Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Things That Make Me Smile 12/11/15

Jake (10), Alyssa (7½), Zac (6), Tyler (3½), Nicholas (11 months)

This week we decorated the house for Christmas; turned the living room into a ball pit; and enjoyed Christmas themed activities, books, and crafts for school time. 

1. Alyssa: "You do a lot. You're a mom, you have 5 kids, {leans in close and whispers with emphasis} Five of them. And you're going to get a sixth, but not any time soon . . . "

2. Zac: "When it feels like your foot is full of beans, does that mean it fell asleep?"

3. Zac: "Why is the duct tape out here?"
Me: "Oh, because I needed to use it."
Zac: "I know why you needed to use it . . . for Nick!"


4. Tyler: "Mama, what's that green on your face?"
Me: "That's my mask. Do you think I'm pretty."
Tyler, smiling: "No."
Me, feigning sadness: "You don't think I'm pretty?"
Tyler: "Mama, when you have that green on your face, you are not pretty. When your face is not green, then you are pretty."

5. Jake: "Do you think when we get to Heaven we'll have toes?"

6. Zac: "Eggnog is my favorite, even though I don't know what it tastes like." 

7. Zac: "I remember when Nicky was just born and he was just a little baby. I want to go back and do it all over again."

8. Tyler: "Mom, why is my pop all soggy?"


10. Alyssa: "Mom, can you list all the things you're good at?"
Jake: "I know what I'm the best at. No one else is better than I am."
Me: "And what's that?"
Jake: "Being me!"

11. Jake, about Nicholas: "Sometimes I just have to squeeze him. That's how cute he is."

12. Tyler: "I know how you make peanut butter. You just need peas and butter. Peas 'n butter. Peana butter."

13. Tyler: "I can count to 100."
Me: "You can? Can I hear?"
Tyler: "1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14, 100!"
Me: "Good job, but I think you missed a few."
Tyler, indignantly: "I did not. {counts slowly} 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14. Mommy, I can actually count to 14. And 100."

What made you Smile this week?

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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Things That Make Me Smile 12/4/15

Jake (10), Alyssa (7½), Zac (6), Tyler (3½), Nicholas (11 months)

This is the week Jake turned 10 years old, he set a new record for solving his Rubik's Cube (41 seconds!), and the two of us spent a date day together. Lots of reasons to Smile.

1. Me: "What time is it?"
Jake: "Fifty-two til seven."
Me: "6:08?"
Jake: "Yeah."

2. Tyler: "I keep hiccing-up."

4. Me, to Nicholas: "Did you thank Alyssa for sharing her food with you?"
{Nicholas smiles}
Alyssa: "A smile is good enough for me."

5. Me: "What do you think? Turkey with chipotle peppers or turkey andouille?"
Jake: Chipotle! I love ice cream."
Me, confused: "Ice cream?"
Jake: "Oh, yeah, it's coffee."
Me, even more confused: "Coffee?"
Jake: "Well, then, what is chipotle?"

6. Jake, laughing: "There's something on the couch."
Me: "On the couch?"
Alyssa, yelling from the other room: "There's a potato on the couch!"
Jake: "It's a couch potato!"


8. Alyssa: "I promised myself that I would never go down to the basement at night or in the morning."
Zac: "I say that to myself also!"

9. Jake: "Is Nick more your baby than Dad's baby?"
Tyler, yelling from the other room: "No, he's my baby!"

 What made you Smile this week?

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Friday, December 18, 2015

Things That Make Me Smile 11/27/15

Jake (9½), Alyssa (7½), Zac (6), Tyler (3½), Nicholas (11 months)

Happy Friday! I have a lot of catch-up to do, so let's Smile!

1. Alyssa: "Do you know why Daddy is shoveling the driveway and the sidewalk?"
Me: "Because it snowed?"
Alyssa: "No, well, that's part of it. Because he loves us. And because it snowed."

2. Tyler, listening to nursery rhymes: "Did you sing it, Mama?"
Me: "No, not this time."
Tyler: "If you sing it next time, I will be sooooo happy."


4. Zac, reading: "Pppp-hhh-ooo--"
Me: 'That says phone. Ph makes the F sound."
Zac, making a confused face: "Sometimes things make a very funny sound."

5. Tyler: "Can you help me?"
Me: "In a minute. I'm making Daddy's lunch right now."
Tyler: "Why?"
Me: "Because he's going to want to eat tomorrow."
Tyler: "Why?"
Me: "Because he's going to be hungry."
Tyler: "Why?"
Me: "Because your body needs nourishment."
Tyler: "Why?"
Me: "Because that's the way God designed it."
Tyler: "Why?"
Me: "Because He's God."
Tyler: Why?"
"Because He's God." 
Tyler: "Why?"
"Because He's God."
Tyler: "Why?"
"Because He's God."
Tyler: "You don't need to say the same thing every time."
Me: "Oh, but it's ok for you to do it? That's no different."
Tyler: "Why?" 

Tyler, while driving: "Why did God make the whole world like this?"
Me: "Like what?"
Tyler: "Forests and trees and flowers and lights and outer space and cars and grass and the sun and stop signs and houses and lots of stuff.
Me: "Isn't it nice?"
Tyler: "Well, not really." 

6. Me: "I can't find my recipe."
Alyssa: "For what?"
Me: "Peanut butter cup granola."
Alyssa, shocked: "Please tell me this is just a nightmare." 


8. Me: "Do you want your jacket on?"
Tyler: "Yeah, I don't want my shirt to get cold." 

9. Tyler: "Mama, I can't hear you, because my hood is covering my ears."
Me: "Oh, yeah?"

Tyler: "Yeah."
Me: "So, you can't hear me?"
Tyler: "No."

What made you Smile this week?

