Tuesday, August 30, 2011

We Are That Family Contest Entry

"Nine year of nursing, nightmares, good times and bad. Now they want to kick me to the curb..I am heartbroken. Anyone want to help me update my resume?"

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Back to School Challenge

Tonight I have a Back to School Challenge for you! Why? Because if the kids get new(ish) things for school, have to be reminded of disciplines and train their bodies to get rest and such..why shouldn't we do some things to retrain ourselves? We have a lot of sleepy heads to get up in the next countless months...let's get ready to rumble..or at least feel prepared for whatever happens next! :)

Okay, so I am currently kid-free....shhhh! I don't want this trend to get popular because I will start getting emails from grandparents asking me to please retract my statements of the luxurious feeling of not tending to one argument, not settling one "discussion of justice" and the dogs didn't even dig holes! My my, so THIS is what the high life is like? I think I will take it!!!

Here we go!
Whoops, my excitement of being kid-free got me side-tracked..okay. Well we unpacked from our trip to see my parents and drop off two of the five boys..the ones I have with me every minute of every day all year long as we homeschool.

I started my morning at 10:20am waking up to find both my lovable pups clinging to both sides of me on my bed. The breeze was blowing through the windows and I was in heaven...talk about a stay-cation!!! Ahhh I was so thankful to be in my home! I spent my day doing the usual laundry, unpacking suitcases and putting them away, farmer's market, various multi-tasking between emails, texts, making lists for errands in geographical order to save gas...you know the usual and then the kitchen clean up and I looked in the fridge and remembered that I have had a routine for years now that just instinctually happens..which I was already starting to do!

Challenge Part One:
Clean out Fridge from top to bottom. I do this every other month or so depending...but I always do it right before school starts to have a fresh start in my kitchen, take inventory of things we need with the back to school sales and start my meal planning routine for the FALL. Sorry I didn't mean to say that word but it is coming and it isn't because I said it either. I promise!

SO that is part one of my Challenge...clean out your fridge, clean out your pantry and start taking inventory of what you need and what you need to quit buying this school year starting now.

Challenge Part Two:
Start sorting through all the kids clothes, regardless, it is okay if they don't like you after having to try on the 10th pair of jeans...if they all don't fit you have a bag full of clothes to donate, give to a friend or sell at a consignment store or craigslist. Make good use of this time. If the kids didn't grow please think about it before you go spend money on new clothes...wait until they grow! Get them a couple of new shirts on sale or clearance but know those kids are just bound to grow by October and it is frustrating to have a whole wardrobe no longer fit!
(Side note: I start shopping for snow boots, snow pants, gloves and jeans on craigslist in June and continue so that hopefully by the fall I have all the family covered for winter wear before the "surprise snow fall" around Thanksgiving that makes Target sell out! ;)

Challenge Part Three:
Look for reusable lunch items, I recently found on sale at our grocery store a line of BPA free plastic containers that screw together and have handy loops for clipping on a bag with a handful of nuts, trail mix, they have them in all sizes. Even though we homeschool we bought these to have for those days we are on the road and need something to eat, I desperately try to get away from plastic bags and paper bags, I love having reusable items like these. Think outside the box too...for instance tonight I had a ton of zucchini from my CSA, I shredded it and made fabulous zucchini brownies and I can make more and freeze them for special treats in their lunch this year.

Challenge Part Four:
What is one thing you will start disciplining yourself to do whether you homeschool or send the kids off on their yellow bus or walk to school this year? What can you do that will be a learning process for you? We need to keep learning things, whether you sign up for a class, try a new DIY project at home, take the dog(s) for a walk every morning before your household is awake, volunteering at your local library or many other zillions of things you can do. What are you going to do for yourself? I think as moms that is one thing that can be hard for us to admit is that we often LIVE for our KIDS. Now we love our kids, we adore our kids, they are too cute to eat! BUT, even scripture says we have them for a season, we are to raise them and show them the narrow path, train them up through everything we do but it never says that we need to be on the road and consumed all day long with their every agenda...that is where I think we have missed it. My kids are excellent helpers, rarely complain and go on numerous errands with me but having a day to myself I realized that I do not plan time away for myself..it is usually connected to the kids in one way or another. (Ex. Homeschool group planning meeting, Scouts meeting, football kick-off event, etc)

I hope you will take this challenge with me and let me know how you are doing! I am anxious to hear about the things you are doing for yourself and hear improvements or even struggles you are faced with.

Happy Back to School Time Everyone!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

To Be Real

I have had a focus shift on my heart for a few months now but I have been waiting...patiently...simmering on where things need to go. Simply put, Living a Prayerful Driven Life means it is not my agenda.

Here is a portion of what God laid on my heart recently:

My heart's desire is to be 100% Pure, Raw, Organic (yet Refined) as a Parent. Going back to the basics and not copying a model or processed lifestyle shown. Waiting to see what God wants us to teach with his direction...by going to the source...Him.

