Friday, December 30, 2016

Things That Make Me Smile 12/2/16

Jake (11), Alyssa (8½), Zac (7), Tyler (4½), Nicholas (1½)

Happy Friday! This week, we celebrated Jake's 11th birthday, had a party for 3 of the boys, and started our various advent activities. This is such a busy, but fun time of year.

1. Alyssa: "Sometimes I see a book and I just have to read it!"

2. Jake: "Nicky's so cute I'm going to go crazy!" 

3. We do a book-a-day advent calendar every Christmas. Leighton read this book with a British accent. The kids and I were laughing so hard. He then read it again, changing his voice to various accents/characters as we suggested them. So much laughter. So much fun. Such a great daddy.  

4. Zac: "I hope God wants me to work for LEGO when I grow up. What if He has that for all of us? Maybe we could all work at Legoland and tell people about the Bible."

5. Nicholas, looking out the window at home: "Papa, c'mere! Papa, c'mere! Papa, are you?"  

6. Zac, changing his clothes for an activity at church: "I'm going to change in the bathroom in one of the cells." (stalls) 

7. Tyler: "Mom, I don't like being lazy."


9. Jake, joking: "Mom, that's not fair."
Me: "I'm a mom; I'm not supposed to be fair."
Zac: "You're not fair."
Me: "Thank you! That's quite the compliment."
Jake: "What? How is that a compliment?"

Me: "Because mom's aren't supposed to be fair. It means I'm doing my job."
Zac, whispering: "I only said it because I love you. I really do think you're fair."

What made you Smile this week?

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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Things That Make Me Smile 11/25/16

Jake (10½), Alyssa (8½), Zac (7), Tyler (4½), Nicholas (1½)

1. Jake: "Do you know why you're so beautiful?"
Me, humored: "No."
Jake: "Me neither. Probably because you're a mom."

2. Tyler: "I can't find the Duplo guy Red Hat. He's the one with the red hat."

3. Zac: "Nicky is a super hero. He can hypnotize people with his cuteness."


5. Jake: "Nicky's going ni-night? Jee-Jee (what Nicholas calls Jake) doesn't want Nicky to go ni-night."
Me: "But Mama wants Nicky to go ni-night."
Jake, joking: "Is Mama in charge?"
Me: "Yes."
Jake: "Well, that backfired."

6. Tyler: "Mama, I didn't dream anything last night. I wasn't closing my eyes."

7. Zac, spinning in circles: "This feels so weird, but it's so worth it!"

8. Thanksgiving LEGO decorations that the kids made.

9. Tyler: "Ugh! Jacob! Don't bump me!"
Jake: {excuses, excuses, blah blah blah}
Me: "Please just apologize."
Jake, to Tyler, smirking: "Sorry that you were in the way."

10. Alyssa: "I lost my appetite, but I'm still hungry."

11. Jake, about Nicholas: "He's so cute that I just want to hug him until his backbone breaks!"

What made you Smile this week?
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Friday, December 9, 2016

Things That Make Me Smile 11/17/16

Jake (10½), Alyssa (8½), Zac (7), Tyler (4½), Nicholas (1½)

Happy Friday! Has anything made you Smile this week?

1. Zac, holding his LEGO phone creation: "Mom, I can take pictures and rate them. I just took one of you and wrote 'the beautifulest girl in the world.'"

2. Me: "Are you Mama's boy?"
Nicky: "No."
Me: "Are you Daddy's boy?"
Nicky: "No."
Me: "Are you Gramma's boy?"
Nicky: "No."
Me: "Are you Papa's boy?"
Nicky: "No."
Me: "Well, whose boy are you then? Aren't you Mama's boy?"
Nicky: "No. Papa."

3. I was going to wash Nicholas after breakfast, but he "hid" from me.
Me, teasing: "Nicky, where are you?"
Nicholas: "I un know!" (I don't know) 

4. I clean my wedding ring every Sunday morning before church and leave it on the bathroom counter until I'm completely ready, so it stays shiny even when I wash my hands throughout the morning. I forgot to put it on this week until we were about to pull out of the driveway. I mentioned it to Leighton. He teased me about it before running in to grab it for me. Jake was very concerned and told me, "You have to wear it! Otherwise someone's going to come and try to marry you." 

