Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Spring Nature Study

Spring is the perfect time for nature studies! Today I'm blogging about this over at SDA Homeschool Families, come check it out!

Schoolhouse Crew Review: ARTistic Pursuits

Ashlyn's loved all things art from the time she was pretty little, although I do remember her first reaction to finger paints was absolute HORROR!! "GET IT OFF ME!!!" She's still not a huge fan of getting messy, but she'll put up with it for the sake of art.

A few years ago we enjoyed reviewing one of the ARTistic Pursuits books for grades K-3.  I was really excited to see ARTistic Pursuits back on the schedule of reviews for this year, and we were THRILLED when we were picked to review it. Ashlyn chose to review Elementary 4-5, Book 2: Color and Composition and both she and Lexie have been working on it independently for the last several weeks.

We received a non-consumable, spiral book, which retails for $47.95. It was necessary to purchase the needed art supplies to go with this book. I chose to purchase what we needed from a local craft store, however, for your convenience, art supply packs can be purchased that include all needed art supplies. One thing I appreciated about the Middle School books, over the Elementary book we reviewed a couple years ago was that the required supplies were much less. Because the Elementary book taught a variety of techniques, we needed to get quite a few art supplies. The book we're reviewing this year focuses exclusively on water color pencil techniques, so all we needed was the pencils and a couple different kinds of paper. Much easier, and less costly!

While Elementary 4-5, Book 2: Color and Composition follows Book 1, the books can be done in any order. Since Ashlyn loves painting and drawing with pencils, this was the one that appealed to her the most. The Elementary 4-5 books are for ages 9 and up and are designed to be used independently. Each Unit is divided into 4 lessons. It is expected that each unit will take 2 weeks (so 2 lessons per week). Each lesson includes some text to read and then an assignment to draw something using the information learned in that lesson.  There are 16 units in the book, so if used on the suggested schedule, the book will cover 32 weeks.

Because this curriculum is designed for 4th and 5th graders to be able to use it independently, I pretty much turned my 5th graders loose with it. Some weeks they did a lesson every day, other weeks, they did less. I was expecting Ashlyn to move very quickly through it, since she loves art and would jump at the chance to "have" to do art every day, but, while she does love it, and is loving being able to say "but Mommy, it's for a review, I HAVE to do it!" (usually when I'd like her to dry dishes or somesuch LOL), She's moved through it slowly because she puts so much thought and detail into each and every drawing and painting. I LOVE that, and am perfectly happy to let her work through this at her own pace.

Initially Lexie wasn't even sure she wanted to work on this review. She doesn't dislike art and drawing, but it definitely isn't her passion, like it is for Ashlyn. But when I needed a "final answer" because we were going to the craft store to pick up the supplies, she decided she wanted to do it too. I was kind of expecting her to go slower, and only do a couple lessons a week like the schedule suggests/requires, but she's been doing a lesson most days that we're home, so I think, because Ashlyn takes so much longer on the actual art assignments, Lexie's actually going through the book faster. It's nice to be able to just turn them each loose and let them move at their own speeds. Its interesting to see the differences in what they choose to draw and paint, as well as just how they see things, I think both are doing remarkably well, and they each definitely have their own style :)

I LOVE that this is something that takes NONE of my time!!! There is no teacher prep, no "grading" (other than getting to see their drawings and paintings, which is fun!), no "instruction". . . The most "work" this entire curriculum has been for me was driving to the craft store and buying their pencils and paper :) Much as I love being a part of what they're learning, it's been really nice to let them do this completely on their own.

I asked the girls, separately, what their opinions of this curriculum are. Ashlyn raved for several minutes about how it's the best thing in the whole wide world, condensing down all the raving, what I got from her is that she really likes watercolor pencils (the chosen art medium for this book) because they work for both drawing and painting. She also loves that every lesson includes an art project and that it teaches about artists, as well as different art techniques to make her a better artist.

Lexie was much more succinct. "I liked it."

