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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Shut The Fridge

Okay, in case you haven't notice, I am now officially, more BlogSpot in there.

I own

I don't really understand it.  I am counting on my IT friend, John, to keep it straight for me.

I made the change a week or so ago...and I am getting more traffic.

I am a little unsure about some of it. I have a page that shows me my "traffic sources", and some of them make me nervous.

I will just hope (and pray) that the creeps stay away.

I also have to wonder about some of my overseas readers. 

I mean, I have a friend in Scotland....but that is all I know about.  Seeing that someone in Russia and even China is reading my blog makes me nervous.  I mean, I think it is theory....but, you hear about such icky things these days, you know?

Anyway, if you follow me, your link to my page should still work....if you manually type in the web address for my should be easier now.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Something I Never Imagined I Would Say

My Kindle thumb is nicely recovered, thank you.  I took the weekend off of reading and finished painting my living room.

Pictures to come....if I can get my newly found camera to cooperate!

Anyway, L-girl, when she was showing me how to use my friend's Kindle, rediscovered our hand me down Kindle that we have used for a school reading assignments, but, my friend had left it stocked with books that they had read, noticed that The Hunger Games was on there.  She asked if she could read it.

Since I have read the whole series and found them fascinating, entertaining, and disturbing, I had to think about it a bit.  We talked about it.  I told her there was some really disturbing parts and kids, her age, were killed and it was treated as sport and like it was no big deal.  But, I ultimately decided she could read it.  (I look forward to our discussions after she has read it.  D-man and I had some great ones!)

So, she started reading during our travel time to Minnesota too.  Then, when we got back, she had schoolwork to catch up on, then left for a church  retreat.  She got back Sunday evening.  The kids and I snuggled up and watched a Hallmark movie. Then she decided to go read a bit.  I stayed up and watched a What Not To Wear episode (more on my reasons for that in another post). 

So, after I learned how NOT to dress, I went in to see her asleep with the Kindle and its little reading light dealie on and open right next to her.  Her hair was all flopped over her face.  She was all slumped over and curled up.

Here is where I said something I just never imagined coming out of my mouth.

I said, "Turn that book off and go to bed."


I told her to turn the book off.

I find it funny....but also a little sad that it wasn't just a "shut the book and go to bed", you know?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Kindle Thumb

Is that a real disease?

I think it should be.

I think I have it.

You see, I just took a quick trip up to Minnesota to see my mom and sisters and see my nephew in a play.  I was really busy around here trying to get things done before we left.  It occurred to me a day or two before my flight that I hadn't made my usual trip to the library to stock up on reading material for the plane ride/wait time at the airport.

My friend, Sherri, offered to let me borrow her Kindle that had lots of books already on it.  More specifically, lots of historical romances.

In my previous life, I read voraciously.

I read just about everything I could get my hands on....but I especially enjoyed light murder mysteries and historical romance....again....light historical romances....not too much of the....(ahem) stuff....if you know what I mean.  I really liked the historical romances that had the strong female character with the man that didn't quite know what to do with her....she just wasn't like other women of the time.  Sassy.  Not insipid.

Just good, sort of mindless, but entertaining, escapist reading.

We have a really, really old hand me down, Kindle that the kids have used for some school reading, but I had never used it.

So, I accepted my friends offer of her Kindle, but I grabbed some 2 year old Good Housekeeping magazines from my stack, just in case.

L-girl and A-girl came with me to Minnesota, so they gave me a little tutorial on the plane.  I got it figured out.  I found a book to try.

Enter....Kindle thumb. 

I read the whole flight up to Minnesota, then I read the whole flight home.  When we got home I was about half-way through a book, so when I got up on Wednesday to get back to my real life (and the bachelor type mess that  greeted me when we got home) I decided to read while I read my coffee....and then start my To Do list for the day.

So, um, yeah.....I finished the book....then decided it was too late to get anything done from my list before we had to head to I started another one.  I was able to get some things done Thursday, but decided to read a little at, I read until midnight or so....then decided to finish up my book again with my coffee in the morning.  I was able to do it....and did actually get a few things done on my To Do list on Friday.....but....

Now my Kindle thumb hurts!

A lot.

I blame it on the fact that I am a fast reader and have to click the Next Page button a lot.

I forget what it is like to really just sit around and read.  Even when I should be doing other just be lost in a book. 

And, the worst part, I only feel a little bit guilty.

My right thumb really does....but I am pretty ambidextrous, now that I think about it....

Friday, November 15, 2013

Trees and Me

I was talking to a friend from Minnesota recently about our new house.  She asked if we were settling in and if the house was everything I was hoping it would be before we actually moved in.

I told her that I couldn't even explain it, but that I felt at home as soon as we moved in....even when they were boxes and mess everything.

