Our Family

Our Family

Monday, October 31, 2011

TOS Review: Ooka Island

Over the last couple of weeks, we have had the opportunity to review an Ookariffic game designed to teach young children (pre-k-2nd grade) how to read fluently and well.  Ooka Island is a downloadable 3 D hero adventure designed to teach pre-reading, reading, spelling, and writing skills through fun and educational activities.  "The Ooka Method combines phonological development and language rich text with comprehension activities so children have the opportunity to achieve effortless reading."

To start the island adventure, children follow Zobot the robot for 20 minutes through a customized path of seven learning activities including:

The Cave of Sounds- Children navigate through an underground cave on a roller coaster by choosing the choosing the correct sound.  Teaches letter sound correspondance, auditory recognition, identifying initial and final consonant.
Alphabet Mountain- Children get to go rock climbing and skateboard down a huge mountain!  Teaches lower and upper case letter sequencing.
Bubbly Trubbly-Children get to pop giant bubbles in a fountain and put them in auntie Kay's basket.  Teaches letter sound recognition.
The Cake Factory-Children decorate cakes to feed to the ooka elves.  Teaches segmenting, blending, decoding and letter sound correspondance.
Submarine Listening-Children operate a submarine and send Fliggs flying into the water.  Teaches identifying vowels.
Word Ball-Children kick soccer balls into the correct goals.  Teaches decoding and identifying words from syllables.
Clumsy Wacky Moving Company-Children help save items from falling over the waterfall.  Teaches blending and rhyme.

Then, the child unlocks a book from the popcorn library and completes the vocabulary and comprehension questions for that story.  There are over 85 books in the popcorn library that your child can read with Zobot, Auntie Kay, or by themselves.

After the popcorn library, your child is rewarded with 8 minutes of free play where they can visit any unlocked area of the island, play in the pencil playground, or "purchase" (through mist that they have earned) clothing or costumes from the mist mart.  When free play ends the cycle begins all over again.

Download a copy of the Ooka Island Guidebook by clicking here.

You can download Ooka Island to Windows XP, Vista, or 7 or to Mac OSX 10.5 and up.  You must have a high speed internet connection and 3 GB of available space.

The cost of Ooka Island is as follows:
To start your adventure with a 14 day free trial click here!

Use this promo code to save 30%!

To purchase click here.

My 7,6,and 4 year old boys all have had an opportunity to play and explore on Ooka Island.  They love the music, activities, graphics, and story books!  They love getting to play in the pencil playground and buying new costumes in the Mist Mart!  They all love the adventure aspect of the game.

The games are easy to operate and just require pointing and clicking the mouse.  My 4 year old loves to play, but does require quite a bit if assistance in some of the activities so he will be able to click on the correct answer.  Christian likes skateboarding down Alphabet Mountain the best.  My 6 year old can play completely unassisted.  He can start up the game, log in, and play all of the activities with no help. Anthony says his favorite part is the Pencil Playground.   He also says that Ooka Island is really teaching him to read and that he is Ookariffic!  My 7 year old (2nd grade) also enjoys playing and learning with Ooka Island.  He has reading difficulties and the games in Ooka Island have helped reinforce some of his knowledge in a fun and engaging way.  Alex also liked skateboarding down Alphabet Mountain the best.  I like the books in the popcorn library.  The child gets to read the book from two different perspectives which I think gives them a better understanding of the story.  Then ,they answer comprehension questions to show they understood.  After a book is unlocked it remains in the popcorn library so your child can go back and read their favorites again.  

As you might have noticed from the above system requirements, The Ooka Island Adventure is a huge file to download to your computer.  We have what is considered high speed internet, but we are in the country and it really isn't very fast.  It took me over 8 hours to download and install this program on my computer.  Once installed we have had no problems running it.  There is supposed to be an area (the lighthouse) where parents will be able to access reports on their child's progress.  This is a new game and at the time of this review, those reports are not able to be accessed.  So, if you want to know how your child is doing you have to sit with them and play.  One other thing that we had difficulty with was understanding the voice in the cave of sounds.  Even with the volume turned all the way up, you have to listen very closely to hear and understand what sound is being said.

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

I received a complimentary 6 month subscription of Ooka Island for the purpose of writing a fair and honest review.  I received no other compensation.


Menu Plan Monday

This week we thought we'd do something a little different.  It's children's choice week.  Each of the children (except Emelia who is still on a liquid diet at 8 months old)  got to choose their favorite meal this week.  That filled up 6 of our days and of course we always have pizza on Friday.  So here's what the children chose for supper this week:

Friday 10/28-pizza
Saturday 10/29 cheese ravioli, bread (Nick 9 )
Sunday 10/30- baked tilapia, mashed potatoes, corn (Chelsea 14)
Monday 10/31- chicken nuggets, french fries (Lillian 2 )
Tuesday 11/1-quesadillas, rice (Anthony 6)
Wednesday 11/2- cheez it chicken, baked potatoes, carrots (Alex 7)
Thursday 11/3- spaghetti, crescent rolls (Christian 4)

See some other great menus at www.orgjunkie.com.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Akansas Wildlife Program With a Baby Alligator!

Friday morning, our art teacher mentioned that our local library was having a program on Arkansas wildlife on Saturday afternoon.  Our library has been getting much better at becoming more child friendly and has been doing more programs for children.  We do not usually go because they have been having them at 1:00 which is nap time for the little girls.  When our art teacher mentioned that they were bringing a baby alligator to the program, the younger boys really wanted to go.  First there was a 20 minute program about the different kinds of wild life found in Arkansas and skins and skulls of the various animals.  Honestly, my older children have heard this program before, but they still like to see the skins and skulls.  Then, out came the baby alligator.  All of the children that wanted to could hold or touch the alligator.  Christian, Anthony, and Alex all wanted to of course.

