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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Fire! Oh, Wait....I Guess Not.

So, when we left off, we were staying in Amarillo, Texas! and having a bite to eat at the Big Texan.

The next morning we got up and headed over to the Cadillac Ranch.  We had been there in 2009 during our Route 66 trip.  It was so much fun, we wanted to make sure that we stopped again so the littler kids could have the fun of getting parental encouragement to spray paint their name on something.  Something that does not happen in real life.

The Cadillac Ranch is just outside of Amarillo, in the middle of a field, sort of in the middle of nowhere.

As we pulled up, my cell phone rang and it was a local Georgia number from back home.  I didn't recognize it, but thought maybe it was someone from church who didn't know we were out of town.

Instead, it was our security company calling to say that a fire alarm had gone off in our home and did I want them to cancel it.

(Um, no, I don't want you to cancel it....We are in Texas!)

So, I calmly told her that we were out of town and to please NOT cancel the alarm.  I am not sure if they always ask people if they want the alarm cancelled.  But, we have set off  about 3 false security alarms in the last year or so - because we forget to turn it off sometimes in the morning and then the first one out the door sets it off.

I hung up the phone. Told Rainman what was going on and decided to call our next door neighbor who works from home to see what was going on. 

She didn't answer.

I left a pretty calm message that sounded something like, "Uh, Hi, this is know, your neighbor.  Um, yeah, I am just wondering if our house is on fire?  (my voice gets a little higher at this point) We are in Texas right now, so, um, there is really nothing we can do about it....but, we are just curious.  So, yeah, um, call us back."

Then I proceeded to hang up and encourage the kids to run on ahead and find a can of spray paint.

Then I broke down.

What if our house is really on fire?

What about all my photo albums and the kids baby pictures?

That is pretty much all I cared about. 

My pictures and albums. 

I did have a fleeting thought about my wedding dress....but not any thoughts about our furniture or clothes, or decorations.

At this point, Rainman took the phone from me and called our neighbor back.  She answered this time and she had been out raking and didn't hear the phone ring.  She said she didn't think our house was on fire since she had just been outside but would go check.

We had given her our garage door opener when we left so she could leave things inside for us while we were gone - but had neglected to leave her a key.  She ended up meeting the fire department at our house and then everyone had to figure out a way to get in our house and see what was going on.

Rainman is not the greatest handyman in the world. 

Who knew that would turn out to be a blessing?  See, the door knob between our house and our garage had been falling, in our hands.  We would sort of piece it back together and everything was fine.  Until one time, we couldn't piece it back together and we were locked inside our house.  So, at that point, Rainman went to the hardware store and got a piece and "fixed" it....but as we were leaving for our still felt a little wonky.

Rainman got on the phone with the fire department guy and suggested that he wiggle the door knob a bit and, sure enough, it fell off in his hands. Voila!  They were in the house.

The fire department guys and our neighbor walked through my whole house. 


No fire.

On a side note, I had made the kids clean the house before we left.  Like, really clean.  Because there is nothing worse than coming home from any kind of vacation to a messy house.  Usually I give in and say things are good enough before we leave and then when am totally depressed when I walk in and it isn't clean....and everything smells sort of musty and gross.

This time, they were mad at me, because I was sort of ruthless.  All the dishes were washed and put away.  Counters were wiped down.  Bathrooms were clean and fresh smelling.  The floor was picked up and swept.  Beds were mostly made.  There were a few clothes that hadn't made the final packing cut.....but, really, the house was pretty good.

Isn't God good?  Who knew that we would have people tromping through our house while we were gone?  Not me.  But God did and he knew how mortified I would have been if they had seen how our house normally looks!   (Remind me sometime to tell you the story about the time our house was robbed when I was about 11 or 12 years old.  It is a good one.)

So, short story, sort of long.....our house is still standing.  Praise the Lord!

Happy Face!

Looking for cans that still have paint in them....

At this point the kids are somewhat oblivious to why mom has been trying not to cry....

Visiting the Cadillac Ranch  is a cool thing to do with your family.  And it is free!  Unless you want to make sure there is spray paint for you to use - then the cost of a can of paint is all it will cost!  Can't beat that for family fun!

Teaching Math Through Balance

Remember how I felt (sort of still feel) about fractions?  Blech!  But, thankfully, the TOS crew is giving me all kinds of options to help me get over my fear of fractions.

The latest chance I have gotten is from The Critical Thinking Company  and it is called Balance Math Teaches Algebra!  I know, lots of exclamation points lately.

