Our Family

Our Family

Friday, June 29, 2012

These Days You Can't Buy Much For $1 But....

The children each had $1 that they wanted to spend at Walmart today.  I told them that $1 couldn't buy very much but they could look and see if they could find anything.  They made out pretty well actually.

Christian was very excited to find a recorder for $1.

And Lily of course wanted just what Christian had (I don't know how excited I am about it.  Especially after listening to them play all afternoon!!!)  Emelia really, really wanted a new ball and was quite vocal about it.  They did not have pink or purple so she got orange.

Anthony was thrilled to find a package of 48 army men for $1.  He spent quite some time having battles with them this afternoon.  He wants to buy a set of different colored ones next time so he knows who is fighting who.

Nick and Alex bought a $2 pack of trading cards.  Chelsea bought a song on iTunes.  I didn't get their pictures.

I found some pants that the boys like to wear in the winter that are usually $8 on clearance for $1 a pair.  So I bought 4 of them.

I think everyone was pleased with their dollar purchases.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

June Cloverbud 4 H Meeting

For this months Cloverbud 4 H meeting, we visited a local volunteer fire department.  The children got to learn some fire safety, see fire equipment and clothing, and learn about the different types of fire trucks.  They also talked about the weight and cost of the equipment and what you have to do to become a fireman.  They did not get to drive the truck like Christian hoped, but they did get to hear the siren.

I have to tell you, it was so hot!!  It has been over 100 degrees here all week and at 5:30 during our meeting time it had not cooled off at all and of course there was no air conditioning.  There were some big, loud fans that couldn't be turned on or the children wouldn't be able to hear.  Our next 2 months OF meetings will be indoors making things for the upcoming County Fair.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Review: 4 Days to a Forever Marriage

112 page Hardcover

Author Bio:

Gary and Norma Smalley have been happily married for more than 40 years. Gary is a well-known conference speaker, best-selling author, and president and founder of Smalley Relationship Center. And for years, Gary has shared anecdotes of Norma (and their relationship!) with audiences across the nation.

Publisher Summary:

 Key choice for any relationship - love or anger? Which will you choose?
  • Reveals the physical and psychological impact of managing two key elements of any relationship: love and anger
  • Effective strategies to enhance, maintain, or even restore your marriage
  • Filled with over 300 marriage and family tips gleaned from personal experience and hundreds of other successful relationships
  • Valuable lessons of communication and nurturing relationships with kids and grandkids.
Every relationship is a series of decisions that either strengthen your bonds or tear them apart. Learn two powerful choices to solidify and energize your commitment to each other for life! Using insight from relationship experts Gary and Norma Smalley, you can begin living a more intimate and loving relationship that honors God and each other. In just four days, you can get your relationship in balance and start reaping emotional and spiritual benefits. Let God transform your marriage into the safe, loving, and lasting connection it was meant to be!

 Choose love or anger.  Sounds pretty easy doesn't it?  It is not however as easy as it sounds.

4 Days to a Forever Marriage may be a small book, but it is full of practical step by step marriage and family tips that will strengthen your marriage. The book is written by a husband and wife team with both perspectives throughout the book.  The book is written in a way that you can use it along with your spouse and has places for both of you to answer questions or write down insights for each day's lesson.  But, it does not have to be read with your spouse and is something you can do on your own too.  Each of the 4 days have a different topic: The Power of Loving Words, Better Communication and Resolving Anger, Connections Through Affection and Intimacy, and Finding Treasures in the Trials.  Within each of these categories, the authors give real life situations that they have been through and practical ways for you to strengthen your marriage.  Let's face it, marriage is not easy.  Saying you want a better, stronger marriage is easy to say, but not always easy to do.  Whether you have been married one day or 40 years marriage takes a lot of hard work and you will find many helpful strategies within this book to make your marriage better, not just by reading once but by referencing over the years.

Purchase at Christianbook.com for $12.49 by clicking here.

I received a complimentary copy of 4 Days to a Better Marriage from New Leaf Publishing Group for the purpose of writing a fair and honest review.  I received no other compensation.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Camping Anyone?

