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Saturday, August 31, 2013

V-Girl Gets Gum!

In our house, the rule is you cannot chew gum until you are 4.

Do I have cheaters amongst my tribe?  Yes.

But, the hard and fast rule is that turning 4 is a big deal because they get to chew gum (officially and not just the stolen goods that they take into someone's closet!)

V-girl turned 4 in August....which means, since she was 2 weeks old when we moved, I have been a Georgia girl for 4 years now!  That is just crazy!!!

Anyway, she had a stellar day.

She (with a little prompting from her mother who still had to finish decorating her cake) picked her Daddy to go out to lunch with.  She came down all ready for her birthday date.

Hair all fixed....and pearls....the pearls are killing me....

Daddy had apparently also promised her he would take her to the driving range for her birthday, so after lunch they did that....which allowed me to get her cake done.

Not my neatest work, but I a was particularly proud of my Starburst rosettes on the skirt!

Remind me to tell you about this fabulous pan that I used for the bottom layer...

my neice, Becky, wants me to sell this stuff (and I am not a salesperson....but I love this pan!)

We moved onto candle blowing (which of course my camera didn't capture)

See?  The tell-tale smoke.

She is holding her gift from D-man, that she picked out herself at Goodwill.

A-man gave her his old Spiderman suit that doesn't fit him anymore.

L-girl made her a purse and gave her some gum.

(Isn't L-girl adorable in braids???)

Rainman and I gave her a set of golf clubs....

A-girl and S-girl gave her some miscellaneous things...lip gloss, Twizzlers, etc.

I can't believe my youngest child is 4.  That has never happened.  I have always had another baby.  I still want another baby and since spending time at our family reunion this summer with 2 new babies.....the kids, especially V-girl is on Team Baby now too! 

We will see what God has in store for us.  I am in my mid-40's, so the chances that I "have" another baby are slim...but, both Rainman and I are open to the idea of adopting from a teen mom or something.  We will see.  I am rambling now, I know....I just really can't believe that V-girl is already 4!  Happy Birthday, sweetheart!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Beauty in the Heart

This is a review.

We received an e-book Bible study from Doorposts, called Beauty in the Heart.  Beauty in the Heart is a Bible study designed by Pam Forster, for girls, ages 10-12 and up and focuses on Godly beauty.

I really wanted to try this out with both A-girl (13) and L-girl (11), because as all girls this age, they are becoming more and more interesed in the look that they are presenting to the world.  I am finding myself saying all those things my parents said to me about my looks:  You don't need to paint yourself up to look pretty.  Is that what you are going to wear?  Aren't those a little tight/short/lowcut?

We have talked about modesty.  We have talked about inner beauty.  And, I have gotten eyerolls.

So, when we got the chance at this Bible study that I could do with them and not just preach at them, I was excited.  I will be honest, they were not excited when I presented it to them.

We did this after our family Circle Time with just the three of us.  There are 10 Chapters:

1.  Beauty in Submission
2.  Beauty in the Heart
3.  Beauty in Trusting God
4.  Beauty in Humility
5.  Beauty in Modesty
6.  Beauty in Serving
7.  Beauty without Discretion
8.  Beauty in Crisis
9.  Beauty in the Gates
10. Beauty in Review
There is a little section at the end that has "alternate" questions for young men, but there is a Bible study that Doorposts has that is geared towards young men - that might be better suited to them.
Each study is divided in 7 day cycles for the Bible study assignments.  Some were easier than others, so we usually grouped 2 or 3 days together at a time.

This is not a shallow, breezy devotional or Bible study.  It is deep and intense.  It takes some real soul searching.  It takes deep reading of the Bible stories of Godly women, like Esther, Sarah,  and Ruth.

This Bible study clarified for me why my parents said the things they did to me....and why I am following in their footsteps in preaching it to my daughters.  It made me look closer at some familiar Bible stories.  Honestly, this study made me think a little differently about Abraham and the time he pretended that Sarah was his sister. (Genesis 12: 10-20)   

I have decided that it is really difficult to "review" a Bible study.  Because the information ends up being so personal and different for everyone that works through it.

This is one of those studies that probably ended up speaking more to me, at this point, than them.  I think to them, it ended up just being more of the stuff mom has been saying to them already....but they don't really want to hear it.  Their hearts aren't quite soft enough yet to really understand that Beauty in the Heart is really what will attract people to you.  But, I know that is planted seeds in their hearts.  I know it.