She responded with the fact that she had seen one of my blog posts where I was showing off some of the rooms and she thought that she had seen a glimpse of trees through the windows in the picture, and knew that would make me happy.

She was so right.  I love trees.  Trees make me happy. 

Ask Rainman about my feelings about trees and he will tell you the one time he decided to cut one down in Minnesota without telling me.  I looked out the window and it was already half gone. I didn't even recognize myself....I came barreling out of the house...screaming like a crazy woman...trying to be heard over the chain saw.  I was too late.  I was mad....for a long time.

Don't get me wrong, I am not a "tree hugger" kind of tree lover.

Trees just make me happy.

They relax me.

They give me a sense of being alone....yet, not alone in the world.

 I grew up in Minnesota where most of our property was woods. 

I would go lay under the pine trees and read.

I would go climb onto a low branch of another and read.

I would sit on a downed trunk and read.

(I like to read, too. Emoji)

One of the first times we even looked at this house, we beat the realtor here and waited for her on the front porch.  Right here...

I sat down on the swing.  The springs creaked a bit, I heard the wind rustling through the leaves and I looked out at this....

and this.....

....I thought to myself.....I could live here.  It was just so peaceful.  Nobody drove by (there are only 5 houses on my street).  It was just wonderful.

Then I went inside and saw this view from the big picture window in the kitchen....

and this too...

Yup....I could live here. 

I could see past the dark walls and wallpaper borders.  I could see past the shiny kitchen cabinets with not much counter space.....because I knew I could live here and be happy.

We get to see deer and wildlife again....right our front yard....or across the street as I back out of the driveway.

I cannot fully explain it, but I feel at peace here.  I feel like we are supposed to be here.

My friend, Sue, in Minnesota knows we well (she should since we have been friends since the 4th grade).  She knew by seeing a glimpse of trees in my backyard that I would be a happy girl....and I am.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

At Home in Dogwood Mudhole

This is a review.

At Home In Dogwood Mudhole  sounds like it could be a post about my new place, huh?  Obviously it isn't, because I haven't exactly had time to write a book during our move or anything.

The actual title of the book is At Home In Dogwood Mudhole Volume One:  Nothing That Eats, by Franklin Sanders.

This is actually an interesting grown up a book....and how it came to be.  It wasn't written to be a book or as a memoir of what happened, after the fact.  It is actually "as they happen" accounts from letters Mr. Sanders wrote, once a month, over a period of 16 years.  They were written to be put into a family newsletter (yes, an actual paper and ink newsletter!) called The Moneychanger.

The author, Franklin Sanders, actually is a very interesting character and The Moneychanger is actually what one of his businesses has been over the years buying and selling gold and silver.


At Home in Dogwood Mudhole (the name of their town in Tennessee) is actually a three volume series of books that tell about the life and times of Franklin Sanders, his family, his brushes with the law, his various extracurricular activities, and their attempt at creating a multi-generational family farm. An agrarian farm.  Know what that is?  Here is a definition of "agrarianism" from Wikipedia:

Agrarianism has two common meanings. The first meaning refers to a social philosophy or political philosophy which values rural society as superior to urban society, the independent farmer as superior to the paid worker, and sees farming as a way of life that can shape the ideal social values.[1] It stresses the superiority of a simpler rural life as opposed to the complexity of city life, with its banks and factories.

Even in reading through the Preface, I found some little nuggets that I liked....and some, like this one, I loved.  "Life happens; later you figure out what it means."

There was one part of the preface that sort of stopped me in my tracks and made me think. 

You know what I thought about? 

How wimpy my kids are and how they don't know how to do much.

Actually, it started with Mr. Sanders explaining that everything they do at Dogwood Mudhole (their farm in Tennessee) looks at a 100 year horizon.  He said that he and his wife, like most people from Tennessee, were only two generations removed from farming.....and that they were rank amateurs that had to relearn everything that their ancestors knew about farming to reclaim a way of life.

That got me to thinking about how many generations removed Rainman and I were from farming.  Rainman has no memories of any of his relatives being farmers....although his grandparents were immigrants from Poland and Slovakia, and didn't talk much about the "old world" he said that he would have a hard time picturing them as farmers.  I think he is probably right.  I frequently refer to my husband as a "city boy"....and I think he really is, passed down from generation to generation.

Just like I am really a "country girl" at heart...from generation to generation.

My great grandparents were the ones who were immigrants from Norway, they were farmers.  My grandparents on both sides were farmers, and their parents before them.  Now, both of their farmsteads have housing on them (although a few of my relatives also live there too).

My parents didn't "farm" but over the years, we had a huge backyard garden (that I HATED to weed and water), and a few unlucky rounds with rabbits and chickens....before we all finally gave up.

Anyway, this one little section in Mr. Sanders book led me down the mental rabbit hole into what wimps (they don't even like to put their hand into dirty dish water to get the water to drain!) my children have become and, how many of those "life" skills they have many of those "life" skills I have many of those "life" skills Rainman has never even been around.

