Saturday, October 30, 2010

Fit Mommy Fri... errr, Saturday: Challenge Week 1

So, yesterday got away from me and I never checked in.  I don't think I actually promised I'd be ON TIME with my check-ins, just that I'd do them.  So here goes.  My Fit Mommy Friday Challenge check-in:
  1. I will move daily.  I did do a pretty good job of this.  I made a point of walking when I'd normally be sitting (like while on the phone).  And I got some walking in while in town on Tuesday/Thursday.  I need to be more intentional about this though, especially on days when I'm home.
  2. I will drink water.  Okay, so while I'm still failing by most "expert" standards, I started every day except one (the morning it was 49 degrees in the house!) with a big glass of cold water.  I actually found myself waking up in the morning thinking about how much I wanted a glass of water.  And I did not have any Mountain Dew.  My kids did not make this easy.  While shopping, they went and grabbed one and put it with the groceries.  And Thomas grabbed one for me in Walgreens.  I had to put them back.  That was probably the hardest thing I did all week.
  3. De-cluttering my environment.  Well, while I did actually meet the letter of the law goal, many days I really didn't do that much.  And of course, my decluterred island is covered with science experiments (see yesterday's post on Yuck!)  
  4. Eat sensibly.  I did okay at this.  I shopped on Thursday to pick up some things (mushrooms, spinach...) that make this easier for me.  I ate a good breakfast all week, which is a major first step.  Beyond breakfast, I didn't do anything stupid.  Splurged on cheese fondue last night.
  5. Working out.  I only did two things that were explicitly a work out -- T-Tapp instructional video on Monday and Wednesday.  If this is what I continue doing, I really do need to get closer to doing it daily.
  6. Check in.  Well, my promise was every Friday/Saturday, and it is Saturday. 
So -- mostly good.  This coming week could be challenging.  I made sure to buy candy that doesn't particularly appeal to me, in case we get trick-or-treaters tomorrow.  Usually, we don't.  I'll probably have one or two pieces, but this isn't something that is going to scream out at me.

Click the link above to see how some of my fellow challenge-mates are doing.  I'm sure all of them would adore an encouraging word.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Review: Buckets-O-Fun

As part of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I recently had the chance to investigate a product called Yuck!  Samples of four different types of Yuck were sent to me (you can get yours by going to the website and requesting a sample) by Buckets-o-Fun.  The types are Chunky Yunk, Saucy Yuck, Snowy Yuck, and Sticky Yuck.

Also included was a brief pamphlet (very brief) about how to use these products to study science.

As the science guide indicates, Yuck is a polymer that absorbs water (lots of water!)  and if you follow the suggestions in the pamphlet, you are giving your children some decent experience with the first step in the scientific method: observation.

My children, however, were disappointed that they weren't suggesting anything that went beyond that -- you, know, like predicting, testing, refining a hypothesis, etc.  So, we started brainstorming ways that WE could use Yuck in our home.

What we ended up doing was cutting up a bunch of 2 liter bottles and using the bottom portion to mix up our Yuck.  We carefully measured 1/2 teaspoon of yuck into eight different bottles, labeling them with index cards.  Each kind of Yuck had two bottles.  We put the kettle on to boil, and ran the tap to get good, cold water.  Then we added 1/3 cup of near-boiling water to half the bottles and 1/3 cup of really cold water to the other half.

Thomas, my 9 year old, is the one who came up with that idea.  He expected that the water molecules in the boiling water, which would be moving around much faster than the water molecules in the cold water, would collide with the Yuck molecules much more often, and thus the Yuck would absorb hot water faster than cold.

The kids also predicted which kind of Yuck would absorb water faster based on the size of the Yuck particles.  Their assumption was that the chunky yuck would be the slowest to absorb, and the other three kinds would all absorb much faster.  Connor decided that the Yuck molecules inside of the Chunky Yuck would take awhile to come in contact with water molecules at all.

The results were interesting.  The Snowy Yuck combined instantaneously with the hot water, and quickly with the cold water.  The Sticky Yuck took the longest, which was totally unexpected.  In every case, hot water was absorbed faster than cold.

Snowy yuck within seconds of adding hot water.  It looked like snow almost immediately.  Very HOT snow.  Interesting stuff.
Snowy Yuck after about a minute with cold water.  It absorbed water pretty quickly, but it was another minute or so before it looked like snow.

As a further experiment, we are adding potting soil to each type of Yuck, plus creating a Yuck-less bottle as well, and we will be planting a couple of lettuce plants (from a germination experiment Connor was doing) in each.  Since we live in such a desert-like climate, we are interested in seeing if adding Yuck to the soil will improve plant health.  We expect that at least the Chunky and Snowy Yuck will do significantly better, but we aren't sure about the Sticky or Saucy Yuck.  The concern is that there may not be enough air getting at the roots in those mixtures.  I'll try to remember to post our results in a month or so!

Overall, it has been fun to design our own science experiment(s), and I'm glad we had that opportunity.  And if using Yuck as a soil amendment does help us with our gardening, I can see purchasing some, and possibly using it in other play and experimental ways too. 

If you are intrigued, you can visit Buckets-o-Fun.  A pound of Yuck sells for $16-20 depending on the type, and based on our results, that will clearly result in a LOT once it is hydrated!

You can check out what my fellow crew-mates have to say about the Yuck at:

Any questions? I'd love to know what you would want to know in deciding whether or not this is something you want to purchase.

Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive a sample of Yuck products.  This does not guarantee a favorable review.  It does guarantee a review. A fair review. But I am not going to praise something unless I think it deserves the praise.  If I don't like it, you'll hear that.  And hopefully with enough detail as to why so you can decide for yourself if what I hate about it makes it perfect for your family.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Hodgepodge Post

Lots of thoughts today, but nothing exciting enough to be a post in and of itself.
  • It is very tough to get out of bed in the morning when the temperature in the house is below 50 degrees.  Brrr.    Need to get matches and hopefully get the pilot light lit in the furnace so I can get up tomorrow.
  • I've got an amazing group of kids in my Physical Science class.  I am thanking God for them every single day.
  • Scouts is going to keep us incredibly busy this next month.  Yikes.  I cannot believe how many things are on our schedule for November.
  • And because life is going to be insanely busy in November, we are not going to do swim lessons next month.  So this is our last week of those for awhile.
  • How is it possible for Trina to leave the house without shoes? 
  • The latest addition to my review schedule is Institute for Excellence in Writing.  I cannot express how excited I am.  It shipped today.  Teaching Writing: Structure and Style (which I borrowed once, and am just beyond excited to OWN and watch again), Student Writing Intensive C, and the Portable Walls.
  • Connor is nearly done with biology.  That coming off the weekly schedule is going to make a huge difference in our lives.
  • Battleship game on my iPod Touch:  priceless.  I've never played it, but it is fantastic for keeping kids entertained.
  • We're supposed to be picking up some things today for some merit badges/science experiments.  Since Trina doesn't have shoes, well, don't know if that will happen.  
I need to give Connor another assignment and go pick up a couple of kids.
I think that is all I have time for right now.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Blog Cruise: Our Literature Based Homeschool

Blog Cruise time again.  This week:  What is your homeschooling style, and how did you choose for your family?

I've called our homeschooling style lots of different things over the years... but really, what it boils down to is that we are literature-rich homeschoolers.

We tend kind of classical, but not exactly, and certainly not all the neo-classical 4 year cycle type of thing.  So we are studying Latin, spending a fair amount of time on ancient history, and taking or planning courses such as logic and rhetoric.

