Our Family

Our Family

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

TOS Review: Classical Academic Press Latin Alive!

I had the opportunity to take a year of Latin when I was in the 8th grade. I really enjoyed it and wished I could have done more. When Chelsea was getting ready to start 9th grade, I was encouraging her to try Latin, but our homeschool convention did not have many language options and I was not familiar with any great Latin programs so we decided to wait until we could look into it some more. I was absolutely thrilled to be sent the Latin Alive! 1 Bundle from Classical Academic Press to review.

Classical Academic Press is an educational publishing company whose mission is to supply the finest classical curricula to the market today. Their motto is, "Classical Subjects Creatively Taught." From the website, "We seek to produce classical curricula and media with a clear design and structure, incremental and systematic instruction, all with a touch of delight, creativity and flair." They specialize in subjects such as Latin and Logic, but also have Spanish, Greek, Bible, French, Poetry, and Educational Resources. They have products ranging from Kindergarten all the way through High School. Their website also has many free resources to go along with their products.

Latin is not a dead, useless language like some believe. It is alive and well in the languages that we speak today. It plays an important role in a classical education training students how to think critically. It helps students in expanding their vocabulary and in learning grammar. Latin introduces students to original works that were written by some of the most influential writers in history. Latin Alive! is a series of texts written for junior high or high school students. It is a three year series emphasizing grammar and a solid understanding of the language. It also has a focus on Roman culture and mythology and teaches about the many ways Latin is still alive in our culture today. The Latin Alive! 1 Bundle that we received includes: Latin Alive! Book 1 Student Text, Latin Alive! Book One Teacher's Manual, and the Latin Alive! 1 DVD and CD set for $139.95. Latin Alive! Book 1 contains the following features:

  • 29 new content chapters plus 7 review reading chapters to equal 36 weekly chapters

  • Pronunciation Guides

  • Weekly vocabulary introduction

  • Thorough grammar explanations

  • US State seals and their Latin mottos

  • Study of Latin derivatives of English words

  • Latin reading and translation exercises

  • Lessons and stories of Roman myths, culture, and history

  • Exercises and questions to prepare for NLE and Advanced Placement exam

  • Historic contributions from Christopher Schlect, historian and academic Dean of New Saint Andrews College

If you are a homeschool parent who is interested in teaching your child Latin but you were either too intimidated to try it or just did not feel qualified enough, you will LOVE this program! The program is very easy to teach because it is done for you. The DVD lessons are just like having a Latin teacher in your home with you. The teacher is very easy to understand and follow along with. You can take the lessons at your own pace and can always pause or back up the DVD to repeat something you didn't understand. The Teacher's Guide gives you all of the answers and there are several free resources and teacher helps available on the website. If you have something you don't understand you are encouraged to contact Calssical Academic Press and they will help you in solving your problem. There are a few errors in the textbook, but there is this document available on the website under free resources correcting the errors for you.

I you are a homeschooled child whose parents want you to learn Latin but you think it is going to be boring, you will LOVE this program! The teacher on the DVD is very interesting to listen to and also pretty funny at times. The lessons offer plenty of practice and review to keep reminding you what you have already learned. There are plenty of examples of why Latin is important to learn and how it is still alive today mixed with fun and interesting information about Roman history and culture. My 14 year old daughter said, "Wow, Latin is a lot more interesting and fun than I thought it would be!"

To see what other crew members had to say click here.

I received a complimentary copy of Latin Alive! Book One Bundle for the purpose of writing a fair and honest review. I received no other compensation.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

I haven't done a Menu Plan Monday post in a couple of weeks since before the baby was born. For the last couple of weeks we have been eating what we had on hand and what I could send Art to the store for. We are getting back to normal now and the children and I wrote our menu plan, grocery list and went shopping on Friday. Here's what we have planned for this week:

Saturday 3/26-burgers with lettuce, tomato, pickles, potato salad, peaches
Sunday 3/27-Italian sausage with peppers and onions (hot dogs for those who don't like sausage), leftover peaches
Monday 3/28- pork chop casserole, broccoli
Tuesday 3/29-homemade shells and cheese, bread
Wednesday 3/30-Taco Salad
Thursday 3/31-grilled cheese and fries

To see some other great menus visit http://www.orgjunkie.com/

A New Floor!

Art Tiling Family Room
Last year, we started working on remodeling our downstairs. The playroom/schoolroom floor had been damaged by water (more than once) and needed to be replaced, and we decided to convert our garage into a family room to give us some more living space. A couple of weeks ago Art got the floor finished in the playroom and yesterday started tiling the family room! We chose ceramic tile for our floor because it is inexpensive, fairly easy to clean, long lasting, water won't destroy it, and neither can the children. It does take a little while to put down though. especially when you are one man and working in your "spare" time tiling 800 square feet. It is so exciting having this all coming together and hopefully getting it finished and moving down there in a couple of months.


New Picture

I finally got a picture of all the children together! It was kind of spur of the moment and as you can see very casual. I had been hoping to get an outside picture but the weather lately has not been cooperating. So, in the picture we have Lily 2, Nicholas 9, Emelia 3 weeks, Chelsea 14, Christian 4 (well he will be 4 on Friday), Anthony 5, and Alexander 7.