I have been around farming, canning, preserving, dressing a deer, and I have shot a gun.  Rainman on the other hand hasn't been around any of that stuff and shot a gun for the first time when we were dating (I am sure it was to impress me.  He didn't like it.)

It got me to thinking about all the processed and genetically modified (GMO) foods that I put on the table in front of my family, versus what I grew up with.  I mean, my mom did serve a mean Swanson's Pot Pie, and even an occasional, genuine, foil tray t.v. dinner, but for the most part, it was meat and potatoes and vegetables that they grew....or knew who grew them. 

So, those were my humbling thoughts heading into the book.....and how I was looking forward to watching the journey this family went on to get closer to the land....or whatever you want to call it. 

So, wanna know know how I felt about the actual book, and not just the preface???.

Mr. Sanders writes in sort of a no-nonsense, don't say more than is necessary, kind of way.  Honestly, he reminded me of Andy Griffith as both Andy Taylor and Matlock....if that makes any sense.  Just a straight shooter that has a sense of humor about things in life, but can get sort of cranky too, when necessary. 

This book is sort of a combination of what most people put in their yearly Christmas letter, highlighting what they have done in the past year, travel guides, restaurant and hotel recommendations, and even, history lessons (especially surrounding the Civil War). 

It is just little snippets of someone's real life, as it happened.  Almost like reading someone's diary.  Which means, some parts will be a little more boring than others.  Some parts will be funny.  Some parts will be sad.....and some parts will even be scandalous. 

Just life.

I will be honest, I found the history and re-enactment portions of the book....sort of boring.  But, my brother-in-law, Randy, would love those parts.

I enjoyed the stories of what went wrong in their lives with their kids or their pets, where they screwed up, and where they liked to eat and stay when they traveled.

Any chapter that had anything to do with chickens was funny....sad sometimes too....there were a lot of gruesome deaths.....(I think anyone who has owned chickens can relate to that).

And, let me ask you this:  How often do you read a "Christian" book where the author has been in jail...more than once?  I didn't think so.  I found it interesting to see a glimpse of what life in jail is like....since I don't plan to be there personally.....ever.

I had to laugh at the recounting of when their son broke his arm and came in and announced to the mom, "I broke my arm, and this time I really did."

 I cannot tell you the times when we have had similar announcements from my children (not necessarily around broken bones).  My children do like to recount the time when D-man broke his leg sledding in our backyard in Minnesota, and I didn't believe him.   I made him crawl up the hill to the house so I could look at it.  What they don't tell you is that I was 7 months pregnant and didn't want to try to get down the icy hill. (Plus, I didn't think he had actually broken it....ooops.)

Mr. Sanders described his wife as "having all the compassion a mother should, but after seven children, she is notorious for ferreting out hypochondriacs of every stripe."   Ha!  I am right there with you, Mrs. Sanders.

The way he talks about his wife, Susan.....ahhhh.....just so sweet.  He is honest about things that happen in their lives, but he never bad mouths her.  It made me curious about what Rainman would write about me. 

Mr. Sanders and (I am not sure who that dog is...)

This books starts in June of 1995 and this volume wraps up near the end with an entry from December 2002, that says this, "Day before yesterday we pulled the last two rolls of Y2K toilet paper out of the barrel.  I guess it's really over."

You will find interesting time stamp kind of references like that throughout the book.  Like one that jumped out for me was an entry from July 1997 that talked about how great it was that Carlisle's Fish Camp in South Carolina had a "No Smoking" section!  I love those little glimpses into history.  It is like watching an old Andy Griffith show and seeing the price of a hair cut on the wall behind Floyd's head. 

The book isn't thin, at 378 pages, but the chapters are, for the most part, short, sweet, snippets that give you a window into their lives......good and bad.  It is an easy, breezy read.  Even though, like I said, there were unexpected parts that made me really think about my own life. 

Mr. Sanders sprinkles his Christianity through the book as the "just a fact" thing that it is.  He doesn't preach.  He doesn't shove God down your throat.  He is just there along the Sanders' side.  That is how I think about my life story too....He is just there with me along the way.

All in all, this book has been a charming read.  Like I said, I didn't like the history lessons/historical re-enactment sections very much.  But, the good news is that there was lots of other stuff in the next section about the stuff I did like.  The problems in setting up a farm, or keeping livestock alive (despite the subtitle of "Nothing that Eats"!), or having babies. 

You can get a hard copy of At Home in Dogwood Mudhole for $22.95 or $16.95 for the Kindle/PDF version.  If you love this book, Volume Two:  The Best Thing We Ever Did is also available...and Volume Three will be coming soon.

See what the other TOS Reviewers thought about At Home in Dogwood Mudhole.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

French Essentials

This is a review.

