Thursday, August 30, 2012

Think-Back Thursday -- Night

A couple of months ago I told Tim that I found a picture to add to my "photos to take before we move" list. I was running a late-night errand to Wal-Mart, and I happened to circle past the front gate of the base. I noticed how gorgeous the static display of the C-130 looked when it was lit up.

On one of the last few nights we were in Arkansas, Tim stayed up until it got dark enough to take the picture that I wanted. Didn't he do a great job?



I'm linking this post with others in the Think Back Thursday meme at Debbie's Digest, and I'd love for you to join me.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Golden Prairie Press (Schoolhouse Crew Review)

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When I started homeschooling eight years ago, one of the things that I was most excited about was getting to study history with my daughter. I've sometimes told the story about how I opened up a curriculum catalog to its first grade offerings and thought, "Wow! That looks like so much fun!" We started homeschooling a few weeks later. When I was in school, I studied history using rather boring textbooks that merely outlined the major historical figures and most important events. That homeschool catalog was one of the first times I had seen real books used to teach history.

History does not have to be a boring list of people, dates, and events. History is really about the stories -- the stories about real people overcoming real problems. Not only is it more fun to teach history when we study the stories, all of us remember so much more than I ever did when I was simply trying to memorize facts.

PhotobucketAmy Puetz, owner of Golden Prairie Press, loves history and loves sharing history stories. More importantly, according to her website, "she especially loves to dig for little-known stories that show God's providential hand." Recently, we've been reading parts of her book Uncover Exciting History: Revealing America's Christian Heritage in Short, Easy-to-Read Nuggets. This book contains 25 short chapters covering American History from Columbus to the Navajo Code Talkers in WWII.

Brennan and I have been studying Christopher Columbus in his primary history curriculum, and the corresponding chapter in Uncover Exciting History brought out some points that I hadn't seen elsewhere. For instance, there is no historical evidence that points to the idea that the sailors were afraid of falling off of a flat earth. I also found it interesting that Christopher Columbus's name means Christ-Bearer, especially in light of the priests he brought with him on his second voyage. One of his goals was to bring Christ to this new land.

Addison chose to read several of the chapters -- one on the Civil War (a favorite historical time period of hers) and another on the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812 (a lesser-known subject for her). She thought the chapter on General Lee and General Grant was good, but since she is somewhat of a Civil War buff, she claims that she didn't learn much that she didn't already know. For the Battle of New Orleans, she didn't know (or remember) any of the basic facts before reading the chapter. She was intrigued by the providential view of history shared in that chapter. The first paragraph includes the argument, "When looking at the facts, there was no possible reason for the American success except the hand of God working on their behalf." Addison wasn't sure what to think of the way America was seen as being blessed by God in these events -- that assumptions leads her to logically conclude that the British were being punished (or at the very least, viewed by God as a less-favorable than the the Americans). Looking at history from a providential standpoint led to some thoughtful discussion between us.

I'm not sure that I'd call this book an "exciting" look at American History. I was hoping that there would be lots of action so that it would draw Brennan into the stories, and I didn't necessarily find that sort of stories. Instead, I did find stories that brought out interesting, lesser known facts. The book would be very valuable in terms of adding a Christian perspective to other history studies, and I will refer back to many of the chapters as we work our way through American History this year.

Uncover Exciting History is available from Golden Prairie Press for $11.96 (ebook), $15.16 (print), or $20 (audiobook mp3 read by Jim Hodges). Amy Puetz has also written or edited other books that would be good additions to your homeschool library. Right now, several of the books are part of her Back-to-School Sale which lasts until Saturday, September 1. 

Disclaimer: I received an electronic copy of Uncover Exciting HIstory as a member of the 2012 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.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Goal Planning Monday -- the end of August

I actually started this post on time. I set the computer aside to take the kids to the pool, and then I hustled out the door to a kickboxing class. Afterwards, I was just mush -- physically and mentally. It was a great workout, but a tough one.

I guess if I didn't have an official list of goals yesterday, I did have a good reason.

Last week's goals:


1. Back to basics: I didn't write down where I was in my Bible reading last Monday, but I'm halfway through August 4th now.


2. Put away the random assortment of charging cords that's still dumped on the floor of our room. DONE


3. Clean out my email inbox. There are only 59 unread emails and about 400 total. Baby steps.


4. Get to a point where I'm not playing "catch up" with my blog. More baby steps.


5. Sort through some of the many photos I've taken recently. Baby steps, but I did clean out all the extras from a few days in August.


