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

Sunday, June 30, 2013

To Foster or Not to Foster

I think that we're close to moving past the rookie status of being foster parents, although I would never propose that we are anywhere close to being experts on the subject. We have much to learn, I know.
Generally speaking, we've felt support from most around us. There are still those however, who quietly disapprove, or at least, don't understand what we're doing and why.

Maybe they're right. Maybe we shouldn't foster. After all, in many ways, it's a thankless job. You have to jump through countless hoops just to get licensed. Then, you feel the constant scrutiny of those many eyes that are watching over you and your home. Check your privacy at the door, because once you have a placement, you will have a host of officials at your doorstep, checking up on you.

And do you  think that you will feel nothing for that child who joins your family? Wrong. You will have sleepless nights as you do with your biological children, but you may feel even more helpless in finding answers. You get to do the daily grunt work. You will deal with the anger, the tantrums, the ear infections, etc. . .
And you will get very little, really no, say in decisions. That's up to the agency, the state, the judge.

You will know that child better than anyone, often more than the child's own family, yet you will often feel sidelined and marginalized. You will feel like a glorified babysitter.

You will question your initial decision to do this. You will want to quit. You will miss your privacy.

And what about your bio kids? Fostering really isn't fair to them, is it? Why should they have to share you? Why should they have to sacrifice? Aren't you damaging them?

I mean, what hope is there for those foster kids anyway? If they're hyper now, defiant now, angry now, they always will be, right?


We do this because we have felt the call from the Lord. He can do whatever He wants in anyone's life, foster kid, biological kid, whomever. His is a transforming power. My kids are learning to love as Jesus loves. They are learning that the right thing to do doesn't always feel comfortable.
Those who He calls, He equips.

I don't know how long we'll do this. For now, we are called.

Moving Beyond The Page - A Review

There's some dialogue from the old musical The Music Man that goes something like, "What do you talk about?
(Answer) "Well, there's the weather. . . when it's in season." For some reason, this month's review reminded me of that line. Chuckle.
I suppose that you can do a unit on weather at any time during the year, but late Spring and Summer are perfect for such a theme, in my opinion. You've got wind, rain, storms, sun, and a major player from the unit that we've been working on, tornadoes! We were pleased to receive two unit studies from Moving Beyond the Page . The first is a physical copy of  the Tornado literature unit. We were also given access to the online version of the Amazing Weather science unit. The two are designed to be studied simultaneously, but they, as all the titles in the series, may be used independently.

How does it work? That's up to you as teacher in many ways. The unit studies may be purchased all together, and there are quite a few of them too! You would be able to cover an entire year this way. Language Arts, Science, and Social Studies are all covered in these themes, so you could add in your preferred Math program and be well on your way. Activities also have art and field trips included. I like how that works, pulling from individual subjects to support a common concept.
The other option is to use this or others as a supplement to your current studies. As this is a review for us, that is what we have been doing.

Our level is for the 7-9 year old students. There are a few recommended prerequisites for students at this stage. They should:

* Be reading, and comprehending chapter books well, at a third or early fourth grade level.
*Be able to answer comprehension questions about a chapter in a journal.
* Be able to write three or four sentences about a topic.

The units do not have a traditional textbook, so there are books that are included in each theme, and you can supplement with other related titles that you may have or can borrow from your library. This is what we received in our physical package.

Being a huge book lover myself, I was THRILLED to open this up! So were the girlies. They need little (read, no) outside incentive to pick up a book and dive in, so we were ready to start. We visited the library right away to grab a few more books related to the tornado theme, and all I had to do was leave them in a visible spot. The girls have been quoting random facts that they have learned ever since. I say this with no arrogance or attitude, I am happy and blessed that they love to read and need no motivation. If only they approached every subject in this way!

I found the teacher manual to be helpful, it lays everything out pretty clearly for you. Tornado is set up for nine lessons. Each one tells how many days it is expected to take to complete. The objectives and skills to be learned are included, as well as a materials list. I found these to be mostly common to our household. Items we have needed to purchase have been minimal and inexpensive.

