Deuteronomy 6:6-7

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. ~ Deuteronomy 6:6-7

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

February Reading List

I love to read, and I'm blessed to have two daughters who do too.  We're always looking for an interesting book, and this month has been no exception. Here's a peek at what we've been reading this month.

In honor of President's Day, I picked up a couple of biographies about Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. They were enjoyed by all, and I was pleasantly surprised when the girls were begging me to read "Just one more chapter!"

The girls have also enjoyed a few "just for fun" books this month. My oldest has been engaged in the American Girl series featuring Julie . . .

While my youngest has been enjoying some titles that I enjoyed as a child . . .

I have always loved the Trixie Belden books. It was my grandma who first introduced me to the series when I was younger. So fun that my girls want to read them too. Definitely going to track down these titles to rebuild my collection.

Can't wait to see what we'll find in our library this next month :)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What Being a Foster Parent Is Teaching Me

It's hard to believe that it's been about 2 years already since my husband and I felt the call to be foster parents. And believe me, it was a call. I spent at least a month arguing with God about why I SHOULD NOT go down this road. I mean, I already had two kids at home. We were already very busy homeschooling, and involved in a variety of extracurricular activities. Why in the world would I want to add to that craziness by adding another kid???

Well, I found out firsthand, that when God wants you to do something, He will prevail. And He did. And here we are, almost two years later as I said, in this up and down, roller coaster ride called Foster Parenting. I will not get into the specifics of the children, as I need to protect the confidentiality of the involved parties, but I can share what I am learning. I say, "am learning", because I am discovering what a process this is, and I doubt that I will ever get to the point where I understand it all.
But I can tell you what is slowly sinking in at this point in the journey.

You just won't please everyone.
And you shouldn't bother trying. Not that you need to be a jerk. Since the beginning, I have sought to be flexible, easy to work with, and positive. And as long as we do this, I will continue doing just that. But let's be real. Being a Foster Parent means that there are some serious issues involved, and you need to accept the fact early on that sometimes, people just won't be happy with you. That's okay! Do what you can do, bring it to the Lord, and leave it there. Easy to say, hard to do.

Find support.
Foster care is often hard. I am so very grateful that my husband and I have the support of our families. But, even with that support, you need other foster parents to connect with. There are issues that will come up that even the most supportive families don't understand. You need people who have been where you are, and can offer encouragement.

Trust your instincts.
YOU are your foster child's best advocate. You need to trust those feelings you'll get when something is just "off" in a particular situation. Go with your gut, and don't worry about the feelings you might hurt. See- "You just won't please everyone".

It's worth it.
There is much that is so hard if you foster. It's emotionally and physically exhausting. You give up your privacy and often your sleep. It is often filled with uncertainty. There are times when I think I'm done. And then I make that connection with a birth parent. I watch a child turn a corner. I get perspective. I can't save everyone, but I can help one. And that one is worth it

A+ TutorSoft, Inc.

Hello, welcome, glad you made it over here :) It feels like a good day to talk about Math.  This month, our family has been giving A+ TutorSoft, Inc. a whirl, specifically the 2nd grade online version of A+ Interactive MATH .

So if you will now please open your textbooks up to page. . . oh, wait a second! I said ONLINE program didn't I? Sorry about that. Back to the current century. Gotta love the ease of an online program, especially a math program that not only offers instruction on the basics, but includes colorful characters, practice sheets that may be customized by the teacher (that's you! :)), printable certificates of completion, and more! But I'm getting ahead of myself.

From the beginning. . .

The setup of this program was quite simple, thanks to the helpful folks at A+ TutorSoft, Inc.
There are 2 ways to log in, one as parent, and one as student. You can take a placement test to see which level best fits your student. As I briefly mentioned above, we worked at the 2nd grade level.

This program works well with children of varying abilities and learning styles. That appealed to me, as Math has been a little sticky for my girl, and I liked the idea of having lessons taught from  a few different angles (see what I did there? A little Math humor for ya).

A drop down menu on the left of the screen allows you to select the exact lesson you want to work on - addition, subtraction, time, money, etc. . . Clicking on a + sign in front of one of those titles will display further choices. For example,  if I wanted to work on addition, I clicked on the + sign, and then chose what kind of addition:

- Addition using objects
- Addition using regrouping
- Addition with carrying numbers

And so on. There are a LOT of choices. It's pretty awesome.

The lessons begin with the "teacher" explaining the lesson, with colorful characters providing the visuals. You then have the option of some interactive practice. This consists of a group of questions that your student will complete using the technique just learned. A cartoon frog will be the spot where the answers are submitted- on its tummy to be precise- and then your child will click on "Submit".
At the end of the session, you have the option of printing out a certificate of completion, which keeps track of your little learner's scores.

To provide further help, instruction, and progress, there are quizzes, exams, worksheets and more. There is SO much available here! When I tell you that there are worksheets available, I mean that you'll find them for skip counting, fractions, multiplication, division, estimating, and on and on they go. It's all here! Wow.

If you find that you have a question or issue, you'll find the support team friendly and helpful.

Now, for our family's thoughts.

