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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

No Pictures....Musings from a Skeptic

I am, apparently, among the many that received a message from Blogger/Picasa that I had run out of memory for my pictures and needed to buy additional memory space. 

Thanksgiving weekend, here in the U.S.A.

Pardon me if I am a little skeptical that we all ran out of memory from our various blogs at the same time.

I don't think it is true.

I am hoping it is just a glitch.

If it isn't, I am fairly sure I am not willing to pay money for additional storage.

I am looking into other options. 

Word Press has been mentioned.

Storing my photos in Photobucket or with Google+ has been mentioned.

I just haven't had time to really research it.

I am curious to know if any of you also received that same message when you went to work on a post?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Only a Little Embarrassing...

I guess I am like a lot of bloggers out there.  I share a lot of the great things my kids do, pictures of my house when it is clean, or, the great homeschool products that are out there.

I don't share a lot about the real aspects of our life.

I did share about how I really DON'T do it all here.

I did share about our sock problem  here.

I did share about the cockroach in my coffee here.

I am about to add another real tale to the list.

Yesterday, was Thanksgiving.  For the first time ever, we celebrated with friends.  Rainman works most Thanksgivings, so we have either gone to family (when we lived in Minnesota) and he joined us there after work, or I have hosted and we scheduled our meal around whatever shift he was working.  Sometimes, we even celebrated on a totally different day.

But, this year, my wonderful friend, Sherri, asked what we were doing for Thanksgiving because she was in the mood for a crowd.  Just inviting my family over constitutes a crowd!  The kids thought going over to Sherri's house was a great idea.  They have a really big T.V. and a fun, little, teeny, tiny dog.

So, we decided that I would make a few side dishes and she would handle the turkey.  Great plan!  So we prepped and made things the night before and then I whipped up a few of them Thanksgiving morning.

(I had a picture of A-girl cutting onions in her sparkly Hollywood sunglasses but Blogger is telling me I have hit my 1 GB limit and need to buy storage space.....I have no idea what they are talking, for picture of A-girl.  If anyone has tips on how to fix this issue - without actually buying anything, I am all ears!)

After I got my final side dish in the oven, I announced that I was going to take a shower.  I took a good long shower, put extra conditioner in my hair, washed and moisturized my face, put a little make up on.  I looked pretty good.  Got my comfy (elastic wasted) but, sort of stylish pants on.  My hair, if I leave it alone has a nice wave/curl to it, so I decided to let it be and try to wear it down.

But, I know myself well enough that once I started moving around or working in the kitchen, I would want to be able to pull it back out of the way.  Nobody wants a long curly hair...even if it is any of their Thanksgiving feast.

So, I grabbed my Lilla Rose hair clip that I am totally in love with.

Problem was that I had no pockets in my comfy pants.  And V-girl wanted me to help her get dressed.  I knew if I set the hair clip down I would forget to grab it again.  Especially because V-girl is quite picky about clothing. 

She is a bit of a Goldilocks in that her underwear have to feel "just right"...and then, the pants can't pull on the underwear too much....the pants can't make the underwear move around too much....and, the shirts she wants to wear are almost always stained, so there is a bit of bargaining over which clean shirt she likes enough to wear.  So, helping her get dressed takes a while.  Plus, there are 5 other kids around that have questions, stories that need to be told, need help putting belts through the loops, or opinions on what to wear.

Suffice it to say, if I had put the Lilla Rose clip down, it wouldn't have made it to Thanksgiving with me.  And, remember my hair was wet and conditioned and wavy and pretty....I didn't want to put it in my hair and ruin in.

So, I tucked it in my cleavage.  I would just keep it there and then, when I got downstairs, I would put it in my purse.  So, V-girl/Goldolocks finally arrived at a pair of underwear that fit her just right.  I had been able to coerce everyone into bringing an extra pair of play clothes.  Then someone yelled that the oven timer had gone off.  So, I went downstairs pulled the casserole out of the oven.  Yelled at the kids to grab their stuff.

Asked A-girl to double check the list I had made the day before so I made sure that I grabbed everything I had promised to bring, including crafts and games for everyone.  By the way, I stole a bunch of game ideas from my sister's Twelve Days of Christmas posts. They were a huge hit!!!

Anyway, I had lots of stuff to bring....successfully got it all balanced and positioned just right in the van and were able to get it all there without anything spilling along the way.  I only had to turn around about a block from our house to come back and make sure that I had remembered to turn off the oven (I did...but didn't have any actual memory of doing so). We left our house around 10:30 a.m.

Once we got to Sherri's house, the kids played, Sherri and I cooked and visited.  We had dinner.  We cleaned up dinner.  Sherri and her sister decided that they were going to Black Friday shop on Thanksgiving night.  Walmart opened at 8:00, so they decided they had better leave around 7:00 or so.  A-girl and L-girl wanted to go with on their very first Black Friday adventure.  Sherri and her sister had room, but it was 6:45 when this decision was made.  So, there was a mad rush of getting ready and off they went.

