Our Family

Our Family

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Review: Dancing With Fireflies by Denise Hunter

Book Description

Jade returns home to Chapel Springs after years of protecting her fragile heart. Then along comes Daniel, making her long to dance again.
Creative and complicated, Jade McKinley felt like a weed in a rose garden growing up in Chapel Springs. When she left, she thought she’d never look back. But now, pregnant, alone, and broke, she has no other choice but to return.
The mayor of Chapel Springs, Daniel Dawson, has been an honorary member of the McKinley family for years. While his own home life was almost non-existent, Daniel fit right into the boisterous McKinley family. He’s loved Jade for years, but she always saw him as a big brother. Now that she’s back, his feelings are stronger than ever.
As Jade attempts to settle in, nothing feels right. God seems far away, she’s hiding secrets from her family, and she’s strangely attracted to the man who’s always called her “squirt." Finding her way home may prove more difficult than she imagined.
Dancing With Fireflies was a book I really enjoyed reading, even when I wasn't sure I would.  When I started reading, I wasn't sure I would like the story line at all.  Girl leaves home and comes back pregnant and broke with a list of characteristics she is looking for in a man so she can have a father for her children and not fall in love.  But, as I got into the story and read more about Jade and the things that happened to her in her life to get her to the point she was the story made perfect sense.  Jade goes through quite a journey in Dancing With Fireflies and learns that she can't protect herself from bad things happening, God is in control of all things, and that she has to learn to try and walk by faith no matter how scary it is.

I loved how the author portrayed Jade's family.  They were loving and supportive of her no matter what.  I also really liked Daniel's character.  He had to learn some important things along the way too such as following the path that God intended for his life instead of the path his parents wanted for him.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson for the purpose of writing a fair and honest review.  I received no further compensation and all opinions are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance to FTC regulations.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Homeschool Wrap Up Week 28

We had a busy bit great week in our homeschool!  All the cold bugs seem to have been beaten and hopefully now that spring is here will stay gone.  We got a lot accomplished this week.

In History we have gotten through the Great Depression and have started reading Blue Willow.  In Science we have started learning about amphibians which was perfect timing as our Grandview visit this week was all about amphibians.

We managed to do spelling, writing, and reading this week!  Lily is enjoying working through Spelling You See and Alex, Anthony, and Christian are still working through All About Spelling.  The big boys and I did NOT get to IEW this week, but are starting back next week as we only have a few lessons left until we are finished.

We used some school time this week to work on our Illustrated Talks for our 4 H meeting on Thursday.  We also used some school time to cook for the 4 H cooking contest.

Anthony and Christian started working on their Pirate Lapbooks from A Journey Through Learning.  My colored ink cartridge finally arrived and I was printing out these after supper one night.  The boys couldn't wait to get started so we started them that night.  Who said you can only do school during the day?

We got to listen to the Brinkman Adventures audio books as we were cleaning the playroom on Friday.  I had intended to start our new ARTistic Pursuits book that day as well, but it was so nice outside we went out instead.  On Saturday when it was raining we started making our sculptures.  As soon as they dry we will get to paint them.

I am excited about some upcoming reviews that we are getting.  Maestro Music is one of my favorite vendors.  We loved when we reviewed Peter and the Wolf and The Story of Swan Lake a few years ago.  This year we are reviewing Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel and the Sorcerer's Apprentice!  Those should be arriving soon!  Also, last year I had an opportunity to review Foundations A from Logic of English.  This year I will be reviewing Essentials with Anthony and Christian. I can't wait to get started on that one too!

We started a new evening book this week too.  We are reading the 3rd book in the Sons of Angels series, Shadow Chaser by Jerel Law.  We also have started working on Philippians in 28 weeks from Homeschool Adventure Company.

I hope you had a great week in your homeschool!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

ABC Snacks: Letter F

Several weeks ago, the girls and I started Snacking Through the Alphabet following along with  All About Learning Press new blog series.  So far we have done: Ants go Marching,Beautiful Butterflies, Creeping Caterpillars,  Delicious Dirt Cups, and Excellent Egg Salad Sandwiches.  This week's snack was Fun Lovin Fish In a Stream.