There are activities for each day and often include a couple of optional choices. You'll find Spelling and Vocabulary words, and your student will also be keeping a daily journal. A simple notebook sufficed for us.
A lesson can often be wrapped up with a fun excursion. The manual offers its suggestions, but of course you can select an appropriate alternative. So when we worked on the section related to turtles, we visited a local nature center that has lots of the creatures that we could watch up close. One of our favorite parts!

Speaking of turtles, this is one of the turtle projects we did. Very fun!


There are lots of worksheets included, and feature a variety of concepts and learning styles. There are drawing activities, art projects, writing assignments, Venn diagrams, small research projects, word matches. . .and more. I really like it, and the girls are learning quite a bit.

I can't forget to mention the Amazing Weather study. It definitely is a natural fit with the Tornado unit, although, as with the other titles, it can be used independently. So, we 've had the online version, which I like and sort of don't.  I like it because it's been easy for me to navigate and work with. There are pdf's that may be printed for the lessons. What I'm not so wild about is that with this option, you are paying for access to the unit, but it's only available for a limited time, 90 days from the day you activate it. Now, if you contact the company, you can request an extension, and they will happily give it to you. I guess I just prefer a hard copy myself. The time limit makes me feel pressured especially when life happens and schedules get interrupted.

This one has eight lessons, covering various weather topics, heat, wind, rain, you know, weather ;) We did get two physical books that are included in this study. They are, On the Same Day in March , by Marilyn Singer, and Young Discoverers Weather and Climate - Geography Facts and Experiments. The latter title has been a fun addition for my young scientists. We've enjoyed the experiments quite a bit. And being warmer now, we can do them outside, where the weather actually is.

Here's our backyard weather vane:

The bottom line is that we like these curriculum studies a lot. I really love, and so do my daughters, that it uses real books. I like that there is a lot of help and structure, but still plenty of freedom to experiment, supplement, and tailor it to your students needs. Even better, is the flexibility to use it as a year long curriculum in and of itself, or individually as you like. I will be checking out additional titles for our upcoming school year, and I think you should go check out this product and see what you think.

Moving Beyond The Page

Tornado - Language Arts Unit
Includes Language Arts unit Tornado, Tornado, by Betsy Byars, and How the Turtle Got Its Shell, a Little Golden Book

Price: $24.97 - Physical Copy
           $20.91 - Online Version

Amazing Weather - Science Unit
Includes Science unit Amazing Science, On the Same Day in March - A Tour of the World's Weather, by Marilyn Singer, and Young Discoverers Weather and Climate - Geography Facts and Experiments.

Price: $33.97 - Physical Copy
           $29.91 - Online Version

Ages: 7-9 years

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew

Friday, June 28, 2013

Adorable Fireflies!

We found this super cute craft from The Mailbox Magazine . Perfect for little fingers. All you need is construction paper, aluminum foil, a stamp pad, glitter and glue.

To make it, cut out a jar shape from the construction paper, and glue a small strip of foil for the lid. Have your child make thumb or fingerprint  fireflies using the stamp pad. Put a dab of glue on one side of each little insect, and sprinkle glitter on top of it. When dry, add details to fireflies- wings, antennae. . . So sweet!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Memoria Press - Prima Latina - A Review

Summertime, summertime. Chances are you  have wrapped up your school year, but if you're a homeschool family, I wouldn't be surprised at all if you were already getting your fall curriculum in order. So, let's talk about Latin lessons. Before I had even heard of Memoria Press , I had a certain image of Latin. Very stuffy, very rigid, you know, dry. And then, I was chosen to review Prima Latina . Wow, has my view of this subject changed. I'm pretty excited about this language curriculum, so let me tell you a little about it.

We received a complete Latin curriculum package for younger students, ages 2- 4 grade. Included in this set is the teacher manual, student workbook, pronunciation CD, DVD set, and flashcards. Wow. We got it all.
When our package first arrived, I did what I always do, read through the teacher manual, looked over the other materials, just got familiar with everything. I discovered quickly that this was going to be a great program, and before I even started with the girls, ordered a second student workbook so both kids could work through this.