When I prodded her abit, by asking what she'd tell a parent who was considering getting it for their children, she said "I'd tell them to get it because the kids get to do a picture on every single lesson . . . it's fun!"

So, it's unanimous, all of us LOVED this curriculum!

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Click on the banner below to see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought of a variety of ARTistic Pursuits books, including their two new, Sculpture books, Construct and Model

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All prices and information are accurate at time of posting.

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Monday, April 28, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up - April 27

BUSY week!!! As you may remember, we were at my parents' house last weekend.

Sunday, while we didn't "do Easter" per se, the girls did have fun coloring eggs. My cousin and uncle were still there, so we had a nice family day visiting with them. Lexie and Ashlyn got another "Chemistry class" by peppering my cousin with questions (she's a Chemistry professor).

Sunday or Monday (I don't remember which) Mama hid plastic Easter eggs all over the yard (I think she said there were 40 or 50 of them!) for Little Bit to find. Lexie was a good big sister and kept her company and "coached" as needed when she had a hard time finding some of the eggs. They found all but one, and managed to find it the next day.  Ashlyn was busy mowing the lawn while all this was gone. She spent a good part of Monday on the lawn mower, helping to mow a bunch of my parents' lawn AND my grandma's yard. By the time she came in she was brown with a layer of dirt, and abit pink from the sun as well.

Somewhere in the midst of lawn mowing with a garden tractor, she took a break and drove the big tractor, with some help from Papa down to Grandma's house for something. Lexie, Little Bit, Mama and I were walking back from Grandma's house when we met them coming down the drive, and Lexie joined in with whatever fun (otherwise known as work) they had planned, while Mama, Little Bit and I made sure to stay far away from the wild driver, hee hee.

The reason we didn't go home on Monday, as I'd originally planned, was because I learned a few days before we headed down there, that the National Museum of Natural History, in DC, was closing their dinosaur exhibit this weekend, for a FIVE YEAR renovation project!

So we decided to stay at Mama and Papa's a couple of extra days and spent Tuesday visiting the dinosaurs.  Mom decided that Grandma's health is such that she shouldn't leave her alone all day, so she stayed home and Papa took the 4 of us down into DC and dropped us off at the museum, while he went to get some coins at the mint (he collects the state quarters and the president dollar coins, so he needed some of those that are easier to get directly from the mint, or maybe from someplace near the mint, I didn't pay that close attention, rather than trying to get them at normal banks) and National Park Passport stamps.

When we first got there, we walked right in, and while the dinosaur exhibit was crowded enough that I didn't try to take pictures (the picture above is with a T-rex scull in the lobby of the museum, even it, I didn't manage to get a picture of without other people behind the girls LOL), it wasn't too crowded to be interesting.

After we finished with the dinosaurs, we found a "discovery room" for kids, that also was busy, but not too busy to be fun. It had all kinds of hands-on stuff and was a nice mix of things for my big girls, and Little Bit to enjoy! The big girls enjoyed trying to draw various nature-ish things that were in boxes with a grid on the clear plastic lid, so the kids could use grid-paper to try to draw the items to scale.

While the big girls were busy with their drawing, Little Bit and I found another table with drawing stuff that was more her speed. I think she was decorating an Egyptian mummy case, but my favorite part of this picture is that she's holding her hair out of her eyes so she can see to color. Her hair is always wild, and she is almost always insistent that she doesn't want it pulled back at all, but for some reason, this week, it was even more in her face than usual, to the point that it even bugged her, but not enough that she'd let me pull it back, silly girl.

When Lexie finished drawing, she moved on to another table that had stamps of various Egyptian heiroglyphic symbols, so the kids could write messages in heiroglyphics or decode messages or both .

Meanwhile, Ashlyn found a free microscope (they were popular, so she was lucky to find one available) and spent quite awhile looking at the stuff they had with the microscopes.

From the time we first got there, Little Bit was most interested in a skeleton puzzle, but it was very popular too. Finally, we managed to catch it free, and she worked on it, and then got one of her sisters to help her finish it up before we moved on to other parts of the museum.

