Some posts and sidebar widgets on this blog contain affiliate links.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Extra, Extra!

Tuesday, I got an e-mail from a friend about an opportunity for my older two kids to do some work as extras on a movie. The catch? The shoot would be all day, it was 2 1/2 hours away, we'd have to be there at 6:45 AM, and the younger kids couldn't come, so I'd have to have someone watch them for the whole day. So I called my husband, he gave his blessing and worked out the younger kid-child care thing by adjusting his schedule a bit so he could work from home. With that done, I e-mailed my friend back and asked if there were still spots available. We got our confirmation around 4 in the afternoon, and full panic mode set in. Each child needed 4-5 potential outfits in specific colors...and that meant I needed to do laundry...and we'd need snacks...and breakfast for the road...and they needed to bring backpacks as props...and schoolwork/books to read during down time...and find Social Security cards and doctor records for each kid...and...and...the list goes on and on. Not to mention the usual make dinner, tend to the kids, etc. Oh, and I had a dress rehearsal for United in Praise from 7-9PM that I could not miss. So I went through every article of clothing the two older kids had, pulled out what might work, had them TRY IT ON since they grow so much and things don't always fit from one week to the next, and then started a load of laundry to wash what was needed but dirty. I rounded up backpacks, notebooks, and busy work, I went to UIP, and then the store for granola bars, cereal bars, apples, and other snacks. I dried the laundry, and folded it, stacked Scott and Mimi's stuff in two piles on the table, printed off driving directions, and finally headed to bed at 12:30AM. Mimi showed up at my bedside at 3:30AM to wake me up-she clearly wasn't sleeping she was so excited. (She didn't know the call time had been moved to 30 minutes later, so she robbed me of 30 minutes of shut eye!) We got Scott up, which took a while, loaded up the car, and were on the road by 4:30AM.
We arrived in Largo with plenty of time to spare, and took the shuttle to the shoot. It was a busy, LONG day, and the kids loved every minute of it. Mimi wants to go back and do it every day. Scott got a bit of a promotion and got to be a "stand in" for one of the movie's child stars. He did great. Actually, they both did. For me, there was lots of time where I was just sitting around. I was glad I had had the foresight to bring a knitting project to work on. And a book to read. Of course, there were plenty of other moms to chat with too, but that's not my strong suit, so while I did a bit of that, I also relished the opportunity to enjoy the quiet and be busy with my hands. I'm not sure how much I'm allowed to say about the movie, and we want to go back for some more work in a few weeks, so I'm going to not say much more right now. The kids did get to see one of the adult stars (not that they knew who she was) and a few of the child stars, and should get to see more of the cast in a few weeks, but really the high light for them was having the potential to be in a movie, no matter how short their screen time might be, if they even make the final cut at all.

Scott with his "stand in" identification.

Mimi and some of the other extras.

Mimi's fancy hair. The hair lady walked up to her and said, "We are going to tame that hair today." And that was after Mimi washed it, conditioned it, we braided it, she slept in braids, and then we brushed it out in the morning and pulled the top section back in a pony tail. All that, and she still felt it needed to be "tamed". Oh well, the finished outcome was cute, the lady was nice, and she was very gentle with her so there were no tears ;-).

At the end of the day, we took the shuttle back to our van only to find the battery was dead. Welcome to my life. The production crew was amazing, and someone was there with jumper cables in mere minutes. We were on our way home by 8PM, and got back at 10:30. It was a very long, exciting day. And I don't regret a second of it, but I did wake with a mammoth migraine today, so the kids had a very light school day today too since I was in bed and unable to supervise their work (which always means their work really doesn't get done). We'll definitely have to plan better for the shoot in a few weeks so there is more sleep for everyone, especially me, the night before!

(Uncle Craig came to visit this afternoon too, so he got to hear all about the shoot, and provided further excuse to abandon the books, LOL.) Tomorrow, we hit the books in the morning again and go to our new science co-op and then play time with friend, so my expectations are pretty low for schoolwork again. Oh well, there's always next week!

Lord, thank you for opportunities that present themselves at unexpected, unplanned for times, and for the flexibility with homeschooling to take advantage of them. Thank you for giving the kids a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and for the chance for them to experience "work" and learn the value of a dollar when they are actually earning it. Please help them to see that when they spend their hard earned money, they are really spending moments of their lives; that that game that costs $25 actually costs them 3 hours of work, and help them to use that knowledge to invest and spend wisely now and in the future. Lord help us always to seek your will with how we use our resources (time and money) and to be obedient in saying "no" when "no" is what Your plan is for us even if "yes" seems like more fun.