So away we went. The best thing for me right off is that this preparatory course has been created for teachers (like me) who do not have experience in Latin. It is the precursor to this company's Latina Christiana course. It's meant to be used with children who are reading well, but still getting the basics of English grammar down. It provides a good foundation of Latin vocabulary and grammar, and takes material right from the next level, so the transition up should be easy.

The year is divided into 25 lessons. Each features 5 vocabulary words, grammar, a sentence in Latin and then a line of a prayer. By the end of the year, students will learn an entire Latin prayer. How cool is that! There are reviews and tests within the book as well.

I was grateful to find a very helpful overview for the teacher at the beginning. It goes over some of the basic Latin  language and grammar rules. I also like that there is a page of student goals, and what they will learn. The student workbook also contains this information.

Now, what a typical lesson looks like. We start off with a DVD lesson. These are not too long, maybe 15 minutes, and the teacher is pleasant. She is as personable as you can get for a DVD , playing little games to help remember the material. Have the student workbook handy, because that is where the teaching comes from, pretty much word for word. She covers the main daily lesson, vocabulary, a line of a Latin prayer, and goes over English words that have their derivatives in Latin. At that point, you move on to the workbook on your own, where your student will complete the exercises. There are questions, words to translate, pronunciation exercises, and a few written activities. You'll also have the pronunciation CD, so you can be sure you're pronouncing everything correctly.

And let's not forget about the flashcards. Those are included too you know. We use these either before or after our lesson as a review. I wouldn't say that in certain subjects that use flashcards, that I've always used them consistently. With this course however, I really like the visual for my kids, and myself. I like to have the word right there where everyone is reminded of the correct spelling, which helps us remember the pronunciation as well.

We work on Latin approximately 4 times per week, and I would say that it's going quite well. As the teacher, I love it! My oldest is kind of in a place where she 's generally not terribly excited about school in general, but she's doing well. Now, my youngest, is really liking this program a lot! We were barely through the first lesson when she began thinking about all kinds of words that have their derivative in Latin. Her excitement is contagious! The plan is to go through the remainder of the year with this level, and keep moving up.

I wouldn't say never, but I didn't necessarily picture Latin as being a subject that I would get excited about, or my children for that matter. But this curriculum demonstrates what a good program can inspire your students to enjoy and excel in. Please check them out!

Memoria Press

Prima Latina

Ages: Grades 2-4

Price:    $90.90 for Complete Set - Includes:  *Student Book
                                                                         *Teacher Manual
                                                                         *Pronunciation CD      
                                                                         *Instructional DVDs

Other Crew members reviewed this, as well as other titles.
Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Christianity Cove - A Review

You know, until I had this review come up, I didn't realize how boring our  family Bible study time has become. It's sad. I've been diligent with Math, History, Spelling, Grammar. . .but not so much with devotions.
Thankfully, that realization coincided with the arrival of  two e-books from Christianity Cove.
I have had the privilege of reviewing  Tween a Rock and a Hard Place: Lesson Blueprints and The Divine Dozen: 12 Parables of Jesus Every Child Should Know with my 7 and 9 yr. old children.

This first title centered around tweens could not have come at a better time. I have a budding 9 yr. old, and I've been  pondering for a bit now about the how's and why's of many of the issues that begin to arise around that age. I know there are resources available that encourage discussion, but I've been looking for one that comes from a Christian perspective. I was so blessed to have this literally delivered right to my computer!
The e-book is divided up into 12 lessons:
1.) Jesus is a Guy Not a Rule Book
2.) Listening to Jesus (and 10 Reasons We Can't Hear Him Sometimes)
3.) God's Voice or My Imagination? (Eight Ways To Tell)
4.) Good Conformity vs. Bad Conformity (And the Okay Conversion Principle)
5.) Walking the Peer Pressure Mile (Without Falling on Your Face)
6.) Dress
7.) Abstinence (The Sliding Board of Sexual Activity (And Reasons to Hang out on the Monkey Bars)
8.) Pulled Along to Drinking (And Some Interesting Facts about Sheep)
9.) Drugs and Addictions - A Murky View of the World ( And a Great Way to Keep Things Rosy
10.) Galloping Gossips and the Headless Horseman (Who Gossips Out His  Neck because he just can't Help It.)
11.) But I Don't Feel Like Forgiving! (And Other Ways We Short Change Ourselves)
12.) 12 Weeks Went By Fast! What All Have We Learned?
Each lesson has 3 components : 
Class Activity, Class Discussion, and Small Group Activity. Now, we adjusted a little bit because this is designed to be used in a Sunday School kind of setting. So we downsized to make it work for 2 little ladies. There are beginning activities  to break the ice, an object lesson and/or game, bible  verses to look up, and  discussion time.