For this snack we needed:

ranch seasoning packet
sour cream

The only part of this snack that I had to do was cut the celery.  The girls washed the celery, mixed 16 oz of sour cream with the ranch seasoning packet, filled the celery trenches with the ranch dip, added in the goldfish, and ate the snack.

The girls have so enjoyed making these snacks!

*the link to All About Learning Press is my affiliate link.  I only form affiliate relationships with companies whose products I actually use and can recommend.

Friday, March 21, 2014

March 4 H Cloverbud Meeting

One of the upcoming county competitions for 4 H is Illustrated Talks or Demonstrations.  In this competition, the children can use a power point or posters to give a talk about any topic in any 4 H category.  Juniors must talk 2-5 minutes, cloverbuds have no time limits, and seniors 5-7 minutes.  Or, they can do a demonstration. Since many of our club members raise different kinds of animals or have interest in raising animals, I thought it would be good practice for the Illustrated Talk competition if some of the 4 hers did a talk for our club on the topic of Animal Science.

We had 5 club members give talks.

One was on "What is Animal Science?"

One was on "How Does Animal Science Help Your Garden Grow?"

One was on New Zealand Rabbits

One was on Goats

And one was on Hatching Chicks

After that we did a craft on the life cycle of a chick.

Then we had animal crackers and juice for a snack on our way out the door.

We also had an acting President and Secretary for the meeting and they did a great job!!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

March Grandview Program

Last month at Grandview we started a new series of programs on Animal Classification.  Each month we have an educational program, hands on activity, and a lapbook folder to complete at home.  Last month our program was on mammals.  This month's program was on amphibians.

We started with the educational program.  We had a great turnout with 21 children and 3 children under the age of three.  The children learned all about amphibians: what that word means, where they live, what they eat, how they breathe, and all about their metamorphosis.

Then we had two hands on activities.  We made a model of a life cycle of a frog and decorated a salamander.

The frog model was made on a piece of thick poster board. We used glitter glue for tadpole eggs.  Felt for tadpole bodies, pom poms for heads, pipe cleaners for legs, and googly eyes.

The salamanders they just had to decorate.  Lily wanted hers to be pink.

They were given two little plastic fogs too so the boys made them frog ponds to live in.

We took our lapbooks home and worked on them in the afternoon.

Another great program at Grandview!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

4 H Cookie and Bread Contest

Yesterday was the 4 H Cookie and Bread Contest.  My children love cooking and the cooking contests are some of their favorite 4 H activities.  This year, Lily was old enough to do her own entry instead of just having to help the other children.  She turned 5 on Saturday so officially became a 4 H Cloverbud.  She was very excited to be able to make her own!

In the contest, there are many different categories including: drop cookies, shaped cookies, bar cookies, cut out cookies, and cookies from a mix.  Bread categories are: corn bread, biscuits, specialty bread loaf, specialty bread muffins, loaf bread, and specialty breads.  Cloverbuds cannot enter the yeast bread category.  Juniors and Seniors can only use a mix for the cookies from a mix category but cloverbuds can use a mix for any of the categories.

Chelsea made Hot Cross Buns and won 3rd Place.

Nick made Caramel Butterscotch Brownies and won 1 st place.

Alex made Cinnamon Rolls and won 3rd place.

Christian made frosted Key Lime Cookies from a mix.  He won second place.

Lillian made two things.  She made chocolate chip cookies from a mix and blueberry muffins from a mix. She won 1st place for both.  And she also was the overall cloverbud winner and won an apron and a cookie cutter.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Homeschool Wrap Up Week 27

Well I tried to make it a normal week, but this cold was causing me to have some terrible sinus headaches.  So we stumbled along through most of our daytime work this week: Bible, History, Science, Read Aloud, and we did Math, and Handwriting in the afternoons. Lily did Spelling You See but I did not get back to All About Spelling with the boys.

We have some new review items that we started working on.  From Homeschool Adventure Company we are reviewing Philippians in 28 Weeks.  We also got some DVDs from Curiosity Quest this week that came in VERY handy as something that we could do during our school time that I did not have to read or teach! Chelsea started working through the Victus Study Skills System. We are awaiting The Brinkman Adventures Season 2, a new set of audio books that should be arriving any day now.  I was also THRILLED to have an opportunity to review one of the newest books, Sculpture Technique: Model from Artistic Pursuits.  I have ordered our supplies and cannot wait for the book and supplies to arrive! 