We got a chance to try out a language curriculum called French Essentials. How this curriculum came about is pretty interesting.  The authors of this program are a husband and wife team that live in Quebec with their two children.  I am not sure how this next part works, but, their kids go to French school and are homeschooled in English.  Anyway, they started out as a tutoring service for friends of theirs that were homeschooling.  Then they created a DVD course that taught French and that morphed into French Essentials to help make French more affordable and accessible to more people.  It teaches something called International French, instead of Parisian French or Quebec French.  Who knew there was a difference?  Not me!

We have full access to their on-line program for a full year. 

There will be 10 modules in the program which equate out to 2 years of High School French classes. (Right now, Modules 6-10 are being created).    The creators say that you can start this course as young as  grade 2 and just slowly work your way through grade 12. According to  their website, if you start the modules in grade 3 and do one module per year you will complete the courses your Senior year or during grade 12.
 A-girl was the lucky one who got to try this program out this time around.  She has decided that French is her second language of choice, because she plans to spend time in Paris as an adult soaking up the fashion world. 

We got a slightly late start on this, because of our computer/internet problems right when we moved in, but once we got ourselves back up and running, A-girl didn't lose anytime practicing.

The lessons in French Essentials covers:

  • downloadable lessons
  • printable workbook pages
  • online exercises/activities
  • online tests
  • topics on French culture
Want to hear about French Essentials by someone speaking English with a French accent?

French Essentials teaches language targeting 4 skills:  Reading, Writing, Listening (and understanding what you are hearing), and Speaking.

The writing piece of that equation is something that I haven't seen a lot in recent language programs.  It is also the piece that probably frustrated A-girl the most.  But, really, isn't that a super important skill in another language?  The ability to write a note to someone, or a letter to a pen pal and have them not giggling or struggle to read what you have written because it looks like a first grader did it?.  I think I was able to sell this point to A-girl, but she wasn't excited about the exercises where she had to write and spell the words and not just be able to pronounce them and know what they meant.

So, how do these lessons actually work?

Obviously, you log in to your account.  At this point, in the Student Area, there is a page of downloadable workbook pages and lessons (that you can save to your computer for future access) and on-line exercises and tests that you have access to. 

I pretty much just helped A-girl get logged in the first time and let her start lessons.  One thing that was helpful for me, since I wasn't going to be totally hands on was the Parent's Corner.  This is where it had the workbook and the answer key for the lessons as well as a checklist for each module, so you knew what was coming and the scope of work they were going to cover.

The lessons all have "clickable" or interactive portions so you can see or hear parts of the lesson.  In this example, you can click on the teacher to hear how the French alphabet is pronounced.

One of the things A-girl did in her lessons were using on-line flashcards with words in both French and English.  She would also listen to  native French speakers say a word or phrase  and you had to type what you heard.  Spelling counted.  Like I said, this was her least favorite part. 

A-girl usually did French Essentials five days a week.  If we had a particularly busy week, she would only do 4 lessons a week.  At her age, I think this is particularly helpful to help her retain the lessons, since she is working through them at a quicker pace than if she were starting in 3rd grade, for instance.

You know I am a fan of tests, so I was glad that they actually had tests included in their curriculum.  A-girl liked that there were some "games" to play as you were learning what some phrases or words meant.  Although she was sometimes frustrated by her lack of speed, she did get better and better...probably a little of her competitive spirit shining through and being used for good, not evil!

The lessons took A-girl about 20-25 minutes from start to finish. 

Things A-girl Liked: 

  1. How you change the speed of how the people were talking, so you had a better change of pronouncing them better.
  2. That there was lots of time and chances to practice before you had to take a test.
  3. That there were "games" to play.

Things A-girl didn't really like:

  1. Doesn't feel like she is learning the language as quickly as she would like (this might just be the teenager mentality of wanting instant gratification too).
  2. That she had to know how to French.
  3. That there were "games" to play.  Yes, this one appears in both lists!  (She really didn't like the race game.....too fast and stressful for her.)

This program was specifically designed for home learners.  It has both an audio and video component that is probably pretty helpful across almost all learning styles.  There are also nice segments that teach about French culture.  A-girl really liked this part of the lessons.

The only sort of weird thing we found about French Essentials was that it started off really easy in the first few lessons.  Alphabet, words, short phrases.  Seemed super doable.  A-girl was excited.  Then she hit, I think, lesson 4....and it seemed a lot harder, a lot quicker.  She even had me come look to see if she had skipped something, because it seemed so drastically different than what she had done in the first 3 lessons. 

She hadn't skipped anything.  It did just get harder, fast.  This made her not like the program as much for the first few days of it being more difficult.  She still worked through the lessons but not with the glee and excitement that she had the first few days. 

