Our Family

Our Family

Monday, January 28, 2013

Working On Our Nature Quilt

I mentioned last week that I had taken the children to two programs at a local state park.  One of those programs was a Nature Quilting program.  Once a month they choose a nature topic and do an educational presentation.  Then they give out a quilt square pattern to go along with the topic.  At the end of 12 months you have 12 squares that you sew together to make a Nature Quilt.  I thought it sounded like a great idea!  I figured it would be something that Chelsea (15) could do since she loves to sew.  I told the other children about it and Alex (9), Anthony (7), Christian (5) and Lillian (3) all wanted to make one too.  I thought we could figure out a way that they could make them on their own with a little help and guidance.  

The program we went to was on birds.  We were also given the previous months patterns for a frog, flower, arrow heads, and a map of the state park.  Two days later, while  we were in the "big city", we went to Walmart and picked up 1/2 yard of several different colored fabrics, some heat n bond, and some fabric markers.  That night the children wanted to get started.

For Alex and Anthony, I made a template for a 10 in square that they could trace and cut out.  They cut the paper patterns and traced and cut out the shapes on the different colored fabrics.  Then they cut those out and traced the shapes on the heat N bond.  After that I used the iron to place the shapes on the fabric where the boys wanted them.  The only thing I had to help them with was using the iron.

For Christian and Lily, I cut out a large shape on my Cricut in cardstock to use as a template, then traced it on their square.  They used fabric markers to decorate it how they wanted to.

Chelsea is still working on her first square so I do not have pictures of hers.  Christian and Anthony both have made 2 squares, Lily made one, and Alex has made 4.  The only one he didn't make was the map because I haven't decided how we are going to do that one yet.  The next program is on February 16th and we will find out then what our next square will be.

Review: Awesome Science Episode 6 Explore John Day Fossil Beds

The Awesome Science Dvd's take adults and teens around the world to historical and geographic locations to bring science to life with a Biblical worldview.  The series is produced by Kyle Justice and hosted by teenager Noah Justice.  Noah serves as a travel guide on amazing adventures to show the astounding evidence that supports a creationist view point.  Previous episodes include : Explore the Grand Canyon, Explore Yellowstone, Explore Meteor Crater and Petrified Forest, Explore Yosemite and Zion National Parks, and Explore Mount St. Helens.  Each DVD in the series runs about 30 minutes long.

In Episode 6 Explore the John Day Fossil beds, Noah Justice visits the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in northeastern Oregon.  In the episode we learn: the range of plant and animal fossils and why no dinosaurs are found, the history of the spectacular geological formations and the impact of erosion, which explanation is correct millions of years or a catastrophic event.

You can purchase this DVD here for $14.99.

 I viewed this DVD with my 11,9, and 7 year old boys. It can be such a challenge to find creation based science resources.  The "theory" of evolution is promoted and widely accepted as fact and rarely do you ever hear that there is quite a lot of evidence to support the Biblical view of creation.  But, the evidence does exist, and Awesome Science is bringing that evidence to adults, teens, and children through it's series of DVD's.  Through these DVD's we have the opportunity to see beautiful, high quality footage of landmarks we may never get to visit in person.  I do not remember ever hearing about the John Day Fossil Beds before and found it fascinating.

Noah Justice spends a lot of time explaining this monument and the science behind how it is formed.  He discusses what both secular and creation scientists believe and the supporting evidence that proves the existence of a world wide flood.  This 30 minute video is jam packed full of interesting information.  What a great way to learn Science!

Disclaimer:  I received a complimentary DVD from Masterbooks for the purpose of writing a fair and honest review.  I received no other compensation.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Review: An Amish Christmas

Enjoy this Amish Christmas bestseller with an additional new novella from romance author Kelly Long.
"Christmas Cradles" by Kelly Long -- When Anna Stolis takes over for her aunt, the local Amish midwife in Paradise, Christmas night heats up with multiple deliveries, three strangers' quilts, and the help from resourceful and strong Asa Lapp, whose job it is to get Anna through a dangerous blizzard to complete her midwifery rounds.
“A Miracle for Miriam” by Kathleen Fuller: This Christmas, Miriam must decide whether to guard herself or accept the love of a man who once broke her heart.
“A Choice to Forgive” by Beth Wiseman: Lydia, a widow who has given up on love, is shocked when Daniel-- a past love-- returns to the Order, and her life.
“One Child” by Barbara Cameron: This snowy Lancaster Christmas Eve will see two couples’ lives changed by the birth of one child.

