Sunday, March 30, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up - March 30

This week can pretty much be summed as birthday and sickies . . .sigh . . .

We did manage to fit some school in amongst the rest. Ashlyn is LOVING, the art curriculum we're reviewing (check back in about a month to read our review of that!). So pretty much an free time she has, finds her working on that. Lexie is enjoying the curriculum as well, but isn't quite as . . . obsessive about it. It's interesting to see, not only their different interpretations of the assignments, but also their different overall approach to it. Just because they're identical twins, they are most definitely NOT identical, I love it!!!!

At the BEGINNING of March, we got fabric to make Bible-time costumes for them to use in Sabbath School. All month, the Bible stories were about Abraham and all but one of them, suggested having an "adult" dress up as Abraham and/or Sarah to tell the story. Since this is the little kid's Sabbath School class, and Lexie and Ashlyn are my helpers, they get to pretend to be "adults" when the program calls for this. But life's been busy, and it wasn't until this week that we found time to make the costumes, sigh . . . we DID get them both done (but haven't had 2 well "models" to model them both at the same time. Their Sabbath dresses are short sleeved, so the pink sleeves aren't there when they wear them at church. I just made it up as we went. The head dresses were easy, 2 remnants of different brown striped fabrics, they just hemmed them and were done. Lexie finger-knitted brown yarn to make the ties for both the head dress and the robe. For the robe, we took 2 rectangles of fabric, the length we wanted the robe, and for an estimated width I had them hold their arms straight out to the sides, and took approximately from elbow to elbow. Cut one piece in half (down the length), then seamed the sides, up to where the arm hole would start, and the shoulders across the top. And that's it. we may hem it at some point, but the rough edges kinda add to it, and it's a fabric that I don't think will unravel too badly with occasional use.

After the lovely spring weather last weekend, winter returned this week, sigh.  We even got snow flurries a couple days, but thankfully nothing that stuck. It WAS cold enough to require coats when going out, sigh. Here, Lexie and Little Bit are posing with their new tote bags from Miss Judy before we head to the store. 

In addition to Wednesday being Little Bit's Birthday, it was also the day Ashlyn got sick, sigh. Little Bit had been planning, FOR WEEKS all the things sissies were going to do with her ON HER BIRTHDAY! And Ashlyn spent the day sleeping, which left Lexie to be bossed around by Little Miss Five! She did awesome, helping with meals and such, and not complaining at all, about playing 5-year-old games all day.

Thursday, Ashlyn was still sick, so we hung out at home. 

Friday was Lexie and Ashlyn's birthday.  Ashlyn was feeling better, but still not 100%, so it was abit subdued, but still a nice day.  Little Bit had the brilliant idea that "since it's your birthday, you should play with me!" but handled it ok when they vetoed that idea LOL. We finished sewing the above-mentioned costumes. And got ready for the grandparents to come celebrate birthdays with us the next day.

Little Bit had declared she wanted a strawberry heart-shaped cake with pink sprinkles and, once the Easter candy started appearing in stores, she added that she needed Peeps and eggs too. . . Conveniently, mom had a heart shaped pan that she sent home with us last time we visited them. I had good intentions of making a healthy-ish strawberry cake, but when Ashlyn being sick meant all grocery shopping AND preparations had to be done on Friday, with her still not feeling good, I caved and just bought a strawberry cake mix. I love that, while we aren't nearly as healthy as I'd LIKE us to be, Lexie's reaction to the bright pink cake batter was . . . that is PINK! YUCK!!! LOL. Little Bit was thrilled, however (sigh). . . I DID convince her that the pink sprinkles would show up better on white frosting, so at least avoided adding MORE food coloring that way, and the finished product did turn out cute! And most importantly, SHE was thrilled with it.
Initially, we'd talked about just getting a Dairy Queen ice cream cake for the big girls, but then, Thursday evening, I found a recipe online, to make you own ice cream bundt cake, with a crunchy layer like DQ's cakes have and it sounded easy enough to be do-able. The girls loved the idea so we made their cake. They chose Chocolate Moose Tracks for the bottom, the middle crunchy layer was crushed Oreos and Magic Shell, and teh top layer was Peanut Butter Carmel Brownie ice cream. It was kind of messy to get out of the pan (by the time I melted it enough to get it loose, the top was too melty - if we do it again, I'll get it out of the pan a day ahead & re-freeze it on a platter) but overall easy enough and YUMMY!!