Friday, March 25, 2011

TOS Review: Big IQ Kids

Big IQ Title Banner
Big IQ Kids is an e learning website for children grades K-8th grade. Their goal is to create an appreciation for hard work and study habits. They offer both free and premium programs in the areas of spelling efficiency, vocabulary building, math fact mastery, and US geography. Each lesson takes 15-20 minutes and best results are achieved when students use the program every day. The website is designed so the child can use it idependently with little help from parents or teachers. The child can work at his/her own pace and is only moved on when they have "mastered" the area they are working on. Each one of the programs can be used with the pre loaded curriculum or you can customize them by putting in your own spelling words, math facts, vocabulary words or state facts. After completion of their daily lesson, the child earns a game coin which can be spent on any of the strategy or educational games in the Big IQ Kids arcade. Parents and teachers are kept informed of the students progress through email progress reports.

The Spelling Program makes learning the spelling words easy and fun. The children get to practice their words with interactive avatars during quizzes, spelling bees, and fun spelling games customized to the child's ability. They finish off the week with a Spelling Test.

The Math Program is designed to attain mastery of fundamental math skills. The program monitors your child's progress and advances them when they have achieved proficiency. Each lesson can be tailored to fit the child's needs.

The US Geography program is designed to help children master important facts about all 50 states. Through intereactive lessons and quizzes your child will learn locations, capital cities, spelling, and abbreviations of the states. They also learn each state's nickname, landmarks, economy, and fun facts.

The Vocabulary program helps to improve your child's attitude toward vocabulary work while increasing standardized test scores. The word lists contains words from elementaru through SAT prep. Interactive lessons make lerning vocabulary fun!

What is the difference between the free and premium programs? Premium members have their progress tracked, saved, problem areas identified and reprted through email progress reports. Premium members progress is tracked therefore they are only advanced when mastery of the area is completed. Also, premium members have access to all of the games on the game page while free members have limited access. To read more about these differences click here.

Pricing for the Premium Bundle Package including all 4 programs (Math, Spelling, Vocabulary, US Geography) after a free 7 day trial is $19.99 for 1 month (individual), $99.99 for 12 months (individual), or $299.99 for 12 months (classroom.) Or, you can purchase each program individually. Click here to see all the different pricing options.

Nick (9) and Alex (7) have had a lot of fun using this website. Alex has been mostly working on Spelling and Nick has tried out all of the programs. They actually like it so much they even request to play it on the week-ends and I have to set a time limit every day so they know when they have to stop. Nick has been known to complete an entire weeks worth of lessons in one day and mastered the entire US Geography program in just a couple of weeks. Their favorite part of course is getting to play the games when they complete their lessons.

There are many things I like about the program. The boys can log in, do their lessons, and play their games independently without any help from me. The lessons themselves are only about 15 minutes long and the reward games only last about 3-5 minutes (unless your child is really, really good at them then they will be longer.) I personally like to use the pre loaded curriculum but having a choice to customize with your own curriculum is a great feature. You also have the option to raise or lower the amount of questions your child has to complete during their lesson. The Math section was set up for the child to do 50 problems before the lesson was over, but I changed it to 25 when Nick said, "It just isn't worth 1 game coin to have to do all of those problems." You even have the ability to customize when your child gets to use their game coins. They really are learning and remembering the information presented to them even though their favorite part of using the site is getting to play the games.

There are a few things about Big IQ Kids that I think could be improved. With the premium membership, there are no advertisements on the page that the children do their lessons on, but when they go to the game page there are advertisements located at the top of the page that the children could click on. Also, the computer voice that is speaking to you (Jake) can at times be very distorted. Many times the boys had no idea what word he was saying (during the Spelling lesson) but we able to figure it out by the sentence that was given. Many of the 1st grade words we have had so far are rhyming words and it is very hard to understand what word is being said.

To see what other crew members are saying click here.

I received a complimentary Premium membership to Big IQ Kids for the purpose of writing a fair and honest review. I received no other compensation.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Favorite Recipes: Chicken Manicotti

I made this the other day and everyone loved it! Well, everyone but Anthony and if it is not peanut butter and jelly he doesn't love it. It was very quick and easy to prepare too.

1 can cream of chicken soup
1 1/2 cups water
4 oz Velveeta diced
2 cups frozen broccoli
12 uncooked manicotti shells
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast cut into thin strips
shredded cheddar cheese (to sprinkle over top)

Put soup, water, Velveeta into microwave safe bowl and microwave 3 minutes or until cheese is melted stirring halfway through cooking time. Pour 1/3 into the bottom of a 13x9 baking dish and add broccoli to remaining mixture. Stuff shells with uncooked chicken and place into pan. Pour remaining sauce over top. Cover with foil and bake at 400 degrees for 45-50 minutes or until chicken is cooked and manicotti is tender. Uncover and sprinkle with shredded cheddar. Return to oven to melt the cheese.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

TOS Review: Artistic Pursuits

It can be challenging when homeschooling to teach subjects that you are not very good at. When faced with that challenge, you really need a curriculum that is fun for the children and does not require a lot of knowledge, skill, or preparation from the parent. I am not at all talented in Art and although I think that it is very important to include in your homeschool, I have not done a very good job of that because I am terrible at it and none of the books we have purchased so far has worked out for us. We were given the opportunity to use and review Artistic Pursuits Senior High Book One The Elements of Art and Composition and I just have to come right out and say.....We LOVE this Art Program!


