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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

What Makes a Fish a Fish?

We got a fun DVD to review that is part of a series called Dive Into Your Imagination. 

The DVD we got was  What Makes a Fish a Fish?

I let A-man pick which one from the series that we wanted to watch, because he is in the targeted age range of 1st through 3rd grades, and, he is the most obsessed with under water things. 

Well, okay, not "things".....just sharks.

The other titles available in this series are:

Who Lives In The Sea?
Dive Into Diversity

These movies were filmed and narrated by Annie Crawley.  Annie has been an underwater photographer, dive instructor and boat captain for more than 15 years.  There is a lot more to her than those few descriptive words and she is available for speaking engagements.  Go take a look around her website and see everything she has done.  It is pretty impressive.

The DVD is fun to just watch, because it is amazing at what lives under the sea.......makes me think of Sebastian.....

Just look at the world around you
Right here on the ocean floor

Such wonderful things surround you
What more are you looking for

Under the sea, under the sea
Darlin’ it’s better
Down where it’s wetter,
Take it from me

Up on the shore they work all day
Out in the sun they slave away

While we devotin’
Full time to floatin’
Under the sea


      (Courtesy of Disney and The Little Mermaid)

Like I said, the DVDs are fun to watch.  Fascinating.  Beautiful.  Creepy sometimes.

But, this being a homeschool family, we have to take things a bit further and do some learning along with our watching.

That is why it was so great that an Educator's Guide came along with the DVD.  Although, I will admit, much of it is geared toward an actual classroom setting....I am used to adapting things for use at home, so it wasn't a big issue for me.

And, let me tell you, they packed the learning opportunities in like sardines!

Before I tell you about those, let me start with Ocean Annie's (aka Annie Crawley) golden rule of scuba diving and of life:

“If you get excited, remember to:

 Stop, Think, Breathe slowly and then Act!"

Isn't that awesome advice? It is actually quite useful to this mother of six.....everyday.

So, the Educator's Guide says this....

It is our goal that you use the ocean to engage your students to learn English,

Science, Geography, Communication Skills, Math and Character Education.

Honestly, when I read that, I thought, um, yeah, right....we are going to be able to teach all of that from watching fish.  (Insert sarcastic tone above, as necessary)

But, you know what?  I was surprised.  They actually did and it made sense.

Did you know that Scuba divers use math and physics to calculate dive time and depth limits?

I know.  Once you hear it, it makes total sense.

(Sort of like when I learned that Rainman was a meteorologist.....for an airline.  Never thought about airlines needing weatherman before....but once I heard made total sense.)

The DVD is arrange in chapters, each chapter has a corresponding lesson in the Educator's Guide. You are supposed to watch one chapter of the DVD and then work through the activities.  Rebels that we are, we watched the whole thing first (it was just too fascinating)....then we went back and did each chapter and its activities. 
Each unit in the guide provides several learning station activities, they suggest choosing 2-3 of them for use at a time.  By several....they mean....a lot.  Really.  Just choose a couple.

There is one thing that I thought was kind of cool in the Educator's Guide, that I had never seen available before with other DVDs......

The text/transcript from the DVD is provided so you can select words or review content as needed for use with your kids.  They suggest that you could even have them practice reading the script and then create their own story based on the script.

Love their disclaimer too:

Please note that a script for a DVD is not necessarily grammatically correct, if reviewing from a language/literacy point of view.  Scripts are created so they sound correct to the listener.

Isn't that funny?  Maybe just to a homeschooler.  I don't think most people think that way.  Most people would just watch the movie....not try to use it to teach language and literacy!
Back to the learning activities you can do with the DVD.  There are simple options, like coloring pages and identifying what makes a fish a fish or things like word scrambles and seek and find. 

But, there are things sprinkled in that older students would enjoy and learn from too.  They can write about where in the ocean their fish might live: cold or warm water; a coral reef or kelp forest; deep water or get the idea.  Or, the one I would like to try.... Bioremediation Observations on methods used to clean up an oil spill (that you create in a bowl for them).
There are fun math activities - like using rainbow colored gold fish....separating them....then counting them....then adding purple plus yellow fish, purple plus yellow plus lots of word problems relating to the world beneath the sea.
Each unit chapter has the usual stuff, overview, general concepts, vocabulary words to know, discussion questions....but it also has a character development word that the lesson focuses on:

Seriously, they relate every single one of those character traits to what is going on in the DVD.  Really.

