Recent Posts

Saturday, May 31, 2014

The End of Birthday Palooza - L-Girl's Birthday!

Yes, I realize it is almost June and I am just posting the last of my April birthdays.

Homeschoolers get busy at this time of year too!

L-girl turned 12 this year.

She too, picked me for her special birthday meal.  She has inherited her mother's love of Chinese cuisine, so we tried out a new place together.....and I forgot to have someone snap a picture of us on our way out!

Too bad, because we looked really good.   Chaos around here sometimes, I tell you.

Her food was better than mine, which is only fair, since it was her birthday!  We both got fortunes that made us smile.  We are both still a bit peeved that we didn't get our promised egg roll.  But, overall,  it was a good day.

We came home and she got to open presents.

V-girl went out on a limb this time and shopped in her own closet (rather than off the floor) this time and gave L-girl the step stool she uses to get her clothes down.  That girl just cracks me up!

Tried and true gift from A-man (the same thing he got for A-girl)....One Direction trading cards.

A-girl helped add to her One Direction trading cards and got her a drinking cup (that I steal as often as I can)!

Somehow D-man and S-girl escaped pictures this time around.  In case you can't guess, birthday present opening time can get a little chaotic!  Usually, I am a fanatic about  making sure I get pictures of each of them, so I am not sure what happened this time around.

So, I will just include recent pictures of them with L-girl to document the approximate time of her birthday.

Here she is at D-man's graduation from a youth leadership program in our county.

Here she is with S-girl, at the Cinderella viewing party, in the room we have ready for Grandma.

If you remember, at A-girl's birthday this year, she and L-girl got a one joint gift to open on A-girl's birthday, and the other would be opened on L-girl's birthday.

This second gift came in a big box that had been tormenting them for weeks.

What is it????

A dress form!

It has a stand and everything.  They were so excited....and, honestly, I was super excited to give it to them. It cost more than I would usually spend on their gifts, but after seeing what they could do with swimwear and all the other cute skirts and dresses they have made, I knew it would be used.

(Coming soon:  A Micro Business sewing custom clothing!  They are just trying to work out the details.  I am so excited for them.)

Now, L-girl's birthday being so close to Easter this year, we ended up waiting awhile(honestly, it was like 2 weeks) to have her cake....poor thing.  But, she did get it....and it had she was happy!

Happy birthday, my sweet, sweet, L-girl!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Apologia - What On Earth Can I Do? - Review

Apologia Education Ministries is a company very well known in homeschooling circles.

But, even if you aren't a homeschooler, they have some awesome products that you can use with your kids.

This time around, we got a book called What On Earth Can I Do?.  This book is part of the What We Believe series that helps develop a Biblical worldview.   Whether you like it or not, everyone has some type of "worldview".  I am going with a Biblical worldview at our house.

I have now been lucky enough to review 3 of the books in this series.  In addition to the new book, What On Earth Can I Do?,

Check out my reviews on:

Who Am I?  What Am I Doing Here?

Who Is My Neighbor?

The first book in the series (and the only one I haven't read/reviewed) is:

Who Is God?

I will be honest, when the opportunity to review this latest book in the series, I was planning on passing.  I was busy.  It was for grades 1 through 6, so I knew I would have to "teach" it and not just assign it.  I knew the review would happen at the end of our school year.  I just wasn't interested.

But, for our reviews at The OldSchoolhouse (TOS), we have to fill our interest forms for all the available products.,...and to do that, you need to take a look at the product, so you really know your interest level....or, in this case, why I wasn't interested.

I was doomed from the moment I went over to their website and read the little synopsis of the book.

".....helps children understand what it means to be a “good and faithful servant” of God (Matthew 25:23). This study will help them choose to put God first in every area of their lives based on these biblical truths: God owns all things because He created and sustains all things; He has entrusted me with certain gifts and wants me to use these gifts for His glory; I can honor God by using my money and possessions wisely; I can glorify Him by investing my time and talents wisely; my body is not my own but has been bought at a price; God expects me to care for His creation; God will reward me for my faithfulness."

Then, I read the sample lesson, which is the first one from the book....and I was really hooked!  I was going to have to teach this, even though it was the end of our school year.

The reason I was so enthralled with this is because it seemed to be sending a message that is completely opposite of the one the world is sending to our children.  

The message of this book?

That they are not the center of the universe!

That is right.  You heard me correctly.

My children are NOT the center of the universe.  

Honestly, I tell them that all the time.  I just thought I was the only one who did that.

What On Earth Can I Do? tells kids, quite simply, that God has a plan, you are a part of that plan, your gifts and talents are from him and should be used for what HE wants, not what will make you feel good.

There are 8 lessons in the book, they recommend you take about  2-3 weeks to complete most lessons. This works out well, because the lesson are pretty long (50ish pages or so).  We went the 3 week route and had "class" 2 days a week.  Take a look at a sample lesson plan from the book.

The book also came with Notebooking Journals.  

We got a regular Notebooking Journal and Junior Notebooking Journal.  A-man used the regular one and S-girl used the Junior one.  Same basic information, just simplified for the Junior version.  

The lessons in What On Earth Can I Do? are:

Your Story or God's Story
Who Put You In Charge?
Will You Be Found Faithful?
Where Is Your Treasure?
Where Does Your Time Go?
Whose Life Is  It Anyway?
Why Isn't It Easy Being Green?
What Will Happen When the Master Returns?

