Friday, May 29, 2015

Things That Make Me Smile 5/29/15

Jake (9), Alyssa (7), Zac (5), Tyler (3), Nicholas (5 months)

Happy Friday! We've had a Smile-filled week. Have you?

1. Zac, eating cereal: "I like soggy milk."

2. Jake: "I think I know why babies like being held. It makes them feel like they're taller."

3. Tyler: "How old are you?"
Me: "33."
Tyler: "Whoa! You're older even me!"

4. Zac: "I think Nicky grew while he was sleeping. Look how big he is!"


6. Jake: "Where did you say we were going? Something about Frankenstein."
Me: ". . . Frankenmuth?"

7. Tyler: "Where's Daddy?"
Me: "At work."
Tyler: "We gotta get Daddy."
Me: "We do? Why?"
Tyler: "'Cause I want Daddy here!"

8. Zac set up a treasure hunt in the house for me. The clues were pieces of paper with scribbles on them. Since there were no words for me to read, he would tell me what they said. He told me, "Pretend I'm your kid reading it for you."

9. Tyler: "I'm hungry, Mommy. I'm always hungry."

10. Jake: "I'm going to name all my kids names from the Lego movie."
Me: "So, like Batman Leaf?"
Jake: "No. {matter-of-factly} Bruce . . . but we'll call him Spruce. Spruce Leaf."

What made you Smile this week?

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Friday, May 22, 2015

Things That Make Me Smile 5/22/15

Jake (9), Alyssa (7), Zac (5), Tyler (3), Nicholas (5 months)


Happy Friday! I hope you've had many reasons to Smile this week!

1. Jake, reading the Bible: "I think I know why girls are called women. Eve was taken out of the womb of Adam. Get it?"

2. Alyssa: "Isn't Nick just a bucket of cuteness?"
Jake: "Yep."

3. Jake, pointing to a large bruising bump on his forehead: "Look what Alyssa did."
Me: "What happened?"
Jake: "She threw a light saber at me."
Alyssa, defensively: "I said 'catch!'"


5. Me: "Alyssa, don't let Nick eat your Bible."
Jake: "Yeah, Nicky, the Bible doesn't taste very good."
Alyssa: "Yeah, even though it is the Bread of Life."

6. Me, reading a book: "She's eating a pizza."
Tyler: "Girls can't eat pizza."
Me: "They can't? Why not?"
Tyler: "They're bad."
Me: "Girl's are bad? Why?"
Tyler: "Because."
Me: "But Mommy's a girl."
Tyler: "Yeah, you're not bad."

7. Tyler, supposed to be taking a nap: "Mommy, I need new pants and a new shirt. They're all wet."
Me: "How did they get all wet?"
Tyler: "From my cup."
Me: "Your (sippy) cup leaked? How did that happen?"
Tyler: "Yeah. I spit it out on my clothes."


9. Tyler: "Can I have chocolate milk?"
Me: "We're out of chocolate."
Tyler: "But we have red ketchup. I love red ketchup and milk!"

10. Tyler always refers to robins as our state bird. "Look, Mommy, it's our state bird! Our state bird is looking at me. I want to play with our state bird. Our state bird is hopping away. Hey, state bird, come back! Mommy, our state bird flew away. We need to catch our state bird!" 

11. Tyler: "Mommy, you're skinny."

12. Jake: "Nicky's not allowed."
Me: "He's not?"
Jake: "No, 2's a couple, 3's a crowd, 4 is too many, and 5 is not allowed."

13. Jake, reading the Bible: "'And Adam knew his wife again.' I mean, really? Of course he knew her."

What made you Smile this week?

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The John Wesley Story

My kids like getting curricula and books in the mail as part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, but they get really excited when we get something like a DVD to review. It seems more like fun than work, and, of course, they never get tired of hearing, "We need to watch this video for school today." So, as you can imagine, they were pleased when a package from arrived at our door. They were even happier when they opened the package and found a video about the things of God.

Torchlighters: The John Wesley Story is a 30-minute video that briefly touches on the life of the great preacher. It starts in 1708, when his home is engulfed in flames. The majority of the family escapes, but young John gets trapped inside. As the flames and smoke begin to overtake him, he is rescued. His mother tells him that he is a "brand plucked from the fire" (Zechariah 3:2) and that God must have something special planned for him.  