6. Exercise. Family Time Fitness, a 1.25 mile run this week, some afternoons of jogging around in the pool while the kids swam, and one killer kickboxing class.


This week's goals:

1. Bible reading: If I read two days every day this week, I should be on August 18th by next Monday.

2. Write my goals on Sunday. I keep thinking that GPM means I should write the post on Monday. My new deadline is Sunday -- I'll just schedule it for Monday.

3. Exercise: there's no kickboxing class next Monday night, but I can still keep up with Family Time Fitness and water exercising. Depending on how my knees feel, I may attempt another short run.

4. Meal planning: I need to be more purposeful about planning all the meals (and snacks) that we have. Throwing together something at the last minute isn't working out very well, especially since I'm keeping my pantry minimally stocked until we move into our house. I need to hunt down new ideas for lunches, crock pot meals, and picnics.

5. Family Fun Time: Tim has a four day weekend coming up, and as of right now, we don't have anything planned except for church on Sunday. I want to find something fun to do or someplace fun to explore as a family.



I'm linking my Goal Planning Monday post with others at Real Life Unscripted. Feel free to click the button above to join us!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A First Book Milestone

Last week, Lauren hit a big school related milestone. For a few days, she worked on reading the chapters in Frog and Toad Are Friends. Early Wednesday morning, she finished the last one.


I see many, many more books in her future. She's already half-way through the next Frog and Toad book, and she asked if we can get books for her to read when we go to the library (as opposed to only getting books for me to read aloud).


Friday, August 24, 2012

A little cleaning tip

Yesterday morning, as I was putting in my contacts, I noticed that I had quite a bit of makeup smudges decorating the sink in our bathroom. I made a mental note that I should go find some cleaner to get them off. I then started to wonder if it would take more than just a Clorox cleaning wipe. I might need to grab the box of baking soda out of the kitchen.

On a whim, I decided to see what would happen if I just used some of the soap that was sitting a few inches from the sink itself. It worked. It makes sense that the same soap that cleans dirt off my hands would clean makeup splatters out of the sink. I just swished some soap bubbles over the smudged area and rinsed it off. It took all of ten seconds, far less time that it would've taken me to go grab a bottle of cleaner.

There you have it. My new weapon against smudges in my bathroom sink:


PhotobucketI'm adding my idea to the others at Glimpse of Our Life. I'm not sure my soap qualifies as a "green cleaning" idea, but I figure that cleaning something with my everyday soap beats pulling out a bottle of nasty chemical spray.




Thursday, August 23, 2012

Think Back Thursday -- Rocks!

I'm now living in a place surrounded by mountains, and we passed through gorgeous rock formations on our drive through New Mexico a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, I was driving and unable to take pictures along the way. I'm a bit embarrassed that I don't have any impressive rock formation photographs to share today.

I did find a few pictures that I took of Lauren last spring. We lived in these apartments when Addison was two-and-a-half and Brennan was a newborn. It was one of Addison's favorite places to play, and I'm pretty sure that I took pictures of her sitting on this specific rock nearly 12 years ago. Unfortunately, I don't have access to those pictures -- the ones that would really be thinking back. Hopefully someday after we get settled into our new house I'll be able to pair the pictures and put big-sister and little-sister side by side.





I'm linking this post with others in the Think Back Thursday meme at Debbie's Digest, and I'd love for you to join me.

Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers (Schoolhouse Crew Review)

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It's probably no surprise that my family and I love Christian music. We spend much of our time listening to contemporary Christian artists, but I still love some of the classic hymns. At one of our previous churches, there was a man that sang with Tim and Addison on the praise team who was a wealth of knowledge about hymns and the people that wrote them. I find it fascinating to learn the background story for the songs that I've sung for so many years.

PhotobucketChristian Liberty Press has a series of books designed to share these inspiring stories with young people. We've been reading Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers by Douglas Bond this summer. In the story, Annie and Drew, two American children, travel to England to spend their summer vacation. In the small village where they stay, they meet Mr. Pipes, a kind elderly gentleman who takes them under his wing, teaching them about sailing, famous hymn makers, and Christianity as a whole.