Lily didn't hold it, but she wanted me to take her picture (yes that is a large bandaid on her chin, she is ok)
After the Wildlife program, they were having story time, followed by a craft, and punch and snacks.  We did not stay because the girls were very tired and had been good long enough.  We checked out our books, got a treat bag and headed home.  Another time we hopefully would be able to stay longer because Christian was very interested in story time. It was fun though. It's not every day you get to hold a baby alligator!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Homeschool Art Class Weeks 5 and 7

I got a little behind on posting about our homeschool art class that we are taking on Friday mornings.  On week 5 of our class, the children had the opportunity to observe and ask questions of a potter while she was creating some of her work.  They were quite curious and interested in everything she was doing and she did a great job capturing their attention and holding it for a whole hour.  It was very cute to watch the boys inching their chairs to get closer and closer to the pottery wheel.  After the potter's demonstration, the children made art books using old wall paper samples. 

We ended up not having art class for week 6.  There are 4 families that attend the morning session and 2 of the 4 families had a stomach bug and the other family's mom had broken her foot.  So instead of having her do a class just for us, we took the opportunity to get a few other things done. 

This week (week 7) we did 3 different projects.  First, the children did a drawing that they copied from a coloring book of Arkansas mammals.  They set up their book on an easel and drew on a drawing board in front of them.  Next, they made door knob hangers out of foam and stuck them with foam stickers.  Then, they drew chalk drawings on black paper and filled in the empty spaces by painting with sponges.

Every week that we have gone to class, Christian has not wanted to participate.  He has been very happy playing with toys or stuffed animals.  When I asked why he didn't want to make things like the other children he said he couldn't do art.  We do art projects all the time at home so I think he was being kind of shy.  Yesterday at art class he wanted one of the prizes the teacher was handing out so he decided he could sit down and do art.  I think it helped that his 2 year old sister was sitting at the table making the project with the big kids.  I hope next week he will remember that he could do art just fine.

Friday, October 28, 2011

TOS Review: Excellence in Literature Introduction to Literature

Janice Campbell has homeschooled 4 boys from pre-school through college.  She has written many articles and books over the last several years as well as resources for home and family centered living with a special emphasis on literature, writing, and homeschooling high school and beyond.  Her goal is to provide links, resources, and articles to help make things easier for the homeschooling parent so they can spend their time on things that matter.  You can find all of her products on her  Everyday Education website.  We recently had the opportunity to use and review Excellence in Literature I, Introduction to Literature.


Introduction to Literature is a college preparatory literature and composition course.  Different focus works which may include: novels, poetry, short stories, and drama were chosen for both their literary quality and place in their historical literary development.  Context readings will show your student information about the author, historical period, and literary and artistic context of the focus work.  There is also an option for your student to pursue an honors option. From the website:

By the end of the course, students will:

  • Understand the process of writing, including the use of tools such as a writer’s handbook, dictionary, and thesaurus.
  • Have specific understanding of selected representative texts by major authors of the periods studied.
  • Have a general understanding of the historical and cultural contexts of the works.
  • Be able to analyze literary texts and present thoughtfully developed ideas in writing.
  • Demonstrate competence in essay organization, style, and mechanics.
Introduction to Literature contains 9 unit with each one taking about 4 weeks to complete.  Here is a list of the focus works in each unit.  Context readings will also be assigned for each unit.

Unit 1: Short Stories by-
• Sarah Orne Jewett: A White Heron
• Edgar Allen Poe: The Purloined Letter (This one is not scary, if you're concerned about that.)
• Guy de Maupassant: The Diamond Necklace
• O. Henry: The Ransom of Red Chief
• Eudora Welty: A Worn Path
• James Thurber: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Unit 2: Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
Honors: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

Unit 3: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain
Honors: The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain

Unit 4: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Honors: Shirley or Villette by Charlotte Brontë

Unit 5: Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
Honors: Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot

Unit 6: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Honors: Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

Unit 7: Animal Farm by George Orwell
Honors: 1984 by George Orwell

Unit 8: The Tempest by William Shakespeare
Honors: A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

Unit 9: Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
Honors: The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

You can view a sample unit by clicking here.

Here is the list of books used for all 5 years of literature courses for grades 8-12.

To complete this course, you will need either a print or e book version of Introduction to Literature, access to the books being studied, a writer's handbook, and other common study and reference tools (dictionary, thesaurus, pens, pencils...etc.) 

Excellence in Literature Introduction to Literature can be purchased as a print book for $29 plus $4.95 priority shipping and handling.  An ebook can be purchased for $27 saving you the shipping cost and giving you instant access.  Click here to order.  You also have the option to purchase all 5 years for $139 plus shipping for the print book or $135 as an ebook.  Click here to order English I-V The Complete Curriculum.

Introduction to Literature is not the first of the literature series that we have used.  Going on multiple recommendations, I purchased the print book of American Literature to use with my 14 year old daughter for 10th grade.  Each of the Excellence in Literature choices, Introduction to Literature, Literature and Composition, American Literature, British Literature, and World Literature are all going to follow the same basic formats but will increase in difficulty as far as the required readings and assignments.

Excellence in Literature was exactly what I was looking for in a high school Literature/Writing curriculum!  One of the most important skills that a college bound student is going to need to have is the ability to write.  Excellence in Literature speaks directly to the student making them responsible for their own education and completion of assignments.  It doesn't tell them what to think, but instead teaches them how to think and analyze literature.  I love that in addition to the focus works, the assignments also include context works about the author, historical period, and works of art to give the student a larger view of the focus work.  The literature selections are outstanding, and because they are classics are able to be purchased very inexpensively,borrowed from the library,  or in the case of e- books, you can find them for free.  Examples of the different types of papers are in the back of the book so the student has an idea of what is expected of them.  The only thing that you as the parent are responsible for is grading the paper.  A grading rubic is included to help you with this  I know that I have a hard time grading my daughters writing and found the grading rubic to be a big help in knowing how I should be grading her.

This course is challenging.  My 14  year old who loves to read has been challenged by the writing assignments as she gets used to analyzing literature and not just reading for pleasure.  She spends about 6 hours a week working on her literature/writing assignments.  If you have a child that is not a strong reader, dislikes writing, and cannot manage their time well, this may not be the perfect fit for them.  But, if they are willing to put it the time and effort it takes to complete these courses they will definitely benefit from them.  I plan on using Excellence in Literature through the rest of Chelsea's High School years.