This week's topic for the Schoolhouse Review Crew's Blog Cruise is Summer Camping.  We love to go camping!  I thought this might be a great opportunity to tell you why.

I have never been interested in tent camping.  For one thing, summer is very HOT in Arkansas (I think we are topping off at 105 today) and most tents do not come with built in air conditioners.  Then there is the whole sleeping on the ground thing that the thought of is not real exciting to me.  But honestly if it were spring or fall and we got a few really good air mattresses I would go tent camping.  Our favorite times camping have been in a motor home.

When you have a larger than average family, vacations start to become a bit more challenging.  Every place you go requires more than one hotel  room (double the expense) and splitting up the family.  That and the rising cost of gas had us looking into and thinking about ways we could take some local, family friendly vacations.  We love fishing, swimming, hiking, bike riding,  and have several beautiful state parks around us that offer free educational programs all summer long.  We did some research and decided to buy a small motor home and do some camping.

We loved going camping!  Campsites are fairly inexpensive and we were able to take one trip a month from April-October.  I loved the convenience of having the motor home.  We could store everything we needed in the motor home and every time it was time to leave again we just had to prepare and load food and clothing.  The motor home was air conditioned, had a microwave, fridge, and TV (very nice to have when it rained or to wind down right before bed) and a bathroom.  We had a wonderful time camping at Lake Catherine, DeGray Lake, Devil's Den, Beaver Lake, Parker Creek, Branson MO and even made two trips to the beach once to Panama City Florida, and once to Galveston Texas.  Art and I even took a camping trip just the two of us once.  We fished, swam, hiked, rode bikes, learned a lot about nature and wildlife around us, played baseball and frisbee, and cooked smores around a campfire.  It was wonderful!

Our motor home was designed to only sleep 6 and seven was pushing it.  Soon, there were about to be 9 of us and we made the decision to sell it.  We still did some camping by staying in cabins at one of our favorite state parks, Lake Catherine State Park.  The cabins were really nice!! and only cost around $80 a night.  But, they only slept 6 so our family had to rent 2 which only allowed us to make one trip instead of a trip once a month.  We still got to cook out and do all the wonderful outdoor activities.  Find my blog post on it here.  We really miss our camping trips and motor home and are hoping to buy a pull behind camper next year.

Camping is such a wonderful, economical, family friendly activity  You don't have to sleep on the ground to enjoy it, although many people do.  You never know if you'll like it unless you try it!  You just might surprise yourself.  I know I did!


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Review: Where Lilacs Still Bloom by Jane Kirkpatrick

paperback 367 pages

It's been awhile since I could actually sit down and read a book.  I have had this book sitting on my night stand for awhile now and today I was determined to find the time to finish it today.  I was very glad I did!

Where Lilacs Still Bloom is a story that is based on a real person and real events.  Hulda Klager was an immigrant from Germany with only an eighth grade education.  She has a gift and a desire to create something beautiful.  She starts out wanting to create a crisper, easier peeling apple for pies and develops a passion for plant hybridization.  She wishes to create different colors of lilacs, and also lilacs with different numbers of petals.  Though she is at times at odds with her people in her community and even on occassion her family, her dedication and determination continues to drive her.  Even when the flood waters threaten to destroy her garden more than once and her family faces several tragedies, Hulda's work to create something new and beautiful still carries on.

" Beauty matters....it does.  God gave us flowers for a reason.  Flowers remind us to put away fear, to stop our rushing and running and worrying about this and that, and for a moment, have a piece of paradise right here on earth."

I loved Where Lilacs Still Bloom!  It is a wonderful story of a courageous, dedicated woman who desired to use the gift God gave her to make this world more beautiful.  It is a wonderful story of a family, who through good times and bad, drew together and supported each other and a woman's dreams.  Many lessons about faith, love, and life are woven through the pages of this book.  One of things I loved the most was the love and support Hulda received from her husband, Frank.  In the beginning of the book, Hulda's father tells her to keep her plans a secret from Frank.  " Frank discourages you.  I see it Hulda.  He dismisses your interests if they go beyond your children and him."  But, Frank proves those statements false over and over again.  Even though he doesn't always understand everything Hulda does or why, he always supports and encourages her, often making sacrificing his own wants for hers.  Their love and support of each other and their family continues to carry on throughout the book.  It was beautiful to read.  Where Lilacs Still Bloom is one of those books that I am better off for having read.

