Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Fix It!

I know, I say it every time I talk about any English-type of curriculum, but it's true: I love grammar. I love parts of speech and punctuation, diagramming sentences and listing homonyms. I admit to correcting others in my head when they make mistakes (and, yes, I even mentally correct my own writing for the blog, ha). I always laugh at grammar jokes and am so proud when my children speak properly. So, naturally, you'd assume that I started formally teaching my little ones grammar at very young ages, right? Wrong. I've said before that our main curriculum focuses mainly on reading for learning. We don't have separate classes for English, science, and history, but instead, learn about these subjects through the books we read. Of course, the kids hear me speak proper grammar (mostly) and mimic what they hear. We also practice language arts with fun games, like mad libs.

When I heard that Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) was offering us one of their grammar products to review, I was tempted get an advanced level for myself--for fun! But, alas, I knew that it would be better for my 8-year-old to start systematically learning grammar. We received Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree (book 1) both the student book and the teacher's manual.      

To a grammar nerd, like myself, this book is a lot of fun. The purpose is for the student to look for the mistakes in the lessons and fix them. It's like being an editor of a book! What I really appreciate about this book is that it teaches the concepts through a real story and not random sentences. Seeing how it all works together gives the student a better understanding of the material, helps him to retain the knowledge, and gives the assignments a sense of purpose. 

The student will need the Nose Tree book, a notebook with two sections (rewrite and vocabulary), and an envelope to hold the review cards. The set-up for the teacher is simple. Prepare the notebook with the two sections, cut out the appropriate review cards (in the back of the student book) for the week, and teach new concepts at the beginning of each week.

So, how does it work? The student is given one sentence of the story each day. There are multiple things that he does with that one sentence:

  • Look up the bold word in a dictionary and write in the vocabulary section of the notebook which definition best fits the story  
  • Mark and fix the sentence, using the review cards as reminders
  • Rewrite the sentence in the rewrite section of the notebook

New grammar cards are added each week. For instance, week 1 starts with the indent paragraph symbol (¶), nouns (n), homophones and end marks. Week 2 adds articles (ar), week 4 adds quotations, and so on. 

To put it in perspective, here is the sentence for day 1, week 1:

¶ Did you ever hear the story of the three poor soldiers

  1. The first thing the student does is look up the bold word and write it and the best definition in the vocabulary section of his notebook. Jake wrote down poor: lacking sufficient money.
  2. The second thing is to mark the sentence, using the grammar review cards. He put an n (noun) above story and soldiers. He also put a question mark at the end of the sentence.
  3. The final thing is to rewrite the sentence in the rewrite section of the notebook, remembering to indent because of the paragraph symbol. 

We are currently 5 weeks into the book. The sentences are longer and more complicated and there are more things to mark and fix. Of course, the rest of the book continues in this fashion. By the end of the 33 weeks, the student will be finding pronouns, clauses, coordinating conjunctions, and more. He will also be familiar with words such as elegant, divulged, immense, laden, forlorn, as well as many others.

The teacher's manual is full of information and contains everything you need to teach this to your child, even if you don't hold a grammar degree. I, personally, did not reference it often. There were times when it came in handy though, like when I wanted Jake to mark certain words as nouns. The book refers to them as advanced words, meaning words can look like one part of speech but be acting as another. Obviously, my 8-year-old hasn't learned these concepts yet. It was helpful to be reminded of that.

The Nose Tree book has been working very well in our house. As of now, the lessons are taking Jake only about 10 minutes to complete (that is, as long as he doesn't get distracted looking up other definitions, too, haha). When I first mentioned to him that the curriculum was coming, he said, "What? I don't need help with English. I snuck a peek! {hysterical laughter} I did that on purpose!" Yes, even my child thinks grammar jokes are humorous. (In case you missed it, snuck is not a word. Sneaked is the correct form.) Since working through the book though, he has told me that this is fun and his favorite part of school. That's my boy!

Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree student book (3rd grade+)  costs $15 and the teacher's manual is $19. Even though I have not used the teacher's manual daily, it is very important to have and I would recommend purchasing them together. Both books are spiral-bound. 

The Fix It! Grammar series has a total of 6 books. If you're not sure which to order, there is a placement test on the IEW site

Are you interested in how other families used this book or another one of the books in the series? You can head to the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to read more reviews.

Crew Disclaimer
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Tasty Tuesday: Maple-Filled Pumpkin Spice Spritz Cookies

I am so excited that it's fall! This is my favorite season for so many reasons, but especially for the flavors: apples, pumpkins, cinnamon, nutmeg. Within the past few weeks we've already made pumpkin bread a few times and zucchini muffins. And cinnamon swirl bread, but we make that year-round. With all the bread baking, we were needing a change. These cookies were the perfect solution.

Not only do they taste yummy with just a hint of pumpkin spice, but look how adorable they are! The kids love whenever we pull out the cookie press. Treats are even more fun when they're in cute little shapes.

I love how the end of one color bled into the beginning of the new one in some of the cookies. I think it would be really pretty to fill the cookie press alternating the different colors. It would make wonderful multicolored leaves--perfect for fall!

While the cookies themselves are not quite as buttery as our typical spritz recipe, they make up for it with the maple filling. To me, they taste just like the maple cookies my grandparents used to buy in the bulk section of the grocery store. Leighton said they taste like a cross between pancakes and waffles. Haha, I guess the maple filling just means that we can eat these for breakfast!

Because you don't need a lot of filling for the cookies, I used the leftover goodness to frost a loaf of that cinnamon swirl bread I was talking about. And, yes, I most definitely ate a piece of that with my coffee for breakfast!

Whether you prefer these cookies by themselves or filled with maple goodness, why not make a batch to celebrate fall.


Pumpkin Spice Spritz Cookies
1 cup (16 tablespoons) butter softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
 food coloring (optional)

1. With an electric mixer, beat butter and powdered sugar until fluffy, about 4-5 minutes.
2. Mix in the egg and vanilla extract until combined.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and pumpkin pie spice. Slowly mix dry ingredients in with the butter mixture until combined.
4. If using food coloring, separate the dough, and add coloring accordingly.
5. Fill the cookie press with dough and press cookies onto ungreased baking sheets.
6. Bake at 350* for 7-8 minutes, until firm and edges are just beginning to brown. Remove from oven and let stand for 2 minutes before transferring to cooling racks to cool completely.

Maple Filling
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon maple extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar

Beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Blend in maple and vanilla extracts. Slowly beat in powdered sugar until combined.

Sandwich maple filling between 2 cookies.

Recipes adapted from diethood.
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Friday, September 26, 2014

Things That Make Smile 9/26/14

Jake (8½), Alyssa (6½), Zac (4½), Tyler (2)

Happy Friday! This week was filled with many memories: Alyssa's half birthday (post coming soon), Tyler's many shenanigans, and God keeping Alyssa safe through a very scary experience. That pretty much sums up life: good times, stressful times, and difficult times. I'm thankful that through it all, we still have many reasons to Smile.

1. Jake, about Tyler: "Look at him! He looks like a perfect little boy who never gets into trouble. And then you turn your back . . . and wham! He throws a baseball at a lamp!"
Me: "What?"
Jake: "It's just a figure of speech."

2. Jake: "If whoever created Legos was still alive, I'd want his autograph."

3. Zac, walking into the kitchen where I was making bread: "Mmm, I love the smell of dough."

4. Alyssa: "I like all of them, but my favorites, are all of them!"

5. "Mommy, wook at me!"

6. Tyler helped me load the dishwasher. After I started it, he said, "Good job, Mom! High five!"

7. I was blowing Tyler kisses across the room, trying to get him to blow one back. He said, "No!" and ran over to give me a real kiss. 

