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, July 31, 2013

Wordless Wednesday - Garden Blooms




Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Circle Time by Kendra Fletcher - A Review

What comes to mind when you hear the phrase "Circle Time"? For me, it takes me back to the days before we had children, when I was a preschool teacher. It was the first part of the day, when we gathered the kids together and sang songs, read books, learned the calendar, and so on. But it's been a long time since I've thought of it, although as we began homeschooling, we did do those same activities. And then, along came this little e-book to review, and as I took a look through the content, the ideas started flowing. This could be pretty cool to add to our daily routine.
Circle Time is a 33 page, downloadable, PDF, put together by Preschoolers and Peace .

I think the title of this book is a bit misleading. It really conjures up images of preschoolers sitting cross-legged in front of a teacher singing the alphabet song. And actually, the author herself states that she would probably re-name the book if she were to go back, for that reason. My kids are not teens yet, but the name does sound like it's meant for the younger tots, so we just call it small group time, although the name really isn't critical. But I digress.

With 33 pages, this is a quick read. You also may be surprised to find that the books' definition of circle time goes beyond memory work, and bible study. It includes any and all kinds of schoolwork and activities that include every age. This is the idea, I think. It brings the family together to participate as a group and connect as a family. So this could include anything from singing, to read alouds, art instruction, and even P.E.

Author Kendra Fletcher begins by telling the how's and why's of the beginning of circle time for her family. It brought them together to pray, read the Bible, sing, and basically set the tone for the day. It was/is meant to be a time to make the children feel connected to the family, receive the attention of mom, and just feel loved and wanted. That part resonated with me. I confess that during this particular season of our lives, we have some challenges within our family. I am committed to our decision to homeschool. I love my girls. I enjoy their company, and hearing their thoughts and worldviews as they grow. But too often, I have found myself overwhelmed with circumstances and then speak sharply, or send the girls off to find something productive to do. Sigh.

I viewed this review as a new beginning. We're having a busy summer, but going a little lighter with the schoolwork. This has been a good time to experiment with our own version of circle time. That's the beauty of this e-book. Fletcher gives tips, suggestions, printables, lists of ideas and activities that you might want to incorporate, but ultimately, the sky's the limit. A 2 hour span of time may be a great option for you, but then again, if you have one or more babies or toddlers zipping around, a shorter time frame may be better. There is no right or wrong way to make this work, because you construct a schedule around the needs of your family.

What does this time look like for us? Well, I was excited to think of this in a new way beyond the traditional stuffy circle. We use this as a time for our devotions and prayer, as well as some fun read alouds (the American Girl books are fun summer reads for us). But we've also been using the nice summer weather as an excuse for some extended family walks to various local parks and destinations. Handwriting and art have also had a place, and I really do find the time to have a relaxing effect for us.

I guess I would sum it up by saying don't be fooled by the title and dismiss this resource, because it has no age. The book offers some helpful tips and strategies to create your own small group time. Do what works for you and the interests of your family. I think the idea is a good one, and this is an e-book worth adding to your library.

Preschoolers and Peace

Circle Time

Ages: All ages

Price: $4.99 - Downloadable PDF - 33 pages

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew

Monday, July 29, 2013

Making Progress!

Yay for me! After several attempts, I am finally in a solid exercise routine, At this time, I have 3 weeks of daily workouts behind me. Woohoo! I am very proud of myself! I noticed a difference in how I was feeling pretty quickly. A definite boost in my energy level.
I'm doing a daily pilates routine early in the a.m. before the kids get up. Then we're walking as a family during the day, and most evenings. My husband is doing the walks too, and is liking it as well.

And the good thing for me is, that when I'm regularly exercising, I just automatically drink a lot more water. I know that I've been walking around dehydrated before this. Just that alone has helped in how I feel.

Next goal, get my eating habits to a healthier place. I've got to ditch the sugar. It is always a struggle for me. But I really want to get there. Baby steps. Right now I'm concentrating on adding in the good things, leaving less room for the yuckier stuff. I hope to have even more encouraging news on this front soon.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Homeschool Programming - Kid Coder Series, Beginning Web Design - A Review

I can get around the Web pretty well I think. It's taken some trial and error, but I've learned a lot, although there is still much that I have yet to understand. So for me, the idea of teaching my daughters a course on the subject is about enough to put me in a cold sweat. Still, you need to face your fears, and I had an opportunity to do so with the review of Kid Coder Web Series - Beginning Web Design brought to us by Homeschool Programming.

This computer program is pretty new, just put out in May 2013 in fact. It will teach your students the basics of HTML, XHTML, and CSS. And fortunately for folks like me, it does not require vast prior knowledge of the subject. The manuals and videos lay everything out for you.
It works with both Windows and Mac, and there are visuals showing what you will or should see on your computer screen as you navigate through the lessons.