Pin It!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Vocabulary Cartoons Book Review

"Learn a word a minute and never forget it."

That's a pretty big promise, no? Who wouldn't want to learn a new word in a minute and never, NEVER forget it? Well let me tell you, if ever a product could deliver on a promise, Vocabulary Cartoons is it.

Vocabulary Cartoons is a book of 210 vocabulary words that every grammar school student should know. But it's more than just a word list. Each word is broken down into the standard part of speech, pronunciation, and definition that most vocabulary resources and dictionaries contain. But that's where the similarities end. In Vocabulary Cartoons, each word also contains a "link word" which is a rhyming word/phrase that pairs up nicely with the definition of the vocabulary word to help the student associate the vocabulary word with a more familiar word to them. Each vocabulary word also features an illustration of the vocabulary word and the link word together creating an amusing visual that also aides the student in remembering the vocabulary word. And all of the things I said above are really much better explained with an example page from the book...

The Pros: What a COOL idea! Most people are visual learners and this technique plays right into that. I wish I had come up with this! My son has been exposed to tons of words he'd never seen before, and thanks to the clever illustrations and link words, he remembers them. There are also review quizzes throughout the book to help them retain what they have learned, but I've found that really the drawings and linking words do that for themselves.

The cons: There are only 210 words in the grammar level book...I wish it covered tons more! (Of course, there are two more upper level books for 7th-12th grade that contain almost 300 SAT level words each.)

The bottom line: LOVE IT! We have added this into my son's workboxes for daily vocabulary work, and he does it without complaint. If anything, I have to hold him back. I fully intend to get the other books as well. At $12.95 each, I think they provide a valuable, affordable tool in assisting my children in developing an educated, expansive vocabulary that will serve them for life.

To order this book, or the upper level books, or to view more sample pages, go HERE. To see what other members of the TOS Crew had to say, go HERE.

Legal Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received a copy of Vocabulary Cartoons for the purpose of writing this review. That book was the only compensation I received.
Pin It!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Schleich Animal Figures Review

I love it when a product review is challenging to write only because your kids love it SO much that it's hard to put in words. That's the way these Schleich figure are for my kids. We had the opportunity to review them last year, and you can read that review HERE. So when my kids found out we were chosen to review them again this year, they could not contain their excitement. I think it's safe to say they stalked the UPS man waiting for our package to arrive!

So what's the hoop-la all about? Schleich is a German company that has been making figurines since the 1950's. They began with comic figures, but branched out over a quarter of a century ago to include amazingly realistic animal figures. Hand painted amazingly realistic figurines. I could gush and gush on...really, I could, but I think my children's photo vignettes show off the figures quite well:

Gnu calf

Gnu and Gnu Calf


Swabian-Hall Bull and Piglet

Przewalski's horse

Indian Elephant Calf

The pros: Just look above! The minute these figures arrived, my kids took off with them and started arranging them in their "natural habitat". That lead to my daughter asking where gnus live, and me looking it up on the internet. And then realizing that "gnu" is actually pronounced "nu". (Yes, I realize that usually the "g" is silent next to an "n", but I watched The Great Space Coaster as a kid, and one of the characters was "Gary Gnu" pronounced "g-nu", so that had me mispronouncing it for life! I never would have kn0w if it wasn't for these figures.) We talked about Okapis and how well they camouflage, and about how our pigs were father/piglet, not mother/piglet, and how Indian and African Elephants are distinguishable by by ear size (which they knew, but it was a good reminder). And that wasn't even intentional learning. My kids just love these figurines.

The cons: Nada! We love Schleich!!!

The bottom line: Schleich figurines are one of a kind. Literally, since they are hand painted, but also figuratively, since they are head-and-shoulders above any other animal figurines out there. They are reasonably priced (generally between $3-15 each depending on the size). There are also knights, and castles, and dinosaurs, and elves, and sea animals, and vehicles, and so much more. You can order from several vendors online-there's a list HERE. Or, they are available at several retailers including Target and Tractor Supply.

To see what other members of the TOS Crew had to say, go HERE.

Legal Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received several figurines which enabled me to write this review. Those figures are the only compensation I received.