Each lesson starts out with the "big idea" that covers the main idea of that section.  Then it moves into a short story that asks you to think.  It then moves on to "hiding it in your heart" which is the Bible or scriptural portion of the lesson.  There are also pre-written prayers and prayer starters in the book.  The book moves onto a "What Should I Do?" section where they can consider how what they are learning can actually apply to their lives.  

It then turns to the teachings of Jesus through parables, with discussion that requires you to go deeper in thinking about what the parables mean for us today and how we can become better stewards of Jesus's teaching.

As you can probably tell from what I just listed, these lessons cover A LOT of stuff.  

We also got a coloring book.  

A-man didn't enjoy using this much.  S-girl, on the other hand, loved it.  Sometime she would color while I read the stories aloud.

So, onto how we used this curriculum.  We normally did this 2 days a week.  Honestly, this is one of those books that it was best to read it aloud to the kids and show them the pictures as I went along.  There was one day that I was really busy, and A-man wanted to officially be done with school for the day.  On that day, he sat and read the lesson to himself.  Then later, I read to S-girl and asked them both a few questions.  I had to make sure that A-man didn't just skim.  He didn't.  

I really liked this book.  The way it was presented, was very interesting to me, and especially, A-man.  S-girl liked it, but didn't seem to fully grasp things like A-man did.

One of A-man's favorite subjects is history.  The thing he loved about this book is that there were so many history based stories and mini-biographies about real people from history.  I am going to go into quite a bit of detail about the first lesson to give you an idea of the depth and scope of how the lessons are woven together from many different directions.

The book started off on a really deep level, talking about supporting actor, Claude Rains and talked about how our role should be a supporting actor in God's story and that we should try to steal the spotlight.  It then moved into a little biography about Adolf Hitler.  Not just the Adolf Hitler of World War II fame, but who he was before that time in history.  It was interesting.  I learned some things that I didn't know about him either.

The next part of this lesson is a fictional story about King's Cross train station during World War II.  It told of a family of children who had to move out to the country and stay with people they didn't know in order to stay safe from all the bombings happening in London.

We were able to have a lot of discussion after this story.  We talked about how it reminded us of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.  We talked about the fact that kids really had to do this during wartime.  We talked about how hard it would be for the kids and for the parents.  

The lesson then moved into a little biography about Charlie Chaplin and how his movies may have helped America to enter the war against Germany.

The lesson then moved into a little story about Maria von Trapp, yes the Sound of Music lady, and then Corrie ten Boom, who wrote The Hiding Place.

We were able to discuss these ladies quite a bit too, because we love The Sound of Music and back in 2001, Rainman and I (and the kids that were around then, D-man and A-girl) lived in Amsterdam for a month and went to the watch shop and home where Corrie ten Boom lived and helped hide Jews.

I forget sometimes the things my kids have and haven't learned.  We hadn't really covered much about World War II yet, just in the most general terms.  This book helped us dig a little deeper, but not in a scary way.

You should have seen their mouths drop open when we started talking about concentration camps and what Hitler believed about people.  That people really did have to hide from the government, just because of their heritage.  They were shocked when we talked a bit about the concentration camps and how people were treated and how many died there.

This isn't necessarily a subject that I was planning to teach them at this age, but now that I have and we have had some of these discussions, I am glad I am starting out a little earlier with the kids.  Their hearts are tender and open right now.  This is the time to talk to them about how they can be an ordinary person that God can do extraordinary things through, or that their little piece of the world can be a beautiful thread in the tapesty that God is weaving.

A portion from the end of this lesson jumped out at me...

"Maybe no one has ever heard of you.  Maybe no one will ever interview your or ask for your autograph.  And yet you are in a position to  to introduce people to the God of all creation.  You are on a first-name basis with the King or kings!  He will never snub you or pretend He doesn't know you.  And He will always take your call, whether you're in trouble, you need advice, or you just want to talk "

Isn't that comforting and awesome?

We are going to be continuing to work through this book during the summer months.  Actually, it has already gotten easier for us to fit this into our days without all the other normal subjects too.  I would say out of the two kids, A-man likes the curriculum better than S-girl.  But she is learning things too, her vocabulary has improved too.  That is where the Notebooking Journal was nice, because it really went through the words and concepts from the books.  

They used word finds, crossword puzzles, and, fill in the blanks.  At the end of each lesson there is a Find Out More section.  This area gives you "Things To Do" to apply the lessons that you learned, other books you can read that cover the same stuff, and even songs to listen to/sing and videos to watch.  

For example, lesson one that I told you about, with Hitler, Maria von Trapp, Charlie Chaplin recommended you watch The Prince of Egypt and The Sound of Music.  Song recommendations include, "Take My Life and Let It Be", by Frances Ridley Havergal and Henri Abraham Cesar Malan (whew, that is a long name),  and "Lead Me to the Cross" by Brooke Fraser.

It is just another way that you can dig deeper and connect the lesson in a more personal way.  

We really had a lot of fun and interesting discussions between the 3 of us.  Like I said, I imagine that some people may not be thrilled with the book starting out with some pretty serious/disturbing history during wartime.....but, it wasn't presented in a salacious or disturbing way that would traumatize my kids.

The first thing I thought about when I started this book was that it would make a great Bible study at church.  It has so many different ways of looking at the world, that I would love to see this done in a group setting in Sunday School or a Wednesday night Bible Study.....even all the way up through middle school and high school, even though that isn't the intended audience for this book.