But that doesn't really define us.

What defines us is that in many of the subjects, we are using literature as a basis for our studies.  Or that we tend towards more "book" and less "text" in the subjects where we use textbooks.

What does that look like?  Well, my goal is two hours a day of reading aloud to my kids.  That covers history, that often covers science, and it certainly covers literature and fun reading.  It also may cover geography, Bible/church history, economics, health, P.E., music, art, well pretty much anything.

History:  we usually are using Sonlight, which schedules quite a few quality books mostly covering history.  They schedule some literature studies as well.

Literature: for high school, we are using Excellence in Literature, which definitely covers some great literature.  At younger ages, I pull studies from Bright Ideas Press, or try to use Teaching the Classics.  I make use of some great lists in selecting titles to read (when Sonlight isn't enough) such as The Read Aloud Handbook, Latin Centered Curriculum, or the 1000 Good Books list.

Science: we frequently make use of texts such as the Apologia Elementary level ones that aren't so textbooky.  We also make a point of using scientist biographies or great books that include science.

Music/art/PE, etc.: biographies.  We tend to read a lot of biographies.

Math: we supplement with books from Living Math's excellent website.

Why do we do this?  Well, we all love a good story, we enjoy spending time together with a good story, and we sure seem to remember a lot more why's and how's from this approach.  Stories appeal to multiple ages, so I can much more easily combine kids.  I can borrow a bit from the library, which is always nice.  And when we are learning about similar things, it makes for interesting dinner conversation.

I'd love to say more, but time seriously got away from me this week.  But you can check out what some of my Crew Mates had to say by clicking the graphic above!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Fit Mommy Friday Challenge

Okay, I've completely lost sight of the wagon.  I started doing Fit Mommy Friday a long time ago, was okay for a short time, and completely fell away.  My health is getting to be a mess.  I'm very uncomfortable with my weight.  I'm embarrassed with my (lack of) fitness level.

So, tomorrow, I'm joining in on this challenge.  Between tomorrow and December 31 (65 days), I am going to be really focused on my health.  We've been encouraged to set goals, and for this to be something in the style of The Biggest Loser.  I know absolutely nothing about The Biggest Loser besides the fact that I believe it to be some type of a weight loss reality show, and -- if so -- it has a cute title.  (Yeah, I know.  I could google it and find out.  But I don't want to.)

Since I am so culturally clueless, I'm just setting my own goals.  If those running the contest feel my goals are not in line with the intent of the contest, feel totally free to not put me in the running for a prize... but I'm still in for the accountability aspect.  Because I desperately need it.

I am not setting a weight to be lost goal.  I know I'll hyperfocus on numbers, and not focus on health.  I want weight loss, don't get me wrong, but I want it to be a side effect of improving a lot of other things.  I function much better that way.

So I am setting the following five goals:
  • Daily:  I will move.  Every day.  Meaning something actually active.  Preferably outside.
  • Daily:  I will drink water.  More than just a sip or two after brushing my teeth (which right now, I confess, is all the WATER I get some many days).  I am not setting myself up to totally fail by committing to 8 8 oz glasses a day or anything, but I plan to be drinking a significant amount by the end of the year.  And NO MOUNTAIN DEW unless I am on a 1,000 mile road trip, or I have a migraine.  (I am NOT, however, giving up coffee.)
  • Daily:  My physical clutter is really wearing away at me on an emotional level.  So every weekday that I am actually home long enough to do anything (which is most days), I will do SOMETHING to declutter my world.  Starting with making sure the living room is picked up so I can workout inside (it's a bit lego-covered at the moment!)
  • Daily:  I will eat sensibly.  With two birthdays, Thanksgiving and Christmas, I'm not swearing off desserts or special foods.  But I am going to get back to eating the way I have in the past when I have successfully lost weight -- predominantly healthy, with planned "treats"including a day here or there that is PLANNED to be a bit more indulgent than normal.  I know I lose weight better when I have planned splurges.
  • And working out:  again, I am in pretty bad condition at the moment, so I'm trying not to prescribe just what this will look like.  But a minimum of every other day, I will do something that I consider to be a "work out" -- my hope is that by the end of the challenge, I'll be capable of some type of a three days of workouts, one day off type of a schedule, or even two on, one off... I'd love to get back to my FIRM videos, or to doing Couch Potato to 5K...  I want to be able to be hiking with my Boy Scouts without worrying that they are going to have a first aid victim...
  • Oh, and I WILL check in every Friday/Saturday.
Missing a day because I spend it puking in the bathroom is not a failure.   Missing a day because I'm too busy to take care of myself is.  I'm stating that because every time I do something like this, I end up getting really sick in the second week and giving up since I "blew it" already.  I'm not doing that this time. 

My hope is that by December 31, I will have lost about 10 pounds and dropped a size.  But I refuse to focus on that aspect.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Scouting Saturday: I have to start posting these again!

It's been forever, and I really miss posting about what is going on in my little corner of the scouting universe.  Let's take the kids from big to little here.

Connor -- is now a patrol leader.  I'm trying not to hate that.  I think he might discover he is pretty good at it, which does actually kind of surprise me.  He has been trying to organize patrol activities that fit what the kids need... so they went swimming in August, and met with a state senator this past week to discuss constitutional rights and obligations.

Was that ever a terrific session!  Senator Keith King.  I'm telling you, I wish I could move to his district so I could vote for him.  He took an hour out of his incredibly busy schedule to meet with four boys, most aren't in his district (I think one is) and he was absolutely wonderful.  He got them to think through the dilemma of how to vote on tax bills, for one thing.  They talked about abortion, about schools, about voting in general...  he was patient, and helpful, and encouraging.  If he ever runs for a bigger office (where I will be in his district), I'm pretty sure my boys would become campaign volunteers in a heartbeat, and I'd be willing to put up yard signs and bumper stickers (never done that before.)

William -- the above paragraph applies to him too, as discussing constitutional rights/obligations was one of his remaining First Class requirements.  He has a couple others to pull off here, but not many.  We need to figure something out to get his BSA Swimmer test signed off.  For whatever reason, nobody will sign off that he did it at summer camp.  And when they got together to do swimming in August, that didn't end up being tested.

Thomas -- my Webelos.  He & I are heading to a program happening at Bear Creek Regional Park today, where he can (pretty much) earn two activity badges.  I don't know which two he is going to choose, but they will be offering Naturalist, Geologist, and Forester.  I'm going to push him towards the latter two, as he already has a pretty solid start on Naturalist... another week, and he'll have been keeping a terrarium (complete with a tarantula) for a month, plus he has kept insects (to feed the tarantula, among other things) and more.

His den has had him busy working on Citizenship, among other things.  I need to check to see if going along with the Boy Scouts to hear Senator King counts towards anything...  I couldn't believe how nicely Thomas sat at that, up with the Boy Scouts, quiet and respectful.

Richard -- my Tiger.  We got two new kids in the den last week, so there are five of them now.  I think that is going to be a huge improvement!  So far, they have mostly worked on earning their Bobcat badge, which should be awarded tomorrow night at the pack meeting.  They also are working on some of the Tiger achievements, specifically the ones dealing with their family.

Other stuff in the works:  Connor is planning to do an orienteering course (last requirement for his Orienteering merit badge) for one of the boys in his patrol so he can make First Class.  Connor desperately needs another First Class scout in that patrol.  The boys are going to have a very busy November... attending an archery merit badge thing the first weekend, a merit badge college the second weekend, a cooking/camping troop event the third weekend... and then it is Thanksgiving.  How does that happen?