Although, at this point, I think the Introduction to the book was what was the most clear to them.  Its main points were:

Most women are interested in being pretty and there is nothing wrong with looking your best.  God is, in fact, the one who made he wants you to understand what true beauty is and where it comes from.   This study works to teach what God says about beauty in the midst of a beauty obsessed world.

The other thing I thought this study was good at was really creating a way to really study scripture.  The author does this by comparing scripture passages, encouraging the use of a concordance, studying the people in the Bible and their actions and choices.  It really encourages digging for the answers.  Even in some cases going back to the original Hebrew and Greek works and how they are used in different situations throughout the Bible.

The author suggested having Nave's Topical Bible and Strong's Exhaustive Concordance handy to use in conjunction with the study.  We did not have Nave's Topical Bible, but we do have Strong's Concordance, which has helpful.

Also, this study uses King James Version of the scriptures, but I am not a big fan of that so we looked up everything in the New International Version.  The author also suggests marking certain passages and verses in your Bible and even in some instances color coding them.  If you have an issue with writing in your Bible, you could skip these steps in the study.  My dad wrote all over his Bible and in almost every writing in ours wasn't a big deal. 

Some pages have little gray boxes with additional things to study, for example, in the chapter covering the themes in 1 Peter 2:11-3:9, she suggests studying the life of Jesus, especially his last day and how He responded to those who wronged him.  See?  Not a light, fluffy Bible study.  Another gray box suggested using an on-line parallel Bible to compare translations of the same verse.

Here are some sample pages from the book, so you can get a flavor of the information and the way it is presented.

I, personally liked this study (even though it was a lot deeper than I thought it was going to be) and hope that I at least planted seeds in my daughters of what true Godly beauty means.  That beauty is a good thing when it isn't taken to extremes like they are seeing in the world today.

The Beauty in the Heart Bible study is available in hard cover and e-book form.  If you hurry, you can use  the coupon "beautystudy" in your shopping cart to get a free instant-download PDF copy of the Bible study when you pre-order the paperback (Print books will ship by 8/29. Special ends 8/31).  The paperback is available for $14.00.

The TOS Reviewers also got a chance to review a Bible study for guys called Because You Are Strong.  Go take a look and see what the other TOS reviewers thought of the Bible studies

Saturday, August 24, 2013

MacPhail Center for Music

This is a review.

MacPhail logo

Anyone of my friends or family from Minnesota will recognize the name MacPhail, immediately.  In a "look how far technology has come" kind of way, my kids got a chance to have music lessons from MacPhail Center for Music, which is in Minnesota....even though we now live in Georgia. 

There were choices for:  Piano, Guitar, Violin, Viola, Cello, Harp, Flute, Clarinet, Saxophone, Trumpet, Trombone, or Percussion, at Beginning, Intermediate, or Advanced levels.

I know.  Seriously.  Lots of choices.

First I had to decide which of my kids could have this chance.  D-man already plays a little guitar.  A-girl plays a little bit of violin, but wants to play guitar ( and had already asked her brother to show her a few chords).  L-girl has the desire to play an instrument, but her fingers are still so small the stuff we have tried has been harder for her....which is frustrating.

So, A-girl got to be the lucky one.

I have to make a full disclosure here.  I am a former MacPhail student.  When I lived in Minnesota and competed in scholarship pageants (I know.....), I saved up my money and went to MacPhail for voice lessons.  I had a great, Ukrainian, voice teacher.  She was a bit crabby ....and most definitely scary....but she knew her stuff.  I can actually still hear her voice in my head occasionally if I am breathing wrong! 

Anyway, I loved going to MacPhail (except parking near there building in Minneapolis was a little scary)....but, when I walked around the building.....oh......the talent.....the artistry..... I felt like I was in the movie Fame...just without Debbie Allen and her crazy stick banging.  I just knew I was surrounded by brilliance.  (It was a little intimidating, if I am honest.)

Back to present day and being able to take lessons without the scary parking, and questioning your abilities as you walked through the halls and heard the other musicians....

The process for getting started was actually kind of cool.  The very first thing you need to do is make sure that your computer/webcam is fast enough to make these lessons work, via Skype.  That was a really easy determination via

Then, MacPhail had you fill out a form that went through any and all music lessons or experience you have had and asked questions like: Can your child read music?  What day/time would work best for lessons?