John spent the next many years involved in the things of God. He even traveled to America to preach about God, but returned to England after a year and half with no converts and feeling like a failure.   

Once home, he visited his brother Charles. It was then that he saw a vast difference in his brother. Charles told him that he had been saved and explained the difference between knowing about God and knowing God. John rejected the difference. How could he, a clergyman, not know God? He reluctantly attended a Bible study, and there accepted the truth of the Gospel.

He determined that God saved him from that fire as a child so he could preach to sinners in need of a Saviour. He and Charles began preaching in churches all over, and each time, the people rejected, throwing them out of the church. In the midst of discouragement, he received an invitation from George Whitfield to "preach in an open field."

He immediately began preaching not in the churches, but to the poor on the streets. The miners in their filthy rags understood about needing a Saviour. People were receptive and many trusted Christ. Not everyone was pleased though. The story goes on to show a little orphan boy who falls and breaks his leg. With no money for medical care, the would be left to suffer. A man offers to pay for the needed help if another man, the boy's friend George, leads a mob to kill John.

In the end, it wasn't only the boy who needed help, but George, as well. He accepts Christ and takes the boy to the Wesleys and their friends to get the help he needs.

In conclusion, the video sums up John's life by mentioning how he and Charles started soup kitchens, schools, and orphanages and provided children with medical care and education. They preached about needing your sins forgiven. In turn, they began the Methodist movement.

As soon as the end credits began to play, my 9-year-old asked, "It's over already?" He had enjoyed the storyline so much that he was disappointed that it ended so quickly. The video (part of the Torchlighters series) was easy to follow and the cartoon characters kept my kids attention. They would have happily sat and watched a full-length movie about the life of John Wesley. When I mentioned that I was getting ready to write my review, my 7-year-old daughter replied, "I'll tell you what I think about it. I just love it. I love it because it's about God." And what more do you need than that?
"Do all the good you can,
In all the ways you can,
To all the souls you can,
In every place you can,
With all the zeal you can,
As long as ever you can."
~ John Wesley ~

You can connect with FishFlix on the following social media sites:

You can read more reviews of this title or one of the others offered from FishFlix on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Birds of a Feather Review

My kids love watching the birds. We always feed them at home, but it's a real treat to watch them at my parents' house, where my mom has multiple feeders and dozens of birds at any given time. The kids can recognize a handful of birds and like using an app on the iPad to try to call the birds to our house and to learn more about them. I knew my little ones would appreciate reviewing the unit study Birds of a Feather.

Why has Sharon Gibson from Homeschool Legacy created a Once-A-Week unit study on birds and many other topics? Well,  a unit study is a comprehensive way to learn about a topic. In order to fully understand all aspects about it, you immerse yourself in it and apply that topic to all subjects--science, language arts, literature, math, history, Bible, music, art, etc.. This method helps you learn more, retain it longer, and have fun while doing it.

Since this is a once-a-week study, you study it--yep, you guessed it--once a week. All the planning has been done for you. There is a lengthy list of books and videos at the beginning of each week's plans that corresponds to that week's topic. The list is in numerical and alphabetical Dewey decimal order for you to easily find the books from the library. Also, even if your library doesn't have those certain books, you can use the Dewy Decimal numbers to find the proper section where like books can be found. The suggested study schedule is to read the chosen books daily, complete your regular studies 4 days a week, and only this unit study 1 day a week, along with another day for a complimenting field trip and family movie/game night. A typical unity study day will consist of a family devotional, the chosen reading material, and any accompanying activities.

The study is written in a way that makes it very easy to follow. Everything is listed out for you: the book and video selections, the supplies needed, simple illustrations, and all the directions and explanations for the activities. There are even clickable links in the study itself that take you directly to the listed videos and sites, making it as simple as possible to complete.

Each week is broken down into specific topics:
Week 1: Bird Basics and Your Backyard Habitat
Week 2: Bird Identification
Week 3: Ornithology
Week 4: Birds of Prey

The first week, we had so much fun expanding our habitat. We went to the store and picked out new seed and even some mealworms (gross!). Then we came home and got to work. Once we finished, we eagerly awaited the flock of birds that was sure to come. And then we watched squirrel after squirrel enjoy the feast. It was funny watching them balance and scurry to get to the food. Eventually we did get our birds. Yay!