So, in addition to the above-mentioned cakes, the plan was to come home after church and have all the grandparents at our house for dinner, and present-opening. BUT Ashlyn woke up Sabbath morning feeling worse again, and opted not to go to church. The plan for Sabbath School had been for Lexie to be Abraham, and Ashlyn to be Sarah, and each had memorized her parts (about 1/3 page each). When I pointed out that, as leader, I couldn't hide away in the (too small for me to fit) tent, like Sarah was supposed to do, Lexie decided she better be Sarah (she didn't like my idea of just saying that Sarah was SUPPOSED to have been in the tent, but wasn't), so Sabbath morning, in about 15 minutes, she memorized those lines so I could read Abraham's part and she could be Sarah. 

Grandmom (Rodney's mom) decided she didn't want to risk catching whatever Ashlyn had, so it was just my parents and grandmother.  Apparently 11 is the age where we glare at people who want to take our picture with the cake, but oh well . . . After lunch, dessert, and presents, I noticed that Lexie had disappeared upstairs, but thought she had just taken one of her new books upstairs to read in peace or something. When my parents were getting ready to leave, I called up to her and got no response, so went to check on her, and she was fast asleep. Uh-oh! I let her sleep . . . at some point that evening she woke up and said she had a headache, drank some water, and went back to sleep. When I went up to tuck Ashlyn and Little Bit in, Lexie had a plastic bucket next to the bed, so I asked if she had thrown up. She said no, but she felt like she might, and in the middle of the night, she did (but had that bucket handy, so no big mess. I still don't know if she had a headache that caused her to throw up (some of my headaches do that), or if she has what Ashlyn had, but needless to say, we are taking a very relaxed start to this new week, sigh . . . conveniently, it's a NOTHING PLANNED week, so if we need to take a sick-week, we can.

In positive news, Ashlyn seems fully back to normal, finally, today!  

Friday, March 28, 2014

I Blinked . . . and Now They Are 11!!

How in the WORLD can my babies be 11 already? Seriously, I don't understand!!! They have matured so much in the past year. There's not much "little girl" left in them *sob*, but they're growing into lovely young ladies, and are so much fun!

We do a similar birthday routine, to what I described on Little Bit's birthday, though they informed me they didn't need crowns, or a "path" this year, and I just left the same hearts on the window and balloons at the bottom of the stairs, that were still up from Wednesday :)

A tradition I started with all 3 girls 5 years ago (because that's when I read about the idea, online), is to get each of them a teacup each year for their birthday. That way they'll each have a nice big collection of teacups by the time they're grown. Each year I browse Goodwill, and stores like TJ Maxx, to find their teacups, so each one is different. this year we also gave Lexie a teapot that matches one of her other teacups, and Ashlyn a cute sugar bowl that I found. And of course, we read their rainbow bridge story this morning, and lit their candles :)

Here's their story:

Once upon a time two tiny babies began growing side-by-side in a warm little nook. They snuggled together, and sometimes they  played together. The second one loved to do somersaults. The first one was anxious to get out and explore the new world they were getting ready for. But every time she asked the special rainbow fairy if it was time yet, the fairy shook her head. Finally the first baby got tired of waiting, the second one told her they should wait, and follow the rules, but the first baby just wiggled and giggled and danced her way across the rainbow bridge. As she reached the other side, her new mommy and daddy excitedly welcomed her, and called her Lexie.

The second baby sighed, and slid, feet-first across the rainbow bridge, and the Mommy and Daddy excitedly welcomed her, and called her Ashlyn.

(light the first candle)

And then Lexie and Ashlyn were one year old and they loved to slide down the stairs on their tummies, and they were giggly and happy.

(light the second candle)

When they were two years old they loved to splash in the water and swing on the swings.

(light the third candle)

When they were three years old they loved all things Princess.

(light the fourth candle)

When they were four years old, they liked to visit Daddy at work, and play on the playground.

(light the fifth candle)

When they were five years old, they moved to Pennsylvania, where they could play outside all day long.

(light the sixth candle)

When they were six years old, they welcomed their new baby sister into their home.

(light the seventh candle)

When they were seven years old, they loved visiting science museums and picking raspberries.

(light the eighth candle)

When they were eight years old they helped their Papa build an awesome playhouse.

(light the ninth candle)

When they were nine years old, they moved to a new house.

(light the tenth candle)

When they were ten years old, they enjoyed outside time, handwork, and learning.

(light the eleventh candle)

And now Lexie is eleven years old! She loves to read, is great with little children, and has an answer for everything.
And Ashlyn is eleven years old! She wants to know how everything work, and always does her best. 
Lexie and Ashlyn are turning into lovely, intelligent young ladies and we're so happy to be a part of their eleventh birthday.

(make a wish, blow out the candles and sing Happy Birthday)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Y is for Year-Round Schooling

This post may contain affiliate links 

This is the time of year when people start thinking about the "end of school".  And that means that people at church, and the store and the library and most everywhere else we go, ask my girls variations of "Are you ready for school to be out?"

A few years back, that cause some consternation in our house. See, school is never "out" at our house! And all those people planting the idea that it should be, led to Lexie and Ashlyn thinking they must be missing out on something. . .