You can get a hard copy of What On Earth Can I Do" for $39.00, the Notebooking Journal is $24.00, and the coloring book is $8.00

You can connect to Apologia in all kinds of ways.

 Facebook –
 Twitter – 
 Google+ -
 Pinterest –

You can see what other TOS reviewers thought of What On Earth Can I Do?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Micro Business for Teens - Review

Have I used the word "fantastic" too much in my reviews for that word to still be effective?

Hope not.

We got the chance to review a truly fantastic set of books about Micro Business for Teens.  Emoji

It is a set of three books designed for ages 10-18:

First of all, let me say this....


Yes, I meant to "shout" that statement.

Starting a Micro Business

This book goes into some of the thinking behind starting a micro business versus getting a job.  It goes into details about things to consider and think about (like business plans and financing) before deciding whether having your own business will work for you, or not.

Running a Micro Business

This book is just what it says it is, it is the step two of deciding to start your own business.  This book goes into sales and marketing. It covers basic customer service and some of the financial pieces, like recording keeping and book keeping.

Micro Business for Teens Workbook

This one is to be used along with the other books and gives you the hands on pieces that are specific to your own business.....from the first idea the business plan stage....and beyond.  As a Dave Ramsey follower/believer, I love that she has the kids think about starting their businesses without debt or financial risk.

First of you have any idea what a Micro Business is?

It is basically a small, sole proprietor employees....not much money to start...easy to start up....easy to shut down.

This was one of the things that I got pretty excited about even before I saw the books.  My brain was bouncing ideas around before they even arrived on my doorstep.  I talked to my 3 bigs and tried to get them excited.  I was met with bored stares and 'Oh, that is interesting, mom", said in that special way that only teenagers can.  They tell you what they think you want to hear in the most bored tone you won't notice, or something.

So, I decided I wouldn't push them....yet.  I decided to just read the books myself.  I got about half way through the Starting a Micro Business book and realized that I didn't care how hard I would have to push them, they were going to read these books.....and, by golly, they were going to like it!Emoji

I read the books and decided that even though I am not a teenager and not in the recommended age range, I was going to use these books to start my own micro business.  The more I read, the more I was having little epiphanies about our to make money...with the skills we already to work, not necessarily harder....but smarter. That God had given us skills and talents that we could (and should) use to help us with our finances.

I want my kids to have a strong work ethic.  I want my kids to make money.  But, I also want my kids to have lives outside of work and school.  I want them to have a little control over when they work, so family reunions or road trips to Minnesota will not be ruined by them being on the schedule and nobody around to cover for them.

They needed to read these.  They needed to get excited about them.  They just needed to.

But, of course, I had to play it cool.

There is nothing that will turn off a teenager more quickly than their parents wanting them to get excited about something.

So, I played it cool and said that I needed them to help me out for a review.  No big deal.  Just needed them to read this skinny, teeny, tiny, little book.....and let me know what they thought.

It worked.

In my head, D-man, had already accidentally started a micro business doing lawn work....he just wasn't calling it that.  But, to him, it wasn't a "real" job.....because he didn't have set hours or know how much money he would be making each week.

He has been planning to get hired at a golf course near our home.  We all thought it was a pretty sure thing. He knew people that worked there that had recommended him to management.  He had gone in and spoken with managers.  He had followed up when he said he would follow up.  He had great references.

But, this golf course is really good at "saving" jobs for their college guys, if they want their jobs  back during the summer months. This year, almost all of them came back, so even though D-man would have been a great addition to their crew, they didn't have room for him.  He was pretty bummed.  He asked me if I would drive him up and down the highway near our house so he could apply at all the fast food places and see if he could get a "real" job.

I told him maybe. Once he was almost done with the book, I struck up the conversation, and asked why he didn't just consider adding 1 or 2 more clients to his accidental lawn care business and forget about fast food jobs.  He was skeptical.

The thing that got to him was doing the numbers.  The author of the book, Carol Topp, is a CPA, and is big on number crunching.  The numbers have to make sense.  So, I made him figure out what he would make working 20 hours a week at a minimum wage job.  Then we figured out how many lawns he would need to mow to make that same amount of money.  We talked about the difference in hours to achieve the same money.  We talked about his ability to come with us on family trips without worrying about whether he could get the time off or not.

He was still a bit skeptical.  It wasn't a "real" job.

I went in for the kill.

I used J-girl.

Remember her?

(Aren't her eyes spectacular?)

What if J-girl only had one night a week she could do something with D-man....(a scenario that is quite possible because she keeps really busy with extracurricular and church activities).....and that one night, he was on the schedule, at his "real" job....and nobody would or could trade shifts with him?

Hmmmm?  What would you do then?

So, guess what D-man is going to try?  Adding more lawn care clients.  He still hasn't completely ruled out getting a job at a food place, but, he wants to at least try to make money and control his schedule himself.

Before reading this book, I could not have imagined myself happy about the fact that my son wasn't going to try to get a job right away this summer.  It just really opened my eyes to the possibilities out there.

Now, let's move onto my girls.

If you read my post about Modesty in 2014, you saw how talented my girls are at sewing things.  In my head, they should have a micro business sewing things for people.  I envisioned them starting an empire of modest yet cute, swimwear for the masses......custom made skirts, and headbands.

A-girl read Starting a Micro Business first, then L-girl.  They also did the workbook pages (something that D-man did not do...he and I just ran some theoretical numbers).  We sat down together and brainstormed ideas.  They narrowed their lists down.  They whittled their list down to one business idea to start with.