As I already mentioned, this program really stresses spelling, something I haven't really seen in other language programs.  This little fact annoys A-girl to no end and pleases me to no end....because, seriously, when she travels to Paris, she will be able to read the signs, or know how to spell things in notes she may write to cute French boys at the café!

The bottom line for us is that A-girl is really learning (not as quickly as she would like, in her opinion - even though sometimes she thinks the lessons move too quickly and are hard :D).  So, we will definitely be continuing to use French Essentials for the duration of our school year.

If you have already learned some French in your household, French Essentials has a placement test available, so, your student wouldn't have to start in Module 1.  Want to take a look at some sample lessons, in case I haven't explained how they work well enough? 

So, do you want to parlez-vous Francais?  From your home?  You can get access for a full year, to all of the French Essentials modules/lessons for $149.95...which includes over 90 lessons.    If you don't want to commit to learning that much French, you can buy the individual models for $69.95 each.  But, you can see, if you have a real interest and commitment, the option to have access to all of the modules is a much better financial deal.

See what other "amis" that are part of the TOS Review crew felt about French Essentials.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Little House Progress....Not Sure I Am Loving It...

I have made some progress on painting and making the new house more "ours".  I got all the wallpaper border removed...and just doing that really lightened things ups.  I have moved on to the painting portion of my plans.  

Reminder of the "Befores"

Remember....that green is really darker than it looks in that is more like it shows up in this one....


I forgot a little how hard it is to fit in painting with the running of a homeschooling household with 6 of which is a teenager who can't drive yet, and needs to be driven to numerous things. 

I also forgot how messy your house gets when you take time that you would normally use to do laundry and wash dishes and paint.

So, I have made a little progress....I am happy with some of my work...not sure I love the other parts.

I mean...look how pretty my color swatches are together?!?!

And, here are my fabrics that I am choosing between for my curtain topper thingies in the kitchen.  Pretty, right?  I am leaning towards the one with the bigger flowers - I love the colors and it reminds me of some curtains that my Grandma Pearl had in her house (now if I could only get her black and white kitty clock that moved its eyes and tail....oh, and her telephone table....I would be happy!)

Now, here is what the colors look like on the wall in the dining room.

I just don't know about the aqua on the it feels too bold....and for me, that is saying something.

I am in the process of painting the living room (which is to the right of this wall) the same soft yellow and I am loving that.  But, I am still playing around with colors in the kitchen.  I had planned for the aqua to be a more prominent color in there....but on the wall it is much bolder than the soft color swatch I played around with before I started.

So, progress is slow, but I am still loving our new house.  It just feels.....right.

I have been behind in blogging lately....and most of the only things you have seen are reviews, but I promise I am getting back in the groove and will show you - belated now - Halloween shots and other family stuff.  Plus, I should (cross your fingers) make a decision soon about my kitchen hopefully there will be some good before and after shots from that!

Apologia Junior Chemistry and Physics

This is a review.

We got a chance to use a really unique science program from Apologia Educational Ministries

We love Apologia and have used their products around here for years.  But, always for our older kids.  This time around, we used this for the younger set of students around here.

The curriculum is called Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics from the Young Explorer Series, which is designed for ages K-6.  It was written by Jeannie Fulbright.   Ms. Fulbright has a very easy to understand, observational tone.

Yes, that was chemistry and physics for your kindergartner through 6th grade students!  So, A-man and S-girl got a chance to do science.....real science.

This course has a total of 28 lesson.  This particular curriculum also has a notebooking component to use alongside the textbook.  We used the Chemistry and Physics Notebooking Journal for Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics Junior Edition

All of the Apologia textbooks all do a good job of letting you know what is in the books and also how to use them, in a true step-by-step guide.

There are tips and just basics of what you need to know before you start.  For this book, they have n answer key for the question asked in the book, and also a supply list divided by lesson.  Actually, at first glance, the lists are long and detailed, and a little intimidating.....but a lot of the stuff you will already have at your house.   

The list will have things like a graduated cylinder, a turkey baster, aluminum foil, magnifying glass, empty toilet paper tube, WintOGreen Life Savers, or a small LED.  See?  A few real science things and lots of junk from your house. 

So, how do you teach chemistry and physics to little kids????

D-man, who is taking chemistry this year, could not believe that I was even going to attempt to teach A-man and S-girl chemistry and physics.  He kept saying stuff like, "there is no way you can teach them that stuff!  It can't really be chemistry!"  I handed him the book and told him to take a look.  So, he took a look.

Here is what they cover:

  • Chemistry and Physics Matter
  • Moving Matter
  • Building Blocks of Creation
  • Compound Matter
  • Multitude of Mixtures
  • Mechanics in Motion
  • Dynamics of Motion
  • Work in the World
  • Sound of Energy
  • Light of the World
  • Thermal Energy
  • Electrifying Our World
  • Mysterious Magnetism
  • Simple Machines

Yup, real chemistry and physics.  Obviously, they are not using calculations and equations, but they are definitely teaching and introducing the concepts and scientific law behind true chemistry and physics.