But one thing I love about my girls, is they ask questions about EVERYTHING and are happy to talk things through. So, when they started to think it might be "not fair" that they didn't get a summer vacation, they asked me about it, and we talked about why we don't do that. Now, when people ask, Ashlyn and Lexie enthusiastically tell them "we do school all year!" And will happily go into more detail if asked.

So, why DO we do school year round? And why are my kids glad that we do?

At first, I assumed we'd "do school" during the school year, the same as "everyone else". And we started out with that schedule. But I soon discovered something. . . we all thrive on the schedule (loose though it is) of "doing school". The girls weren't sure what to do with their time, when we didn't have that extra big of structure, and they ended up fighting and whining and . . . life just wasn't pleasant . . .So, in those early days, when school was only an hour or so a day, and extremely laid back, my reason for not "taking breaks" from school was simple, it provided a structure that worked for our family. And that structure cut down on the whining and bickering!

As the girls got older, we discovered a couple other things . . . one thing . . .there is SOOOO MUCH to learn! It's fun to learn! And there's no possible way that we'll ever find time to learn everything we want to learn! So, in light of that, it seems illogical to waste time when we could be learning fun things! A big example of this is history. Even with schooling year round, it took us 3 years to get through most of (not all of) American History. If we'd "taken summers off" we would have had to cut out tons of awesome books and field trips!

Another thing. One of the things we love about homeschooling is the flexibility! That can mean deciding to head down to Mama and Papa's house, or go with Daddy on a business trip, or just go out and fly kites on a day that is PERFECT for it!

We take "snow days" when the snow is perfect for playing in, and we don't on days when it's too cold or too powdery or whatever. We take LOTS of "spring days" as the weather turns warm and we can revel in being OUTSIDE!!!!

On the flip side, when it's July and 98 degrees and 100% humidity, we happily settle ourselves inside near the air conditioner and read books and do art projects and just generally "do school". . .

I don't ever have to worry about "missing school" on days when the weather is begging us to spend the day outside, because I know that we don't just have 180 days to cram everything into, we have all year, every year!

And finally, we live a lifestyle of learning . . .it's hard to decide what "school" is . . . just this week, as we approach Lexie and Ashlyn's birthday, Lexie asked me if we could "skip school" on their birthday. My response . . . "Sure, so you don't want me to read God King to you for Bible?"  Well, yes, she definitely wants to do that! . . . "ok, so you don't want to do art?" YES!!! Of course we want to do art!!!  "Ok, then we'll just skip history?"  NOO!! History is fun! We need to do history! . . . hmmmmm . . . so what exactly are you wanting to skip? In the end, I think they decided they didn't want to do math on their birthday LOL.  And what DO they want to do on their birthday? They want to sew! Guess what? That's school too! Call it home ec or art or problem solving class or all of the above, but they certainly are learning stuff when they sew!

So, we school year-round because learning is fun, and we don't really know how to NOT be learning, and all learning is "school" . . . it works for us!

Blogging through the Alphabet is hosted by Marcy at Ben and Me.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Happy Birthday Sweet Little Bit!!!

It doesn't seem possible, but my BABY turns 5 today!!! So I thought, in honor of her birthday, I'd share a little bit about how we do birthdays at our house! We don't do the big "kid parties" that most people do. On the weekend closest to all 3 birthdays (the twins' birthday is 2 days after hers, so they're all close together!) we invite the grandparents to come for Dinner and cake and presents and enjoy a nice family birthday celebration that day.  On their actual birthdays, we borrow some ideas from the Waldorf education method, and adapt them abit, and here's what we've come up with . . .

Last night, in addition to our normal bedtime song, I recited the following poem with Little Bit:

  When mommy switches off the light,
  I'll still be 4 years old tonight.

  But from the very break of day,
  Before the children rise and play,
  Before the darkness turns to gold,
  Tomorrow, I'll be 5 years old!

  5 kisses when I wake!
  5 candles on my cake!

After Little Bit went to sleep, I set up the present table and birthday spiral.

We wrap presents in playsilks, it's a great re-usable way to wrap things and avoid the mess and waste of all the paper!

Birthday rings are a typical part of Waldorf birthday celebrations, but I like the spiral shape better, I'd love to get an Advent spiral, that we could use for birthdays AND Advent, but for now, I just make my own out of modeling clay, and use birthday candles in it. I decided to go ahead and put enough candles in to use again on Friday for the big girls.

Little Bit is very into hearts, and pink,  right now, so I taped pink and white hearts all over our big front windows (no picture of that, I'm not a good enough photographer to be able to take pictures of a window).  Then, I hung balloons (pink, of course) at the bottom of the steps, so she'd have to walk through them to come downstairs this morning, and taped a few more hearts to the yarn holding the balloons.