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

I received a complimentary e book copy of Excellence in Literature Introduction to Literature for the purpose of writing a fair and honest review.  I received no other compensation.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Yummy "Map" of Ancient Egypt

We are using Mystery of History Volume 1 this year and loving it!  One of the things my children (14,9,7,6) really enjoy are the weekly mapping assignments.  This was kind of a surprise to me because I, personally do not get excited over making maps.  Maybe it is the fun of getting to use Wonder Maps (review here) or drawing with  colored pencils, but they love making maps.  I usually have to print an extra for the 2 year old so she can do it too.

When we got to this week's mapping assignment, it came with a tasty twist.  Instead of drawing a map on paper, we were supposed to bake a sheet cake and decorate it to look like Ancient Egypt by adding the Mediteranean Sea and the Nile River in blue icing and the land in peach or orange icing and using a thicker icing to show land elevation.  My Anthony (6) said it couldn't be Ancient Egypt without the pyramids, so I created an area of even thicker icing in the shape of a pyramid. This was definitely their favorite map yet!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Soccer 2011

We just finished another soccer season.  This year only Nick and Alex played.  Chelsea is too old, Anthony has no interest, and Christian is old enough but we didn't even suggest it to him because Art was not going to coach this year.  Soccer is a lot of fun for the children even the ones that aren't playing.  The little ones love to go out to the fields and play in the grass with cars and other small toys.  This year, they also added some play equipment next to the fields for the little ones to play on.  But, soccer season is also a lot of work.  Rushing around 4 days a week to get everyone fed, dressed, and ready on time is hard.  Coming up with simple meals that we can eat on the run is another challenge.  There also is the added expenses of packaged juice, snacks, and fuel (which is the biggest soccer expense) to drive back and forth to town 4 days a week.  The season lasts just long enough that I don't loose my mind. 

I do enjoy watching the boys play.  I like to see them grow and improve throughout the year.  They love sports and it is a good experience for them to play on a team.  There always are some negatives.  There is always going to be that one super competitive coach (luckily not ours) that makes it not so much fun to play against.  There always is going to be those parents that behave worse than children.  You are going to have a few children on the team that you really, really, don't want "rubbing off" on your children.  It really made me proud of my boys to see them acting above the nonsense that went on at times.  They did a great job being respectful and listening to their coaches and watching and encouraging their team mates when they weren't playing.  They are already looking forward to next year.

I did get a few pictures on the last day.  Great shots are really hard to take when your zoom doesn't work, but sometimes you have to make do.  I did not get a picture of Nick with his trophy since it was so dark (especially after the lights went out on the field again.)


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Kregel Blog Tour: Refuge on Crescent Hill by Melanie Dobson

Paperback 271 pages $13.99

 Moving home after a recent job loss was supposed to reassure Camden Bristow but what she finds is an empty mansion 150 years old. What happened to the house she played in as a child, the bedtime stories that told of secret passageways and runaway slaves, and all those family memories?

When antiques start disappearing and footsteps are heard, Camden wonders what really happened here . . . at Crescent Hill? Who still has access to the house? And for what purpose? As she works to uncover the past and present mysteries harbored in her home, Camden also uncovers secrets about her family that could change the town--and her life--forever.

Read an excerpt here.

I made the mistake of starting to read Refuge on Crescent Hill when I had only 15 minutes to spare before heading out the door.  In those 15 minutes, the book had already grabbed me and I hated to put it down!  I love a good mystery, but I do not like it to be violent or full of terror.  Refuge on Crescent Hill is a very well written, suspenseful mystery.  The characters (both good and bad) are well developed and very believable.  I love how Camden and Alex both develop and change as the story develops and they discover that even though they can't explain all things they need to put their faith and trust in God.  The author's descriptions make you feel as though you are in the story.  You hear floors creaking, and doors slamming.  You feel sadness, pain, and joy.     The book is not at all predictable, and just when I thought I had it figured out, the author would throw a new element that I didn't expect into the story.  Even at the end, when I thought I knew it all, it still didn't all turn out the way I expected. 

Even though I thought that Refuge on Crescent Hill was an outstanding mystery, there are a few things you may want to be aware of, especially before handing it to your teen.  It is suspenseful and a few of the scenes are intense.  Although it is not overly or graphically violent, it does have some violent elements in it (murder, abuse, mention of a rape) that you should be aware of.

Refuge on Crescent Hill by Melanie Dobson will be available on Amazon Kindle FREE for one week starting on October 31st!

Edited 11/6  to add:
Sorry for the trouble. The Kindle version was supposed to be listed as free, but Amazon’s records got a timing reversed with another promotion and as a result, the book actually won’t be discounted until mid-December. We’ll announce it on Kregel’s facebook page, twitter profile, and in our fiction newsletter when it does finally happen so if you or your blog reader receives/checks any of those outlets, you’ll know when to go back and get the free download. I received a complimentary copy of Refuge on Crescent Hill for the purpose of writing a fair and honest review.  I received no other compensation.

Monday, October 24, 2011

TOS Review: Marshall Publishing George Washington Carver His Life and Works DVD

In addition to the Lots and Lots of Firetrucks and Firefighters book and Lots and Lots of Fire Songs and Safety Tips DVD, that I received from Marshall Publishing, I also had the opportunity to watch and review one of their most popular educational DVD programs on the life and accomplishments of George Washington Carver.  We received George Washington Carver-His Life and Work to watch and review.

"Born into slavery and reared during the Reconstruction years in the South, George Washington Carver struggled through poor health, poverty and prejudice…to become a great benefactor, not only to his people…but to his country as well."  Through his research and teaching at Tuskegee Institute, he completely changed land management in the South.  Known as the "peanut man" he has been said to compile a list of over 300 uses for peanuts.  This 30 minute DVD is more than just a biography of George Washington Carver.  It is a true inspiring story of how a poor, uneducated person can become one of the most productive and inspirational forces in society.  George Washington Carver is an important example of how hard work, a positive attitude, and a good education can make a huge difference not just in hos own life but in others around him even during a time when becoming educated was very difficult for a black man.