But, in addition to those kinds of questions, it asked about your learning style and what kind of teacher you feel you would work best with.  For example....and I am paraphrasing here....Do you like a more friendly, laid back style of instruction or more of a no-nonsense task master?  It actually made A-girl and I really think about how she wanted a teacher to talk to her and what ways would maybe shut her down and frustrate her....which wasn't the point.

We ultimately said we wanted someone who was supportive, positive, encouraging and just basically nice.  They matched us up with Josh.

Oh, how we loved Josh!

You can actually see Josh on the MacPhail home page of scrolling pictures.

Josh is just the nicest, most patient, guy ever.  A-girl (and I) showed up for her first lesson with our guitar untuned.  Neither one of us had thought to have D-man  tune it or show us how to tune it in time for her lesson.  So,  much of her first lesson was spent with Josh patiently showing her how to find on-line tuning tools and then which way to turn the little dealy-bobs at the end of the guitar to get her guitar in tune.  Definitely a necessary component to playing the guitar would be an in tune guitar, huh?

But, seriously, he didn't even seem annoyed at all that we hadn't even attempted to have an instrument ready for action.

The other thing that we loved about Josh is he let A-girl pick a song that she wanted to learn.  He had to pull it up on his computer to hear it, since he didn't know the song.  But, that is what they worked on.....her song choice.  He even complimented her about her song choice and that it was a great song!

I should back up a bit and tell you about another part of the process before we actually started lessons.

After we filled out our forms about A-girls' musical experience, etc. and after we had determined that, in theory, our computer matched the technical requirements, we got a Skype call from Kristen, who basically did a test call to make sure that we could see and hear each other alright.  We tried our desktop and our tablet in different rooms and decided that our desktop worked the best.  Then we worked on lighting and camera placement that would help during lessons.

Okay, so back to lessons.  We were able to have four - 30 minute lessons with Josh.  Good, old, patient Josh.  Josh was always friendly and would chat a bit before they actually began their work.  Each lesson built on what they had worked on in previous lessons.  Chords, strumming, how to hold a pick, etc. 

She was challenged, but never too much so that she got frustrated or wanted to quit....that is a big deal.  Because, you see, A-girl is a lot like her mother and if you can't do something well, relatively quickly....then, just forget it, you know???  But, she stuck with this, Josh was encouraging, but not phony.  Does that make sense to anyone?  He praised her, he encouraged her, he cheered her on.....but it didn't come across as empty praise or building her up too much.  She did not come away with a big head....but a head that said, I can do this if I just keep on practicing.

I don't know what else to tell you, except that we loved this review.  The first week was nerve wracking, just because it was new (and we hadn't tuned our guitar!).  But, Josh made us feel comfortable.  A-girl did learn to play guitar.  She isn't ready for an audience outside of her family yet, but she has learned a lot of the basics in just a few short weeks.  She actually practices without being told.  (It is a miracle, I tell you!)

Josh assigned her homework every week that he would post in a program called Evernote, and he was also was open to e-mailed questions.  A-girl was getting really sore fingertips and had e-mailed him to ask if there was anything she should or shouldn't do to make them feel better.  He responded to her e-mail really quickly- with the basic message that she just had to let her fingers develop callouses and that she could put lotion on them to ease the long as she wasn't going to play the guitar...because the lotion would ruin her strings and wood.

Here is a little sidenote that I thought was interesting.  A-girl was showing me some of the stuff she has learned and D-man walked through the room.  I asked them who they thought was a better guitar player/knew more about guitar playing now.  They both pointed at A-girl.  D-man explained that he was probably familiar with more chords than A-girl, but she knew way more about how to read music and strum patterns than he did.

I forgot to actually take pictures of A-girl during her lessons with Josh, because I was usually either shushing the other kids, or in a nearby room, so I could hear the lessons, but wouldn't make her nervous! 

But, here she is working on some of her music.  She is excited to keep playing.  She is excited about maybe surprising her friends at church with a song in the not too distant future.  I am excited for her.  Taking lessons from MacPhail is really an awesome privilege that I am glad she and I got to share...even though we are in Georgia now!

(Doesn't she kind of have that hippie chick, indie look going for her?)

If you have questions that I haven't answered, go check out MacPhail On-Line for more details. 

So, if I have interested you in taking lessons from the comfort of your home, with a prestigious music school, what will it cost you? 

Special Introductory Pricing - Individual Instruction - Four Online Lessons for $111
Receive four 30-minute individual online lessons from an outstanding teaching artist, from the convenience of your home. All K–12 homeschool students are eligible to participate in this package, a 25% discount from standard tuition rates.