I received a complimentary copy of Where Lilacs Still Bloom from Waterbrook Mulnomah for the purpose of writing a fair and honest review.  I received no other compensation. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

How Do You Determine Grades in Your Homeschool?

How do you determine grades in your homeschool?  This is a question that I have been asked both by families who do not homeschool and other homeschooling families.  It's also one of those questions that, if you are homeschooling, there really is no right or wrong answer to.  What works for my family may not work for yours, but I will address how I handle "grading" in my homeschool.

I actually do not do grades or tests at all until High School.  Why?  I don't really see the purpose of testing or assigning grades in the younger years.  Our state does not require us to document grades.  I do not test my younger children because the majority of our work is completed altogether.  The purpose of testing is to determine if a child has mastered a subject area.  When we are working together, I know if the children do or do not understand what we are doing and I address that as we go along.  In subjects that they do on their own (like Math and Latin) their daily work shows me what they have mastered and what they need to continue working on so there is no need to take tests.

When my oldest started High School, we had to start keeping track of her grades for her High School Transcripts.  The idea of giving grades honestly was kind of scary at first because I want her transcripts to be as honest and accurate as possible but also don't want to get caught up in the importance of one particular "grade." Does that make sense?  I didn't want Chelsea's focus to be on memorizing answers for the sake of getting a good grade on a test.  I want her to do the work and learn the material for the purpose of increasing her knowledge.  What I discovered is that many homeschool high school curricula give suggestions for grading their course.  Sometimes I follow the suggestions, and sometimes I don't, but it is nice to have a guideline to follow especially when a course may not be easy to assign a grade to, like Art for example (I did follow the guidelines from Artistic Pursuits on that one.)  I do not grade day to day assignments although we do keep all of them.  I do grade tests, papers, and labs and use those scores to create a final grade for the course and enter those onto her transcripts.  For me, grading papers is harder than grading tests, but I also follow the guidelines for grading papers that were included with out literature/writing curriculum.

So while I think that at times assigning grades is necessary, it is not that important in the grand scheme of things.  To me, it is more important to create a love of learning atmosphere and keep the focus on that then how many A.B, or C's we have earned that year.  

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What We Have Been Up To

I posted on Facebook the other day that I happened to glance up at the calender in my kitchen and it was still on May.  When we left (the first time) it was still May.  I can't believe June is already almost gone.  It has been pretty busy around here. 

Most of you know we went to Dauphin Island for a week on vacation.  We loved, loved, loved Dauphin Island.  I wrote a series of blog posts about our vacation there and I when I look back at those it seems like forever ago and not just a few weeks that we were there.

On our way back from there we fond out that Art's mom was critically ill.  We were home for a day and then loaded back up again to take the children (except the baby) to my parent's house and flew to New York the next day.  We spent 6 days up there with most of that time being spent in the ICU waiting room.  Art's mom did start improving before we had to leave and has continued to show steady improvements.  She is doing much better than anyone expected, although she is still in ICU and has a long recovery ahead of her.  We are planning a trip back up there for all of us (20 hour drive) in a few months.

We flew home on a Sunday, picked up the children (except Chelsea who had a 4 H camp that Thursday in Little Rock that my dad offered to drive her to for me so they kept her) and drove 4 hours home getting us here at 11:00 pm that night.  That week was VBS for our church.  We missed Monday because I was too tired and had to get to the store because I hadn't shopped in 3 weeks.  The rest of the week we went to VBS and I helped with the preschool class.  VBS went pretty smoothly.  The children learned a lot, had fun, and we raised money for the local soup kitchen and Christian Health Clinic.