I enjoy reading Amish fiction and had read books from a few of these authors before, so I was glad to have an opportunity to review An Amish Christmas.  I didn't realize when I chose the book that I had already read A Choice to Forgive by Beth Wiseman, but since I had read it before and enjoyed it, I didn't mind at all reading it again.  Each of the four stories are novellas (short novels)  whose stories are centered around the hoilday theme and the characters are linked to the  characters in the other novels.  The stories were heartwarming and uplifting and made for a quick and easy read.  The stories were not just "typical" Amish fiction, each one was unique.  My favorite of the four was Christmas Cradle.  
The downside to reading the shorter novels is that they end all too quickly.  There is not the same amount of character or story development as you would get in a full length novel.  To me it seems as though you are just getting to the point where you are very engrossed in the story and it's over.  Overall I think that An Amish Christmas was very well done and would recommend it to those that enjoy Amish Fiction.

Disclaimer:  I received a complimentary copy of An Amish Christmas for the purpose of writing a fair and honest review.  I received no other compensation.

Friday, January 25, 2013

January Cloverbud Meeting

For our January Cloverbud 4 H meeting, we had a speaker come from Arkansas Game and Fish to present a program for us.  She comes and does a meeting for us once a year and is usually one of the children's favorite meetings.  In the past we have done Arkansas Fur Bearers, Bears, and Turkeys.  This year we did a program on White Tail Deer.

 To start off the meeting, the children got to make an edible craft.  We used bread, peanut butter, jelly, (or cheese for those who don't like or were allergic to peanut butter), raisins, and pretzels to make a deer head.  It turned out really cute!  Then of course they got to eat them.

Next we talked a little about deer and elk and what an endangered species is.  The children were given two worksheets to color.

After that Ms. Linda read a story teaching the children all about deer, their habits, where they live, what they eat, what their tracks look like, even how fast they run.  She also talked about the different alerts and noises they make and even did some deer calls.

After that we did a craft.  The children got to make bookmarks and stamp them with deer and deer tracks or other stamps of Arkansas wildlife.

At the end of the meeting they all had an opportunity to see and touch the furs, antlers, hooves, and teeth that Ms. Linda brought with her.

It was a really great meeting!  We only had 10 4- Hers participating which is the smallest number that we have had in a long time, but we had several that were out sick or getting ready to go out of town.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Guess What?? He's Reading!

I posted many times in the past of my struggles with my 9 year old struggling reader who I suspect is mildly dyslexic.  We tried many different types of reading/phonics approaches but nothing was really taking hold and clicking for him.  He wanted to be able to read so bad that he would pick up books when the older children read in bed at night and pretended to read them.  It just broke my heart that nothing was working with him and there didn't seem to be anything I could do to help him.  We started using audio books quite a bit so he could listen to stories and he loved those, but he still wanted to learn to read.

Then I heard about this multi sensory spelling program called All About Spelling and decided to give that a try.  Within a couple of days of using AAS, he learned how to blend sounds to make a word.  Something about the physical action of pulling down the tokens for each sound made the connection in his brain.  I was so excited!  Shortly after starting AAS, I found out that they were developing a reading program with readers that used the spelling words.  I was so blessed to have the opportunity to review All About Reading Level 1!  The dots were beginning to connect and my son's reading was slowly starting to improve.

We went ahead and continued on with Level 2.  We are 3 lessons away from the end of the book.  Last week Alex went to the library and picked out a chapter book (he doesn't like to pick out "baby books" no matter how hard I try to convince him), but this time instead of pretending he is actually reading it!  He sat down with his daddy and read a chapter to him!  He struggled with a few of the words, especially when half the word ended on one page and continued on another, but he was reading and comprehending what he was reading!  Praise God!  He has continued to read the book on his own and has been telling me about it so I know he is understanding it, although I also know he is still skipping over the words he cannot figure out.  What amazing progress he has made!

Now I have a challenge.  I mentioned we are almost finished with Level 2.  All About Reading Level 3 is being written and won't be ready until the end of 2013 : (.  So I am not sure what I am going to do now.   I am going to continue on with All About Spelling Level 3, but need some readers to use also. He has been making such great progress and I want him to keep moving forward.   I emailed All About Learning's customer service and asked for some suggestions.  I received an answer back very quickly (I love good customer service!)  Some of her suggestions were I See Sam or Bob Books, which I know he will think are babyish and not read.  She also suggested Christian Liberty Press Readers or Sonlight.  I am goimg to take a look at those and see if they would be something that he can read successfully, but that he won't think are for little kids.  We need to keep feeding his knowledge so reading can be a joy and not a struggle!