I did not go shopping.  Number one, I don't like to shop.  Number two, I don't really have much money.  Number three, I went to a Black Friday sale once when I was about 13 or 14 with my friend, Natalie.  It was a nightmare.  We went to Dayton's in downtown Minneapolis....and I think Target.  I am not sure.  I have blocked most of it out. 

Anyway, I wished them well, said I would handle putting the leftovers away and off they went.

By this time, Rainman had arrived from work and had eaten his dinner, while the rest of us had leftovers, and joined the guys for the football games downstairs on the big T.V.  So, I cleaned up the kitchen until he came up, after the game, to see if I was ready to head home.

We got the four kids that were left and headed home.  A-man had really wanted to go Black Friday shopping too and was quite disappointed that there wasn't room for him.  He also had no shopping money, so even if they had room, it would have been pointless.

D-man, S-girl and V-girl rode home with Rainman (there is always a lot of fighting over who gets to ride in the car....apparently when all you know is a big extended, high top, conversion van....a car ride is very exciting!)  A-man and I were all alone in the van.  We had a nice visit about life and Christmas.  He came up with a plan on the way home.  He announced that since his sisters got to go Black Friday shopping, that we should get to watch a Christmas movie without them.  I am pretty funny about us watching the hokey Christmas movies together this time of year.  But, I agreed that sounded like a good plan.

So, we got home, the kids got their jammies on, got a snack.  I checked e-mail and Facebook.  We finally settled in to watch the movie about 10:00.  (By the way, if you are looking for an extra hokey Christmas movie, tune in to 2006s Christmas Do-Over with Jay Mohr and Daphne Zuniga.)

I sat down and put my feet up and started watching the movie.  I had a little itch in my chest area, so I reached into the front of my shirt to scratch it.  I know.....real lady like, huh?

But, wait!  What's this?  What is in my bra?

Yes, it was my Lilla Rose hair clip that I had placed there.....just about 12 hours prior.


How sad is that?

I mean, yes, I have a bosom. 

But, I had no idea I could really hide things there undetected by me, or anyone else, for that length of time!


It is kind of sad, isn't it?

Funny.  But.....sad.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The One With The Cock Roach....

For those of you that know me in real life, it is no surprise to you that I am frugal.  A cheapskate.  A tightwad.

For those who only know me through me have probably figured that out too.

I hate to waste things.  I hate to throw away food that someone around here could eat.  You know?

So, when I have days where I don't finish all the coffee in my pot, I just let it sit there and use up whatever is left, in the morning, before I make a fresh pot.

I get up fairly early, while it is still mostly dark out.  I do my morning routine without lights. 

So, one recent morning, I came down to the kitchen in the semi-dark, shook my coffee pot.  Yup, enough for about a cup before making a new pot.

I stood in the semi-dark kitchen and poured myself a cup.  I couldn't really see other than to know I had the right aim and wasn't missing my cup.

Then I heard a plop.

Hmmm....I thought.  I must have had grounds at the bottom of my pot that congealed together or something.

Now, this is the part of the story you will be proud of me for....and I will forever thank God for.

I decided to dump out that cup and go ahead and splurge and make a fresh pot.

Based on the title of my post, you know what the plop was, don't you?

It was a big one too.  Sort of like this one. 

(Alicia, if this is finally the day you actually read one of my blog need to STOP right now and pick another one.  I mean not look any further.)

It was dead.  So, I guess it must have gone in looking for water and not been able to get back out since the pot slopes at the top.

Rainman has informed me that it isn't actually a cock roach....but a palmetto bug.

Frankly, I do not care what it is called.  I just don't want it in my house and I especially do not want to share my morning caffeine with it!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving! 

Just remember to check your coffee first before you sit down with that piece of pie.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

L-Girl Can See!

Poor little L-girl....she has been squinting for a few months now.  I finally got her into the doctor who confirmed our suspicions....she needed glasses.


And, after.....
Aren't they cute on her? 

Vocal Coaching At Home

I am a singer.

It is hard to just state that, without some sort of I don't sound conceited.

But, I sing.  I love to sing.  I don't think that I have done anything special in life to be able to carry a tune.  I believe that I have a God-given talent.  I am not the best singer in the world, my town, or even my house.  But....

I am a singer.

But, even God-given talents need to be tweaked and can be improved on.

So, I was lucky when I grew up that I was able to take some voice lessons, some from my regular choral teachers and some when I was older, at my own expense, at the Macalester College of Music from a very strict Ukrainian teacher. 

As homeschoolers with six children, and living on one income, it is a bit tougher to give your kids extra things like music lessons, including voice lessons....even if they have a God-given talent themselves.

That is why I was actually excited when we got the chance to review something called Vocal Coach.

It is a way to take voice lessons at your own home.  We needed this.  I have a few wannabe singers under my roof.

I had been trying to be a coach for my girls, using what I remembered from my own voice lessons....but, some of the things I was worried I was doing wrong or remembering wrong.  Sometimes, I would talk about "tone" and try to explain what I meant when their tone needed to change....and got blank stares in return.  I didn't want them to turn into opera singers with crazy vibratos....but I wanted them to breathe right and support their voices, not sing through their noses, and, well, I wanted them to sound good.