Daytime Flex Packs for Live Online Lessons offer flexibility to accommodate your busy schedule and help you achieve your unique musical goals. Simply schedule 8 Live Online Lessons during the 18 week semester on any weekday from 9 am – 3 pm CST. Unexpected scheduling conflict? Our cancellation policy gives you the option of canceling your lesson up to 48-hours in advance, without forfeiting the lesson. Whether you travel for work or leisure, juggle kids' extracurricular activities, or live in an area where options for studying your instrument are limited, MacPhail's Daytime Flex Pack can help you experience the joy of music-making. Standard pricing will apply after introductory lessons at $37 per 30-minute lesson

You can actually get your first lesson for free, by using the code ONLINE-1STFREE13, but you have to at least sign up for 2 lessons to take advantage of the freebie.

If our budget opened up a bit, I would definitely do on-line lessons with MacPhail again, because you know you are getting expert teachers when you go with MacPhail and not just somebody putting out their shingle and trying to earn a little extra money.  MacPhail has the expertise and the passion for music that you want your kids to have.

Remember, it isn't just guitar lessons, there was also....Piano,  Violin, Viola, Cello, Harp, Flute, Clarinet, Saxophone, Trumpet, Trombone, or Percussion ( I am pretty certain that I am happy I don't have a percussionist in my household!).  Go see what the other TOS reviewers thought and which instrument they chose. 

Another Big Birthday Month

August is another big birthday month in our household....just like April.  There are 3 birthdays in April:  A-girl, L-girl and S-girl and 3 birthdays in August:  Me, Rainman and V-girl.

I started out the month....but I have no pictures of that.  No cake.  No party.  I did get honest to goodness breakfast in bed served by my April birthday girls.  They actually truly surprised me too.  You know how usually they end up banging around and whisper fighting so much that you are laying in bed wanting to get up, but you can't because you know you will spoil their surprise?  Well, they actually set their alarm and got up before I normally get up and really when they walked into my room and touched my arm, I was surprised!!!

My birthday was a very grown up kind of birthday...not much pomp and circumstance...but, it was still pretty good.  They gave me a blender.

Next, we move onto Rainman's birthday.  I used to make a pretty big deal out of his birthdays (because, really that is what I want/wanted), but after him repeatedly asking me not to do that and him repeatedly telling me that he really doesn't want a big fuss on his birthday...I have finally listened and obeyed.

So, his was laid back too....although I was a bit miffed at him that he went into my purse and got out my receipts the night before his birthday...then proceeded to ask me what the item, that just happened to be his birthday present, was and why I had bought it.   Grrr.....

He played some golf.  I cooked him one of his favorite meals. The big girls and I made him a cake.  It was actually cupcakes and after the initial idea and brainstorming girls took over.  It was kind of nice to relax a bit....

We did a golf hole....see? The t-boxes, the saltine cart path, the water, the bunkers and the flag?  It turned out cute.  He loved it.

I made him one of his favorite meals and....wait for it.....we actually ate in the dining room.  Something we haven't done since March....when we put our house on the market.  We added the leaf back in and brought in all the chairs....and had a family meal together at the same table.  It was funny and sad at the same time how excited the little ones were that we were going to eat all together at the same table!

There were no leftovers. 
Next up was V-girl's birthday, but I will save that for another day.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Reading Kingdom

This is a review.

My kids love it when we get a chance to review on-line or computer stuff for school.  This time was no exception.  We got to try out an on-line program called Reading Kingdom.  It is an on-line reading program that teaches reading and writing for your younger kids and by the time they are done, they will be at a 3rd grade level.

It is an interesting program because it teaches the reading and writing skills a bit differently than you think.  It isn't the classic phonics approach....which at first I was a little nervous about.  But, then I remembered all those times when I was teaching my early readers that I had to say, "Well, this word doesn't follow the rule."  I had to say it a lot!

The system used in Reading Kingdom was created by Mr. Marion Blank, from Columbia University.  Her approach teaches children to read and write using six skills:  Sequencing; Motor Skills; Sounds; Meaning; Grammar; and Comprehension.

So, to get started with this program, I had S-girl, who just started 1st grade, take the Skills Survey.  They ask that parents be nearby during the child's computer time, but not help with any answers.  I didn't help with any answers which was hard, because a few of the things she ended up getting wrong were misunderstandings of what she was supposed to do and not because she didn't understand the material, or know the answer.