 The other piece of "decorating" we usually do is a "path" of hearts leading from her bed to the birthday table and I was soo proud of myself, this year after Valentines, I'd found a bag of pink plastic heart "scatters" that would be perfect for that path, and a nice change from construction paper but as I was hanging the balloons last night, and the cat was watching intently, I realized that all those little plastic things on the floor would be irresistible to the cats, so I waited and put the path down when I got up this morning (even so, MiLady swiped a couple I think!).

When Little Bit got up, she gathered the hearts as she followed the path. And then she was ready for PRESENTS!!!

After her presents were all open, we read her "Rainbow Bridge story" and lit her candles. This is another Waldorf tradition that I LOVE! Each year on the child's birthday, we read the story of her life, adding a new line each year.  Here's her 5th birthday story:

Once upon a time a tiny baby began to grow in a warm little nook. As she grew she heard noises outside her little nook. She heard laughing playing little girls, and she heard a mommy and a daddy, and she wiggled and squirmed in her little nook, excited to meet the people she could hear. Finally, a fairy whispered in her ear "Today's the day, you can go over the rainbow bridge and join your new family . . . 

The tiny baby was soo excited, she wiggled all over, anxious to meet the people she'd been hearing. And so, quick as a wink, she danced over the rainbow bridge and there, waiting for her, was a Mommy and a Daddy, and twin sisters, soo excited to meet her! They called her Little Bit and cuddled her and welcomed her into her family.

(light the first candle)

And then Little Bit was one year old and she loved to feel the wind in her face, and she smiled at everyone she met.

(light the second candle)

When she was two years old she loved to play outside and follow her big sisters.

(light the third candle)

When she was three years old, she went on lots of trips and moved into a new house, across the street from her friends, E & J.

(light the fourth candle)

When she was four years old she started circle time. She learned to pump the swing all by herself and loved riding her bike and scooter.

(light the fifth candle)

And now Little Bit is FIVE years old! She is smart and helpful and caring and loves to dance We are happy to know Little Bit and to be a part of her fifth birthday.

(make a wish, blow out the candles, and sing Happy Birthday).

Monday, March 24, 2014

Weekly Wrap-up - March 24

Busy week! (without pictures . . .)  We were at Mama and Papa's.  Sunday morning we spent with friends. They'd just gotten a new puppy, so she was the star of the morning :)

Sunday afternoon we were planning to go to Costco, but I had a headache, so stayed home to sleep it off while my parents and the girls went.  Just before they got home, I got a call from Rodney, he was working about an hour away and realized he'd left his wallet at home (and needed gas to get home). So I went and met him halfway to give him cash and while we were in the same place, with no kids, we went out for supper too :) It was nice to have a date! As we left the restaurant, it was starting to snow, sigh . . . so we both headed out. Rodney said the snow stopped as he crossed over into PA, but it followed me all the way back to my parents' house and continued to snow off and on the rest of the evening. We woke up to solid white, though very little on the roads.

Monday evening was the main reason we'd chosen that weekend to go to my parents' house. My former co-worker was working nearby that week, so he came over for supper that evening. He grew up with my husband, he and I went to high school together, and then we shared an office for the years that we worked together as auditors. It had been 2 or 3 years since we'd seen him, so it was good to catch up.

Tuesday we headed home.

Wednesday we went to a birthday party at Ballocity. Always a great way to burn tons of energy :) And we arrived home to find Ashlyn's much anticipated review product (Artistic Pursuits) waiting on the porch. She did the first lesson that afternoon!

Thursday was music lessons, and beginning to catch our breath LOL.

Friday and Sabbath were amazingly wonderfully gorgeous spring weather, we spent lots of time playing outside ahhhhhhhhhh!!!

And that was our week :)

Monday, March 17, 2014

More Pictures from the Playground

My friend sent me some pictures she took while we were at the park, so I thought I'd include a few of them too:

This was one of the coolest playground thingys I've ever seen! It was all wobbly, and looked like alot of fun.

Another thing I hadn't seen before (granted we don't go to tons of playgrounds), it was also wobbly, and fun for multiple kids.

And, since I only managed to get pictures of Ashlyn on the slide, here's one of Lexie

Weekly Wrap-Up - March 17

Whew! What a busy week!

We finally had some wonderful spring-like weather! So the girls were able to do SOME playing outside. Mostly in the driveway, because snow and mud make the yard not real appealing yet. But one afternoon they spent a couple hours playing with basketballs on the driveway, and that was before the snow in front of the actual basketball net had melted LOL. They had more fun with it once they could get to the net.