The second week, the kids enjoyed working on their nature journals. We learned about the criteria for identifying birds, their parts, and specific types. This was also a big week for the bird app.

Week 3 had us learning about birds in more depth. Bones, feathers, eggs, and migration kept my kiddies interested and busy.

The final week taught them the difference between endangered, threatened, and extinct. It's also the week when the real fun happens: dissecting an owl pellet. Since we have done that before, we decided to skip it this time. That didn't stop us from reminiscing about how much fun it was and looking through the pictures though.

These unit studies are good for not only school, but for earning badges for Boy Scouts, American Heritage Girls, and 4H, as well. There are directions for a simple bird bath, a recipe for making bird cupcakes, and many other activities that can be completed for credit.

My kids greatly enjoy hands-on learning. I am determined to use unit studies more this year. These from Homeschool Legacy are fun, cover a wide-range of activities, can be used with multiple ages, and are meant for the entire family. Of course, this is only a 4 week study. If you want to dig even deeper into the topic, there are plenty of book titles listed that would easily help you find information. My kids would sit and listen to me read all day if we could. I especially appreciated the living book choices. Reading a book that is above their heads gives us the perfect opportunity to stop and explain and learn even more. Sure, it takes a lot longer to finish a book, but our goal is not to see how many books we can knock out in a year. Our desire is to teach our children and give them a well-rounded education.

We have thoroughly enjoying using this study. Even though it's geared for grades 2-12, it's worked well with my little ones (prek, 1 gr, 4 gr). I like when we can adapt something to be used by the whole family together. Even my 3-year-old has joined in on some of the fun. He's always pointing out "our state bird!" every time he sees a robin. When the kids start applying the information into every day life, you know that the curriculum has done its job.

You can connect with Homeschool Legacy on the following social media sites:

You can read more reviews of this study or one of the other many options on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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Friday, May 15, 2015

Things That Make Me Smile 5/15/15

Jake (9), Alyssa (7), Zac (5), Tyler (3), Nicholas (5 months)

Happy Friday! This week was filled with Mother's Day activities, playing in the rain and jumping in puddles, making dandelion recipes, and smiling a lot.

1. Me: "I wish I could find that."
Alyssa: "You probably put it somewhere you forgot."

2.  Me: "That's too much toothpaste."
Zac, smiling: "I can't result it."
Me: "You can't result it?"
Zac: "Yeah, I can't put it back in."
Me: "You can't resolve it?'
Zac: "Yeah!"


4. Jake: "Mom, am I in 5th grade or 4th grade?"
Me: "4th grade."
Jake: "But I'm doing 5th grade work."
Me: "And according to age, you really should be in 3rd grade."

5. Alyssa: "What if God gave Mom another baby?"
Jake: "That would be amazing."

6. Me: "Why are you so handsome?
Zac: "I don't know
Me: "Do you look like your daddy?
Zac, confused: "Noooo."
Me: "Yes, you do."
Zac: "But I'm not as bald as him."


8. Tyler: "Mommy, we hafta move the couch!"
Me: "I can't. I'm not strong enough to move the couch."
Tyler: "But Daddy's strong to move it."

9. Watching Alyssa play with Nicholas and laugh so hard she was nearly in tears.

10. Alyssa, whispering: "Mom, can you hear me?"
Me, whispering: "No, I can't."
Jake, to Alyssa: When you're that old, your hearing is so good you can hear a candle blow out."

What made you Smile this week?

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

WordsBright Review

My 3-year-old loves letters. He points them out everywhere, like the obvious places: signs, shirts, books, mail, boxes, anywhere there is written word. But what has amazed me for many months is how he can recognize specific letters in random objects: the way a spaghetti noodle is lying on a plate or the shape of a clothespin both closed (A) and open (H) or how the blocks are lying on the floor or paint splatters during a project. He is drawn to the alphabet. I knew he would be excited to read a new book all about letters from WordsBright

S is for Smiling Sunrise was written by Vick Wadhwa for his daughter and is intended to be the first of many early learning and educational books. Like the tagline states, this is "an alphabet book of goodness, beauty, and wonder." Each letter is depicted with words that aren't the typical ABC book choices:

A is for Artwork
E is for Evening
K is for Kaleidoscope
T is for Tasty
V is for Virtues    

The words are followed by a cute little poem and picture.