There is also section in each chapter on "Ocean Annies How to Help Our Environment"....with suggestions for projects you can do to help the environment.  More information is available at Save Our Seas. 

If you have a future deep sea diver living in your midst, you can even give them a head start on some of the basics, because there is a whole section at the end of the guide where they cover Scuba basics....hand signals....being with a buddy...the equipment needed and what it does....

Oh, and for you moms that are like me out there.  There is a teacher key included that has the answers to all the activity questions.

You can get a copy of What Makes a Fish a Fish? for $19.95

The Educator's Guide will soon be available for purchase ($69.95 for individual guides or $299 for the complete set of guides for all the DVDs).

Buuuuutttttt......right now, blog readers and followers of The Old Schoolhouse or The Homeschool Crew can receive the educator guides free with the purchase of the DVDs. Just mention that you are a homeschool parent when you order the DVDs!

So? What does make a fish a fish?

I am so glad you asked....because I know the answer now!

In order to be a fish, an animal must live primarily in the water, be a vertebrate (with a skeleton), use gills to breathe, have fins for propulsion....and a mouth.

I know.

Never thought about making sure it had a mouth before.

Take a look and see what other TOS crew members thought of Dive Into Your Imagination DVDs.

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of What Makes a Fish a Fish? and the download for the Educator's Guide for free in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Write Shop

I haven't really used a full ("real") writing curriculum for any of my younger kids.  We have just kind of done the few writing assignments that are included in their regular language arts curriculum and then we usually add in a book report or something here and there.....but with no real plan.

I wanted to try an actual writing program to see what would happen.  Then, maybe when they got old and were assigned bigger writing programs, they wouldn't have the deer in the headlights kind of reaction for the first few times.

We got the chance to review a program called WriteShop an incremental writing curriculum that can be used from K - 12.

We used Write Shop Junior Book D, designed for 3rd and 4th grades. 

L-girl, who is in 4th grade, and I worked through this together.  This is definitely a program that you work through with your child....not an independent resource.

I started with the Teacher's Guide and confirmed that I had chosen the correct level for L-girl.  Then it guided me through creating a plan to incorporate this into our lesson plan/schedule.  You can choose from a three week plan or a two week plan to work through one lesson.  We chose the two week plan because L-girl is a go-getter when it comes to her school work.  She is the first one up in the mornings and jumps right into her lessons - usually before she even has breakfast!

One thing that we didn't do that is suggested in the Teacher's Guide was to create a writing center.  It suggests having a clean, organized place set aside for writing.  It talks about this (fictional) place encouraging creativity and will be helpful in developing good work habits for my writers.

Well.  I think that sounds awesome.  I would like a nice, quiet, creativity inducing  writing center for me.  But, in our house (which is NOT a mansion) with six kids and a mom and dad that is not happening. 

I figure I am preparing my kids really well for life in the dorms when they get to college.  There will be noise and chaos and people being obnoxious.  Those poor kids that had a quiet, peaceful study environment at home won't know what to do with themselves.  My kids, on the other hand....will breeze through like it is nothing.  Your welcome, kids.

Back to the writing center though.....the book did have some good ideas that I will having a separate dictionary and things specifically for writing work set aside...not just floating around somewhere in your house for school assignments.....maybe in a plastic storage bin or something that is just dedicated to writing and can be moved around to your writing center.

L-girl and I both had a favorite thing about Write Shop Junior, Book D.  The Fold-N-Go grammar packs. 

Basically, there are miniature reference guides for grammar.  You cut them out and put them together yourself, just using old manila folders.  See how they are put together....

.....with each page behind a little bit you can see the title of the page.  They are helpful.  They are colorful.  They are smaller than a usual reference book.  Much smaller.

We really liked the Fold-N-Go grammar packs.  I can see keeping those around even as she gets older.  Honestly, I could see myself grabbing one to double check that my own grammar and usage is correct.  Here is what they cover:

  1. Punctuation Marks
  2. Self-editing (this one is great and has proof reading markings)
  3. Nouns
  4. Pronouns
  5. Verbs
  6. Adjectives
  7. Adverbs
  8. Prepositions
  9. Capitalization
  10. References

This was a fun product to try out.  The activities were fun and visual.  I like that.  I think I could have tried the next level up for L-girl because many of the things that we worked on she already had a pretty good grasp on from our normal school.  If you want to try this but aren't sure where to place your child, here is some good information on helping you choose the right level.

