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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Anybody want a DOG???

You know that book/movie Marley and Me? Well, just substitute the name Riley, and you've got our dog. My blog is filled with his escapades, but tonight takes the cake-he PEED on my BED. At least it was on the comforter, but since it's king sized, that will cost a pretty penny to take to the Laundromat and clean.

Anybody want a dog? He'd make a great outdoor dog-especially if you had plenty of room for him to run. I'm not really kidding, so if you're interested, he's free to a good home-already neutered/spayed/whatever. Of course, when you own a dog like Riley, there are not likely to be many takers either...

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Memoria Press Review

This is my last review on on the maiden voyage of the TOS Crew, and what a way to go out with a BANG!. Memoria Press's name was not at all familiar to me, but some of their products were. They are the publishers of Prima Latina and Latina Christiana-popular Christian based Latin programs that many "Classical Approach" homeschoolers use.
According to their website, " Memoria Press is a family-run publishing company that produces simple and easy to use classical Christian education materials for home and private schools. It was founded by Cheryl Lowe in 1994 to help promote and transmit the classical heritage of the Christian West through an emphasis on the liberal arts and the great works of the Western tradition. Memoria Press is currently developing a K-12 classical curriculum at Highlands Latin School in Louisville, Kentucky, where its popular Latin, logic, and classical studies courses are developed and field-tested."
I was impressed with this company from the very start. They were quite generous in providing me with several different products to try, and all of them were fabulous. I'll try to give you a brief run down of each one.

Prima Latina: This is a Latin program even the most Latin-intimidated teacher can handle. Designed for grades K-3, this program is a gentle introduction to Latin that introduces them to 125 Latin words. It is 25 lessons long, and by the end, they learn the first declension of nouns and conjugation of verbs. But more importantly, because it is designed for young students, it reinforces their understanding English parts of speech at the same time as it teaches the Latin equivalent. And a big "pro" to me is that each lesson always includes English words that are derived from their Latin vocabulary words, so they can see the tie in to our language today. My reluctant almost 12 year old learner has really been enjoying Latin thanks to Prima Latina, and has even been greeting people in Latin and then explaining what he said to them. And I'm learning too. I'm really loving this. The CD is GREAT, and it's fun to hear someone with a southern accent speak Latin. The bottom line for me on this is that if you are considering Latin, you won't go wrong with Prima Latina. The books are available in a set (Teacher's Manual, Student Manual, and pronunciation CD) for $32.95, or individually if you prefer (I'd do the set). DVD's of Leigh Lowe, the program's creator, actually teaching Prima Latina are also available.

First Start French: I studied French for 5 years in high school and college. FIVE YEARS! But I had not taught my kids a word of it. My daughter Mimi was very keen to learn a language though, and most interested in French, so I was thrilled that Memoria Press allowed us to review this new series. I like First Start French because it is as user friendly as Prima Latina. Each lesson has some basic vocabulary words (words that are useful in daily life like greetings, etc.), grammar (pronouns, negating verbs, conjugating verbs, etc.), dialogue (basic conversational sentences using the vocabulary words), sentences for translation, and comprehension questions, as well as a proverb or song for each lesson. My daughter has LOVED this. She has taken her book everywhere, and shown it to everyone. She has gotten up early to practice. It's amazing! The teacher's guide is very helpful in guiding you along and explains some of the concepts your children are learning in more depth so that you have the knowledge even if you never studied French. I will say that the CD might be helpful if you've never studied French and want to here how it is meant to be pronounced by a native speaker, BUT there is no English introduction to any of the sections, and the parts of the lesson go by quickly so you might not even understand what the person is saying enough to even know which part you are listening to unless you have studied French yourself, so I am not sure it is really helpful at all. The Latin one is much better. All in all though, the bottom line is I think this is a really good introduction to French and gives students a good usable vocabulary of common words very quickly. The set (Teacher's Manual, Student Manual, and CD) are $39.95, although again, you can buy each item separately too.

Lastly, we received the Famous Men of Rome set. The set is comprised of a book of stories about the famous men of Rome starting with Romulus and Remus and going through to Constantine the Great and the end of the Roman empire, a student manual with vocabulary, comprehension questions, and activities, and a teachers guide that again provides more background information for the teacher as well as all the student worksheet answers. Again, my eldest was my Guinea pig, and I chose to do this as his "reading" lesson since we are in Ancient Egypt for history. He (at almost 12) enjoyed the focus on MEN, and of course the battles that are synonymous with the Roman empire. He amazingly retained a lot of the stories. I had him read them aloud to me (I do that so we can talk about unfamiliar vocabulary words, work on proper inflection, and to make sure he is really "getting" what he's reading), and then we did the comprehension questions and vocabulary. I was pleasantly that he did quite well with it. I have to say, this book (and I assume the others like it in the "Famous Men" series are so rich, they'd make a great addition to almost any history curriculum, or if you are creative they could guide you to develop your own course of study based on them and the time period they cover. The illustrations and photos are really quite nice too and enhance the stories that they represent. The set of three books (Famous Men of Rome, the Teacher's Guide, and the Student Guide) is available for 25% off from Memoria Press, so it is currently $39.95.
The bottom line for me is that I haven't encountered a single Memoria Press product we didn't thoroughly enjoy, and I would LOVE to own their entire line. I may purchase their Christian Studies, and the Cursive handwriting, as well as the other levels of the products I've reviewed here. To read more about Memoria Presses other products, you can go to their website HERE, or go to the TOS Crew blog HERE as each reviewer chose their own products so I believe their entire line was reviewed.
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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Tapestry of Grace Review

