Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Awesome Magazine Offer

For many years, I've been an avid reader. Some people like to watch movies for entertainment; I like to read books. Sometimes my life gets so busy that I can't settle down enough to read a book. I'm a very fast reader, but sometimes it takes too much effort for me to get something started. Over the years, during the busiest of times, I often turn to magazines instead of full-length books.

I've become quite a big magazine fan. I nearly always have a few issues tucked into a tote bag to carry along to appointments. There's also usually one stashed in my van, just in case I don't have my ever-present bag. There's a few scattered in the bathroom, and there's a huge basket of back issues in the corner of the living room.

I have a favorite cooking magazine, a favorite for kids' ideas, an all-around favorite, and several others. By far, the most encouraging magazine I read is The Old Schoolhouse. Each issue is packed with challenging articles, teaching ideas, product reviews, and much, much more.

For the first few years as a homeschooling mom, I thought about getting a subscription and couldn't bring myself to pay that much. "Each issue is $7.95? I could buy such-and-such new homeschool product for that much." Or, I'd think, "The subscription isn't all that more expensive than other ones I buy, but it's only four issues each year."

I was wrong. Each issue is packed with so much good information that it is worth far more than $7.95 per issue.

Today I have a really awesome offer to share.

The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine is extending an extraordinary subscription offer to homeschool families. Receive a one-year print subscription for just $7.95 or a one-year plus current issue subscription for $12.95. One-year subscriptions start with the winter issue. The one-year plus current issue starts with the fall issue. Only 5000 of these special subscriptions are available from August 31 through midnight on September 15. Once the 5000 are gone, they’re gone!

Even though I have two more years left on my current subscription, I'm tempted to renew for another year. Perhaps instead I'll bless one or more of the homeschool families I know that are just starting out on their homeschool journeys.

To take advantage of this special offer, visit The Old Schoolhouse here.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Review Crew, I was encouraged to share this opportunity on my blog, and I will receive free Expo-to-Go tickets in exchange for my post. I will not, however, share any special offers unless I fully believe them to be worthwhile, and I will never post anything dishonest in my blog.

Monday, August 30, 2010

TOS Review: Peterson Handwriting

Peterson Directed Handwriting

When I was asked about reviewing a handwriting program this year, I had a hard time deciding whether I would prefer to try it with Lauren (my preschooler) or Brennan (my fourth grader). Lauren can recognize most letters, and she is just now learning to print her name. Brennan worked on cursive last year, but he still needs quite a bit of practice. On a whim, I chose to review the print materials for Lauren.

Peterson Directed Handwriting isn't just another handwriting workbook. It's not just another style of forming letters, either. Peterson Handwriting changed the way that I look at teaching handwriting skills to my children. Instead of focusing on the way letters look, it focuses on the motions of forming letters and improving writing fluency.

A few months ago, I had a long discussion with Lauren's occupational therapist about visual processing skills. Lauren struggles with drawing, tracing, and working puzzles  -- tasks that require a lot of visual discrimination. Because Peterson Handwriting focuses on motor skills and not visual skills, I think it will be more effective for her than the traditional handwriting workbooks I've used with my older two children.

You can see Peterson's  Four Step Method of Instruction on their website. After introducing the letter, the child practices air writing, then finger tracing, and finally writes letters on paper. Throughout this process, the child chants the movements at the same time as they make the shape of the letter. Chanting the movement helps the child focus on the movement and not just the visual appearance.

So far, Lauren and I have worked of the letters "L" and "a." Lauren caught on to the movement chants for the "L" fairly quickly, and she loved having a page of schoolwork to do.

The Print 1 book shows each letter in alphabetical order. My initial plan was to work through the letters of Lauren's name. When we started on the lowercase "a," she struggled. She gets the idea of making the hook around movement, but she doesn't necessarily form it in the correct direction and it often ends up being a circle and a stick. She absolutely loves doing the practice pages, though, and insisted that I print off the "u" page for her to work on next. I thankful that I will be able to reprint these pages when she's developed her fine motor skills a bit more.

I definitely think that the Peterson methods of working on gross motor skills will over time help her learn to use the correct movements to form letters. With the correct movements, her handwriting will be more legible, and it will be easier for her to write at an appropriate speed.

Meanwhile, Brennan started back into his old handwriting practice. I noticed that he still struggles with cursive writing after practicing for nearly a year. Just this week I've been looking at the cursive materials available through Peterson, and I used the sample pages to introduce a few letters. I think these cursive materials might be a good way to get him to be fluent enough in cursive writing to use it on an everyday basis. So far, he's learned a few of the strokes and it seems to make more sense to him than the other materials we've tried.