I could see that this would be well suited for a reluctant writer in this age range.  Actually, I think the whole program would work really well for a child who is a reluctant writer because the lessons are not plain and simple....."sit your butt down and write something"....kinds of lessons.  The activities are fun and the Fold-N-Go sheets are brief and colorful.

The Write Shop website is pretty helpful too.  They have a Parent's Corner that has articles and other resources to help you feel more comfortable teaching writing.  There is also a Kid's Corner that has everything from games to writing prompts to writing contests for them to be a part of. 

The one thing I didn't like was the design of the activity pack.  It is designed like a two sided stack of construction paper.  So, as we were ripping out the things we needed.....other things further back in the pack just sort of fell out.   

Write Shop Junior, Book D Activity Pack student book is available for $39.95.  The Teacher's Guide is also available for $39.95.  And, the the Time Saver pack is available for $13.95. 

The Time Saver pack is just what is says.  It is filled (20 pages) with the stuff (like spinners and cards) you need for the activities already printed on card stock. 

If this program sounds like something you would like, I can get you a great deal! 

WriteShop has offered a coupon code for 15% off any WriteShop Primary or Junior product from the WriteShop store valid until June 15, 2012. Enter the code CREW15 at checkout.

Still not sure?  Go take a look at a sample lesson and see if you think it would be a good fit for your family.  If you decide to try it, don't forget the coupon code is CREW15.

Go take a look and see what other TOS crew members thought of Write Shop for different age levels.

Disclaimer:  I received Write Shop Junior Book D, Teacher's Guide, Activity Pack and Time Saver pack for free in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


What a mouthful, huh?

Guess what this is a review for?  Wait, I just ended that sentence with a preposition, didn't I?

So, let's go out on a limb and announce that this isn't a review for a language arts program.

CapJaxMathFax is a math drill program.

Meet Captain Jack....or Cap Jax.....


This program is a software that drills your kid's knowledge of math facts, without you having to flash cards at them. 

We used this for A-man, L-Girl and A-Girl....and I did a few just to see how fast I could be.  I am happy to say that I sailed smoothly through my addition and subtraction levels.

This really is just a fun way for your kids to really get their math facts memorized and quickly accessible.  I remember my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Toll, and our endless parade of flash cards with the entire classroom.....this is waaaaaay more fun than that!

It is not a fancy program.  It does not have fancy graphics or fancy characters to help lead the kids to math mastery.

It is just good old Cap Jax leaning on his chalkboard (yes.....chalk board....not white board.....gotta love that little retro touch!) and a space in the middle of the page where the math facts appear.

Along the edges you can see how you can pick what you want to work on, the level, how many facts per session, etc.  There is also a way you can just play for practice and not play for a rating.  Along the other side, you can see the summary details of how you have done for each selection.  The T-score is the total of all your ratings.

It isn't fancy, but it is effective.

So, do we like this program?


I mean, in theory, my kids are not crazy about sitting down and doing math again on the computer.  This is a supplement....not an "instead of" product.  So, they are doing this in addition to their regular math lessons.

 But, once they sit down, they are hooked. They try to beat their scores and their speed per answer.

I love it because there is virtually nothing I have to do.  As their website says, "Little teacher time or effort is required, but interest and encouragement are vital."  I have interest and encouragement coming out my ears. 

I also love that when you are done playing and want to exit the game you just press the "Bail" button.  Don't know why....but I just think it is funny.

This, to me, is just a good, no-nonsense, math supplement for the kids.  It will help them well into their adult years if they can get those basic facts memorized and are able to actually access the information when they are in the grocery store.  Mrs. Toll's flashcards are beginning to fade from my memory a bit these days.  I need some help!  Come on kids!

You can get this program by either a software download for $29.95 or there is a CD version available that will cost you a bit more than that to cover shipping costs.

Not sure if you understand the program or whether you will like it? 

You can try a free evaluation of it before you decide. 

See what other TOS crew members thought about CapJaxMathFax.

Disclaimer:  I received a software download version of CapJaxMathFax for free in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Go Science

That title makes me want to burst into cheerleader speak.

"Go, Go  Science, Go, Go, Go Science!" 