Ironically, had I not become a reviewer for the TOS Crew, Tapestry of Grace was the curriculum I planned to use this year. But as I started trying to do math and reading on three different levels, entertain a preschooler, and then use and review new products, I realized this past fall was not the right time to start Tapestry. So I was THRILLED when it came up as a product to review this spring and literally begged to be included as reviewer! This review is kind of dual purpose, as we were asked to review Tapestry's new Digital Edition, so that warrants some mention beyond just the basic Tapestry curriculum and requires assessing the digital editions strengths and weaknesses too.
Tapestry of Grace was developed by a homeschooling family (the Somervilles) and Lampstand Press is the company they founded to publish it (although they now carry far more than just one product). Tapestry of Grace (TOG) is, in essence, a unit study approach to history, Bible, and the humanities like literature, writing, critical thinking, art, geography, and government. The curriculum strives to be historically accurate and Biblically oriented, so while the unit studies are organized chronologically through history, they are organized around the events of God's Word and His people. TOG is also considered a classical approach and as such the student levels are organized by stages, not ages. And the curriculum consists of four volumes of four units (or 9 weeks of lessons) each. The idea is that your student(s), if started in kindergarten, would visit each era of history 3 times during their schooling. As reviewers, we were given the choice of what unit we'd like to review, and since I had been planning to use Tapestry anyway, I chose Year One Unit One The Books of Moses.

TOG has many "pros" obviously, or I wouldn't have been wanting to use it as my curriculum! I love that all the kids in my house can study the same topic at the same time, and the teacher's materials show me what additional activities to do with the older children beyond or differently from what the younger ones do. For example, Year One Unit One starts in Egypt, and so all three "school aged" kids studied Egypt, but my oldest used a few resources is siblings didn't use. He also had some different activities, but to simplify things, I chose to just have them all do the same things. Tapestry is a VERY comprehensive program. And it can seem TOO comprehensive at first, as there are tons of activities and resources suggested, but one of the curriculum's "pros" is that the Somervilles repeat over and over that you should treat TOG as a buffet. Don't try to "eat" everything. Do more when you can, less when you can't. Skip things entirely if you want to. It's a very flexible curriculum that way. The assignments are organized weekly, so you can do as much or as little on any given day as you want. YOU are in control, not the curriculum. Another pro is that TOG encourages students to be responsible for their own education in that they are encouraged to be an integral part of everything from setting up their binders to choosing what assignments will be done and by when. There's encouragement for the teachers too in the form of extra material on "The Loom" (a supplemental resource included with the curriculum that contains tons of extras) and though online forums for TOG users. The biggest pro to me though is that this is a solidly Biblical curriculum that presents history in the order it happened, but based on the timeline of the Bible and the events that have happened since the canon was established. It really is woven together like a tapestry, with key ideas (threads) followed from one time or local to another so that you can see the continuity of God's plan through history. And from a Digital Edition perspective, the pro is that you own this FOR LIFE-Lampstand Press keeps track of what you have purchased and you have access to it forever. If your computer has a track record like mine, you know how important that is! And the best thing about the Digital Edition? If they update the curriculum, you get the update FREE. No more having the "older version" of the curriculum and wondering whether you should pay to buy the new one or not.
But I found some "cons" to TOG too. First, it seems universally hard to get started. It's such a common problem that the "tapestry fog" is an issue they address in your materials. I know I had a really good grasp on how to begin, and I still had a hard time getting going. Call it a "learning curve", but be prepared to spend a bit of time getting used to this curriculum. And depending on how good your library system is, you may have trouble finding the books they recommend, or getting your hands on them if anyone else in your area is doing Tapestry. That leaves you with three choices-buy all the books you will need, use something else in place of the books you can't get, or delay moving on until the books become available. Obviously the "something else" option is better, but sometimes the supplemental worksheets go specifically with a particular book.
I also had a really hard time with the Digital Edition. I guess I'm just a paper sort of gal, but while e-books may be fine, an e-curriculum for a visual teacher is a challenge. I had to print a lot of pages to "see" them and have them available to me even when my computer was not. That can get pricey, and frustrating. And because of the way the materials are organized, there is not always the ability to print the assignments specific to you student(s) levels, so you may find yourself printing things you don't even need. I suppose I would buy the digital addition and then either pay the extra for the print copy OR take it and have it printed. Finally, and this may be a big "con" to many homeschoolers, you can't resell the Digital Edition, so this investment is one you can't recoup part of later by reselling what you don't need anymore.
So what's the bottom line? I still like Tapestry. A lot. I like so much about it. I'm a total history buff, and this Biblical approach is the best of both worlds, but also a good way to make history meaningful and therefore memorable. I love unit studies. Love the idea of all my kids learning together. Love the chronological approach. BUT. I'm still struggling to get in the groove. I haven't "relaxed" into the curriculum yet, and find myself second guessing whether I'm doing enough, or doing it right. I imagine that goes away, but this curriculum seems to have a longer learning curve than others. On the flip side, TOG users are a devoted group. They LOVE their curriculum. But you also hear from people who just couldn't get into it, so I would say if you decide to try it, allow for the slow start. The best thing is that you can try 3 weeks of the curriculum for FREE HERE to get a feel for it, but know that that probably won't be long enough to really hit your stride.
TOG is available HERE. You can buy individual units digitally for $45 or in print for $60. Digital Editions of the entire year are available for $170. Print versions are $225. Additional resources such as Map Aides, tests, or lapbooks for each unit are also available. We tried the lapbooks, and I'd highly recommend them as a tangible way to capture the learning you glean from the many different sources you will refer to for information.
To read what other members of the TOS Crew had to say, go HERE. Many people chose different time periods, so be sure to check their reviews out!
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Friday, April 17, 2009