By the time we left, early that afternoon, there was a HUGE line, winding all around the large "patio" area in front of the museum, and on down the main sidewalk, just to get INTO the museum! So I can't imagine how crowded the dinosaur exhibit was by that time, nor how mobbed it must have been this weekend!

Wednesday we headed home and spent Thursday and Friday getting settled back into our normal routines. Thursday also meant spending some time at the church, setting up the Sabbath school room, since we hadn't been there yet this month! And when we left the church we stopped by our little, local museum, for a final visit to the Dora and Diego exhibit since it's leaving in early May and we're not likely to make it back there again. Actually, depending how this week goes, I may try to fit in another visit this Thursday, but I didn't want to mention that possibility to Little Bit, in case it didn't happen :)

While this week's been colder than the last couple, we still had some beautiful spring weather, and took advantage of a breezy spring afternoon to try out an idea I'd seen on Pinterest awhile back. Instead of kites, we flew streamers!!  Just took some cheap party streamers and each took a nice long piece of it and ran around. It's so lightweight that the wind easily picked it up and it flipped around in the air behind as we ran. It was rather addictive, if I do say so myself, and the girls spent a large part of an afternoon having fun with it. Definitely an idea to tuck away and pull out again as needed :)

We've been enjoying re-visiting our Herb Fairies stories this year, but when we left for Mama and Papa's house we were just starting to see Chickweed (the first herb of the series) and hadn't seen any violets (the second herb) yet. But now both chickweed and violets are in full bloom! So the girls are having fun gathering chickweed and violets for our salads. We also had chickweed and goat cheese sandwiches on Thursday and I'm still hoping to convince them to pick enough to try a chickweed pesto with pasta later this week, we shall see. If nothing else, they're having fun gathering the herbs :)

We planned for Friday night to be our first Friday night cookout of the season, but after a beautiful day all day on Friday, right before suppertime, it started to rain, sigh . . .

Normally, that just means no cookout that week, but this was our FIRST ONE. Also, I had an ulterior motive. When we visited Grandmom a few weeks ago, I brought home a few cement blocks that she had laying around and am HOPING to do a very small raised bed garden inside the square (ish, shape . . . they aren't all the same size of blocks so it's far from perfect). I figured if we had our first campfire inside the square that would hopefully kill off any weeds in that area AND lay a nice layer of ash as the bottom layer of the raised bed. So, on the off chance that I'd have time to do something more with it this week (not looking likely, there's rain in the forecast, sigh . . .) I kinda wanted to get the campfire part of the process done.

So we decided to have a Saturday night cookout. When I went out to try to HELP the girls with the fire, I was told to go away, though I think in the end, when the lighter was giving them fits, they accepted Daddy's help. It was perfect weather for it and an all around great evening roasting hot dogs and marshmallows and eating salad that the girls had picked in our yard :)

Friday, April 25, 2014

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Brinkman Adventures

Brinkman Adventures Review
We spend a LOT of time in the car, between errands, and music lessons, and trips to visit the grandparents and travelling with Daddy for his job . . . we're in the car a LOT. And for several years now, our sanity saver, when in the car, has been listening to some kind of audiobook or audio adventure pretty much any time we're in the car. Needless to say, while we have an awesome county library, and have built up a pretty good personal library of audios, we're still always looking for new things to listen to in the car!

So, we were excited to have the chance to review The Brinkman Adventures Season 2: Episodes 13-24 from The Brinkman Adventures.

Brinkman Adventures ReviewThe Brinkman Adventures are radio adventures that combine the adventures of a large family with mission stories. We received the CDs of Season 2. A case of 4 CDs with 3 episodes each, for a total of 12 episodes. Season 2 is available from the Brinkman Adventures website for a suggested donation of  $25, or $17 for the mp3 album.

While the stories are fiction, they are based on true mission stories and you can read about the real stories behind the adventures on the Brinkman website.