5. Alyssa, about Nicholas: "He's like a super hero with his cuteness."

6. Zac: "Mom, did you know your eyelashes are as long as a Lego?"

7. Tyler: "Mama, how many more years until Christmas?" 

8. Zac, at dinner: "I get to sit next to you? Ooh, I get to sit next to the pretty girl!"

9. Our pile of Leafs.

10. Tyler, to Nicholas: "Baby, I like you."
11. Tyler: "What's the name of this Lego piece?"
Me: "Turntable."
Tyler: "That's right! How did you know?"
Me: "Because I'm so Lego savvy."
Jake: "What does that mean?"
Me: "It means I know about Legos."
Tyler: "You're so 'I know about Legos'? That's weird."  

What made you Smile this week?

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Friday, December 2, 2016

Things That Make Me Smile 11/11/16

Jake (10½), Alyssa (8½), Zac (7), Tyler (4½), Nicholas (1½)

Happy Friday! This week we celebrated Zac's and Leighton's birthdays, the older boys went with him to U of M for their first football game, and we all took time to Smile.

1. Jake: "What time is it?"
Me: "4:21."
Jake, to Zac: "Hey, you're 7-years-old already!" (born at 4:02)
Zac: {does a victory dance} "Wait. I don't feel any older."

2. Zac, after opening a birthday card: "I love it! Not just the money, but the card, too."

3. Jake: "You can never have too much sugar."
Alyssa: "In Mom's world you can."


5. I was telling a story about when Jake was born.
Zac: "What? I don't remember that!"
Alyssa and I started laughing.
Alyssa: "Jake, Zac doesn't remember when you were born!"
Zac, confused: "What? I don't."

6. Zac: "I think we need to be like cats who chase away the mice. We need to chase away sin."

7. Watching the kids have a "funniest pose contest."

8. Nicholas helping me sweep.

9. Nicky crawled into the kitchen, peeked around the corner of the cabinets, and said, "La yo!" (love you)

10. Tyler: "I like walking backwards because then I can turn around and see a surprise."

11. Jake: "He's blinder than a humdinger in a snow storm."

What made you Smile this week?

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Friday, November 25, 2016

Things That Make Me Smile 11/4/16

Jake (10½), Alyssa (8½), Zac (6½), Tyler (4½), Nicholas (1½)

Happy Friday! Since yesterday was Thanksgiving, we spent extra time being appreciative of our blessings. We sat around the breakfast table, eating cinnamon rolls and taking turns sharing what we're thankful for. God has blessed us abundantly.

1. Jake: "Mom, you know what's fun?"
Me: "What's that?"
Jake: "Multitasking."
Me: "Honey, that's the story of my life. No wonder I have so much fun."

2. Zac, using our code word for candy: "Mom, I'm going to wait until Nicky's sleeping to sort my 'dirty socks!'"

3. The kids watching my parents leave at almost 4:00 in the morning after we called my dad to come adjust one of the kids in the night.

4. Jake, making up his own Bible trivia questions:
"What did Esau do when he came home hungry from hunting?
A. Foolishly traded his birthright for a pot of soup from Jacob.
B. Opened the fridge and got a hotdog.
C. Made himself some pancakes.
D. Grabbed some potato chips from the pantry." 

5. Alyssa, choosing earrings: "These Christmas trees are so last Christmas."

6. Jake: "It seems like Nicky has unlimited energy." 

7. Me: "That's purple."
Alyssa: "It looks more like an indigo."

8. Jake made cinnamon bread completely by himself, from making the dough to pulling it out of the oven.
9. Bible Program: ". . . Jacob's favorite wife, Rachel."
Me: "I'm your dad's favorite wife."
Jake: "You're his only wife."
Me: "I'm still his favorite."

10. Nicky, knocking on the bathroom door: "Mama! Mama! Wherareyou?"

11. Zac, leaving to go to spend the night at my parents' house: "My kiss dried up, so I need a new one." 

What made you Smile this week?

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Friday, November 18, 2016

Things That Make Me Smile 10/21/16

Jake (10½), Alyssa (8½), Zac (6½), Tyler (4½), Nicholas (1½)

Happy Friday! I hope you've had a very smile-filled week.

1. Tyler: "The only pancakes I like are chocolate chip ones, regular ones, and cooked ones."

2. Tyler: "You know what's really weird? Bats sleep during the day and fly around at night."

3. Alyssa, sweetly: "Jacob would you be a dear and do something for me?"
Jake: "Alyssa, will you be a dear and not ask me to be a dear and do something for you?"