The recommended age range for this particular program is 4th-12th grades. That's a pretty broad range. I've been working through this with my oldest, who is 9 years old, and will be beginning 4th grade this fall. So, she's on the very young side of the spectrum. As such, this is not a program that she has been able to complete independently. I need to be right there with her with each lesson. That's been just fine. There is so much information in this program, and I find myself reading and rereading various sections to make sure that I get it, so I can actually be a  help to my daughter.
Honestly, I'm not sure exactly how much she is retaining simply because she is younger, but I don't want to underestimate her abilities. And really, with all of the emphasis on computer technology all around us, you probably can't begin too young. This is a great resource that is giving her a solid foundation in the subject.

It should be mentioned that some basic computer knowledge is necessary to begin this course. Using the keyboard, mouse, running applications. My daughter has some of these, but again, this is an area where she still needs assistance.

The program is meant to be completed over a semester. So you average about a chapter a week.
Our textbook, as it were, was given to us as a PDF, (234 pages to be exact) so we read it off of the computer. That worked out fine, and although the lessons are aimed at students, I quite enjoyed them. Very helpful, are the many illustrations, because I know my daughter would get lost pretty quickly without the visual. That probably goes for me as well.
There are 4 lessons per chapter, including a problem solving section , just in case you encounter any issues in your web work.  The chapter ends with a quick review, and then a fun activity to complete.

Sometimes when I review a resource, I find that it wasn't anything that I expected it to be. Such has been the case here. While I definitely had an interest in this program, I figured that it would be dry, tedious, and a subject that I would have to drag my child over to the computer to do. I could not have been more mistaken. While I would still say that my 9 year old could probably have waited a few more years to begin this, it's a great computer program. The text is easy to read, not the stuffy, traditional textbook kind of format. The illustrations are helpful, and everything is laid out step by step.
I would not have thought that I would look forward to this subject that I've kind of feared.

I would very enthusiastically recommend this program to any family who wants to add the subject to their curriculum, or even to learn a little more about the process themselves. Really really good stuff.

Kid Coder Web Series

Ages: 4th -12th Grades

Price: Kid Coder: Beginning Web Design -Course only - $70.00
           Kid Coder: Beginning Web Design - Course and Video - $85.00 *available early August*
           Kid Coder: Beginning Web Design - Video only - $20.00 *available early August*

This was just one in a series that the crew reviewed. There are other programs for teens as well. Interested?
Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Christi the Coupon Coach - A Review


I've said many times that book reviews are some of my favorite posts to write. This month, I had the opportunity to review one by Christi the Coupon Coach . I bet you've already guessed that this is a book about. . . couponing! And you are correct. I received a copy of Couponing Made Simple -Simple Steps to Successful Couponing to read and try out.

Initially, I figured this would be a book about extreme couponing, and I was not exactly super excited to begin. But you know what they say about not judging a book by its cover, right? So I pushed aside any skeptical thoughts and began to read.

There are 123 pages of text, with several lined pages following for notes and such, and it is a very quick and easy read. The print is large, and a lot of the pages include photos and side notes. I actually read it through in about an hour's time. I went back over it to get a more in depth look, and then continued to reference it at different times as I learned how to implement author Christi Bassford's suggested methods.
What jumped out at me was the author's enthusiasm. She has found a great way to drastically save on her family's grocery bill, and she really wants to share it with her audience. I really liked that, and I found that attitude increasing my enthusiasm to try this out myself too.

First of all, you'll need to have a coupon storage plan. Christi talks about her own, which consists of:

1.) Hanging File Coupon Box
2.) Shopping Coupon Box
3.) Accordion Coupon File
4.) Computers
5.) Printer

These will allow you to store coupons for long term as you first cut them out, have them organized when you bring them on your shopping trip, and of course how you'll find online coupon sites and print them.

The two main rules of couponing according to the book, are:
1.) Buy on Sale
2.) Stack Coupons

She gives example after example illustrating these points, and  her results are impressive.
Christi states that this is not extreme couponing, but real couponing for real people, and now that I've read her book, I do agree with that. I will say however, that it does take a bit of organization and work to get set up. She suggests purchasing at least one newspaper per person in the house, and for us, that was a bit much. We subscribe to two papers, and that was what we used. Also suggested is to involve the family in the coupon searching, and clipping, and that actually proved a bit difficult for us. One very major reason is the extremely active toddler we have roaming the house. She is into ten different things at once, and so attempting coupon prep during her waking hours is next to impossible. Her sleeping time is when I need to catch up on other work, and so, at least for this season in our lives, that part of the prep is a challenge to efficiently complete.