Imagine me doing an excellent hurkey right there.  (Actually, my sister, Karen, always had the best hurkey imagine her instead.) 

In case you are new to my page, we are sort of a weird homeschooling family.  Some of the things we do for fun are shall we say, a bit nerdy?

This one sounds like one of those things only a weird homeschooling family would enjoy....but you would be wrong.  This is something I think every family would have fun with.

Go Science is a series of videos distributed by Library and Educational Services.

Library and Educational Service is a wholesaler for books, CD, and DVDs.  They sell to libraries, churches, schools, missionaries, day care centers....and homeschoolers.

The Go Science DVDs are definitely science videos that do not ignore God.  In each demonstration, the host/instructor has a spiritual application as to how this "science" relates to God and how He created our world. 

The host/instructor in these videos is Ben Roy.  He has served as an elementary and middle school principal and teacher, earning the “Teacher of the Year” award for the Gordon County School System in Georgia. He has teacher certifications for both Tennessee and Georgia, and designs all his shows to implement state science objectives.

The back of DVD box explains that he currently teaches science methods at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. 

Oh, and it also describes him as high energy.

I would say that is definitely accurate.

Think of the most excited, happy, Vacation Bible School leader you have ever seen...then multiply that by 10 or so....and you have..... Ben Roy.

Honestly though, he really isn't too irritating in his exuberance.  He just comes across as someone who really loves science.  Here, watch him and see for yourself.

We were able to choose two DVDs to review.  We chose Volume 2, Simple Machines, Sound and Weather,

and, Volume 5, Air Flight.

These videos are recommended for ages 6 to 14.  But again, our younger kids (V-girl and S-girl thought they were fun to watch)....although I am fairly sure that they did NOT grasp the scientific concepts being taught.

I enjoyed them too and I am a bit over the recommended age range.

The DVDs have about 12-14 science demonstrations on them for a total run time of about an hour each.

These are great little DVDs.  Some of the concepts we have studied in school and I know we will pull these out the next time those concepts come up in future years.  Mr. Roy does such a good job of explaining why things happen the way they do.  He does not go into great scientific detail...but he does explain the basics.  So, this couldn't be used as an actual curriculum, but it is a great supplement for a full science curriculum that explains all of the hows and whys.

The only thing I don't like about the DVDs is the woosh of music that they play between demonstrations.  It is loud.  Louder than the demonstration sections.

It is sort of like commercials on T.V.  You know what I mean?  You have the volume set perfectly to hear everything that is going on in your show....then the commercial comes and blasts your eardrums?  The in between music/sound is a little like that.  Annoying, but not enough to make me stop watching the demonstrations.  I pretty much just comment every time it happens, "Wow, that is annoying, isn't it?" anyone who happens to be around.

There are six DVDs in this series and they are available through Library and Educational Services for $8.97 each, or $47.95 for the entire set.

Check out the other titles available in this series and some of the other things available through Library and Educational Services.

Other crew members got a chance to review other titles in this series.  Go take a look and see what they thought.

Disclaimer:  I received 2 DVDs in the Go Science series for free in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Judah Bible Curriculum

We have been reviewing another Bible curriculum around here.  I recently told you about this one

 Now we are working on Judah Bible Curriculum, an on-line curriculum.

My Dad would have really liked this one.

From their website:

The Judah Bible Curriculum is a "Principle Approach" ( Principle Approach refers to a philosophy of education whose content and methods are designed to build character in teacher and student capable of sustaining liberty) Bible curriculum whose distinctives are the following:
  • The BIBLE is the textbook. The student studies and learns the Bible.
  • The student learns God's purpose in history, studying the hand of God in the lives of men and nations through the Bible.
  • The student develops his reasoning ability, helping him to apply Biblical principles personally.
  • The curriculum helps you shift from rote learning to Biblical reasoning.
  • The student learns the relationship between the sovereignty of God and the personal responsibility of the individual.
  • The student learns the relationship between individual character and national liberty

I have never heard of the Principle Approach before, so all of this was new to me.

Here are some things that the author wants you to keep in mind as you use this curriculum:

1. The hand of God in History
2. The hand of God in the life of the individual
3. Christian self-government
4. Individual Christian character and national liberty

So, how did it work at our house?

It was good....and, not so good. 

I love that it uses the Bible as the text. 