These are adventures for the whole family, but it should be noted that there were some episodes in Season 2 that had a "warning" about being too scary/intense for young children. So MOST of the stories are for the whole family.

In The Brinkman Adventures Season 2: Episodes 13-24 we followed the Brinkman family on adventures including chickens, a trucker strike, a crocodile, meeting a retired missionary who told amazing stories from his time in China and Hong Kong . . . and that was just the first disc!

When I asked Lexie and Ashlyn what they thought of these cds, they actually started telling me, really quickly, talking over top of each other, so I just started jotting it all down, here's the jist of what two 11 year olds thought of it all. . .

It's adventure . . . drama . . . death . . . excitement . . . hilarity . . . I like Ian especially!

I like the missionary stories, they're kinda cool, especially when they're exciting.

They're kinda stupid, but in a good way, an exciting way.

Hope's cute (side note: Hope is the youngest daughter!)

I like the girls, and Ian, he's kinda stupid but he makes the best stories.

I like the island one because it's not true, it didn't really happen . . . (that makes sense if you've heard the episode)

Ian should give his sister the camera for her birthday (another one that makes sense if you've heard the episode)

I asked how many stars they'd give these stories and Ashlyn gave them a 5 star review. Lexie, never one to do things halfway, declared them to be a 100 star review! I think that means they liked them ;-)

So that's what Lexie and Ashlyn thought . . . how about me? While I tend to not gush quite as effusively as my daughters, yes, I liked them too! Some of the audio stories we've listen to leave me rolling my eyes, but I enjoyed these right along with the kids! And while I love the old mission stories that I grew up hearing, I'm excited to have found these stories, that teach my kids, and remind me, that there are STILL amazing mission stories going on! If you're looking for some great stories to listen to with your kids, these are a great choice!

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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up - April 20

Sunday was a music recital for Lexie and Ashlyn.  Their teacher had e-mailed me in advance and asked if Little Bit would like to be her "helper". So as soon as we got there she went over to find out her job.  Miss Pat needed someone to draw numbers out of a basket to decide which student would play next and had a stool next to her where Little Bit happily sat through the whole recital.  I wasn't quite sure what to do with myself, being able to just sit and listen to the recital without keeping Little Bit quietly entertained, but she did great, playing with the number cards that had already been drawn and just sitting there . . .sniff . . . my baby's growing up!

Lexie and Ashlyn both did fine with their recital, including the duet that *I* was nervous about . . . I'm not sure they ever practiced it without threatening bodily harm, but thankfully they did fine at the actual recital.  I was sitting near the back so couldn't get great pictures, but at least I have proof that they were there LOL.

Monday afternoon Little Bit had a playdate with her friends, E & J.  They had new, bright orange swings at their house, so that was a big hit :)

Monday evening was also the beginning of Passover, but since we were gone all afternoon that day, we decided to wait and have our Seder on Tuesday evening. Lexie is our supper cook this month, so she was in charge of the Seder meal, but we all chipped in with the ceremonial elements.

Little Bit was excited to be big enough to have parts for HER to say this year too.

One of the extremely meaningful parts of the seder for me, is that it would have been during the seder that Jesus washed the disciples feet at the Last Supper. So one adaptation we make is to include foot washing as a part of our Seder. Traditional Jewish Seders include a ceremonial hand-washing, so that is an easy place to substitute foot washing.

I think Little Bit's other favorite part was getting to drink FOUR glasses of grape juice AND it was her first time having a "real glass".