Pin It!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Star Wars: The Clone Wars House Party

If you're not familiar with House Party, it's this totally amazing website that you can become a member of and get the chance to host differently themed parties with tons of FREE goodies supplied by the sponsor. You may remember I did a Schwan's one HERE.

Anyway, this House Party was for the premiere of Season 3 of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. I applied to host it SURE that I wouldn't get it, but I DID!!! Not only are we big Star Wars fans, but TJ's 9th birthday was Sept. 7th, and this seemed like a perfect chance to celebrate his birthday in Star Wars fashion- a perfect set-up for my son and 9 of his best buddies. Because of the late hour of the premier (9PM) I figured I should make it a sleep-over if they wanted, but only 2 boys took us up on that, and calling it a SLEEP over was a stretch, since they were up until at least 4!
Here's a brief recap of our party...

First, Hasbro sent 10 figures like the two below-one for each boy to TAKE HOME! There were also tattoos, a coupon for $1 off another figure, and a membership code to the new Clone Wars online game. The figures that the kids got can be used to play an easy, but fun, Galactic Battle game that we played "tournament style" with the winner getting first pick of the figures. The kids really enjoyed the game, and it was easy to play, AND it made use of basic math skills to!

D and J check out the skill cards on their figures...

The game figures up close...

D doubles as Darth Vader. Here he was dancing to the Weird Al song about Yoda, which was a hoot.

All the party goers!

TJ's cake. He wanted a repeat of last year, which was fine with me. It's easy, and it makes him happy.

I wish this picture wasn't as blurry, but small children don't stay still long- especially not when they are battling with light sabers. I love how J is smiling even in the face of imminent danger!

J and D duel it out in a Galactic Battle...

I wish I had pictures of them actually WATCHING the Clone Wars, but somehow I missed taking any of that. Thanks to all the boys who came and celebrated TJ's 9th birthday and Star Wars: The Clone Wars' Season 3 premier. Thanks to Cartoon Network for such a great TV show and for the chance to showcase it at our party. And thanks to Hasbro and House Party for this wonderful opportunity!

Pin It!

Friday, September 10, 2010

America's Math Teacher Review

There's a reason the TV show "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader" was so amazingly popular, and anyone who has tried to teach their child complex math skills decades after they last used them for themselves knows it- if you don't use it, you lose it. And I for one have lost A LOT (of math skills that is ;-) ).

Enter America's Math Teacher, a new online site that offers 24/7 instruction on all math topics ranging from 4-5th grade math up to Algebra 1. Each subject (currently Basic Math Skills, Advanced Math Skills, Pre-Algebra Concepts, and Algebra 1) is further broken down into bite sized tutorials covering the topics recommended by the President’s Math Advisory Panel and the standards set forth by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Most of these step-by-step tutorials are less than 10 minutes long, and in the end, they cover a full year's worth of math topics for each subject. The man behind America's Math Teacher is Rick Fisher, a math teacher from California with decades of experience. The tutorial videos you view on the site feature his voice, but not his face. What you watch is a computerized "white board" where you see him write the math equations or formulas, and then explain them using a different color pen to highlight the processes, making the presentations clean and uncluttered. Beyond the videos, site membership also includes printable exercises that tie in to each lesson, evaluations to see what level a student is at before beginning, as sell as quizzes and tests to take during each "course", and a resource area with tables of math facts, and speed drills that play like a game and time students to complete a wheel of math equations as fast as possible.

The pros: The speed drills are great at building speed and accuracy with basic math facts for addition, multiplication, and subtraction. And they are quick and fun to do. And I think Mr. Fisher has a VERY conversational, easy-to-understand way of explaining math facts- even complicated ones. That he can break complicated ideas down into bite sized, easy to grasp ideas speaks to his years of experience, and clearly indicates that he knows his stuff and is one of a rare breed of really effective math teachers :-).

The cons: While my son is YEARS behind in math, it was still difficult for us to use this because our math's scope and sequence is very different, and because, while Mr. Fisher's teaching is great, the main purpose of this is to provide tutoring, not all-inclusive instruction, so it was hard to just "jump in" and use it to help my son out. And he found it boring. So did my younger son (who, as a 3rd grader, is really too young, but I had him do some math drills and watch the very first video of the Basic Math Skills). Surprisingly, my daughter didn't think it was boring, but she too couldn't really glean much from it as it doesn't line up with our math curriculum's approach. (They did all enjoyed the speed drills.) Another con is that the site is still under construction right now, so some things worked (the videos), and some things didn't (most of the evaluations), and some of the "answers" on the speed drills weren't right (9 + 6 IS 15- even if the computer says it isn't), so that is exceedingly frustrating, especially to children. But the biggest con is the price and the terms- it's $195 for ONE year and you pay that in one lump sum!!! And it's not a curriculum-it's an online tutor. A good one, but still! $195 is more than any math curriculum I know of, and at least when you buy a curriculum,you have something tangible at the end of that year of use that you can use again or re-sell.