From their website:  Balance Math™ Teaches Algebra is designed to move from simple to complex, with lessons scaffolding on earlier learning. And like all the Balance Math™ and More! books, these problems involve critical thinking and computation. To students, these problems are more like puzzles, with just enough challenge to forget they are doing math!

This booklet is 64 pages long with 52 activities.  Just the perfect size to get your kids into algebra without scaring them off with a thick textbook.

It is designed for use in grades 4th through 12th. 

I think there is a thin line between introducing fractions early so they aren't too scary later, AND introducing them too early so it frustrates them and makes them think that they will never be able to do fractions.

So, I had my 4th grader (L-girl) and 6th grader (A-girl) just kind of try the first few activities, because I was afraid to scare them with fractions.  L-girl just didn't get it.  So, we stopped.

A-girl sort of got it so we just did a few here and there.  D-man who is pretty deep into algebra now, got them and said that they were sort of fun because they made him look at equations in a different way than he had been with the textbook he has been using. 

I don't know if he actually forgot he was doing math or anything....but he said there were sort of cool.

Here is an example of what is inside:

It is all about keeping the scales balanced.

See?  A nice visual way of thinking about it, isn't it?  Even for me, someone still in her adult years afraid of fractions.....this visual approach makes sense to me.

The Balance Math Teaches Algebra!  book is available for $14.99.  The Critical Thinking Company has won over 100 National awards for their products.  They have a lot to look at.  Go browse on-line or request a catalogue so you can flip through it and mark your pages, like I like to do.

Take a look at what other TOS crew members thought of the Critical Thinking Company stuff they got to try, like Inference Jones or Crypto Mind Benders.

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of Balance Math Teaches Algebra! for free in exchange for an honest review of the product.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Amazing Science!!!

I used three exclamation points for my title of this post.  Did you notice?

We got to review a video called Amazing Science!

Look!  They only used one exclamation point.

It is from these guys:

This is the part of the review where I am supposed to fill you in on what a big help this DVD will be for your homeschool.  How it will help fill in gaps in your kids education.  About what a useful resource it will be, in general.

Blah. Blah. Blah.

What I really want to tell you is that this video is awesome! 

We watched it for fun.  Really!

I mean, I know, we are sort of a weird, homeschool family and everything....but even so, this is a great video.

I didn't expect it to be something we watched just for the fun of it.

Rainman, as you may recall is a meteorologist.  A scientist. So, you would think a science-y video would not excite him.  But, he was right there with us....oohing and aahing over the experiments that were shown.  Even the weather related experiments.  They are that cool.

I can't even tell you how many times we have watched the Color Changing Milk experiment.  Really.  I can't.

One other thing that I didn't expect is that the kids, after watching the experiments wanted to do them - to see if they could duplicate the results from the video.

Did you catch that?  That wanted to do them. 

We have used other science videos off and on through the years to show experiments.  The kids would watch them, turn off the VCR, (um, yeah, we have had them for a while) and go answer the questions in their books about the experiments. 

No excitement.

No clammoring to try it for themselves.

That was not the case with Amazing Science!  In case you were wondering, they don't just show the experiments.  They explain why things are happening or why things are doing what they are doing.  It really is educational too.....just fun at the same time!

Here is a trailer for the 2 DVD disc set that we have.

Science and Math  obviously has math stuff available too.  I am planning to check out their math DVDs for the upper level math that D-man is heading into.  But, if you want to get this DVD set, you can get it for $19.95.

Check out what other reviewers thought of this video.  I am pretty confident that I am not the only one who loved them! 

Disclaimer:  I recieved a copy of Amazing Science! for free in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Bible Study for Kids

I grew up going to Sunday School, Vacation Bible School and even youth group.  My mom and dad always had a Bible in the middle of the kitchen table at breakfast time with a small devotional book to read before heading off to school.  A few times, my mom and dad would try to implement family Bible time....but it was usually after supper and, well, didn't go so well because quite a few of us were sleepy.

My dad was a teacher.  Not for his job.  He was an engineer in his job.  But, in his free time, he was a teacher.  A teacher of the Bible.  To me, and many who knew him, he was like a college professor level type Bible teacher.  Only he didn't have a degree.  But, he knew so much stuff!  He dug around in his Bible and researched history and just about anything he could get his hands on. 

He would be excited to pass along what he learned to us.  And, really, could go on an on about the things he learned.  However, like many college students.....we sort of didn't care.  We just wanted to absorb just enough to get a passing grade.