What's going on in your scouting universe?  I'd love if you linked up any recent posts you've done!  I keep thinking I need to turn this into a regular meme or something, but I'm not sure if anyone would participate... okay, I'll try it...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Review and Giveaway: What's in the Bible #4

I first discovered What's in the Bible through a Blog Tour for What's in the Bible Volumes 1 and 2.  I entered a giveaway (or two!) and won a copy of Volume 1.  We watched it and totally fell in love, so we purchased Volume 2, and pre-ordered Volume 3.  I wasn't sure if we'd scrape together the funds to purchase Volume 4... so when I got the chance to host a Blog Tour, well, of course I jumped at the chance. 

What's in the Bible is the latest effort by Phil Vischer and Tyndale Publishing to help walk kids and families through the entire Bible.  It is planned as a 13 volume series.  Based on the first four volumes, my family will own all thirteen eventually.  I will find a way to purchase them.  Each volume consists of two episodes, plus special features.

Volume 1: In the Beginning --teaches about the Bible as a whole, and covers Genesis.
Volume 2: Let My People Go -- mostly teaches about the book of Exodus.
Volume 3: Wanderin' in the Desert -- teaches the rest of the Pentateuch.

And introducing... Volume 4: Battle for the Promised Land.  This title covers the books of Joshua, Judges and Ruth. 

Episode 1 - Finally, the Promised Land.  This episode is about the book of Joshua, and it covers the four different sections of the book.  I appreciate how they cover more than just the exciting stuff - the battles at the beginning.  They at least touch on the entire book.  There is a comment made about how the section where they are dividing up the promised land by tribe might be pretty boring for us, but this was very important to the Israelites. 
Episode 2 - Circle of Misery.  This episode covers the book of Judges and Ruth.  It includes a song naming all of the judges.  The main idea presented has to do with the apostasy cycle (yes, they use the word apostasy).  This is one of the things I really, really like about What's in the Bible.  They do use big words, explaining them in ways that are understandable even to my youngest kids.  They aren't dumbing things down in their explanations.  There is also a great popsicle stick puppet section on Ruth.

So, while I'd rather not bring this up, there is something I do have to mention about this volume because I am disappointed.  The opening scene for each episode is with a little kid puppet named Michael, who is sitting in the backseat of the van.  Off-stage is his younger brother (Michael talks to the brother) and his mother.  Mom is putting in the DVDs for the two boys to watch while they are on their way to Grandma's house, if I remember right.  Michael has been one of my absolute favorite characters, even though I don't like the tone he uses with his mother.

Until this volume.  This episode, he has a huge conversation with his baby brother about SpongeBob underwear.  Why is this necessary?  Not only that, but in the second episode, Cap'n Pete (who is up in an air balloon) has to use the bathroom.  So everybody keeps talking about how he is singing extra short songs because he needs to go to the bathroom.  Why?  Can't we get through a children's show without this level of humor?  Only my four year old found any humor in this at all.

I don't recall potty jokes in the previous volumes, and I hope this is going to be something they do not continue.  One big reason I wanted to mention this, though, is if Volume 4 is your first introduction to What's in the Bible, you need to know that the bathroom humor is not typical.

The positives definitely outweigh this negative though. 

The clip below shows part of how the book of Joshua was introduced.

Let's ask the real experts for their opinions though.  In their own words, well, minus any lisping.  And I'm trying to punctuate the way they talk.

Katrina (4) - The songs are my favorite part.  My favorite guy is Cap'n Pete because he was having funny songs in the air balloon.  I learned that Ruth was saved by a redeemer.  I want to get Buck Denver #5 for my birthday!  (Mom note:  so she doesn't have the title down yet... and I think Buck Denver is her favorite character, but she insists... and she does really, really love the songs.)

Richard (6) - I liked the first episode when they talked about the Israelites and how they had to fight, fight, fight through the second section of Joshua.  My favorite character is Chester and his popsicle stick puppetry.  He makes me laugh, and I like that we never get to actually see him.  I can't wait to see the rest of the series.

Thomas (9) - I really like What's in the Bible because it is entertaining but it isn't using stuff like fairy tales -- it is using the real Bible.  My favorite characters are Clive and Ian because they are the funniest.  I didn't know much about all of the judges until I watched this episode.  There's even a song that gives all the names of the Judges, but I haven't learned it yet because they have pretty weird names.  Except Deborah and Samson.

William (11) - What's in the Bible is a great series for kids because it is teaching about the Bible in a way that is funny and entertaining.  I like how they are teaching me how the books are split up.  The first three DVDs talked about the Pentateuch, and now we are starting the historical books.  I think this is good for people of all ages.

Connor (13) - I found it quite entertaining, although I expected more from them, as I anticipated the same type of intellectual humor of the first three volumes, and was disappointed with juvenile potty humor.  I studied Judges in the past and learned about the cycles that the Israelites went through in that time, but the "Wheel of Apostasy" used to illustrate this in the video is far more memorable and it certainly made the concept understandable even for my youngest siblings.  I especially like Ian, as he is funny and he always comes up with good questions.  His question in this video was why God wanted all those people already in Canaan to die.  Plus he's fun to imitate.  (Mom note:  you should hear the teen Boy Scouts when they start quoting all these lines from What's in the Bible.  It is pretty hysterical.)

And finally.  The good stuff.  Do you want to win a copy of Battle for the Promised Land for yourself?  I have a certificate to give away, and I can't wait to see who the lucky winner will be.

To enter:
Mandatory entry:  Watch the video (above, or there are more at YouTube) or visit the What's in the Bible website, and tell me something you learned that intrigues you.  Why do you want to win this?

Optional additional entries (leave a comment for each):
  • Follow me via Google Friend Connect.  Two entries if you already were a follower.
  • Follow me via Networked Blogs.  Two entries if you already were a follower.
  • Like What's in the Bible on Facebook.
  • Post about this giveaway on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  One entry each.  Leave a link where appropriate.
  • Comment on another post on my blog, and come back here to tell me which one.
I don't see anything on the certificate that limits where this is good... I'll mail it wherever, but I can't guarantee that the certificate will be accepted outside the US.  I'm pretty sure it will work in Canada. I'm not responsible for finding you a Christian Book store where this works. 

And... this giveaway will close on October 31 at midnight Mountain Time.  I'll draw a winner and make a reasonable effort to notify them on Monday.  If I cannot contact the winner, or do not hear back from the winner, I reserve the right to choose another.

Disclaimer:   I received this DVD and coupon for free from Tyndale House Publishers, in exchange for my review.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Finally! A blog contest where I can compete!!

My friend Lori has an awesome blog post today.  I swear she's been listening in on my schooling when she created these prize-winning blogger categories. 

So, I think I fit into just about any of the categories she has listed, but since I can only nominate myself for two of 'em, I'm debating between:

  1. The WannaBe Award.  Yeah.  I definitely WannaBe... organized, a true classical homeschooler, or sane...
  2. The Perfect Procrastinator Award.  Yeah, I really should write that thought-provoking post about oh, something deep,  but hey, I'll post a cute kitty photo on Facebook instead.  Ummm, yeah.  She nailed me.  (Okay, SHE said puppy... but still...)
  3. The Not Coming Soon Award.  Huh.  How many times have I said I'd blog about spending less on groceries?  Too many times to count.  Don't look for that insightful series anytime soon either...
  4. or maybe I am royalty... The Queen of Misfits!  
I don't know.  Maybe tomorrow I can decide what to nominate myself for.  And you can go nominate yourself (or me!  I DO have a sense of humor!!) too.