After this was completed, Reading Kingdom, then adjusted where it felt S-girl needed to start in their program.  It started her with very basic stuff.  She didn't like it.  In the beginning, it took her about 15 minutes or so to complete her lesson for the day. (After the really long Skills Survey portion....I am not sure how long that took....but  it was a long time) They recommend using this program a minimum of 3 times a week, with 4 being ideal. I just had her do a lesson a day, as part of her regular day, so she did it 5 times a week....with a few "oops" days in there where we both forgot.

It repeated things. It showed her the same information in different ways. Again, something that should be good in a teaching situation. But, since I think she probably should have started at a different level than the Skills Survey said she did, she was doing some things that, for her, were really basic. (For full disclosure here, the people at Reading Kingdom said that I could have her retake the Skills test or start at a different level if I contacted them....but I didn't....we just muscled through....)

One of the philosophies behind Reading Kingdom is that this program takes diligence.  Here is information from an e-mail sent to me about the program.

Unlike other programs, Reading Kingdom requires a more advanced degree of diligence. This is because it is based on the teaching methods of Dr. Marion Blank, who has determined that a little extra diligence in the early stages of learning to read and write yields tremendous dividends down the road. So we do not allow many mistakes before the program assumes a student requires reinforcement of the skills being taught. One of the great problems of education today is that we accept so much error and don’t know how to deal with it.
So you may want to take a moment to explain to your children/students that the program is continuously evaluating what they do and do not know and it's important that they pay close attention and strive to avoid making simple mistakes because those simple mistakes will tell the program that they do not know the material completely and need reinforcement. This is doubly true for the “Skills Survey” that begins the program.
The program also uses repetition because the only way to get good at something is by doing it multiple times. Nowadays many students bristle at repetition, but the results are powerful.

I get it.  It sounds great on the surface.  I want my kids to accept when they make a mistake and to fix it.  But, I will admit that it wasn't just S-girl that was bristling at the repetition.  I understand their reasoning, but, in actual practice, it is hard not to get frustrated or bored with the repetition.

On a positive note, the screens were nice and colorful.

In this example, they would show you the word, "dog" and then you had to pick the letters in the correct order.....sometimes it would hide the word dog and you had to find the letters in the correct order.

I will say things improved once she passed that first basic level and moved onto the next level.  Really, at first, I was having to make her do her Reading Kingdom lessons.  I kept encouraging her and telling her that once she finished with this easy stuff she would move onto something different and have more fun.

Happily, I didn't lie to her.  She is having much more fun now and even though she is still covering some of the things we covered last year, I like that they are showing her some different ways to look at words that don't necessarily follow the "rules".

I liked that the lessons were able to be completed pretty quickly.  I liked that the lessons were colorful.  I liked the approach across the board of six skills.  I did get to the point where I was not sitting with S-girl everyday while she did her Reading Kingdom, so I liked it that the program sent me e-mail updates with where she was in the program and when she was able to move onto the next level. 

I liked that you could choose to have your child work on the actual keyboard or an on screen keyboard.  (We started with the on screen option...and S-girl and I both hated it....we ended up switching to the actual keyboard which came much more naturally - however, the real keyboard doesn't show both upper case and lower case letters.....which a few times was more of a challenge for her.)  This picture will give you an idea what the keyboard looks like....even though, at the moment, it is just showing you the top row....

See?  It has both capital and lower case letters.

What we didn't like in addition to the repetitive nature of the program was that it is a really slow program.  When you answer a question correctly, you get a woo hoo or some sort of sound and picture that you have gotten it right.....then, you wait.....and, finally, it will move onto the next question.  I can't really describe it, except maybe that it felt like we were using a dial-up connection.  Remember that?  When you had to be patient and just wait for stuff to load and not start clicking on things to hurry it up.  You know?  I found myself getting very impatient when I sat through the lessons with her.  She would just sort of gaze around and sort of day dream while she was waiting for the next screen.  I am thinking that isn't a good thing.

This is a program that could be a supplemental tool for anyone in the early elementary years.  Because, as noted by Reading Kingdom teaching your child to read is really the most important skill they can have for educational success....because even with technology....they still need to be able to read the information.

Overall, we liked this program, but didn't love it.  It definitely got better and more fun for S-girl the further into the program she got, but, it took a while to get there.

You can try a 30 free trial of Reading Kingdom at your house.

If you try it and decide you want to use it at your home or school, it is $19.99 per month or $199.99 per year for the first child with each child after costing an additional $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year.

Take a look at what the other TOS Reviewers thought of Reading Kingdom.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Back To School

Yes, Minnesota friends, we are back to school already.

