Friday, March 24, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 3/10/17

Jake (11), Alyssa (8½), Zac (7), Tyler (4½), Nicholas (2)

Happy Friday! `This week we went to The Henry Ford Museum, spent a bit of time reorganizing books, celebrated Dr. Seuss' birthday with a day of fun, and made many memories together.

1. Zac, after he had put on his suit and combed his hair for church: "Now I look like a fancy gent."

2. Tyler, in the van: "I wish Nicky was in the front so cute driving."


4. Jake, making up his own joke: "What do you do when a popsicle is bad? You give it a lickture." (lecture)

5. Jake, watching a baby walk with squeaker shoes: "That would make it hard to sneak up on somebody."

6. Alyssa, after watching the Giant Screen Experience movie Mysteries of the Unseen World: "That was really interesting."


8. Zac, thinking: "My mind is tingling."

9. Jake, making up his own joke: "How did the hot dog go into the lion's den? It gathered all the courage it could mustard."

What made you Smile this week?

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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Bessie's Pillow Review

I've mentioned many times how important reading is in our home. The kids spend the majority of their school day reading as that is the foundation of our schooling. While they enjoy getting lost in a book on their own, they especially love when we all sit an read aloud together. We like all kinds of books--picture books with cute stories, fiction books with fun characters, fantasy books with exciting plots--but our favorite type to read together is biographies. They are the perfect way to learn about not just a person, but the time period in which they lived, customs, clothing, words, cultures, philosophies, history, geography, and so much more. Reading them together ensures that I am able to stop and expound on parts of the book more thoroughly or explain advanced words.

We recently finished one such book, Bessie's Pillow, published by Strong Learning Inc., a well-known tutoring company in the New York area. Bessie's Pillow is the story of Bessie Markman, a Jewish girl from Lithuania who immigrated to America to avoid persecution. The novel, which is written in first person, was based on a series of conversations with Bessie's daughter Ann and later related to her granddaughter, Linda Bess Silbert, who put the story on paper.

The story begins in 1906. Bessie, or Boshka as she was called then, was only 18 years old. Life was difficult in Lithuania for the Jews. Though her family was more fortunate than most, they still saw much pain and devastation. In order to escape the ever-growing persecution, she left her family and all that she loved for a new life in America. The journey alone was difficult--weeks of travel, loneliness, inspections, the unknown. Even her plans upon arrival were changed because of poor circumstances.

Hard work and determination payed off and eventually Bessie found her way. A pillow and a promise set the course of her life. She found love, experienced extreme loss, and overcame hardships. Bessie was a pioneer for women's rights and giving everyone a well-deserving chance at success. She was giving and fair and truly had compassion on people. Her legacy still has an impact on the world today.

Because Bessie's Pillow is based on true events, there are some topics in the book that are more mature than what you'd read in children's books. My kids are 11, 9, 7, and 5. As I said, I use this time of reading together for deeper explanation. Many of the difficult portions I was able to describe on the children's level. Give just enough information for them to understand, without overwhelming them. It was not an issue for us, but the book may be better suited for older kids, or at least it's something to be aware of with younger ones.

That being said, the book is easy to read. It truly feels as if you pulled up a chair and grabbed a cup of coffee and some cherry blintzes and listened to Bessie herself tell you the story of her life. We found ourselves rooting for her to succeed and felt sorrow when times were difficult. There were a couple extremely rough experiences in her life that brought me to tears. I was choked up and then read through the sobs. One of my little ones looked up at me and quietly said, "This is a sad book." And it is. But it's also a book of happiness and blessing. And any book that can make you feel that much emotion is very well written.

Though the book itself is filled with all sorts of learning opportunities--Jewish customs and words, history, customs, culture--there is such a deeper level of study that can take place through discovering Bessie's America. I am amazed at the amount of work that has been done to compile this resource.

  • You can learn about immigration and even look for your ancestors' names on the database for Ellis Island records.
  • You can study the history of things and places mentioned, like the fire of the sweatshop factory where Bessie started work. 
  • You can discuss the health of the period and how advancements in cleanliness and medicines are able to help fight of the diseases of the past. 
  • You can watch video clips of singing and dancing that was popular and learn more about the theater.
  • You can find recipes of foods that they ate and discover how they got their names.
Even the back of the book itself is filled with valuable information. Explanations and descriptions comprise 20 pages of text, while photographs of the family fill others, as well.

Bessie's Pillow was well-loved in our home. Bessie's story deserves to be told, and I can see us reading and enjoying this book again.   

You can connect with Bessie's Pillow on the following social media sites:

If you'd like to read more reviews of this book, please visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog. 

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 3/3/17

Jake (11), Alyssa (8½), Zac (7), Tyler (4½), Nicholas (2)

Happy Friday! This week was filled with lots of Lego-building, book-reading, food-making, memory-creating fun. What made you Smile this week?

1. The kids had set up all our pillows to make a fort. Nicholas broke it down and Jake shouted: "The wall's been breached! Save the women and children!"