Leave me a comment, and maybe I'll nominate you as well!!  (Tess, dahhhhling, I'm already planning you for The Harried Homeschool Award....)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Book Review: The Grace of God

I recently had the opportunity to read and review The Grace of God by Andy Stanley.  From the publisher:
Learn how God's grace can and will transform you.
None of us deserve what God offers, a life free from sin and hope for a glorious future, but unbelievably it's ours for the taking. Why? Because of God's grace. The unmerited favor, the lavish love and kindness he pours out on us, and has, since Creation.
But if it's so available then why do we live a grace-less life? Why are our churches filled with disillusioned Christians, weary of religion's demands, struggling with personal defeat because of issues or behaviors?
Join pastor Andy Stanley as he traces grace through the Old and New Testament, observing God's grace at work in the lives of some of the best, and worst, characters. He also uses personal stories from his own life to reveal how grace is not a natural response but is the most essential one. Together these stories unravel the mystery of grace and tell of its transforming power to set us free.

My Take:  I hate to review a book when I haven't finished reading it unless it is a devotional type of thing, or something else intended to be used over a long period of time.  However, this is not a book I could sit down and read quickly.  I'm finding myself reading a portion of a chapter at a time, and needing to take time to ponder what I'm reading.  As I got further into the book, I could read bigger pieces in a sitting, but I still have a ways to go.

At this point, I'm still very much in the Old Testament section of this book, and I think it will get even better as I reach the New Testament.  Every section gives me something to consider.  I've definitely listened to the culture that talks about the God of the New Testament being a God of Grace.

So far in the book, I'm seeing the grace of the Old Testament too.  The grace of giving us all but one tree.  The grace in not giving us what we deserved when we sin.  The grace of an unconditional promise to Abram. 

I think my favorite chapter so far is the one on Joseph and Judah.  One concept in this chapter has to do with the idea of reaping what you sow, and there being two exceptions to the general rule.  Sin sometimes causes good people don't reap the good that they deserve.  But the converse is true also:  "The presence of grace means that sometimes we don't get the consequences we deserve.  Grace is the vehicle God uses on occasion to ensure that we get precisely what we don't deserve."  (Emphasis in the original.)

I am truly enjoying this book. 

Disclaimer:  As Booksneeze Blogger, I did receive this book for free from Thomas Nelson.  No other compensation was received.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

One of THOSE days...

Okay, so this is just going to be a quick post, because I really need to be doing about eighty other things.  But I just had to say that my life would be SO much easier if:
  1. I pulled together Scout stuff more than ten minutes before the meeting. Of course, getting two new Tigers in the den last night would have messed up (in a GREAT way) the best-laid plans.  But still.  It isn't like I don't know it is coming.  How tough would it be to find construction papers, stickers and markers, oh, the day before the meeting?
  2. I pulled together the materials for the Physical Science class I'm teaching online, oh, say, the day before class.  Instead of getting up at Oh Dark Thirty to get up to speed, only to realize there is no lecture quiz.  Argh.  There is now a quiz.  It's the lecture that is lacking.
  3. My kids could EVER find their school materials when we are trying to use them.  EVER.  Okay, I think eveything is present and accounted for at the moment, but yesterday was a joke.
  4. I actually found the time to READ the book I committed to review today for Booksneeze.  In my defense, this isn't a book I can just sit down and read in an afternoon.  I haven't been able to read more than about 3 pages in a sitting, as there is just so much to ponder.  So sometime later today, watch for a review.  Encourage me.  Tell me that it isn't awful.  I feel like a total failure on this one.
  5. I could be in at least two different places at the same time.  I'm having nightmares about Thursday.  William and Connor are supposed to be at a Scout thing in the northwest part of town from 4:00 to sometime (5:00?  5:30?  I don't know).  William and Thomas are supposed to be at Barnes and Noble kind of in the middle of town from 5:00-6:00.  All five kids are supposed to be at swim lessons more or less in the northeast part of town from 6:30-7:00.  I have no idea how to make this work.
Okay, so that is today's Procrastinator's Anonymous Check In.  I better get back to prepping a lecture.  <sigh>

Monday, October 18, 2010

Energy: Its Forms, Changes and Functions

I recently had the chance to review Energy: Its Forms, Changes & Functions by Tom Derosa and Carolyn Reeves.  This study is meant for 3rd-6th graders, and I've been using it with my 4th grader, Thomas.  Richard (1st grade) has listened to some of it too.

We are loving it.

The book consists of 20 "investigations" about energy, from basic concepts like what it is, where it goes, and how it is stored, to sections on various types of energy such as light, heat, magnetic, electrical, solar, wind, water and nuclear.  And it really is at a great level for 3rd-6th graders (or particularly science-loving younger kids too).

Each Investigation is set up similarly.  There is an introductory section where the student is presented with some questions to think about.  Some of these pages introduce (very briefly) a scientist such as Oersted or Faraday.  A problem is introduced to be investigated, and the procedure and observations are outlined.  The observation questions were great -- getting the kids (and Mom!) to think about what we actually saw as we did the investigation.

AFTER that, there is a page explaining the science of what we just did.  You know, the stuff most science programs have you learn before you actually do anything yourself.  This material was fantastic.

Finally, each investigation has a Dig Deeper section, and some questions to review what you learned.  The idea is that the students should usually choose one of the Dig Deeper suggestions to follow, depending on their interests.  Older students could be expected to do more.  Some of these suggestions involve more hands-on, many involve some type of research.  These Dig Deeper options make it pretty easy to beef up this to make it a good study for junior high kids.

One problem:  it would be nice to have a page in either the intro or the appendix as to what supplies we are going to need to do the hands-on activities.  Some of the items we needed are really straightforward and easy to locate, but there are a few that are a bit more obscure (like pipe insulation).  It isn't a huge deal, I can look ahead to see what we'll need.  But having it all on one page would be more convenient.  I don't know if that is something that is included in the Teacher Guide, which is available separately.

I do know the $4.99 Teacher Guide does include answers to the questions in the "What Did You Learn" section, which would be handy -- particularly if you are having your student do this independently.  The Teacher Guide also includes some additional activities.

We've been loving this study, and I am thinking about looking into some of their other books too.   Forces & Motion or Matter.  Not sure which ought to be first.

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from New Leaf Publishing Group.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Book Review: Psalms

I have used a couple of the books in the Life Change series before in a small group setting, and I thought it would be really great to use Psalms for personal study as I am unable to attend my local small group this year due to scheduling issues.

Unfortunately, my overall response to this particular study is that I really, really need the discussion from other people to make this study of Psalms work.

Not that this isn't a good study.  Over the course of ten lessons, you study a few Psalms in depth and you have almost all of the Psalms assigned in one of the lessons.

Each lesson is set up with a key verse, a lesson objective, a desired action, a list of psalms (as few as 5 to as many as 40) that fit the lesson's topic, an introductory paragraph, and then the 'meat' of the study.  That study is split up into four to five sections, each focusing on a section of a psalm.  Half of the lessons study only one or two psalms.  Half of the lessons have you studying a portion of a different Psalm each day.

The study really is great for a small group.  One aspect I particularly liked with John in our small group that is also present in Psalms is the extra information segments that occur at the end of each segment.  Each is a short description of something from the reading -- a cultural practice that wouldn't be familiar to modern readers, an elaboration on on concept, or something.  I love these.  Another point in small group study is that there are plenty of questions at different levels -- you won't discuss them all, and some would be totally inappropriate in some groups.  But there are plenty of questions to choose from.