What I found extremely interesting is that God lined it up and I wrote it down word for word as it came to me and it sounds very similar to the other big passion in my life. Healthy lifestyle...many of the same principles apply.

That is how refreshingly original God is with his timing always! I have yet to have an event in my life that I am unable to pinpoint the orchestra of God's timing at some level.

As I have immersed in the Word of God, pondered this vision, listened and read what is available out in the world for us as parents I have come to one conclusion. My opinion has changed! Now when I meet new parents I no longer have a list of resources for them to study and read...I tell them the best advice I think I can share: Don't listen to anyone else, trust in the Lord to give you rest, wisdom and creativity as you raise your children and he will. Our eyes have gotten too focused on someone's "Ideal" for raising our children, yet I see more and more disrespectful, uninvolved children in the homes. Compassion for elderly, poor, hungry and even for a friend in need seems to take last string over the numerous distractions and avoidance techniques that are so engrained in our adults and youth these days. Now let me say, this is not a new problem! There are many stories of self-involved, cold-hearted and judgmental people from Biblical times to current day.

This is where my favorite quote comes into play: "Be the change you want to see in the world". We often find ourselves wanting to teach others how to be all that we CAN'T be. Is that really how we rank? No, we simply prefer to tell others how it is, how it should be done and sit back on our pedestal and hope they are motivated to change although we will not. I can honestly say I have done that myself in the past, I won't be bold enough to say I am now excluded from this mistake for the rest of my life either...but I will say that perspective has come into my mind and heart more than ever.

My favorite childhood memories involve swinging in my backyard without a care in the world and singing loudly to challenge the birds in the air flying overhead. Playing chinese checkers with my grandmother, going out for an ice cream cone, riding my bike, gardening with my mom, climbing fences and yelling for the neighbor to come out and play. What do these have in common? They are natural, they are free style, unorganized and FUN! They teach a child to use their imagination and not get frustrated by their parents lack of entertainment provided for them. I want to be the one that encourages you to turn off the computer, TV, DVR, Xbox and numerous other devices and look at your kids...what did you love for your parents to do with you when you were growing up? Maybe it was spontaneously taking you out for an ice cream or like one of my friends does with her son once in a while...get him an ice cream for dinner! Or maybe it is deciding to camp out in the backyard on a night during the summer and roast s'mores over the grill. Whatever it is, it is something that puts the living back in your life. The memories back in your heart that regardless of being captured in a photo...will last a lifetime!

It is because of the knowledge I have gained in the past few years that my husband and I started desiring a farm house. We want to raise chickens, have a large garden for our family of seven, have places where our kids can explore God's creation, dig, build, discover without worrying about the suburb lifestyle, mentality and the manicured lawns of life. My desire is to be the change in the lifestyle which I have become accustomed and go back to the basics.

In this new season I will be sharing parenting thoughts--not advice just sharing what I am doing, natural tips and recipes, lifestyle changes and the passion that God has put in me for them all. Are you ready To Be Real with me?

enVision Math

Our last review post this year is for enVision Math for 1st grade. We received a LARGE box shipped to the house containing our enVision workbook. It was a surprise to everyone in my household to see the width of the book. It turns out you pull out pages and fold them in half to have 4 lessons total-front to back in a booklet style. This was a nice change to have more room for my student to write. There was plenty of room to write which is very nice for younger children especially that can be harder for them to write small.

Envision a math program where pictures do the talking. enVisionMATH is the first math program that develops math concepts through interactive and visual learning. I was excited at the prospect of enVision because I am a visual learner. Using daily problem-based interactive math learning followed by visual learning strategies deepens conceptual understanding by making meaningful connections for students. Bottom line, when they see math in its daily usage along with visual aids, pictures and practice they connect the dots of the basic idea to where and how it applies.

There are many nice additions to this math system, they include vocabulary, math games and more practice. At the bottom of the pages there are "home connections" and "home activities" that we used for extra practice and understanding of the lesson.
My son did like doing the math but I will admit that as he is finishing up 1st grade at home, majority of it he already knew. We went closer to the back of the book to see if he was challenged and where we could review. I don't recall us going over much of the measurements beforehand so learning about quarts and cups was definitely a fun new area to explore together.

In my opinion this is a good math curriculum for those that are especially visual as it has plenty to look at on each page. I really like the glossary, I could see laminating it or at least using it in a binder to reflect on the pictures and the words to learn them and confirm in their minds what they mean. The work is not completely independent as my son is a good reader but some of the terms were new to him so I had to read the instructions for each section with him before he started them. At some points he could read it but wanted to make sure he understood what to do before he started.