*links to AAS AAR are my affiliate links.  I only form affiliate relationships with companies whose products I actually use and can recommend to others.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Favorite Recipes: Taco Crescent Ring

This a super easy and inexpensive recipe to make.  It also is a very quick recipe, especially if you have meat that is already browned.  I take a big bag of ground venison, mix it with some ground beef and brown a big batch all at once.  Then, I freeze it in meal size portions for tacos, spaghetti sauce, sloppy joes, etc... and pull it back out of the freezer the morning I need it saving me time in the kitchen that day.  I always am looking for new, inexpensive, easy recipes and I was pleased that this one was a hit!

2 containers crescent rolls (I use great value)
1 lb of ground meat
1 packet taco seasoning
2 cups grated cheese (I used a mix of Monteray Jack and Colby)

Lettuce, Tomato, Sour Cream, Salsa, Black Olives, Peppers, or any other topping you like

Lay crescent rolls in a circle on a baking stone or circular cookie sheet thick side in, pointy side out, overlapping slightly to keep the center thick.  Brown beef and add taco seasoning, or thaw already browned frozen beef and add taco seasoning.  Place ground beef in a circle on top of the crescent rolls.  Sprinkle cheese over top of the beef.  Fold crescent rolls over top tucking them under the dough in the middle.  Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes or until brown.  Remove ring from stone and add lettuce, tomato. sour cream, salsa, and any other toppings you desire in the center.  Serve and enjoy!

Birds, Quilt, and Snakes

Yesterday, one of our local state parks was having two programs we went to.  The first one was a program on Nature Quilting.  Every month they do a program on a nature topic that applies to this area in Arkansas. Then they give you a pattern for a quilt block to make for that topic.  At the end of 12 months you have a completed quilt.  Yesterday's topic was birds.  We heard a power point talk on Arkansas birds, bird watching, and bird feeding.  Then everyone got there own bird guide with photos and information on all of Arkansas birds.  Next she gave us the quilt block pattern.  Previous months topics included: flowers, frogs, arrow heads, and the state park in general.  She gave us the patterns from the previous months also. The quilt patterns are pretty complicated.  I think that Chelsea will be able to handle it though.  Some of the younger children were interested in making one also.  So, I have been thinking of ways that they will be able to do it.  I think that we will either get fabric crayons to color on the designs, or trace the pattern onto a piece of fabric and use Heat and Bond to adhere it to a quilt square.  If they turn out well, I will blog about it, if not, you will never hear about it again ; ).  Tomorrow we are heading to the "big city" and will have a chance to look for some material.  I am hoping we can pick up some inexpensively to get us started.

After a short break and a snack we brought from home, it was time for the snake program.  The children heard a talk on snakes and learned how to identify whether or not they were venomous.  They also got a snake guide book with pictures and information on all of the different kind of snakes in Arkansas.  Next she brought out 3 live snakes to show the children.  Two of them they were not aloud to touch only look at.  The third one, Slinky, they all got to hold (if they wanted to.)  Christian and Alex held the snake, and Emmie pet him.  Lily, Anthony, and Nick were just content to look at him.  Chelsea decided she was too old for the snake program and was busy reading one of her library books.  After the snakes were put away, we did a snake craft.  The children were given little wooden snakes that have segments and can slither back and forth, and some paint pens to decorate them.  They all had a great time!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Homeschool Art Class 1/18/13

 We had quite a lot to do today.  The children two different paintings, one on paper to be displayed at a local grocery store for Valentine's Day, and another on canvas.  The little girls did a finger painting also..  Then they got to sculpt whatever they with an air dry clay that hardens over night and then can be painted.  Nick did a plaque with #15 (of course Tim Tebow's number shows up on all of his art), Alex did a palm tree, Anthony a vase, Christian a volcano, and Lily a rock.  After that they went to the easels and did a drawing, and that filled up our two hour class time.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Homeschool Burnout

It's January.  The weather is miserable.  The children have had runny noses, coughs, or fevers for seemingly weeks on end.  There seems to be an enormous amount of laundry, dishes, and other housework.  Out of all of those wonderful homeschool plans you made over the summer less than half actually happened on time.  What seemed like such fun and exciting at the beginning of the year seems like an enormous burden now.  You are tired, cranky, and not looking forward to another semester of homeschool.  All of the joy of homeschooling has been sucked out of you.  You, my friend are suffering from Homeschool Burnout.