If you are looking for a personal study, my recommendation would be to get a good look at the specific book in this series that you are thinking about, and to figure out if it will work for you.  John, which I did in a small group, would have worked for me on my own.  Psalms does not.  For this particular book, for me, I need the input of others.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I've been tagged! A couple of times!

Okay, so both Michelle of A Life Better Than I Deserve and Elizabeth tagged me in the last couple weeks, and I've been horribly negligent in responding.  So here goes.  Today is the day.  I'm going to respond to both, and continue the tagging.  Hopefully I can figure out eight victi fellow bloggers...
  1. What type of gifts do you prefer to give?  Do you prefer home-made, gift certificates, store-bought, etc? I don't know.  It depends on who I'm giving things to, and where we are at the moment.  And where they are. 
  2. What type of gifts do you prefer to receive? I don't have a good answer to this one either.  I prefer gifts that have been thought about.  Sometimes that means home-made.  In many cases, there is a great store-bought gift that means something.  And sometimes, a gift card really says "I care."  There isn't one good answer.
  3. Do you stock a gift closet, or box, and purchase gifts throughout the year? Sometimes.  I used to be really good at this.  There are times I find a phenomenal bargain and stock a couple general all-purpose gifts.  
  4. What is your favorite type of music?  Do you have one?  I love classical.  I love great instrumental stuff.  I love hymns and good old-fashioned gospel music.  I like a lot of other stuff too.
  5. Do you like chick-flicks, or not? I don't know.  Some of them.  I like family friendly movies.
  6. Do you have a hobby?  Do you make time for it regularly?  Sleeping.  Sleeping is my hobby.  Okay, seriously, I read.  I love needlework, but I do not make the time for it any more.
  7. What is your favorite thing about where you live?  Every place has its pros and cons.  What are the “pros” about where you live?  I love that our closest neighbors are cattle.  I love that the kids have lots of room to run outside.  I love that I can look out my kitchen window and not see another house.  I love that I can look out my kitchen window and see Pikes Peak.
  8. What is your favorite kids cartoon movie? Oh, wow.  Kids cartoon movie.  The Incredibles.  I think it would have to be. Just don't ask me to come up with my favorite line. 
  9. How did you decide to Homeschool?  Dale heard a local radio show talking about homeschooling, long before we had kids.  He made the decision.  I thought he was crazy.
  10. What is something about you most people would be surprised to know?  Um, yeah.  Let's see, how about something I'm willing to post about.  Ummm, I once spent a weekend in Warsaw?
  11. What is your favorite praise and worship song?  Awesome God, by Rich Mullins.  Or nearly anything else he wrote.
  12. If you had no children and homeschooling wasn't necessary, what would your dream job be?  These get harder and harder, don't they?  I would have been able to answer this a dozen years ago.  Right now?  I don't know.  I think maybe my dream job would involve literacy for older children (ages 10-16 maybe?)  Not that I think I'd be great at the actual teaching (I'm a pretty dismal failure with my own struggling readers) but maybe I could be recruiting, or fundraising, or generally raising public awareness.
  13. What book(s) are you currently reading?  How long do you have?  The Grace of God by Andy Stanley.  The Reading Remedy by Marion Blank.  Secrets of the Sixth Edition by Randall Hedtke.  Current audiobooks:  Physical Science by Jay Wile.  America: The Last Best Hope, Volume 2 by William Bennett.  Arguing With Idiots by Glenn Beck.  To the kids:  I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino.  Kingdom's Dawn by Chuck Black.  Betsy Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace.  For You They Signed by Marilyn Boyer.  I'm probably forgetting something.  I left off books that are strictly schoolbooks for the kids.
  14. How has Jesus changed you?  I'm definitely a work in progress.  I don't even know where to begin. 
  15. How would you like to be remembered by your children?  As a fun mom who clearly loved and served God, tried to do what was right, and who absolutely, positively believed in them and loved them beyond anything they will understand before they become parents themselves.
  16. How will your children likely remember you?  Bleary-eyed, reaching for the coffee, and failing more often than succeeding.
Okay, now I have to tag eight other bloggers.  And I'm supposed to give you eight questions to answer.  I'm taking the easy way out, and you can choose whichever 8 of the above questions you want to use.  Or give me a recipe for Great Northern Beans!  (Some of you did that already!)

Don't feel like you have to post, this is supposed to be fun!  If you do, please comment here and give the link.  If you don't, feel free to comment as well.  I'll start with my Mini-Crew!  And I'll try to be reasonably eclectic from there.  <grin>
  1. Julie at Simple Thoughts
  2. Deanna at Deanna's Corner
  3. Heather at Special Needs Homeschooling
  4. Tess at Circling Through This Life
  5. Jen at Musings of Middle Age
  6. Cristi at Through the Calm and Through the Storm
  7. Deb at Not Inadequate
  8. Ruth at My Devotional Thoughts

When the going gets tough, how do you keep school going?

I've missed the last couple of Blog Cruise topics.  Mostly because they didn't exactly pertain to me.  This week, maybe. 

The question:  How do you homeschool during illness, family stress or crisis?

This is tough to answer.  I think a lot depends on how old the kids are.  When stuff gets insanely crazy and you have fairly young kids (say, 3rd grade and younger), it really isn't a big deal to back off of formal schooling altogether.  Some things I did with my guys when adjusting to a new baby (and that last one was a doozy -- my c-section recovery was awful, I had PUPPP which did not go away after the delivery, I was suicidal... school was not exactly on my list.  Getting through the day without killing anyone -- literally -- was about the only thing on my list.  I'm pretty sure that getting everyone fed and dressed didn't even make the to do list for at least a couple weeks in there.  Good thing the oldest was big enough to take on that job himself.)
  • Video.  We got a lot of Magic School Bus, Reading Rainbow, Bill Nye, and Schlessinger videos out from the library.  Plus we (uhh, okay, THEY) watched Sonlight's Discover and Do videos.  If we had this part to do again now, I would add Mathtacular, Math Tutor DVD, Drive Thru History, and so on.
  • Online options.  We subscribed to Time 4 Learning for a couple of months.  The kids could do that without me.  That covered language arts topics, math, social studies and science. 
  • Audio Books.  We listened to a lot of great stuff.  And I could sleep on the couch, once the itching let me sleep anyway.  
  • Now there are lots more options for online school.  I'd find some of those choices for my current younger ones if I was in a crisis situation again.  
With older kids -- high school and middle school -- the typical advice doled out doesn't exactly work.  Sometimes, yes, you can just back off and not worry about it.  But if you have students planning for the PSAT, or AP tests, or just working towards completing things for a solid college-prep transcript... well, taking off a chunk of time may not really be a viable option.  At least not when they aren't the one who is sick or in crisis.

But they are also capable of doing a lot more stuff independently.  I think if I were facing some sort of long-term stress (more than a couple weeks) with my older guys, I would try to find them some mentors.  Some things are easy -- Connor is taking Latin and science online.  Math I know he can handle independently.  I'd talk with some of the moms/dads from Boy Scouts and see if they might check in with him periodically, just to be sure he's on track.  Or I'd recruit a friend or two online who would be willing to have him email his writing assignments -- not necessarily to be graded, but at least so he'd have someone holding him accountable.