Chelsea got home from one 4 H camp on Friday, then headed to the District Competition yesterday (while she was gone we went to a friend's and had a play date.) She won 1st place in her category, Fashion Review, for the dress she made last fall.  She also won 1st place on her journal.  Today she heads out to Quad County Camp and will be gone until Friday.  People that think that homeschoolers have no social interaction should spend a week at my house. 

In the middle of all that chaos, we have been working on several reviews.  I have posted a few over the last week or so.  In case you were wondering the reviews I used to post as TOS Reviews are now posted as Schoolhouse Review Crew.  Same company (The Old Schoolhouse Magazine) but a new website and name for the review team (that I am so blessed to be a part of!)  You can find the new website here.  In addition to the ones I recently posted we are working on several others including: Lightning Literature, Apologia Who Is My Neighbor, Christian Keyboarding, Knowledge Quest Time Maps Collection, a board game called Jeepers Peepers, and we will be starting several more in the next week or so. 

My wonderful husband is working extra hours to make up the time he missed while we were gone to NY.  He has not seen the children all week and won't until Friday.  He leaves before they get up and comes home after they are in bed. We are also trying to get the pool filled so the children can use it.  It is a slow process because we have to check for leaks.  Temperatures will be above 100 degrees this weekend and it would be nice to have the pool ready to go.

Now I must shut this computer down and complete a few household chores before we have to leave to take Chelsea to camp.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Schoolhouse Review Crew: IXL

"Practice makes perfect and IXL makes math practice fun!"  IXL is an interactive online program that can supplement any math program your child already uses.  They currently have over 2,000 skill areas to work in from  pre-k through Algebra with plans for higher levels being added in the near future.  Students choose the areas that they need to practice and earn virtual rewards on a themed game board as they go along.  IXL is being used in over 150 countries world wide and they list state standards for all 50 US States.  Parents have access to detailed reports and can easily see which areas their child needs to work on and where they have improved.  As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I had an opportunity to use and review IXL  with 3 of my children.  I chose my K, 2nd, and 4th graders to use this program.

screenshots of different questions

Membership Benefits Include:

  • Complete coverage of math curriculum from pre-K to algebra. Your kids won't miss a thing!
  • Unlimited questions in over 2,000 skills.
  • Fun and colorful practice formats.
  • Questions that adapt to your child's ability, increasing in difficulty as they improve.
  • Immediate feedback and question-specific explanations to solidify understanding of each concept.
  • Audio for all pre-K through first-grade skills.
  • Weekly e-mail updates on your child's progress.
  • Informative, detailed reports pointing out successes and trouble spots.
  • Awards and certificates for you and your children to print out as they reach important milestones. 

virtual game boards and prizes

IXL's reports are designed to tell you everything you need to know about your student's progress.  You can identify strengths and weaknesses, view improvement over time, measure progress based on practice time, view problems missed and the correct answers and more.  With a click of the mouse you have access to any of IXL's 37 reports.  Weekly reports on students progress are emailed to the parent or you can log in and view reports at any time.

The cost of IXL is  $9.95/month or $79/year.  Each additional child is $2 more per month or $20 more per year.  For more information or to sign up click here.

I was very impressed with IXL.  It is very rare to find a math website like this that covers such a wide range of ages (currently pre-K -algebra.)  Within each age range there are a large variety of topics to choose from.  If you go to this page  you will be able to see what areas are covered for each grade and a sample question for each one.  You will be impressed!  The children do not have to work in a certain order or sequence but instead can pick and choose the areas they want to work in (or you want them to work in ;)  The website has you answer questions in such a way that it is impossible to show mastery just by guessing.  For example when my 4th grader is working on equivalent fractions some of the questions are multiple choice, but the rest of them you have to type in the correct answer.  While you may be able to guess correctly at some of the multiple choice, you are not going to just be able to guess and input the correct answer.  If your child gets a question wrong, they can see what the correct answer is and an explanation of why.  I also really like that there are no ads, distractions, or other things children can click on within the site.  Children stay on the site and simply do their math problems.  They do unlock items on the reward board but that is like a fun treasure hunt to see what you "win" next and my boys were not at all distracted by that, in fact it is encouraging to see what will pop up next.