Artistic Pursuits was developed by Dan and Brenda Ellis, working artists and homeschooling parents. They designed their books so they are written to the student and allow parents and teachers to give children a quality Art education even if they themselves have no artistic background. They believe, "every child can enjoy the concepts of art and enjoy the process of putting ideas and visual images on paper. We're committed to the goal of helping children become visually aware of the wonderful world we live in, and be able to work in creative ways within that world." Their programs express the technical and expressive aspects of art in an age appropriate manner offering the right information at the right time. They do not expect children to draw like adults but instead value what children are able to produce by observing the world around them, viewing great artwork, and through demonstrating techniques.

There are things that you will not find in their books. Artistic Pursuits does not have children do formal exercises that does not connect to real world examples (like drawing whole pages of straight lines, cones etc.) Their books are not set up like a step by step, copy the page, how to draw curriculum. Children do not work in tiny square boxes, but instead have a full page sketch pad to work on.

Artistic Pursuits carries books from pre-K all the way through High School. Each book costs $42.95 and they are non-consumable so you can use them again and again. The books are paperback and spiral bound. To see the different books they offer for each age group click here. For convenience, they also carry Art Supply Packs for each book and also are affiliated with two different discount art supply stores that carry all of the supplies for each book. Click here to see information on art supplies.

Chelsea is in the 9th grade and when she completes her book Senior High Book One The Elements of Art and Composition she will earn a full credit for High School. She does 2 classes a week and each class takes her about 45 min-an hour to complete. The book contains 64 lessons which the students explore the Elements of Art: space, line, texture, shape, form, and value through European Art.

Chelsea's Drawing

What I really like about this program is that the text is written for the student. It is very well laid out and easy to read and understand. She can just pick up her book and work independently at her own pace. The only thing I have to do is look at the finished project and tell her how great she did! They even include the course credit information and an Evaluation Sheet for determining a number and letter grade. The book does not teach just techniques, but instead each unit covers: Vocabulary, Art Appreciation, Art History, and Techniques. Then the students do a final project for the unit using what they have learned. Students are allowed to be creative when drawing, they are not expected to copy or reproduce an exact model in the book. Another great feature is that they show other students artwork throughout the book. Most children are not as skilled as professional artists and may be discouraged when their artwork does not look as "good" as professionals. By adding in the student art gallery, it shows students what others their age are creating and brings it back down to their level. It also was very convenient for me to order my supplies through their affiliate link Blick Art Supplies. We live over an hour from any art supply store and all I had to do was click on the book I had and it showed all of the supplies. I had them in my hands within a week.

If Art is missing from your homeschool because you feel you are not qualified to teach it or are intimidated, or you just have not found a program you or your children really like, I would definitely recommend Artistic Pursuits. As a matter of fact, I was so impressed with the book we got to review I am buying a book to use with the boys next school year. They also offer a money back guarantee if you wish to return your books within 30 days in unused condition. With Artistic Pursuits there are no more excuses as to why I can't teach Art.

To see what other crew members are saying click here.

I received a complimentary copy of Senior High Book One The Elements of Art and composition for the purpose of writung a fair and honest review. I received no other compensation.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Homeschooling With A Newborn

Emelia on the quilt her Nana made for her

I recently wrote this post for the Blog Cruise on Homeschooling While Pregnant or With a Newborn that talked about tips for homeschooling moms during this season of their life. So, how is it going in my house homeschooling with a newborn again? As I talked about before, we really simplify homeschooling when we have a newborn. We do a LOT of reading, workbooks (for Math), computer, and educational videos. Emelia sleeps a lot (the best sleeper I have ever had) and I will confess I hold her quite a bit (especially now that she has a cold and breathes better sitting up) so she is with us when we are homeschooling. I can read quite easily while nursing or holding a sleeping baby, so none of that has interrupted our school schedule at all. I am a little sleep deprived (not just from the baby but also Lily has not been sleeping well because of her ear infection) and did have to apologize to the children today when I kept yawning while reading aloud this morning. When Lily lays down for her nap, I take Emelia and lay on the couch and rest while the older children have their Wii/computer time. Even though I don't really get to sleep, even resting for a few minutes makes a big difference.

Mostly we have been working on Reading, Math, Science, History, and Bible. We also have several review items that we are using including a fun and educational website that has been taking up the boys' computer time. Chelsea of course being older has a few other subjects to cover and works pretty much independently. We have been trying to keep our schedule pretty consistent and have been getting started at 9:30, breaking at 11:00 for lunch and "recess " starting back up at 12:30 for their independent work and getting everything done by 2. A couple of days Chelsea has taken a little longer because she had to wait to be able to use the TV to complete her work.

As far as the rest of the house, the chores that are absolutely necessary are getting done right now. Dishes, laundry, sweeping, vacuuming has to be done at least once a day and are getting done. Things like cleaning closets although it really needs to get done are not high on the priority list right now and are not going anywhere. If you were to drop in on me, I can guarantee there will be toys on the floor, dishes in the sink, and laundry that needs to get put away (unless you come that one time a day when the house is clean!) and that's OK. We are going to enjoy the time we have snuggling our new baby and spending time with the older children and not be stressed out trying to keep everything perfect.