It can strike at any time, although in my experience January and February are the worst months.  Why?  Mostly the weather.  In the winter months it is colder (even in Arkansas.)  You have less time to spend outside due to shorter days.  The cold and flu virus are more common so you are inside more and tending to cranky children and yourself.  You are worn out from all of the holiday activities and can not seem to catch up on the housework.  All of these can contribute to the burn out feeling.

Life changes are another big cause of Homeschool Burnout.  A pregnancy that leaves you sick for months on end.  A new baby.  Moving into a new house, or hubby's new job all can cause stress on your life and contribute to homeschool burn out.

It used to hit me hard every year, usually mid January.  But, for me it wasn't the weather or the tired and cranky kids, or the pregnancies that left me teaching from the couch for months on end.  It was the curriculum.  Curriculum is one of the biggest causes of Homeschool Burnout for a lot of different reasons.  For me, I was using a curriculum that was given to me.  Who can turn down free?  But, it was a curriculum that taught all "grades" separately, was all text book based, and (ahem) it was boring.  I didn't like teaching it (and juggling three different grades) and they didn't like learning it.  To top it off, I was too stubborn to admit it wasn't working and was determined to finish what we started.  By January I was so frustrated I wanted to throw it all in the trash.  I began researching new curriculum to use for the next year.

Another reason curriculum can cause burnout is when you try to do every single suggested activity, read every book, and research every topic your curriculum tells you to.  Or, you buy one of those "curriculum in a box" products that tells you what to do in every subject every day of the week with no room to adapt the schedule or allow for real life (doctors appointments, field trips, sickness etc...)  After a few weeks of not being able to "get it all done" many homeschool mamas end up feeling like a failure and want to throw in the towel.

So what can you do to beat or avoid Homeschool Burnout?

First of all, give yourself some grace.  No one can do it all all of the time and anyone who tries will get burned out.  Second, go to the Lord in prayer.  Lift up all of your cares and concerns and discern what direction the Lord wants you to take in your homeschool.

After that, take a look at your curriculum.  Do you like it?  Do your kids like it?  Is it working?  Is it too much?  Can you tweak it to make it fit into your homeschool better?  I found that for me it was so much better to go to curriculum that I could use with many different ages of children when I could.  For some of the subjects I couldn't do that with, I have gone to products that allow for independent study, or teach with DVD's.  Some things you can't do either of those things (like Spelling, Handwriting) and for those I seek out "open and go" programs that list the teaching process step by step so I do not have to take time to figure it out on my own.

When you feel like you need a break, take a break!  Put the books away, bundle up and go on a nature walk.  Plan a field trip to a Science Museum.  Invite some friends over to do some fun experiments.  Cancel "afternoon schoolwork" and watch a movie (or take a nap!) instead.

Take a look at your schedule and make sure it is realistic.  Make adjustments if you need to.  I switched to a 4 day/week school schedule years ago and it has been wonderful for me!  Having Fridays free to run errands , take art classes, and play at the park makes my homeschool run so much more smoothly.

When you are facing big life changes, put it aside for awhile.  Choose some books and educational DVDS for the children when you are unpacking, tending a new baby, or dealing with an illness.  Just because you are not doing your regular school work, does not mean children are not learning.  They can and will learn even if you are not sitting down teaching them, and a short break is not going to hurt anything.

Seek out an encouraging friend.  One that will listen and offer encouragement, not someone who will make you feel inadequate and more stressed.  Having someone to talk to who has been down that road can be a great help sometimes.

These are just some of the things that have helped me.  I am sure there are many other ways to beat burnout.  Don't give up!  You are not a failure and can successfully homeschool your children!  We all go through times of burnout or frustration.  Take a break, make some adjustments, and you will get your homeschool back on track.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Our Snowman Craft

Lily and I have started reviewing a product called Flowering Baby (look for my competed review mid February.)  This week we have been working on Winter activities.  One of the fun activities listed was to build a snowman.  Even though we did get a few flurries today, we did not have anywhere near enough snow to go outside and build a snowman.  That was ok though, because they did have a list of suggested supplies for making a craft snowman instead.  Lily was quite excited to be making a craft, and when Christian and Anthony heard what we were doing, they wanted to make one too.  They wanted their snowmen to have snow to stand on, so we painted a piece of cardboard, glued them down, and added some cotton snow balls. I thought they turned out pretty cute.