Some programs/ideas for older kids that I think would be great in a longer-term crisis:
  • ALEKS, Mathtacular,, TabletMath, etc.  There are a bazillion online math programs.  Find one that appeals to you.
  • Institute for Excellence in Writing's Student Writing Intensive DVDs.  Expensive, but with a bit of hand-holding from an online friend (if I'm really out of commission), this could be almost self-taught.
  • Apologia can be pretty much self-taught, I think, but there are also online options like Supercharged Science that I would investigate to get through a crisis.
  • There are a lot of online course options.  I don't know which can be started at any point and which have fixed schedules, but maybe a person could focus on areas like science while waiting for the next start date for an online World History course.

I think it is those in-between years that would be most difficult.  What do you do with the upper elementary kids in a crisis?  Hopefully, I could recruit some older brothers to assist them, and we could look at some online options for things like math.  We could still do video school for a lot of areas, just like I did with the younger ones.  Time4Leaning works in this age range and isn't terribly expensive.

Check out what some of my Crew Mates had to say by clicking the graphic above!

Book Review: In Every Heartbeat

I've read a fair amount of Christian historical romances lately.  The latest is In Every Heartbeat by Kim Vogel Sawyer. 

Set in the time right before the US got involved in World War I, this is the story of three childhood friends as they enter college and plan their futures.  The three grew up together in an orphanage, and all three have different hurts in their past that they will need to confront.

It took me a long time to get into this book.  Maybe I'm too old for this one.  Libby -- the female of the trio -- mostly annoyed me.  Somewhere around the halfway mark, she started to irk me less.

Pete was the first character who I actually cared about.  Pete dreams of becoming a minister, but he is hanging onto a lot of anger and resentment towards his birth family.

Bennett is the third member of the trio.  Always willing to get into a fight, always looking for excitement, always looking to find a place where he will belong.  Not that I ever got to a point where I really cared about him.

One aspect of this book that I did really like is that the characters all definitely had flaws and imperfections, and not everything worked out perfectly.  And as far as the Christian in Christian historical romance, that was far more believable than some books I have read.  One character was a committed Christian and he has a turning point where he becomes even moreso.  One character has a reasonable believable moment of 'finding God' and is a very different person as a result.  And one character doesn't quite get there, but there is still the hope that maybe...

A puzzling aspect was that Pete has an assignment to find a wrong and try to right it (rough paraphrase), and the wrong he chooses is romantic fiction.  While I totally agree with most of what Pete says about the genre, I can't help but wonder what Pete would say about this book.  It seems that there is a lot in this story that is there simply to arouse, and this book certainly gives an inaccurate view of male/female relationships as well.  Okay, so the arousal part is confined to racing pulses, sneaked kisses, hands brushing against each other.  But still. 

Overall, I'm not exactly sure what my opinion is.  The book is well-written, the time period seems well-researched, and there were some minor characters who really spoke to me.  My favorite are Mr. and Mrs. Branson, who don't appear until near the end.  They were real.  Mr. Branson says something that really made me stop and ponder:
"All that time we spent fussin' about how nobody ever raised a hand to help them kids... an' we realized we'd done nothin' more 'n fuss.  We could've helped, too."
How many times have I done 'nothin' more 'n fuss"?  Hmmmm.

Disclosure:  Bethany House provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.  No other compensation was received, and all opinions are my own.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Today Only: A couple of deals in the Schoolhouse Store

The Old Schoolhouse magazine is having a couple of sales TODAY only, on a couple of items I really like.  So  I thought I'd share!  Either deal is $19.95, and each comes with a beautiful tote bag.  I want one of the bags, but so far there hasn't been a deal that I want to go for.  Including this one -- I already have the products on sale today.  You, however, might benefit.

One option is to purchase either the Spring 2010 or the Fall 2010 Expo to Go.  I loved both Expos, and particularly love having the mp3 files to listen to again.  Both were amazing.  If you can learn from listening, this is a phenomenal deal.  The Spring package is available immediately.  The Fall Expo just happened last week, so it will be about another two weeks before those mp3s are available.

The other option is to purchase the 2010 Schoolhouse Planner.  I love my planner.  It is ginormous, and one of the best parts is that it doesn't have a lot of fancy, girly graphics that a) suck up ink when you print, and b) make it so that my sons refuse to use the pages in *their* planners.

Today only.  $19.95.  And you get the cranberries & cream tote.  Click the graphic for the deal you wish to purchase.  And a disclosure -- I think those are affiliate links.  Which means I get something if you purchase it through here.  Feel free to link from a google search instead. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Another Just Stuff post...

  • I am going to be SO THRILLED when Connor is done with Apologia Biology through the Virtual Homeschool Group.  He has ONE module to go.  It's been great, but this overlapping high school science courses is about killing me.  Three fewer hours of class time per week will be bliss.  Not to mention only one set of labs for him, and only one book to read... well... we'll see how long it lasts.  But he WILL NOT be doing another online science course concurrently.  Nuh-uh.  Not gonna happen.  Somebody slap me if I start making sounds like it will. (He'd love it though...)
  • William and Thomas are getting tutoring through Peak Reader, a free service for kids who are below grade level in reading.  They've gone for three weeks now (six sessions) and I am seeing marked improvement.  Thomas adores his tutor, which is fun.  It is making things so much easier for me... they are getting two hours a week of reading instruction from someone outside the family.  They are supposed to be reading at least 15 minutes a day with an adult... and both of them are absolutely insistent on that happening now, because they WILL have that sheet completely filled in without missing a day, no matter what.  They have both started reading things to me (like error messages on the computer) that they previously wouldn't have tried... it is amazing.  
  • I'm reading a book right now called The Reading Remedy.  Not very far into it yet, but there are some things in there that really resonate with me.  Like the statistic about 40% of kids, roughly, struggle with reading.  It really hit me today... ummm, yeah.  Connor really didn't, not by the definitions in the book.  Richard certainly doesn't.  Trina certainly doesn't appear to.  William and Thomas -- yep, you betcha.  So 40% is exactly right in my house.
  • I vented about Obamacare on my Facebook page a couple weeks ago.  I do still need to post about it here too.  But we did finally get the nitty-gritty details... and fortunately, we can drastically cut our coverage and still manage to pay the premiums.  So, we'll have something that isn't quite as bad as catastrophic care insurance.  But we really won't be able to afford to go to the doctor for anything other than preventative care.  At least there is a coverage option that allows us to eat.
  • Great Northern Beans.  Anybody got some recipes?  I have pounds and pounds and pounds of dry Great Northern Beans in my house.  I have to figure out something to do with these.  Anybody???

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Review: Cause and Effect

We own a half dozen or so (very early) Adventures in Odyssey albums, so I jumped at the chance to review the newest release from Adventures in Odyssey:  Cause and Effect

I was reminded as we listened to this just why I love Adventures in Odyssey so much:  it is something that we can ALL listen to without complaint.  I enjoy it.  My 13 year old loves analyzing each and every episode.  My 9 and 11 year olds both love telling me what THEY would have done.  My 4 and 6 year olds love to re-enact the stories later.  At just under a half hour per episode, they are a perfect length too.