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Friday, November 20, 2015

Things That Make Me Smile 11/20/15

Jake (9½), Alyssa (7½), Zac (6), Tyler (3½), Nicholas (11 months)

Happy Friday! This week we played a lot of LEGO, did some fall clean-up in the yard, and reorganized parts of the house.

1. Zac: "Ty, that's a Sharpie. I don't think you should just randomly color with it."

2. Leighton proposed 13 years ago this week. We thought it would be fun to take the kids to the restaurant we went to that night. We don't go out to eat very often, so that was a treat in itself. My favorite part though was having many people--both servers and diners--stop at our table and rave about how well-behaved the kids were.


4. Tyler: "Smoke is like flies."
Me: "How's that?"
Tyler: "Because smoke and flies float up."

5. Tyler: "I put it where I put it." 

6. Zac: "I know the trick to solving the Rubik's Cube. You just move it the opposite way you moved it."

7. Alyssa, about new curriculum: "Could we start it today, perhaps?"

8. Nicholas is enjoying being able to walk and is getting confident and curious. And maybe a bit mischievous.

9. The kids were playing baseball. Jake pitched the ball, Zac missed it, and it hit Alyssa in the mouth, knocking out a loose tooth. She had the biggest smile.

10. Tyler: "Mommy, I like that song. You singed it nicely."

11. Tyler, because I tossed his blanket on his head: "I wasn't able to see the iPad."

12. Jake: "Where does the queen deer live?"
Me: "I don't know. Where?"
Jake: "At Buckingham Palace."

What made you Smile this week?

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Friday, November 13, 2015

Things That Make Me Smile 11/13/15

Jake (9½), Alyssa (7½), Zac (6), Tyler (3½), Nicholas (10 months)

Happy Friday! This week I took Zac out for his special day alone with mommy for his birthday, we celebrated Leighton's birthday, and Nicholas learned to walk! Lots of reasons to Smile this week.

1. Tyler, picking up something: "Whoa, heavy."
Me: "Yeah, so it's a good thing you're strong."
Tyler: {blank stare}
Me: "You're Superman. Look at your shirt."
Tyler: "Mom, they're just pajamas."

2. Jake, after eating dinner: "Now I know what a garbage can feels like that hasn't been emptied in two weeks."

3. Tyler: "Can you do it when you're done feeding your baby? Wait--that's my baby!"
Me: "He is?"
Tyler: "Yes! Daddy got him for me!"

4. Nicholas eating spaghetti.

5. Me: "Why do we have to dump the Duplos right in the walkway?"
Zac: "Tyler did it."
Jake: "He has poor thinking."

6. Zac: "I want to build something new with my Legos. Then I'll put it right back after I enjoy the new thing I built."

7. Jake: "I know which state Mary the mother of Jesus was from."
Me: "Which one?"
Jake: "Virginia."

8. Zac: "Apparently it's really loud when it's quiet."

9. Me: "Are you going to play with Papa today?"
Ty: "What?"
Me: "Are you going to play with your papa today?"
Ty: "He's not our papa."
Me: "Whose papa is he?"
Ty: "He's Gramma's papa."

10. The kids wanted to put all 33 candles on their daddy's cake.

11. Jake: "Gramma told me yesterday that I'd be taller than her shortly, haha."

12. Jake's new record for solving the Rubik's Cube is 1 minute and 2 seconds. 

13. Tyler, counting on his fingers: "I know all the vehicles that go in the sky: jets, planes, helicopters."
Me: "What about rockets?"
Tyler: "No, those go in outer space."

What made you Smile this week?


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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Surfing the Net: Science Review

The internet is a wonderful tool. we use it almost daily to find recipes, research homeopathic remedies, catch up with friends, shop, and so much more. You can look up pretty much all information that you can possibly think of. While that can be beneficial, it can also be a hindrance. The internet is also destructive and full of horrific things. We have very specific guidelines in place for our children when they use the computer. One of those rules is that they are not allowed to preform their own searches. Too many weird things can be the result of those innocent searches. I am reminded of one time a few years ago. Our oldest child (who is 9 years old now) typed a few simple words directly into the address bar because he "wanted to see what came up." That thinking has the potential of a very bad outcome. If they need to find information, their father or I preform the search, find an appropriate source, and hand it off to the child. Now that our son is older now, I felt it was time to teach him how to safely preform internet searched on his own.

The Critical Thinking Co. is "committed to developing students' critical thinking skills for better grades, higher test scores, and success in life." They offer many books and curricula to prepare students, like Surfing the Net: Science, which is exactly the type of resource we needed to teach our son.

Surfing the Net uses free, internet resources and reproducible worksheets to teach science concepts to 3-6 graders. It teaches them to research information and broaden their understanding of the web as an information resource. The topics covered in the book include animals, atmosphere, ecosystems & habitats, energy, geology, plants, and space.

Each topic covers critical thinking in the following ways:
  1. Defining: Students use key word searches to gather general information from the internet using text, videos, charts, or images and answer questions.
  2. Describing: Students use key word searches to gather specific information from the internet using text, videos, charts, or images.
  3. Analyzing & Synthesizing: Students used the information they gathered to fill in a graphic organizer and write a paragraph.
  4. Expanding Knowledge: Students collect additional information about something specific about the topic and may write paragraphs about it.
  5. Investigating: Students form their own question and find the answer through additional research.

The first part of each activity begins with a key word search section. For instance, the very first question of the book reads, Use the key words in each question to find the answers on the Internet:  "Amphibians are ectothermic. How do habitats affect ectothermic animals?" The problem we ran into right away is that there is no help with the key words. Yes, there is a click-through video that the student watches before starting that briefly touches on key words, but that is all. I think it would be so much more beneficial if the key words were written in bold, at least for the first topic or so, to help the student understand key words. The purpose of the book is to teach the student to research. Also, there is no information about what types of websites are good for information. Many times, sites that anyone can ask a question and anybody can give a response--whether he knows what he talking about or not--showed in the top list of searches. I had to teach my son what kind of sites are good for information and what kind are untrustworthy. Don't get me wrong, I am very involved in teaching my children these things (I do homeschool, after all), but I think there should be some teaching about that in the book itself or through better training videos.