Doug actually started last Monday, August 5th....but the rest of us started on the 11th.

The start of school was a bit more stressful than it usually is this time of year.  The reason?  Every single school supply and book we needed had been haphazardly back into an unlabeled box or bin back in March and put into a dark storage room at a friend's house.

So, first, Rainman and I had to remember everything we needed for 1st, 3rd, 6th and 8th grade.  We usually have the advantage of everything being on the proper shelf to jump out and remind us as we are planning for the year.

So, once we thought we had remembered everything, it was off on an adventure in Sherri's basement.

It took us 5 times I think to come up with what we now have.....which still isn't everything.  We haven't found 1 book that L-girl needs and poor A-girl...we don't have her correct science curriculum....she has is just isn't the "right" one.  And, she is missing 2 of her historical fiction books that go with her curriculum.  Luckily we were able to get them on Kindle....but A-girl and I  both would prefer a physical copy of the book, so we can easily swish around in the pages to find the answers for some of the comprehension questions.

But, overall, it has been a good week.

So, since everyone was posted their super cute, Pinterest inspired back to school shots with their kids in shiny, new clothes and shiny new backpacks, holding up the cute signs that tell what year and what grade their children are in, I thought I would post our "First Day of School" shots from a homeschooling perspective.

1st grade

3rd grade

6th grade

8th grade
Doesn't 8th grade look like fun?  She gets to do a lot of her school in bed.  The only problem?  She has a very heavy load this year.  I totally don't mind that she does what she can in bed.  Her body is young, it can handle the aches and pains and kinks that she will get from reading there!
I forgot to take a picture of D-man's first is V-girl doing her best to distract her fellow students.

We recently watched that is what she "is".

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

America The Beautiful

This is a review.

We got to try a complete American History curriculum by Notgrass Company. 

The course actually covers history, geography and literature, and is called America The Beautiful. (can you even say that without actually singing it in your mind?  I can't!)

This course was recommended for ages 10-14,or grades 5th through 8th, so I decided to give it a try with L-girl who is a 6th grader this year.

We are really liking it for a few reasons.  It is a great transition between the style of school we were doing up through 5th grade and what is coming for her in 7th and 8th grade.  We love the style of the work and the way it is presented and how you follow along with the lessons.  It is just all very clearly outlined for you.  So, there wasn't really any prep needed from me, other than reading through a few introduction portions of the book that explained how things were organized. 

That was one of the things I was pleasantly surprised with and as a busy mom (who is sort of trying to sell a house) that I appreciated the most.  The way they lay out the lessons for you and clearly show you want needs to be done on which day is awesome!!!  I did not have to do any digging around or deciding how much she should cover each day or week.  It was all there....

See?  Lesson 14 uses maps 3,6, and 7 in this lesson.  This is one of Rainman's favorite parts....that they incorporate maps with the you aren't separating history and geography.

Here is an example from the Maps book.  It is for the 13 colonies.  There are 8 different lessons that will utilize this map.  So, you label things in lesson 14, like the lost colony of Roanoke Island, then in lesson 17, you will label New Amsterdam/New York, and then in lesson 31, you will show the order in which the states ratified the Constitution.

Now look at this:

Workload wise, it was a good amount for L-girl.....not too much or too little.   It challenged her, but didn't depress her because the workload was so heavy.  Typically, she finished all her reading and the activities in about 45 minutes.  She does a lesson a day. 

Like I said, America the Beautiful is turning out to be a great "bridge" class for us between elementary history/geography lessons and the much more challenging upper middle school/high school history/geography we have been using.  It goes into more details that what I have seen in typical middle school curriculum.  This is going to save L-girl from the usual shock my other kids have had when they hit 8th grade. 

I actually like this curriculum so much, that it is replacing what we have used in the past with D-man and A-girl for 6th grade.  That is a pretty big deal.

In addition to the two America the Beautiful textbooks, it also comes with additional texts and companions pieces.  See?

See the Answer Key book there in the upper right hand corner?  That is key.  It really has all the answers for the curriculum...whether you use the supplemental Student Workbook, or the Lesson Review.  Everything you need is right there. 

This is a very detailed and thorough course, without being overwhelming.  That last word is important.  Even though they cover a lot of information, L-girl was never overwhelmed.  She never felt like she wasn't going to get all the work done. 

We the People - A collection of 150 original journal entries, newspaper articles, advertisements, poems, songs, letters, short stories, speeches, and other historic documents from American history.