WriteShop Primary Book "A" Review

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to review WriteShop's StoryBuilders, and this past month, they offered a few members of the TOS Crew the opportunity to look over their newest product-their WriteShop Primary line.

WriteShop Primary is a brand new incremental writing program from WriteShop. It's so new in fact, that only Book A is available, although Book B and Book C should be out soon. This program is designed for k-2nd graders as a parent guided introduction to the basics of writing. Each book CAN take a year to cover, but two alternative paces are also laid out for you if you are working with very motivated students or students in the 2-3rd grade range. Book A has 10 lessons, and each lesson has 8 "activity sets" within it. These "sets" are bite sized lessons-each building on one another until you reach the finished project. Here's a little more info diirect from their website: "Each Activity Set includes Guided Writing Practice. Activity Sets 2-8 also include a key activity or project.

Activity Set 1: Guided Writing Practice only
Activity Set 2: Pre-writing Activities and Picture Book
Activity Set 3: Brainstorming
Activity Set 4: The Writing Project
Activity Set 5: Editing and Revising
Activity Set 6: Activity Set Worksheet
Activity Set 7: Publishing the Project
Activity Set 8: Want To Do More?"

In addition, Activity Set worksheets can also be ordered to enhance the activities each week.

I think the program has many "pros". Like many of the popular curriculums that teach reading, this writing curriculum guides you, the teacher, completely. What you say is entirely laid out for you, and the type of response you are looking for is laid out too. If you have ever felt like teaching writing is something you can't do because you feel that YOU don't write well, this program is for YOU because it will literally walk you through it. It is broken down into managable bites and they fully realize that the parent may well be doing most of the physical writing in the beginning. There are also suggestions for tailoring the program up or down to accomodate writers who need more of a challenge or a slower approach. Each lesson has a craft in Activity Set 7, each includes times for the student to draw pictures to go with their story, and each one includes time for the parent to read to their child, so it is a multisensory approach. Each lesson is themed too. For example, lesson one is "animals" and all 8 Activity Sets deal with writing stories about animals. Then in the back of the book is a list of suggested reading books that go along with that theme.

In my opinion though, the program also has some "cons". First and foremost is the price. I try to review a product and really use it before I ever find our the price. And this one is a shocker to me. Book A is $26.95. Books B and C will be $29.95 each. WOW...I think that's high. I was expecting them to be about $10-15 each. They are/will be available as an e-book for less, but not much less. The e-book price for Book A is $24.25 (although you do save by not having to pay for shipping too). And the Worksheets are $4.95 for the hard copies or $4.50 for the e-version. While they are neat, I probably wouldn't spend the extra money on them. My next "con" is that, while the publishers clearly understand homeschoolers and even suggest some adaptations to tie the projects in with your particular area of study, I still think they are a bit "school-y". Their "predictable sentence starters" certainly are-you'd find them used in any "building school" you went to. (Things like Today is... It is... We will... Today will be...). I do realize that just because they are not original does not mean they are not effective, but they just seemed a little too predictable to me. And my last con is very much a reflection of my approach to homeschooling. I just have to wonder, why? Why do you even need a formalized writing curriculum for students who can't even actually WRITE, or at least not write well? It seems like on of those things where you can start in kindergarten and teach it for three years, or you can start in 3-4th grade and teach it in three weeks. But I wasn't asked to review whether the product is necessary, so this is really just my personal aside.
So what's the bottom line? If you want to start teaching you children the mechanics of formulating thought and putting it on paper at an early age, then this is the program for you. It's thorough, but the lessons are brief and build upon each other. And they are easy for anyone to teach, even if writing "isn't your thing". If they were half the price, I'd wholeheartedly endorse them because they really are well done. But the flip side is that I personally am not in a place to add formalized writing training to our daily or even weekly homeschool schedule. And even if I were, I'm not in a place to afford this program right now. You can view sample lesson pages HERE to decide for yourself.
If you'd like to see what other members of the TOS Crew had to say, go HERE. Some of them reviewed the e-book version, so I'd definitely check our their reviews if you are considering that.
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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Day Fifteen