Monday, March 21, 2011

TOS Review: Brill Kids Storybooks Aesop's Fables Volume I

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to use and review the Brill Kids Little Reader Learning System (you can find my review on it here.) We love the Little Reader Learning System and still use it every day so I was thrilled to be selected to review another one of their products Aesop's Fables Volume 1.


Aesop's Fables Volume 1 is intended for children ages 3 months and up and includes 5 full color storybooks: The Boy Who Cried Wolf, The Lion and the Mouse, The Fox and the Grapes, The Turtle and the Rabbit, and the Fox and the Crow. These much loved favorite stories have been placed in a book designed not just to be read to your child, but to teach them how to read. Three special features help to make this possible: text and illustrations are on separate pages, extra spacing between words help to make it easier to see words individually, and a blank flap extension is in the book so you can cover the illustrations and have your child focus on the text first.

In addition to receiving the storybooks, you also get each book in a digital format for your Little Reader Program for free! When you purchase the books they come with a special code that you put in on the Brill Kids website that enables you to import the books into your Little Reader Program with multimedia effects and voice narration in three different voices. The introductory cost of Aesop's Fables Volume 1 is $37.50 (regular price $50)and can be purchased by clicking here.

We love these books! Christian especially likes The Boy Who Cried Wolf when even the sheep is frowning at the boy when he lied. Lily loves the Lion and the Mouse when the mouse cries and says, "Don't hurt me don't hurt me oh no!" They have beautiful, colorful illustrations that look very life like and short sentences making keeping the younger children's attention and focus easier. The children (5,3,2) like the flap that "hides" the pictures while I am reading the words. It makes it seem like a fun game to them. They also love the digital version of the books that we can play through our Little Reader Program. Again, the illustrations are very colorful and are also animated. The animalseven have interesting facial expressions. The text is read twice for the children. On the first screen just the words are showing in two differing colors that changes for each syllable. On the second screen the illustration is showing and you hear them reread the text. It was very easy to download the digital version to my computer and import to my Little Reader Program. One issue I have had with it is that the audio skips in a few places on the digital version.

To see what other crew members are saying click here.

I received a complimentary copy of Aesop's Fables Volume I for the purpose of writing a fair and honest review. I received no other compensation.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Book Review: Mine Is The Night by Liz Curtis Higgs

I just finished reading the novel, Mine Is The Night by Liz Curtis Higgs the best selling author of Here Burns My Candle. The novel is 447 pages long and includes both a Reader's Guide and a Sottish Glossary of words used throughout the book. This novel is a paperback book and retails for $14.99.

Newly widowed Elisabeth Kerr must start her life over in a strange place with no husband, title, property, or fortune, and the stain of her husnand's betrayal to the King following her. She is not afraid of hard work and is very skillful at sewing but now she needs to mend her broken heart and life that has been torn apart. She is not alone either. He mother-in-law Marjory has had to bury her husband, sons, and her title. She has to depend upon a distant relative with very little resources and Marjory dreads her future and regrets her past. A wealthy man becomes aquainted with Elisabeth. Will he be willing to risk his reputation to defend two women labeled as traitors to the crown? Will the Kerr women find happiness through their faith and trust? Can they put their pasts behind them and look towards their futures?

I very much enjoyed reading this novel. Historical Fiction is one of my favorite types of books to read. The pace of the story was fantastic and kept me reading long after I should have put the book down. It is a very similar story to one you will find in the Book of Ruth about Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz. Elisabeth is given the opportunity to return to her own family after her husband's death, but instead ventures into the unknown with no money, security, or place to live to look after her mother-in-law. The characters are very well developed and you have the opportunity to see them change and grow throughout the story. You can relate to each of the characters and the situations they are going through. The descriptions of the settings makes you feel as though you are right in the story with the main characters. There is an amazing dedication to detail in this book . Of course, you are always hoping for the happy ending even as the plot twists and turns and you are not entirely sure of the outcome. Although I was very pleased with the ending, I was very sad to see their story end. I definitely would recommend especially to adult woman looking for a great story with a happy ending.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah for the purpose of writing a fair and honest review. I received no other compensation.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

4-H Cooking Contest

Yesterday was our first day back from our "Spring Break." We had a very productive school day and added to it was baking. It was our annual 4-H Breads Contest with a little change. This year it was a bread/cookie contest. Each child could enter up to three recipes in different categories. They could choose from:drop cookies, bar cookies, cut out cookies, quick breads, specialty breads, muffins, or yeast breads. I told my children they could enter 2 items, but only Nick ended up making two. It can be quite a production in our house to prepare food for these contests and I am thankful we have the whole day unlike many of our friends who go to Public School. I was very impressed with my boys and their teamwork in getting everything ready and set up while I was feeding the baby, and with my daughter and her clean up efforts when we were all finished (can you imagine the amount of dishes we had to wash?) Usually we make the recipes, drop them off at the designated time, and go back an hour later for judging and rewards. But, I was not ready to leave the house yet or to take the baby out and did I mention that I had another child running fever.....so their daddy took them to drop off their recipes and we called this morning to find out how they did.