Now that he is gone, I miss not only learning from him.....but the chance to learn from him.

Somehow, I didn't get the same passion for learning and digging through the Bible that he did. 

I do read the Bible.  Even though I am sort of constantly surprised at the treasures that are found there, somehow reading the Bible and studying what is in there isn't high on my daily list of priorities like it should be. 

I don't have the excitement and passion to study the Bible like my dad developed.  See that word I used there?  Developed.  My dad took the time to study daily....I am sure there were days where he was tired and would have rather read the newspaper or gone to bed early....but he took the time.  He formed a habit.  A good one.  Gradually, that habit turned into more.  Much more.  A passion for learning more about God, His plan for us and His love for us. 

A passion.

I have hope of developing some of my Dad's passion for the Bible for me and for my kids.

Rainman and I  each do our own, personal, daily devotion reading (He is diligent about this.  I do it most days.).  We have recently gotten back into the habit of reading a children's devotion outloud for the kids at bedtime. Something that we did almost every night when we had just a handful of children, but has gotten sort of lost in the shuffle the more little people we have added to our household.

We also have included a Bible class into our schooling which covers the basics of who people are in the Bible and where things happened. 

But, all of these things are, more times than not,  just one more thing on our "To Do" list.....something we can check off as "done".

So, when we got the chance to review a Bible curriculum course, I was sort of excited.  Maybe this would be the spark that got our fire going for Bible reading.

The curriculum published through  Classical Academic Press (who also published the Art of Argument curriculum that I reviewed). 

This one is called God's Great Covenant, New Testament 1. This curriculum is targeted towards kids 4th grade and up and the main message is about the Old Testament phrophecies that were fulfilled through Jesus Christ.  There are four total units that have 36 total lessons.

For an example, Chapter 4 focuses on Jesus' childhood with the theme - Son of Man is born of King David's royal line.  Then it goes on with scripture to read and memorize.  There is a review of key facts, how the prophecy was fulfilled, then goes into a story of Jesus' childhood.  There are worksheets and activities included in each lesson.

I will admit that we did not sit down and do the lessons sequentially for this review....we sort of skipped around a bit.  But, I really liked it and plan to incorporate it into our actual lesson plans for next year and move through it sequentially as an actual course in our daily curriculum.

Here are some of the things I liked about this curriculum:  There is a teacher's edition that mirrors the student book - but has the answers and some additional background information that may be helpful.  I liked that they already have worksheets included (we have been making our own now for many years). 

I really liked the introduction part of the book that goes through historical and political things happening in Bible times, the chronological (sort of timeline) of things in the book, the topography/geography of the areas discussed in the Bible, and the religious environment around the time of Jesus' birth.  I especially liked the chart comparing the Pharisees and the Sadduccees and how they came to form the Sanhedrin.

Another kind of fun thing they included was a daily life portion that introduces them to a boy, named Simon, and what is going on in his life while waiting for the Messiah.

You can buy the God's Great Covenant workbook for $26.95 and the teacher's edition for $29.95. or as a bundled package for $56.95 that includes an MP3 audio download that tells the stories.  Here is a sample of the audio recording

Want to see what other reviewers thought of this curriculum?  Check it out here.


Disclaimer:  I received a copy of God's Great Covenant New Testament 1 and the Teacher's Edition for free in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, April 20, 2012


After the National Route 66 Museum in Oklahoma, we headed  west to Texas.

We stopped in Groom, Texas for a few things.   First we stopped at the Big Cross.  Seen it?  We have been here once before, back in 2008 when we did our Route 66 road trip.

I am not sure if it is the largest cross around....but it is big!

In case you were wondering, I did NOT take this picture.  It is really awesome in real life.  Around the cross are sculptures protraying Jesus and his final moments.

One of the sculptures that caught my eye and my mind this time was this one....

There was a little plaque that explained what this was.  In my defense of this off centered/words cut off was really windy and bright on this day!

Michael, the Archangel - defending us in battle and protecting us from the snares of the devil.  How awesome is that? 

We have been to the Cross before....but, somehow this one never stood out to me.....until this trip.

We made a stop at their fountain for family pictures....

and, of course, an obligatory stop at their gift shop.....

Animal print cross anyone?  Someone has added this to her wish list for her room.

After this we stopped at the Bug Ranch, a little "art" exhibit just outside of Groom.  This is where they have buried Volkswagen Bugs for people to spray the more well known Cadillac Ranch outside of Amarillo.