The remaining questions for the activities direct students to specific URLs to find information. Icons next to the questions easily show what kind of activity is involved.

Honestly, I think the concept of the book is a good one, but I don't believe there is enough in it to actually teach the student about searching. Many of the questions sent my son searching all over websites to find specific answers. I was able to direct him to where he could find the answers on the page because I can skim read, whereas he hasn't learned that yet and still reads word-for-word. Even some of the designated URLs had him looking for another link within them to eventually find what he needed. The process was daunting. All in all, it was a frustrating experience for us both. Maybe it would be easier or more appealing to an older child, but, unfortunately, it did not work well for my 9 year old.

You can connect with The Critical Thinking Co. on the following social media sites:

If you'd like to see how other homeschool families used this book or one of the other products offered by The Critical Thinking Co., please read the reviews on the Schoolouse review Crew blog.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Eat Your Science Homework Review

If you've followed our blog for any amount of time, you know that cooking is a passion of mine. Not only do I love to cook delicious meals and bake yummy treats for my family, but I believe that it's important to teach my kids those skills, as well. You can often find one of my little ones in the kitchen scrambling eggs, baking a cake from scratch, or chopping veggies for a snack. And just like I thrive on working in the kitchen, they feel the same way about performing science experiments. They get excited about the hands-on learning. They are enthralled watching reactions. They love learning the hows and whys things work. Cooking and science go hand-in-hand. Combining the two in our school day is pretty much perfection.

Ann McCallum Books were written by a teacher with a Master in Education. Ann has written several award-winning children's books. Many of her books focus on learning concepts. Eat Your Science Homework is one such book. 

Eat Your Science Homework: Recipes for Inquiring Minds is a book that teaches science with edible projects. Each section highlights a scientific idea. It starts with a description, is followed by a step-by-step recipes, and concludes with an additional activity that correlates to the study.

  • Atomic Popcorn Balls
  • Density Dressing & Veggie Sticks
  • Invisible Ink Snack Pockets
  • Loop, Whorl, & Arch Cookies
  • Sedimentary Pizza Lasagna
  • Black Hole Swallow-Ups

Ann has a down-to-earth way of explaining science concepts. Her book reads like a story. I read each section aloud to my kids (9, 7, 5, 3) and had only a few times where I had to stop to explain something further. Of course, the level of understanding with vary depending on the age of the child. My 9-year-old has a deeper knowledge of science than his 3-year-old little brother, obviously, but the book held the attention of them all equally. That is an important aspect to a homeschooling mom who is teaching multiple ages at once. Some of the concepts are easier to grasp, while others are more complex.

The recipes themselves were the kiddos favorite part. The loved mixing and creating in the kitchen. I supervised, but they did most of the work themselves. The recipes are easy enough to be completed by the students. The majority of the ingredients are items that we keep stocked in the house: i.e. cheese, sausage, bbq sauce, pepperoni, popcorn, (not all in the same recipe though, ha!) There are some ingredients required, like refrigerated pizza dough and pancake mix, that we never purchase. I appreciate that they were chosen for this book for their convenience and ease, but we decided to make them ourselves like we always do.

Though the book is written at an elementary level, there are multiple scientific words woven throughout. Each of these words is in bold to draw attention and then defined in the glossary in the back of the book. There is also a review section that discusses the scientific method, atoms and molecules (Atomic Popcorn Balls), properties of matter (Density Dressing & Veggie Sticks & Invisible Ink Snack Pockets), inherited traits (Loop, Whorl, & Arch Cookies), rocks and minerals (Sedimentary Pizza Lasagna), and our solar system (Black Hole Swallow-Ups).

This book is just a sampler of scientific ideas and not meant to be a full curriculum, but if you'd like to take the learning even further, there is also an educator's guide that is filled with more activities and experiments that accompany the concepts in this book. (Any resource that teaches melting point by experimenting with cheese and chocolate is worth looking into!)

Eat Your Science Homework was a huge hit in our house. The kiddos would ask first thing in the morning if they could do their science. Before we even finished the book, they asked if we could get the other Eat Your Homework books. I have a feeling we'll be eating our math or history soon. Yum!

If you'd like to see how other homeschool families used this book or one of the other fun books offered by Ann McCallum books, please read more reviews on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.


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Friday, November 6, 2015

Things That Make Me Smile 11/6/15

Jake (9½), Alyssa (7½), Zac (6), Tyler (3½), Nicholas (10 months)

Happy Friday! This week we celebrated Zac's 6th birthday, raked a ton of leaves, and had a lot of fun together as a family. What made you Smile this week?  

1. Zac, about Nicholas: "He's taking bigger steps and more steps. I love where he's heading."

2. Jake learned to solve the Rubik's Cube. He's done it probably 50 times now with his fastest time being 1 minute and 16 seconds.
3. We always take the kids with us to vote and they each get a sticker.

4. Tyler, helping me bake a cake: "Can I have the bowl and the spatula?"
Me: "You have to ask Zac which one he wants. It's his birthday."
Tyler: "Zachy, do you want the bowl or the spatula?"
Zac: "Tyler, you pick first. Which one do you want?"

5. Zac, the day after his birthday: "I kinda feel  like I'm 5, but I'm 6."

6. Tyler, because Nicholas was sleeping in and he hadn't seen him that morning: "Mommy, did we get rid of my baby brother?"