But, I didn't quite know how to get them there.

Vocal Coach has 12 CDs that run through just about everything you would need to become a better singer.  The amount of information they give is about the equivalent of $2,000 worth of personal coaching time.  Voice lessons are not cheap.

Everything from breathing exercises to control, diction and yes, even, tone.

This is a product that I think fills a need.....and, in the words of Chris and Carole Beatty, the husband and wife creators of this program, " long as you are not tone deaf, we WILL help you become a better singer."

The Beattys have been giving voice lessons for about 40 years, so this program uses all the tricks and tips that they have developed through the years.

This video doesn't really have anything to do with how this program works, but this is a really interesting little trick to try so you can hear what you sound like to others. You know how when you accidentally hear yourself on an answering machine or voice mail....and that what I really sound like?  Yup.  It is and in the video, Mr. Beatty explains why.

(I am sure Mr. Beatty is pleased as punch that this is the picture that shows up for the clip!)

This just gives you a little glimpse into how much the Beattys know.....and proves that they can explain it in easy to understand ways....even if you aren't a singer.

This program includes 7 training CDs and 4 workout CDs, and 1 CD which has the lead sheets (more on that one later) which are super full of information and exercises to improve your voice. 

By using these CDs, my girls.....and I.....learned better posture, better breathe control, and how to listen to ourselves.

Here are my girls working on their posture, pretending that there was a string pulling them up from a string through the middle of their head.  Some of the exercises had us giggling because we looked or sounded funny....but they were effective.  Again, one of the advantages of working on this stuff in the privacy of your own home!

Here they are laying on the floor working on their breathing, to make sure the right muscle groups engage.

I did have a few issues with the program though.  I didn't like the packaging, because when we got ours, the CDs had fallen out of their little clicked in spot during transit, so I didn't really have any idea if there was an order to the CDs or not. 

There is a small instructional book that comes with the program that helped a little bit with where to start.   It told us to start with the Getting Started CD, which we did....but we still weren't sure what to really do next.  I am afraid that this might scare away a true beginner.....because there is so much information available....they might be overwhelmed.

The Instructional Guide states that most singers find 45-60 minutes is a good length of practice time for routine work.  But, I didn't know what all to include in that 45-60 minutes....or, should we practice that long for kids.  I wanted to know things much should be spent on breathing much should be spent on warming much should be spent on much should be spent on diction.....or should they all be combined?

See what I mean? 

The  Beattys do a great job teaching and I learned lots of new things, and was reminded how lazy my breathing and posture has become when I sing.  They were able to explain things that I had been trying to get through to the girls, but, we will all admit we are sort of stumbling through and just putting CDs in willy-nilly and trying things.  But, even if we aren't doing things in exactly the correct order, we are becoming better singers....just slightly confused singers!

When we were working on the warm up and breathing exercises, they moved really fast and I had a hard time remembering the melody line of the exercises.  I thought, they should have the sheet music for this so you could sort of follow along.....if you can read music, that is.  I can.

Well, one of the CDs we randomly put in one day, had sheet music for all the exercises.  To me, "lead sheets" are for actual songs, that you would sing way down the road, not the vocal exercises.  But, that is what they are for....all the exercises.  I wish it would have been made clear somewhere that these were there and to go ahead and print them before you started the CD.  We are much more successful now that we know the words we are singing and what melody the exercises follow.....or just at least if we are supposed to be heading up or down on the scales.

It says on the CD, under the word SINGER.....Printable Lead Sheets for Exercises, Progress Journal, and Song Evaluation Forms.

But, I hadn't seen that small print before I put it in.

I would have liked a precise instruction sheet that said, first put in the Lead Sheet CD and print out exercises 1-5, then put in CD #1, do the first 3 exercises, then move onto CD #2, and pick 3 get the idea.

I also wish that the instructor would have kept on singing throughout the exercises so you would know more clearly if you were on the right beat, singing the right words, etc. 

Overall, we really liked this program, because we learned a bunch.  But, we just sort of felt that we were never sure if we were doing things exactly how we were supposed to and how long we were supposed to do them.

I really liked that the Beattys sounded so upbeat and encouraging, with little nuggets of wisdom, like "Practice makes permanent...not perfect."  They have some free resources available on their website, like their free Vocal Coach Blog where they answer questions and give helpful tips.  They also have a free newsletter and are on Facebook.....look for them at Vocal Coach with Chris and Carole Beatty.

If you have any future singing stars or public speakers (this could really help speakers with breath control and stamina) in your household, or just want to be a better singer for yourself, Vocal Coach Singer really can help you get there.  You can get the 12 Vocal Coach Singer CDs and program for $119.99 or $99.99 for Mp3s.

Check out what the other future singers on the TOS Review Crew thought.  Some of them got to try a program created just to Teach Kids to Sing.

Disclaimer:  I received Vocal Coach Singer for free, in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Only In Georgia....

Only in Georgia would this be the snack, distributed by a parent, after a 10 year old softball game!