One of my biggest challenges with IXL was with my 2nd grader.  Alex is a struggling reader (he has mild dyslexia) but is very good at math.  IXL has audio for pre-k through 1st grade skills.  Some of the questions were easy to figure out because they were the same types of questions.  But there were times that Alex found it frustrating because he could not read the questions and did not want me sitting with him and reading it for him.

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

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary 6 month subscription to IXL for the purpose of writing a fair and honest review.  I received no other compensation.


Monday, June 18, 2012

Menu Plan Monday 6/18/2012

I have not posted a menu in several weeks because I have not written one in several week!  I am very proud to say that when Art, Emelia, and I had to fly to New York (art's mom is in the hospital) and my mom and dad kept the rest of the children Chelsea (15) took over for me and created a meal plan and grocery list for the week for mom and dad to feed the children!

This week's menu:

Fri 6/15- pizza (first time in almost a month we have had pizza and a movie)
Sat 6/16- steak, mushrooms, potato salad, baked beans, grapes
Sun 6/17- roast beef and swiss subs, leftover potato salad, strawberries
Mon 6/18- chicken alfredo,
Tues 6/19- mexican lasagna and rice
Wed 6/20- burgers, cauliflower, apple slices
Thurs 6/21- pasta salad, bread, grapes

Visit www.orgjunkie.com for menu inspiration.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Creation Illustrated Magazine

 Creation Illustrated Magazine has often been called "The Christian answer to National Geographic."  The magazine has been published quarterly by a homeschool family for the last 19 years and is dedicated to the eternal impact of sharing Biblical truth through the blessing of God's creation.

Mission Statement:

"Our purpose is to share the wonders of God's creation. By revealing fresh insights of His infinite wisdom, gentle touch, undeniable justice, redeeming love, and flawless design, pure truth shall bring renewed peace. Each part of this publication is offered as a reprieve from the daily rigors of life so that all can look to the future with unbridled gratitude and hope."

Each edition is divided into 3 sections: Creation Illustrated in Nature, in Scripture, and in Living to provide readers with mental, spiritual, and physical enrichment.  Every issue of the magazine is a keepsake for future reference or further study, not a throwaway publication.  Issues contain stunning color photography, outdoor adventures, animal features, garden features, recipes, activities, and a youth photo contest.  There are uplifting articles and character building lessons in every feature.  Each issue also contains an Instructional Guide to help homeschoolers glean facts and spiritual lessons from each story.

A yearly subscription (4 issues) is $19.95 for shipping to the US (Canada and other countries have an additional charge to cover shipping costs.)  A 2 year subscription is $37.95 and 3 years is $53.95.

To request a free issue as part of a subscription click here. You will receive your free issue and a notice with an opportunity to keep receiving the magazine. If you like it you pay $19.95 for 4 more issues. If you don't you can write cancel on the notice, pay nothing, and the free issue is yours to keep.

You can also purchase back issues by clicking here.

I had recently heard of Creation Illustrated and was thrilled when I had an opportunity to review it!  I loved the idea behind the magazine and that it was creation based and family friendly.  Everything written in the magazine gives glory to God.  The photography in each issue is absolutely breath taking!  The photographs alone are more than worth the price of the magazine.  Nature comes alive on the pages through each beautiful color photograph.  I cannot emphasize enough how beautiful they are and my photographs within this post does not do the pictures justice.  The magazine even encourages photographers 5-15 to head out into nature and take their own photographs and submit them to the magazine with a saying or poem telling what the photograph says about God the Creator.  Prize money is awarded for 1st through Honorable Mention and are published in the magazine.

The magazine is more than photographs.  Each issue has several educational, creation based uplifting articles that show how amazing God is!  I loved the Educational Guide and thought the recipes that are included looked and sounded delicious!  The addition of a Children's Story in each issue makes the magazine that much more family friendly.  Although the younger children can look at and enjoy the photography throughout the magazine, many of the articles are written above their heads.  It was great to find something just for them.  You will definitely want to hold on to each issue and look it over again and again.