7. Jake: "I won it fairly and squarely."

8. Tyler, watching the street sweeper outside: "Mommy, it's the vacuum cleaner!"

9. The kids raked the majority of the front yard by themselves, because they wanted to.

10. Jake: "Mom, you get the rest of day off."
Me: "Really? Wow, thanks! So, who's going to do all my chores?"
Jake: "Uhhh . . . we all get the day off."
Me: "Oh, so I have to do double tomorrow?"
Jake: "Yeah, probably."

12. Jake, making his birthday list, looking through the entire LEGO site: "Some of these sets are so last season." 

13. Tyler: "Zachy, do you want to play with me?"
Zac: "No."
Tyler: "Will you play with me when you're done?"
Zac: "No."
Tyler: "Pretty please? Pretty please will you play with me? Zachy, you're hurting my feelings."

What made you Smile this week?

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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Things That Make Me Smile 10/30/15

Jake (9½), Alyssa (7½), Zac (5½), Tyler (3½), Nicholas (10 months)

Happy Thursday? I've been trying to play catch-up with Smiles the past few weeks. I have a whole list today and a will have a brand new list tomorrow! Lots of Smiling going on. Don't forget to share a Smile of your own, too! 

1. Me: "Aw, Ty, did you bump your head? You have a purple spot right here."
Tyler: "But, Mommy, you like purple!"

2. Tyler: "I like the Leaning Tower of Pizza."

3. Zac, while I was cooking broccoli cheese soup: "Mmm, that smells so good! Mom, you make the best stuff ever."

4. The kids helped me make apple juice to can.

5. Jake, about the Children's Christmas Program at church: "Do you want a speaking part this year?"
Alyssa: "Yeah, but I'm probably not going to get one."
Jake: "You volunteer for the parts; you're not volun-told."

6. Tyler, looking at leaves covering the grass: "The outside is messy."

7. Zac: "Mom, I hope you know you make me so, so happy."

8. Zac: "Ty, do you remember which one?"
Tyler: "Yeah!"
Zac: "Which one?"
Tyler: "I don't know."

9. Tyler, watching Leighton stoke the fire: "There are fireflies in there!"


11. Zac "What number am I thinking of?"
Me: "23."
Zac: "No."
Me: "2."
Zac: "No".
Alyssa: "Flapjacks."
Zac: "Yes!"
Me: "What?"
Zac: "That's another name for pancakes." 

12. Zac: "Mommy, was I the goodest today?"

13. Tyler, opening and closing my kitchen tongs: "Mama, look this is how I be a shark!"
Me: "Yeah, that's neat, but I really don't want you playing with those."
Tyler: "But I'm a shark."
Me: "What if you break them?"
Tyler: "Oh, then I won't play with them anymore."

What made you Smile this week?

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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Brinkman Adventures Review

We use all sorts of resources and manipulatives for school. I believe in having many options to keep my little ones learning. But our foundation, the basis of our education is literature. Whether it's fun picture books or engaging fiction or historical biographies, you can be sure there is a fair amount being read in our home every day. While I do believe in the importance of the written word, there are times when it's not feasible to sit down and read a novel. It's times like these that we love to turn on an audio book.

The Brinkman Adventures has combined two of our favorite things--audio books and missionary stories--to make a truly entertaining and educational production. My kids fell in love with these stories while listening to The Brinkman Adventures: Season 3.

  • God’s Mule
  • Mountain Mover
  • The Silent Ambassador
  • Translating Trouble
  • Man-Up
  • Acorns & Oaks
  • A Saint’s Story, Pt. 1
  • A Saint’s Story, Pt. 2
  • Untouched
  • Busy Bees and a Bullhorn
  • Missionary Tourist, Pt. 1
  • Missionary Tourist Pt. 2
  • - See more at:

  • God’s Mule
  • Mountain Mover
  • The Silent Ambassador
  • Translating Trouble
  • Man-Up
  • Acorns & Oaks
  • A Saint’s Story, Pt. 1
  • A Saint’s Story, Pt. 2
  • Untouched
  • Busy Bees and a Bullhorn
  • Missionary Tourist, Pt. 1
  • Missionary Tourist Pt. 2
  • - See more at:
    1. God's Mule
    2. Mountain Mover
    3. The Silent Ambassador
    4. Translating Trouble
    5. Man-Up
    6. Acorns & Oaks 
    7. A Saint's Story, Pt. 1
    8. A Saint's Story, Pt. 2
    9. Untouched
    10. Busy Bees and a Bullhorn
    11. Missionary Tourist, Pt. 1
    12. Missionary Tourist, Pt 2
  • God’s Mule
  • Mountain Mover
  • The Silent Ambassador
  • Translating Trouble
  • Man-Up
  • Acorns & Oaks
  • A Saint’s Story, Pt. 1
  • A Saint’s Story, Pt. 2
  • Untouched
  • Busy Bees and a Bullhorn
  • Missionary Tourist, Pt. 1
  • Missionary Tourist Pt. 2
  • - See more at:

  • God’s Mule
  • Mountain Mover
  • The Silent Ambassador
  • Translating Trouble
  • Man-Up
  • Acorns & Oaks
  • A Saint’s Story, Pt. 1
  • A Saint’s Story, Pt. 2
  • Untouched
  • Busy Bees and a Bullhorn
  • Missionary Tourist, Pt. 1
  • Missionary Tourist Pt. 2
  • - See more at:

  • God’s Mule
  • Mountain Mover
  • The Silent Ambassador
  • Translating Trouble
  • Man-Up
  • Acorns & Oaks
  • A Saint’s Story, Pt. 1
  • A Saint’s Story, Pt. 2
  • Untouched
  • Busy Bees and a Bullhorn
  • Missionary Tourist, Pt. 1
  • Missionary Tourist Pt. 2
  • - See more at:

    The Brinkman Adventures is an audio drama series. It's not like a typical audio book that we utilize often as it is not converted from a book, but the episodes weave true missionary stories into the family's adventures to make it a hybrid of sorts. The drama follows the Brinkmans across the globe as they experience challenges like hypothermia, dangerous animals, and intimidating terrorists.