8. Jake: "Why do kids shove their toys under the bed?"
Me: "So they don't have to put them away."
Jake: "Nope. To keep the monsters away since there's no room!"

9. Tyler, eating homemade cinnamon swirl bread: "Mmm, belicious!" 

10. Jake: "As soon as I tasted the cookies (recipe here) I thought, An angel must have brought those down from Heaven."

What made you Smile this week?

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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Field Trip: The Henry Ford (2012 Yeah, Really)

First things first, I have to admit that this trip to The Henry took place quite a while ago. I'm not very good at hopping on posts very quickly. This Blog was originally my idea, but I have the most trouble getting anything up on it. Either way its just a notice to you, but hey at least I am writing the post. (unlike our trip to Somerset Mall for the grand opening of the LEGO store where we helped build a ten foot Buzz Lightyear.) Well, on to The Henry Ford.

Amongst Erika's blog reading and deal searching she came across the fact that Target, the store, was paying for entrance to The Henry Ford certain days this year(2012). It so happened that when she discovered that one of those days was fast approaching. I requested the day off work and on Presidents Day we went to The Henry Ford.

For the sake of those who don't already know and those who have not yet gone to do a search for it to find out, The Henry Ford is a museum in the Detroit area. It houses many things. I first thought it was just cars, You know "The HENRY FORD". But when I went this past summer for Maker Faire Detroit, I discovered that there is lot of other stuff. Mostly it is a way for us to look back at many ways of life from the past. From cars to tractors, dollhouses to real houses, even planes to trains. There is a lot to see and even some to do. (Did you notice that?)

I won't give you a complete walkthrough of everything, but I'll hit most of it and show a lot of pictures. When you first walk in the door you are welcomed by the Oscar Meyer Weiner Mobile. Now that is just cool. Who doesn't want to see that thing up close?
Very shortly after that we ended up looking at dollhouses, no where near like the one I made for Alyssa. Much bigger and a lot more detail. Alyssa of course loved it. Jake though, very quickly turned to the tractors on the other side of the aisle. When Jake and I made it back to the others we had come across a friend of ours and her daughter who hung with us the rest of the day.

We found a little play house to hang out in for a while.
We meandered through bedrooms of old and then found LEGOS, Tinker Toys, and K'NEX to play with as well as crayons and paper.

We walked among some "engines" that, honestly, you have to see for yourself.
And then we found airplanes. It turns out Henry Ford dabbled in airplanes and commercial flying for a bit. Some of what he did and other history significant planes are on display. Then there is a place with lots of paper and an airstrip.
Now is where honesty has to kick in. I'm sure you can already tell that this visit to The Henry Ford is from over two years ago. This was one of a few posts that Erika has asked me to write. As you can see it has taken me a while to do. There have also been quite a few that she has wanted me to do but I never did get to. This one I am going to finish and maybe even do others in the future.

At this point I'm not entirely sure how that day ended at The Henry Ford, but we have gone many times since then. We even had a membership this last year. We've been for just the museum and we've been for Maker Faire Detroit. Every time is fun though. The Henry Ford is a great place for adult and children alike. There are quite a few things to draw the kids into learning about our history in so many aspects of life. Yet each display has detailed info for a curious adult to spend days reading each. The Henry Ford is gold mine of learning in the Detroit area. It's probably the closest you can get to Smithsonian quality museum in our area that I know of at least.

I could keep going on for quite a while but I'll leave it with this:

If you are in the Detroit area and want to spend a day learning and experiencing our past go to The Henry Ford. And if the season is right come back the next day to check out Greenfield Village next door. The village is another experience in and of itself that I would suggest to anyone.
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Friday, September 19, 2014

Things That Make Me Smile 9/19/14

Jake (8½), Alyssa (6), Zac (4½), Tyler (2)

Happy Friday! Last week I talked about Tyler and his not taking naps. This week, I got him to nap 2 days! (Hey, it's a big deal, haha.) Also, he got to take a turn spending the night with Gramma and Papa all by himself for the very time. He was so excited. Leighton set up 2 new big bookcases in the basement, so the other 3 kids and I spent the day organizing. So much fun! Lots of reasons to Smile.