We have mixed results here. As for me, I think this is a great program. I thought the teaching times were very helpful, with good visuals. From the teacher side of things, I just love all of the worksheets, and the vast amount of material covered. I like having the progress reports to see what, if any, improvement we need.
There is a also a good support system if I find that I am in need. I think this is a great value overall.

My daughter has a slightly different opinion. This was a program that she struggled with. There were a couple of aspects that caused frustration. The biggest was the way the math problems are laid out, which happens to be horizontally. She has a hard time figuring the problems in this way. Vertically is just a better way for her to get the problems done, at least for now.
My solution for this was for her to keep a notebook at the computer so she could work out the problems that way.

The teaching sections went a little faster than she would have preferred, and often left her feeling confused.

The last issue is the way that answers are submitted. I mentioned that they are put on the frog's stomach, and then you click "Submit". Often, my girlie would click "Next" instead - it was just kind of instinctual - and that caused a few wrong answers, as  a new problem came up.

What she DID like, a LOT, were the printable certificates of completion, which she carried throughout the house.
She also did well with the worksheets, because they present the math problems vertically.

Overall, I think this is a great online program to try out, whether you have a student who is struggling or not. Check them out and see what you think :)

A+ TutorSoft, Inc.

A+ Interactive Math - Online Homeschool Edition, 2nd Grade

Price:   Monthly, $19.99  Quarterly, $49.99  Full Year $124.99 
As an extra incentive to give A+ a try, you can receive 50% off of your purchase by using the coupon code SPOFFER50
This offer is good now through the end of March.

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Classical Academic Press - Song School Spanish

Hey there, amigos, so glad that you stopped by. I have a great curriculum to share with you. The girls have been having the best time learning Spanish with Song School Spanish from Classical Academic Press. I think you'll like it too!

I don't know how your children feel about learning a new language, but my girlies are always enthusiastic. They were so excited the day that we received this Spanish book in the mail. In fact, I looked through it for just about 10 minutes before coming to the conclusion that I would have to purchase an additional book so both would be able to do the program. It was a very good decision!

We were given the Song School Spanish workbook-see image above; it also includes a CD-, and the Teacher's Edition- see image below.

From the beginning, I found the lessons (and so did my girls) to be simple, informative, and fun. Chapters begin with new vocabulary words to learn. Then grab that CD and your player, because it's song time!  Your kids will sing 2 or 3 simple songs, performed by native speakers of Spanish. This is one part of the program that surprised me just a little, because my daughters LOVE this CD. There is nothing fancy about it either, the music is often maracas and a guitar, but it (no pun intended, seriously) struck a chord with them.
This is probably the only slight issue that I have; I would have wanted a better produced CD. There are a few slight mistakes that were recorded, but those were never noticed by my daughters. They ask me to put the music on EVERY DAY. One of the tracks that has been most helpful, and a favorite of the kids', is the Alphabet Chant. It teaches the Spanish alphabet (as the title suggests), and I know it has helped the girls in remembering it  really well.

After song time, there are some handwriting/copywork type pages to practice spelling and punctuation. The girls thought it was funny that in the Spanish language, questions and exclamations include upside down question marks and exclamation points at the beginning as well as the end of the sentence.

If you take a peek at the images above on the books, you'll see the main characters of this workbook. They are Tortuga (the turtle) , and Conejo ( the rabbit). These cute characters pop up in each lesson. They are featured in songs, puppets to be cut out and used in little plays, and generally just assist in the lessons.

Chapters end with a "Show what you know" section that reviews the material of the chapter.

I don't want to forget the Teacher's Edition. I really like it. Very simple in its layout. It is the student workbook, condensed so you can see 4 pages at a glance, with all of the answers included, of course.

As far as scheduling is concerned, choose your preference. You could do this once a week in a longer time period if that meets your needs, or divide it into 3-4 shorter sessions. We chose to do the latter, as it helped with the retention of the material. Besides that, my girls just want to do their Spanish work!

Our thoughts on this product...

We love this curriculum, and I was so very happy to discover that the program continues into the older grades, so we can continue with the same company. My girls are having fun with the lessons, and the material is challenging without being too heavy.
I would say that the best part for them has been the music. It has really helped their memorization, and they just find it fun. I cannot tell how many times a day I find myself singing one of these catchy tunes! We are delighted with Classical Academic Press. Satisfied customers right here :)
I encourage you to check them out.

Classical Academic Press

Song School Spanish Workbook and CD - $24.95

Teacher's Edition - $24.95

Ages - K-3rd

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Song School Spanish (student workbook,CD, and teacher manual) in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Click here to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Flowering Baby, LLC

How many of you have at least one little one scampering around your feet as you homeschool the older ones? We have one of those, and it is often a challenge to keep her happily engaged in an activity while we work. Those toddler attention spans are pretty short too! So I find myself constantly zipping back and forth between my school-agers and baby girl, in an (often futile) attempt to amuse her.

Imagine my delight when I first heard of the company Flowering Baby. Started by a teacher and her mother, this program was created for infants up to 5 year olds. My curiosity was piqued, and I enthusiastically delved into the One to Two Year old program .