It wasn't sewing.

It was babysitting.

One of Ms. Topp's things she talks about is to look at your individual strengths and talents and decide what is unique about doing business with you.

My girls (all my kids really) are good with kids.  They are all good with babies.  They genuinely like them.  A larger group of kids do not overwhelm my kids.  They can wrangle and manage a group of kids like no other (well, maybe like their mother).

So, A-girl and L-girl decided to do something that wasn't necessarily recommended in the book.  Actually, it is something that Ms. Topp's advises against.  They want their first micro business to be a partnership.  They have created this:

They call themselves the Super Sister Sitters.  I think it is a fantastic idea.  We shall see if their partnership is successful.  (Honestly, they have each threatened to break up the partnership a time or two already.)

They followed Ms. Topp's idea of surveying their potential customers and asked for feedback from a few of them on the flyer, their pricing, and the idea.  The tweaked things a bit after they got the feedback and started handing out flyers.  We shall see what happens, but they are excited about the possibilities.  I am too.

Each of them has other, individual, micro business ideas that they are working through the details, but they are starting with their Super Sisters Sitter idea.

These books have just been fantastic.  Yup, there is that word again.

The books have micro business ideas to get you started.  They have success stories  (Check out Phil Santoro who founded a small tech start-up company,, while still in high school. He sold it for $1.2M to California-based CrowdGather in his sophomore year at the University of Cincinatti.  Or, Rachel Coker who had her first book published by Zondervan when she was 16 years old!), realistic stories of success,  and cautionary tales of where things can and have gone wrong for people.

The books give real life advice and real life scenarios.  Obviously, not everyone will start a micro business and then sell it for over a million dollars.  Ms. Topp wants you to do your best, set your own goals (they may not even be financial goals)  No matter how big or small you want your micro business to be, there are lots of words of encouragement.

The books make micro businesses seem very doable.  After you are done reading, your mind will probably just be spinning with ideas and possibilities.  Mine was.

There is a lot of information packed into these skinny little books, but you can also take a look at their You Tube station Micro Business for Teens for some other motivational thoughts/ideas as you work through the curriculum.

Ms. Topp also has a blog through her website that has lots and lots of good articles and information for your micro businesses.

I honestly love the fact that Ms. Topp has you put together a business plan as part of the planning process of opening your own business.  That, in itself, will be a super useful life skill for them.

Recently, a friend was looking to start up a small business and asked another friend to help them with some initial start up costs.  This friend asked to take a look at their business plan.  He didn't have one, and honestly, I am not sure he even really knew what one was or how to go about putting one together.  My kids, should they find themselves wanting to open a small business (step up from micro business), will have some of the basic skills and thought processes down to see if taking a risk is the right thing to do.

Remember, micro businesses are to be started with little to no money, so the financial risk to them...or their minimal, but the opportunity to learn new things is gargantuan.  They learn about brainstorming initial ideas, how to dissect and narrow down the ideas, how to write a business plan, how to manage finances, and even what to do about taxes...should the time come.

This got my wheels turning again for ways I could start a micro business and still be a stay at home mom/homeschooler.  I will keep you posted on mine.....because I am still narrowing down my ideas.  My problem is I want to start 6 or 7 micro businesses!

Just hearing us talk about these books, got 9 year old, A-man's wheels turning.  Here is what he came up with:

He is still working on details on who to market to....although he has hand delivered these to 3 of our neighbors already.....but I love the way his mind is already working!  I love the way my teenagers minds are working.  I love the way my mind is working....all because of Carol Topp's Micro Business for Teens.  

Investing in these books will be well worth your money.  Really.  It will.  You can get the physical books for Starting a Micro Business and Running a Micro Business for $9.95 (ebooks are $4.95).  The physical workbook is $14.95 ebook $9.95)

The workbook was a very valuable addition to reading the books.  It has the actual hands on part of working through the micro business idea from beginning to end.  It was where it moved from idea to reality.....and, if you chose, it could be considered "school".  We did this outside of school hours, just for the benefit of having our own micro businesses, but it would definitely be a great addition to any kind of business or marketing class too.

Take a look and see what the other TOS Review teenagers did with Micro Business for Teens.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Heroes and Heroines - Review

We got a change to try this cool history curriculum by Golden Prairie Press.

It is called Heroes and Heroines of the Past - American History.. 

This was created by Amy Puetz who is a homeschool graduate herself.  Such a neat curriculum with so many features that are hard to find in other curricula.  I personally think that because the author graduated from homeschool, that is why this is such a unique program and includes things like historical skits and songs.  I will go into detail about those later, but just know this is a unique and interesting history curriculum.