I have been working on getting things together for Chelsea for college this week. I requested her transcripts, redid her FAFSA because apparently colleges only want you to use the electronic retrival tool and not imput the numbers yourself (but that's another story), and getting her test scores sent to the appropriate schools. We have some other paperwork to get filled out this week for college an graduation.  I had her count how many school days she has left to ensure she will complete her courses in a timely manner and she only has 32 school days until graduation!

Speaking of Chelsea, she went to Little Rock Saturday for a 4 H interview.  She was one of 4 teens chosen from across the state in her project area to be a finalist for an Advanced Journal Winner.  She went to her interview and said it went really well.  We found out late last night that she won!  She is very excited!

We had a great time at mini golf on Thursday!

I hope you had a great week in your homeschool!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Review: The Quilted Heart Omnibus by Mona Hodgson

Recently I had an opportunity to read and review the Quilted Heart Omnibus by Mona Hodgson.  This book contains three different novellas: Dandelions on the Wind, Bending Toward the Sun, and Ripples Along the Shore.  In this book,which takes place right after the Civil War,  Elsa Brantenberg holds a weekly quilting circle at her farmhouse outside of St. Louis Missouri.  The ladies there have all experienced extreme hardship and heartache because of the Civil War and the quilting circle helps to ease their grief through common bonds, friendship, and prayer.

In the first story, Dandelions on the Wind, Maren Jenson takes a job on Elsa's farm after traveling to this country to find that her betrothed could not cope with the idea of her failing eye sight and would not marry her.  Maren loves the farm and it begins to feel like home to her and she loves caring for little Gabi and helping Mrs. Bratenberg although she still carries a desire to earn enough money to return back to her family.  When Gabi's father (Elsa's son in law) returns to the farm, Maren feels she needs to find another job.  Is she being obedient to God or running away from His plans?

In the second story, Bending Toward the Sun, Emilie Heinrich is very dedicated to helping her aging father in the store and continuing her education on his wishes.  When a childhood friend returns from the Civil War, he steals her heart.  But, her father doesn't approve.  How can she honor her father if it means loosing a chance for true love.

In the third story, Ripples Along the Shore, a group of residents from St. Charles have decided to make the trip West on a wagon train led by former Confederate soldier Garrett Cowlishaw.  Caroline has lost her husband and is desperate for a change.  She decides the trip west is just what she needs but Garrett forbids her to undertake the journey as it would be too hard for a single woman traveling alone.  Will this destroy her future or lead her towards God's plans for her life.

As stand alone books, these would have been way too short for me, but put together as a novel, I really enjoyed them.  I loved how the author created the stories around the quilting circle and used the making of quilts as symbolism for life.  The three stories were woven together well and showed an honest picture of the things people were dealing with following the war.  My favorite story was Bending Toward the Sun.  It is a hard choice for Emilie to obey her father (and therefore God) even though she really wanted not to.  But she ended up being greatly blessed because of her obedience.  I liked too how the story is leading into the westward expansion and how the quilting circle handled the upcoming separation.  I am glad to see that the author will be continuing the story with those that are moving west and will be very interested in reading the upcoming novel.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of The Quilted Heart Omnibus for the purpose of writing a fair and honest review.  I received no other compensation and all opinions are my own.  I am disclosing it in accordance to FTC regulations.

Schoolhouse Crew Review: Mango Languages

Mango Languages Review
I had an opportunity a few years ago to try out Mango Languages through our library system.  But when we moved to a much smaller town we no longer had access through the library.  I was very excited to see that Mango Languages has a new product for use in the home, Mango Homeschool Edition, and happy to have an opportunity to be able to use and review it with my family.