When viewing the DVD you have the option of watching the entire video or selecting one of the segments including: Inspiring Words, Early Life, College Years, Tuskegee Years, and Final Years.  On the website, buyers of the DVD can find study questions and complete information about George Washington Carver following the description of the DVD.

George Washington Carver-His Life and Works DVD is regularly priced $24.95.  The web sale price is $19.95.  The publisher has generously offered a 15% discount to those that order after reading this review by using coupon code TOSC1 at checkout making your final price $16.95 (plus shipping and handling.)  Order by clicking here.

To see other books and DVDs offered by Marshall Publishing click here.

I watched the DVD with my 14, 9, and 7 year olds.  It was very well done and full of interesting information about a man whose life was full of important discoveries and changes in farming, and also full of hope and inspiration.  My children who amazed to find out how much of an impact George Washington carver had on farming and how many uses there was for peanuts and peanut by products.  Whether you are a historian, teacher, student, or looking for an inspirational story I think you will find George Washington Carver- His Life and His Work definitely a worth while video to watch.

One thing I did want to mention is that I think older students would get more out of this video than younger ones.  The study guide listed it as appropriate for ages 4th grade through adult and I would have to agree on that.  There is  a mention of a violent act that George Washington Carver witnessed and how it shaped his life.  That was the biggest thing my 7 year old picked up on the most and was asking a lot of questions.

To see what other crew mates have to say click here.

I received a complimentary copy of George Washington Carver-His Life and Works DVD for the purpose of writing a fair and honest review.  I received no other compensation.


TOS Review: Marshall Publishing Lots and Lots of Fire Trucks!

Marshall Publishing is your source for, "lots and lots of award winning DVD's, books, and CD's your whole family will enjoy for a lifetime!"  Their goal is to produce award winning, quality videos to watch today and remember for a lifetime.  Many of their products can be enjoyed by all ages and are not readily available in stores.  We received Lots and Lots of  Fire Safety Songs DVD and Fire Truck Book Combo to use and review.


The Lots and Lots of Fire Safety Songs DVD and Fire Truck Book Combo comes with the Lots and Lots of Fire Songs and Safety Tips DVD and the Lots and Lots of Fire Trucks and Firefighters Book.

The DVD is divided into two sections: a Classroom Section  which contains a short 12 minute information packed program and users can play or select any of the individual segments for 30 minutes of learning fun.
Various award winning segments include:
  • Lots and Lots of Fire Trucks
  • Call 911
  • Fireman Jim's Safety Tips
  • Stop, Drop, and Roll
  • Your Home Safety Plan
  • It's An Emergency
  • Heroes Brave and Tall
  • Great Big Fire Trucks
  • Fire Trucks in Action

The book is , " a fun book, a learning tool, a reference guide, and a wild ride with the brave men and women who risk their lives fighting fires and saving lives."  It is 124 pages and full of black and white, color photos and illustrations, and full of information on the following topics:
  • Meet Firefighter Joe
  • Firefighter's Tools and Equipment
  • Rescue Vehicles
  • Fire Fighting Facts
  • Fire Science Basics
  • Fire Prevention Week
  • Fire Prevention Safety Tips
  • What is a Firefighter?
  • Firefighters in Action
  • Words of a Firefighter
  • Old Time Firefighter's Alphabet
  • Classic Fire House Traditions
  • History of Fire Trucks and Fire Fighting
  • Antique Fire Trucks
  • Greatest fires in History
  • Firefighting Timeline
  • Fire House Museums
  • Cool Fire Related Websites
  • Sing Along Lyrics to Lots of Fire Trucks

The normal retail price of this book/DVD combo is $49.90.  The web sale price here on the Marshall Publishing Website is $29.95.  Marshall Publishing is offering a generous discount for TOS review readers by entering coupon code: TOSF1 at checkout making your final price $19.95!  Order by clicking here, or calling 888-300-3455 between 9 and 7 CST.

The boys (4,6,7,9) and I really enjoyed the Lots and Lots of Fire Safety Songs DVD.  It teaches important information in a concise manner.  The music is catchy and fun to sing along too.  I keep hearing the boys singing Call 911 as they go throughout their day.  Having the option to choose to watch the classroom version (12min video) and then choose each of the extra separately is a nice feature especially if you are pressed for time.

The Lots and Lots of Fire Trucks and Firefighters book really wowed me!  I don't know what I was expecting but I wasn't expecting a book that had so many colorful eye grabbing photos and was literally jam packed with information!  It is like an encyclopedia of fire.  My little guys loved looking through the pictures and listening to me read parts of it aloud.  My 9 year old read through it on his own.  I was amazed by the amount of information the book contained and touched by the inclusion of The Fireman's Prayer, Fireman's Wife's Prayer, and the other readings in the Words of a Firefighter chapter.  I love that they included The History of Firefighting and the Firefighting Timeline.

After watching the video several times and reading through the book and looking at all of the photos, two of my little guys decided they want to be firefighters when they grow up.  And Firefighter Joe inspired Anthony to make a fireman out of Legos using his picture as a model.

I found this DVD/book combo to be a wonderful tool for teaching my children not only about fire safety, but the history of firefighting/firetrucks also.  While we all watched the video together, I only looked at pictures and read aloud from some parts of the book to the younger ones.  There are a lot of statistics listed in the book showing how many people were killed by different fires, houses were destroyed, and firefighters lost their lives that I didn't think was necessary to read to my children.  While learning about fire safety is necessary, it is up to each individual family how much they would want younger children especially to learn without giving them too much information that might cause them to be overly fearful.  The recommended age on this product was grades 4-8.  It definitely can be used for older and younger children within your and your children's comfort zone. 

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

I received a complimentary copy of Lots and Lots of Fire Trucks and Firefighters and Lots and Lots of Fire Songs and Safety Tips for the purpose of writing a fair and honest review.  I received no other compensation.


Menu Plan Monday

Last week of soccer!  We have a lot of fun during soccer season,but it is very busy and requires us to eat on the run.  We have been eating at 4:30 in the afternoon and packing food with us to bring to daddy so he can eat before 9:00 at night when we get home.  The tournament starts tonight and we definitely should be done by Thursday.  This weeks menu is quick and easy with choices that I can move around if necessary due to changes in the soccer schedule.