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

Disclaimer:  As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I received 4 complimentary issues of Creation Illustrated Magazine for the purpose of writing a fair and honest review.  I received no other compensation. 


Saturday, June 16, 2012

It's Raining!!!

We are so thankful that it is raining!  It was so dry last year, and even this spring we did not get very much rain.  We are already under a burn ban and it is only June.  For the last three days we have gotten rain.  The children have had a wonderful time playing outside in it.  Don't worry they didn't get cold.  It was over 90 degrees and the sun was shining today even as it was raining. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Review: Covenant Child by Terri Blackstock


"Amanda’s heart broke as she watched them drive her beloved twins away. She resolved to hope . . . and to fight for them to her last breath.
Kara and Lizzie are heiresses to one of the largest fortunes in the country. But when their father dies suddenly, the toddlers are ripped from the arms of Amanda, their loving stepmother, and given to their maternal grandparents, who only want the children’s fortune for themselves.
While even the stipend their guardians get for supporting them is squandered, the children are left to raise themselves. Kara and Lizzie grow up believing they are worthless . . . until the day when they learn the truth."

There were many things I enjoyed about this book.  First of all, the story line was different than any I had ever read before.  That's not to say it is a happy story, though there is a happy ending.  The trials and troubles that Kara and Lizzie endure throughout their lives are often very hard to read.  The story draws you in right from the beginning and keeps you interested until the last page.  I finished the book in one day while we were traveling. By the time you reach the end of the book you realize that the story is written in a way to show that Kara and Lizzie's life experiences are the same as we as sinners go through when we are saved by Jesus Christ and go live with Him in eternity.

Covenant Child was written from the perspective of Kara, one of the twin girls.  While I can see why the author chose to write it that way, I wish that we had been able to get more of a background on Amanda and what was going on with her during the years she did not have the girls.  I also thought the ending was a bit abrupt.  Even though everything was resolved, I wished for an epilogue to show us a glimpse into the girls' future.

I received a complimentary e book copy of Covenant Child from Thomas Nelson for the purpose of writing a fair and honest review.  I received no other compensation.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Favorite Recipes: Chicken and Shrimp Kabobs

We tried two delicious new recipes when we were on vacation.  There is a place on Dauphin Island where you can get fresh seafood that is caught that day.  Art and some of the children love seafood, but me and some other children do not.  I found these recipes for Chicken Kabobs and Shrimp Kabobs and I thought they would be fun and easy to make.  They were really good!  We will be making these again soon.

BBQ Chicken Kabobs

1 lb boneless skinless chicken cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
2 cups pineapple chunks
1/2 cup BBQ sauce
3 TBSP orange juice concentrate

Soak skewers 30 minutes in water before using.  Using long wooden skewers alternately thread chicken and pineapple chunks.  Mix OJ and BBQ sauce and brush over skewers.  Grill 8 to 10 minutes turning often until chicken is cooked through.  Makes 4 Kabobs.

Shrimp Kabobs

1/4 cup Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
1 lb large shrimp peeled, deveined
1 small red onion cut into one inch chunks
1 lemon cut into eight wedges

Alternately thread shrimp and onions onto skewers adding lemon wedges to ends.  Brush with dressing.  Grill 6-8 minutes turning often until shrimp is done.  Makes 4 Kabobs.

Art even did a couple that had shrimp and chicken that turned out really good!

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Pearson Education

You may have heard of Pearson Education as they are a large distributor of textbooks to the public school system.  They are now reaching out to homeschoolers and have started a brand new website http://PearsonHomeschool.com. Over the last several weeks we have had the opportunity to use and review one of their new homeschool bundles 4th Grade Reading Street.

"Scott Foresman Reading Street is an all-new comprehensive Reading and Language Arts series for the 21st Century. Reading Street delivers classic and soon-to-be classic literature, scientifically research-based instruction, and a wealth of engaging student activities. Reading Street nurtures a love of reading. It helps you inspire confidence, build student knowledge, and motivate readers to keep on reading."

 The Homeschool Bundles Includes:

Student Edition Package: 2 hard cover volumes containing a variety of different types of literature selections that emphasize comprehension, vocabulary, and writing skills.  Lessons are focused around a Big Question that connects reading, vocabulary, and writing giving the student a deep understanding of the material. 