Tuesday we took a friend to the airport in Baltimore, and took the opportunity to go visit friends at ADRA, where Rodney worked when the twins were little. It was good to see people, and "show off" our big kids to people who remember the tiny, 5 lb babies they started out as. . . Then we went to friends' house in the area and stayed there overnight. Their kids and ours, had never really met, but hit it off from the minute we got there, and all seemed to have a fun evening.

Wednesday when we got home, my dad had left me a message asking about going to their house this weekend, so after some discussion, we decided that the girls and I would spent the weekend at their house. Which meant hurrying to get caught up on laundry and such so we could leave again.

After music lessons on Thursday, we went to the Reading Museum again, since Little Bit still hasn't tired of the Dora and Diego exhibit. This time, she spent most of her time at the "animal rescue" station, which is probably my favorite part. They have stuffed animals and a "scanner" that tells you what is "wrong" with the animal, and then you can give it "food" or "water" or a "bath" or whatever. . . even the big girls had fun with it, since they had a little sister to give them an excuse to do it LOL.

After Dora and Diego, we headed back to the electricity exhibit for the big girls, now that we've read that chapter in their science book, and Ashlyn helped Lina use the animal footprint stamps that Lexie and Ashlyn had found last time, but Lina hadn't seen until it was time to go.

Friday we headed to Mama and Papa's house. Sabbath afternoon we met friends at a park that I hadn't been to since I was probably younger than the twins. It has some nice playground areas now, spread out so that even though there were quite a few people at the park, no one area was crowded enough to be annoying.  All of the kids enjoyed the merry-go-round.

But Lexie and Ashlyn spent most of their time taking turns taking our friend's 20 mo old down the slides. He is FEARLESS and loves the slides, so his mommy was happy to hand that job over to the girls. And they loved it. He figured out to climb the ladder (with a big girl behind him to keep him from falling through the (rather inadequate, IMO) side-rails . . .

. . . and  then he'd wait at the top, pointing out all the cars going by, while she got sat down so he could climb onto her lap to go down the slide.

The weather was AMAZINGLY PERFECT and we had a very fun afternoon!!!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Mango Languages

Mango Languages Review
When my girls were younger, they were interested in learning Spanish, and we found a plethora of products to teach Spanish to various ages, learning styles, budgets, etc. But then, last year, they decided they wanted to learn Hebrew, and I found it much harder to find affordable resources to teach Hebrew to children. So, when we were given the opportunity to review the Mango Homeschool Edition from Mango Languages, we were all SUPER EXCITED!!!

Mango Languages ReviewMango Languages offers over 60 different languages. The Homeschool Edition is brand new! It was designed to give homeschool families affordable, unlimited access to all of these languages at the same time! That means that, while Lexie and Ashlyn were happily working on Hebrew, I could dabble in Biblical Hebrew, and one day when Little Bit was needing some distraction for a disappointment, she and I discovered that she could start learning PIRATE!! There is nothing cuter than hearing a 4 year old say "Blow me down!" in a "mean old pirate" voice LOL.

While my 4 year old loved playing with learning pirate, the program is designed for ages 6 through adult. The homeschool edition is a subscription and the introductory pricing is as follows:
     1 subscription - $18/month or $125/year
     2 subscriptions - $28/month or $175/year
     3 subscriptions - $38/month or $225/year
     4 subscriptions - $48/month or $275/year
     5 subscriptions - $ 58/month or $325/year
     Anything over 6 subscriptions is a special group rate, contact them for pricing.

As soon as we got our login information the girls and I dove right in. It's all online, so works on any computer with an internet connection. It's very easy to set up, and straight forward to use. The Hebrew (and I assume other languages) starts with things you are most likely to need to know, like how to greet people, and other simple "nice to meet you" type things. If the grammar or sentence structure is different from English, it clearly, concisely, and simply, explains those differences right after giving you a phrase that is an example of it. Each lesson introduces new words and phrases interspersed with reviewing already used words, so you don't forget them. It also includes cultural notes, such as the fact that people in Israel tend to be less reserved than Americans, so don't be surprised if someone you're just meeting greets you with a hug. These are interesting for us, and would be extremely helpful if we were using this program in preparation for a trip to another country. I was able to pretty much turn my 10 year olds loose with this, which is always nice.

At this point, for Hebrew, there is only the lessons, with review at the end of every 5 lessons. My understanding is that some of the other languages have quizzes and tests, and eventually all languages will have this. Because we're not really a "quiz" type family, that's no biggie for us, but might be an issue for some.  Each language also has a forum feature, but Hebrew doesn't have any discussion yet. There is not a way to disable this for a child, which would be a concern to me if I were considering this for a 6 or 7 year old. While Mango has some very good safeguards in place to safeguard the forum and chat features from "stalkers", which is important, I still wouldn't be comfortable with young children being able to access this feature without parental controls.