Fri 10/21-pizza
Sat 10/22- ritzy chicken, stuffing, creamed corn, applesauce
Sun 10/23-spaghetti, crescent rolls, salad
Mon 10/24- turkey corn chili (never made this before so I hope it is good!) corn bread
Tues 10/25- ham, mushroom, cheese pizza braid
Wed 10/26- BBQ meatballs, mashed potatoes, carrots
Thurs 10/27-turkey and cheese melts, chips, fruit

For great menu inspiration visit www.orgjunkie.com.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

How Do You Get Them to Do Their Work?

I was talking to a lady at church today who always has a lot of questions about homeschooling.  She is never rude about it, just very curious, and every time she I get into a conversation with her, I know it's going to turn into a Q & A.  I didn't have a lot of time so the only one I got today was, "How do you get them to do their work?"  I was kind of surprised by this question.  My answer simply was, "Schoolwork is not optional, they have to do their work."  Well this did not really satisfy her and she wanted to know how I make them do their work.  This was my answer:

"It would never even occur to my children that there was an option to not do their work.  Schoolwork is just another part of our family life.  We do quite a bit of our work together in the morning, then they have individual work that has to be completed in the afternoon and get to work one on one with me.  Our school day ends at 2:00, and then the children have their "media time" (video games, computer, or TV.)  If work is not completed on time, they do not get to have their free time, they have to continue with their work.  If one of the children is not finished by 2, but they are having a hard time with something or have to wait on me then I will work with them to help them get finished and then they have free time.  If they are wasting time and procrastinating on completing their work there would be no "media time " that day.  But, honestly that has never happened.  They complete their work every day and on time.

Chelsea has had a hard time with deadlines.  She can be a procrastinator and will wait until the last minute to get her work done.  In those cases when I assign her to finish something by a certain date and she doesn't, then she will work in the evenings or week-end until that assignment is completed.  She had to work 2 weeks longer than the boys last year to finish up her school work for the year, but as far as the day to day doing of schoolwork it is not an option to not do it.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Children Learn Fom You

As a homeschool mom, my children are with me 24/7 and I am truly grateful for that.  There are a lot of positive things that come out of this, as most of you know, children will copy what they see you doing.  I think that is very cute most of the time, like when Lily is caring for her babies, or when she checks to make sure she has her phone and her purse before we leave the house.  I love that my boys have learned to hold doors open and that, "Ladies are always first."  I love it when they share and are kind to others.  I think it is so cute when the older children read to the younger ones.  I was very impressed one day when Lily tried to take a toy away from another little boy in the nursery at church and Nick had this conversation with her.  He said, "Lily, look at my face. (I always say that because if you don't have their eyes, you don't have their ears or their heart)  It is not being kind to take toys from other people.  You need to give it back and say you are sorry.  Now say yes sir to me so I know you understand."  I thought that was so cute and it reminded me of how much they are always listening.

Then there are those other times.  Since they are with you so much of the time, they also have the opportunity to see you at your worst.  They see (and hear) when you are frustrated, short tempered, and impatient.  They know when you are mad or sad.  There is not much you can hide from your children because not only do you know them very well, they also know you.  I have cringed when I have heard my children model my bad behavior (especially impatience) with each other.  I don't like it when I hear them yell or raise their voice to each other, knowing that at times I do the same thing.  I know they know when I am having a bad day and that gets reflected in their day.

But, the good news is that even the "bad" things they see us do can be turned into something "good."  Those things can be your greatest teaching moments.  When I get frustrated or angry and show impatience to my children, or raise my voice, I still can teach them something.  I can apologize and tell them that mommy isn't perfect either and she will make mistakes.  I can ask for forgiveness when I do something wrong.  I can show them that it is ok to be mad, or sad, or frustrated.  It always amazes me that out of these things come the best lessons.  God is good that way and can even use all of my imperfections as something good!  Just another reason why homeschooling is so amazing!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

TOS Review: Wits & Wagers Family

We have had the opportunity to play and review a fun, family friendly board game from North Star Games called Wits & Wagers Family.  Wits and Wagers Family simplifies the rules and scoring of the original Wits and Wagers so families and children can now play.  For 3-10 players (recommended age is 8 and over) and with over 300 fun family friendly questions, Wits and Wagers Family is sure to provide hours of fun for the whole family!

You can find Wits and Wagers Family online or at a store near you.  Price may vary depending on retailer.  Retail price is $19.99.


Wits and Wagers Family contains:

  • 150 question cards
  • 5 dry erase answer boards
  • 5 dry erase pens
  • 5 large Meeples
  • 5 small Meeples
  • 1 dry erase score board
  • 1 full color rules
Game play is very easy.  You start the game by asking a trivia question.  Some examples are: In miles per hour, how fast can an ostrich run?  In the book The Very Hungry Caterpillar, how many days does the caterpillar spend eating?  How many times its own height can a flea jump?  Everyone writes down a guess to the answer.  Then you line up the boards with all the answers on the table.  Players place their Meeples on the answer they think is the closest without going over.  They can place their Meeples on their own answer, some one else's answer, or they can divide the Meeples between two answers.  The answer is revealed and points are awarded  to the players that chose the correct answer and the player that answered correctly.  An average game takes around 20 minutes to complete.

You may be wondering by now what exactly a Meeple is?  A Meeple is a fun, human shaped wooden piece that you use to select the answers that you believe are correct.  They have been used in European style strategy games for years but this is the first time they have been used in a party game.  Here is a picture I took of our Meeples.

We love Wits and Wagers Family!  My children love to play games and we have had hours of family fun playing this one over the last couple of weeks.  Wits and Wagers Family is so easy to learn, set up, and play.    Although the age on the box says 8 and up, we have played it with our 6 and 4 year olds too, sometimes even giving our 2 year old her own board to play on (she really just draws but she thinks she is playing.)  The ability to play using teams makes it easy to play with younger children.  All you really need to be able to do is write numbers, and one person has to read well.  Since the game uses trivia questions, there really is no advantage based on age.  You can have the wrong answer and still earn points if you place your Meeple on one of the right answers.  My four year old wrote the same answer on his card for every question, but scored a lot of points very quickly for putting the Meeples on the correct board.  If you can count you can keep score.  The score board is set up so you mark a slash for each correct point and the first person who gets to 15 wins.  My boys were so into the game we were almost late to soccer twice because they did not want to stop playing to get ready to go.