Alex entered the Drop Cookie category and made Monster Cookies. He earned a Participation Ribbon.

Nick entered the Bar Cookie Category, made Candy Bar Brownies and earned a First Place Ribbon. He also made Yeast Rolls in the Bread Machine and earned a First Place Ribbon.

Chelsea entered the Cut Out Cookie category, made Chocolate Mint Pillows (made with Andes Mints) and won a Second Place Ribbon.

I am very proud of all my little bakers and wish I had some pictures to upload, but I had my hands full baking, carrying Emelia, and keeping Lily out of the M&M's. I will be posting the recipes later in the week.

TOS Review: Who Is God ?and Can I Really Know Him?

Through the different forms of media available in the world today, our children our constantly exposed to different ideas about: identity, truth, morality, beauty, and more. Some of these ideas are true, but more often they are wrong and can be destructive. We need to be able to teach our children to discern what is true in all of the competing ideas that they have surrounding them. Apologia has teamed up with Summit Ministries to bring the "What We Believe" Series a four volume series to teach your children to be able to use scripture as "a lens through which to view the world around them-to see everything the way God sees it-and know the truth." Who is God? and Can I Really Know Him? is the first book in the "What We Believe" Series.

Who is God ?and Can I Really Know Him? is designed to use with children from ages 6-14. It is a hard covered textbook with 252 pages and costs $39. It is not a Bible Study although it does have a lot of Bible Study in it. It is a Worldview/Apologetics study intended to help children understand how they and others see the world around them. By understanding what we believe as Christians and why we believe it will help keep children centered on God's truth and be able to communicate it to others. This first volume in the series focuses on the person and attributes of God, His provision, His design for creation, the Fall, and His wondrous plan for our salvation. Each volume is a complete course of study and can stand on it's own although they will make more sense if read in order. Volumes 1 and 2 are available now with Volume 3 scheduled for publication this fall and Volume 4 in 2012. Each Voume can take 4-9 months to complete depending on the length of time you spend on it each day and your child's attention span. The textbook is written to the student and requires very little teacher preparation. A suggested lesson plan schedule is included and also many teacher helps and notebooking pages are available for free on the Apologia website. Also, this Spring a Notebooking Journal and Coloring book will also be available to purchase to further enhance this study.

Each chapter of the book is broken up into the following sections:

The Big Idea-Introduction to the lesson and brief overview of what the student has already learned

What You Will Do-learning objectives for the lesson

Short Story- features characters in the same age range as children studying this book that go along with the lesson and shows differing worldviews and how they change

Think About It-questions to dig deeper into the short stories

What You Need To Know-vocabulary words and definitions

Hide It in Your Heart-two Bible memory verses to be written in the notebook and memorized

Integrated Learning- articles with age-appropriate approach to interdisciplinary topics related to the main text

What Should I Do?-highlights a specific godly trait that a child should show in response to what they have learned

Prayer-enables a child to acknowledge specific attributes of God and thank Him for who He is.

Worldview Study-an ongoing study that introduces the child to the concept of worldview

House of Truth-a hands on memory aid constructed one step at a time. Can be drawn or built with items around the house. A 3 dimensional model is available for purchase from http://www.summit.org/

I know that I have mentioned before that I enjoy being able to use curriculum with all of my school aged children although it is a challenge with the large span in their ages. This study is perfect for us since it is meant for children ages 6-14. There is very little preparation involved from me. The only thing I do ahead of time is take a look at the free teacher helps and notebooking pages available on the website and print out what I would like to use. I do not use the suggested teacher schedule, but instead split up the readings in each chapter to make the lessons a good length that Alex (7) will still be paying attention. I think the book is written to be interesting for those who are reading it. The real life examples are great and at a level children can understand. We loved the example of the Big Bang theory and the brownies that made themselves (still waiting for those by the way!) The children also can relate very easily to the story of the Simmon's family and their friend Ben. There is a review in each chapter to remind the children what they have already learned. The book teaches plenty of Bible and Apologetics and also throws in Art, History, Science and many real life lessons. We are big fans of notebooking and there are great notebooking assignments for each chapter. Truly a worthwhile study you can use with your entire family!

I received a complimentary copy of Who is God? and Can I Really Know Him? for the purpose of writing a fair and honest review. I received no other compensation.

To see what other crew members are saying click here.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Our Spring Break

I had to post some cute pictures of the baby. You know you wanted to see some!

Emelia in her new bouncy seat

Lily and Emelia

I had already decided that whenever the baby came, we would have a week off of school for Spring Break. That decision was reinforced when she was born on Friday, we came home on Saturday, my parents left on Sunday, Art went back to work Monday morning, and I was left to re cooperate and take care of the children. I knew I would not be able to handle doing "school" too. We also had 3 children with coughs and runny noses and one of them with a low grade temp. So we had a very lazy week. I will admit that we watched a lot more TV than we usually do and the children got some extra video game time. The boys did do a little school work that they requested. There is a website we are in the process of reviewing that they like so much they play it everyday. Starting tomorrow we will be back to our regular schedule.