2. Alyssa, at my parents' house: "Did you know that I love to read? That's why I brought a ton of books!"


4. Alyssa, after church on the way to the nursery: "I can't wait to see Nicky! I missed him so much!"

5. Jake, while I was reading: "Hey, that reminds me of a song I made up 3 minutes ago!"

6. Alyssa, holding a new book that she had been reluctant to read: "You know the saying 'don't judge a book by its cover'? You really should listen to it!"

7. Alyssa: "I'm going to eat breakfast now. {looks at the clock} Whoa! I need to catch up! It's already Elenvenses."


What made you Smile this week?

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Circle C Stepping Stones

Reading is a major part of life in our home and the foundation of our schooling. Since the kids fly through so many books in a week, we are always pleased to get new ones to review. This time, we received two new books!

The Circle C Stepping Stones books published by Kregel Publications is a brand new series. Andi Saddles Up and Andi Under the Big Top are books 1 and 2 of the six-book set written by Susan K. Marlow. The Circle C books follow Andi Carter as she grows up on a cattle ranch in California in the late 1800s. There are four levels of books:

  • Beginnings -- tells stories of young Andi in easy-to-read text and includes fun illustrations. 
  • Stepping Stones -- focuses on 9-year-old Andi. The vocabulary is a little more advanced and has only a few pictures. 
  • Adventures -- shares the escapades of Andi at 12 years. The writing and storylines are richer.
  • Milestones -- continues with Andi's life as a teenager. These full-length chapter books are nearly twice as long as the other series and are the most advanced of the books.   

Since we received books from Stepping Stones (which are geared toward ages 7-10) and my reading kids are ages 7, 8, and 11, this was the best fit for our family. The books are around 100 pages each and contain 12 short chapters, making them a quick read. The beginning of each one dedicates a couple pages to defining new words that may be confusing to young kids. Vocabulary like alfalfa, conchos, woolgathering, calliope, menagerie, and surrey are listed and given a brief description. The end of each book includes a short 2-3-page history of a relating topic from the story. (Book 1 explains sheep and cattle wars; book 2 describes the circus.)

Andi Saddles Up begins with the celebration of Andi's 9th birthday. She had been hoping for a new special saddle for her horse Taffy since she was finally old enough to be considered a real rider. When her present wasn't where she expected, her was disheartened. She moved from one disappointment to another as she witnessed her brother in a dispute with their neighbor over the boundary line between the two lands. While fighting and sabotage consumed the adults, Andi found her precious saddle, made a new friend in the neighbor girl, and attempted to trick ride against her brother's wishes. It was a fall that resulted in a broken bone that helped the two families resolve their differences.

Andi Under the Big Top is an exciting time as Andi and her friends and family visit the circus. Peanuts, popcorn, a lion tamer, clowns, acrobats, all sorts of animals, and intriguing people all vie for Andi's attention. She meets a boy who ran away from home, a skilled trick rider, trapeze artists, and eventually has her own horse stolen from her barn. She has to fight to retrieve the horse again and learns valuable  lessons in the process.     

There are free activity pages and study guides that accompany each book and can be used as a reading curriculum. The activities cover a wide range of topics, including history, language arts, math, science, Bible, music, art, and more. Each book's activities take 21 days to complete, with an optional lapbook packet bringing the study to 28 days. Not only do the guides include many topic, but they incorporate many different types of exercises, as well: short answer, matching, word search, crossword, maze, poetry encouragement, word pictures, and much more. The guides also briefly expand on topics from the books, like teaching about trout and giving a recipe for dough balls, describing the bones in the arm and showing an x-ray of a broken bone, explaining how and why people used stilts and giving directions to make your own. The study guides are nearly 30 pages a piece and greatly further your learning.     

My kids enjoyed these cute, lesson-filled stories. They are not the style of book that my oldest is drawn to, but he read them for me nonetheless. He's just over the intended age range and read each book in one hour's time. When I asked him what he thought of the books, he nonchalantly replied, "I liked it." He then said he thought they would be best for ages 5-9. My daughter, who is my most avid reader and falls perfectly in the age range, loved both books and eagerly described them to me. The books took her approximately 1 1/2-2 hours to read. My third child falls at the bottom of the range. He's just recently started enjoying lengthy chapter books, so these were more of a challenge for him. Each took about 2 hours for him to read.

The Circle C books are a wholesome collection that would be good for every family. With easy-to-read books all the way through full-length chapter books, there's a fun, Andi story for everyone.

You can connect on the following social media sites:
Kregel Publications: Facebook and Twitter
Susan K. Marlow: Facebook and Twitter

If you'd like to read more reviews of these books, please visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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Friday, March 10, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 2/24/17

Jake (11), Alyssa (8½), Zac (7), Tyler (4½), Nicholas (2)

Happy Friday! Did you have a special moment or funny memory from this week? Share it with us so we can Smile with you, too! Here are some of my favorites from this week.