More Egypt :-). We are going to mummify a cat. NO, not one of ours...not even a real one. It's a craft involving a tea stained sock stuffed with plastic bags, but it looks cool. We did the staining today-assembly will come tomorrow. I finished reading A Place in the Sun to the kids and we all enjoyed it. It's well written and gives a real sense for what life in ancient Egypt was like. While I read, they worked on some worksheets I downloaded from Enchanted Learning. I LOVE that site. Our homeschool group pays for a group subscription, and I think it's money well spent.
In the afternoon, we went to our usual Friday haunt...yes, I know it's not Friday, LOL. But Friday wasn't going to work for us, so today was a substitute.
I love it when "school" is just what you do on a walk in the woods. The kids were playing in a stream and moved a log that formed a small waterfall. That led to immediate erosion of the soft silt underneath, which led to murky water, which allowed for a discussion about erosion and the the Nile, and the silt int he water, and the richness of the just goes on and on. There was also a small Oxbow that had been cut off from the main flow, so we talked about how that (if it was MUCH bigger and this small brook was a real river) would eventually form a lake. So that was social studies.

Moving on to Science, Scott continued his quest to become the next Jeff Corwin by catching THIS:
Ummm, yea, that's a 5 1/2 foot snake. A RAT snake (just in case anyone is thinking they should be calling DCF right about now). It should be added though that Scott did NOT know it was a rat snake, although he was reasonably certain it was not a poisoneous snake...

We have a man who performs for our local libraries over the summer, and his big "schtick" is that he pulls out a HUGE snake and lets a ton of people simultaneously hold it. Here are the kids reenacting that event ;-).

Here are some more pictures from today:
Did you know we have cacti in the Sunshine state? These are flowering now. Pretty, no?

The small boys sitting on a log that crosses the stream.

You know you've had fun (or too much Italian food-sorry, but I threw that in just for Aunt Fannie) when your butt looks like this ;-).
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My Day 14...a little late

See, the problem with not posting THAT DAY, is that by the next day, I can't remember what we did on THAT DAY. But in this case it's not too rained, and rained, and rained...the deluge (sorry, old Disney reference that I rarely get to use here in the Sunshine state). So we "did school". I always say that. "Kids, we're going to 'do school' in five minutes" or "Today we did school". It's funny, because I truly believe life is the best teacher there is. Kids can grow up to be perfectly well adjusted members of society (albeit with terrible higher math skills) without ever opening a book (besides the obvious-THE Book, the Bible). But saying we "did school" denotes that we actually sat and intentionally learned something "just living" wouldn't teach us. And is usually involves books and paperwork that two of my school aged children generally abhor. TJ, though? Bring it ON. That boy LOVES to do worksheets.
Anyway, back to yesterday. We studied Egypt some more, and I let the kids read through some of the new books we got from the library. We read the first half of A Place in the Sun. I seem to be able to do a curriculum or math and reading, but not both...maybe someday...or not ;-).
I have no pictures to share from yesterday, so here's one that has nothing to do with our day, LOL.
Mimi and Thumper...proving both the girls can hold a bunny and look cute.

Poor little Tiger...he got left out of yesterday's pictures :-(.
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Monday, April 13, 2009

My Day 13

Ear piercing...kitten style :-)

Strike a pose!

Two cute ;-)
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Sunday, April 12, 2009

My Days Eleven and Twelve


And now :-)

The top picture was from 2005-our first Easter as a family of 6. The bottom picture is from today.
We have had the craziest and nicest weekend. From worship practice to church to two egg hunts to a BBQ to a family gathering (not necessarily in that order)-there was never a dull moment. But it was the best kind of busy. We have the most wonderful church family and truly the best friends anywhere, and spending a weekend in the company of all of them was a great way to celebrate Jesus' resurrection.
The LORD is risen!
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Friday, April 10, 2009

My Day Ten

In the "traditional" sense of the word, absolutely NO school was done in our house today. Instead, we began our day with cooking lessons...primarily how to make pancakes, which Mimi has been chomping at the bit to have. Then we headed out with our friends to Hidden Waters again. It's become a Friday thing, and the kids LOVE it. I love it too, as it gives them just a taste of what it was like to grow up when I was young and we could just disappear into the woods for hours to play. I know the above picture is out of focus, but I kind of like the effect :-). It's of the kids (from a previous week) heading down into the preserve.