As for this particular album, I think it was fantastic.  Most of the episodes did center around the concept of actions have consequences -- something I've been working on in my home as of late.  My favorite episodes on this album illustrate that.
  • The Mystery of the Clock Tower (a two part episode) illustrates how one silly decision made as a child can have fairly serious consequences even twenty years later.  My kids loved the mystery aspect, but the older three really got a lot out of the message too.
  • An Agreeable Nanny was just wonderful.  I'll risk spoiling the ending -- the kids have a "pushover" babysitter and they push, oh, do they push.  This is after trying to convince their parents that they are old enough to take care of themselves.  Everything goes from bad, to worse, to even worse.  The whole thing was set up by the parents... they asked this babysitter to let the kids make all the decisions and go along with whatever.  My older guys definitely got the point.  
  • Square One was great too.  This one had to do with trust, and how when you have betrayed a confidence, it is tough to earn that trust back.  My only disappointment in this episode is that Matthew learns this lesson quite well.  But Emily, who betrayed Matthew, really didn't seem to grasp the lesson.  Matthew was far too quick to forgive her.  That sounds bad... as Christians we need to be forgiving and all.  But the kids and I all thought Emily got off without much as far as consequences.
This album also includes a Thanksgiving episode, a Christmas episode, and another half dozen besides.

My kids have requested that we start listening to Adventures in Odyssey again... so I think I need to look into finding some more albums for Christmas gifts.

Disclaimer:   I received this CD set for free from Tyndale House Publishers.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Schoolhouse Expo Winner

Ack!  I meant to get on here yesterday and get a winner picked for the Schoolhouse Expo to Go giveaway.  I forgot.  So I thought the "Don't Miss It" graphic was most appropriate, LOL!

So, courtesy of, I just now picked a winner -- Number 7:

T in Ohio said...
I am already a follower.

I'll be emailing you so that you can download the freebies, and I'll submit your email address for the mp3s, which are supposed to be available around the end of this month.  Or I'll get you on Facebook, though I know I have your email address too... 


Monday, October 11, 2010

Book Review: Within My Heart

Within My Heart Within My Heart by Tamera Alexander is book three in the Timber Ridge Reflections series.  I have not (yet) read the first two books.

The basic story is that Rachel Boyd, a widowed mother of two young sons, struggles to keep her ranch running.  She is forced to turn to the town doctor for help, a person she has tried to avoid under the assumption that all doctors are like her father.

Dr. Rand Brookston came west, dreaming of bringing modern medicine to the Colorado wilds.  A patient’s life is at risk, and he makes a choice that “sends ripples through the town of Timber Ridge.  And through Rachel Boyd’s stubborn heart.”

One of the reasons I chose to review this title is that I was interested in historical fiction from my neck of the woods, more or less.  Having read it, I’m not sure I would exactly classify this as historical fiction, but the story was great, albeit fairly predictable.

The story opens with a strange prologue (that makes a lot of sense later in the book) taking place after a Civil War battle, and then jumps forward a number of years to April 1877.

Once we are in the main story, the characters are engaging and seem real.  I had the feeling (confirmed by reading the synopsis of the two earlier books) that having read the previous two books in the story would have made this one a bit richer, as I would have understood why the townspeople weren’t happy with the sheriff (that story is apparently told in Beyond This Moment).  However, this story did stand on its own.

Although I stated above that the basic plot was fairly predictable, there were a few twists, turns and surprises, primarily involving other characters or side plot-lines. 

I enjoyed the story enough that I will be finding the first two books to read.

Disclosure:  Bethany House provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.  No other compensation was received, and all opinions are my own.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Maud Hart Lovelace Reading Challenge #2

a. Why you joined the MHLRC.  My friend Karla blogged about it, and it intrigued me.  I've never read any Lovelace books, and I was wanting to find something to read to my only daughter.  So I joined.

b. Which book you are currently reading for the challenge.  I found Betsy-Tacy on my shelf, so we've started that.  I also put Betsy-Tacy and Tib on hold at the library.  I'll be picking it up on Wednesday.  I have the feeling I'll be reserving more. 

c. Something new you have learned either from participating in this challenge or from a MHL book you have read.  I had NO IDEA that Maud Hart Lovelace was a Minnesota writer.  Now I want to read everything she wrote.

d. Which book in the Deep Valley series you hope to win and why.  I think I'd want to win the Winona's Pony Cart/Carney's House Party volume.  Mostly because the pony cart story sounds a little closer to my daughter's age level, and I love the idea of discovering these stories with my daughter.

Book Review: Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half

If you have followed my blog, or my life, for any length of time, you already know that I am on a constant quest to feed my family on a very limited budget.  When I saw Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half with America's Cheapest Family by Steve and Annette Economides, I knew I just HAD to review it.

Of course, the description reminded me that I am not average.  "With the proven plan in this book, the average family can save more than $3,000 a year on its grocery bill"  Ummm, that would mean eliminating my entire annual grocery bill...  So, I wondered, can this book help ME?

The answer?  Yes.  Definitely.  And I knew it from the first chapter.  I'm going to quote from page 5:
Because we are all unique in our diets, our shopping habits, and our lifestyles, there isn't just one way for us all to achieve grocery savings.  Some people hate the idea of clipping coupons, while others revel in the challenge and love watching their grocery bill plummet at the checkout.  Some people love spending hours each day cooking to create a delectable gourmet meal, while others look at cooking as a chore to be endured, but certainly not enjoyed.
That's all it took... I have someone here who is giving out all kinds of information about saving money on groceries, but they are not assuming that what works for them is the only way.  They don't take some patronizing attitude about how you have to wash out your ziploc baggies, or that you must switch to bulk cooking.  I love that there isn't a one size fits all approach, and it made me far more interested in reading.

The book addresses way more than just couponing, planning ahead, and shopping sales.  It includes bulk cooking, gardening, cooking in general, owning appropriate equipment, feeding infants, feeding teens, eating at restaurants... and more.

One really great aspect of the book is that each chapter ends with suggestions for what you can do now.  And those suggestions are broken down by whether you are a beginner, whether you are wanting to jump in full-throttle, or something in between.  So I can read a chapter on couponing and follow the advanced suggestions, but I can read the gardening chapter and follow the beginner options.

I have not actually started using the suggestions in the book, but I do have a couple of things I am starting to implement.  Such as:
  • I am actually going to plan out a week's menu.
  • I am going to check some alternative grocery stores.  One a week.
  • I am going to start doing something for bulk cooking.  This week, it will be to cook up some dried beans and freeze them in meal-sized portions.
  • I am going to inventory my pantry.
  • I am going to plant some things in the house. I have some seeds in the fridge, and I'm going to just start trying and see what comes of it.

Disclaimer:  As Booksneeze Blogger, I did receive this book for free from Thomas Nelson.  No other compensation was received.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Great Books Week: Desert Island and Only Five Books

Yikes, well, I know at least a couple of these I can figure out quite easily.  I think my theme here is "quantity AND quality."
  1. The Bible.  Duh.  Everyone who reads my blog, or who has even just read this little series of blog posts, know that would be first.  And preferably this would be something like the ESV Study Bible, something with lots of extra notes.
  2. My son's Boy Scout Handbook.  Because this is a desert island, and I have to assume I'll need to tie knots, build shelters, lash things together, and do some first aid.  
  3. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.  I'd get the all three books in one volume version, thank you.  The reason I've never read these books is because I know I just don't have the time to read them all, and if I start, I'd need to keep going.  On a desert island, after I lash together a shelter and figure out how to build a fire, I'll have some time.  Right?  Otherwise, this whole list is pointless.
  4. The Story of Painting by Sister Wendy Beckett.  Not only could I actually learn something of art history, but there would be great pictures to look at too.
  5. Okay, this one is tough.  Part of me thinks I'd want something like J. M. Robert's History of the World.   Part of me thinks I'd need some Jane Austen.  Part of me thinks I'd want something totally fluffy.  But I think I'd end up with something like Robinson Crusoe, just to remind myself that others have survived being alone on a desert island...  I don't know, tomorrow I might have a different answer.
Click the Great Books graphic to read other responses to this question.  I can't believe I managed to answer them all.