I enjoyed reading the book, and I loved learning new facts about hymns that I know by heart. I was surprised to find out that the doxology we often sing at my parents' church is actually the sixth verse of a hymn Thomas Ken wrote in the late 1600s. I was amazed to learn Isaac Watts wrote nearly 700 hymns, and a few chapters later I was even more impressed that Charles Wesley wrote more than 6,500 hymns. He was so busy writing hymns that his brother John Wesley published most of them. At the end of each chapter, the author includes the music for several of the more famous songs from the hymn maker we just read about. I found many favorites -- "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah" by William Williams, "Amazing Grace" by John Newton, "Holy, Holy, Holy!" by Reginald Heber, "All Things Bright and Beautiful" by Cecil F. Alexander, and many more.

After reading about so many great hymn writers, I thought that Addison would love this book. Unfortunately, she did not. She says she would've have rather just had the information about the hymn makers. She didn't particular care for the story about Annie and Drew, and she was annoyed by the seeming disconnect between parts of the story. The scenes on the boat with Mr. Pipes or in his cottage on a rainy day remind Addison of a time similar to Anne of Green Gables, and we both agreed that the illustrations in the book remind us of "Leave it to Beaver." The actual story takes place in modern times -- approximately 1990s, based on the references to Drew's CD walkman. During our discussions of this book, we noted that it really doesn't tell a story because there isn't any conflict that the characters must overcome. It is perhaps best described as a journal describing the events of the children's summer vacation in the English countryside.

Christian Liberty Press offers four books in the Mr. Pipes series. Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers normally costs $10.99, but is currently on sale for $8.79 for the ebook and $9.89 for the textbook edition. The other three books cover the Hymns of the Reformation (16th Century), American Hymns, and Hymns of the Early Centuries. All of these books have a suggested age range of 7th - 10th grades, but I think they could be used as a read aloud with younger children.

Disclaimer: I received an electronic copy of Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers as a member of the 2012 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.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist (Schoolhouse Crew Review)

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Sometimes when I see Addison's high school curriculum options, I get a little jealous. There's a certain nerdy part of me that wouldn't mind going back and relearning Calculus, redoing Chemistry labs, or rereading classic literature. Her latest Bible curriculum is a great example. When she's not reading I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, I'm stealing the book so that I can read a little more of it. I've always been impressed with Apologia's homeschool curriculum options, and these materials are no exception.

PhotobucketAccording to Apologia's description, the authors of I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist argue "that Christianity is not only more reasonable than all other belief systems, but is indeed more rational than unbelief itself." Addison describes the book as "logical, thorough, and well-thought through." She says that it requires thinking, not just reading.

I'm excited to hear that she's thinking about her faith and not just taking it at face value. I'm glad that she is being introduced to the three major worldviews -- theism, pantheism, and atheism. She is learning not only what she believes but what other people in our world believe.

Although the original book is excellent on its own, Apologia has taken it a step further and developed a companion workbook. The curriculum takes a powerful book and turns it into a challenging high school level Biblical Apologetics course. From their website: "During this course, your student will tackle the question of absolute truth, demolish the follies of postmodernism, debunk moral relativism, and march logically and surely toward the inescapable truths of the Christian faith."

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I was worried at first that Addison would see the workbook as merely busy work.  She admits that some of the questions repeat information from the book, but then adds that working through them helps her get a better grasp on the concepts. Many of the questions require her to think about the concepts and make practical applications. For instance, one question in chapter 2 asks, "What do the authors mean when they say, 'Contrary beliefs are possible, but contrary truths are not possible'?"

She praised the curriculum workbook for adding extra information that enhances the concepts introduced in the book. She specifically mentioned the biographies that she has read so far -- Augustine, Carl Sagan, C.S. Lewis, Friedrich Nietzsche.

Each chapter in the workbook is approximately 15-20 pages long and consists of additional information, thought provoking questions and research assignments. We've chosen not to do the longer research and writing assignments included in the curriculum workbook. If she did the longer research and writing assignments in each chapter of the workbook, she would spend two or three weeks studying each chapter and it would easily count as a full year of Bible credit. Instead, she's working through the materials at a brisk pace of one chapter per week, and she'll earn a half-semester of Bible credit.