As I think about the enVision description I was really expecting it to be something totally different from what I have seen before. It was not completely different but it did have some nice features as I already mentioned, the size of the pages and space to write, practice and games (which you usually will not get in a math book) and the glossary.

The enVisionMath 1st grade student edition, with digital access is available for $34.47 from Pearson Education. You can find it here on the Pearson website.

I am a member of The Old Schoolhouse 2010-2011 Crew and receive free products and services in exchange for my thorough use and honest review of them. My reviews will always reflect my honest opinions, findings, beliefs and experiences on the products and services that I receive.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Talking Fingers Word Qwerty

Talking Fingers was established in 1994 with the purpose of developing quality educational materials. Neuropsychologist Dr. Jeannine Herron and her staff has continued to work on new research and development to create programs to help engage children and their left side of the brain where skilled reading and writing are processed. Extensive research has been done using their program Read, Write and Type in California schools and formal research was done in 2006 in Dallas schools for their Word Qwerty program.

Word Qwerty: Foundations of Reading and Writing Fluency is designed to improve phonological and morphological sensitivity. To develop a deeper understanding of how words are constructed in English, create useful activities that provide helpful feedback. Word Qwerty has 20 lessons with 6 activities per lesson that provide the following:

1. Some sounds can be represented in several different ways.
2. Most words follow about 20 easy spelling rules.
3. There are many word families, (words that sound the same, or rhyme). By changing the first letter(s), you can make hundreds of words.
4. Some words are "outlaws". They don't follow the rules. They must be recognized quickly and automatically.
5. Writing to dictation develops vocabulary, comprehension and fluency as well as spelling skills.
6. Reading (and filling in missing words) develops vocabulary, comprehension, and fluency skills.

Wordy Qwerty is targeted at 7 to 10 year olds who have learned the basics of phonics and word identification and are poised to master more complex reading and writing skills in order to become enthusiastic and capable readers and writers.
The six different lessons each day are as follows:
Step 1: Patterns

Your child generates two lists of words by typing the names of pictures and sorting the words by a given characteristic. They are directed to notice the patterns," or spelling rules, by comparing the two lists. If they can't sound out the words or spell them correctly, the Helping Hands will assist them. Qwerty and Midi talk about the differences between the two lists and derive the 20 spelling rules which then are woven into the lyrics of delightful songs.

Step 2: Karaoke

Rhymes and songs are memorable and fun. There is a catchy song about each of the 20 spelling rules.

Step 3: Recycler

Lots of words that rhyme can be made just by changing the first letter or letters of the word. Some words sound the same, or rhyme, but use a different combination of letters to represent the same sound. In this game, chidren learn different vowel combinations that can make the long vowel sound. They watch the RECYCLER drum whirl as it changes the first letter(s) of two rhyming words. They learn to quickly distinguish real words from non-words. The non-words are vacuumed away.

Step 4: Pop-a-Word

"Outlaw" words are best memorized by learning to recognize them quickly. In this arcade-type game, children find words in a 4 word phrase as each word appears briefly, along with non-target words, in a cluster of colorful balloons. As children click on the correct balloons, they "pop". The faster they recognize the correct words, the more points they make.

Step 5: Write Stories

In these cleverly illustrated 8-line rhymes, children hear and see the first line, and have to type out the second line after it is dictated. They can see and hear the dictated line as often as they need, but get more points if they remember the sentence and try to spell the words correctly. These little stories are full of words that require using the spelling rule just presented.

Step 6: Read Stories

Here are some short, engaging stories that develop comprehension, vocabulary, and fluency. Every so often, there is a word missing, and children have to choose among three possible words, the word that best fits the meaning of the sentence. These stories also include words that utilize the spelling rule, or the "outlaw" words learned in that lesson.http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif

I am very impressed with the technique and practice of the Word Qwerty program. The variety of methods adds interest and excitement while strengthening their reading and writing skills. I like that it is using multiple sensory learning. I saw a great improvement with Kaiden's spelling and sounding things out immediately. I am grateful that we were able to review and use this program. You will not regret giving this one your time!

To learn more about Word Qwerty go their website www.talkingfingers.com for a free online lesson.
The Word Qwerty Home Edition is $35 which includes 1 CD-ROM, 1 program guide in a 3-ring binder and 1 JingleSpells audio cd of the 20 songs contained in Word Qwerty.

I am a member of The Old Schoolhouse 2010-2011 Crew and receive free products and services in exchange for my thorough use and honest review of them. My reviews will always reflect my honest opinions, findings, beliefs and experiences on the products and services that I receive.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Mad Dog Math

There has to be more than just flash cards right? I have heard many homeschool moms discuss how they like doing them but the kids do not. My youngest son can fall into that category where he would prefer to do anything over flash cards.

Mad Dog Math was created by Julie Kotoff, a veteran educator with 30 years of success in classrooms of both public and private schools. As a 3rd grade teacher she developed and perfected the Mad Dog Math program.