I was very blessed that some very sweet friends of mine took the time to prepare and bring us supper. It was a huge blessing to me and came just when I needed it the most. It is no small thing to prepare food for us either. First of all there are a lot of us to feed, and second we live 20 minutes outside of town. It is wonderful to have such great friends.

Emelia is doing great! She is a wonderful baby who has a sweet disposition. She spends most of her time sleeping even at night she wakes up only to eat then goes right back to sleep. Christian and Lily wish she would do more and be able to play with them. She will be into their stuff before they know it!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Got a Package in the Mail!

I mentioned in an earlier blog post that I start looking for new curriculum in February of every year. I usually don't start ordering until May, but I can't resist a great deal. I found out that www.christianbook.com was having a 33% off sale in the month of March on some their Apologia products. I knew that I wanted to order the Biology for Chelsea and I wanted a notebooking journal for the boys for Zoology 1 (we are borrowing the book from a friend.) With the sale the Biology was $56 instead of $85 and the journal was only $16.99, so I got both for less than the regular cost of the Biology! The package arrived in just a couple of days too. So after looking through them I stuck them on the shelf trying to resist wanting to break them out and start them before next year :). If you are looking to order Apologia for next year stop by the sale you might find yourself a great deal!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Christian is going to be 4 in a couple of weeks. I actually am really surprised that he doesn't remember me nursing Lily since I just stopped a couple of months ago, but I guess he doesn't. We had an interesting conversation about breastfeeding yesterday.

Me: "Baby sister is getting hungry so I need to feed her."
Christian: "She can share some of my yogurt."
Me: "New babies are too little to eat yogurt."
Christian " What does she eat then?"
Me: "God made mommies so they can feed milk to their babies."
Christian :" Oh. So do you got some juice in there too?"

Monday, March 7, 2011

TOS Review: Reading Kingdom

Probably the most important academic skill (and one that parents stress the most about) that your child will ever learn is learning how to read. If a child cannot read, they will struggle in every other subject as well. For the last several weeks, we have had the opportunity to use an review an online program called Reading Kingdom.

Reading Kingdom is an online reading program designed to teach children Pre-K - to 3 rd grade how to read and write. The program was designed by Dr. Marion Blank one of the world's top experts in literacy. The program teaches 6 necessary skills for reading and writing success: sequencing, motor skills, sounds, meaning, grammar, and comprehension. Reading Kingdom customizes itself to each child targeting their strengths and weaknesses and most children can do it on their own after a few weeks. The program can be used along with any curriculum the child is using and it's fun! Parents can easily keep track of what their child is doing and how well they are doing by opening a link that shows their progress.

To start the program there is an optional section of keyboard and mouse training for those children who are unfamiliar with the keyboard. Then the child takes a skills survey to assess what skills your child does/does not have and where the program needs to begin. There are 6 levels in the program that your child's teaching will begin and progress. The pre-reading level teaches visual sequencing and keyboarding skills. The seeing Sequence portion teaches visual scanning and memory skills while Letter Land teaches where to find and click letters smoothly. After getting through Letter Land the child goes on to a second skills survey to assess their reading skills and which level they need to be placed at. The reading portion is divided into 5 levels with 6 books to read at each level becoming more complex as you pass through each level. Before reading each book, the child is taught all of the words needed to read that book. Each word is taught in 4 fun and game like formats and each session takes about 15-20 minutes each. Before teaching each new word the program determines if the child knows the word and if so it skips that word and moves on to the next one.

Reading Kingdom is a subscription based online reading program. The cost is $19.99/per month with no minimum amount of months to buy. A full year's cost is $199.99 and for multiple children the cost is $9.99 per month for each additional child. Reading Kingdom offers a 30 day free trial. For more information click here.

To read more about how the program is organized click here.

To read more about their approach to reading click here.

Alex (7) has been my main user of Reading Kingdom, although Anthony (5) tried it also. Alex has had a very strong desire to read for a long time. In fact, he even takes books to bed with him at night like his big brother and sister, but nothing really has made blending sounds and reading/remembering words "click" for him and he has been starting to get frustrated. I was in the process of looking for something new for him to try when the opportunity to review Reading Kingdom came up. Alex is doing very well with the program. He started out in Letter Land which really built his confidence on using the keyboard and he really liked doing the program. After the second skills assessment he was placed in Level 1 and we have been working there for a couple of weeks. He has learned and remembered several new words even to the point of recognizing them in other places besides Reading Kingdom. He likes playing the "game" and he loves the owl that gives the instructions. The lessons are just long enough to keep his attention and not too long to bore him into not wanting to do it again. We have gotten through the first three books in level one and the first time he read the whole book I was so happy for him and what he accomplished. Reading Kingdom really has opened the world of reading to him like nothing else has been able to and given him the tools and confidence he needed to start succeeding. I am very impressed with the program and his progress and will continue to use it.

We have not been as successful with Anthony. Being able to locate the correct letters on the keyboard is an important part of this program because it is being done on a computer. But, there is a time limit on how long you have to type or point and click to answer. I believe that this is definitely too short for the younger (pre-k-k) age. It was very frustrating for Anthony that he could not get his answer in time even though he was paying attention. He kept saying, "It won't let me finish!" Also, if they don't type or click fast enough, the program erases what they have done on that question, shows them the answer, and they have to start their answer over again. I believe it would be much more beneficial to the child to keep the part of the answer that they have correct and let them go on from there instead of making them start over again.