Yes, each girl got their own can of green boiled peanuts....and they were excited about it!

L-girl heated hers up and had them for breakfast this morning. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Growing Up Wild

Surprisingly, this post isn't about our family.  Although, some people make think that my kids are growing up wild.

It is about a family named "Wild".

You know how sometimes, when you travel, you secretly don't want to really see the Eiffle Tower or Notre Dame....but the inside of people's houses and how they really live?

Not that the Eiffle Tower is a bad thing to see in person.....but, for me, I was much more interested in peeking behind doors and through windows to see what was on someone's T.V. or what their dishes and wallpaper looked like.

That is one of the reasons the series of videos from the Wild family, who are missionaries that live in Papua, Indonesia, are so awesome.

They are actually awesome for a lot of reasons, but through a set of DVDs, they show you the inside of their home and how everything works.....from electricity, to visitors, to feeding the family, to where they keep their Legos.

The Wild Brothers....Growing Up Wild is a series of videos showing the lives of  the Wild family....but mostly the four Wild Brothers.

We got a chance to watch and use 2 of the DVDs in the series.  This DVD series was designed as a supplement for homeschoolers or a Sunday School curriculum, for ages 5-12.  But, really it is so much more and I would label it as something for ages 1-100.  Fascinating stuff, especially for us safe, middle-class, suburban dwellers.

Volume 1


Volume 2

Each of the DVDs has 3 episodes, so right now, the whole series has 15 episodes.  My favorite part of church when missionaries would come and visit were their slide shows and stories about how the people actually lived.  This is live video and stories of how they live....and, since the Wild family are American missionaries, it is told through the lense of what we think is normal.  Like running water and taking showers, and how you get supplies.

They are a very cool family.  Much cooler than we are.  See?

I loved this comment from Mrs. Wild, or as she calls herself, The Wild Brothers' mom:

I tell my boys all the time,

"We learn and work hard at gaining knowledge, not so that we will become smart or be known as clever, or in order to make a name for ourselves, but so that we can be used for Christ."  I believe that our purpose is to make His name great among all peoples, to glorify Him.  I believe our purpose is to enjoy Him and all He has done and is doing and will do for us, to enjoy all that He has created.

If you remember, we are on sort of a T.V. watching hiatus around here during the week.  So, watching these DVDs was a real treat for us.  One day, I had to be out of the house with D-man for a bit, so, I told the kids that they could go ahead and watch the Growing Up Wild DVDs while I was gone.  We had only watched 1 episode together up to this point. While we were gone, they watched all of both DVDs, including rewatching the episode we had already seen.  They had watched six episodes (which are about 15 minutes each).  As soon as I walked in they wouldn't stop talking.  I got re-enactments of how noise piercing was done. and,  S-girl announced, "We must have seen 100 butts, mom!" 
S-girls version of the nose piercing. 
 A-mans version....the brown thing coming from the side is the Wano tribesmen who "shoved" the stick through his nose. I know some parents wouldn't be happy that there was nudity (local Wano tribe) or even the act of body piercing displayed......both from the local Wano tribe and two of the boys who got their nose pierced during the episode.   But, it is not like nudity or partial nudity that is shown here in the U.S.A. on T.V. shows or commercials.   It is different.  It is real.  It is not gratuitous.  It is how they really live. Plus, bonus, I am fairly sure none of my kids are going to want a piercing in a spot other than their ear!

You can make these DVDs as educational as you  want.  They are really entertaining just to watch.  They are really educational if you just watch.

But, they have included an Activity Guide (as its own CD in the case so you don't have to dig around for it). 

Click here for an example of some of the things included.  The Activity Guide explains more of the Wilds' thoughts on being missionaries, but then also gives you the chance to dig deeper into the Bible, and into simple little things like Darwinian Theory and the age of the earth.  You know.....the easy stuff! Winking smile  The Activity Guide in this section, finishes with a simple, but powerful statement...

We should always be prepared to give an answer for our beliefs.

Or, even to think practically about how to figure out the amount of supplies your family will need for the next 3 months, or 6 months, or researching solar power and photovoltaic cells.

One of the most interesting parts of the Activity Guide was the cultural comparison worksheet that was included.  It encouraged you to fill in the cultural practices in your region and compare those to the Wano people that the Wilds live among.

This DVD series makes what the Wild family is doing to real and accessible.  I sort of feel like all missionaries should do something like this.  It makes it easier to pray for them and the people they are trying to reach.  It is way better than a regular old slide show.

Even if you don't use these DVDs as "education", they are entertaining and learning will happen whether you pull out the Activity Guide or not.  For moms, like me, that have a tendency to feel that there needs to be at least a little "real" school included....the Activity Guide is perfect.

Each DVD costs $18.99, but if you invest in all 5 DVDs you get a price break of 15%, so you can get them all for about $80.

If you have kids, they will love these DVDs.  But, especially if you have a boy....a real boy....he will be fascinated by these videos....the bugs, the jungle, the adventure.  Can you guess how A-man feels about them?  Plus, an extra bonus is, I really don't think he plans on getting his nose pierced anytime soon!  Smile with tongue  Might make a fun Christmas gift or stocking stuffer, depending on your budget.