Book Review: The Waiting

Suzanne Woods Fisher is thrilled to announce the release of The Waiting, book two in The Lancaster Secrets Collection. In The Waiting Jorie King has been waiting for Benjamin Zook to return home to Lancaster County so they can marry.  When news arrives that Ben has been killed, Jorie finds comfort in the friendship of his brother Caleb.  That friendship ripens into love and it seems that they are meant to be together.  But when the unexpected happens, their worlds are turned upside down once more.  Will Jorie trust God to lead her into the arms of a new man?

The Waiting is the next stand alone story in The Lancaster Secrets Collection and follows in the footsteps of the best-selling, The Choice. The Waiting is in stores now and to celebrate Suzanne is hosting The Waiting KINDLE Giveaway.

Join Suzanne for the Lancaster Secrets Book Club Party on October 28th! She'll be announcing the winner of the The Waiting KINDLE Giveaway, hosting a book club discussion of The Waiting and The Choice, and giving away copies of both books and HEAPs of readerly prizes! Be sure to join us on Thursday, October 28th at 5:00 PM PST (6:00 MST, 7:00 CST & 8 EST) at Suzanne's Author Page. 

My take:  I picked this book up to read a chapter or two, and I literally did not put it down until I had finished it.  I was completely drawn in to the lives of the characters and into the storyline.  The story takes place in 1965, and I'm not sure I've read much set in that time period, except some civil rights protest types of books.

This did present some of the big issues of the day, namely racism and the Vietnam War.  It also dealt with issues like parents being able to direct the education of their children.  But while those things were important, really, this was just a great story.  The characters felt like real people, the places felt real.  One of the publisher's statements that really resonates with me after reading the book is "a multifaceted story about complex people living the simple life."

I immediately put the first book in the Lancaster Secrets series on hold at my library.

Disclaimer:  I received this book through LitFuse Blog Tour.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.  

Friday, October 8, 2010

Great Books Week: Books I Re-Read

What book or books do you read over and over?

Well, this one is pretty easy.
  1. The Bible.  (Yep, Janice, you were right.  The Bible would be mentioned again as I blog through the Great Books Week questions.  In the next post too.)
  2. Anne of Green Gables series.  I didn't discover Ann with an E until I was in my 30s, but I return to these books again and again.
  3. Pretty much anything by C. S. Lewis.
  4. The Hobbit.  Haven't tackled the Lord of the Rings books yet, but I have read The Hobbit a few times.
  5. Goodnight Moon.  Because, well, that book has been well-loved by at least one of my children for pretty much all of the past dozen years.  You know what, though?  I still do enjoy reading it.  
Click the Great Books graphic to read other responses to this question.

Great Books Week: Childhood Book

What Childhood Book Captured Your Imagination?

This is a challenging question for me.  While I read extensively as a child, I tended to read a lot of, well, twaddle.  I was never exposed to great books, or at least was only rarely exposed to them.  So... I'm trying to come up with an answer to this.  And I think I'm going to have to list a couple of things.
  • I read and re-read, and re-re-read the entire Little House on the Prairie series.  I wore Little House style dresses and bonnets to celebrate the bicentennial.  We visited DeSmet, SD and all the Laura Ingalls Wilder locations there.  
  • I loved the biography section of my elementary school library.  Pretty much everything there was either from Revolutionary War times, or from Civil War times.  I remember my mom fighting with the school librarian to allow me to check the books out, and I'm so glad she did that.  I hated history in school, but I adored biographies.  I remember reading a book about Deborah Sampson and wondering why we couldn't learn stuff like this in history class.  Hmmm.  You think this impacted how I choose to homeschool my kids?  I never thought about that before.
  • Wrinkle in Time.  I remember being totally enamored with this book.  And I loved reading it with my kids just a year or so ago.  
Click the Great Books graphic to read other responses to this question.

Review: Digital Frog

When I hear the name Digital Frog, I immediately think of the virtual frog dissection software that I've heard so many wonderful things about.  However, I knew that they had other products as well, because Connor just finished using their Science Matrix software alongside his biology class (which relates to cells) and I had heard about their Virtual Field Trips as well.

I was thrilled to learn I'd be getting a DVD ROM of all three field trips to review for the TOS Homeschool Crew.  The software did not disappoint -- it is high quality, and since I knew it was intended for middle school/high school, I was really surprised at how well it works for much younger ages as well.

The Virtual Field Trips contains three programs:  The Desert, The Wetlands,  and The Rainforest.  Unfortunately, we just did not have time to work with all three in time to complete this review, so I will focus on The Desert.

The teacher materials included on the disk suggest a couple of ways you can use the program.  They also include suggestions for grades K-3, and grades 4-12.  One way they suggest using the program is "as recreational study."  That is what we chose to do at the moment.

Upon inserting the disk, and choosing to use the Desert, the kids had the option to do a Quick Tour.  This leads the student(s) through the features of the program, and my kids found this to be an excellent introduction and overview to what they could do.

At the main screen for the Deserts, you have a choice of five options:
  1. Field Trip: This lets you go "visit" five deserts of the U.S. Southwest.  Each of these field trips allows you to scroll 360 degrees, and jump from one "stop" to another.  Each stop includes information about what you are seeing, and sometimes you can go deeper for more information.  Sometimes you can access quizzes from here as well.
  2. Desert Types: plenty of text about different ways of classifying deserts and about aridity.  Then there is a world map that shows deserts, and you can click on various regions to read more, and to view photos.
  3. Desert Study: this section includes a ton of information on things like homeostasis, adaptations of plants and animals, specific information about a number of organisms common to deserts, and a Build-a-Desert game.  My 9 and 11 year old spent a lot of time in the game.
  4. Mechanisms of the Desert: includes sections on climate, landscape formation, and water.  Within these are many, many subtopics.
  5. Human Impact: this section talks about all sorts of ways people are impacting the desert.  This isn't a section my kids opted to do much with.
Many of these sections include photographs or videos, all have fantastic detail in text.  You can click on pretty much any word in the program to have it defined for you.  And there is also a workbook and teacher guide included, so I can have the kids work through this in a systematic manner.  Some of the worksheet pages are geared to the younger kids, but most are upper levels.

My hope is to work through all three of these field trips over the summer, as all three of my big guys would enjoy that.  One thing I am considering is to use one of these trips per summer, having at least my older boys making extensive use of the worksheets and the "Above and Beyond" sections.  I think that all three of the field trips, used this way, are probably worth a high school credit.  Now my children aren't desperately in NEED of more science credits...but they would love it...

Digital Frog's Field Trips DVD ROM is available for $125 (or higher, for different license types) and this works on either a PC or Mac (we tried it on both).  Fabulous resource, and one I am very glad to own.

You can check out what my fellow crew-mates have to say about the Digital Frog Field Trip Series at:

Any questions? I'd love to know what you would want to know in deciding whether or not this is something you want to purchase.

Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive a free DVD-ROM from Digital Frog International.  The fact that I received complimentary products does not guarantee a favorable review.  It does guarantee a review. A fair review. But I am not going to praise something unless I think it deserves the praise.  If I don't like it, you'll hear that.  And hopefully with enough detail as to why so you can decide for yourself if what I hate about it makes it perfect for your family.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.