This is a lizard from our last trip to HW. Today we saw a cool snake. The kids saw one too. They were the same type, and we saw them at the same time, but on different sides of the ravine.
Frustratingly, I also started the day with a migraine. This one fortunately was a regular one, and after taking meds I began making slow steps toward normalcy.
When we got home from Hidden Waters, the kids again made pancakes for their lunch (LOVING their new found skill!), and afterward Scott pulled his typical disappearing act. I decided NOT to stress about it. Instead I laid down to take a short nap, and after that I was finally headache free.
My sister came over in the afternoon, and I ran to get copies made of my kids' recent artwork. I had a $5 coupon, and the copies cost $4.41, so they were FREE-gotta love that!
When I finally got home, she left, and left us with my nephew for the night. We had our first ever Good Friday Service at the new building, but I was not able to go, as Scott still had not reappeared, and I had already decided that 5 kids in a pseudo-kid friendly service was NOT going to enhance my emotional connection to this day.
So instead we had a special dinner. Can you guess what it was? That's right...pancakes! This time I made them, and sprinkled them with mini-chocolate chips. Yum!
Currently the kids are watching James and the Giant Peach, which I have never seen before. I spent a good hour with two four year olds in my lap-does it get better than that?
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My Boy

Here's Scott, my sailing boy, with Kiwi's son L
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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Apologia Science: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day Review

I have heard about Apologia's Science books for a long time, and last year when a homeschooling mom offered me one of hers that she no longer needed, I snapped it up! That was Exploring Creation with Astronomy, and while we haven't actually used it as our "Science" yet, I've caught my kids looking though it several times because they think it's really great.
I was really excited that Apologia was one of the TOS Crew vendors, and we were thrilled to receive Exploring Creation with Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day to review.

Apologia was know for their upper level science books for a long time before adding Jeannie Fulbright's books that now make up the Young Explorer Series. All these books are titled "Exploring Creation with..." and then whatever specific discipline they cover like the Zoology book we received (which is one of three Zoology texts-the other two cover swimming creatures and land animals), or the Astronomy one my friend gave us, or Botany. Don't let the fact that these books aren't the "general science" approach most other curriculums offer scare you into thinking they might be too intense for elementary aged kids. These are written for K-6th graders, and while they do concentrated on a specific branch of science, they are definitely kid friendly and engaging.
There are lots of "Pros" to these books. First, see how gorgeous the cover is? The whole book is like that! Each pair of pages has at least one picture, and frequently two or three. And they are really nice pictures too. But those aren't the only pictures the book uses. Kids are encouraged to keep their own nature notebooks where they can draw pictures and record facts about what they have learned. And, like any science text, there are some experiments, but I found these were easy to do, and very effective in demonstrating the lesson to be learned. I wish my science had been this much fun! Also, the text is written as if someone is talking to the students, so it is full of questions to make them THINK about "why" things are the way they are.
But the biggest pro to me is the fact that these books are REAL science from a Christian perspective. God and His word are gently woven in to the text throughout the book. For example, when talking about feathers, it says, "Feathers are incredible works of God...God made them light enough to allow birds to fly but strong enough to keep them from breaking." Or in the discussion about Precocial birds, it talks about how they often gather their young under their wings, and then it quotes Matthew 23:37 where Jesus describes that same action.
I don't have any "cons" for this book, or the others I've seen. But I do want to share what I THOUGHT might be a con in case anyone else is thinking the same thing. I was a little concerned at first that this was going to be a whole book on birds. I thought it might be too specialized. My really limited perception of "Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day" skipped immediately to birds, even though other things are featured on the cover. I guess I assumed the insects were there because the birds eat them! And honestly, I love birds. So do my kids. But a YEAR of birds sounded a bit daunting. Silly me! Flying Creatures does cover birds...and SO MUCH MORE!!! It covers every living thing that flies...or has every flown. Birds, bats, insects, and even flying reptiles like the Pterosaurs are all covered at length. Definitely not boring by any means.
The bottom line for me is that I want the WHOLE line of these books. They are so wonderfully written and the photography is first rate. The experiments are easy even to me, who generally avoids things like that. I have learn so much just reading though this book. Things I never learned as a child. And they are presented in a way that I know I and my children will remember them for a lifetime. I can't recommend these books highly enough!
To view all of Apologia's offerings, or to purchase these books, which are $39 each, go HERE. To see what other TOS Crew members said about this or or two of the higher level books they reviewed, go HERE.
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My Day Nine

What a CRAZY day!!! I had a Dr.'s appt. at 9:45 this morning (got a new med to try should that AWFUL dizzy-migraine ever rear it's head again), so my sister came over at 9:30 to watch the kids. I had been trying to straighten up the dining room area in preparation for a later activity, but had gotten to that point where it was a huge mess teetering on the precipice of either eternal messiness or new found order and know that spot? Well, that's where it was when I left at 9:30, with 2 hours until the table needed to be usable. So of course, this is the day the Dr. was running an hour and 45 minutes behind! Yep! I got home 3 minutes AFTER our friends were to arrive. So much for a cleaned off table!. I got it done though (with my sister's help) and then we started on an art project we both wanted to do that Kiwi had found HERE. The results are below:
Mine...I can't resist an excuse to be crafty :-).