 I asked my children what their favorite thing was about Wits and Wagers Family.  They said , "Everything!"  I asked them what they wished was different they said, "Nothing!."  As many times as they have played it, I don't think it will take long for the older ones to memorize the answers.  They do make an expansion pack for the original Wits and Wagers that can also be used for Wits and Wagers Family.  We might just have to invest in that.

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

I received a complimentary Wits and Wagers Family board game for the purpose of writing a fair and honest review.  I received no other compensation.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fun Fieldtrip

Today we went on a field trip to  DixieMaze Farms in Shreveport LA.  It was quite a drive for us and we had to get up really early in the morning to be out there by 9 am.  Wouldn't you know that today would be the first cold day we have had going from 88 degrees two days ago to 60 and windy today.  It was a bit of a shock to our systems, especially Emelia who had never been out in the cold before.  It wouldn't have been so bad if it wasn't for the wind, but the children had a great time anyway and we stayed for about 3 1/2 hours.

What did we do at DixieMaze Farms?  The children got to do a variety of activities including: playing in a corn bin, going through a huge corn maze (more on that in a minute), jumping on a big jumpy thing, riding a hayride to pick their own mini pumpkin in a pumpkin patch, seeing and petting two very large snakes, and watching pig races.  We also got to see chickens, ducks, and ponies.  Normally you also get to make ice cream (too cold today we drank hot cocoa instead, make butter, and plant sunflower seeds to take home (we were disappointed we didn't get to do this.)  Admission was only $7 per child for Homeschool Days with parents, children 2 and under, and special needs being free. 

Before heading into the corn maze (which is around 6 miles long), we reminded the children of the rules, especially no running and to stay in sight of the adults.  Our group entering the maze had 4 adults and 17 children.  Well, the children got ahead of us and we could not see them, so I yelled for everyone to stop where they were.  As we gathered them back together and started counting children, we noticed 2 were missing (one of them was my Anthony.)  We kept all the other children with one adult, sent another to the closest exit, while me and the other missing child's mom headed in the direction they went.  For several minutes we searched and could not find them.  After returning to where we started and headed down a different path.  We found 2 corn cops who police the maze and gave them a description and the names of the children.  They got on their little radios and within just a few minutes we had them back!  It was only about 10 minutes they were gone, but they were together and not scared at all.  We decided that was enough of the corn maze for the day and went on to some other activities.

I didn't get a lot of pictures because Emelia only rode in the stroller for a little while and I had my arms full of baby and the zoom is broken on my camera so I couldn't get any close up pictures.

All in all it was a great day and the children want to go back again next year.  I think all but 1 or 2 of the children out of the 10 in the van fell asleep on the way home so they were definitely worn out.  My little ones were so cute with their little pumpkins and so proud that they got to pick them themselves.  Now they want to keep them forever!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

$10 off Visual Latin

Visual Latin is offering a $10 off coupon code good through Friday Oct 21st!  The code can be used on any Visual Latin product.  The code is OCT$10.  My guys love Visual Latin!  You can read my review on it here.  I need to get over to www.visuallatin.com myself and buy the next ten lessons. 

TOS Review: Educating the WholeHearted Child

Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson from Apologia Press has recently released it's 3rd edition.  First published in 1994 and again in 1996, Educating the WholeHearted Child has been a trusted guide for homeschooling families.  The newest edition is not simply a reprint with a new cover, the book has been extensively revised and expanded to include over 100 pages of new material with a large percentage of old material rewritten as content and references needed to be updated and God as updated the Clarkson family.  This book provides a solid biblical foundation for educating and nurturing your child's hearts, minds, and souls.

The purpose of Educating the WholeHearted Child is not to give you an absolute of the curriculum you must use, books you must read, or an educational program you must implement and maintain to have a successful homeschool.  Instead, this book gives you a larger vision for , "what God can do in your home and to provide a model of home education that gives you the freedom to follow the Holy Spirit for what your children need most."  God didn't forget school in His biblical design for raising children.  Home education should be a natural expression of what God had planned for parents and children.  What you will find in this book is a homeschooling model that makes sense using: Discipleship Studies, Disciplined Studies, Discussion Studies, Discovery Studies, and Discretionary Studies.

Whether you are a veteran homeschool mom, brand new to homeschooling, or somewhere in between, this guide will equip and empower you for your journey of faith as a family.  You will discover how to:

  • Make your home and family the heart of your children's education
  • Train your children to become creative, self directed learners
  • Enrich life and education with living books
  • Identify and work with each child's learning style
  • Help your children love to learn as naturally as they love to play
  • Gain confidence to teach with practical, commonsense methods

Educating the  WholeHearted Child has sections on: Home, Learning, Methods, and Living.  It also contains a Preface, Introduction, and Postscript.  You will also find additional resources including: Books for the WholeHearted Family, Books for WholeHearted Learning, and Forms for WholeHearted Learning. 

To view a sample chapter click here.

To view the Table of Contents click here.

Educating the WholeHearted Child is a large paperback book that is 373 pages long.  The cost is $22.00 and you can order by clicking here.

This is THE book every homeschool family should buy!  Educating the WholeHearted Child should not just be read, but high lighted, underlined, doggy eared, and kept as a much loved reference to refer back to again and again.  This is what I want for my family to use my home to nurture, disciple, and educate my children to have their spirits long for god, their hearts live for God and their minds to learn for God.  I want school and home to go naturally together, not have a line drawn between the two.  I want my children to develop a lifelong love of learning!  As I mentioned above, this book does not tell you the right or wrong way to homeschool or what curriculum you should use to achieve the best results in your homeschool.  Instead, it provides the framework and ideas for a learning model that can and should look different in every homeschool, using whole, living books.  The section on The WholeHearted Learning Youth: Beyond the WholeHearted Child really spoke to me as I have entered into these uncharted waters with a teenager in our house.  In addition to the ideas and basics for the WholeHearted Learning Model, there is a wealth of information, encouragement, and support for homeschooling moms and dads and even practical advice for keeping your home and homeschool in order.  I loved the idea of home management "by the box."  This is something that I have never heard of before but believe it would be a huge blessing in my homeschool. 