Brennan trying out Peterson's cursive style

I will admit that I was initially turned off from the Peterson Directed Handwriting program for Brennan because it needs one-on-one instruction. When my days are stretched thin because of other subjects that need my direct supervision, I'm tempted to pick a more independent handwriting curriculum. On the other hand, our Peterson cursive lessons only last five minutes or so, and I think that these few minutes each day will yield a better result than just handing Brennan more handwriting workbooks that require lots of tracing and copying.

I would highly recommend taking some time to look at the Peterson website. In addition to full samples of all of their e-workbooks, there is a ton of useful information about handwriting instruction, pencil and paper position, techniques for teaching left handed students, and much more.

Each of the print or cursive e-workbooks costs $19.95. You can find samples of them on this page, and you can order them directly from this page. Once you purchase an e-workbook, you can print as many copies of the practice pages as you wish for your personal use.

If you'd like more information about this product, be sure to check out what my fellow crew members have to say on The Oldschoolhouse Homeschool Crew review page.

Disclaimer: I received three print e-book materials for free as a member of the 2010 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, and I received no other compensation. In return, I agreed to give an honest review of the materials and how they worked for my homeschool family.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Brennan, convict #4
Please, please open your eyes...

I can't help but share just a small portion of the pictures that did not make the cut for yesterdays' First Day of School post. I have to say that getting a good picture of all three kids (at the same time) is highly overrated. Out of the thirty-two pictures I took that had Lauren in them, she had her eyes closed in twenty of them. Meanwhile my other two reluctant models were getting, shall we say, a bit restless.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Monday, August 23, 2010

Here we go...

Ready or not, here we go...

This morning, Tim took command of the Communications Squadron here at Little Rock AFB. I'm not sure either one of us can predict what the next few years will be like, but everyone we've talked to has told us that being a squadron commander (or a squadron commander's wife) will be the highlight of his career -- perhaps the most difficult job he's done, but also the most rewarding and the most fun.

Meanwhile, I'm declaring tomorrow our official "First Day of School." We've been doing some bits and pieces of schoolwork for the past week or so, but we've still been in transition mode. As of tomorrow morning, we're moving on to our new "normal". Lauren also starts her first day of therapies at her new location.

I'm still not sure how we're going to juggle everything this year, but I'm looking forward to figuring it all out.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

October Schoolhouse Expo

Last Spring, I purchased tickets to attend the Schoolhouse Expo. I've never been able to attend a homeschool conference in real life, but I can tell you that this online Expo was fabulous. I participated in a few of the session live. My husband couldn't believe how much I laughed during Todd Wilson's talk about Real Homeschooling. Just a few weeks ago, I was able to listen to several more of the mp3 files from the Expo, and I was extremely blessed. I can't wait for another dose of encouragement this fall.

It's back to homeschool time and registration is open for the online Schoolhouse Expo, October 4-8. It's five days of top homeschool speakers, fellowship, and fun door prizes.

Save $5 per ticket! Register between August 16 and midnight August 22, and you'll pay only $19.99. Plus you'll receive over $200 in free E-Books.

You'll be inspired by speakers including: Zan Tyler, Dr. Jay Wile, Jeannie Fulbright, Carol Barnier, Diana Waring, Todd Wilson, Davis Carman, Kim Kautzer, Lee Binz, and many more!

A special teen track is planned--the entire family will definitely want to listen to these special sessions. We've also planned a special focus on a topic that touches every homeschool--writing. Plus, an array of other topics that will inform and inspire you throughout your homeschooling years.

Don't forget, MP3 copies of each session comes with your LIVE event ticket.

Two special preconference shows on August 24 and September 21 with Dr.  Jay Wile, Jeannie Fulbright, and Kim Kautzer!

The theme this fall is "Celebrate Homeschooling!" We're going to celebrate the unique blessings of homeschooling, the beginning of another school year, our families, and the freedom to tailor our children's education to best meet their needs.

If you cannot make the Live event,  then the October Expo To Go is just your ticket! You'll reserve MP3s from all of the workshops. This week only, pay just $14.95!

You can visit either of these links to get more information.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Review Crew, I was encouraged to share this opportunity on my blog, and I will receive free Expo-to-Go tickets in exchange for my post. I will not, however, share any special offers unless I fully believe them to be worthwhile, and I will never post anything dishonest in my blog.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Confessions of an Unorganized Homeschool Mom

Some things I excel at. For instance, one year, I made it to over 200 doctor's appointments and was on time (or early) for every single one of them. My kids also eat reasonably balanced dinners most nights of the week.