We got to try the digital version of Heroes and Heroines of the Past., designed for grades 1 through 6. This has 3 ebooks and 3 audio downloads.  Here is a little detail on what is included from Amy Puetz's website:

Heroes and Heroines of the Past: American History Part 1 ebookHeroes and Heroines of the Past: American History Part 2 ebook
Additional Materials Downloads
There are printable timelines, instructions and entertaining videos, color artwork, coloring pages, and much more.
Historical Skits ebook 
This book has nineteen skits from the time of Columbus to World War II. 
Sing Some History CD
Hear some of the songs that are mentioned in the book. Music is a great way to experience history. 20 Songs: All the Pretty Little Horses, Lavender’s Blue, Liberty Song, Chester, Johnny has Gone for a Soldier, Yankee Doodle, Hail Columbia, Tippecanoe and Tyler Too, Oh! Susanna, Missionary Farewell, Henry Clay, Sweet Betsy from Pike, Dixie, Bonny Blue Flag, Battle Hymn of the Republic, When Johnny Comes Marching Home, I’ve Been Working on the Railroad, She’ll be Comin’ ’Round the Mountain, Pop Goes the Weasel, and Uncle Sam’s Rich Enough to Give Us All a Farm. 
Listen to Some U.S. History MP3 CD
An audio collection of 20 original speeches, poems, sermons, and documents that are mentioned in the book. Includes: Mayflower Compact, Model of Christian Charity, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, On the Method of Grace, To King George on the Repeal of the Stamp Act, To My Dear and Loving Husband,Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death, The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, Bill of Rights, My Escape from Slavery, Inaugural Address, The Emancipation Proclamation, Gettysburg Address, Excerpt from A Diary from Dixie, Speeches by Red Cloud, The Atlanta Exposition Address, Christian Citizenship, and Sergeant York.

The recommended lesson plan is planned around 30 sections with 5 lessons per section.  Usually, I would have done one section a week, but that didn't work into our schedule, this time around, so I did a few (3 or 4...depending on the week) lessons a week. My plan was just to use this with A-man, but S-girl started hanging around, so she joined in too.....and where A-man and S-girl are, you will find even though she was under the recommended age group....she learned a few things too.  Mostly the fun stuff....but she learned....and that is what homeschooling is all about.

The ebook textbook has each lesson divided into appropriate age levels, like this.....

See?  Right under the section/lesson title?  This is for 1st and 2nd graders.

And, here is the same information for 3rd through 6th graders.

Same basic information, but the younger grades material is simpler information and a bigger font.  

Since S-girl (and V-girl) ended up joining us, I decided that I would teach from the 1st-2nd grade section.  I read aloud the whole 1st-2nd grade sections and then I would skim through the material included in the 3rd through 6th section and just read some of the more interesting tidbits to them.

There are lots of pictures, artwork, and maps to make things more interesting.  I would say most of the time, we got through the material in about 30 minutes give or take a few longer days.  For the extra activities, I usually  had the kids work on outside of class time (unless it specifically needed adult supervision)....and show me the results later!

We had studied some of this material already in  our school, but we always learned more than we had with other curricula.  Honestly, A-man was sort of crushed when he learned that Christopher Columbus was kind of a jerk (and not a very good Christian) to the people of Jamaica.

This curriculum seemed to tell the history stories in a way that the kids naturally remembered/retained.

Weeks after we studied this in school, I asked A-man what he thought of Heroes and Heroines of the Past. He said that he had learned stuff that he didn't know before.  I asked for examples and he spouted off that he didn't know the name Christopher meant "Christ bearer", then he told the story of when Columbus wanted the Jamaican people to feed him and his men while they were stranded.  He remembered how Columbus had lied and told them he had the power to block the moon (since he knew when the lunar eclipse was supposed to happen), so they better keep on feeding him, or else.

He retained this weeks after I taught it.

This is definitely not the "remember the important dates for the test"  and then forget it kind of history course.

Want to know my favorite part of this curriculum?

Yes, I like all the information.  I like all the extras that are included like including scripture memorization, historical art pieces, timelines, the music CD, and all the other additional materials, like speeches, coloring pages, and skits.

All of that is fun.  It is all interesting.  It is all super unique to a history course.

But, my favorite was this page at the end of every lesson:

This page had the questions to ask your students either orally or written....for you moms that like tests.  (Yes, people like me.)  At the very least, you know that they are remembering the basics.

In our case, they always remembered more than these few questions asked.

This page also  had the map activities to complete.   One of Rainman's favorite subjects has always been geography, so he loved all the different map activities.  They weren't all just locating places/capitals, but plotting courses that ships sailed.

This page has the extra, fun, hands-on stuff to make and do.  The recipes.  The crafty things.  The games. We didn't do every single thing on these pages.  But, there are lots of ideas.....lots of choices.

We did make a teepee (actually many different versions with different materials....took us awhile to figure out how to get it as tall/big as we wanted).  We made Barbie-sized canoes.  We made bread.

On my example page it talks about making a hornbook.  We didn't make this one, but, it was interesting to read about it.  Even if it was something we chose not to do or if we didn't have the materials on hand to do was always, always, always, an interesting read.

You don't have to do these extra activity ideas, but they were a super fun bonus for us.

We love history around here already, but I have to think that these extras might be just the thing for a reluctant history student.  It really just makes it much more real and not just random stories being told that you are supposed to memorize.  You can really see and feel what it may have been like to be inside of history....and be a hero or heroine.

(One of our early incarnations of a teepee.....later versions fit more than one person....but I didn't get a picture of those!  They were popping up all over....just ask Rainman how mad he got one day, when he was looking for a broom to actually use for sweeping the floor....and couldn't find one because they were all "in use". That was the day construction of teepees were banned from our household!)

For your older students, there are additional literature assignments available.  We didn't use any of these since A-man is in 3rd and S-girl is in 1st.....but it is nice to know that when they are older there is a way to dig even deeper into the people of history.

This is a truly unique history and geography course.

It is unique in its style of presentation and the way it tells the stories.

It is unique in that it focuses on the "people" or heroes/heroines in history...not just events.

It is unique it all the extras(  that are available to make it a more interesting and complete view of history.....without the parents having to go search them out.