Maps -  A collection of 30 maps drawn especially to accompany this curriculum.

Timeline -  This is an illustrated timeline of American history from AD 1000 to the present designed specifically to include facts learned in the lessons. Some facts are already printed on the timeline.

The Student Workbook is a little extra money, but it has fun things to go along with the lessons like crossword puzzles, word finds, drawing lessons, and matching to help review the lessons.  (This was L-girl's favorite book.)

The Lesson Review is also a little bit extra, but it has actual review questions to make sure  your student is comprehending and remembering what they read as well as quizzes.  Remember, I am one of those homeschool moms who believes in testing her kids.

I asked Rainman his thoughts on America the Beautiful.  He said he just really, really liked it.  He liked the flow of it.  He is happy that it fell into our lap because it is really thorough.  He liked it.

We are absolutely loving this American History curriculum for our middle school years.  And, in comparison to some other offerings that are out there in the homeschool world, America the Beautiful from Notgrass is very affordable at $99.95 for the whole shebang.  You can get the supplemental Student Workbook for $11.95.  Or, the Lesson Review for $9.95

Notgrass also has a program called Draw to Learn that incorporates art and Bible study that seems pretty fun.  Some of the crew members got to try that out in addition to America the Beautiful.  So, feel free to go take a look at what they thought of the offerings from Notgrass.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Bible Time

This is a review.

We ended up getting this totally fun product to review that we all love, from V-girl up to Rainman.  It is from Bible Study Guide for All Ages.  We used the Intermediate study guides intended for grades 3 and 4....but I kind of used it for the whole family.

We got two things to review.

 One is the actual Student pages, which has 26 lessons in the first packet.  The whole curriculum covers the entire Bible in 416 lessons.  I like that the study doesn't just go chronologically through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, but sort of jumps back and forth  between the Old and New Testaments.  And, let's face it, there are some parts of the Old Testament that are sort of boring, so this breaks those things up a bit.

The Bible Study Guide creators recommend using a timeline so that you have a visual picture of where things are happening in the big scheme of things.

You can use the Student Pages part of the study with whatever version of the Bible your family likes.  We like the New International Version or the Common English Version, so were glad we  didn't have to be King James Version for this one!

As you can see, there are memory things to work on, interesting tidbits of information, timeline stuff, ways to "Get Active" and ways to "Apply It".  One example that we got a kick out of was the Get Active section for "Flee from the T"...where the T is temptation and you all throw out examples of ways you could be tempted....and how you can "Flee from the T".  Isn't that an awesome idea.

Each lesson is two pages long.

The second page is more of a traditional Bible study where you read a passage and determine its meaning, plus there were usually some acitivites to fill this one above....where it has places to fill in words.

I am sure you will be surprised to hear that I adapted how I used the Student Pages.  Emoji  Instead of just having A-man do the workbook pages on his own, we used them in our family Bible Study time that we incorporated during our Circle Time.  We did as much of the study orally as we could.  The pages themselves are large (8.5 by 14) and glued together on the side(like how you get construction paper), so it would be easy to just tear out what you needed to use.  Since we did things orally, they didn't write answers down or fill in the blanks.  I just read them the questions/activities, showed them the pictures and we talked about it.

I think I will probably let A-man or S-girl do this study and fill in the blanks after the whole family has done the oral version of the study.  One thing I wished we had gotten to go along with this study was the Children's Song CD set that uses music to help memorize some of the things like the 12 sons of Jacob and the writers of various books of the Bible.

The Apply It segment is where you and your kids are really faced with situations and decisions about the lesson.  So, take the take "Flee from the T" lesson.  The apply it section has you read Genesis 39:12.  Where Potiphar's wife wants Joseph and he literally runs out (flees), leaving her holding his coat. Then they present you with situations to discuss, like being with a friend at the store who steals a candy bar and wants you to do the same.  What do you do?

You can download a sample of the lesson pages by going to this page and clicking on the link.

But, I have to say as enjoyable as the Student Pages were, it totally pales in comparison to our love for the Bible Summary Cards we got to try out!
Oh my word, we LOVED these!  Loved, loved, loved them.

They are 8.5 by 11 cards on thick posterboard.  Each book of the Bible has a card.  One the front are pictures/words depicting the main stuff covered in that book of the Bible.  The backside has a summary of the book and questions to ask to get the information solidified in your mind.

Guess what card this is?  Even V-girl got this one.....Numbers!