The sheer size and amount of information in Educating the WholeHearted Child may make it seem a bit intimidating.  The authors do not intend for you to implement every one of their ideas in your homeschool.  That is the beauty of it.  You are free to educate your children in the way the Holy Spirit guides you.  If the idea of reading all 373 pages overwhelms you, start with reading a section that you may need help or encouragement in most.

To see what other crew mates have to say click here.

I received a complimentary copy of Educating the WholeHearted Child for the purpose of writing a fair and honest review.  I received no other compensation.

NOTE:  There is a companion book that is mentioned called Read for the Heart written by Sarah Clarkson (daughter to Clay and Sally.) The TOS Crew reviewed Read For the Heart last year.  You can find my review on it here and here is the link to the crew blog and other crew mates reviews.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Book Review: Heaven is For Real by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent

Deluxe, keepsake edition of the best-selling book and true story of a young boy's visit to heaven after life-saving surgery.
Heaven Is for Real is the true story of the four-year old son of a small town Nebraska pastor who during emergency surgery slips from consciousness and enters heaven. He survives and begins talking about being able to look down and see the doctor operating and his dad praying in the waiting room. The family didn't know what to believe but soon the evidence was clear.
Colton said he met his miscarried sister whom no one had told him about, and his great grandfather who died 30 years before Colton was born, then shared impossible-to-know details about each. He describes the horse that only Jesus could ride, about how "reaaally big" God and his chair are, and how the Holy Spirit "shoots down power" from heaven to help us.
Told by the father but often in Colton's own words, the disarmingly simple message is heaven is a real place, Jesus really loves children, and be ready there is a coming last battle.

I have to admit that this book was not at all what I thought it would be.  The story is more about the dad than it is about Colton.  I understand that the background is given so you have a better idea of the family and what they were going through at the time, but the focus of the book to me seemed a lot more on that and less on the things that Colton experienced while in heaven. The trials the family experienced and the prayers that were answered are a very uplifting story, however  I think the book would have been better written if it were truly written from a child's perspective and not the father's.  I did appreciate and enjoyed the child like simplicity in the descriptions given by Colton about what he saw and experienced while he was in heaven.  We as adults would be much better off we had the simple faith of a child.

 I think we need to be careful about recommending this book and other's like it.  I am a believer.  I believe in the Holy Bible from Genesis to Revelation.  I believe in Jesus, heaven, and angels.  I believe there is only one way to heaven through Jesus Christ.  I believed all of these things before I read this book.  I think it is natural to be curious about what heaven will be like and what better way to find out then by reading or asking someone who has been there.   We need to be careful to put our faith in God and His Word, not in man and his word.  If you are looking to read this book for the purpose of reading about this child's experience then I would recommend it.  If you are looking for "proof" that heaven is real and the word of God is true, I would recommend you look to God and His Word, the Holy Bible.

I received a complimentary copy of Heaven is For Real for the purpose of writing a fair and honest review.  I received no other compensation.

A Fun and Educational 4 H Meeting

We had the best 4 H meeting Thursday afternoon for our Cloverbud group.  Animal Science is one of the project areas you can work on in 4 H.  It can be general Animal Science or specialized like Poultry. A local veterinarian let us come in and tour the clinic.  He spent an hour showing the children around the clinic and answering their questions.  He took us through exam rooms, surgery rooms, and rooms that they board and groom in.  We got to see the kennels where they keep sick animals and animals that they rescue when necessary.  We also got to go through the barn where they treat large animals.  We got to see their microscope and the kids learned about why they draw blood from animals and what they do with the samples after they take them.  He showed them what heart worms look like (on a brochure) and vaccines they use on animals.  He showed them all the different instruments they use during a surgery and what they do to put the animal to sleep.  All of the questions the children had were answered very patiently.  Before we left the children also got a coloring book and a piece of gum.  The meeting was a lot of fun and very interesting for the children. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Book Review : The Secret of the Missing Locket by Deborah M Lott

Within days of moving into her great aunt's creepy Southern mansion, 12 year old April discovers things are not as they seem.  Kids in her new school whisper rumors about the house being haunted, and April is having some really crazy dreams.  She soon finds the lost diary of her great-great-grandmother, and learns about a family tragedy and a mystery.  Will April find the missing locket before it's too late?

The Secret of the Missing Locket was a great mystery written for children ages 8-12 and would be enjoyed by both boys and girls (April's best friend is a boy and she has a brother), or as a family read aloud.   Who wouldn't find exploring an old mansion full of hundred year old stuff fascinating and mysterious?  The author's descriptions are wonderful and make you feel like you are in the story.  The characters are well developed and children in that 8-12 year old range will be able to relate to them.   The story was mysterious without being scary.  Parents with sensitive children might want to know that the possibility of the house being haunted is mentioned several times, and the tragedy that April discovers does involve a child.  The parallels between April and her great-great-grandmother added another interesting element to the story.  I did feel that the ending was a bit rushed.  The mystery is solved and the book ends.  I would have liked to see a bit of the story after the mystery was solved.

You can purchase the Secret of the Missing Locket by Deborah M Lott as an e book for only .99 at Barnes and Noble , Amazon, or Smashwords.

Deborah M Lott is a fellow TOS Crew Mate, and also a Speech Pathologist who created Super Star Speech for parents to be able to do speech therapy at home.

I received a complimentary e book copy of The Secret of the Missing Locket for the purpose of writing a fair and honest review.  I received no other compensation. 

What Do You Want For Your Children?

Being a parent is an awesome responsibility.  Just the fact that God has entrusted me with something so precious just blows me away.  And not just one, but seven of his most precious little miracles.  From the first time you even know you are expecting you start to wonder (at least I did) what they are going to look like or be like, or what they will grow up to be. 