It is unique in that most of the work for the teacher is already completed.  The music is right there.  The recipes are right there.  The crafts/instructions are right there.

I will say, ebooks are hard for me/us.  The kids would have to look over my shoulder as I read to them on the computer.  They would have to look over my shoulder to see pictures and maps.  It was annoying.  If I had it to do over again, I would get a hardcopy of the textbook and keep all the extras as downloads.  But, I am probably old fashioned and too low tech to appreciate the ease of accessing curriculum this way.  That is really my only negative thought about this product.

I loved this course.

I loved the music.  I loved the historical video available.  I love that my kids are planning to work on one of the skits and film it.  I loved the recipes.  I loved the crafts.   I even love that teepee construction is banned in our household.  

You can try this truly unique digital curriculum of Heroes and Heroines of the Past:  American History for $98.99.

Take a look at what other TOS Reviewers thought of Heroes and Heroines of the Past:  American History.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Modesty in 2014

Modesty in 2014.


Old fashioned?

Too controlling?

Like all parents, I think there comes that pivotal moment when our daughter comes out of her room and we do a double take....and our brain freaks out a little bit....thoughts fill our head...

How did that happen?

She looks so grown up!

Look at those heels!

Wait a minute, that skirt is kind of short!

That shirt is showing just a bit too much skin!

You get the idea.  All of a sudden our little girls, aren't little girls anymore.

We don't want boys/men to notice them....yet.

We don't want our daughters, as my mother used to say..... "showing off their wares".

But, I also don't think they should be covered head to toe.

I also think they should get to have fun with fashion.

I saw this on Facebook the other day and completely, 100%, agreed with it.


I love it.

This may (or may not) surprise my friends, but I violated the dress code in college.

I went to a small Bible college in Iowa.  There were lots of rules at this school.  Rules about public displays of affection.  Rules that said no boys were allowed in the girls dorms and no girls were allowed in the boys dorms....except in the public living room area that had an adult chaperone present.  There was one t.v. on campus and it was only turned on for a few hours each night (plus you had to try to listen/watch with people running around or playing ping pong (which is where I could usually be found). Rules that said girls were required to wear dresses or skirts to class each day.

Lots of rules.

I didn't violate dress code because I wore pants to class or shorts on the weekend or anything.  I violated the dress code and was called into the Dean of Women's office.... for wearing a v-neck sweater.....backwards.

Yes.....backwards.  (Remember, this was the 80's.  i thought I was really cool.)

How did this violate the dress code?

I was showing a part of my skin that the boys were not used to seeing and might cause them to "stumble".

It wasn't even a deep V neck.  It probably showed 4 or 5 inches of my upper back.

But, I was asked to use wisdom and discernment in my wardrobe choices and to not scintillate the opposite sex....and, under no circumstances was I allowed to wear that sweater backwards again.

I remember being furious at the time.

Later I thought it was funny, and cracked jokes about my "super sexy, so you better look out, upper back"!

Later in life, I (sort of) understood what they were talking about.....I still didn't agree with it....but I understood it.

I got "in trouble" for my clothing choices one other time, in my life.  I was in my early-mid 20's.  I had been working at a large medical company for a few years and had been promoted a few times already.  I had dropped out of college and decided not to continue pursuing my nursing degree (partly because I had gotten a great job with vacation and benefits without having to finish school/take out a bunch of college loans). I either wasn't in a relationship.....or I was in a dead end one (can't remember).   I had just lost a local beauty pageant, had lost weight for the swimsuit competition....and.....looking back,  I was looking for external validation about my, I wore the little, form fitting, black a work party.

The problem was, I was working for a corporate Vice President doing physician recruiting, at the time. I had been asked to escort/host a new  doctor and his wife around the Christmas party, and introduce them to other staff.   My boss,  relieved of my duties (thankfully for just that night).  He later gave me a big brotherly type, highly embarrassing talk about the image I was portraying with my clothing choices....and the fact that by dressing that way, I was giving people cause to doubt my true value to the company and skill level.

He was right.  Nobody wants a blond 20-something pageant flunkie/sexpot wanna be escorting a future employee and his wife around.  Even if underneath all the spandex I was a really nice person, and very good at my job.

Nobody could see past the short, tight dress to see that I had earned my job, the old fashioned way.....(not that old fashioned way Emoji ).....but, by hard work.

Clothing is powerful, whether we like it or not.

The power can be used for good.....or....evil.....well, my little black dress wasn't exactly evil.....but it certainly didn't get me any respect from my corporate bosses, or make them want to trust me with any outside business hours schmoozing/networking that is necessary in these situations.

People do judge you based on what you choose to....or not to.....wear.

Rainman and I have talked to our girls, especially, about modesty in 2014....and the power of clothing choices.  To keep it semi-simple, we do have basic rules.

No super short skirts or shorts.

No low cut tops.

No low rise jeans or pants. (You know....the butt crack showing ones....)

No bikinis.

My girls really haven't had many problems with the "rules" and have found plenty of cute things to wear.  But, there was one of the rules that drove them crazy.

No bikinis.

All of their friends wore bikinis.  All of their friends baby sisters wore bikinis.  Their cousins (who are super cool and fashionable) wore bikinis.

Why, oh why, wouldn't we let them wear bikinis?

We are so mean.

We are so old fashioned.

We would occasionally get a bag of hand-me downs that contained a bikini.  The begging would begin.

I would tell them to try it on and let me see.

They would too embarrassed to put it on and show me.