One great thing about Apologia is the way that they provide generous online samples so that you can find out more about the products before you purchase them. The entire introduction and first chapter of I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist is available here, and the first chapter of workbook pages are available here. The book costs $16 and the workbook costs $33. (The book is currently out-of-stock from Apologia, but we've been assured that they will have more soon.)

Even if you don't have a high school student that needs a strong Biblical apologetics curriculum, I'd still recommend I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. It is a challenging book that will give Christians the tools they need to defend their faith.

Disclaimer: I received the I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist book and workbook as a member of the 2012 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.

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Getting back on track with Goal Planning Monday

When everything started to get really crazy with our move, I took a temporary break from posting any Goal Planning Monday goals. In the meantime, the move got crazier than I had initially thought. We are now somewhat settled (even if it is in a temporary apartment until October), and I'm more than ready to get back into a productive mode.

I'm not sure what my last set of goals included, but I'm sure that I either accomplished them prior to the move or decided that they really didn't matter after all.

This week's goals:

1. Back to basics: My basics list usually consists of Bible reading, cleaning the kitchen, preparing school assignments for the next day, going to bed at a reasonable time, and reading time. I'm doing okay with cleaning the kitchen because it's really not hard to clean up our tiny apartment kitchen. I can unload the dishwasher without taking more than a step or two in any direction. I've also been doing good at checking and preparing schoolwork. I've fallen behind in my Bible reading and haven't done much other reading either. My main goal this week is to read two days of Bible readings every day this week.

2. Put away the random assortment of charging cords that's still dumped on the floor of our room. It's perhaps the only thing that I didn't put away when we moved in.

3. Clean out my email inbox. I know there were nearly 300 unread messages as of this morning. I don't know how many there are in all.

4. Get to a point where I'm not playing "catch up" with my blog. I missed more blogging time than I thought I would during the trip from Arkansas to Arizona. I've been able to keep up with my reviews, but I've been posting them closer to the due date than I like. I'd also like to share some of the fun activities we've been doing, both before and after our move.

5. Sort through some of the many photos I've taken recently. Like many digital photographers, I take a lot of pictures. I need to spend an evening going through the photos I've taken over the past few months  and cleaning out the duplicates.

6. Exercise. I've taken the kids swimming every day since we moved into the apartment, and I've started doing water aerobics type activities while they are splashing around. We've also started using Family Time Fitness during our homeschool days. I'd really like to find time to go out for a run this week. I probably can't go far because it's been so long, but I'd love to head out for a mile or so.


I'm linking my Goal Planning Monday post with others at Real Life Unscripted. Feel free to click the button above to join us!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Vocabulary Spelling City (Schoolhouse Crew Review)

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What is VocabularySpellingCity?
VocabularySpellingCity advertises that their mission is to provide efficient game-based study of literacy skills using any word list. With a free registration, parents can add individualized vocabulary and spelling lists. The words on those lists are then used to create educational games that make learning fun. Nearly all of the activities can be printed for a student to use offline, too. A premium membership gives each student an individual log-in, removes the advertisements, opens premium games and activities, offers a few additional options for vocabulary skills, and allows a parent to track their student's progress.

How did I use it?
Initially, I tried to use one of the thousands of ready-to-use words lists that are already set up on VocabularySpellingCity. I found it a bit difficult to find just what I was looking for and instead switched to entering the list of words that Brennan would be studying with his regular spelling curriculum. From my teacher dashboard, I was able to assign practice activities and a test for him.

Word Search
Speedy Speller (practice)
Spelling Test
In addition to using the program to practice spelling words, I used the vocabulary games to introduce the vocabulary in Brennan's history program. Each of the chapters we read has a list of vocabulary words to review prior to the lesson. It took me just a few minutes to put them into VocabularySpellingCity so that Brennan can look over them independently.


What did Brennan think?
Brennan thought the spelling games were okay, but that some of them took too long to work through all of the words. He would rather "just do boring spelling tests every day" (aka his regular spelling curriculum).

What did I think?
I like the way that I can used VocabularySpellingCity to set up spelling tests to be done independently. I also like using the games to either introduce or review vocabulary. I can see all sorts of uses for the vocabulary games and tests -- words from his history lessons, science concepts, and even math terminology.

My bottom line:
This spelling program could be a real time saver for a parent working with multiple students at different lessons, and the vocabulary activities can be used as review practice for almost any subject.