So, you start by reading the lesson.  I read this aloud to A-man and S-girl...but, really, A-man probably would have been okay reading it on his own. The lessons are probably longer than your younger kids will be used to at 15-20 pages long.  But, the good news is you don't have to do all the pages at once. 

They have a suggested  schedule that you can follow....if you don't want to come with up your own.  They recommend working 2 days a week, which gets you through each lesson in 4 sessions, or 2 weeks.  You don't have to follow their schedule and can just do it at your own pace.  So, even though a schedule of 2 days a week should have seemed very doable, we didn't follow it exactly since we were in the middle of the move.  Some weeks we did 2 lessons, and some we didn't.  The good thing was, that kept this course fun for the kids and didn't overwhelm me.  (Though, if we were in a different place and had been settled in our house, I totally would have followed their 2 lesson a week plan.)

One of their suggestions  in the "how to use this book" is to have the kids tell you what they learned, especially if they are too young to write that sort of thing down.  I found it pretty interesting to see what A-man and S-girl took away from the lessons....usually they were completely different things.

Within the reading, there are projects and "Try This" where you use the stuff from your supply list to show your students how chemistry and physics works.  Like sticking a bamboo skewer through a blown up balloon without popping it.  Anyone know what that teaches?  Anyone?  Beuller?  Beuller?  It actually shows how polymer molecules twist around the skewer and create an airtight seal.

After the reading and trying things in the textbook, you can work on the stuff in the notebooking journal.  It has a little bit of everything in it.  There is copywork, using scripture....this is  Apologia, afterall.

They have more experiments or projects to try called "Test It Out".  Here is one from Lesson 11 (that we haven't gotten to yet).  In this lesson, we will learn about Thermal Energy.  The Test It Out explores more by having them try Thermal Expansion, with an easy to try experiment of filling an empty soup can with hot water, putting that in a bowl and then putting it in the freezer....and then checking on it the next day.  Easy to do.  Easy stuff you already have at home.  Quick-ish results.

 There are coloring pages, vocabulary words, suggestions for other books and websites that have more information on the concepts being covered. 

 At the back are already printed activities, like minibooks, flipbooks, matchbooks,  that you just have to assemble to use.   This one is for Lesson 8 called "Work in the World" and covers the different kinds of energy...Chemical, Kinetic, Nuclear, Coal, Solar, Bio Fuels, etc. 

In the notebooking journal, there is an activity called Fascinating Facts where they are supposed to write (if they can) what they remember about the lesson.  They can draw pictures and write a few things down.  Here is where I understand Apologia's philosophy, in theory, but not necessarily in practice.  They recommend that you let your child decide what was an interesting or important fact.  Okay.  So, far I am still with them. There are no right or wrong answers.  The idea is to give them autonomy and keep science fun.  Like I said, I understand their theory.  I just have a problem with there being no right and wrong answer.

Even though we didn't delve into this super deeply because of our move, and barely scratched the surface of what the books had to offer, I still have a strong opinion on this curriculum.  I say the same thing D-man did.  Wow!  They really teach them this stuff!  This curriculum really teaches physics and chemistry in a way that younger children can understand and try it.

 I have officially added this to our lesson plans so we can continue to work through the book at their suggested 2 days a week plan.

I am really curious to see how my younger kids do once they get into the upper level sciences because my older kids never delved into this stuff when they were this age.  I think it is a fabulous idea to introduce the "hard" sciences early on, just like Algebra concepts, because even if they don't totally get the scientific laws they are learning, at the very least, they won't  be scared of it when they officially get there when they are older.  Right?

You can get the Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics textbook for $39.00 and the Junior Notebooking Journal to go along with it, for $24.00

Take a look at what other TOS Reviewers thought about Apologia's Young Explorers Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

IXL Learning

This is a review.

IXL is another one of those great products that we have had the privilege of reviewing more than once.  We got to try it out back in the summer of 2012 too!

IXL is both a math and language arts on-line program.  The language arts work, at this point, is only for grades 2 through 4, but their math, is PreK-12.

The on-line math membership is for PreK - 12.


The on-line language arts membership is for grades 2 - 4.....but they are working on adding additional grade levels.  