The bottom line: I have a close personal friend who is a math tutor. I know she's good at what she does, and I believe $200 would cover about 10 hours of one on one tutoring. So the cost effectiveness of this site is something you have to figure out for yourself. If your student will need help at every step of the way, and if they are using a more traditional math curriculum (or go to a "building school" and use one of those curriculums), then America's Math Teacher is something I'd look into. You can view several lessons for free HERE to help you make your decision. If your child just needs occasional help, or will have questions that they need a living, breathing person to answer, then I don't think America's Math Teacher is the way to go, at least it wouldn't be for my family. I do know some other members of the TOS Crew LOVED it though, so be sure to go HERE to check out their reviews of America's Math Teacher too.

One last thing. America's Math Teacher has a companion site called Math Essentials. On that site, you can purchase on DVD each of the "courses" available on America's Math Teacher, except Algebra, for significantly less money and you'd own the DVD to use with future children. I'd highly recommend checking that out, and also the other resources he has available on that site.

Legal Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received a two month free trial of America's Math Teacher for the purpose of this review. That website access was the only compensation I received.

Pin It!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Happy 9th Birthday TJ

There's so much I could say about this "small boy" of mine. So much to love about him. He's easy going, funny, helpful, funny, athletic, funny, obedient, FUNNY, energetic, F U N N Y, and a delight to be around. And God granted that I could be his mother, which makes it even better.

I could gush and gush, but I think I've done that before, so let me share some photos from our shoot today that really capture his essence.

And one seriously good one with that million dollar smile ;-).

Pin It!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

School-Week One

I am confident all homeschoolers go through phases...and for me, this year had been a "freak out" one. It's unsettling, because for most of my friends, they were unusually decisive in what this school year would hold, and I was TOTALLY freaked out.

For the first time, I have four students "at the table". And I have a teenager. How did THAT happen? A teenager whose math skills are more like a 2nd grader...and that goes for many of his other subjects too. Every day is a struggle for him and WITH him. And I ponder whether he won't be saying, "Do you want fries with that?" for the rest of his life, but I know his life is in WAY bigger hands than mine, and God knows the plans He has for Scott... I just keep plugging along with him. I feel such pressure this year to catch him up as much as the semi-functional neurons in his brain will allow. Oh, and then I have three more kids who should probably learn something too...

Anyway, here are some pictures from this week. We really did work hard, even if we didn't begin to cover every subject every day. I have no pictures of Sari's work, and she did two exceedingly cute mini-lapbooks I found HERE.

I have been trying to get the kids to do more intentional creative writing. We got these animal puzzles in a Chick-Fil-A meal a while ago, so I told TJ to make a few creatures and write about the critters he created. He put these three cards together and was struck by how much they look like an animal Mona Lisa, so he made me take these pictures.

The "books" (Mimi and TJ, as opposed to the "book-ends" Scott and Sari) are studying Botany, and they had two activities this week. One was about how non-vascular plants move water (they absorb it), and so they did the above experiment with a paper towel. We were meant to use water, but I used window cleaner so that they could see the wicking action better. Below is their taxonomy project. They had to take shoes and classify them by choosing traits to categorize them into phyla, class, order, family, genus, and species. It was tedious, but they did it. I don't think I have any future taxonomers ;-).

Below is Scott's model of Mercury. We made a salt dough, and he used rocks and a pencil eraser to make craters. The picture below shows it all painted. He left an orange strip because the composite pictures of Mercury aren't complete, and the picture in his book had an orange strip where these was no actual image captured.

Then he moved on to Venus, which has over 1000 volcanoes. We did this project with melted butter and flour to simulate rocks melting into lava and carving out "streams" as it flows down the side of the volcano. Then it cools and solidifies again. Can I tell you how much I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Apologia science????