I really liked the organization of the program as a whole, and for each age group as well. Included in the first pages are lists of  the books and materials that will be used for the entire year. I like this because I can tack it up and see at a glance what I'll be needing as I prepare for upcoming activities.
But then there are also shorter lists for each month of the program. You may like that if the larger one leaves you feeling a little overwhelmed.

The  program is broken up into 12 months starting with, well, 12 months. Logical, right? The month's lessons are then made up of 24 days. As a quick aside, a great feature of  Flowering Baby is that it allows you to begin wherever you're baby is at regarding their skill level, so you can skim through the activities, see where your child best fits in, and start there. Each month will feature several books, as well as a classical composer.

 I know that I don't need to say this again, but I will. Those little toddler attention spans are short! Fortunately, being educators themselves, the creators of this curriculum provide lessons that are short and sweet, with a fun activity or two, a nursery rhyme or song to sing with your little one, followed by a time to listen to some classical music.

Let me tell you what a daily lesson might look like. Our 1st day found baby girl and I looking at our faces in a mirror and identifying the facial features, which she loved, as she had just mastered the word "eye"! Next, I drew a simple portrait of baby on paper, so she could practice identifying some more. Now, I thought my picture was alright, but I had to question myself a bit when my 7 year old came in the room, looked at the picture, and said, "Wow, you're sooo good! You draw like a 6 year old!" Hmmph!  I don't think it's too bad...;)

Anyway...we then sang Itsy Bitsy Spider,and then listened to Mozart for 15 minutes or so. Our story for this week was Gingerbread Baby.

Throughout the month, certain skills are focused on, for example, identifying body parts, learning to cooperate while being dressed, standing, walking on a line (if your child is not doing these already), animal sounds, etc...

As you progress through the program, the activities increase in their challenge. And while there are the lists of items to gather, I found it to be nicely open ended. Some featured books were ones that we already own, some were available at the library, and some I purchased. But you can feel free to substitute titles to make this work for you. The same goes for the materials. Some activities involve painting, and we did...but then I also used some of those Crayola markers that only work on the special paper.
An activity that calls for pouring seeds or rice would not be good for us as baby girl puts EVERYTHING in her mouth. Instead, we practiced pouring with cups in the bathtub. She had a blast!

We are now on the 15th month, and I'm finding it to be a very enjoyable and flexible program. My school-agers even love to be involved. They want to be there for every storytime and art project, and enthusiastically help me prepare lessons. Our family gives Flowering Baby two thumbs up!

We've liked it so much in fact, that I've been checking out the next level:
Two to Three Year old program.
This section is laid out pretty much like the first program. A list of the year's materials is provided up front. Then, the year is again divided into the months and days, beginning with month 25.
As you might expect, the activities get a little bigger and even more exciting for the budding preschooler.

Each day will feature an activity for Language and Math. There are also fun things to do with lessons for the music, song, story, color, and shape of the day. Then there is an "other" activity, that may be a snack, craft or game. I look forward to getting there!

Sound like a program that you might be interested in? How about a little something extra to sweeten the deal? The vendor is offering a 10% discount on the website if you enter Blog10 when ordering.

Flowering Baby, LLC
Program: One to Two
Ages: Birth to Five
Prices: (these are downloadable programs):  Birth to One - $30.00
             One to Two - $30.00
             Two to Three - $30.00
             Three to Four - $38.00
              Four to Five - $38.00
              Entire 5 years curriculum - $132.00

Disclaimer: I received a free download of the  Flowering Baby birth through five years program in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Click here to read more Crew reviews of this product

Monday, February 11, 2013

Heart shaped crayons

Happy Valentine's week! Is it just me, or did that sneak up on you too? I'm sure that you all have a party or two happening this week as we do.
As I was thinking about what kind of valentines the kids could  pass out, I began looking for the non -sugary options, and lo and behold, found these cute little creations.

I will admit that the first reaction of my oldest daughter was not the enthusiastic response I had been hoping for, in fact , I believe there were some sighs and groans. But I did not give up, and insisted she give it a try. By the end of the process, both kids were hooked, and had a lot of fun.

So here we go...

What you'll need:

Crayons- the amount will depend on how many heart crayons you want to make, as well as how big your baking pan is.

Heart shaped pan - we found a small silicone baking pan at the local discount store

Wire rack

To make:

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
Peel the paper off of the crayons. Break them into small pieces. Put the crayon pieces into the heart shaped pan. Bake in oven for 10-15 minutes. Cool on wire rack until hardened.
Done. Very cute!

Break and Bake

                                                                   The finished product


Monday, February 4, 2013

February Check In

Well, I said that I would check in regarding my New Year's goals, and so here we go. So...not going so well. Blah.
It's been a rough start to the new year, for a lot of reasons that I will not go into now. A future post perhaps. Anyway, the bottom line is that I haven't budged a whole lot. I can analyze it, make excuses, rationalize, but I won't. The fact is that I have not felt motivated, and I have allowed my emotions too much free reign.

I know all the right things to do. I guess I just need to jump in and do it. A few small successes, and build on that. I also need to focus on my overall health, without relying solely on the numbers on the scale.

I'll get there. I will.