Teacher Resource DVD:  contains lesson plans and scoring rubrics, printable activities and worksheets, vocabulary resources with weekly lesson alignment, practice books with games, quizzes, reading, and writing activities.

Guide on the Side Instruction Booklet:  handbook designed to support research based literary instruction.  It provides a framework of routines and example activities that utilize best practices.

Exam View Assessment Suite CD:  create, customize, and print tests and analyze the results.

The cost of the Homeschool Bundle is $124.99.  (website should be updated shortly to show this bundle.)

The two hard cover text books included with Reading Street are beautiful!  I love the variety of literary selections and the illustrations in the books.  New vocabulary words are high lighted within the text.  There are critical thinking questions, writing assignments, and a variety of worksheets to go along with each lesson that teach children to think deeper about the selections they have read.  Learning objectives are listed throughout each lesson helping the teacher keep the student focused on what they need to learn.

While I think it is wonderful that Pearson Education is branching out to homeschoolers and have created a site specifically for the purpose of making it easier for homeschoolers to purchase their products, I find many of their support materials irrelevant to me as a homeschooler.  The Guide on the Side Handbook would be a great resource for a classroom teacher, but is full of information that is written to teach a classroom teacher howto teach.  I personally have no need to create and make tests since we do all of those orally.  The DVD Rom is full of worksheets, transparencies etc..that make wonderful tools for a classroom teacher but are not necessary for a homeschool parent.   

Members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew reviewed several different materials from Pearson Education including: Reading Street, Social Studies, and EnVision Math.  To see what crew mates had to say about these products click here.

Disclaimer:  I received a complimentary copy of the 4th Grade Reading Street Homeschool Bundle for the purpose of writing a fair and honest review.  I received no other compensation.



Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Mobile Education Tools

 We recently had an opportunity to review our first app.  From Mobile Education Tools, we reviewed Story Builder, an app that is for the iPhone or 4th Generation iTouch.  Story Builder was the winner of the best reading app of 2011 by the Huffington Post.  "Story Builder is designed to help children accomplish the following educational goals: 1) Improve paragraph formation ; 2) Improve integration of ideas; and 3) Improve higher level abstractions by inference. Extensive use of audio clips promotes improved auditory processing for special needs children with autism spectrum disorders or sensory processing disorders."  Story Builder offers a fun environment for teaching children how to create a narrative.

Story Builder has the following features:

  • 3 levels of play
  • record feature so students can record their own voice
  • simple interface to record narrative
  • recorded answers are stitched together to make a complete narrative
  • 50 different story lines
  • over 500 audio clips of questions to guide narratives
  • optional question text and answer introduction reinforcement
  • email recorded stories
In order to use this app, you must have an iPhone or the newest iPod Touch (4th Generation)  that has a microphone to be able to record narrative.  The app is rated 4+, is 23.8 MB,  and is available in English only.  Story Builder can be found in the iTunes Store for $5.99. 

Here are a couple of screenshots to give you an idea of how it works.

The children are asked questions about the pictures and record their answers.  After the series of pictures are finished they can hear their answers played back to form a story about the pictures.  There are three levels with one being the easiest and 3 being the most difficult.

Even though my oldest daughter has had an iTouch for a few years, this is the first app I have used with the younger children (8,6,4.)  The app was very easy to download and start using.  The children thought it was really cool that it recorded their voice and they could listen to it.  I thought it was a great, fun way to teach children to think about what is going on in the pictures and giving their answers to create a story.  I loved to hear how the children answered the questions.  Kids can be so creative!

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

Disclaimer:  As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I received a complimentary download of the Story Builder App for the purpose of writing a fair and honest review.  I received no other compensation.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Home Again!!