At one time in my life if you would have asked me what I wanted for my children in their lives the answer might have been , "I want them to be happy." or "I want them to be successful." or "I never want them to worry about money." or "I want them to be well educated."  You get the idea.  Over time my thinking has drastically changed and even over recent events in my life, I have been really thinking about this question, "What do you want for your children?"

The problem with things like money, success, education, social status, and "happiness" is that these are all wordly things.  You might look successful, be educated, have a lot of friends but is that really a measure of success.  Colossians 3:2 tells us, "Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things."  Those things that matter here on earth don't make a bit of difference in eternity.  You hear the phrase "money can't buy happiness" and in life you see how true that is.  People look to find their happiness in temporary things like cars, money, a new house.  But true happiness cannot be achieved through those things.  Matthew 6: 19-24
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and man”

What I want for my children is this.  I want them to," Love the Lord their God with all their heart and their soul and their mind and their strength.  And to, "Love their neighbor as their self." (Luke 10:27)  I want them to put their faith in God not man. (scripture reference psalm 146:3)  I want my children to live the life God has called them to do whatever it may be.  I want them to have a personal relationship with their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  I want them to know that even though happiness is fleeting, true joy comes from the Lord.  I want them to know that while all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, all they have to do is ask and they will be forgiven. 

This is just a bit of insight as to what has been going on in my mind lately as far as the importance of what I am teaching my children.  Through my thought processes I have also been questioning myself and whether or not I am modeling things that are important in front of my children.  I believe that I am leading the life God has called me for (believe me I never could have come up with this on my own), but never perfectly, and often I fail.  But, I have faith that God will use me, even through all my mistakes to further His Kingdom through these children He has entrusted me with.

Okay, done rambling for now.  Christian says this is taking forever and he needs my attention now!

Friday, October 14, 2011

TOS Review: Emealz

Menu Planning can save you both time and money.  But, even though I know this it is not as easy as it sounds.  I don't mind grocery shopping (even with seven children), and I love to cook so that's not a problem.  What I dislike is deciding what we will be eating every week.  It seems like a small thing, but planning a creative menu is just one more thing that I don't want to have to think about even though I know what a benefit it can be. 


EMealz is a system designed to solve your dinner dilemma with delicious easy meals and a consistent grocery budget.  EMealz was created to, " to provide a kid friendly and family uniting meal planning resource for busy moms and frugal family cooks."  Each plan is new every week and comes with and an aisle by aisle grocery list.  All you have to do is choose a plan, print and shop, and cook and enjoy. 


An Emealz membership includes:
  • A family-friendly, concise 7-day dinner meal plan for 4 to 6 people, or a 5-day dinner plan for 2 people - with concise and easy to follow recipes and directions.
  • A complete, corresponding grocery list - just print and go!
  • The member's only option to participate in E-Mealz Referral Program    
Emealz offers a 7 day meal plan for 4-6 people(approximately $75 per week grocery cost) or a 5 day plan for 2 people (approximately $35 per week grocery cost. ) They offer regular or specialty plans including: gluten free, low carb, low fat, portion control, or vegetarian.  Store options include: Any Store, Walmart, Aldi, Kroger, Publix, and Ralphs (CA.)  To see all of the different plan options with the corresponding stores click here.

Emealz has been endorsed by Dave Ramsey for grocery budgeting and meal planning.  The cost of Emealz is only $1.25 per week and is charged every 3 months on your debit or credit card.  You can cancel before your upcoming renewel date and you will have access to your plan for the full 3 month period.  To subscribe click here.

Emealz also offers gift subscriptions.  Purchase a gift subscription for a newly married couple, mom to be, for a holiday gift, or any other reason you can think of.  To find information on gift subscriptions click here.

We have been using the Walmart Family Plan for the last 6 weeks.  To see a sample of the Walmart Family Plan click HERE, or you can see a sample of any other plan by clicking on the plan choice HERE.  One of the things I was very curious about was if Emealz would work for a larger than average family (with 9 of us we are larger than average.)   Most of my children are still pretty young (14,9,7,6,4,2, and 7 months) and don't eat as much as a family with teen-agers might.  I did increase the side items a few times (rice potatoes, and dinner rolls) but overall we had plenty of food.

There were many things I loved about Emealz with my top 3 being:  I didn't have to do the planning,  there was a variety of delicious easy to make recipes, and the grocery list was easy to follow.  The menu and the recipe are all on one page making it very easy to see exactly what you need and how to make it.  I printed off the menu and then laminated it so it would hold up in the kitchen without getting wet or dirty.  The instructions were so easy to follow that my 14 year old had no trouble preparing a meal all on her own when I was gone one evening.  It was wonderful to come home to dinner already prepared!  During the 6 weeks that we have been using Emealz there has only been one recipe that we didn't like and I only saw one meal repeated once.  All of the other recipes we loved and have been requested over again!  The grocery list is arranged with the corresponding meal number beside the item so if there is a meal you want to skip or if you have some of the items on hand you can easily cross those items off the list.  They even have items that are considered pantry staples at the bottom of the list by meal number so you can see if you have those on hand and easily cross them off if you do.
    German French Toast

    Country Fried Steak Bits n Gravy over Mashed Potatoes with Green Beans
While I realize that when you are on a budget it is important to stay consistent in how much you spend, the weekly cost of dinner groceries using  Emealz is more than I would normally spend on our family of 9.  The weekly dinner cost has varied from around $75 to $85, which doesn't include some of the "staples" if you don't already have them on hand.  I cannot spend that much money on dinners every week.  So, how can Emealz still work for me?  I can still use Emealz and stick to my budget.  What I did was use 4-5 of the meals on the Emealz list every week and used 2-3 of my very inexpensive go to meals for the other days.  It was a great compromise because I still got the benefit of having a meal plan and grocery list (I easily crossed out the items I didn't need) and added a few items for our go to meals onto a list of breakfast, lunch, and household items we needed.

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

I received a complimentary 3 month subscription to Emealz for the purpose of writing a fair and honest review. I received no other compensation.