Or, if they did have the courage, they would show up in front of me wrapped in the blanket from their bed and sort of give me a quick, giggle filled, flash of them in the bikini.


So, the conversation would begin, "If you can't even walk downstairs, in our house, and show your mom.....why would you think you can walk around outside at a front of strangers?"

One of the girls slipped up once (and she will probably deny it to this day) and said, "Well, it is like walking around in our underwear!"

Exactly.  It really is.

And, yes, I used to wear bikinis.  It really was like walking around in my underwear.

To be honest, I wore them because I was looking for attention.  I wanted men to think I was sexy.  I wanted outside validation from the world that I was pretty....and worth.....something.

I want better for my girls.  I want them to feel strong and powerful....and pretty....and even sexy...without showing the world what they look like in their underwear.

I saw this on Facebook today by Diane Vreeland, who was a respected fashion columnist:

Photo: #tbt and always on point Ms. Diana Vreeland

It struck me as so true....yet so startling.  Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked "female".  You don't have to be pretty.

But, most of us want to be pretty.

I still want to be pretty.

I don't know why.

I don't discourage my girls from feeling pretty.....or wanting to feel pretty.  But, I hope I am stressing to them that their sense of worth in the world has NOTHING to do with being pretty.

So back to modesty.....

Where is the line drawn between blaming how a woman dresses for men making stupid decisions.....or causing them to stumble....or allowing yourself to be taken seriously....being able to feel pretty....if you want to....but, not showing everyone your "wares"?

We are finding it is a moving target.  We ask our girls not to dress too sexy, too grown up, or to show too much skin.

There are times that we send them back to their rooms to add a cardigan.  Or, I send them to the sewing machine to add a strap to something strapless.

But, the bikini issue continued to lurk.

We spent hours on the computer looking for something that would meet their need to be fashionable and cute, and my need not to let the world see too much of my babies.

There are companies that sell modesty suits.  They range from things like modern day versions of

To this......

Albion Suit for $108

We all liked the latter, but, oh my word.....the price!

So, I brought out my tried and true phrase.....that I get teased for....all the time.

"I bet we can make something much cheaper than that!"

And, we all paused.

Hey....wait a minute.....maybe we could!

Now, we had a new quest.

We looked for patterns.  We looked for fabric.  We spent lots and lots of time on Pinterest.

Finally, one day, the girls showed me a free pattern/tutorial that they wanted me to consider.

They held their breathe while I looked it over.

Hmmm......even though it was 2 piece, it was still modest.  It was like a 50's swimsuit.

I gave them a thumbs up.

Then, I found a fantastic little company called The Fabric Fairy,  that sold swimsuit fabric and supplies.

After talking to the lady at The Fabric Fairy about color choices, they placed their order and got busy.

While they waited for their order to arrive, the played around with the pattern, took measurements, created practice suits from old sheets.  So, when the fabric came, they were ready to go!

In case you haven't figured it out by now, the girls made their own swimsuits for this year.

I am proud of them.

I think they are adorable, without showing too much.

They are unique.  They are comfortable.  They stay in place when they are swimming.  They don't make my girls look like they are hoping to get a call back from Sports Illustrated for their "swimsuit" edition.

They are proud of themselves.  They think are are stylish, and they are able to wear them in public without blushing.


That, for this house, is Modesty in 2014

Monday, May 12, 2014

Logic of English - Review

V-girl got to try out a little schooling before she officially starts Kindergarten next August.

We got a chance to use Logic of English, more specifically, Foundations A    We also got to incorporate some Rhythm of Handwriting - Cursive.  More on the "cursive" part later.

The Foundations portion of Logic of English is designed for ages 4 to 7, and is a complete, phonics, reading handwriting and spelling program.

Per the Logic of English website, here is a snapshot of what the program is: The Logic of English is a systematic, multi-sensory approach to learning how to read, spell and write. The method is based upon 74 basic phonograms and 30 spelling rules that together explain 98% of English words.  

Most weeks, V-girl had 3 or 4 days of school.  I just love those eager little faces when they can't wait to start school!  Hers did fade a bit as the weeks went on, but overall, she was still excited when it was a school day.

This program is organized so well for the teacher.  The number one reason is that it came with a Teacher's Manual.  Not all programs for younger kids have that.  I am a huge fan of Teacher's Manuals (and I even read them!)   The manual explains the whole thought process behind Foundations and explains what you will need.  Each lesson starts by pointing out the objectives, what you will be working on that day and what materials you will need and what materials are optional for some of the extra/fun stuff you can do. ( One of the things they recommend is Dr. Seuss books....which we used to have lots and lots of and have one by one bitten the dust at our house.  So, we just kept out eyes peeled for them at garage sales and we were good to go and have successfully replenished our supply.)

I usually didn't do a lot of before school "prep", I would just glance at the first page and see if I needed anything extra, but usually, I would just start and follow along in the Teacher's Manual as the lesson proceeded.  It even tells you what to say to teach....not in a scripted format, so you are a robot, but examples to use to get the students to think and say the correct answer.

The lessons followed a basic pattern:  Phonemic Awareness,  Handwriting, Phonograms.....later in the lessons it also includes Words and Reading.  There are even built in lesson reviews every 5 lessons, where you can assess (test) how well your student is mastering the skills.

There are little teaching boxes throughout the Teacher's Manual for things like:

Challenges:  For example:  Divide the whiteboard in half.  Ask students to write vowels on one side and consonants on the other side.  