I wasn't able to find as much time to play with the Biblical  Hebrew as much as I'd hoped to . . . something that requires me to be able to hear the computer, and focus, doesn't work well in this house full of noise, and I can't go off in a room alone and shut the door like Lexie and Ashlyn did, to do their Hebrew lessons. What I saw, I LOVE though. It uses actual Bible verses, I'm still hoping to find time to at least get part way through it during the rest of our subscription, because I LOVE the idea of it!

I wasn't really able to see how my parent/teacher account differed from the student accounts, but it's my understanding that one of the things that is still "in process" is for the parent to be able to see what their children are working on and how they are doing. This, again, isn't something that I find necessary. My girls are excited to learn Hebrew, and share with me what they are learning, so I can easily keep track of what they're doing that way.

At first, Ashlyn, especially, felt like it was going too fast. Once I pointed out that she can re-do a lesson to review it, she has moved more slowly through them, but feels more confident that she has actually mastered what she is learning.

Overall, I think this is a great program, and I am soo thankful to have had the opportunity to review it. We are excited to continue using it as long as we have it!

There are a few areas that I hope they are able to improve on/add to in the future:

A big one for us, would be to be able to access it on the iPad and the girls' iPods. Because the lessons use Adobe Flash, they won't work on the iPad, which means using my laptop. I know some of Mango's other products do work on the iPad, so I am hopeful that they will soon find a way for the Homeschool Edition to also be available on iPad.

Also, this program only teaches how to speak a language for a language like Hebrew, I really wish it also taught reading/writing the language since Hebrew uses a different alphabet and is read right to left. It does show the Hebrew words, but because all of the review is the computer saying the English word, and asking the student to say the Hebrew equivalent, there's no way, that I've found, to "test" yourself on whether or not you can recognize the words in Hebrew. I've been thinking about going through the first few lessons and making flash cards that we can use to learn to read the Hebrew as well.

Overall, we are very thankful to have this opportunity, and look forward to exploring the additional features as they become available.  I think this could be a good option for a family wanting to learn several different languages. It seems like, if you're only planning to use one language, it would make sense to at least consider buying the individual language you want, especially since the individual languages include mobile access, which would be a big selling point for me. I would encourage anyone considering this to sign up for the free 30 day trial, and see what you think.

Mango Language, on social media:
Twitter - Mango Languages
Pinterest - Mango Languages
Facebook - Mango Languages

Click to read Crew Reviews

All prices and information are accurate at time of posting.

Crew Disclaimer

Monday, March 10, 2014

W is for We do What Works for us

After posting about unschooling recently, I realized that I've never fully explained what I mean when I say that we are Eclectic Homeschoolers.

To start the post, I thought I'd see what the dictionary actually says the word, eclectic means.

1. selecting or choosing from various sources. . . .
3. not following any one system, as of philosophy, medicine, etc., but selecting and using what are considered the best elements of all systems.

WOW! No need to say anything else, that sums it up PERFECTLY! But of course, you know me, I WILL say lots more . . . it's what I do :)

There are so many great approaches to homeschooling. When the twins were preschool age, and asking to "do school", I discovered a fun, Waldorf preschool curriculum that focused on art and nature. PERFECT for little ones who want to "do school" but are still so little, and developmentally aren't ready for the logic and reasoning skills of academic work. We had great fun with it, and Little Bit has been enjoying that same curriculum now. In fact, the older girls often join us. Art and nature are awesome at any age!

As we got to the end of that curriculum, the twins were starting to be more ready for academic work, asking to learn to read, asking intelligent questions about the many historic sites we visited with their grandparents, etc. And so we stepped away from one specific approach and started just doing what works for us.

Over the years we've used "old fashion" things like McGuffy's Primer. We've pulled many ideas from Charlotte Mason, Montessori, Waldorf, Classical education, Unit Studies, Notebooking, Lapbooking, etc. We also love using National Park Junior Ranger programs as a part of our school, and we happily set aside whatever else we might be doing if a field trip opportunity comes along!

I've found many things I've loved in each of these approaches, but also find that, in all of them, there are things that don't work for us. One major "flaw" in most approaches is that the approach dictates what is taught when. Children (and everyone) remember information much better if it's something they are interested in, and wanting to learn, so a key element that has threaded it's way through all of our homeschool journey has been focusing on things that the children are interested in.  When I noticed 5-year-old Ashlyn building a model solar system out of black walnuts on the patio, I suggested that we do a (preschool) science unit study on the solar system. When we wanted a chronological approach to world history, I discovered that a book typically used by classical homeschoolers would work well for this, but we chose to use Charlotte Mason's idea of "living books" to flesh out the classical spine.