But then there's the other side. My grocery lists are often scribbled on scraps of paper, and I often lose them en route to the grocery store. I guess it's no wonder that I'm sometimes a bit more creative with meal selections than my unadventurous family would prefer.

Compared to its normal state, my desk is relatively clean this week. I'll try not to think about the fact that at least 80% of my desk items are still in a cardboard box somewhere, and that I can't find much of anything yet. I shudder to think of what it'll look like when we try to start school next week or when Lauren's therapy appointments start multiplying or when I try to find a few more of our favorite recipes.

Meanwhile, I'm constantly in search of the "perfect" planner to organize our homeschool assignments, keep track of our appointments, and perhaps even keep me up-to-date on birthdays.

Finally, I may have found the "Holy Grail" to work miracles in my life. Well, perhaps not *the* Holy Grail, but I now have high hopes for being more organized this year. This week I downloaded The 2010 Old Schoolhouse Planner.

Drumroll, please....

Travel the World

The term "Planner" barely does this product justice. It is subtitled, "Making a Plan for School and Home," but that only barely begins to describe all that is included in this 614 page document. I can print out a new calendar to record our activities. I can keep track of phone numbers, addresses, websites, menu plans, gift ideas, and so much more. Each month, I'll have a new set of inspiring homeschool articles to savor. My list could go on and on...

I've seen other planners before. I've bought quite a few different calendars, journals, or organizers. This one looks like I could make it work for me. Here's just a small peak into my imagination as I dream about this coming school year:

Science Experiment, Fall 2008

BP (Before The 2010 Schoolhouse Planner): One day last winter, we were on day 135 of Read-Alouds, 142 of Readers, lesson 27 of Math, page 195 of some other material, and day 51 of Science. I'm still not exactly sure why Brennan did the last 2/3 of his vocabulary workbook in May.

NIC (New Improved Cristi): I seriously doubt we'll ever be completely on track for every subject at the same time. On the other hand, with better record-keeping, I can tell where we got off track, and help get us back on track before we're too far out of sync. I can also tell when Addison gets a few days behind in Science instead of letting it pass by unnoticed until she's two complete units behind where we thought we'd be.


BP: Garlic Lime Chicken would taste nearly as good with lemon or perhaps even orange juice, right?

NIC: Really, garlic lime chicken tastes best with both garlic and limes. Vegetables are a nice addition, too.


BP: Part of the fun of being my relative is that you never know when you'll receive a birthday gift.

NIC: Maybe I should warn my immediate family so they won't faint from surprise when they receive a card or present on time.


BP: I'm really good at making grand predictions about how my life would change just as soon as I find the perfect organizing tool.

NIC: When I realize that making all these changes is probably more difficult than just logging into the TOS Store and spending $39, I'll still have 300 pages of homeschool encouragement to keep me going. Homeschool encouragement that will help me pick myself up, dust off a battered binder, print out a few new planner pages, and and get back on track.

Perhaps that's what I'm looking forward to most of all -- the possibilities to make small improvements that'll make all of our lives run a bit more smoothly.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I wrote this blog post while participating in the The Old Schoolhouse advertising campaign, making me eligible to receive a prize. I received a free copy of the planner to facilitate the writing of this advertisement.

Monday, August 9, 2010

In one week

Last Monday the movers delivered all of our household goods. I'm beginning to get discouraged that all of our things aren't yet put away, and I'm really getting sick of seeing boxes piled up everywhere. In the spirit of looking at my glass half-ful, I've compiled a list of our accomplishments over the past week.

We've found a new church home, and Addison has become an active member of their youth group already. I think she went to four different activities last week -- one lock-in, two swim parties, and one service Bible class outing.

There are 47 flattened boxes in our garage, and six in our kitchen. (I just emptied them, and I didn't take the time to drag them out to the garage yet.)

We took five boxes of give-away items to Goodwill last weekend. There are at least two or three more boxes ready to go the next time we head that way.

We also took four big boxes full of packing paper to the recycle center on base. I know there's a couple more around now.

Lauren's already checked in with her new cardiology team. She's also had a pediatrician appointment and a speech therapy evaluation. Physical and occupational therapy evaluations are scheduled for tomorrow.

When I got sick of eating out, I went grocery shopping at the Commissary and started cooking dinner again. We've had several of our favorite meals already.

All three of the kids' bedrooms are completely unpacked, mostly organized, and at least somewhat clean.

I ordered the rest of our curriculum for the upcoming school year so that we can get started sometime in the next couple of weeks.

Not too bad for a week's work.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Why I Haven't Blogged in a Week...

Just for fun, here are two pictures I took five years ago when we moved from Illinois to Virginia:


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