Go take a look at the whole DVD series that they have put together.  But, first, so see what the other TOS Review Crew members thought.

Disclaimer:  We received Volume 1 and 4 of the Growing Up Wild DVD series for free, in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

My New PAL - Institute for Excellence in Writing

I have a new pal.  It is called, Institute for Excellence in Writing, or IEW as it is known in the homeschool world, is very well known.....and very well regarded.

But, I have a secret to tell new pal scared me.

I heard about IEW all the time from other homeschoolers.

I saw their booth at conferences.

Homeschoolers with high school kids talked about IEW.

Homeschoolers with middle school kids talked about IEW.

Even homeschoolers with elementary kids talked about IEW.

Everyone talked about it and how much they loved it.

IEW was like the popular girl in school.  The nice one.  Not the snotty one.

Who, one day, invited you to sit at her table....but you were afraid of what would happen in you accepted.  Was it a joke so she and her friends could just make fun of you?

So, every now and then I would head over to their cafeteria table, I mean, website and look around.  Get totally intimidated by content and prices (clothes and hair styles)....and leave. 

A friendship was never formed.....I was just sort of a stalker.

So, when I got a chance to review one of the IEW programs called PAL (that sounds nice and friendly, doesn't it?  I didn't exactly jump at it....but I certainly expressed an interest....and admitted that I was sort of scared too.

PAL stands for Primary Arts of Language.  There is a Reading curriculum, Writing curriculum and an All About Spelling that goes with it.  It is a really, full, comprehensive language arts program for kids.  I mean, really comprehensive.

So, first of all, take a look at what showed up in my mailbox.

Now, granted some of the stuff I got was in e-book form....but here are most of the actual hard copies of things I got.

Remember this product is called Primary Arts of Language and is intended to be used with ages K-2.  Why do you need so much stuff to teach little kids?  Had I been doing it wrong all these years?

Here is the time in the review where I confess that I got scared.  Really freaked out kind of, shaking in my boots, "Why did I even sign up for this review?" scared.

And, I did the worst possible thing I could have done at this point.  I start perusing the books.  Huge, colossal mistake.

I was scared, intimidated, it didn't make sense....I began to doubt my teaching abilities....I was going to use it for S-girl....and, I didn't know how or where to start, or what to even attempt first.

Somewhere in my browsing, I realized that there was a DVD-ROM that went along with the Reading and Writing program.  Hmmm.....probably should have started with that!

On the video was Jill Pike, the author of the PAL program for IEW, just simply sitting in front of  a gray, canvas backdrop. No fancy bells and whistles which is what I was afraid of after perusing the books.

As Jill spoke, I started relaxing, and thinking, okay.....maybe I can do this.  Ms. Pike has a very calm, relaxing demeanor about her and a soothing voice, like the nurse that talks to you right before you go into the operating feel like you are in good hands and nothing bad will happen.  (Guess what?  I just flipped over one of my books and there is a little biography about Jill.....and she was a Registered Nurse!)

Here take a little listen so you will know what I mean.  In this video clip, she is starting to explain the reading portion of PAL.

So, in case I haven't made myself clear, if you get this program, do not.....I repeat....Do Not.... open up the books and start looking through them yourself, before you listen to Jill.

So, what is the big, seemingly scary PAL program all about?

It is based on Anna Inghams Blended Sound-Sight System of Learning, which, by the way is described as "not for the faint hearted".  But, I had never heard of Anna before, so that part didn't mean anything to me.....which is good because, apparently I am faint hearted! 

I am not going into all the details of how this program works, because I will scare you away.....and I really don't want to do that.  Trust me when I say it is a lot easier to implement and teach than you think when you first see it all.  Jill explains it really well!

To put it really, really simply, it uses a combination of poetry, story telling, letter stories, and creative games and visuals to help your child learn and remember the basics about figuring out how to read and write in English.

Here is what they included as a possible daily schedule:

Our actual experience has been even shorter and snappier than this.

I read a book on communication once where it talked about trying to create word pictures in the head of the person you are talking to, because it helps them relate it to themselves and remember things better.  (I actually think it was a book on how to get your husband to really understand you....but it works in other situations too.)

In PAL, the way that they teach the letters and their sounds was one of the most successful word picture uses I have ever seen.

You know how the lower case letters b and d are often confused by young children?  Mine have all had an issue with the point where I started to wonder if they were dyslexic.  Well, for all the kids, I had taught them to make the letters with their hands....b with their left hand and d with their right hand and have them touch.....making a bed....then they could figure out if the word they were looking at had a b or a d in it.....headboard or footboard....get it?

This method has been somewhat successful.....I mean, all of my older kids can just look at b and d now and know which one it is.  For A-man and is still a work in progress....A-man only pulls out the bed still,  on occasion, but S-girl does it everytime she sees one of the letters.  She drops her pencil, makes the sign for the letter and then picks her pencil up and moves on.  Or, when she is reading aloud, she juggles holding the book while she makes the signs.....and then keeps on reading.