Eclectic homeschooling has been, and continues to be, a great fit for our family, because it molds itself to what works for us. It also adapts to each of the children's interests.  Little Bit has, from the time she was 3, loved to do "workbooky things".  When she gets a new coloring book, she immediately goes through it, hunting for "activities" . . . circle the differences, mazes, trace the letters, dot-to-dots, those are all right up her alley. At her age, her sisters wanted NOTHING to do with such things (which works well, she's going through all her sisters' old coloring books and doing those pages they skipped LOL).  Ashlyn is my art-lover, so she often adds art projects into everything that we're studying, such as watching youtube videos to teach her how to paint an Egyptian mummy as a part of our study of Ancient Egypt.

Blogging through the Alphabet is hosted at

Schoolhouse Review Crew: - Algebra I Review
A couple of years ago, we had the pleasure of reviewing a science video from We LOVED it! So I was excited to see the company on the list of vendors again this year. Since we'd already reviewed the science video, I began exploring the math videos they were offering. After watching the online samples, and looking at what each video included, I decided on Algebra 1: Volume 1.  In addition to the Algebra 1 physical DVD, we also received a digital download version of the Fractions Thru Algebra Companion Worksheet CD. ReviewThe Algebra 1: Volume 1 is a set of 3 DVDs that provide 7 hours of step-by-step instruction. This course is intended for students in grade 7 and above. The videos show Jason, the same host we met in the science video, explaining the concepts of algebra, starting with real numbers and their graphs and working lots of example problems. The companion worksheets are organized by track on the DVD, so it's easy to know which worksheet to print to go with each lesson. The worksheet file also includes and answer key with step-by-step solutions.  The DVD set is available for $26.99 or as a download for $23.99.  The companion CD is available for $24.99 or as a download for $21.99.

We don't use grade levels in our homeschooling, so I'm not sure what grade level Lexie and Ashlyn are at, but I could tell from the sample video clips on the website, that the beginning information wouldn't be above their heads, and that it moved systematically enough that they should do fine to move forward from that point. The video is designed, based on things Jason says on the video, to be used to reinforce what's being learned in school, however we found that it worked fine as a stand-alone product. I found each track of the DVD to be too long to watch in one setting, so we would watch part of a track and then stop for the day and I would print out the corresponding pages of the worksheets for the girls to do before moving on to the next section. This worked well, and because the worksheets present concepts in the same order as the DVD, it was easy to break things down into smaller sections. ReviewWe moved pretty slowly, to make sure the girls fully understood each concept. While Jason explains things in a very thorough, step-by-step way, Ashlyn wants to know WHY everything works, she won't take anyone's word for ANYTHING. So, for example, when Jason says that, when multiplying 1/5 x 5/8 (or something like that), the 5s cancel out, she wasn't about to take his word for that, and I got to spend the next couple of hours (literally) figuring out a way to help her see WHY that worked.  I had an excellent algebra teacher in high school, who found it very frustrating that I was good at math, but had no interest in doing anything beyond the minimum I was required to do. I would LOVE to get him and Ashlyn together for a couple hours, either he would adore her, and all her questions, or he would repent of his frustration with me LOL.

Needless to say, the fact that Jason doesn't going into the painfully detailed explanations that Ashlyn requires is not, at all, a bad thing, it just meant that WE moved slowly through the videos, and it challenged my memory of concepts LOL. For a more typical child, there would need to be very little parent involvement. Certainly by the suggested age of 7th grade and above, I would expect this to be something the child could do completely independently. With a motivated student, she could even check her own worksheets with the included answer key, and it would allow her to see where she had gone wrong on the problems she missed.

Despite it not being as detailed as Ashlyn would have liked, she did like the videos overall, and asks when we're going to do Algebra each day.  As we moved beyond real numbers and fractions, and into actual algebra, she commented " Algebra is kind of like Jeopardy, it gives you the answer, and you have to figure out the question." I thought that was a pretty good observation :)   Lexie isn't as thrilled with it, I think because it is challenging her, and she's used to things being easy, so she doesn't react well to challenges.

Overall, I am very impressed with this program. It is a great way to reinforce the concepts for a student who is struggling with algebra using a different curriculum (either homeschooled, or in school), but it also seems to do a good job all on it's own.  I highly recommend it!

Visit on facebook.

Click the banner, below, to see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew though of this and other videos from

Click to read Crew Reviews

All prices and information are accurate at time of posting.

Crew Disclaimer

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Weekly Wrap-up - March 9

We had a quiet week . . . I like quiet weeks, but they don't make for fascinating wrap-ups LOL.