Scott's. It should be noted that you "blow" the tree's paint with a straw, so you have little control over where it goes or what the end result looks like.

Mimi's. She designed a waterfall (those are rocks down the side of the paper, and water in the middle) with a tree growing at the bottom.

TJ's. He is the one most likely to embrace the artist's original idea and actually TRY to do it :-).

After we did that, I had to run out the door for another Dr.'s appt. Kiwi stayed to watch my kids (good news-no cysts were found, so no surgery is needed!). I got home and cleaned the bathroom while Kiwi (who is a real God-send) graciously vacuumed my carpet to finish up cleaning before I hosted our Young Writers' Club. The 3rd graders and up go somewhere else, but I decided I'd try the littler kids (K-2) here this time. There must be truth to that full moon thing, because they were CRAZY!!! But they enjoyed it (I think!), and I hope they learned something. Everyone went home with a short story they composed and a picture they drew to go with it.
From there, I took the little kids to the house where the big kids were, exchanged kids so I had my own, drove to get dinner for mine, dropped them off at the church, and headed to a section practice that I had scheduled for my Tenors in UIP.
I go t done there at 8:10, went back to church, picked up the kids, went to my sister's and picked up Sari, and finally got home at 9:30.
I'm TIRED!!!!
I'm off to bed soon, but I hope you like the art work :-).
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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

My Day Eight

Today I actually did math with all THREE kids!!! But I must confess, since Scott decided to put together this complicated pirate ship he got at a neighbor's yard sale, I decided to let math and lego construction be the bulk of his school for the day.

I finally found the paints I bought Sari for her birthday (remind me to blog about that family trait someday...losing birthday's kind of a running joke). The masterpiece above is Sari's.

We moved the kittens and Callie in last night since the low was going to be 40. They are in TJ's room. I went in to check on them, and found THIS sight above! Yep, there's my almost 12 year old sleeping soundly snuggled up to Callie and the kittens. I did wake him and make him move so he wouldn't squash one of them in his sleep, but I took the picture first, LOL.
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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Happy One-Day-Late Birthday!

The above picture is in honor of Aunt Fanny, because her daughter is known for her smile (especially since it really lights up her whole face). The one below is one of my favs though-maybe because it's so rare to see her serious. Either way, Happy Birthday!
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My Day Seven

Today was our last day of Precept until the fall :-(. We had a tag-a-long with us today-Mimi's friend J who is out this week on spring break. We went to the park after Precept and celebrated the birthday of a long time friend. I was looking for young picture of HER and stumbled across THIS pic of Mimi. A friend in Precept was just asking me about hair cuts (her daughter has curly hair too) and I realized some people may not know just how curly Mimi's was. She had serious ringlets. This was taken just a month or so before we cut her hair and donated it to Locks of Love.
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Monday, April 6, 2009

My Day Six

Happy Monday! We actually did a little school today...emphasis on LITTLE :-). Had about an hour chat with a neighbor (that happens whenever he stops by, and he lives behind us) that set me an hour behind this morning, but my kids didn't object too much, LOL. I DID get a load of laundry done. I also got kicked and pinched by my eldest (two different temper explosions). I set up appts. for myself and my husband with the Doctor. Mine for the migraine issue-his because he hasn't been since 2001 and apparently his cholesterol is through the ROOF (so said the lab results from our life insurance application). I washed some pots and pans (that I ran the dishwasher goes without saying-that happens AT LEAST once a day). I cleaned my cooktop and counters. (My house looks like a pig stye, but I am a fanatic about my cooktop-go's an illness). I rigged the cage the kittens are in so that they can't escape it, but they CAN now have the run of the place (before they were in a large plastic tub). Oh, and I talked to Scott's Doctor about ordering any physical test we can run on him while my deductible is met. Speaking of that, I talked to the hospital about a payment plan for my outstanding balance. The LEAST I can pay is $187 a month...(Is that doable? she asks. As if I have a choice!) I also spent a ridiculous amount of time online researching everything from ODD to Blueberry plants that thrive in our zone. It wasn't a bad day, but it wasn't the day I expected to have.
Today's pictures should make you smile:
Always seeking to make lemonade out of our lemons, here's Mimi walking the "tightrope" over the chasm that Riley has dug in our yard. Actually, thanks to the rain, the hole is only about 1 1/2 feet deep, but the kids found an old pipe and put it over the chasm, and they like to walk across it.

The next one needs commentary...
See, our bunny Thumper was featured on the front of a local family magazine with my daughter Sari.