It's also tricky to bring along two coupon boxes and find a place to keep it away from that little toddler's busy hands as we shop. Our schedule typically requires me to bring the kids with me, sooo, once again, tricky.

I have had nowhere near the savings that Christi has had. However, I'm visiting the online coupon sites more, and paying close attention to the sales, and planning meals and then the subsequent shopping trips around those sales, rather than vice versa, which is saving money.
Overall, while I have not jumped in completely with the couponing, I have been inspired by this book to carve out some time to clip a little more, and see where I can save on our family's grocery bill. I think it's worth the time to read it for sure.

Some final thoughts. . .

Included in the book are sections related to couponing with integrity and not trying to cheat the system. The author also includes a chapter on the great finds available at yard sales and thrift stores. Now these are two areas that have helped us out well.
She also takes the time at the end to share her faith, and offers the steps to accept Jesus. I really like that a lot!
Happy shopping!

Christi the Coupon Coach

Couponing Made Simple

Price: $18.00 on Amazon

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Tunnel of Gold - by Susan K. Marlow - a review

Yay for book reviews! I especially love books that target the tween/preteen set. I suppose that is probably because my girls are right in that age range, and I like to stay on top of their reading material. And who's kidding who, I just enjoy children's books :)
I'm very familiar with author Susan K. Marlow, and I'll say upfront that I am a very big fan! Our family has thoroughly enjoyed many of her other stories, especially  Circle C Beginnings . So, I was very happy to say the least, to review the second book in her latest series, Goldtown Adventures - Tunnel of Gold .

Now for the storyline. Jem (short for Jeremiah) is busy trying to earn some money with his firewood business, when he, his cousin Nathan, and his little sister Ellie get caught up in a riot near the town's gold mine. Jem gets hurt and his Pa, who also happens to be the town sheriff come to their rescue. They soon find out about the dire situation facing the town. The mine has run out of gold. There is a way to possibly get it going again by blasting it to create a new vein. But if they do that, they will have to have the use of another mine close by to provide an air shaft.
That creates problems though, as Chinese miners (including  a friend of Jem's) have claimed the mine, and they do not want to leave it.

The situation escalates, and Pa may lose his job as sheriff. Then it appears as if there may be a solution, but it may cause more damage than help. The question is, what will Jem do? I hope that's enough to whet your appetite. I don't want to give it all away, otherwise there would be little reason for you to read the book!

Our summer school schedule is lighter, and we chose to use this book as a general read aloud. The main characters are boys, but this is a book that will appeal to both girls and boys, as my own daughters will attest. It has two main components that the girls enjoy, history, and adventure! We read a couple of chapters a day, but there was more than one occasion where I found myself reading ahead because I just got caught up in the story :)

And just when it couldn't get any better, the author has very generously provided an enrichment guide to use along with this book, as she has with her other books. Even better, the guide is FREE! Really, it's a unit study to complete with the story. It's a generous guide too. We're not talking a few pages, it's a pretty thick booklet filled with vocabulary, time lines, science and cooking projects, little history lessons . . .
I love this so much!

The girls love reading and books, and this was a hit. It is the second in the series, and we cannot wait to go back and read the first, but it was no problem starting where we did. The suggested age is for 9-13 year olds, but we also included our almost 8 year old, and she enjoyed it too. I cannot say enough wonderful things about this book, the author, or her other series. She definitely goes above and beyond what a reader would expect, and I recommend this and the others wholeheartedly. Please check out the website, take a peek at the study guides, and see what the fuss is about. I bet you'll love them too.

Susan K. Marlow and Kregel Publications

Tunnel of Gold

Ages: 9-13 years old

Price: $7.99 + $2.50 S&H

Our Crew members also reviewed the first book in this series, Badge of Honor .
Click to read these reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Classical Conversations - Prescripts - A Review

Handwriting was always a standard subject as I recall. But more and more, as I talk with friends and acquaintances, it seems that handwriting is often an afterthought. I've even heard that some schools are choosing not to teach it anymore. How very sad. I don't want my children to rely on the computer to type out letters, thank you notes, and such. I want them to have handwriting skills. So, I was truly thrilled to be selected to review  Prescripts Cursive Words and Drawing by a company that I am really liking, Classical Conversations .

I was interested in this book for a variety of reasons. The foremost was the fact that I was looking for a handwriting book to provide much needed practice for my daughters. The next aspect that stood out to me was the biblical content. I love that my girls are reading, copying, and rewriting the Word of God. This workbook also includes mini drawing lessons throughout.  I appreciate the extra fine motor practice, but even more than that, I knew that my art loving daughters would enjoy these often whimsical exercises.