1. Zac: "Remember when Ty gave me a bloody nose?'
Alyssa: "I remember it like it was yesterday."
Me: "It was yesterday."

2. Alyssa, looking at a loaf of pumpkin bread that I made: "That is a work of art."

3. Zac: "Mmm, dinner smells good."
Me: "Thank you, but I've barely started cooking yet."
Zac: "It smells cold."


5. Zac, playing the Wii: "Jake, you're the best boxer in the whole wide world!"
Alyssa: "Other than God."
Zac: "Mmhmm."

6. Jake, telling me about a book he was reading: ". . . And it's getting really exciting!"

7. Zac:"Where's Ty?"
Me: "At Gramma's."
Zac: "I miss him." 

8. Alyssa: "Mine has double much."
Jake: "Double much? Now you're talking like Zac."


10. Jake: "I've never seen somebody take a better picture than Grandma."

11. Alyssa, because Zac was being silly: "Oh, brother."
Zac: "I'm not your brother."

12. Zac: "Is that Spanish?"
Jake: "No, it's English."
Zac: "What's English?"

13. Zac: "We have everything except some things."

What made you Smile this week?

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Things That Make Me Smile 9/12/14

Jake (8½), Alyssa (6), Zac (4½), Tyler (2)

Happy Friday! It's hard to believe another week has passed so quickly. We're two weeks into our new school year. Things have been going well. Tyler has conveniently decided the last two weeks that he no longer needs naps, so it's been . . . interesting, trying to juggle schooling while keeping up with him. Never a dull moment.

I hope you've had a fun, smile-filled week! 

1. Zac: "Mom, I love you! I just spotted lightning!"
Me: "I love you, too. Lightning reminds you that you love me?"
Zac: "Yep."

2. Alyssa: "I think I just heard a bee."
Zac: "Oh, that was just my tummy."

3. Jake: "I want to marry a princess."
Me: "And why's that?"
Jake: "I want to be king!"

4. We moved Tyler out of the crib and into the toddler bed. 

5. Watching Leighton sitting on the couch playing a racing game on his iPad with all 4 children crowding around and cheering him on.  

6. Every time Tyler says "excuse me" it sounds more like "goose me." I always feel obliged to honor his request.

7. Jake, proudly: "My socks stink! Wanna smell them?"
Me: "Ewe, no."
Jake: "Hey, Ty-Ty, my socks stink. Wanna smell them?"
Tyler smells the socks.

8. Leighton surprised me with some presents.

9. Alyssa: "What's a throw pillow?"
Jake: "It's a pillow someone throws so if someone else is falling or something they have some place safe to land."

10. Jake: "We come from a very important family. Our ancestors were Vikings."
Alyssa: "One of our ancestors was a grandma."

What made you Smile this week?
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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Under Drake's Flag

Do your children like adventure, pirates, and audio books? Do you appreciate captivating entertainment with strong Christian morals? Then this review is for you!

Our family loves read-alouds. I've mentioned dozens of times how the kiddos will sit and listen to various novels for hours on end. I love reading them quality literature and sharing that time with them. Not only does it teach them life lessons, it also introduces them to new vocabulary. The only problem is that I don't always have the time to spend the day reading. (Sometimes life just isn't fair, ha.) We love to incorporate audio books and dramas into our days. Whether we're folding clothes, driving in the van, or just needing some downtime, audio books are perfect. This one from Heirloom Audio Productions is no exception.