There are a lot of great ideas here to open up conversations with your child and present biblical truths. Many of them were helpful in addressing issues that my girls are already dealing with. Topics like Good Conformity vs. Bad Conformity and But I don't  Feel Like Forgiving! spoke to real life situations we are facing.
The introduction of this e-book suggests that the time to introduce these topics is earlier rather than later, and I have to say that I agree with that. From the time that my daughters were very young, I've made it a point to keep an open dialogue going in general. I want my girls to feel comfortable coming to me with questions about sex, choosing friends, various disappointments, etc. I love the fact that they will come to me with issues that are on their heart, and I pray that it continues. These lessons have been a help in that area.

My daughters are on the young age on the spectrum, and so we've yet to cover some of the material here, sex being one of them. So far, I've given them bits and pieces as they have inquired. I'll continue to provide more info as they are ready, and I do like the way the topic is approached. Definitely going to utilize this lesson in the future.

And now,  a little about the second e-book:

Well, to start off, I love this one! This is also designed for a larger class, and it can be used with a broad range of ages. Again we paired it down, particularly the small group activities because well, 2 kids is a small enough group.

With this selection, each lesson has 5 parts. The lesson capsule tells what the topic is. Then there is the parable itself from Scripture. A list of materials that will be needed is include, and conveniently enough, are typically supplies that are already in your home. The preparation section lets you know what should be prepared ahead of the lesson. The actual lesson comes next and I really enjoy these! My younger one has a flair for the dramatic, and the lessons are often more like little skits, with modern stories that imitate the original parable and utilize simple props. She really gets into this sort of thing, and makes a fantastic audience!
I've been the official narrator so far, but I think that for homes with older kids, they  could easily take different parts and act it out. It could be great for big families.

Each parable lesson has an activity that may be a craft, special snack, a worksheet. I love this to spice up our devotions, and of course this is especially good for Sunday School classes. I was also thinking that this would be great for  Parent's Day Out type of programs where there is a need for child care and you want something of substance for the kids to do rather than simply babysit them. 

What's cool about these is the way they adapt the stories to apply to a variety of situations that a child would face. Like what it means to be a Good  Samaritan. Or how to discern between  a weed or wheat. They are so simple, but effective. And once again, I found them to be applicable to the very situations that my daughters are dealing with. And instead of them listening to me lecture them on the virtues of a godly life, I now have a fresh way to take Scripture, present it in a creative way, and have an object lesson for them that will hit the mark. I'm really excited about these!
The Parables:

The Good Samaritan
The Wedding Feast & the Unwilling Guests
The Weather Signs
The Pharisee and the Publican
Faithful Servants and the Thief in the Night
The Rich Man and Lazarus
The Weeds in the Grain or the Tares
The Two Debtors
of the Ten Maidens
Rich Land Owner
Parable of the Lost Sheep
The Unjust Judge and the Helpless Widow  
Download a sample lesson from the Parable of the Unwilling Party Guests.

 I wanted to pick a couple of the ones that really jumped out at us, but every one we've done seems to apply to something the girls can apply to a situation or relationship. The vendor promises satisfaction or your money back, and I can say that for us, they're right, we love it!