Apparently the fame has gone to his little bunny head, and he's trying out a new look. A hipper look. A rougher look. A look that says, "Don't even THINK about making stew out of me." (You may have to click on it to get the full effect.)
Or it could just be that my mischevious 7 year old got him with the squirt gun, which was cruel and unusual punishment since a cold front moved through this afternoon and it was really windy and cool.
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TruthQuest History Review: Ancient Rome

I think I'm in love. Really. I think I might just have found exactly what I have been looking for for YEARS, and it is mind boggling to me that it comes in a book that cost $24.95. Simply amazing!
I should preface this review with the following information; I have a B.S. in Social Science Education...and a minor in History. If there's one topic I should feel comfortable teaching, it should be history. Add to that the fact that I've been putting some serious time into Bible study over the past decade. I've studied Precept Upon Precept for years now in addition to going to church that believes in expository teaching, so I feel like I have a decent grasp on the basic truths of God's word (which is not AT ALL meant to imply that I don't have a plethora of things still to learn or that I don't still quicken at each new truth He reveals to me). The reason I share all this with you is this: even with all that knowledge about my Creator and man's history, I have no idea to MERGE the two. See, all my personal education (with the exception of 4th grade at a private Lutheran school) was secular. I learned history from man's perspective. The history of man and man's accomplishments. And all of my personal Bible Study has given me a real appreciation for God and His creation and His sovereignty over the prosperity (or lack there of) of the nations. But how to blend the two...and then teach it to my kids? I was at a total loss.
So over the past few years I have been on a quest trying to find the right curriculum for us. One that assisted me in teaching my children history through the Biblical Worldview that I never learned as a child. And I've tried a few-some popular favorites and one almost no one has heard of. They were all good, but not quite what I was looking for.
Enter TruthQuest. I must admit, while the cover of the books look vaguely familiar, I had never really looked in to TruthQuest at all. And it's not one of those, "pick it up at convention, flip through the pages, and have a real grasp on how it works" sort of curriculums. TruthQuest challenges you to change ever preconceived notion you have about what history IS. Stop looking at it as man's story and start seeing it in terms of the Creator's story. How's this for different? TruthQuest uses the premise that "mankind is not the prime force in the universe ...God is. He initiates; we respond." TruthQuest focuses on two main questions:Who is God? and Who then is mankind?. In each time period that you study, you ask those questions, and with each book that you read from the booklist, you seek to apply those questions to what you are reading. Sometimes, the God from that period is really a god...or gods, as the case was in Ancient Rome. And learning who those gods are, and how the people viewed them and what the people were in relationship to their god(s) helps you answer the second question of who then mankind is. It's such an eye-opening way of viewing things!
Beyond what I've already said, I think there are many pros to this curriculum. The book list is extensive and chronological. But the author, Michelle Miller, is very careful to say over and over that you should NOT try to read all the books listed-in fact one of two will suffice. And while the booklist is extensive to offer you lots of choices for those at the mercy of their local libraries, she also points out that you don't HAVE to use those books at all if you can't find them. I'm impressed by the depth of these books. The study of Ancient Rome has 32 sections! And every so often they include a "ThinkWrite" that poses questions your child can either answer on paper or just discuss aloud. I love that what makes this curriculum more than just a glorified booklist is the commentary by the author that continually turns your focus back to God and His plan. Scripture that pertains to the time period is either fully quoted in the commentary or referenced and footnoted so you can look it up. And finally, it's very helpful that every book given has the suggested grade level, although again the author points out that YOU are sovereign in your home so you should be the judge of all content.
I'm hard pressed to find any cons, but I can see that for a person who likes to have each day scheduled for them by their curriculum, this would not be the curriculum for you. This is all about flexibility, and it may seem a bit loosey-goosey to the "recreate school at home" crowd.
The thing that impresses me even more than the curriculum itself is the loyalty of the people who use it. The ONLY negative comments I read anywhere where from people who preferred a more concrete form of schooling and struggled with this literature based approach. The people who use this curriculum love it with a passion I've rarely seen.
TruthQuest has many different offerings, including American History for the lower elementary grades, and then world/American histories (by time period) for grades 5-12 (although you could easily do them with younger kids too, especially with younger siblings. The complete list of books, and sample lessons, are available HERE. I think I might have been the only one to review Ancient Rome, so if you want to read about some of the other books and what the other TOS Reviewers thought, please go HERE.
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Sunday, April 5, 2009

My Day Five

Poor Hubs. His wife was incapacitated Friday and Saturday with a migraine, and he picks that time to come down with horrible allergies. Really. The kind with a fever and everything-everything except a functional wife or mamma for the kids.
Today I work up feeling better, which is good 'cause it was a busy day! The hubs was at church by 8 AM. I followed behind with the 3 kids (Scott was at a campout) by 9:30. At church until 12:30. Mimi went home with our Kiwi friends. Hubs home by 1ish. Eat lunch. NAP ;-). Then out of the house again before 3 so hubs and Scott could go to their Boys to Men mentoring project (building a corral at someone's house) and the two littles and I could go to Marie's house to visit with some old friends who have moved away to Idaho. It was good fun, and 5:30 came very quickly. Go get Mimi. Take all the kids to Nana and Pop-pop's house for dinner(the hubs and Scott met us there). Leave there around 8. GO to Aunt Fanny's to take her the book I needed to return to her. Stay and visit for a while with her and her husband's parents. Home just before 9. Just another day for our family, LOL.
This picture I actually took a few days ago. My husband blusters about having the kittens...or the bunny...or the cats (never the dog for some reason...), but under all that bluster is the kind of guy who falls asleep with a kitten on his stomach, :-). Gotta love my man.
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Saturday, April 4, 2009