To see what my other crew mates are saying click here.

I received a complimentary subscription to Reading Kingdom for the purpose of writing a fair and honest review. I received no other compensation.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Our Birth Story

We went into the hospital Friday morning at 5:30 am for a scheduled induction due to "pregnancy induced hypertension." This was my first time being at this particular hospital as I had to find a new doctor for this pregnancy because my other doctor stopped delivering. After filling out paperwork and monitoring my blood pressure and the baby for an hour, they started the Pitocin. At 7:15 am my doctor came over and broke my water. She also gave permission for me to be able to get out of bed on occasion to use the bathroom (they usually won't let you do this when your water is broken.) I did not start having any contractions until 8:45 am so up until then I tried to rest a little bit. The contractions were not very painful until they started moving more into my back than in my stomach. Changing positions helped quite a bit as did the few walks I was able to make. At 12:30 my doc came back to check on me and I was 8 cm. She gave permission for me to get up one more time and said she would see me very soon. At the point the pain in my back was worse than anything I had ever experienced, but 2 contractions later I told Art to call the nurse. She came running in and paged the nursery and the doctor because it was TIME! Two pushes later, at 12:44 pm Emelia Rose was on my abdomen getting her first look at the world around her. After she was weighed( 6 lbs 6 oz and 19 in my smallest baby by far )and Apgar scores checked, I got to nurse her and she was nursing like a champ. She is doing very well (been asleep all day so who knows what tonight is going to be like.) I was very pleased with the hospital and could not have asked for a better nurse who was very supportive of natural childbirth and recognized that I have done this before and let me do what I needed to do to be successful. I could not imagine a better experience or outcome (unless it could have been completely pain free :) The children are thrilled with their new baby sister and have done a great job looking after me today and keeping me well stocked with water.

Children Meeting Their Baby Sister

Some pictures when the children came to see us in the hospital Friday night. We were discharged yesterday at 3 pm and we are both doing well. Thank you so much for all of your thoughts and prayers!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Emelia Rose is Here!

Born today at 12:44. 6 lbs 6 oz and 19 inches long. She and I are both healthy and well. We had a fairly easy natural labor and delivery She has already been nursing like a champ! More detail at another time. Hoping to be home tomorrow!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Baby Tomorrow!

Well we are 39 weeks pregnant and headed to the doctor for what I thought would be a quick check-up. I really believed I was going to be pregnant for another week or two. But, my blood pressure was high. Not dangerously high and there was no protein in my urine, but my blood pressure is always the same and never in any of my pregnancies has even been a little bit high. I also lost a pound and still measured for 38 weeks. So my doctor was a little concerned. She said I could either go on bed rest until I go into labor on my own with visits to her every other day to monitor me, or go ahead and induce labor. I am 3cm dilated and 75 percent effaced and so I elected to be induced in the morning. I also had to have a non stress test while I was there which was also a first, but the baby did fine. So, we will be heading to the hospital at 4:00 tomorrow morning to be there before 5:30 so they can get my paperwork done and Pitocin started. Hopefully my doctor will come break my water by 8:00 am and we will have a new baby by the afternoon. Prayers for an easy labor, healthy baby, and great nurses would be appreciated!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Getting Ready for Baby

In between sickness, schoolwork, housework, transporting children from place to place, and did I mention sickness? I have been trying to get everything ready for our Baby Sister who by the way is "due" next Friday. There was such a big gap between Chelsea and Nick (and honestly we didn't even know if we were going to have more children) that I donated or gave all of my baby stuff away. After buying everything new for Nicholas, I told Art that we would have to have another baby to get our money's worth from everything we bought. After 9 more years and 5 more children, I don't think that's a problem!

Lily has been a great help to me getting everything ready. She was a March baby too (she will be 2 on the 15th) so baby sister will be able to wear all of the clothes that Lily wore and a lot of them still look brand new (especially the 0-3 month size.) Lily loves new clothes and was trying to put on everything that we washed. Then she would say, " That doesn't fit me. That's for baby sister." After a while I thought she would get tired of that so I pulled a spring dress out of the closet for Lily that she hadn't worn yet and she was thrilled to wear her new dress and put away clothes for baby sister.

The crib doesn't ever come down. It just sits beside my bed waiting for the new baby to be born and start using it. I did wash the bedding the other day and made up the crib so it is all ready whever she is. Most of our babies do spend some time sleeping in the bed with us at night (it is so nice to be able to nurse the baby and fall back to sleep especially when they are eating every hour and a half!)

I am so blessed to have such a wonderful church family. My Sunday School Class threw me a diaper/wipes shower 2 weeks a go at church. We are well stocked with diapers, baby wipes, baby lotion and shampoo. I also got some gift cards which I bought an outfit for the baby to come home in (so I will be able to tell her apart in pictures from Lily some day) and I am going to buy a new bouncy seat. The one we have now coverts to a rocking chair , holds up to 30 pounds, and Lily still uses it quite a bit. I did get a few little clothes and the most beautiful homemade burp cloths you have ever seen. I do not know how I am going to use them for what they are supposed to be for. They are too pretty!