The purpose of Mad Dog Math is to be a fun, exciting, practice and consistency to gain and maintain math skills. We can all agree that learning the multiplication tables is important. The greater ease and less drudgery that they feel towards math helps their skills increase. Mad Dog Math is a pc application that provides an at-home practice experience just like the classroom drills.

The essentials of Mad Dog Math:
*Enables children to master their +, -, x, and ÷ facts in a fun challenging, exciting, and motivating way
*Math supplement for any math curriculum
*For grades K through 5th; remedial middle school and high school
*Standard, daily 10 minute time commitment from start to finish
*Huge body of math facts broken down into bite-sized pieces any child can master

Here is the creator Julie to introduce and share some insight about her program:

The exciting part of Mad Dog Math is that it takes 5-10 minutes daily. This is for the most part an easy timeframe to fit into your homeschool day and get accomplished. The student can do it independently and many find their kids enjoy the timer to race against their best time.

This portion of the website grabbed my attention in a BIG way:
Please don’t assume the teaching of the basic facts is happening in your child’s classroom. America is in an educational crisis. Twenty years ago we were ranked number one in education in the world. Today we are ranked 24th in the world in math. We must take a serious look at WHAT is being taught and HOW math is being taught, especially in our elementary school classrooms! There is no math curriculum to my knowledge with a math facts mastery component to it. For some reason, math facts are not considered important anymore and are almost completely ignored, to our shame and to our detriment.

While I am a homeschooling parent it still applies that I need to take a good look at how serious I am about practicing facts and getting them memorized for ease for my kids once they are grown. I appreciated the reminder! Originally I liked this program and found it useful but now I believe that I will be adding this to our collection as my son who hates flash cards found a love for his timed practice online! I am thrilled to add our family as yet another successful user of this well thought out program.

Mad Dog Math is available for your home with a few options. One year subscription for $19.99, add a year for $10 more, or get a Perpetual License for $39.99. Mastery Binder and CD-ROM options are also available. I enjoyed the ease of downloading the Mad Dog Math program from the internet and being able to use it quickly and easily.
Check out Mad Dog Math on their website for a free trial: www.maddogmath.com

I am a member of The Old Schoolhouse 2010-2011 Crew and receive free products and services in exchange for my thorough use and honest review of them. My reviews will always reflect my honest opinions, findings, beliefs and experiences on the products and services that I receive.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Institute for Excellence in Writing Review

Whether you are brand new to homeschooling or you have been doing it for years I guarantee you have heard of (IEW) Institute for Excellence in Writing. Before I had even learned about the program I knew the name well. I became excited about seeing if this gem of a curriculum could be the answer to my reluctant writer. You will soon find out the answer.

The Institute for Excellence in Writing is a well laid out, easy preparation writing program. We used Student Writing Intensive Level C (for grade levels 9-12).

This packet contains
• Four DVDs
• A binder with dividers
• A packet with the teacher’s notes, handouts and checklists (about 100 pages in all)
The Student Writing Intensive now comes with lesson plans and reinforcement exercises built right in. Written by Jill Pike, these lesson plans specify what portion of the disc to watch in one session and what to do in between video sessions.

Recorded live, this DVD writing course for students by Andrew Pudewa is comprised of four writing sessions on DVD. Each session presents structural models and stylistic techniques from our TWSS Syllabus. Included with the student handouts are complete teacher notes, source texts, and checklists providing fifteen comprehensive lessons to ensure your student masters each unit before moving on to the next. Since each lesson can take one to two weeks to complete, the entire package can provide 15–30 weeks of writing instruction.

I was delighted at the real approach to writing while watching the DVD with my son. Andrew Pudewa truly seems to understand the mind of a discouraged writer, the frustration in not knowing how to begin and the blank screen that seems to appear when you are told to be creative and "just write". He honestly took me back to those times in my school years when I felt that very same way and helped me relate better to my stumped son. Thankfully, his instruction helped me see how to navigate myself and my children out of that mental block and baby step into the main ideas. This approach was simple, understandable and entertaining! My son actually did 3 lessons one day on the DVD because he was enjoying seeing how well he could put things together with breaking out the main idea out of sentences and his confidence was becoming very visual at this point!

The IEW Student Writing Intensive Level C is available on their website http://www.excellenceinwriting.com/sid-c for $99.

The IEW Portable Walls was included with our review package to use as well. This is a nice addition that costs $7.00 on their website. You can hear Andrew explain how this is helpful with the curriculum by clicking through this LINK. You can find it on their website here.

I am a member of The Old Schoolhouse 2010-2011 Crew and receive free products and services in exchange for my thorough use and honest review of them. My reviews will always reflect my honest opinions, findings, beliefs and experiences on the products and services that I receive.