C is for Colors
Speaking words of light
Red and blue, green and yellow
Pink and black and white!

My kids are always excited to get new books. When this one came in the mail, they all huddled on the couch to admire it. My oldest immediately offered to read it to the younger ones. Just as I anticipated, my 3-year-old enjoyed it the most. Each time the page would turn, he'd shout out the letter. "A! B! C!" Then he'd eagerly listen as the poems were read.

We've read the book together many times now, but my favorite is catching my little one reading it on his own. He flips through the pages and says what the letters and words are. I appreciate that the book uses more advanced words like brilliant, zesty, and fragrant. I believe it's important to read some things that are above a child's level in order to expose them to richer vocabulary and learning. The cutesy pictures paired with the word usage is a good combination.

There is also an MP3 that accompanies the book. It is the book itself set to music. Your child can listen and follow along as the song plays. Also included are teaching guides for both pre-K and K-3rd grade. They are filled with age-appropriate ideas for using the book for further learning.

If you're looking for a new, cute book to teach your little ones his ABCs, try S is for Smiling Sunrise.

Would you like to see how other homeschoolers used this book? You can read more reviews on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mother's Day!

In just over a month I will celebrate 12 years married to the most amazing woman this world has ever known. I think back to the days when we met in college. As so many of us were working our way to maturity she was, well, already there. I can think back to the first time I saw her.

School had not started yet. I flew in from Florida two weeks early to get settled in the dorm. One day I was asked to go over to the main school building for a reason that I simply don't remember. What I do remember is opening the front door and there sitting in one of the armchairs in the foyer was this beautiful young lady. She had hair that fell just below her shoulders and framed a face with beautifully toned smooth skin. I do not remember what she was wearing, I simply remember thinking she was beautiful. By the time I made it to college I had become very adept at determining which girls were out of my league, and clearly this young lady would have no interest in a shy, pale geek. I picture myself saying hello that day, but thinking back on my old self, I’m pretty sure I flushed to red, nodded, and went my way. Yet that moment and the image of her sitting there are etched in my minds eye.

It would take in excess of a year before any real interaction would take place between us, and then all that transpired in the final months of our sophomore year could really fill another post of its own. Let’s just say that by the time we reached the end of our second year my status among the ‘leagues’ had risen and I had gained the eye of her that was to become my best friend. We started dating, got engaged, and then married, all within 13 months.

Two and a half years later she would give me my first child, a boy. It was from then on I would watch as my best friend and wife would become a mother, and a fine one at that. She would teach one more year and then step away to come home and devote her life to our children.

At first it was hard. We would become homeowners and then parents of two children. About the time we thought we could manage two, a third announced his presence before we were ready for him. Then again when are you ‘ready’ for any child. We can think so, but then we are proved wrong.

I don’t want this post to be about us, but about her. Now we have five, yes, five. It gets us looks and comments, but then again most are good. Many will tell my wife, “You are a better woman than I.” To which I would respond, “Yes. Yes she is, but we knew that before you saw the children.” You see my precious wife spends 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 52 weeks a year caring for our children. Does she complain? Sure, it’s not very often and anyway, don’t you complain about the two you have? The thing is, you usually don’t hear the complaints, because there is nothing you can do about it. That is left between us because we raise our children, not our community. She gives all of herself to make sure they are fed, bathed, educated, and cared for. She cleans up after them when they are young and teaches them to clean up after themselves as they get older. She cooks and bakes for them and then teaches them to bake and cook. She teaches them, not only how to make a mess, but how to learn from the mess or the process that lead to the mess. She allows them to combine stuff in a jar and keep it for weeks as a ‘science experiment’ knowing full well nothing is going to happen. She allows them to make mistakes so they can learn from them, yet keeps them from injury. (No broken bones yet…) She listens to whining and complaining and skillfully redirects the energy to something productive. (This, I must say, has always amazed me.)

I could keep going and going, for quite a while, but I bet most of you would stop reading, if you haven’t already. Most of all though she loves them. Like any ‘good’ mother she not only cares for her young, she loves them beyond all things. No matter how they behave. No matter how large of a mess they leave for her to clean up. No matter how many times they ask the same question in ten seconds. She loves them the same. All five of them. I struggle with treating them fairly and not having different standards for each, but she seems to have already perfected it.