 Christianity Cove

"Tween a Rock and a Hard Place" Lesson Blueprints
Ages: 9-12 yrs.
Price: $29.00

The Divine Dozen: 12 Parables of Jesus Every Child Should Know
Ages: No specific age given, we used it with our 7and 9 yr. olds.  I think this is great for a broad range of ages- pre-k and up.
Price: $24.00

There are a variety of titles available from this vendor. To learn more about them, click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Motherboard Books - Let's Make a Web Page

I have really never been a tech savvy kind of person. It took me longer than most to get into and become comfortable with fiddling around on the computer. Just becoming a blogger was a huge leap for me, and I've learned a lot over the past couple of years, but I still admit that computer issues can send me into fits of anxiety in an unbelievable amount of time. I'm sure that I don't need to tell you that in this day and age it's necessary to have at least some computer skills. Everything is online now, from shopping to paying bills. Even the schoolwork of my children requires computer skills, and Internet access. So I decided to get on board, and jump in and figure this stuff out.
Fortunately for me, I had this handy review come my way. I received an e-book called Let's Make a Web Page  put together by The Computer Lady, aka Phyllis Wheeler from Motherboard Books.

This e-book is meant to be used with children 8 yrs. and up, and the goal, as the title invites, is to make a Web Page. The idea initially made me a little nervous, as I wasn't sure how I could figure this out for myself, let alone teach my tweens the process. So the first thing that I did was print out the book to make a physical copy that I could easily flip through as we figured this stuff out.
Okay, that was easy, and I felt confident with my fresh and crisp manual. (Breathe in, breathe out, I can do this.)

After the Table of Contents, I read through the parent introduction. To get started, you download a free trial period of a software called CoffeeCup. (It's compatible with current Windows software) They offer suggestions in assisting your child through the process, and steps to take to protect your child while they are online.

The pages and wording are laid out in away that is easy for an 8 yr. old child to read and/or follow along with as they go. There are 9 lessons to go through:

1.) An Interview
2.) Download and Set Up the Program
3.) Add Text
4.) Add Photo
5.) There's a typo here, no lesson 5, it jumps from lesson 5 to lesson 6
6.) From the Internet, Add Animations
7.) Browser Check, Backgrounds, Photos
8.) Sound
9.) Links
10.)Post Your Work

I like that this has plenty of photos in it to help provide direction. And, seeing that it's meant for students as young as 8 yrs., I think that it helps keep their interest. The directions are clear and easy to follow, so a child on the higher end of the range would likely have very few problems getting a page set up. My kids happen to be on the younger side, so they still need a lot more assistance. Some of the information is still a bit tricky for them to grasp, but it's cool to see their confidence grow as they progress through the steps. My confidence has gotten a little boost too, if the truth be told.

The last few pages instruct in uploading your content to the Internet, and Troubleshooting.

As I have already said, I like the layout, and it's pretty easy to present to students. We've had to have a bigger presence in teaching this to the girls, but an older child will probably have few issues, and could probably complete this independently. I think if there's anything to mention on the con side, it would have to do with the CoffeeCup software. It can be tricky to access, and it is just a trial, so if you want to continue with it, you'll need to purchase the regular software. For what it is, it's pretty good, and worth checking out.

Motherboard Books

Let's Make a Web Page

Ages: 8 yrs. and up

Price: $19.95

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Math Mammoth - A Review

Math has been a subject that has presented some challenges for my kids. We've tried and reviewed various programs with some success and some frustration. Our current choice has actually been working quite well, but I always welcome additional resources that will provide tutoring, and general practice. This month, I was absolutely thrilled to have another chance to review some material from
Math Mammoth . The girls have been working on retaining their multiplication facts, and my younger one in particular still benefits from review of addition and subtraction, so we've been using a couple of the books that focus on those topics from the Blue Series .

 This series is available as a printed book or downloadable pdf. We received the download. With this version, you have the option of typing the answers right on the screen in the pdf. For my daughters, it worked better to print out the sheets as we used them.
The great thing about these books is that you can use them to supplement whatever curriculum you are presently using. That's how we're using them, and they've worked well alongside our regular lessons.