But, on the down side, it was a lot of work for me.

To get me started, I got a 100-page K-12 Manual download as well as 8 hours of audio lessons in mp3 format for me to listen to. So, I read the manual and then logged onto their website and listened to some audio recordings that you are supposed to listen to before jumping into the curriculum.  (I did not listen to all 8 hours of lessons.)

Around here, it is really hard for me to listen to....or watch anything uninterrupted.  So, that in itself was a challenge. 

I think the basic point was to teach me, as a student,, then I could turn around and teach my kids.  But, it was just harder than I thought it would be.....or maybe I should say, harder than I needed it to be.....right now.

I did pick up some interesting things from the audio training:

The job of the Home is to train your character.

The job of your Church is to train your conscience.

The job of the Government is to protect individual liberty and property.

This course focuses on 5 themes and what is happening governmentally throughout the Bible.

The five themes are:
1.  Creation
2.  Redemption
3.  Kingdom of Israel
4.  Kingdom of God
5.  Early Church

The goal of this type of curriculum is to help students learn how to extract material from the text. (A good thing for any subject, in my opinion)

Do not ask what the author wants me to do, but what does God want me to do.

Again, I think this was designed so, first, the teacher learns how to dig deep and delve into the Bible....and then, in theory, inspires that same goal of digging deep and delving into the Bible in my children.

Click here if you want to know Judah Bible Curriculum's Statement of Faith.

Here is a video clip explaining what they call  the "American Philosphy of Government" used in this curriculum. Based on the idea that there are three philosophies of government.  God is sovereign, the State is sovereign,   and the individual is sovereign.  This is also based on the idea that we all have our own  philosphy of government and that is what guides our of of the three directions.....God is sovereign.....the State is sovereign.....or the individual is sovereign......which then forms our ultimate character. 

Make sense?

I think it will after you watch this video.

This curriculum also provides basic worksheets called Key Sheets that outlines a few "key"....

1.  Events
2.  People
3.  Institutions
4.  Documents the different passages of study......for each theme.

Each "key" is studied with a view towards identifying the hand of God, the character of God, and the place of that key in His purpose for history.

You focus on one key each week starting with the Bible.  Then, you expand that and use commentaries, concordances, Bible handbooks, Bible dictionaries, maps, timelines, encyclopedia, and other reference material you may find.  

You also include memory verses in your lessons.  For littler kids, you can include coloring pages and simpler activities.  The students (and the teacher) also keep a Bible notebook of information that they are studying, notes to themselves, memory verses, etc

From their website:

 The purpose of the notebook is to produce something of value and develop character qualities of creativity, productivity, excellence and organization, to be a producer not a consumer. The purpose is production, not paper storage.

There is a Scope and Sequence where they have spelled out how to divide the studies up in different grades. 

Okay, here is the part where I make a confession.

I like a curriculum where I don't necessarily have to think.....or put a lot of prep time into preparing lessons.

There, I said it.

I know. 

When we are talking about Bible, it seems kind of lazy for me to complain about having to do work so we can study the Bible.

But, that is sort of what I am doing......complaining.....well, maybe not complaining.  It is probably more like whining.

I said right away that I know my Dad would have loved this curriculum.  It was the kind of Bible study he did.  Deep.  Well thought out.  Using all sorts of other historical information to bring meaning and understanding to the scriptures.

He spent a lot of time studying the Bible.  A lot.  He had notes, cross references, and lines on probably every single page of his Bible.

So, while I loved the idea of this curriculum in theory.  It didn't work so much in my everyday life.....maybe because we have 6 kids.  I think it would have been easier to manage with a smaller household.

But, most likely it just didn't work for us because of  selfish reasons.  I didn't take the time to delve into it like I should have so the kids and I could have dug through the Bible bit by bit together.  We just sort of scratched the surface and I felt like I was missing the point.

I also think that I had problems doing that because we are in the middle of a school year.  My plan, right now, is that I will take some time this summer and see if I can't get a better handle on Judah Bible Curriculum philosophy and approach, and decide how I can lay it out for our family before our structured classes begin next year.

I think we may have a shot at it succeeding that way.

So, if I haven't scared you off and you are interested in checking this out, here are the prices:

A hard copy is available for $69.00, plus 5.00 shipping and handling    Total $74.00.