The PAL way of explaining letters is by giving them letter stories.

See?  b is the bomb letter....the bomb drops (the line)...and then bounces up and explodes on the right side....the circle.  And, the d is the dog letter.....his head comes first....and then his tail.

This has been so successful, I can't even tell you.  A-man who is usually around during my teaching time with S-girl has apparently been paying attention too.  S-girl was reading a story to him.  They were snuggled up in one chair together as she read. She was sounding out words as usual.  I heard her pause at one point and he said, "You know this one....that is the bomb letter."

It has stuck with them.  Even V-girl knows which one is the Happy Letter, (which is "c").

The word picture  that I sort of wished hadn't stuck with S-girl is the squealing e's....which is a word picture that whenever two e's get together, they love to squeal.  So, now whenever S-girl reads a word that has "ee" in it...she says it with a squeal in the middle.  Effective?  Yes.  Irritating?  Yup.

There are games and activities that make all of this learning really fun.

The Reading and Writing programs are separate programs, but are ideally designed to be used together.  They just have them separated in case your child already knows how to read.  They are super comprehensive and teach way more than "See Dick and Jane."

I will say that these programs are definitely teacher intensive at first, but then ease up as you kind of get in the groove.  There is a lot of prep and activities/games that need to be put together or cut out and assembled ahead of time.  Probably part of what scared me, at first.

With all the games and activities, this is another time when it would have been really helpful to have a laminator to make some of the game pieces last a bit longer.  As far as supplies go, they suggest having things like, manila folders, paper clips and index cards on hand.  I happened to have paper clips and manila folders around, but not index cards, so I just cut up some scrap paper to roughly index card size and that worked fine.

S-girl is certainly having fun with this style of learning.  She still calls in her "new school".....and asks to do it.

A few of her favorite, kind of odd, things about PAL, are getting to write with a pen, not a pencil...and just cross out mistakes instead of having to erase them.  It is really kind of funny, the first few days when I handed her a pen instead of a pencil, she would get sort of a surprised look on her face and then announce to anyone who happened to walk through our side of the school room, "I get to use a pen in my new school!"  I forgot what a big deal pens are to kids!

She also likes practicing on the white board, and loves adding to the Phonetic Farm.

This where you put all the sight-sound stuff into practice. 

(The silo is where all the letter combinations that make the long o sound "ow" as in yellow and grow.)

We also got All About Spelling, Level 1, but we haven't progress enough with the PAL program to work on that yet.  But, again, this is one of those programs that is talked about a lot in the homeschool world.

So, yes, I have a new "Pal", I finally swallowed that big lump in my throat and went and sat at the popular girls table.  She wasn't mean.  Her friends didn't tease me.  She is teaching me that there is a whole different world out there.

It is going to be a good friendship.  No more stalking.

You can get the complete IEW PAL Reading package for $69; the IEW PAL Writing package for $89; and All About Spelling for $30.

IEW has award winning writing curriculums for all ages put together by Andrew Pudewa (he is famous in the homeschool world too) and his team.  You can also take a look at their "magalog" (for those who don't know what that is....which I didn't is their magazine and catalog in one!) It is worth checking out.....and try really hard not to shake in your boots.  If I can handle this stuff, so can you.

Want to know what others on the TOS Review Crew thought of PAL or how they used it differently at their house?  Take a peeeeeeeeeek.  Darn those squealing ee's.

Disclaimer: I received the complete PAL Reading and Writing programs and All About Spelling for free, in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Knights and Fair Maidens - Part II

Set number one of a knight and two fair maidens.

Set number two of a knight and two fair maidens.

I am in the middle of raising a group of Knights and Fair Maidens, and part of that journey is going to be through courtship, rather than traditional dating.

For more on how our family got here, I mean to courtship, go back and read Knights and Fair Maidens - Part I.

So, how do you do court in 2012?

Especially when there are thoughts out there, like: How will you know they are the right one if you don't date around? What is wrong with dating if you meet another nice Christian in your youth group? Or even, taking it to the next level.....How will you know you are sexually compatible unless you go to bed with them?

How do you court in 2012....and beyond?

If you read Part I of this series, you know the thought process that went into our decision to not have our children date, but pursue courtship.

The problem was, once that decision was made, none of us really knew what it meant.  Rainman, D-man, and I sat down and tried to come up with a list of rules and what it really meant, but we stumbled and didn't really know what we were doing.  We didn't even really know how to tell people about it.  It doesn't really come up very casually in conversations.

This is where the next book I received to review comes in.

Of Knights and Fair Maidens by Jeff and Danielle Myers and published by Grace and Truth Books led us clearly to all of the answers we needed.

Can we just talk about God being thematic with me again for a moment?

From Grace and Truth's website talking about the book:

Jeff and Danielle were determined to do things differently. So, before the era of "True Love Waits" or the writing of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, they interviewed married couples to discover the keys to a successful courtship. They applied these principles in their own relationship and later, wrote this humorous, heart-warming book. 15 years later, they have re-released an updated version of this classic, which has given tens of thousands of young couples honest and straightforward counsel about the best way to prepare for marriage.