Mango Homeschool Edition is an online product for ages 6 to adult.  To use the program you do need to have Adobe Flash (it is a free program) and Javascript enabled in your browser (easy to do.) There are over 60 different languages to choose from.  If your student just can't choose which language to learn that's ok too.  Each student can learn more than one language at a time.  Some of the languages are fairly common such as: Spanish, French, Latin, and Italian, and some are not so common such as: Bengali, Dari, and my favorite Pirate.  All of the levels that are available can be accessed by your students (one, two, or three depending on the language) and any downloadable files that are available for that course.  Also available on the site are: progress assessments, built in journals discussions and wikis, collaborative learning spaces, enote messaging chat rooms, support from other community members, and calenders to schedule meetings or study groups.  The cost for Mango Homeschool Edition is as follows: 

1 subscription is $18/month or $125/year
2 subscriptions are $28/month or $175/year
3 subscriptions are $38/month or $225/year
4 subscriptions are $48/month or $275/year
5 subscriptions are $58 /month or $325/year

So how does it work?

After you subscribe and get a user name and password, you log in to Mango Homeschool Edition.  This takes you to your dashboard.  On the dashboard there are some quick guides to help you get started and navigate the site, your profile, the commons (where you go to select your language), and more.  You start with The Commons to choose your language or languages.  It looks like this:
Mango Languages Review
From here you can see all of the available languages.  When you find one you may be interested in, you click on it and it takes you to a page with more information on the language and the course and what topic will be covered in this course.  Here is an example of Chinese (Cantonese)

If it is a language you are interested in learning, you click on Join this Space.  This gives you access to the lessons, the files, discussions, or chat with other members of that space.  To start the lesson you click on "Log in to Mango."  Another window opens and there is your course.  The program saves your progress from where you leave off each time.  If you want to repeat a previous lesson, you have the option to do so.  Each lesson gives you the conversation and grammar goals for that lesson and reviews from the previous lesson.  The instructor first reads the words or phrases to the student. When the program asks you a question it gives you 15 seconds to answer.  If you do not know the answer, you can click on "show the answer."  The words are color coded so that the word in English is the same color as the word in the language you are studying to help you remember what each word means since word order is not the same in many languages as it is in English. It teaches the language in the context of a conversation teaching you all of the words that you need for that conversation.  In our pirate lessons some of the things we have been learning to say are phrases such as: "Oh my gosh the ship isn't moving", "the ship is sinking", "Holy cow the ship is sinking!", "Well I'll be", "Is that really you?", and many more.  You also get to learn grammar and cultural notes along throughout the lessons.

I have been using Mango Homeschool Edition with my 17, 10, 8, 6 and even my 4 year old has listened in.  My oldest Chelsea was interested in learning Russian because she is writing a fictional story that is set in Russia so that is the language she started with.  Since beginning with Mango several weeks ago, she has also started learning German and Irish.  She completes a lesson daily.  The rest of my children have been learning Pirate.  They are very fascinated with pirates right now, so I thought it would be fun for them.  We completed one to two lessons a week in pirate (there are only 5 lessons in the course.)

I am very impressed first of all with all of the language options you have to choose from with Mango Homeschool Edition and that the children do not have to focus on just one language at a time.  Logging in and getting started was very easy.  I like the teaching method of seeing, hearing, and speaking the language. Students get to learn right away key words and phrases that will enable them to carry on a conversation.  I found the cultural notes included in the lessons fascinating.  The lessons are a good length and have plenty of review throughout. 

Chelsea really likes the audio and visual components of the lessons.  She says her pronunciation is still terrible but her ability to read and write in Russian is growing everyday.  She saw a small paragraph written in Russian on the computer the other day and was very impressed when she was able to read and understand it.  My younger children have enjoyed the pirate lessons.  Two of my boys were sword fighting (plastic swords of course) and speaking pirate language to each other.  Even Lily who just turned 5 has picked up on the lessons as the boys have been listening to them.

We did not use any of the chat features or collaborative learning spaces.  I think this could be a great feature for those that are interested in it a fun way to study and interact with others learning the same language but I am not comfortable with the idea of my children chatting with people they do not know even though it is a private community only accessible by those who have subscribed and requires people to use their real names. 

At this time, parents have the ability to link all of their student accounts and see their progress on the parent dashboard by switching from logging in as the parent to the student you want to view.  There is no easy way to look at a glance how much your student has accomplished, how they are doing, or how long they are spending every day.  As the Homeschool Edition is fairly new, they are adding improvements to make it better for homeschool families.  Over the next several months, they are planning on adding the following features: enhanced tracking and progress monitoring, goals and personal lesson plans, and a resume and portfolio builder.  I can't wait to see how these features make a great program even better!

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