moved last winter. In THEORY, we would see her every month or two, by stopping in on our way to or from my parents' house, but with my parents up here so much this year helping with projects, we haven't been to their house as much, and when we have gone, either she's been busy or we've had a deadline that doesn't allow for an extra stop on the way there or back, so we hadn't seen her since the girls' birthday in March!!!! It was definitely fun to catch up with her, though Little Bit had a cold, and I think, didn't remember her, so wasn't feeling sociable.

Sabbath was our first week with a new Sabbath School Curriculum (hence the new room set-up).  Since Little Bit and J are my only regular attendees, as they're getting older, the format we'd been using wasn't working as well, so I decided to try something different. Time will tell, but for this first week, it held their attention better than the old format, so that was encouraging :)

And that was our week! Don't forget to enter my giveaway! If you don't have little ones, this would be great to donate to your church's nursery, or give to a friend with little ones.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Rufus and Ryan Go to Church by Kathleen Long Bostrom

~ ~ ~ ~ Congratulations to Leigh, winner of this giveaway!!!~ ~ ~ ~ 

Lately I've been working with Little Bit on being quieter in church.  Our church has a balcony where parents with young children can sit, and there are windows between it and the main sanctuary, so that allows little ones to be . . . little . . . abit more than most church scenarios, and I appreciate that, however, as she gets older, I know she CAN whisper, and such, so we are working on it.

Which meant that the chance to review Rufus and Ryan Go to Church, by Kathleen Long Bostrom came at JUST the right time!

This is an adorable board book for children age 2-5, available from Ideals Books for $7.99.

Preschooler, Ryan explains to his stuffed monkey, Rufus, what happens as they attend church on a Sunday morning.

Little Bit and I settled down in the chair to read this book together. Since we go to church on Sabbath (Saturday), I made that adjustment to the story as I read it. The other thing is, at Ryan's church, there is juice and cookies after church. Since our church doesn't do that, we talked about how different churches do things differently, and I likened it to the potluck lunch that we participate in at the church a couple times a month.

I think Little Bit's "review" is summed up by her response when we finished reading the book. "Read it again Mommy!" I think we read the book three times in a row that first day.

If you have a little one who needs a reminder about how to sit quietly in church, this is a fun little book to help them  understand, and now you have the chance to win your own copy.


If you'd like a chance to win your own copy of this book, leave a comment on this blog post telling me something you've found helps children sit quietly in church, or something about taking your little one to church that you find challenging.

For additional entries (leave a separate blog comment for each entry):

  • like Ideals Books on facebook.
  • like Broad Horizons on facebook.
  • follow Broad Horizons on twitter.
  • Tell your friends about this giveaway by posting on facebook, twitter, or your blog (one entry for each method you use to get the word out).
The Rules: Giveaway will close at 8pm on October 18, 2013. Please make sure I know how to contact you by including your e-mail in your comments. Only entries listed as blog comments on this blog will be counted. Giveaway is open to US addresses.

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

Friday, October 11, 2013

Schoolhouse Crew Review: Chess House

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When Rodney and I started dating, eons ago, we naturally compared favorite games and such. One of Rodney's favorite games was/is chess. I'd never played chess in my life and, while I TRIED to learn, it was . . . not my thing! After a few attempts, we agreed to stick to other games that we both liked.

Fast forward several years and we were married and had 2 preschoolers. Rodney taught both of them to play checkers. Lexie liked it, and got pretty good at it, so a few years ago, he started trying to teach her chess, but alas, she didn't have the patience for it either, or perhaps he didn't have the patience to teach a young child, or some of both.

So, when Chess House asked the Schoolhouse Review Crew to review their Starter Chess Learning Kit, I knew it wasn't MY thing, but might be a good daddy/daughter review item. I asked Rodney and the girls about it, and they all liked the idea, so we signed up for the review.

The Starter Chess Learning Kit ($39.95) consists of a large, roll-up chess board, large plastic chess pieces, including an extra queen for each color, Elliott's Chess School DVD 1 "Pawn Level", and a canvas bag to keep it all together.

As soon as the package arrived, Daddy and daughters sat down and watched the DVD together. Rodney said even he learned some stuff from it.

Then the 2  girls sat down to play each other with Daddy "coaching".  The game took a LONG time . . . leading to a late bedtime, sigh . . .but I think that's a good sign . . . they'd learned enough to at least keep each other playing for awhile, and proved they were pretty evenly matched LOL. And further proof that they'd learned enough to have it be a "good" game, see that glow in the back of the picture? That's Daddy's laptop, sitting on the floor while he watches them play, gotta love that!

The only thing they didn't like was competing against each other. I pointed out that they could play against each other, focusing not on "beating" each other, but on both of them improving their games so they'd be able to beat daddy. They liked that idea, and so, when nobody else was around to play, they played each other.

We hadn't had it long when we left for Williamsburg, and here's the beauty of this PORTABLE set. It was no problem at all to toss the case in the car with the other luggage and bring it along. The thought was that once Daddy got to Williamsburg (mid-week), they could take turns playing him in the evenings, but they didn't want to wait for him, or play each other, so they convinced Papa (my dad) to play with them the first part of the week. It occurs to me that I never heard who won those games, but I loved the "scene" it created to have them sitting there in their colonial costumes, playing chess :)

We weren't home long, after Williamsburg before we left again, this time for Erie, PA and surrounding area. Again, we were able to toss the chess game in with the rest of the luggage and bring it along. One day Lexie wanted to play but Ashlyn didn't (and Rodney was working), so Lexie started teaching Little Bit (4) to play. They didn't finish the game, but that evening Little Bit convinced Daddy to play with HER! When I peaked at them to take the picture she was telling me how the various pieces move, so apparently she was "getting it", at least on some level, proving the Chess House is correct in saying that this is for "All Ages". No doubt between big sisters and Daddy, she'll get it figured out before too long.

So, our chess set is already quite well-traveled, and has been well used. Other then almost losing a piece at the hotel (one of the girls found it under the edge of the bed during their all-important final floor check (seriously, if you travel with kids, NEVER leave a hotel without that final floor check!), it's handled all our travel wonderfully.

If you or your children are interested in learning chess, this seems like a great set. The video kept the girls' attention, and seemed to teach them enough to be able to play after watching it through once, and Rodney, who's played since he was a kid, learned a few things too.  The large board is nice.  I wondered how well it would work since it's vinyl, and rolled up. So often when something's rolled up, when you unroll it, it doesn't lay flat, but this is a heavy enough vinyl that it laid flat without any problem. As you can see in the last picture, the thick vinyl, combined with the well balanced pieces, even worked fine on the bed.

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


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All prices are accurate at time of posting.