1. Jake, making up his own joke: "What would a judge say if he worked at the drive thru at McDonald's? . . . Order! Order!"

2. Zac: I want at least 5 children--at least. You know why? I want to name them after the (Lego) Nexo Knights."


4. Me: "My skin is so dry. I need some lotion."
Alyssa: "I have some perfumy lotion."
Zac: "I have some spit lotion!"
5. Tyler: "I love it when it's so beautiful outside!"

6. Zac, to Alyssa: "Don't scream like a little girl."
Alyssa: "But I am one."


8. Jake, making up his own joke: "Which composer is most likely to get chicken pox?  . . . Ba-Ba-Bach!"

9. Alyssa, after Nicholas convinced her to play with him when she was trying to do something else: "I don't know how he works his charm."

What made you Smile this week?

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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 2/10/17

Jake (11), Alyssa (8½), Zac (7), Tyler (4½), Nicholas (2)

This week we set up a surprise for the kiddos. We created a detailed treasure hunt that involved finding puzzles pieces  and assembling it for a hidden message. The surprise ended with checking the calendar where it was written that we are going to Legoland Florida for our vacation this year.  It was so much fun! The first 3 Smiles are quotes that I heard after they figured it out.

1. "I'm shaking with excitement!"

2. "I wish I could do a backflip because I would do 10 of them!"

3. "This is going to be the best vacation ever!"

4. Jake: "Girls wear way more clothes than boys. They wear like 7 layers at a time."

5. Alyssa, running around from Zac and cuddling up next to me: "You can't hurt me! I have a force field!" 

6. Jake's Lego laundry and washing machine creation.

7. Tyler: "Mama, can you get as much energy as you want?"
Me: "Ha, no."
Tyler: "No? Well, when does it stop."
Me: "When you have kids."

8. Alyssa: "It's so much fun having a baby brother!" 

9. The blessing we received from a stranger.

10. The song "Do You Want to Build a Snowman" from Frozen was playing in the living room: ". . . It's just you and me, what are we gonna do?"
Jake, popping his head around the hallway corner: "They do know it's you and I, right?"   

What made you Smile this week

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Monday, March 6, 2017

Be Ye Kind

I love this family of mine. 

There's no denying that parenting is work. Some days the work is light and attitude are good. Others, well, others are more taxing, stressful, and make you question every decision you make. 

This past week fell into that second category a few times. 

It had been a while since we spent the day doing something fun together as a family. There are countless projects around the house that need to be completed and many chores to be done (that seems to be a normal occurrence in a family of 7), but Leighton and I felt that it all could wait another day. We packed up the kiddos for The Henry Ford Museum

The museum is packed with things to see and do. It is especially perfect for a family that focuses on life schooling and incorporating learning activities into everyday experiences (which could be why we've bought a membership every year since our first visit.) 

We had a fun-filled day and learned a lot in the process. While the kids' favorite parts included participating in a car assembly line and the Giant Screen Experience, my favorite wasn't based around an attraction. 

The museum hosts a Make Something Saturdays event. The theme for the month of March is drones. The kids were able to see the parts of a dissected drone, learn to fly a drone on a simulator, watch a live demo, and experiment creating their own flying machine and test it in a wind tunnel. They each also got their own whirligig to take home. They immediately ripped open their bag and placed the propeller on top of the straw. The had fun spinning and flying and were surprised at how high these simple toys went into the air. 

Over the next few hours, the kids pulled the toys out for a few more rounds of fun before their attention was drawn to something else. In the stroller. Out of the stroller. Up in the air. 

During one such time of whirligig fun, a man and his young grandson walked up to us in excitement.

"Where did you get that?"

I explained where the exhibit was and then related the time that it ended. We happened to be standing under a large clock. 3:30. A half hour too late. Their faces fell as they walked away. 

Jake looked at me and said, "He can have mine."

Are you sure? You've been having so much fun with it.

"Yes, I want to give it to him." He searched though our belongings in the back of the stroller and found the sought-after toy. Then I watched my 11 year old run up ahead and hand it to the little boy.

"Thank you very much! Thank you!" There was excitement once again on their faces.

My heart swelled with admiration as I watched that boy of mine walk back to me. And through tear-filled eyes I told him how proud I was of him.

That. That was my favorite part of the day.

He may have given only a small, cheap toy, but he demonstrated a great lesson learned.

You see, I lost track of how many instance in which I scolded him this past week for not being nice. I don't know how many times I quoted Ephesians 4:32: 

"And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, 
even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."

Be ye kind.

He loves to joke around, but doesn't always know when to stop. He loves to use sarcasm, but doesn't always use discretion. He loves to tease, but doesn't always understand that others don't find his actions funny.

Be ye kind. Just be kind. 

That was our biggest issue last week. That was the area that gave me the most grief.

And then Saturday.

Just when you think you're not getting through, just when you think you've failed, just when you think they don't care, you get a "Saturday."

Friendly. Generous. Considerate.


Parenting isn't always easy, but it is always worth it.

Be ye kind.

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