VocabularySpellingCity offers many of their educational games for free. If you register for the free basic membership, you can even save your word lists for later use. The added benefits of a Premium Membership are available to parents for $29.99 per year for up to five students. VocabularySpellingCity also offers memberships for classroom teachers and schools.

Disclaimer: I received a one year online subscription to VocabularySpellingCity.com as a member of the 2012 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.

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Vocab Videos (Schoolhouse Crew Review)

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When I talk to other parents of elementary students, I often hear parents comparing the best ways to learn multiplication facts. When it comes to parents of high schoolers, I often find parents comparing various products that claim to help students get higher SAT or ACT test scores. A big portion of the college entrance exams is the vocabulary section. Apparently, vocabulary is now worth up to 150 points on the SAT exam. Vocab Videos works to increase a high school student's vocabulary and thereby increase test scores.

What is VocabVideos?
Vocab Videos uses short, entertaining videos to illustrate the meanings of vocabulary words that are often found on college entrance exams. Each of the 25 videos is approximately 10 minutes long and covers 20 vocabulary words. In addition, Vocab Videos pairs the video segments with quizzes, worksheets, crossword puzzles, and other study tools.


What did I think?
I have very mixed feelings about this product. I can see where it would definitely help students learn the meanings of a lot of vocabulary words. I can also see where the videos would appeal to many students. The somewhat conservative parent in me hesitates to recommend them for all families. They are definitely geared towards a high school audience, and I chose not to show them to my sixth grader. I objected to one video segment in particular because the main character muttered, "Oh my God!" throughout the video. Otherwise, I felt like the rest of the videos were roughly in line with what you might see on a prime time network television show.

What did Addison think?
I should start by saying that Addison isn't a visual learner and doesn't normally watch much TV at all (her choice). She watched some of the videos and thought they were merely "ok." She was upset that she had to watch the videos in sets of ten. When she looked at the words, she noted that she already knew at least half of the words. The storyline in the video is dependent on watching all ten clips in a row, though, and it wouldn't work for her to just watch a few individual clips. Her bottom line was that she was spending too much time watching the videos and that it was taking away from the time that she could be spending reading her new stack of books from the library.

The nitty-gritty details:
A student subscription to Vocab Videos costs $24.99 for six months or $39.99 for twelve months. This includes access to the videos and the study tools. I've been using an educator account, which is available for $74.99 per year and allows me to track the progress for up to 20 students. Each student has their own account with full access to the videos and learning tools (digital flashcards, worksheets, and quizzes). If you'd like to try Vocab Videos, they do offer a one month free educator trial.

Disclaimer: I received an Educator account to Vocab Videos (for up to 20 students) as a member of the 2012 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.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Thomas Jefferson Education (Schoolhouse Crew Review)

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Several times over the past year, I've heard about the book A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver DeMille. I haven't yet found the time to read the book, but I'm intrigued by their unique look at leadership education. I have visited the Thomas Jefferson Education website and have been challenged by their daily Inspire emails. (You can sign up for their daily inspiration from the classics for free.)

PhotobucketAccording to TJEd, "Whatever you want to learn, whatever there is to teach, it starts with history." "This Week in History" is an invaluable resource for bringing history into your home in meaningful ways. It breathes new life into your studies.

Each week, I receive a summary email that outlines a historical event for each day in the following week. For instance, on August 7, 1782, George Washington created the Order of the Purple Heart. On July 20, 1969, the first man walked on the moon. For today, August 14th, we talked about Max Klein, the inventor of "paint by number" projects. We also noted that today is Tim Tebow's 25th birthday.

For each historical event, my "This Week in History" email gives me at least a dozen corresponding activities. For the study of the lunar landing, there was a link to a video interview with Walter Cronkite talking about what it was like to be on air during this historic event. In addition to coverage of the historic landing, my resources also pointed me to basic science questions about the moon and our solar system.

I've found that the learning activities over the course of each week touch on a wide variety of subjects --  science, geography, music, cultural literacy (TV and film stars), literature, technology, and more. I particularly like the way "This Week in History" helps fill in the cultural literacy gaps I've sometimes noticed in my children's education. Every once in a while, I come across some fact or some important person that I'm not sure Addison and Brennan have learned about. For instance, I know they have heard about the first lunar landing and could probably quote Neil Armstrong's famous words. I'm not sure that they know the phrase "the Eagle has landed" originated that day.