    These amazing accounts are entertaining, for sure, but what makes them even more inspiring is that they are based on modern-day missionary heroes. The episodes that our family enjoyed the most were #7-8, A Saint's Story. When my husband was a young boy living in Florida, he personally knew Steve Saint. In fact, he grew up calling him Uncle Steve. Hearing the story of a man that their father knew and realizing that the people and events were true made it even more meaningful to my kids. They were in awe as they listened.  

    To say that we've enjoyed this series is a bit of an understatement. I don't even know how many times the kids have listened to the entire 5 hours worth of entertainment. Many times I asked where a disc was and they tell me that it was in their room because they had been listening to it, again. We listened to it in the van, while folding laundry, and making dinner. The kids had it playing while building Legos and cleaning their rooms. I'm almost surprised they haven't worn out the CD yet, ha! When I asked what they thought of the Brinkman Adventures, they told me, "It's awesome! We love it!"

    You can take the learning to a deeper level past simply listening to the series. There is an entire section on their site that is filled with the stories behind the stories. You can learn more about translating the Bible into Yalunka (and a battle between a giant spider and a mammoth cockroach), what God did with some "ice cream money," flying in a powered parachute to get medical attention for a snake bite, and being imprisoned in a Taliban jail. There is also a ton more information about the real events and how the writers used things in their own lives for inspiration. There are many pictures and videos that enhance the learning, as well. 

    This audio drama has been a big hit with the whole family. I appreciate that the kids are entertained with wholesome stories, but even more than that, I love that they're learning that there are still true heroes in the world, that God is still using regular people to change the hearts of a sinful world.

    If you'd like to follow the adventures of the Brinkman family, you can connect with them on Facebook.

    You can read more reviews of Season 3 of the Brinkman Adventures on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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    Friday, October 30, 2015

    Things That Make Me Smile 10/23/15

    Jake (9½), Alyssa (7½), Zac (5½), Tyler (3½), Nicholas (10 months)

    Happy Friday! This was a pretty typical week filled with Lego-playing, book-reading, dessert-baking, mess-making, and Smiling. Always Smiling.

    1. Me: "Generally, girls are better at multitasking than boys are."
    Jake, smirking: "What! I can sit on the couch and watch TV at the same time."

    2. Tyler, singing: "Row, row, row the boat gently down the street."

    3. Tyler: "Nicky's playing with the vacuum!"
    Me: "It's ok; he can't hurt it."
    Tyler: "He can't swallow it?"

    4.Jake gave Nicholas a tomato from the garden.

    5. Alyssa, about I'm a Little Tea Pot: "First you're talking about the tea pot and then you're talking about the tea."
    When I get all steamed up hear me shout, "Tip me (teapot) over and pour me (tea) out!"

    6. Tyler: "You're so cute, Mama!"

    7. Me: "How do you know that God's been good to you?"
    Zac: "He lets me eat candy."
    Me: "Anything else?"
    Zac: "He answers our prayers . . . and He gave me a good dad and a good mother."

    8. Tyler, about dinner: "Mommy, will you warm mine up?"
    Me: "Honey, it is warm."
    Tyler: "No, it's not. It's hot."


    10. Tyler: "Mommy, I'm a super hero! Want to play super heroes with me?"
    Me: "Sure! Can I have laundry power, so I can bzzzz! and zap all the laundry clean?"
    Tyler: "Oh, yeah. This is my power!" {starts jumping and spinning in circles while flailing his arms everywhere}

    11. Tyler: "It started to fall, but I catched it!"
    Me: "Good job! You caught it."
    Tyler: "No, I catched it."
    Me: "The proper word is caught."
    Tyler: "You caught it, but I catched it."

    What made you Smile this week?
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    Peter and the Wolf Review

    We were excited to receive Peter and the Wolf from the Maestro Classics stories in music collection. 

    We are a big music-loving family. My husband majored in music in college and lead both the choir and the congregational singing at church for many years. He and I have both been in multiple singing groups and a traveling handbell choir. (Actually, it was that choir and playing our parts next to each other that brought us together!) It is our desire to give our children a love of good music. One great way of doing that is through Stories in Music from Maestro Classics and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. This series, meant for children an families, uses music to tell stories. You can listen to the music from a soundtrack without ever having seen the movie itself and get an idea of the emotions taking place. Music moves you. It reminds me of a day while watching something when my 4-year-old asked, "Why is she mad?" After I explained that she wasn't, he questioned, "Then why does the music sound like that?" Music tells a story.

    Bonnie and Stephen Simon understand the importance of music. They want families to be not only entertained by their productions, but also educated. They both have many years of professional experience (to name a few of their numerous accomplishments: Bonnie as the former executive director of the Washington Chamber Symphony at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and Stephen as the music director of the same organization for 25 years). Now, they work together to create and compose these symphonic works.    

    Peter and the Wolf, written and composed by Sergei Prokofiev, is a well-known story. It's about a boy who has animal friends, doesn't obey his grandfather, and has a run-in with a wolf. Not only is the story beautifully told, but it is described in an easy-to-understand way, as well. The narrator explains that each character is represented by instruments in the symphony orchestra.

    Bird = Flute
    Duck = Oboe
    Cat = Clarinet
    Grandfather = Basoon
    Wolf = 3 French Horns
    Hunters = Woodwinds (marching), Kettle Drums (shooting of guns)
    Peter = Strings 

    Pointing out the individual instruments helps to recognize them throughout the story and makes it fun to follow along. My kids and I enjoyed listening to just the instrumental portions without the verbal story and discussing which character was being highlighted and what kind of attitude was being portrayed. Music is powerful!