From here we went to Amarillo to eat at The Big Texan.....Home of the Free 72 ounce steak!  (If you can eat the steak, baked potato, salad, shrimp cocktail and a roll with butter in under 60 minutes!) 

We just ate regular sized food and paid for it.  I know.  Boring.

I surprised the kids and Rainman by setting up a free limo ride to and from our hotel to the restaurant.  Although, Rainman insisted on tipping our driver (a lot) - so it wasn't really free and, in my opinion, we should have just driven and parked ourselves! 

But, we were on vacation and the kids were I shut the Dave Ramsey voice in my head up and tried to relax and enjoy it!  Like, super, duper excited!  So, I became a reluctant big spender!

Apparently, I was so excited that they were excited, that I totally forgot to take pictures.  But, it was a big, old, white limosine that had big steer horns on the this one....

The food was good.

The company was even better!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Okay, Where Were We?

Alright, I am pretty much back from my little hiatus from blogging.  I was going to try to be one of those "career" type bloggers who blog every day or so even when they are traveling.

But, I find that my other "careers" as mom, wife, teacher, cook, diswasher, and church helper seem to take priority.

So, while I had intended to blog about our 3 week long road trip out west.....I couldn't.  I did take our ancient laptop with....but, since it is ancient, I had no way of transferring pictures from my camera to the computer.

So, now I am home again, after another quick trip to Tennessee for a beautiful outdoor family wedding and  I can start to show you a bit our trip.

On our way to Oklahoma we saw this town.....which happens to boast my maiden name.

They even had their own newspaper!

I even got out of the van, so Rainman could take my picture by the post office sign.  Then, I saw it and decided I looked waaaaaay too large to share with the world......but, suffice it to say, I was really excited!

I know, I am easily excited in my old age!

Back to our trip......When S-girl was a baby we took another 3 week road trip along Route 66.  We had a blast staying at little roadside motels and finding stuff from the movie Cars.  The thing that we didn't plan so well was making sure some of the stuff we wanted to see would be open when we were there.

There were one museum in particular that we had wanted to visit, but arrived in town right at closing time.  So, when Rainman was planning this trip, he wanted to make sure it was open, so we could stop there.

It was the National Route 66 Museum in Elk City, Oklahoma.

It was really more of a history museum.....with lots of stuff on cowboys and the wild west....but did have an interesting section on Route 66.  The part we had the most fun in was the barn with all the old tractors and old tools that the kids could try.

With the obligatory disclaimer about injuries.

There was even.....

A phone booth!

It was a fun little museum (especially if you are into rodeo history).

This was just the beginning of our, more to come...... including a phone call that made me think our house was on fire. 

Interesting what comes to mind when you get that phone call......

Friday, April 13, 2012


Were you good with fractions?  I really wasn't.  I considered myself pretty smart up until 9th grade and Mr. Anlauf's Algebra class when we were supposed to start doing stuff with fractions.

I received my first, and thankfully, my one and only, "F" on a quiz.

It was shocking and heartbreaking.

I cried.

Mr. Anlauf wasn't very nice to me.

I suppose, looking back now as a grown up who knows the kinds of dramatic situations teenage girls can bemoan about....Maybe I may wouldn't have been so nice either!  

Who I am kidding?  I still would have been nice....but he's a guy!

Anyway, because of that, I am still sort of afraid of fractions.

So, to help my children not have to go through the same trials and tribulations with fractions as I did, it has been my intention since they hit 1st grade or so to start introducing fractions into their lives so by the time they hit algebra....they are not hit in the face with their lack of knowledge and paralyzed with fear like their mother was.

So, anytime we have a chance to review anything related to fractions, I am all over it.

This time is is called  Fabulous Fractions by AIMS Education Foundation.

AIMS (Activities Integrating Math and Science) approach to education is to combine math and science with hands on activities to make the idea hit home.

This book is designed for Grades 3-5, but some could be adapted for younger students and others, I think, would be a fun thing for your older students to do....even if they already have a strong grip on fractions.

I would have loved to have this book....even in 9th grade....because it just helps me "see" the fractions in my head in a different way than just a black and white equation on a sheet of paper.

It is an activity book....not a textbook.  For example, using the cover of the say that three sevenths (3/7)of the kids were facing left.....or one sevenths (1/7) of the students is doing a weird acrobatic move to get to his manipulatives.

We especially liked the Decimal Duel activity (where you "duel" with decimals similar to the card game War) and the hands on stuff of Fair Share.