I made sure to pack Under Drake's Flag when we went on vacation a couple weeks ago. Audio books are perfect for passing the time on long road trips, especially with 4 young kids in tow. We decided to head to the Smithsonian National Zoo with Leighton's sister and her family while were were in the area. That morning drive was the perfect time to listen to the approximately 2-hour production.
Under Drake's Flag is a theater-quality production based on the novel with the same name, written by G.A.Henty. As soon as the CD started playing, the kids asked to drop down the TVs in the van. Between the music, the quality of the actors reading the lines, and the background sounds (wind blowing, waves crashing, guns firing, birds chirping, etc.), it sounds like a movie production, and a good one at that. It's easy to visualize the scenes: pirates swabbing the deck, fierce storms raging, men fighting for their lives. We were immediately pulled into the story. 

Ned Hawkshaw is easily someone that would make little boys jealous. He embarks on a great adventure on the ship of Sir Francis Drake. Along the way, he fights off a shark attack, saves a woman from drowning, survives a shipwreck, engages in fierce battles, and gets caught up in the Spanish Inquisition. He also learns firsthand of the faith of Captain Drake and discovers what it means to truly trust in God. Ned grows from a boy into a man, from a servant into a leader. His faith is tested, but he remains strong. Set in the time of the great naval battles between the English fleet and the Spanish Armada, there is plenty of adventure along the way.

Under Drake's Flag costs $29.95 (+$6.95 shipping and handling). The 2-CD set comes with a convenient study guide pamphlet filled with review questions, ideas to get you thinking deeper, and vocabulary words. Along with the set, you'll also receive 4 free bonuses: MP3 download of the story, the complete e-study guide (much more in depth than the pamphlet), the MP3 soundtrack (contains all original music by Emmy-winning composer John Campbell, who also composed the score for The Chronicles of Narnia), and a beautiful printable copy of Drake's Prayer.   

The audio production is ideal for ages 6-adult, but our entire family enjoyed listening to it. Of course, the little ones didn't quite understand everything, I'm sure, but it's never too early to introduce quality literature. This will be a story that we reference throughout the years.

If you'd like to see what other homeschool families thought of this production, you can read more reviews at the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

Crew Disclaimer
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Friday, September 5, 2014

Things That Make Me Smile 9/5/14

 Jake (8½), Alyssa (6), Zac (4½), Tyler (2)

Happy Friday! We went on vacation last week and had a wonderful time. We spent some time with distant family, visited Washington, D.C., enjoyed swimming in the pools, and even got to relax a little. Most importantly, we made many memories as a family and had multiple reasons to Smile.

One thing that doesn't make me smile this week is that I was having trouble with the internet and lost a few of my Smiles for this week. I had typed them, thought the post saved, and discovered today that they're gone. Of course, I can't remember them now. It just proves to me again how important it is to write things down, to keep a log. And it makes me grateful for the lists I do have. 

Now, let's Smile!


1. Zac: "I hope the spider doesn't poisonous us."

2. Alyssa, while being tucked into bed: "I love being homeschooled. It's so much fun."

3. Zac, while watching a cricket and accidentally stepping on it: "I guess my shoes are faster than it!" 


5. Alyssa, after listening to Leighton read about how cottontails visit their litters only twice a day and nurse for just 5 minutes: "That is not a very good mother."

6. Zac: "If Santa was real, he'd be one of my biggest heroes."

7. Zac: "That's the stinkiest horse I ever met."

8. Me: "I want someone to help you with that, Ty-Ty."
Tyler: "No, Ty-Ty help Ty-Ty."

9. Zac, looking at a Lego magazine: "You know which Lego sets I want? That one, and that one, and that one, and that one, and that one, and that one, and that one,and that one. And that one. And this one. And all of these."
Me: "Is there a Lego set you don't want?"
Zac: "Ummm . . . uh . . . uhh . . . nope."


11. Jake: "In my dream, I pulled out my tooth, and it looked like a Lego."

12. Leighton: "Hey, who took my spot?"
Zac, sitting in Leighton's seat: "Ask Alyssa."

What made you Smile this week?

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