"Jeff and Danielle prove that God's plan for relationships is not out of date or old-fashioned - it's for the adventurous, courageous and most importantly, romantic Christian single who wants God's best in relationships and marriage."
-- Joshua Harris, Senior Pastor, Covenant Life Church, Gaithersburg, MD and author of well-known books on courtship

Did you catch that? They mention the book again. There is a quote by the author of the book.

So, here is what I loved, loved, loved about the book, Of Knights and Fair Maidens.

It tells us how to do courtship in 2012, not 1912.

The Myers tell about the way they met each other, how they decided that God had a different way of coming together in mind for Christians, other than dating. With....get article....written by an 18 year old.....Joshua Harris before he wrote the book Kiss Dating Goodbye!

The best part is they give specifics on how it can be done, how to get parents involved, what to say if someone asks you out on a date, and even ideas on what to do when you are trying to get to know someone better.

Real. Specific. Usable stuff. Real life examples.

In a really small (about 100 pages) hardcover book. A super easy read. It is an interview style book with questions and then answers given by both Jeff and Danielle. The original article that Joshua Harris wrote, and they both read (separately) which started them on the path to courtship, is included at the back of the book.

Jeff is now president of Summit Ministries. Go take a look at that organization and see what they are up to. Look at Jeff and Danielle and their family. They don't look Amish or old fashioned. They are cool. They are hip. They hike in the mountains with their four kids. She even wears pants.

You can get a copy of Knights and Fair Maidens for $9.75 or an ebook version for $6.50. If you want to start with more of the "why?" behind courtship, where I did, with Joshua Harris' Kiss Dating Goodbye, they sell that too.

Grace and Truth Books  has free shipping on orders of $49or more (if you are thinking Chistmas stuff yet) and has a Scratch and Dent and a Bargain section that is worth spending some time digging around in.

Grace and Truth Books gave the review crew some other books to review on different topics. Take a look and see what books they read and what they thought.

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of Of Knights and Fair Maidens for free, in exchange for an honest review.

Knights and Fair Maidens - Part I

I have a houseful of little people who want to be knights and fair maidens.


The boys aren't always gentlemen around here and the ladies...well.....sometimes they aren't so lady-like either.  But, we are working on it.

But, before we start talking about the book that I recently got to review, available through Grace and Truth books, called Of Knights and Fair Maidens, I have to back up a  bit and delve into a potentially sensitive subject.  My actual review of that book  will be Part II of Knights and Fair Maidens.


Teenage dating. 

Should it be the same among Christians as it is among non-believers?

This subject is one that has been heavy on my mind lately, probably because my oldest is in high school now....and quite handsome....if I do say so myself!

(Ha!  Nice mustache, dude!)

It really seemed like everytime I turned around last summer and early fall, there was a speaker talking about dating, books would be recommended on dating, someone would reference a book on dating when I was reading about a totally different subject.

In my Sunday School class, we are studying the book, Discerning the Voice of God, by Priscilla Shirer.  To summarize the book....a lot, it talks about how to recognize when God is trying to talk to you....there is a portion of the book where the author states, if God is getting thematic with you, then you probably better listen.

There was definitely a theme going on. 

Really, it was almost laughable.  I could be reading a homeschool planning book, an old planning book that was handed down to me from someone who hasn't homeschooled in 4 or 5 years....and the author would mention a particular book....just out of the blue.

Someone on the radio would talk about this particular book.

I would be reading a blog....for a recipe.....and this book would be mentioned.

It went on and on.

Now, people, listen to me.....they all mentioned the same book.

Yes, I finally gave in and called up the book on-line and ordered it.

It was called, Kiss Dating Goodbye, by Joshua Harris.

So, what does it mean to Kiss Dating Goodbye?  To very briefly summarize, it is to give up dating and by doing so, being able to discover that God has something even better--a life of sincere love, true purity, and purposeful singleness.....until you are ready for marriage.

Yikes!  What?!?

It is a weird concept in todays society.  Why not go out and have fun with as many people as you can.  No one is hurt, right?  Well, speaking from experience....someone is always hurt.

In using myself as an example, I remember being obsessed with wanting a boyfriend....wanting to be partnered up....wanting someone to walk me to the bus...and kiss me.....wanting to be asked to the dances....wanting to be asked out....yet terrified that someone might actually do it. 

I mean, it overtook my mind.  School work?  Huh?  What did it matter?  I wanted to be wearing the right outfit with my hair just bangs just big enough to catch someone's attention, my eyeliner just thick enough. 

Honestly, I did okay in school, grade wise....but I didn't really apply myself.  I wonder how I could have done if my thoughts were on the future instead of the present and the cute boy sitting behind me.

The obsession with wanting to be paired up went on into adulthood and is how I ended up in my first marriage.  He liked me.  He really liked me.  It didn't really matter that I didn't really like him that much.  He wanted me.  He proposed within 6 weeks.  Everyone around me told me to watch out for him.  I rushed through.  I was old....I mean, I was 24....all of my friends were already married and starting families.  I'm sure this will work out fine.  He will change after we get married.  Rolling on the floor laughing

I will save you all the gory details.  But, I should have listened to my family and the voice in my head (even as I was walking down the aisle) that this was not the one for me.