In fact, it didn't take me long at all to decide that this was the handwriting book that I've been waiting for. I had no sooner flipped through the pages to get a feel for the lessons, when I was online ordering another copy so both of my daughters would be able to give this a go. That was a very good decision. They had barely completed the first few lessons when they both proclaimed what a wonderful book this is, and "how fun handwriting is now!" Woohoo! They like the bible verses, and my youngest in particular often likes to comment when a featured Scripture only includes part of the verse. She will then quote it in its entirety.

And the drawing lessons are just fun for the girls. They love to doodle, and this allows just that. There are pages where they simply make lines, angles, curves, or dots. As you make your way through, they begin drawing simple animals, trees, and combinations of shapes. There are plenty of pages for free drawing too. It's funny to me that something like adding an art lesson to the subject of handwriting has just made it so appealing for them. I won't analyze it, I'm just pleased. These are kids who have found cursive tedious and boring, and this week my oldest remarked that she had no problem doing schoolwork if it was this particular handwriting book. What more could I ask for?


The book is divided up into three parts.

Part 1 - Letters, Words, and Scriptures

Part 2 - Writing Numbers in Cursive

Part 3 - Tricky Letter Combinations in the First Chapter of James

How to use this book is really up to you, and what works best with your needs. You can do anywhere from a half of a page, up to several pages a day for your student. You can decide what pace fits your childs' ability. If you choose a page a day, this will take you through a school year, or you can increase the load slightly and complete two books in a year. It's all up to you.

We have been working through 2 sometimes 3 pages a day, 5 times a week. I found right away that I was able to take a relaxed approach to this, because the material has successfully motivated them. At this rate, we'll be on to the next book soon :)

This has been a beautiful fit for our family. Handwriting is a subject that requires daily practice, and it's so great to have my children approach it with enthusiasm.
I love the verse that is included in the parent page of this workbook. It's one that I have as my blog header in fact.

Deuteronomy 6:6-9:
And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

You can find all of the information about this book in the links below.

Classical Conversations

Prescripts Cursive Words and Drawing

Ages: 5-10 years old

Price: $12.99

Our crew members reviewed several different levels of these books. To check those out, click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Let's Do This!

Well, I've been talking about getting back into shape since January. I hear it said all the time how important it is to take care of yourself so that you can take better care of your children. I am finally at the point where I feel motivated enough to do this . Sort of.

The truth is, I will never completely feel motivated. With three kids in the house, including a very busy toddler, I am exhausted! But I know that I have so much more energy when I'm exercising and eating better. Why is it that you can know these things are true, and still continue on with poor habits? Oh well. I decided that today was the day to make a new start. I'm not going radical. I'm not cutting out every bad thing I eat, and exercising for hours a day. I'm just taking baby steps, because I know that that's what I need to do to get going and start to feel some encouragement as I revisit my healthier routines.

What that involved today was to start exercising again. Once I get a few weeks under my belt of doing this daily is when I start to feel better about myself, and I find myself making healthier choices overall.

So. . .I did it! Finished my daily! Here's to better health and more energy! I'm also adding a couple of more walks with the children to the day to amp it up. I think I can do this! Gotta go, time to get outside :)

Friday, July 5, 2013

A Patriotic Keepsake

We made these cute and patriotic handprint eagles a couple of years ago for our fourth of July t-shirts. Independence Day is over for this year, but it's still July, and I thought that I would make this with the youngest member of our family, but we'll be using a small canvas instead of a t-shirt to make a fun piece of art to hang up on the wall.

You'll need:

canvas - size of your choosing
paint - brown, white, yellow, black, and red or blue for the background


Pretty easy to see how to do this. Paint the canvas with blue or red paint to make the background. After that dries, use the side of your child's fist to make the eagle's head with white paint. Use the brown paint to make handprints underneath to create the wings. Three fingers dipped in white paint will make the tail feathers. The beak can be made by painting a small part of the pinky finger, and the eye with black paint and a fingerprint. There you go!

Foster Parenting Tips

It is so very important that if you are married, you and your spouse have each other's backs as you walk through the foster parent journey. That probably sounds like an obvious statement to make, but it's so important.

The best days of foster parenting can be exhausting. You need to have your partner available to be a shoulder, to take over while you run out for a break, and to just support each other.

You can have friends and family around that support you, but having that person there who is on the front lines with you makes all the difference.
My husband has been amazing in this regard. He's there to take over when I need an hour or two alone, to encourage me when the situation gets tough, to share in the smallest successes. Most importantly, he reminds me why we decided to do this at all.

Make sure you make it a habit to spend time with your spouse away from the kids, even if it's a simple movie night in front of the t.v. You need the time to reconnect, refresh and restore.