The one downside for me was that I had to do some prep before we could do the activity and make sure I had all the supplies or copies I needed.  The book does come with a CD that has PDF versions of the worksheets, so that helps if you don't have a copier at home.
We also received the  Fractional Transparencies that come with this book....but you can also get them separately to have a visual tool of fractions that shows  their relationship to each other.

I used this book as an extra "fun" school activity about 2 or 3 times a week.  It might also be a good thing to use on school breaks so they don't forget everything you have taught them!  I am thinking of using them this summer with the whole family....well, maybe V-girl is too young....but everybody else could benefit from a new way to see/remember fractions.

You can order a copy of  Fabulous Fractions for $21.95 or the PDF version for $19.95.  For me, I would spend the extra couple of bucks for the hard copy version because I am still old fashioned and like to hold books and flip through their pages.

See what other TOS crew members thought of the different books they tried, like Earth Rocks or Looking at Lines.

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of Fabulous Fractions and Fraction Transparencies for free in exchange for an honest review of the products.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Writing Well

I am back with another review.  This time for a writing curriculum called Write With World.

This program is designed for your middle school students.  It is meant to teach writing with confidence, with the professionals from God's World News and WORLD magazine.

From their website:

Write with WORLD exposes students to:
  • reading and critical thinking that develop discernment
  • contemporary subjects and professional guidance to pique interest
  • flexible exercises to build confidence and skill for using today's new media
  • a thoughtful and meaningful Christian worldview
For us homeschoolers, I think writing well and being able to communicate through writing is important.  I mean, super important. 

In thinking ahead to college applications or even SAT essays.....I think this is where homeschoolers can and should shine the most because we may not have all the bells and whistles of public school's transcripts.  And, I am pretty sure there is still a skeptical reception to some homeschoolers readiness for college.

So, my kids being really strong communicators/writers will be important.

In the ever increasing world of e-mail instead of phone calls.....text messaging instead of phone calls and so so much being done via e-readers.....the importance of the written word is expanding.  Let me rephrase that......The importance of written word that is clearly understood is expanding.

And, even more important(from Write With World's website):  

Today's students must be discriminating media consumers - able to read, hear, and watch what the world is saying and to recognize the truth.  Today's adults need to be discriminating media consumers too.

To get an idea of what this curriculum is like, click here to see a sample lesson.

D-man and A-girl are both working through the Write With World curriculum.

D-man is in eigth grade and is really liking how the lessons are structured into smaller capsules and some of the things it has him think about.  He said that he likes this program the best of all the writing curriculums we have tried.

A-girl is in sixth grade and does the lessons, but doesn't seem to be enjoying them as much as D-man.  I think he is just used to more of this kind of lesson that asks you to think and doesn't just spoon feed the lesson into you.  She will start more of that next year, in seventh grade.

Overall, in my opinion, this is a really strong writing curriculum that I plan to keep on using with both D-man and A-girl....although I am going to have A-girl start back up with it as part of her seventh and eight grade curriculum.
The Write With World curriculum is designed to be used as a two year curriculum.  The price is $95.00 for the first year....or you can purchase both the first and second year books for $165.00.  These prices include teacher manuals and the student textbooks.

This is a new product and will be available to be shipped in the summer of 2012.  They will also be starting a new website in September of 2012 for the users of the curriculum.  This new website will provide an online publishing opportunity for student writers, and new subjects to supplement what is in the textbooks.

See what other homeschoolers thought of Write With World.

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of the first year curriculum (including the student textbook and the teacher's manual) of Write With World for free in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Amazing Animals By Design

This is a super sweet book that I got to review for TOS (The Old Schoolhouse).

The book is called Amazing Animals By Design by homeschool mom (and fellow TOS reviewer), Debra Haagen.

I don't need to go into a lot of detail about what is in the book, because it is a children's book.   I don't want to give it all away!

But, I mean, look at the illustrations.  Aren't those cute animals?

Through a trip to the zoo, the book talks about how God has designed each and every animal in their own unique and special way.  (Sort of like us people)

It asks questions like:  Why is a giraffe’s neck so tall? Why do zebras have stripes?

It's intended audience is probably pre-school through 3rd grade or so.  But, I even learned some interesting ways that God designed animals.

This really is an adorable book.  You can buy it in an e-book format for $7.99 or a hard copy for $8.99.

See what other TOS reviewers thought of this sweet children's book.

Disclaimer:  I received a pdf/e-book version of Amazing Animals by Design for free in exchange for an honest review.