So many times throughout my teen and young adult years, I changed myself for whatever guy happened to be around.  If he didn't like all the attention I got when I sang....well, okay....I won't sing then. 

If he thought I went to church too often....well, okay....I guess I don't need to be that involved. 

If he wanted me to drink like his buddys girlfriend did, so I didn't seem like such a stick in the mud....well, okay.....pass the White Russian.  (Seriously, do not under any circumstance pass the White Russian....even the smell of them now....makes me sick Sick smile.  You don't want to know that story either.)

In Kiss Dating Goodbye, it talks about all of these things....but mostly talks about the fact that God gave you gifts and talents so you could use them...not hide them.  It got me to thinking about my kids.

They do have unique gifts and talents.  I don't want them to be dimmed or diminished for anyone.  I want them to be developed and nurtured and then used.  I don't want a boy or girl to come along and distract them from that development.  I want them to come along at the right time in their life, and support their talents and have talents and gifts of their own to share with the world.

So, the basic premise of this book is, yes, be friends with the opposite sex, you don't have to avoid them like the plague, but don't couple up....don't even be alone with the opposite sex, even if they are really nice and you met them in the church youth group.  (Even those "too early" relationships with nice young people end in drama, emotional turmoil, or going farther than you intended....but mostly, they just distract you from becoming the best you there is.)

Because, really, the ultimate point of dating is you shouldn't do it until you are ready for marriage.  Which means after you have finished your education and you have an actual job.

That is an astonishing thing to think about, isn't it.  It even sounds kind of crazy and unrealistic, I know.

Anyway, I read that book.  Identified with so many parts of it.  Identified with how I wished things had been in my life.  Identified with the hurt and pain from meeting the perfect boy at Vennard Bible College who thought I was perfect for him our freshman year and then decided in our sophomore year that the new, cute little red headed freshman, was perfect for him (which apparently she was....they are still married and have 4 beautiful children).  Identified with all the stupid mistakes I made with men after Mr. Perfect moved on. 

Identified with not really knowing who I was or my purpose in life.

The book spoke to me way deep down.  I asked Rainman if he would read it so we could talk about it.  I was afraid of what he would say or think.

His take on the book was much the same as mine, overall, with one difference.  He said, "Well, that is basically how I did things.  I knew I wanted to get married.  There were girls that I liked through the years, but I knew they weren't anyone I could marry, so we just stayed friends.  I wasn't trying not to date or anything, but I wasn't just out looking for a good time."

So, he went to school, went to graduate school, got a job, bought a house, went on vacations, played on the softball team, got involved in church, then, one night, he answered a sales call where someone told him about a match-making service called Together.

He was 35 when we met and 36 when we got married.  He was purposefully single.....until his dream woman (yes, me....) came along.  Send a kiss  He wasn't sitting home twiddling his thumbs or bemoaning the fact that he didn't have a woman.  He was living life.  He was having fun.  He was being adventurous.  He was spending time with his family.  He was getting lots of good practice at being a father with his nieces and nephews. 

Purposefully single.

Okay, now we move down to our teenagers, because by this point, Rainman and I are both thinking that this path is the one we want our kids to take.  Yes, I am talking about that word:  Courtship.

It sounds so old fashioned, and Duggar-ish, I know.  But, based on our separate and very different pasts....Rainman and I both felt that this was the best for the kids.  The only problem was how to convince them and not have it be something forced upon them by their mean, old fashioned, living in the past, parents.

So, I assigned the book to D-man (and eventually A-girl) for school.  I tried not to talk to him too much about what I had thought when I read it, but once he started, he knew that these were some of the things he and I had been sort of talking about for a while (even before I realized God was getting thematic with me).  When he finished the book, I asked him to write a paper outlining the pros and cons of dating versus courtship and then to state his opinion.

Without printing his whole paper here, apparently God was speaking to him too, and he came down on the courtship side of the equation (but didn't want to call it that).

On to A-girl, who remember is only 12.....but, you have seen her new picture on the top of my header?

That is why I had her read the book. 

She was a much more reluctant reader (literally and figuratively).  She didn't want that to be another way we were weird homeschoolers.  Then, she ended up taking the book with her a few times when we were going to be out and about for other kids activities during the day.  People saw what she was reading.  By people, I mean other teenage girls. 

One of them had already read the book and said that this was the way her family thought too.  The other girl is a friend of A-girls from church and is a junior in high school.  Older and cool.  She hadn't read the book, but was so excited about it and said that she also was thinking along those lines....and they ended up having a talk about purity.

Can I get an amen for the right kind of peer pressure?

Okay, so just in case I haven't made myself clear, our family is going to pursue a courtship model of dating for our kids.  The news is out.  Spread the word.  We are weird.  We are okay with that.

The problem is: What does that mean in 2012? 

How do you court in this day and age?

Come back for Part II of Knights and Fair Maidens and find out!