    There is a section devoted to the composer. Prokofiev grew up in the Russian countryside, where wolves were a real threat. He was the only child of wealthy parents. His father taught him chess while his mother taught him piano. By 9 years of age, he had composed his own opera. At 13, he was the youngest student to be accepted at St. Petersburg Conservatory. By the time he graduated, he was already a published composer. He traveled while preforming his own music and eventually came to America. The critics here claimed that he was "throwing ink at paper," but people still flocked to his performances. He left the US, got married, had children, and returned to Moscow. It was there he was encouraged to compose a story for children. He wrote the story in just one week and composed it the next. Peter and the Wolf has been loved by people all over the world. Not only is the musical score enchanting, but the story is one to be admired. It's about a boy who has the courage to face danger and the ability to think quickly to find a solution to his problem. He becomes the hero!

    The rest of the CD is full of  all sorts of interesting things. There is the entire instrumental story performed in the Russian style, musical terms, descriptions of music as sound effects (rope lowering, wolf's jaw snapping, hunters shooting guns), an explanation from the conductor of the musical theme, more fun Russian music, and other valuable information.

    Along with the CD is included a 24-page activity book. It contains biographies, a small portion of sheet music, info about the music, games, and more. This little book is great to teach the kids more about the music, instruments, and people, but I found myself soaking up the information as well. My kids liked the games the best: crack the code, musical question, word search, crossword, matching the instruments, identifying the mouthpieces, and others.

    My kids and I listened to this work many times: driving, folding laundry, coloring, or whatever. They enjoyed listening along and learning and reading through the activity book, as well. They've even asked if we could get more. Maestro Classics has other titles such as Swan Lake (reviewed by some of y Crewmates), Casey at the Bat, The Tortoise and the Hare, and more. They have fun things on their website like games and coloring pages as part of their Kids Club and offer in-dept curriculum guides that accompany specific titles. If you'd like to give your family the love of music, I suggest heading over to listen to some samples. We've been impressed with the Stories in Music.   

    You can connect with Maetro Classics on the following social media sites:

    You can read more reviews of this title or reviews of Swan Lake on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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    Wednesday, October 28, 2015

    The Ultimate Homeschool Planner Review

    Lists. Planning. Details. Those words speak to me. I am known for making lists of everything--grocery, vacation packing, daily chores, projects, party planning, school assignments. It helps me to see the tasks or items concrete in written word, and it gives me enjoyment every time I cross something off my list. Now that we have 5 children and homeschool, it is vital that I keep a calendar to track our family, church, and other responsibilities. Currently, I am using The Ultimate Homeschool Planner - Yellow Cover.

    Apologia Educational Ministries is well-known in the homeschool realm for their science curricula and other biblical worldview products. This Christian company believes "that every educational subject in your home school can and should be taught from a biblical worldview built on the solid foundation of God’s Word and centered on Jesus Christ." It's always best to use products that reinforce your beliefs. We have loved everything we've gotten from Apologia in the past, so I was looking forward to this product, as well.

    Not only do I want a functional planner, but a pretty one as well. I know, the way it looks doesn't change its performance, but it makes me happy to use something lovely. We are visual creatures, aren't we? The first thing I noticed about this one is how feminine it is. The color scheme consists mostly of pale yellow, avocado green, and plum in floral accents. (There is also an orange option and a blue option, if you'd prefer those.)

    The first few pages are filled with tools to help you plan. There are tips for prioritizing your time, scheduling your days, how to teach your children independence, and how to maximize the use of the planner. There are pages devoted to listing both character and academic goals for each student and their resources you are implementing. All throughout the pages are Bible verses and inspiring quotes for encouragement.

    There are many options for scheduling your time. The one-year planning grid lets you see the entire year at once by using a two-page spread. There is just enough room to write one main activity for each day. The monthly planning section allows you to view each month and gives you 4 small lines to write information. The weekly planner is where you have the most room for individual tasks and personalization. In this portion, each week gets a 2-page spread. The grid is 6x6. You can customize the planner to what best fits your needs by listing days of the week across the top and students down the side or students across the top and subjects down the side or whatever you choose. After each week, there are pages that accompany where you can keep track or your personal Bible plan, Battle Plan and Fighter Verse, Prayers, and Hospitality/Outreach. These pages are set aside for Sundays, the Lord's Day (that's why the weekly grid has only 6 spaces). There are also places to record the week's memorable moments and evidences of grace.

    I think this is a beautiful planner with many options to personalize it to your desires. I love the quotes throughout, and even though the Bible verses are not from the version we use, I appreciate those as well. Having the sections for the memorable moments and evidences of grace are wonderful reminders to live in the moment and not to take our blessings for granted. The only thing I don't prefer about this planner is the cover. The cover is about 1/2 inch bigger on the sides than the pages. Both the front and back covers have a pocket folder slot so you can store whatever printed pages you need. However, because of that extra 1/2 inch, the cover tends to bend and catch on things.

    This planner has been working well for me. I had always preferred a physical planner that I could write in and flip the pages, but I've recently switched to an online one. Comparing the two, I now favor the digital version (trust me, that shocks my husband!) If you are in the physical planner camp though, this one would be perfect for you.


    You can connect with Apologia Educational Ministries on the following social media sites:

    If you'd like to see how other homeschool moms used this planner, please read the reviews on the schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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    Saturday, October 24, 2015

    Her Legacy

    October 22, 1990.

    That was the day that drastically changed the course of my husband's life.