 For that price, you get:
1) Judah Bible Curriculum K-12 Manual;
2) Elementary Notebook Ideas booklet;
3) Eight-lecture Teacher Training Seminar on CDs.

(I think I may have done better with the actual hard copy.  There is something about pouring through a manual that you can't get pouring over one on your screen.)

Or, you can get on-line access/ebook:  Total $44.00.   

For that price, you get:
1) Judah Bible Curriculum K-12 Manual, e-book format to download;
2) Elementary Notebook Ideas booklet to view online or download;
3) Eight-lecture Teacher Training Seminar. listen online or download.

I think this curriculum would work well with a parent who has the time to follow through with all the prep material before jumping into it.  I haven't given up yet.  Like I said, I love the idea of this curriculum, but felt unprepared and like I was missing things because of the way I sort of shoved it into the middle of our school plans.

Go see what other TOS reviewers thought of the Judah Bible Curriculum.

Disclaimer:  I received on-line access to the audio lessons, and the downloadable Judah Bible Curriculum manual for free in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Route 66.....Oops!

We left Hartley, TX and headed to our next destination Route 66.  The last time we took the Route 66 vacation, we started in California and headed east.  So this time, we started in the east and headed west. 

Apparently, that will mess with your sense of direction.

We stopped and had lunch at the Route 66 Diner in Albuquerque, NM.  We stopped here last time and it was such really great diner food that we wanted to stop again.  I wanted to stop just for the shakes.

This one's for you, Mom!

After lunch we again headed out on Route 66....but this portion of Route 66 wasn't quite as clearly marked.  But, no worries, we had our guide books from last time.  I reclined my seat and dozed a bit.....remember.....the shake. 

It was sunny.  My belly was full. I was just relaxing.

Then, Rainman asked me whether I thought the area looked familiar.....because he didn't.

Well, I took a look around.  Not sure how he expected me to remember countryside from 4 years ago.  Give me a house or an interesting building and yes, I can recall that.  But, rocks and desert-y stuff....nope. 

Kind of all looks the same to me. 

But, he kept saying that it didn't really look familiar to him....but we drove on anyway.  He would say things like:

"I am sure back at that railroad crossing I was supposed to head this way."

Still driving.

"Hmmm, you would think that they would have these roads better marked, wouldn't you?"

Still driving.

"I don't sort of looks familiar, doesn't it?"

Yet, we still drove onward.

We have one of those guidebooks that gives you point by point directions on how to stay on Route 66....even the old beaten up historic parts.  That is what Rainman thought we were doing.  Following the Historic Route 66 that didn't run along with the freeway.

Let me repeat myself, that is what he thought he had done.

It wasn't.

I was trying to find the right page in the guidebook.  He was throwing questions at me about what I was seeing.  But, since neither one of us knew where we were, it wasn't working.

Finally, I, kindly suggested that we pull over and he take a look at a map.  Okay, honestly, I wasn't all that kind....I was sort of snarky and sarcastic (more on that in a future post).

But, when we found a spot to park and look at our maps, we found a hidden gem.

There was a little pull out area that had a little hiking path. 

It was gorgeous.

Plus, we think some of these rock formations are in the movie, Cars.  See in the background?  Remember some of the scenery of the mountains around Radiator Springs?  They were front hoods of old cars.....I think this is what inspired them.

Aren't my big girls looking......well.....old?

We met this cute little crunchy, granola couple and their 2 kids.  Their son was about 2 years old and named Vonnegut.  Their newborn daughter who had the most hair I have ever seen on a newborn was named Francis.  I didn't get pictures of them (not sure how to get permission to do that and not be considered a psycho).....but believe me, they were cute!

The only bad part of this unschedule detour on our trip was that S-girl broke the strap on her crocs.

This truly was one of those times where we took a wrong turn and we all ended up happy about it. 

It was sort of like a little gift to us.  The scenery was spectacular.  I love the pictures we took.  We got a chance to stretch our legs.  We met cute little crunchy, granola children.

Check out A-man's pose in the back.

God really created some beautiful things, didn't he? 

The best part?

You get to enjoy them even if you are a snarky and sarcastic wife.  He is just that good!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

My Own Personal Library...Sigh....

Do you love your library?  I have always loved to read.  Really, I would much rather read than do most anything. 