For Shabbat (Friday night), we use stemware, but I have a fancy mug that we use for our Kiddush cup (to pass the first glass of "wine"/grape juice around while saying the blessing over the wine), and she's always just used that as her cup. But since we don't have a Kiddush cup as a part of the Passover Seder AND because it's probably a 12oz mug, so not exactly something to fill 4 times throughout the meal, we decided to do something different. The goblets were had were some we got from Goodwill the first year we celebrated Passover and were quite small (intentionally so), but we were only able to find 4 when we got them, and then one recently was broken, while drying dishes, so we only had 3. Goodwill isn't as close by as it used to be, and I didn't plan far enough ahead to check there for more last time we were on that side of town, so I found inexpensive, but larger, wine goblets at Target and declared those to be for the adults, and the 3 small ones for the 3 girls. The big girls weren't too thrilled with that arrangement, but Little Bit was very excited to be big enough to have a glass like Sissies :)

Much to our annoyance it got COLD again this week! Dropping below freezing a couple nights, and not being warm enough to want to spend all day outside like it had been the week before. Because of that, and rain, and everything else we had going on, I didn't get our raised bed put together like I'd hoped, but I was just as glad we hadn't gotten around to PLANTING anything yet, with the colder than normal temperatures, so there are pros and cons . . .

Friday afternoon we headed down to my parents' house for the weekend. My uncle and cousin were coming for the weekend to see Grandma, and, since we hadn't seen my cousin since the twins were younger than Little Bit, we decided to come down and see them too. They got here Sabbath afternoon and we've been enjoying catching up.  During supper, the twins discovered that my cousin is a Chemistry teacher, and they've been peppering her with science questions ever since.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Try a New Recipe: Matzah Pitzah

Passover started last night, so in honor of that, I thought I'd share our Matzah Pitzah recipe. It's kind of a stretch to call it a recipe, but it's easy and yummy! Besides, an area grocery store had a coupon for a free HUGE box of Matzah, so I got that instead of the normal small box (not gonna pay $3-4 for a little box when I can get a huge box free!) so we have lots of matzah to use up this year :)

When I was a kid, my mom would make "pizzas" using english muffins for the crust, so we decided to try that with matzah, and it worked GREAT!! If you're not familiar with matzah, they're basically big square, rather tasteless crackers that are the "unleavened bread" of Passover.

So, here's the "recipe":
marinara or pizza sauce
shredded cheese
chopped olives and/or other pizza toppings

Spread sauce, cheese and toppings on matzah crackers. Place on baking sheets and bake until cheese is melted. Cut each matzah into 4 pieces, and serve.

This is about the easiest possible meal! And it was good! I liked it better than the english muffin version! Little Bit wasn't impressed but I think she doesn't like the kind of tomato sauce we have right now (it's organic and I got it for less than $2/jar at an overstock grocer, so I got lots and the rest of us like it so she's just gonna have to live with it!).

So there's our recipe for this week! Happy Passover!!!

Head over to Try a New Recipe Tuesday to check out other great recipes!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up April 14

I'm still trying to catch my breath from this past week! We started out the week at Mama and Papa's house. On Sunday we went to play with friends. It was a gorgeous day outside and the kids had a blast!!! They put on dog shows (with the very long-suffering puppies), dug in the garden, created and ran obstacle courses, cuddle puppies (well, Wiggy isn't a puppy, but he's smaller than one LOL) . . . it was  a wonderful day!!

Sometime in the last few months, when we were at Mama and Papa's, my mom remembered that, when I was a kid, my grandmother had put together a "doctor kit" using various medical things she had around the house (she was a nurse). So mom got that out for the kids. All 3 of them have had fun with it, and Little Bit was very into it this trip. She spent most of her time wrapping and re-wrapping my legs (it was a real hardship, to HAVE to sit still and not do anything, my kind of "playing" with the kids LOL. . . I actually got caught up on lesson planning, thanks to her play.  But one day she got abit more creative and "doctored" Ashlyn.  Lexie was her "nurse".  The picture doesn't show that another Ace bandage is tying Ashlyn's legs together LOL.

We got home Tuesday, and did our best to fit in little bits of school between all the play in the gorgeous outside weather! The girls have even managed to get Daddy out shooting hoops with them a few times, which led to, as he describes it "Ashlyn's first sports injury" I guess they both went for the ball, and she ran into him, which knocked her down and scraped her elbow pretty good.