If you read my last blog post, you know that on our last day of vacation we found out that Art's mom was in the hospital in the Intensive Care Unit.  We took care of some things at the house, drove the children to my parents house (except Emelia) and hopped on a plane to go to New York.  The baby was the best traveler ever! (quite honestly she was much better than her mama who does not like it when the plane takes off)  Every time we got in the air (we had to change planes in Atlanta) she fell asleep and stayed asleep until we were back on the ground.   She was completely out of her routine, in a strange place with people that she didn't know, eating out all the time, stuck in the ICU waiting room for hours everyday, in the middle of an awful situation, without her brothers and sisters, and I couldn't have asked for a better baby!  I was quite proud of all of my children while I was gone.  I missed them terribly even though I knew they were well cared for and incredibly spoiled.  They did great and nana and papa's and my older children did an awesome job of taking care of the little ones.

It was a hard week.  The night we got to New York, they didn't expect Art's mom to make it through the night.  She did though and even started doing a little better.  She had been completely unresponsive but by the time we left was showing recognition and shaking her head yes and no.  She is still on a respirator, has several infections in her body, and her organs are shutting down.   They are taking it day to day.   I know how hard it was for Art to leave and have to say good-bye to his mom especially since she still isn't doing very well.  We will be praying for her and for the people that are taking care of her.

Our plane landed at 3.  We went to mom and dad's house, spent a couple of hours there, and headed for home.  We got here about 11:00 last night.  Ironically enough, it was the first night this whole time that Emelia did not sleep well.  I finally got her to settle down after 1:00 am.  I can't remember the last time I got more than 4 or 5 hours of sleep.  Today we are going to try and get some things done and at some point buy some food.  I have a lot of work I need to catch up on.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Our Family Vacation to Dauphin Island: Leaving the Beach and a Visit to the Jackson Zoological Park

Our last day at the beach, a storm started moving in in the evening.  The first wave wasn't too bad, but at 3:00 in the morning we all were woken up to a very strong thunderstorm!  It only lasted about an hour and the skies were clear by the time we had to get up and load the van.

Sometimes when you are on vacation, the last day or so you are so ready to go home and get in your own bed.  Not this time.  I could've stayed on the beach forever!  We are really hoping to go back again next year.

To make the drive easier on the children, we decided to stop in Jackson Mississippi on the way home.  We had seen that there was a zoo there, so we thought we would spend the night, get up in the morning, visit the zoo, and head home.  We found a Comfort Inn that was only a few miles from the zoo in what seemed like a pretty decent area of SW Jackson.  The Comfort Inn was horrible!  The non smoking rooms reeked of cigarette smoke, the bathroom door inside the rooms did not close, the bathroom had a strange odor, the outside door did not seal properly and the latch did not completely close (I pushed the table in front of the door when we went to sleep), and the "continental breakfast" did not hardly have anything.  I was told our rooms were next door to each other and it ended up that there were 6 rooms in between them.  It was the not the worst hotel I had ever seen, but my advice to anyone staying in the area: Drive a few more miles to Clinton and spend a few more dollars for the Hampton Inn.

Anyway, we got up the next morning and surprised the children with a visit to the Jackson Zoological Park.  The zoo is not in a good part of town, but the zoo itself was pretty good for a city zoo.  Children 2-12 cost $6 and adults were $9.  Several areas were under renovation, but there were plenty of animals to see.  It is very shady with plenty of benches and picnic tables to sit at and water spritzers throughout to cool off.  There was a play area and it looked as though they are building a splash park for children.  The only area that was really disappointing was the petting zoo.  There were chickens that you couldn't touch, sheep that you couldn't touch, and 3 goats and a pig that you could touch.  It took us around 3 hours to go through the whole thing.  The children really enjoyed it and it was a great mini trip before we headed home.

Emmie loved the flamingos and sat down and cried when it was time to move on.

As we were on our way home, we got some news that Art's mom who had been in the hospital for a few day had gotten much worse and was in ICU and on a respirator.  We went home and took care of a few things at the house, made arrangements for the children, and plane reservations for Art, Emelia, and I to fly to New York and spend a few days.  This post is scheduled for the day after we leave, but it may be my last one for a few days unless I have some down time in an area that has WiFi.  Prayers for Art's mom, our travels, and my parents who are caring for 6 of our children would be greatly appreciated!