Supplies we used:
Styrofoam balls in different sizes
Googly Eyes
Scrap of fabric for scarf
A piece of cardboard
White Paint
Cotton Balls

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Homeschool Art Class 1/11/13

Friday was our first day back at Art Class after Christmas break.  The children were excited to be back.  They did a lot of drawing this week.  First they designed quilt squares on paper (each child did two) and then colored crayons and chalks over top of their drawing.  Each square was then glued to a larger piece to make a Homeschool Art Class quilt.  Next, the children made a book.  But instead of writing a story, they drew it in a series of pictures.  Next, one of the children stood behind an easel with a painting no one else could see.  He then gave the other children a series of directions to try and get them to recreate the painting.  It was very interesting to see what they came up with!  Then the teacher gave them a series of instructions to draw and create a picture adding some construction paper pieces for decoration.  Next week we are supposed to be doing Papier Mache and paint.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

They Stick Out Like Sore Thumbs

I was having a conversation with someone who is in the early stages of considering homeschooling.  She knows that Public School is not a good place to educate children, but she also fears her own abilities, and the idea of doing something "different" than everyone else.  She has mentioned to several people that she is considering homeschooling, and of course has not gotten a whole lot of positive remarks.  One of the people happened to make a comment to her about how homeschoolers stick out like sore thumbs.  It seems as though they work with a young man who was homeschooled.  So I had to ask, "What makes him stick out?" Her response, " He is happy and pleasant to everyone all the time.  He talks to and treats everyone the same from the youngest to the oldest workers.  He is always willing to cheerfully help anyone anytime he is asked. He speaks several different languages."

So my question is, what is so terrible about any of these things?  A pleasant, educated, cheerful, friendly young man, oh the horror!

I think it is sad if these are the things that make him stand out first of all.  But, why would you view those reasons are reasons NOT to homeschool.  Is that not  the goal is we have for our children to grow up and be educated, positive, productive members of our society ?(I would also add for my own children to follow Christ in everything they do.)  I would hope that instead of saying he sticks out like a sore thumb, parents might be thinking, "How can I help my children to become more like that."

No obviously I am just using examples from a conversation I had and I do not personally know this young man, but I do know that especially now in this day and age, I want my children to stick out like sore thumbs. I want them to be different from what is considered normal. I want them to follow Christ, be educated, respectful, independent thinkers.  I want them to be able to socialize and relate to people of all different ages.   I want them to be safe from the effects of drugs, bullying, violence, and peer pressure that is the "norm" in the Public School system.  I want them to be able to learn the true history of the world from a creationist perspective.

It's ok children.  Stick out like sore thumbs.  And mamas instead of worrying your child will stick out, maybe we should worry about the ones that blend in too much.

Proverbs 22:6 "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."

Romans 12:2 "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."

Jon 15:19 "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you."

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Review: Christmas In Apple Ridge by Cindy Woodsmall

Christmas in Apple Ridge by Cindy Woodsmall contains 3 books about the Plain folk living in Apple Ridge, Pennsylvania.

In The Sound of Sleigh Bells, Beth Hertzler is struggling to get over a past tragedy.  Desperate to help her niece, her aunt latches onto the one thing that has stirred Beth's interest, an artist that does amazing carvings. But, her small deception while trying to help Beth heal may ruin her chance for true happiness.  What will happen when Beth learns the truth of who Jonah really is?

In The Christmas Singing, Mattie is forced to return home after a fire destroys her beloved cake decorating shop.  Once there she is forced to work alongside the man who broke her heart.  When she learns the truth about Gideon, will it heal her broken heart, or cause even more despair?

In The Dawn of Christmas, Sadie has been away from home for quite sometime after being hurt by her fiancee.  She is quite content with her life and never getting married.  Levi also has no desire for marriage after watching his brother's wife break his heart.  Levi and Sadie devise a plan to pretend to court so their families will leave them be.  Is it really all pretend, or can they both learn how to love and trust?

Cindy Woodsmall is one of my favorite authors of Amish fiction.  She not only tells a good story, they also come with a powerful message, and something we all can learn from.  I had already read and reviewed The Christmas Singing, but had not read the other two and certainly didn't mind rereading that one.  I really liked all three stories in the same novel.  Sometimes with Amish fiction and the characters all having similar or the same names, it can be confusing to figure out which characters go along with who.  With all three novels in one book you get a better feel for the whole story.  Also, this novel contains 3 complete books.  The stories and characters are well developed.  It makes for a much better story than if it contained 3 shortened novellas.  I would highly recommend Christmas in Apple Ridge by Cindy Woodsmall.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ebook copy of Christmas in Apple Ridge for the purpose of writing a fair and honest review.  I received no other compensation.