The beauty of these emails is not just having the historical events linked to a particular day. These emails are in a user-friendly format perfect for a busy homeschool family. Today, I easily clicked on a link to print a color by number page for Lauren. Last week, I was able to show my children good pictures of cable cars and the streets of San Francisco simply by opening my email.

The "This Week in History" information is available to subscribers either through a weekly email or through online access. I personally like getting the emails delivered straight to my inbox. Often, I pull out my iPod after lunch and find the day's event so we can discuss it. When we talked about Tim Tebow today, Brennan knew he was famous for sports and that he was homeschooled. Addison added that he was known for taking a stand for Christianity. "He's kind of like the Gabby Douglas of football, if football were an Olympic sport." A few minutes later, she corrected herself, "Although Tim Tebow came first, so you might say that Gabby Douglas is the Tim Tebow of gymnastics." Conversations like this one make this homeschooling mom smile. I'm proud when my children make connections between school activities and real life.

A subscription to "This Week in History" costs $9.99 per month and can be purchased at A Thomas Jefferson Education using paypal. They also offer books, audio books, and other materials designed to help homeschoolers give their students a truly great education.

Disclaimer: I received a year of online access to This Week in History as a member of the 2012 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.

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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Math Made Easy (Homeschool Crew Review)


I've always been a big proponent of math fact memorization. After Addison and Brennan gained a good understanding of math concepts, I worked to make sure that they memorized the corresponding math facts. I wanted them to be able to work higher order math concepts without struggling to remember the easy problems (and without redoing the calculations all the time).

PhotobucketLauren's kindergarten math curriculum covered the concept of addition, and I felt like she was ready to work on memorizing the basic adding facts. For the past several weeks, we've been using Math Made Easy's addition program for homeschoolers -- Addition Teaching and Learning Made Easy.

I was excited when I started this program. Lauren quickly remembered the commutative property of addition (that is, the fact that 6+3 is the same thing as 3+6). She also remembered that zero plus any number is that number. She similarly did great with her +1 facts. After covering those basics, there were only 36 addition facts that Lauren did not know, and we were ready to start week 1 of the Addition Made Easy program. Addition Made Easy divided the 36 unknown math facts into six groups and covers one group per week for six weeks.

The flashcards with the facts for our first week:


We practice the flashcards daily and each day has a corresponding workbook for her to complete. I like that the drill practice for the flashcards is fairly short. It's much easier to focus on just six facts than it is to focus on a huge stack of cards. I also like the variety of exercises in the workbook.

A few pages from the first week's exercises:


Unfortunately, it seems like Lauren isn't quite ready for this program. I thought she had a good grasp of numbers and addition. We've been working on the first week's addition facts. We had a week to focus on them before our move, and we worked on them for four days last week. Lauren still doesn't have them mastered, and sometimes the answers that she guesses are not just a little wrong. I suspect that she just doesn't have the math experience that she needs. I hope to revisit this program after she works with her regular hands-on math program for a few more months. She needs to be able to instinctively know that 5+2 does not equal 14 before we focus on memorization.

The Math Made Easy homeschool package for addition costs $24.95. It includes lesson plans, a pre-test, six weeks of daily activity sheets, a post-test, games, and all of the flash cards.

Disclaimer: I received the Addition Teaching and Learning Made Easy homeschool package as a member of the 2012 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.

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Fire (and Rain) -- Think Back Thursday

We had just a little excitement the other night to go along with our first Arizona monsoon. Even though I'm not thinking back that far, I'm still happy to have some pictures that correspond with this week's Think Back Thursday theme.

Last Sunday night, I was fixing dinner and we all heard something outside. Imagine our surprise to see a heavy rainstorm. I guess we've been living in a drought area for too long. The big kids went outside to dance in the rain a bit. A little later I walked back out and smelled something funny. There was a palm tree on fire right across the street from our TLF (temporary lodging facility). The heavy rain kept the fire from spreading, and it appears as though the nearby building escaped without any damage.








I'm linking this post with others in the Think Back Thursday meme at Debbie's Digest, and I'd love for you to join me.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

King Alfred's English (Schoolhouse Crew Review)

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After thinking (and thinking) about this review, I've decided that there's no way to talk about it without admitting that I am a nerd.