Multi-Sensory Fun:  For example: Provide students with alphabet cookie cutters and playdough.  have the students make the target words with playdough letters.  

Teacher Tips: For example:  For students who struggle with writing, use letter tiles (like Scrabble letters) to practice spelling the target words.

Honestly, the little Teacher Tips were really helpful.

One of the other unexpected things that ended up being fantastic for our family were the Speech Tips.  These were ways of teaching your student if a sound was a voiced or unvoiced sound, tongue placement, and lip placement....and looking into a mirror while saying them.

Speech Tips ended up being one thing useful for A-man, who is actually outside of the recommended age range for the course.  He is 9 now, and at his recent well-check, failed his hearing exam and was sent to an audiologist for further testing.

Long story short, the audiologist (and I) diagnosed him with....."being a boy".

That is right.  He passed all of her more detailed tests 100% and had perfect little arches on his charts where he was supposed to have them and could hear everything and all decibel levels.  His air pressure in his ear was perfect too.

We discussed his easily distracted personality and the fact that during his initial hearing test at the doctor there were people in the hallway and that during the test, he kept saying, "I can't hear anything".....which we decided was the exact time when the little beeps were being played into his distracted ears.

Anyway, how does this relate to Foundations A and their speech tips?  The audiologist was in another room looking at A-man through a little window during the tests.  The room was set up with a microphone, so she could hear him repeat the words she was playing back to him.  She noticed that he pronounced some words incorrectly and had exaggerated tongue placement for some words.

She talked about him seeing a speech therapist, but as she was talking and explaining things to me, a light bulb was going off in my head.  "Hey, this is what those speech tips are all about....voiced/unvoiced and especially tongue and lip placement!"  So, I said thank you as we laughed once again about the little distracted ears of 9 year old boys and went home and started doing a few pieces of the lessons with A-man.

He gets it.  He certainly has a few bad habits to break.  Especially over extending his tongue for certain sounds, but having him sit right in front of me watching what my lips and tongue do, and looking into a handheld mirror as he slows down and says the words, has improved his little speech quirks, without having to see a specialist.  (My pocketbook thanks you Logic of English Foundations A!)
Back to V-girl, the "actual" student.  Like I said, we usually did school 3 or 4 times a week.  One of the things that ended up being awesome about how this was organized from a teacher perspective was that my bigger kids could help V-girl with school if I was tied up with someone or something else.  As you can imagine with a household of six children, I get pulled in lots of directions and I will admit it, school for V-girl was sometimes way down on my list.

(Here they are working on sounds and where you "feel" them.....this one was in your nose.)

That is where L-girl especially, was able to step in and be super helpful.  She just grabbed the teacher manual and went through the days lessons/activities with V-girl.  It was great to watch from a leadership perspective for L-girl and from a student perspective for V-girl watching and imitating L-girl as she went through the sounds and tried cursive.

Speaking of cursive, let's talk about that for a bit, shall we?

Does starting with cursive for a 4 year old seem odd....and maybe just a lot crazy to you?

When I first heard it, I will admit that I thought it was crazy.  Then I read their reasoning...  "Why Teach Cursive First".  I was intrigued by their six points:

  1. It is less fine-motor skill intensive.
  2. All the lowercase letters begin in the same place on the baseline.
  3. Spacing within and between words is controlled.
  4. By lifting the pencil between words, the beginning and ending of words is emphasized.
  5. It is difficult to reverse letters such as b’s and d’s.
  6. The muscle memory that is mastered first will last a lifetime.
I was especially interested because with my older kids, we reserve learning cursive until 3rd grade and some of them have problems with b's and d's and spacing within words and between words.  I also think it is really sad that lots and lots of students aren't even learning cursive anymore.

I was intrigued, but I will admit I was skeptical....even though they say that cursive is less fine motor skill intensive than block printing.

I will say that V-girl can already recognize most of the block print letters, so even she was a little skeptical looking at and indentifying cursive letters.  I would say we had mixed results with this.  She loved writing on the whiteboard with her marker.  She would get frustrated when her swoops and swing strokes didn't look like my example.....but she was able to do it, in the end.

(Just noticed she is writing her name in block print here....old habits died hard, I guess!  Ooops!)

I am also a fan of workbooks and Logic of English Foundations has student workbooks where the work was quick, to the point, and provided ample opportunity to practice their new writing strokes and identifying phonograms.

(Quick little trivia from our family.....That Power Puff Girls t-shirt has been worn by all 6 of my children!  D-man used to LOVE them!)

With this program, we got a few other things that I considered "bonus" items from their Reusable Resources set:

An actual student sized whiteboard with the dotted lines.....big on one side.....small on the other.

Student Whiteboard - Half Size

Doodling Dragons - An ABC Book of Sounds.

Doodling Dragons: An ABC Book of Sounds

Phonogram game cards in both cursive and print.

Phonogram Game Cards - Green Cursive

Flashcards in both print and cursive.  I honestly LOVED the tactile cursive cards because they had the added feature of having a sandpaper-y feel and showed strokes, numbers, and lower and upper case letters.

Rhythm of Handwriting Cursive Tactile Cards Cover


You can try Logic of English Foundations A, with actual physical books, or in a PDF format.  The Teacher's Manual is $38.00, the student workbook is $18.00,  and the Doodling Dragons ABC Book of Sounds for $15.00.

Take a look and see what other TOS Reviewers thought of some of the other Logic of English products they got to try.