We've been reading and watching quite abit about ancient Egypt for history. It's been fun to hear the girls express opinions about the varied theories . . . perhaps my favorite, was listening to them go OFF about a video we watched in which, one of the "experts" stated emphatically that this was HOW IT HAPPENED without any real evidence. Both Lexie and Ashlyn were soo annoyed . . . "you can't say it DID happen that way! You can't prove it! You should be saying it MIGHT have happened that way!!"  I love it when school makes them think :)

All our ancient history studies have also led to a renewed, expanded interest in creationism, and the proof for young earth creationism. Lexie and Ashlyn's birthday list has expanded with several books on the topic that they've heard mentioned in resources we're using, and now they want to dig more deeply into it (one that I found fascinating was that the ancient chinese pictograph for "boat" literally shows 8 mouths on a vessel . . . interesting, considering there were 8 people on Noah's ark).

While it's hard to tell, because most of the ground is still very much white, the snow IS slowly but surely melting . . .I suppose the slowness is a good thing, otherwise we'd have major flooding concerns, but it'll sure be nice when the kids can play outside again.

And that's pretty much been our week . . . we've been doing abit of spring cleaning and organizing, and just generally enjoying abit of calmness while we can grab it :)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Recipe: Potato Noodle Soup

I'm not sure how it is, that I've never posted this recipe, it's my husband's favorite soup, and one that my mom's made since I was a kid. I think my mom has a real recipe with actual quantities, but I usually just use whatever I have on hand, or looks good.

onions, chopped
potatoes, cubed
chicken broth (or water and broth powder)
egg noodles

Put the broth on to start boiling while you chop the onions and potatoes (this time I used 2 onions, but not all of the potatoes pictured). My mom always peels her potatoes, I don't, I'm lazy and the peels have nutrients in them, and my family doesn't mind. Add a couple handfuls of egg noodles (I probably used a scant half of the package).

While the soup simmers, scramble some eggs. I think I used 6 eggs. I scrambled them in butter,but didn't bother with any milk or salt since the eggs will be added to the soup.

Once the noodles and potatoes are cooked and the eggs are scrambled, add the eggs to the soup, and serve.

If you have leftovers, the noodles keep absorbing the liquid, so you may need to add extra water or broth when you reheat the leftovers.  By making this with vegetable broth, or a vegetarian chicken flavored broth powder, this is a great vegetarian alternative to chicken noodle soup.

 Visit Try a New Recipe Tuesday for more new recipes to try.

Homeschooling while Traveling.

I'm blogging today over at SDA Homeschool Families, about Homeschooling while Traveling.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up - March 2

We're having fun with school these days, and I actually remembered to take a few pictures of that fun.  As a part of learning about Ancient Egypt, we pulled out the legos and, while we listened to an audiobook about pyramids, Lexie and E, tried their hand at building lego pyramids. Ashlyn opted to draw pyramids with the help of Draw Through History, instead. We also had fun with an on-line virtual tour of the pyramids, and watching some videos about them.
Little Bit's favorite tv show these days, is a new Nick Jr show, "Paw Patrol". In a nutshell, a bunch of dogs go on missions and save people/animals. One of those dogs wears a square "pack" of some sort. With that as background information, one day Little Bit came with the tissue box that we made into a "harp" last week and asked me to use rubber bands to help her attach it to her back. I wasn't sure WHY, but whatever . . . Once she had the box in place, she turned into a "dog", the one, with the pack, from Paw Patrol.  Who says tv stifles creativity, around here, it just seems to give them ideas LOL. 
When we went to Reading Museum last week, I promised Little Bit that we would go again, so on Thursday, after music lessons, and setting up the Sabbath School Room, we headed back to the museum. This time she knew what to expect, and dove right into the Dora and Diego exhibit, and had a blast! She's still not tired of it, so I suspect we'll be back a few more times before it leaves in May.  The big girls, chose a different exhibit that they wanted to see, but then, when I noticed there is an electricity exhibit there right now, and I knew that this week's lesson in Chemistry, is all about electricity, I convinced them to let us check that exhibit out this week, and we'll go  to the paper one another time. I wanted to see what was there to see how well it would correlate with what we'll be learning in science.  I was THRILLED to find that it's all hands-on stuff, woo-hoo!! 
The girls happily spent quite awhile checking it all out. Little Bit enjoyed it for a little while, but then she and I moved into the next room,where there were taxidermied animals and such which kept her well entertained until her sisters were done in the electricity exhibit. 
Friday the girls went to Grandmom's house with Daddy, and I grabbed the chance to get birthday shopping done.

With a new month, the story in Sabbath school moved on from Noah to Abram. This whole month, the stories have someone dress up like Abram and tell or act out the story in various ways. I DID get fabric to make the girls a more authentic Bible-time costume, but we didn't get around to actually working on it this week, so Ashlyn used her colonial shift, and a woven baby wrap to approximate a Bible-time costume. The closet at church has the head-dresses, so she had the kids wear those as well, and be Abram's "family and servants" as they began their journey to wherever God leads. Aren't they all cute?