Click on the links to get a more detailed look at what skills are covered under each membership.  But, here are the highlights of what your membership benefits will be:
  • Comprehensive coverage of K–12 math curriculum. Your kids won't miss a thing!
  • Interactive language arts exercises for grades 2–4.
  • Unlimited questions in over 2,000 skills.
  • Fun and colorful practice formats.
  • Questions that adapt to your child's ability, increasing in difficulty as they improve.
  • Immediate feedback and question-specific explanations to solidify understanding of each concept. (My kids really liked this part) 
  • Audio for all pre-K to first-grade math skills.
  • Weekly e-mail updates on your child's progress.(I loved this feature!) 
  • Informative, detailed reports pointing out successes and trouble spots.
  • Awards and certificates for you and your children to print out as they reach important milestones. (Not my favorite...see why...below.) 
  • iPad app for mobile math practice. (We don't have fancy-schmancy things like Ipads...but other reviewers really liked this option to do IXL on them.)

We mostly used the math portions of IXL and just sort of played around with the language arts sections.  This time around, A-man (3rd grade) and S-girl (1st grade) used IXL. 

All I did was create my account and then register them on the parent page.  I even got to create a little cartoon version of them.  Then whenever they logged in to work, they just picked themselves and went to work.  IXL keeps track of what they do, from how much time they spend to what they work on....and how they do in every area.  As the parent, I can log on and take a look, but they also send me reports in my e-mail account to keep be posted.

Here is a sample of some of the report information available in the parent page.  This is what A-man did in a particular time period.  He mastered place values in whole numbers.  He needs improvement with word names for numbers, and he is doing "satisfactory" in identifying factors.

I really like IXL for a few reasons. 

1. I like all the detailed information available in the reports and progress reports.  So, even if they work on IXL when I am not physically present, I totally know how much time they actually spent and what they worked on. 

2.  I think it is always a good idea to use different teaching styles, wording of problems and approaches (even games) with kids.  I think that it gives you a great sense of whether they are really "getting" the concepts or not.  For example, I want the kids to know what to do with math, whether you use the words "subtract", "take away", or "minus".  IXL uses a slightly different approach and wording of problems than our current curriculum, so sometimes the kids would get caught in not quite understand what they were being asked.  When they would have problems, it was just a chance for Rainman or I to explain that the words can be used in place of each other.

3.  I also liked it because it just gave them good old fashioned practice with their numbers, adding, subtracting, multiplying, etc.  Sort of like the old concept of using flashcards to really get your math skills drilled into your brain.

4.  The kids liked it because they would get awards/certificates when they did well and mastered a topic.  (I didn't love this - because if we printed the certificates - we ended up using a lot of ink....but that is just good, old, frugal mom talking!)

5.  I like IXL is because your child has access to all grade levels and can work wherever they want to/need to and they don't even need to know what "grade" level they are working in.  So, for example, if they are behind where they should be....say only doing 1st grade work, but they are chronologically in the 3rd can hide the grade level notations, so they don't know it.  This also works in reverse and your child can work above grade level.

Here is where I will tell you a little story:

L-girl got to use IXL the last time we reviewed it.  This time, I only signed up A-man and S-girl.  One day, L-girl was bored and asked if she could use A-man's account and do some IXL.  I am no dummy, so I said she could.  She logged on, went to the 6th grade math stuff and worked on stuff for maybe 10 or 15 minutes. 

Fast forward to the next day, when A-man sat down to do his IXL work for the day.  I was actually in the other room and I kept hearing him exclaim at the computer, "What?" "Wait!"  "Uggg!!!"  I asked him what was wrong.  He, in typical, male fashion, said, "Nothing.  I got it, mom."  I asked him if he was sure and whether or not he wanted me to come help walk him through the questions.  Nope.  He had it.  So, I left him alone.  He was at it for a while.  I heard less and less verbal comments from him.  Then he finished his time for the day and informed me that he had mastered the lesson.

Then, he said, "Mom!  I know what happened.  L-girl (no, he didn't call her that...he used her real name) was on and switched it to 6th grade math and didn't change it back.  I just mastered 6th grade math!"

I love that he was challenged.  I love that he ended up figuring out how to complete the problems on his own, without any help from Rainman or I.  I love how proud he was of himself that he had done 6th grade math....and done it well!

I can see where it would also come in handy for your child to be able to go backwards and do some "easy" math from their past when they need a little mental encouragement or boost in their self esteem, that they can do stuff that once upon a time they thought was hard.  You know?

We didn't "use" the language arts part of IXL.  We just played around a bit, but from what I saw I liked it for the same reasons I like the math portions.  It gives them the strong background skills to solidify what is being taught in our language arts curriculum already.  Sort of like the flashcard concept in math...with knowing which word is a noun or adjective.

There is definitely enough content in IXL to use it as a full curriculum for math and, I think, for the grades represented in the language arts, as well.  However, we will continue using our year long subscription as a supplement to what we are doing in our physical textbooks.

IXL can also line up with your State standards and "Common Core" stuff.  You do not want to get me started on the discussion of my feelings on Common, I will just leave it as you can line up what you teach with those things....if you care to. 