PhotobucketKing Alfred's English: A History of the Language We Speak and Why We Should Be Glad We Do by Laurie J. White is both the most scholarly book that I've read lately and the most fun. It contains a great synopsis of Western History and the History of Christianity all wrapped up with a close look at how these factors influenced our language.

While reading this book, I learned why knight is spelled the way it is, why (and how) languages change over time, why the English dictionary has far more words in it than a dictionary for any other language, and why Shakespeare is regarded as such a master wordsmith.

Laurie White writes in a conversation style that I found easy-to-read. I particularly enjoyed all the tidbits of interesting information that were included with the history stories. I often found myself interrupting my husband's studying so that I could share something that I had just read.

As I read the book, I kept having "ah-ha!" moments. I was reminded of lots of people and events that I studied in my college Western Civilization classes, and a lot of the pieces finally clicked into place. I really love the way that this book traces both the political history and the religious history of the times. I've now seen how closely the two are intertwined and I cannot imagine studying either one by itself.

My fourteen-year-old read this book and agreed that it was very enjoyable. She particularly liked the passages like the one where scriptures were printed in Old English with a word for word translation. She recognized many of the words, even though our language has changed significantly since 800AD.

I found this book entertaining, but it would also be an excellent addition to any middle-school or high-school history class. The author has excellent student and teacher materials that are available on her website free of charge. When I read back through this book a second (or third time), I may use the worksheets for myself so that I can keep all of the countries and times straight in my mind. With the supplemental information and resources on the website, this book could be the spine for a 1/2 credit history class.

King Alfred's English is a book I'd recommend for anyone, even if you aren't a nerd. You can find more information at The Shorter Word website and purchase a copy at various online retailers. The regular retail cost is $16.95 (or $5.95 for the Kindle version). If you're interested in purchasing a paperback copy, I have a coupon code for 50% off that I can send to the first four readers to comment on this blog post.

Disclaimer: I received an electronic copy of King Alfred's English as a member of the 2012 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.

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Monday, August 6, 2012

First Day of School (Quotes and Pictures)

Even though we haven't settled into a house in Arizona yet, we decided to go ahead and start a new school year. My favorite pictures came from our mid-morning recess time on the nearby playground.

I also recorded some of the best quotes of the day.

Lauren: "I'm so excited because it's my first day of first grade!"


Addison: "Correct punctuation saves lives."

Addison (calling from the other room): "I suppose I should pick out a special outfit for the first day of school."


Brennan (while doing a grammar lesson): "I'm not going to call my periods 'periods' any more. I'm going to call them polka dots." For the record, in his list of sentences in his grammar workbook, all of the polka dots were colored purple.

Brennan (a few minutes later): "Hey! I just made up a new word like in Frindle."


The journal entry Lauren dictated: "Today is the first day of first grade! It is going to be an awesome day!" She insisted that both sentences needed an "explanation point" at the end.

Addison (at bedtime): "I love you too. Even if you did make me spend all day doing school."


Sunday, August 5, 2012

First Day Photos (August)

A couple of times I've tried to do a photo-a-day project for an entire year so that I could capture some of the everyday moments that I may forget. Unfortunately, I've never gotten more than a month or two of daily picture taking.

I recently found a photo idea on Journey to Josie that I'll join this month. Instead of worrying about taking a snapshot a day for 365 days, she takes snapshots on the first day of the month to record whatever everyday (or special) events happen. Hopefully, I'll continue this idea every month so that I can have a collection of everyday moments to cherish.

August 1st wasn't necessarily a typical day for our family, but it'll be fun peek into our lives. After waiting a week for repairs to my van, we were finally on the road between Little Rock and Tucson. This day's drive took us from Texarkana (hi Jennifer!) to Abilene, Texas.

If you're not the lead dog, the view never changes.
(That's Tim and the big kids in the silver CRV.)

As the day went on, the trees disappeared.

Unloading the cars for the night. Our major accomplishment was getting everything inside in just one trip.

a geocaching break in the afternoon

This smile's a bit more snaggle toothed than it was that morning. Lauren pulled a loose tooth along the way.

a carefully hidden cache

We finally found the real log.

the travel bug that joined us on the trip to Arizona

Lego tower building with a new friend -- all the way up to the ceiling

still not tired of riding in the car

visiting with old friends before church starts


fast friends, even though they'd never met before

water games after Bible class 

the view from our hotel

tucking the tooth under her pillow



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