Now, Rainman, is a man of God.  Rainman knows his Bible back and forth, like my dad did.  But, really, we occasionally stumped him with what book the Summary Card covered.  Actually, the kids made it a point to try to stump him with a card that they had learned.

How about this one?


I cannot even put into words how fabulous these cards are.  The kids didn't get sick of working on the cards.  We ended up working on these sort of like a game show.  I would pick a card, show it to the audience (my children) and if they thought they knew it, they could shout out the answer.  Once we figured out what book of the Bible the summary card showed, then we would work on the details from the back of what went on during that book. 

I usually tried to cover at least 3 during each Circle Time.  But, more often than not, the kids would ask me to do more of the Summary Cards....even D-man.

Here is what the backs look like.

See?  A little summary of what happens in the book and then some questions to quiz your students on.

We love these cards, I tell you!  You can get a copy of the Bible Summary Cards for $24.95, if you want to have your kids color them in themselves, you can get that version too for the same price.  

The Student Pages are also pretty awesome and inexpensive.  You can get the Intermediate  Student Pages  (in 26 lesson chunks) for $5.95 each.

The other TOS crew got to try out out some of the different age ranges for the Bible Study Guides.  Go see what they thought of them.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Medieval Times

Have any of you gone there?  We used to drive by the one outside of Chicago everytime we would go visit Rainman's family.  We saw one advertised in Myrtle Beach last spring, but couldn't go.

Then, my mom and one of my sisters came down to visit us and mentioned the possibility of spending at a night at Medieval Times.  My mom treated us all!

I was thrilled, because I was pretty bummed that we hadn't been able to go when we were in Myrtle Beach.

My kids had a blast.  My nephews (who are practically grown ups) said it was the highlight of their vacation.  I will assume that they meant the highlight after getting to spend some time with their dear old Auntie Kayla......

So, you are seated in sections where you are assigned a knight to cheer for.  Our knight was the most smiley knight I have ever seen.  He truly seemed happy and like he was having fun out there.

There was another special performer, who wasn't one of the knights competing, that pranced around with a trick horse.  Everytime he rode by, I just kept saying to myself, "Wow, he looks just  like my nephew!"

What do you think?

Now all my nephew needs to do is learn how to ride a horse, learn to joust, learn to fence, learn sword fighting, learn how to take a fall off a horse, learn how to defend himself against an ax and a ball with spikey things.....and he can come live with me in Georgia!!!

My little girls got to have their picture taken with the Princess (who was lovely, but sounded waaaaaay to much like a Disney Princess than necessary).

And, our Smiley Knight won the battles that knight!  Woo Hoo!

It was fun.  The food was good.  The only bad thing is that my kids were so spread out among my family that I couldn't see their little faces....if you know what I mean.  And, I had to say goodbye to my mom and sister in the lobby afterwards.  Yes, I cried.  Yes, I was made fun of....I can't help it.  When I am in my daily life down here, I miss my family.....but, when they are here and part of my daily life....even if it is just for 2 days.....I MISS MY FAMILY.  You know?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

This is the Very First Time

This is the very first time that I have done this as a parent.


I am not sure if I should be ashamed of myself.....or proud.

What did I do?


While the( to be named later )child worked on this assignment, I was cleaning the kitchen and discovered something else.  So, this assignment was added.....

I have never assigned sentences like this in my entire "career" as a mom.  It was sort of fun.  I will see today if it was effective.

My kids, are ready for school to start.  They do better with structure.  They do better when they haven't spent the summer watching T.V. shows where the kids all have attitudes and talk mean to each other and disrespectfully to their parents.

We were supposed to start on Monday, but all of our curriculum and everything we needed for school was hastily packed in a box last March/April and shoved into a friend's basement.  All with the thought that we would be moving this summer and any box that had books/school stuff in it would go to one bedroom to be unpacked and loaded on shelves.  Surely, we didn't need to label boxes or anything foolish like that, right?

Yeah, right.  Rainman and I, plus my wonderful friend, Sherri, whose basement storage room we have taken over, have spent hours searching and trying to find what we need to start school.  We have gotten about 80% of what we need.

So, Rainman and D-man are going over tomorrow to just remove every hastily packed box of school stuff and return it to our home and our shelves.  If someone wants to buy our house now, they will have to be able to look past our school stuff and not have things looking like a magazine.  We shall see.  Honestly, I am not too hopeful of that happening. 

I will keep you posted. 

Oh, do you want to know which child had to write sentences?

Anyone out there surprised????