My Day Four



"Dash", although I like to call him Milo :-). Poor guy, he's the one Sari started out calling "Lucy" so at least we've got the gender right now, but his name is a bit harder. Whoever takes him will rename him anyway, so it doesn't really matter.

Kittens, Kittens everywhere. Actually, we just have three, but they seem to consume a lot of our day. Mostly with us gazing and playing with them :-)

For my dear friends who have been checking up on me:
Just to catch you up, I slept great, but within 20 minutes of waking up I was in full blown dizzy stage. I took another Treximet (I've never taken 2 in one day, let alone 3 in a 24 hour period) and headed out the door for some errands that had to be done, spinning world or not. The craziness peaked around 12ish, and I was really considering a trip to the ER, but I laid down for a little while, and I am actually feeling...closer to normal. Let's pray it lasts :-).
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Friday, April 3, 2009

The Upside of the World Spinning

mercilessly in my head, that is...
Is that I have finished the WHOLE SERIES. Yep. All four books. And Miss Lynn was right A.M., I would not let my 12 year old read the last one. In fact, don't let her finish the third one. Really. They are good, but the fact that they are considered "Young Adult" literature is a sign of just how far our country has sunk in morals-on many levels.
And if you have no idea what books I am talking about, I'm not telling. I'm not getting into the whole judgment thing. God still loves me.
And if you DO know...the forth book is great! You can have it back now Aunt Fanny. And I'm glad the saga is over and I can move on.
Okay, that's it. The spinning vortex is reclaiming my life...
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My Day Three

Today started with an rare early morning thunderstorm that left me wondering if our homeschool group's used curriculum sale would be able to happen. I took the rain as God settling my personal dilemma as to whether I should attend the sale (since I am the group leader AND I have 3 boxes of homeschooling curriculum to get rid of) or go to the funeral for a wonderful Godly lady from our church. I decided God was encouraging me to go to the funeral, and I have no regrets. It was great, although I am sure that is not a word often used in relation to funerals...somehow they are different though when you know you will see the person again in heaven :-).
In addition to waking up to thunder, I had a personal thunderstorm in my head. The migraine that has been hinting around for 3 days decided to strike with a vengeance. It is by far the worst one I've experienced...not from a pain perspective, but from a dizziness perspective. And after two Treximets today, I am still living in my own personal hades where the world spins with every breath.
As a result, other than God providing me with divine relief for the funeral, I have been irritable and needing to be alone and stationary all day. After "the hubs" took the boys to scouts tonight though, Mimi was out bike riding with a friend, and Sari really wanted to be outside with the kittens, so I took my book outside and sat quietly and just watched her play. I LOVE her. She has such an amazing imagination, and such a love for God. She just randomly bursts into praise songs. Sometimes they are ones she has learned at church, but sometimes they are ones she just makes up. She's such a joy to watch. The picture above is her making artwork "cakes" for me on the driveway. She's still determined to stretch out my birthday as long as she can, and this was just one more example. I enjoy her soooo much, even when it's hard for me to enjoy anything. It was fun to be a fly on her wall tonight as she played happily by herself and I watched from the sidelines in between waves of feeling the world spin with every breath.
Here's praying I wake up without this sensation in the morning!
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Thursday, April 2, 2009

My Day Two

This is the bug that came to hang out on our screen today. If I were a good homeschooling mom, I would spend half my day on the internet trying to identify it. Usually I do that...but today I'm into neglect, so I'll be lazy and see if any of YOU can identify it for me, LOL. It has some scary looking mandibles and the body underneath tapers to a point like a wasp (I didn't see a stinger though). Any ideas as to what it is?
Edited to add: Sonya wins. It is indeed a Lacewing. I've only ever seen the green ones, and I have to admit I thought you were wrong, but nope, this is a Brown Lacewing...very beneficial in the garden, even if they are a bit scary looking. Those pincers in the front pierce aphids and suck their body dry. Cool!
And to Sonlight Garden's question, I couldn't find any proof of that, and they are used by gardeners to keep aphids at bay, so I doubt it's true. Scott seems to have survived his close encounter ;-).
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My Day One

Yeah, I know, I obviously didn't take this picture, but I thought I'd give you a laugh at my expense ;-). The three youngest and I went to Disney for my Birthday on Sunday, and we ended the day at World of Disney in Downtown Disney. They had a bazillion funny hats, and so I put a few on. Above is the Birthday one. TJ took the picture.
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