So, now for pricing, right?  There are a few ways to go about membership with IXL, a monthly plan or a yearly plan.  The monthly price is $9.95 per month and the yearly plan is $79 for 12 months (there are additional costs to add more students).    So, if you can come up with the funds for a yearly membership, you will be saving money.

Go take a look and see what the other TOS reviewers thought of IXL for both math and language arts. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

If You Were Me......

This is a review.

We got the coolest kids books to review.  They all started with "If You Were Me and Lived In...." then there would be a country name.  We actually got to read four of the titles and see what it was like for the kids that lived in.

If You Were Me and Lived In....Mexico
If You Were Me and Lived In....France
If You Were Me and Lived in....Norway (new one doesn't have its own link yet)
If You Were Me and Lived In....South Korea

These books are all by Carole P. Roman (with Away We Go Media), author of the award winning Captain No Beard. 


These are simple little children's books that are designed for ages PreK to 8 as an introduction to learning about other cultures.  I opted to get the real paperback versions of these books, so the kids and I could curl up and read them together.  As a fun bonus, we were sent an inflatable globe that we used to find the countries before we read the stories and our own passport.

All of the books followed a similar theme and taught the kids things like the capital of the country, common names for both boys and girls, what kind of money is used in the country, what you would call your mom and dad.

If You Were Me and Lived In....Norway was the one I was most excited about because of my Norwegian heritage.  My mother is 100% Norwegian.  I even traveled to Norway, in high school, for a short time with a choir.  I loved the sites and the hearing the familiar cadence and way certain words were said that I had heard back home.

(Side note:  Aren't the kids sweaters adorable on the cover???)

For me, this book brought back memories of open faced sandwiches and vaflers, seeing the traditional dress that the book showed for Syttend Mai.  It also gave me an opportunity to share some of the other things I remembered about Norway with the kids.

I read these with A-man, S-girl, and V-girl and they all loved them. 

I did things a little differently the first time I read them, I read them to each of them individually so they could take whatever time they needed to find the location we were talking about on the globe. (A-man has a tendency to be a bit of a know it all in this area and I knew he wouldn't give his sisters time to search around the globe and find the country we were taking about!)  They could also ask whatever questions they wanted to and not be interrupted by siblings. 

They really liked these books and they were not just "read them once and done" books.  So, after the first time through, I read them with all three of them together and, as expected.....they fought over the globe.  Something that I didn't discover until I had read the books already (A-man was actually the one that spotted them) was that included at the back of each book is a pronunciation guide for all the "foreign" words in the books. 

If You Were Me and Lived in....France was another fun one for me.

I have been there too.  When D-man and A-man were little, Rainman had a short stint working for KLM in The Netherlands and we would take weekend trips via train all around Europe.  I was able to show them some of our pictures of our the one with their brother and sister in front of the Eiffel Tower....just like the kids in the books.

One of the things that I loved best about our time living in Amsterdam is that we got to see how people really lived.  We got to go to the grocery store, bakery, butcher and shop alongside locals.  We got to live in a little house that had a little refrigerator because they go to the store almost daily there.  There is no stocking up like we do here.  We got to walk just about everywhere and because of this, we got to peek into a lot of windows on the way to and from.  (They weren't real big on window coverings) We got to spend time in people's homes seeing how they decorated, what they ate, how they served their drinks.    We got to see the local playgrounds.  We got to see the dance hall.  We got to see into their real lives.....not just the highlights of what to see when you are traveling through a new place.

I think the thing I liked most about these books were that they did the same thing.  They weren't necessarily showing things from a tourist perspective....if that makes sense.  Although, they did mention some of the things people come to their country to see.  I mean, really, you can't really mentioned France without the Eiffel Tower, right?  But, you got to see, in a simplified, childlike-way, what their lives were like....the family at the dinner table...the family at the café....the kids on their way into school.

Is it the same as actually going to these countries and living there?  No.  But, it is a great start at showing your kids how people live in different countries. The same as them...yet different.  We had a lot of good conversations about these different countries.  Yes, it helped that I had actually been to some of these places before, but we even had good conversations about Mexico and South Korea where I hadn't physically been.

These books were designed as an introduction to cultures around the world, and that was certainly true for us.  It got me excited about the possibility of traveling with the kids again to far off and distant places.  It also, I think, planted the seed in my kids that it would be fun to go somewhere new and try some new foods or experiences. 

There isn't anything wrong with that now, is there?  Really, I thought these books were fun and didn't really think of them as "school"...nor did my kids.  But, you could easily use them as a jumping off point for a whole curricula study around the country.

You can get your own copies of the books in the If You Were Me and Lived In....series for about $9.00 right now. There are Kindle versions of these books available, if you are that kind of hi-tech mom.  They are $0.99.  The Norway book is a bit more than the others (probably because it is new).

Take a look and see what other TOS Reviewers thought of the Carole P. Roman, If You Were Me and Lived in....series.