Wednesday was our end-of-year evaluation for homeschooling. Ashlyn was very disappointed that she didn't have time to show Miss Karin EVERYTHING she'd wanted to show her, but otherwise, it went fine and the girls had fun showing off some of their artwork and such to an appreciative audience :)

Thursday was music lessons, the girls were preparing for a recital (that was yesterday), so that was the main focus of their lessons. It included them playing a duet together, which requires a level of teamwork that is good for them to focus on.

On Wednesday I'd gotten a new ebook to review that is written for teens to use to set up a microbusiness. So I put it on the iPad and told the girls to read the first chapter during music lessons. Ever since they have been busily planning their own microbusiness :)

We finished up the week with a visit to Grandmom's house. Aunt Lynette and Uncle Dave were there too, and it was another gorgeous day. As soon as lunch was over Little Bit wanted to go outside to play, so we all headed outside. She even convinced Aunt Lynette and Uncle Dave to play on the slide with her :)

Then she and Uncle Dave ran a few "races". Grandmom's back yard is a pretty steep hill, so they got quite the workout. she LOVED it! Though it did mean I had to work abit to keep her from falling asleep on the drive home.

So that was our busy week. LOVING the spring weather!!!!

And, while we were at Grandmom's, we loaded up a few cinderblocks that she didn't need anymore, so now I really have no excuse to not get a small raised bed garden going . . . except, of course, that I hate gardening . . . love the RESULT, just hate the work . . .we'll see how this week goes :)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Weekly Wrap Up - April 6

I THINK Spring might finally be here!! About freakin' time!!

We had a kind of laid back week . . . Lexie was sick the first day or two, Lina was never "sick" but wasn't eating or sleeping like normal, so something was "off".  . .

The girls grabbed lots of outside time during the wonderful spring weather!!! They're finally getting a chance to play with the game of Graces that we got last fall in Williamsburg, and gave them as a Hanukkah gift this year.

I don't think Little Bit has quite mastered the art of throwing and catching the hoop, using the sticks, but she's quite skilled at running after the hoop when her sisters miss :)

There was also lots of basketball, they even got Daddy to shoot a few hoops with them, and some bike riding and such.

Little Bit also had earned enough "points" for doing chores, to have a "date" with Mommy or Daddy. She has been looking forward to this for awhile now, and knew exactly what she wanted! She wanted Daddy to take her to Chuck E Cheese!!!! BUT . . . that's no fun alone, so she declared Lexie to be her "slave" (yes, those were her words, sigh . . .) to come along and earn tickets LOL.  So that's what they did. And the icing on the cake, so to speak, was that she ended up with enough tickets to get COTTON CANDY as her prize :) At least it's consumable :) And she was generous about sharing it with her sisters, so it worked well all around. But Rodney said it was humorous to see how big her eyes got when she realized she could get COTTON CANDY!!! :)

This time of year, we always tend to back off abit on school, to leave time for plenty of outside play, and I've decided that the idea of "spring cleaning" is absurd . . . neither the girls NOR I want to be stuck in the house doing extra CLEANING when it's lovely outside! I did happily take advantage of good weather to hang clothes outside to dry, after using drying lines in the basement almost exclusively this winter, to do some extra loads of bedding and such :)

We're enjoying some review product - audios, to keep us entertained in the car whenever we go somewhere, and the girls continue to enjoy their art curriculum. But we've slowed down in most things for a bit here while the weather is good/

We wrapped up our week, with a quick trip to my parents' house. The church school that I attended for 3rd-8th grade was having a "40th anniversary" Sabbath, so I wanted to see who I could see. It was fun! And, while the girls weren't tooo terribly excited about the prospect, and Little Bit wasn't overly thrilled with the day, other than getting to run countless laps around the school gymnasium LOL, the older girls seemed to have fun getting to know some of my old friends, and "Uncle Dan's teacher", who they are now convinced knows EVERYONE in the world! Because he has so many awesome stories :)