Today, TJ found this damselfly. It's gorgeous, and SO different. I've never seen one like this before, and I could not find a picture anywhere on the internet of it. If anyone can help with the identification, I'd appreciate it. I know it's hard to see, but the legs are VERY furry...and white. It's just beautiful. We might just have to freeze it and mount it for posterity.
There you go- the fun parts of our week in a nut shell. Then add in chores until 10:30 each morning, spelling, reading, devotionals, and handwriting, oh, and math and a few products we are reviewing for the TOS Crew, and grammar and SOS history for Scott, and it was a busy week. I HAVE to do more lesson planning today for the whole week, because getting up at the crack of dawn to do it is NOT an option. I serve a loving God who wants some time with me too!!!
Lord, I thank you for the privilege of homeschooling my kids, and I pray that you remind me daily that it is just that, a privilege. I ask for patience, wisdom, and stick-to-it-iveness to for me every day as I seek to train my kids to turn their hearts to You first and also try to equip them to function in the world in which they live and will live until you come back on the clouds or call them home.
Pin It!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

What's that chirping sound???

You know...



OH, it's the crickets...It's been so quiet here on my blog, you can hear the crickets chirping. (Ok, it would be MUCH funnier if my pastor could do it for you in real life. He's a walking beat box/sound effect machine, and he does a mean cricket.)

SO, why so quiet?

Well, it's actually for a good reason. Three weeks ago I started whipping my house back into some semblance of order (doing math with my eldest for 6 hours a day took it's toll on the house BIG time). I finally bit the bullet and made chore charts for each room. There are "daily chores" (as in you do these everyday) and once a week chores (each of which is assigned to a separate day). My friend Jennie has been doing this for YEARS, and I have always "meant to" do it, but could never wrap my head around actually figuring out what needs to be done in each room. But the reality is 4 kids and a husband out-mess me 25:1 (it's exponential). And I was making myself insane trying to do it all and failing at doing any of it. So I finally got to a breaking point and make our charts. But first, it took almost a week to get the kids' rooms clean enough to even begin a daily routine. And then each room of the house had to get thoroughly cleaned (with the kids help) with step by step instruction on HOW to clean it correctly. And let me tell you, those were some dawn to dusk and then some days...And since it's not what you EXpect, but what you INspect, I have had to be diligent about checking their work every day in every room. Then this week we added SCHOOL on top of that. I feel like my head is going to POP OFF. We literally begin our day at 7 and aren't finished schooling even at 5...but I KNOW it will all pay off (and move quicker) in the weeks and months ahead.
And I currently can have someone drop by the house and not be mortified at the condition it's in. Kiwi came during the big clean-up, but before the bathroom was done (and I had let it go intentionally so it would be good and dirty for our cleaning instruction). I was literally mortified to see after she left that there was black mold growing in the sink drain...and she had gone it there to wash her hands. YUCK!!!
So step by step, inch by inch, hour by grueling hour, we have been keeping the house clean...but that, school, and the resuming of all the activities that take place during the school year (AWANA, sports, sailing, United in Praise) have meant little time left for my blog no matter how great my intentions have been. But this too shall pass, and at least for once I am sacrificing my social agenda for my house instead of the other way around ;-).

God, thank you SO much for the messes we also means and reminds us that you have provided for us in abundance beyond our needs. And thank you for not giving up on me, and for continually calling me to a quieter, more settled, more contented life. Help me to stick with it, not in my own strength, because then I will surely fail, but in YOUR strength in accordance with Your will.
Pin It!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Hurry and take advantage of TOS's Labor of Love Sale

The Old Schoolhouse knows how seriously homeschooling parents take their conviction to homeschool. Our “Labor of Love” subscription sale is a celebration of the commitment to homeschool, and we want everyone to know about the sale. We are offering a one-year print subscription for just $7.95 or a one-year plus current issue print subscription for only $12.95!

From August 31 through midnight PDT on September 15, you can take advantage of our crazy prices! We only have 5000 of these subscriptions available- once they're gone, they’re gone. The sale could end before midnight on September 15 if we reach 5000. Go HERE to take advantage of this amazing price.

A note from me: TOS is a great magazine. I've subscribed for years, and they are by far THE definitive homeschool magazine. Every magazine is full of encouragement, information, and ideas for homeschool moms and their families. Our lives wouldn't be the same without TOS.

Legal disclaimer: This is the second post I agreed to make in exchange for getting the TOS Expo-to-go for free. But again, I would never have agreed to doing this if I did not believe in The Old Schoolhouse. And WOW, this offer is an amazing deal!
Pin It!