    He was 7 at the time, 2 weeks shy of his 8th birthday, when his world was forever changed. That day marked the beginning of some very difficult years in his life. His mom--his comforter, his stability, his haven--was gone.

    Years ago (the Timeline feature makes things so easy to find), I posted this on Facebook:

    22 years ago, a precious woman lost her battle with cancer. I never had the privilege of meeting her, yet I love her and am blessed by her every single day.

    How do I know?

     I married her son.

    Leukemia may have taken her life, but her influence lived on. 

    My husband doesn't have an entire childhood filled with memories of his mother, but he remembers cuddling and napping with her after school. He recalls the way she laughed and enjoyed life, even while knowing she was dying. He remembers her intelligence. He remembers her love.

    I know it's this heartache-filled path--the one that starts with losing his mother, moves on to his father remarrying, and ends with spending his teenage years in a children's home--that led us to each other, but I can't help but wonder how different things could have been. How would we have met had our college not been recommended to him while in the children's home? Would I have fallen in love with him as quickly had he not amazed me with his unbelievable forgiveness? Would we be close to his parents? What would his mom have been like? Would she have been the typical dreaded "mother-in-law"? I can't imagine she would have been, if she was anything like her laid-back, understanding, loving son.

    I'd like to think that she would have loved me. And my children. 

    I could sit here all day and think of the what ifs, but this is the life God has given us. I'll never know my mother-in-law. I'll never see her smile or feel the warmth of her hug. I'll never be able to see which traits and habits my husband got from her. I'll never watch her hold my sleeping babies. 

    I'll never get to thank her for loving her son. Or for being the proper example in his life. I'll never have the opportunity to thank her for raising him those 8 years and making it possible for him to overlook the hardships and thrive in his life. I'll never thank her for her influence in making my husband the man that he is. I'll never be able to tell her, but I love her because I love him.

    Twenty-five years ago my husband lost his mom, but her legacy, her love, lives on.

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    Friday, October 23, 2015

    Things That Make Me Smile 10/16/15

    Jake (9½), Alyssa (7½), Zac (5½), Tyler (3½), Nicholas (10 months)

    Happy Friday! This week we canned more apple stuff, had a get-together at church, and took the kids to the Children's Museum. Lots of fun, lots of Smiles.

    1. Tyler: "How come I can't hear that sound?"
    Me: "What sound?"
    Tyler: "The one I can't hear."

    2. Jake, about Nicholas: "How does he even contain all that cuteness?"


    4. Alyssa, holding a dripping canned mandarin orange segment and looking very suspicious: "Here, Tyler, want this?"
    {Jake walks up with the same mischievous smile}
    Me: "What did you do to it?"
    Alyssa: "Nothing."
    Me: "Really. What did you do to it?"
    Jake, still smirking: "Nothing. It was the last one, so we saved it for him."
    Me: "You didn't dip it in pickle juice or something?"
    Jake: "No . . . but that's a great idea! I'm going to remember that one."

    5. Tyler: "It's a lan that turns, so it's a lantern."

    6. Tyler: "Do you know your letters?"
    My Mom: "Yes. {sings} A, B, C, D, E--"
    Tyler, excited: "Those are my letters, too!"


    8. Alyssa, seeing a banana peel in a parking lot: "They shouldn't leave that there. Someone's car might drive through it and slip."

    9. Tyler: "Is it already yesterday?"

    10. Alyssa, grocery shopping: "Is it a rule that you have to fill the cart?"

    11. Alyssa, while learning about the salt in the Dead Sea: "Does it have pepper, too?"

    What made you Smile this week?

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    Thursday, October 22, 2015

    Koru Naturals Review

    As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I get all sorts of great curriculum and learning products for the kids. We've gotten online subscriptions, physical books, CDs, DVDs, games, and so much more. Every now and then I get something just for me. The latest products for review, Manuka Honey and Manuka Oil Facial CleanserManuka Honey, Tamarind and Manuka Oil Facial Toner; Skin Clear Cream; and Manuka Honey Propolis Soap from Koru Naturals fall into that "something for me" category. 

    I've always been a "products" girl. Multiple lotions, dozens of makeup colors, choices of shampoo--different options to match how I felt. I had products for any issue or desire. And while I grew up using homeopathic remedies for illnesses and overall health, my beauty care choices weren't so natural. That is until several years ago. I remember the day, as I shooed my toddler away from the bathroom I was cleaning, I realized that if it was harmful for my little ones to inhale the fumes from the popular commercial cleaners, then it was harmful for me to as well. Since that day, I've worked to switch our home and beauty products to ones that are natural.

    I never had an issue with acne when I was a teenager. No, my skin decided to wait until I was in college. I wouldn't say that it ever got bad, per se, but any blemishes seemed monumental in my mind. I could usually cover the imperfections with makeup, but I was frustrated with having to do so. I never left the house without at least a little foundation to even my complexion. Then, a couple years ago, I started washing my face using the Oil Cleansing Method. I saw an improvement in my skin immediately! My skin cleared up completely and I felt comfortable with a naked face. Even the hormones of my most recent pregnancy couldn't compete with OCM. And then, the baby was born. Within 2-3 months, my skin started breaking out again. No matter what I tried, I couldn't find anything to stop the breakouts. I know the issues are hormone related, but I'm not willing to ween my little one just so I feel comfortable without a little makeup. (You may be thinking that I'm vain to be worried about such things. To each his own.) I was eager to try this line of skin care from Koru Naturals, in hopes of getting my skin clear once again. 

    The Manuka Honey and Manuka Oil Facial Cleanser provides a deep cleansing while protecting delicate skin. It's made with aloe juice, lavender, manuka honey (known for its antibacterial and acne-fighting properties), and manuka oil and doesn't contain any parabens or artificial colors. The cleanser is very thin and doesn't suds much.