This is not the first time that we've worked with Math Mammoth, and what I just love about it is the fact that it teaches more than simply the drills. It breaks down the concept so the student learns the "why's of  the topic rather than problems only. There is a good emphasis on "mental math", which is one of the things I want my kids to get a strong grasp of in the subject.

You've likely heard talk of learning styles, and I know that when I was a young math student, there was one way that was taught, and that was it. Depending on what was being taught, sometimes I got it and sometimes I didn't. As a result, I struggled to keep up at times. Now that I'm teaching my girls, I've tried to teach in a variety of learning styles as I watch to see what works best for them. Math Mammoth is great for that purpose. They teach the concepts in various ways that help the student to understand the way it works.

They use number lines, drawing pictures, arrays, skip counting, order of operations, multiplication tables, word problems, and more.
Now when it comes to learning new concepts, my girls can get frustrated pretty quickly. I want them to be challenged, but not so overwhelmed that they hate the subject.
We've been using these most days as a supplement, and because they are a supplement, they provide enough variety and challenge that they complement our regular program well without causing undue frustration and tears. There are some ways that are not favorites, the number lines for example. But the worksheets offer a different approach in bite sized pieces, so that they learn a different approach in a palatable way.

You can download a ton of FREE sample pages by visiting their website.

As for the teacher (that's you!), I like how the pdf provides a background for how and why the math concepts are presented the way that they are. I wish that I had been taught this way! It would have saved me a lot of crying!
There are also a LOT of listed resources for the web that tell where to find different games, tables, number lines, and more.

There are other "colors" in the series that expand on what is featured in the blue series so that if you prefer, you can use this as a full math curriculum. We've liked pretty much everything that we've used in this resource, which is amazing for my often math avoiding kids.
To assist you in finding out what level will work best for your children, you can take a little placement test to find the best level to start with. The website also provides detailed descriptions about each color/level.

To make a good thing even better, this is a really affordable program, as you'll see from the pricing below. For the quality that you get with them, it's a super combination.
Whether you're looking for a complete program or a resource to supplement your current math program, Math Mammoth offers a quality curriculum at some pretty good prices. Interested in at least checking them out? Visit the website by clicking on the links below.

Math Mammoth

Multiplication 1
Grades 2-3
Price: $5.00

Add and Subtract 3
Grades 2-3
Price: $5.00

* The grade levels are general recommendations. You may find they are appropriate for your younger or older student.

Our crew members reviewed other titles from this company as well. To read about them, click to
read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

June Read - Alouds

We're at the time of year where many are wrapping up the school work and getting ready to relax for the summer. Our family is not quite there yet. We have a bunch of books that we're working through, and while we are enjoying them for the most part, there are a bunch on deck that are definitely for our summer entertainment.

The first is a set actually, the Chronicles of Narnia to be exact. I've had the whole set waiting on the shelf for quite a while now, and it's time to dust them off and get to reading them. I know the kids will be thrilled, as they've been asking about this series for a couple of weeks now.

This  next book is just for me, yay! I've really liked the Guardian Duke series a lot, and can't wait to read this last one, as I've had it since Christmas!

Gotta go now, I have a lot to read!  :)

I was afraid this would happen.

Well, it happened. I hoped it wouldn't. I tried, really I did. Every year, when the weather finally grows warmer, I forget all of my past attempts and failures in the garden, and make yet more plans. This year has been no exception.

I was dreaming big too. Sunflowers, big, beautiful sunflowers. Wouldn't they be perfect against the new fence we'd be putting in the backyard?
We bought the seeds, planted them carefully, and watched with anticipation and excitement as the sprouts quickly turned into promising seedlings.

But. . . the installing of the fence didn't happen fast enough. The seedlings were outgrowing their container quickly, and with homeschooling, dance competitions, doctor appointments. . . you know, life, my proud sproutlings expired.

Plants fear me. Argh. Oh well. Still, I will not be deterred. I'm skipping the seeds though, and will be moving right to more mature plants. I will succeed!

I still have pumpkins to hope for. Sprouted those from seeds too, but yes, they're waning too. Tomorrow, I will get them to a bigger spot before they go too. No, really, I will.