I broke down the other day and even packed my suitcase. I always procrastinate on this and it stays empty until the last minute. A doctor told me once," You have a wonderful husband, but do you really want to rely on him to pack your bag?" All taken care of so he doesn't have to worry about taking on that task. The car seat is also washed and ready to be put in the van with the suitcase. Hmmmmm the van. Maybe we will clean that out today. That's one thing we haven't done yet.

I had intended on doing some freezer cooking before the baby was born. One of the hardest things for me after having a baby is getting back into the cooking/shopping routine. With everyone being sick (including me) it just did not happen. I am going to buy some extra frozen meals/canned foods when I go shopping today and hopefully that will hold us over for a little while after the baby is born. Art works across the street from Walmart and is always willing to go and get what we need even though he strongly dislikes having to go to Walmart.

Okay, we have all the stuff ready. Now we just need the baby to go with it. Anthony has been asking me a lot lately if it is time to get the baby out yet. We have been telling Christian for a long time that the baby needed to grow in my belly until she is ready to be born. Every day he stares at my belly and says, "I see your belly growing. I think the baby has grown and is ready to come out now." Lily comes over and kisses my belly all the time saying she is kissing baby sister. Nick, Alex, and Chelsea are pretty familiar with the whole having a baby routine and know what to expect. It won't be too much longer and she will be here!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

My Answers to Some Homeschooling Questions

I recently received an email from a lady who is taking a journalism class and looking for some input on an article she will be writing on homeschooling. Here are some of the questions she was asking about homeschooling and MY answers to those questions. I apologize in advance if some get a little long winded ;).

What are some of the reasons you decided to homeschool your children?

Originally, my reasons were purely academic. Even though we lived in a pretty good school system, Public School is designed to keep all children on the same page. Chelsea was getting into trouble at school because she was bored with what they were doing and I was told in a conference that they were "not allowed" to let her read more challenging books because then she would be too far ahead the next year. I still think that individualized learning is a great reason to homeschool, but my reasons go much deeper than that now. Lack of peer influence is another big reason, but being able to use a Christian Based Curriculum at home is my biggest reason. I am able to teach my children the "Truth" in everything we do. Every subject that is taught is from a Christian perspective and you can't do that when your children are in public school.

How do you react to the critics of homeschool who believe children will suffer socially if they are in a homeschool?

First of all, what is the main purpose of "school." Is it so our children can be educated, or be "socialized?" What kind of "social" interaction do you remember from school? Bullying, peer pressure to conform, self worth being based on looks/money are some of the socialization I remember. I am very happy that my children are missing out on those things and Thank God for that every day. We do have plenty of positive social interaction with other friends, homeschoolers, through 4-H, community service, and church activities. Since they are not stuck in a room with only children of the same age, my children are able to relate to and interact with people of all ages. They also have very good relationships with their siblings.

How do you think your children will benefit from having a homeschooled as opposed to public school education?

The lack of peer influence that I already mentioned is a big benefit as is the ability to provide a Christian Education. At home, you can tailor the education to the child in a way Public School will never be ale to do. If you have a 3rd grade child that is weak in Math but excels in reading you can use 1st grade Math and 5th grade reading materials. If you have a child that is fascinated with a particular area (like animals) you can focus their education on their passion. We can provide many hands on learning experiences and field trips. At home we don't teach our children what to think but instead teach them how to think. We are not teaching them to score high on a standardized test, but instead are educating them, preparing them for the world, and ultimately eternity.

There are parents who despise the public school situation their child is in, but still do not homeschool because it would place a heavy burden on them and keep them tied down to educating their children. What is your opinion on this?

When I started homeschooling, I had a 3rd grader, a 3 1/2 year old, 20 month old, and newborn. I was already committed to being a SAHM for at least 5 years until my youngest at that time would be old enough for K so that was something that really didn't concern me. We decided that we would take homeschooling one year at a time. I think that being a parent does require a lot of sacrifice. The benefits of homeschooling outweigh the sacrifice for me 100 times over. It isn't always easy but is always worth it. You may need some time to yourself so you don't feel tied down. Date-nights with your spouse, shopping with friends, homeschool support groups, co-ops might provide you with some of the break time you may need.

Many people have criticized the intellect of mother's who homeschool their children and assume the mother doesn't have a college education and isn't a qualified teacher. What is your opinion on this?

My children were given to me by God and He feels I am capable of teaching them everything they need to know. There is not one person on this world that knows them better than I do (not even my husband although he comes in a close 2nd but he has to go to work 50 hours a week) and that makes me the most qualified person to teach them. I do have a college degree but do not feel that a piece of paper is something that makes you qualified or not to teach. I know many people that are more educated than I am and would not be able to spend one day teaching my 7 year old how to read. There are many educated people in the Public School System that should not be spending their days teaching. Now, if I have a child that has an interest in something I know nothing about there are different ways we can handle that situation. We can find an "expert" in that area, take online classes, and/or gather and study everything we can find on that area/subject and learn all we can about it. In this technological age we are in, everyone has access to all kinds of information at their fingertips all of the time.