In Minnesota, I loved our library system.  Good old Anoka County Library

It had diverse books available.  There were little satellite libraries located all over, so you were never more than 5 or 10 minutes away from one.  They borrowed books from each other.....even from other counties in the state.  You could have them checked out for 3 weeks at a time.  It was easy to renew your books on-line, if needed.  But, don't get me will just make me sad.

Georgia does have a library system.  But, it isn't the same as what I was used to in Minnesota.  I was spoiled up there. 

Really, really spoiled.

I now skip the library altogether, unless there is something we absolutely need for school.  It is not a pleasant experience for me....or the kids.  They were spoiled too.  We just didn't know it at the time.

Being a homeschool family and having a few readers in our bunch.  We have a lot of books around here.  A lot of books.

For the older grades in school, we have gone to a more literature based approach to study.  Which  means we have bought a lot more books so we have them here when we need them, and without having a 2 week timeline to get them back to the library.

I love it.  It makes me happy to have all these books around.

But, there are two problems with this approach.

The first problem is storage.  I dream of a house that has built in, wall to wall bookshelves so I could actually arrange my books like a library.....altogether, in the same room - not spread out on various bookshelves throughout the house.


Probably won't happen.

The second problem with the approach of just buying books is that it gets mighty expensive.

I can help do something about this problem.

I was asked to review a website, rather than a product this time.

The website is called, The Homeschool Library Builder.  Their tagline is "Help Fill Your Bookshelves, Without Emptying Your Wallet."

Just what I need.  Dave Ramsey would be proud.

They have both new and used books for you to choose from.

Even if you are working with a literature based curriculum (which usually has a package of all the books you need - you don't have to search them out, but it gets really expensive), you can use the Homeschool Library Builder to get all the books you need for less money.

You can search on their website by curricula, fiction, non-fiction, age, award winners.....I think you get the idea.

They even have a Helping Hand section.  All proceeds from this section of the website go to support a Compassion International child. 

If you have some books in mind that you would like to add to  your collection, even if you don't homeschool, go take a look around and see if you can find what you need.  I am pretty sure it will be at a better price that most other places.

Right now they are offering 25% off all items for the month of May

Go take a look. 

You can become a member for free.  Free, I said! 

This just means that they will let you know about  upcoming sales.  (Apparently their big Super Bowl Sale (40% off) is something.)  Being a member also allows you to earn points back for future purchases.  This means that you earn one Book Point for each dollar you spend on merchandise. Fifteen Book Points equal $1 in your account to use toward future purchases.  One more thing they can do, is, if you need a hard to find book, they are happy to search for it so you don't have to.

Really, since the membership is free you have nothing to lose.

If you want to see what other TOS reviewers thought of the Homeschool Library Builder, just click here.  But, remember, we are all sort of weird homeschoolers who get excited about books!

Disclaimer:  I was asked to review this website as part of the TOS crew and I received no compensation for my opinion.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Loreto on the Plains

After our almost fire, we traveled to a little town called, Hartley, to visit with my friend Debbie's aunt and uncle.  They moved to Texas to start a personal care home.....sort of like a nursing home. 

It is called Loreto on the Plains.   We had never met Nan and Ed, but they welcomed us in like we were long lost relatives.  After a bit of confusion about our family being there at the same time as a group of prisoners that were working on painting the "guest house", we sat down and had a meal with them and just visited.  It was nice.

Loreto on the Plains is nice.  It is small.  Like a home.  They have, 3 residents staying with them.  It really is like a home.  They call it "The Home That Faith Built".

They felt that God had called them to build this home and to go into this kind of respect for life ministry.  They didn't have any training in this field. They didn't have the finances to make something like this a reality.  But, they stepped out in faith and went ahead with plans.  They got the training they needed and, through many volunteer hours and donors.....

They succeeded.

My friend, Debbie, and her siblings, donated the beautiful rose front door, in memory of her parents.

Our family spent the day helping out at the house.  Rainman and most of the kids jumped in and helped with some landscape projects outdoors, while A-girl and I helped with kitchen and inside duties.  It was hot.  A-girl and I definitely got the better end of the deal.

Thanks, Nan and Ed for making us feel welcome despite the fact that you were obviously really busy.

If you want more information about their ministry, you can go check out their website.  Loreto on the Plains.

When it was time for us to take off, Nan and Ed followed us out to the van, sang us a farewell song and said a blessing prayer over us before we hit the road.

It was a good day.