I asked her what she wanted for Mother’s day this year and she told me nothing. (Like, I bought her flowers and she reiterated what she said.) So instead of jewelry or kitchen gadgets, I wrote a post to tell the whole world, or well anyone who will listen, just how much I appreciate the woman that has given me children.

Erika Leaf, I want to thank you for all that you sacrifice to take care of all 5 6 of your children. (Especially that big one. ;) ) To you, my love, I wish you a Happy Mother’s Day!

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Friday, May 8, 2015

Things That Make Me Smile 5/8/15

Jake (9), Alyssa (7), Zac (5), Tyler (3), Nicholas (4 months)

Happy Friday! We've had a busy week filled with purging, special services at church, and playing in the sunshine. And lots of Smiles.

1. Zac, tattlting: "Alyssa said I'm onoxious! . . . What does that mean?"

2. Jake: "Why did the hot dog lose the race? . . . He couldn't ketchup! Get it catch up! I just made that up."

3. Tyler: "What's that?"
Me: "Yeast."
Tyler: "What's that?"
Me: "Yeast."
Tyler, pointing: "What's that?"
Me: "It's yeast. How many times do I need to tell you?"
Tyler: "Eleven."


5. Alyssa and Zac were fighting over LEGO pieces. As Alyssa was getting frustrated, I heard her begin to quote Ephesians 4:32 under her breath, while gritting her teeth, "And be ye kind, one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another . . . "

6. Tyler: "Where do we go today?"
Me: "Church."
Tyler: "But . . . how 'bout Gramma's?"

7. Jake: "Who took my belt? Hey, mom? Do you know where my belt is?"
Me: "No."
Jake: ". . . Huh, I'm wearing it."


9. Me, when Tyler woke from his nap: "Would you like to go outside? Jake and Alyssa are in the backyard."
Tyler: "What! That would be great! That would be amazing!"

10. Alysa: "Thank you for being my mommy."

11. Jake: "Nicky, don't ever grow up. You might be our last baby, and I want you to stay little."
Me: "Good idea."
Jake: "Did you notice I added might in there?"

What made you Smile this week?

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Friday, May 1, 2015

Things That Make Me Smile 5/1/15

Jake (9), Alyssa (7), Zac (5), Tyler (3), Nicholas (4 months)

Happy Friday! We've had a fun, Smile-filled week! Did you have a Smile, too? Share a funny quote or experience here on the blog or on our Facebook page. We'd love to Smile with you!

1. Zac, looking at Tyler: "His shirt is just like mine! But mine is totally different."

2. Jake made chocolate chip cookies, but over-baked them. Tyler was eating one and asked, "Is this crunchy? I wanted creamy."

3. Jake has been wanting "real" ties for a while. Leighton went through his collection, pulled out ones he no longer wears, and left them for Jake to find. He was ecstatic to see the surprise. He watched a video on youtube one time and then immediately tied it.

4. Tyler, supposed to be taking a nap: "I don't know how to sleep."
Me: "You don't? Then what do you do at night?"
Tyler: "Play."

Me: "So, you never sleep? You must be so tired."
Tyler: "Nope, I not tired. Nope."

5. Tyler, getting out of bed: "I don't feel like taking a nap."
Me: "I'm sorry, it's nap time."
Tyler, whining: "But I don't feel good."
Me: "Taking a nap will help you feel better."
Tyler: "But I don't want to feel better!"

6. Tyler, getting out of bed again: "I'm stuffed with taking a nap."

7. Zac: "I have the very best Gramma ever."

8. Tyler: "Mommy, my wall's not staying up. {touches finger to it} Oh, now it's staying up!"


10. Tyler: "Mommy, can I have a cookie?
Me, because he had just ripped apart all the paper people chains Alyssa made: "That depends. Are you going to be nice?"
Tyler: "Well . . . can I be nice to the cookie?"

11. Zac: "Mom, you're my biggest fan."'

12. Zac, playing the iPad: "Truly, that is a hose."
Tyler: "That's the craziest thing I ever seen."

13. Jake: "Welcome to Cutesville. Population: Nicky."

14. Zac: "Sometimes when I brush my teeth and it's super minty, hot steam comes out my nose."

What made you Smile this week?

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