    The Manuka Honey, Tamarind and Manuka Oil Facial Toner compliments the cleanser. It's to be used after you wash your skin and before you moisturize it. Like the cleanser, it also comes with a pump lid, making it easy to squirt the toner onto a cotton ball to apply. It's designed for acneic, oily, combination, and sensitive skin. The ingredients list includes manuka honey, manuka oil, aloe, vitamin A, tamarind (proven to heal inflammation and promote healthy skin), chamomile and green tea.

    The Skin Clear Cream completes the manuka skin care. This 20th anniversary edition contains the same well-loved ingredients, but offers an even more advanced formula to clear your skin. This thick cream contains manuka honey and oil, kawakawa and harakeke (used to treat many skin conditions), burdock root (rich in minerals), thyme (anti-inflammatory and a natural astringent), and other beneficial ingredients. The tin comes with a plastic lid with a slot to hold an application tool. This protects the cream from spilling and from contamination. The cream has a lovely lemongrass scent and silky feel. It tends to make my skin oily if I use more than a smidgen.

    Within a week of using these three products, I noticed an improvement in my skin. The following week brought another breakout. The week after was clear again. My skin has followed this pattern since starting this routine. While I can't say that this was the miracle cure I was hoping for, I am enjoying using it and knowing that it's beneficial for my skin.   

    The Manuka Honey Propolis Soap is made with ingredients that are known for their powerful moisturizing benefits and skin-protecting properties. This pretty, octagonal soap is two-toned, the rich yellow on top and the creamy white on bottom. It lathers nicely and feels silky on the skin. The whole family has been using this soap. So far, I have not noticed a difference in our skin. That can be taken as a good thing because it works just as well as our previous soaps or as a bad thing because there was no additional moisturizing. I personally prefer to believe that it's good for many reasons: made with natural ingredients, beneficial for the skin, and works well.   

    These products, and all the products from Koru Naturals, are made from pure, natural ingredients and can be used with all ages. Not only do I like that these are made with top-quality ingredients, but I love that they do what they claim to do in healing and enhancing the body. I would definitely purchase from this company in the future.

    You can connect with Koru Naturals on the following social media sites:

    If you'd like to see how other homeschool families used these products or some of the others offered by Koru Naturals, please read the reviews on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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    Drawing Around the World Review

    Geography has never been my thing. Oh, don't get me wrong, I still got an A in the class in high school, but I didn't enjoy learning it and I certainly didn't retain the knowledge for very long after I received my tests back with the approving grade. Over the last few years though, I've gotten a desire to freshen up my geography knowledge--and maybe truly learn it the second time around. 

    My oldest 2 kids (ages 9 and 7) have an interest in geography, specifically pertaining to the Unites States of America. They play games about the states, try to recognize them by their shapes, and put together puzzles of the map. I thought that Drawing Around the World: USA from Brookdale House would interest them.   

    The Drawing Around the World series (includes the USA book and the Europe book) was designed to teach children to draw large sections of geography from memory. With the USA book, students study one or more states a week by tracing, locating on a map, and labeling. The day the state is introduced, the student also fills in a chart with various facts about it.

    • Capital
    • Abbreviation
    • Statehood
    • Bird
    • Flower
    • Industry
    • Interesting Fact   
    To find the state facts for the chart, students research the information by checking one of several free online resources. Once they have completed this course, they will have a familiarity with the states, recognize them, be able to draw them, and understand their positions relative to one another.  

    The suggested weekly schedule is as follows:

    Day 1    
    • Study the New State.
    • Complete the State Fact Table.
    • Locate and label each new state onto the dashed, black and white map.
    • Draw all states studied thus far.
    Day 2    
    • Locate and label each new state onto the dashed, black and white map.
    • Draw all states studied thus far.
    Day 3  
    • Locate and label each new state onto the dashed, black and white map.
    • Draw all states studied thus far.
    Day 4   
    • List, from memory, the states studied thus far.
    • Using the blank textbox, draw, also from memory, all of the states you have learned.

    We school 4 days a week (Monday-Thursday), so this schedule works perfectly for us. I had intended to use this curriculum with only my oldest child, but his younger sister was so excited about it and asked to join in. How could I say no? Every Monday, we sit at the table together. The kids trace the state and draw it. Then, we fill out the facts sheet together. I look up the information and write it on a white board so it's easier to copy. It's much easier to write 96,810 sq. mi. and 9,895,622 people (those are Michigan's stats, by the way) when you can see it. I also find pictures of the state birds and flowers so the kids can visualize those, too. The interest fact is the favorite for each state. We learned that the first free public library was opened in New Hampshire, that Ben & Jerry's leftover ice cream is fed to hogs in Vermont, that it's illegal to cross the street while walking on your hands in Connecticut, and more fun stuff.

    This is what my kids think about using this curriculum:

    "I like that you get to trace the state and draw it yourself. And I like learning the capitals!"

    "I like that the lessons are short and I like learning the capitals."

    I like that my children are learning geography in a fun simple way. I do have mixed feelings about it though. The book itself is really just the same few simple pages over and over: a blank chart, a map of the US with the states drawn with dashed lines, a blank map with Canada and Mexico shown but the US left out, and a blank page to draw the states. I just feel like it needs something more. I also think it would be good to have a spot for the states' nicknames. The 282 pages is a lot to print out. For just a few dollars more, it would be worth it to purchase the printed book, instead of the e-book. Although, then you'd have to buy one for each child. See, mixed feelings.

    My kids are enjoying this book, and we will continue to learn the geography of the USA. If you think this might be good for your faily, too, you can view sample pages of the products on the site.

    You can connect with Brookdale House on the following social media sites:

    If you'd like to see how other homeschool families used this curriculum or one of the others offered by Brookdale House, please read the reviews on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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