4. Alyssa: "There's only one thing I like more than baby carrots and ranch."
Me: "Only one? What's that?"
Alyssa: "Your food. Ok, it's more like a ton of things."

5. Nicholas helping me line a shelf with contact paper.

5. Me, pretending to beat Jake up: "I love you."
Jake, pretending to be in pain: "Ow, ugh, oh."
Me, giving him another fake punch: "If that doesn't say love, I don't know what does."
Jake: "A kiss. A sausage . . . A steak . . . 20 bucks." 

6. Tyler: "Mama, what was the day after yesterday?"

7. Tyler: "Mama, I love you."
Me: "I love you, Ty."
Tyler: "That's a nice girl."

8. Jake: "Mom, you gotta have another kid! Nicky's going to get big and he won't be a baby anymore."

9. Alyssa, after Jake was trying to get her to do something: "Jedi mind tricks don't work on the wise."

What made you Smile this week?
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Friday, November 11, 2016

Things That Make Me Smile 10/14/16

Jake (10½), Alyssa (8½), Zac (6½), Tyler (4½), Nicholas (1½)

Happy Friday! I hope you've all had a good week. Did anything bring a Smile to you? Share it with us! We'd love you Smile with you.

1. Jake: "It is imperative that we get home quickly."

2. Zac: "Excuse me."
Me: {moved out of his way}
Zac: "Thank you. That's very lady-like."

3. Nicky every time we pray.

4. Tyler: "Mom, where's Zac?"
Me: "He just went down to the play room."
Tyler: "What's he doing in the play room?"
Me: "What do you do in a *play*room?"
Tyler: "Pick up?"

5. Tyler, about one of Nicholas' shirts: "When it gets my size, can I have it?"

6. Jake: "I can't believe my vocabulary is expanding rapidly."


 8. Alyssa: "Have you watched Heidi?"
Jake: "No, but I've read the book."

9. Jake, after I put my hands on his cheeks: "Whoa, you're freezing!"
Me: "Yep, 'tis the season."
Jake singing: "'Tis the season to be freezin'. Fa la la la la la la la la. Hey, I just made that up!"

What made you Smile this week?

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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Fun-Time Phonics Review

I am a firm believer in making learning fun, especially in the early years. Many hands-on learning exercises and play-based learning are vital to little ones. I will incorporate some formal education though by following the cues of my children. One way that always grabs their attention is the use of electronic programs. The little ones feel it is a treat to use the computer to do their own school. Programs like Fun-Time Phonics!™ Software - 2-PCs Win Download from The Critical Thinking Co.™ are perfect for these times. It allows the child the privilege of using the computer, while learning in the process.

The Critical Thinking Co.™ has been "committed to developing students' critical thinking skills for better grades, higher test scores, and success in life" since 1958. Their award-winning products help students achieve better results through highly effective lessons that sharpen the mind. They teach reading, writing, mathematics, science, and history in a fun, easy-to-use way. Their methods aren't based on drill and rote memorization, but techniques that empower the mind to get the student to think. Michael Baker, the company's president said, "If we teach children everything we know, their knowledge is limited to ours. If we teach children to think, their knowledge is limitless." One of the reasons we homeschool is that we want our children to be able to think for themselves, to be able to problem solve to find a solution. It is our job to prepare them for life, not just memorize facts. We strive to give our kids the tools necessary to make clear, reasoned judgments. The programs from The Critical Thinking Co. are designed to do the same thing.  

Fun-Time Phonics is a comprehensive reading program based on data from the National Reading Commission. Cute robots teach the lessons, guide the activities, and engage students through listening, thinking, speaking, and reading. The lessons portray that spoken words are comprised of individual sounds, and that those sounds are written with letters, through the emphasis  of sound/spelling patterns, vocabulary, and comprehension. 

The program is divided into 4 sections:
  • Section 1 -- This first section teaches that words are made up of sounds and focuses on beginning sounds, ending sounds, vowel sounds, and words that rhyme.
  • Section 2 -- This part teaches the short vowel sounds and the letters that make the sounds.
  • Section 3 -- These activities get the student to understand that different sounds are made based on the consonants and short vowel sounds that are used.
  • Section 4 --  This final area combines all the skills that have been taught, and the student learns to read his first words.

My 4-year-old has been the one using this program. He and I sit together at the computer and do the lessons together. The program explains the lessons in a fashion that a student could work on it on his own, but since my guy is at the very beginning stages, I prefer to be there with him for further explanation and encouragement. Each lesson starts with brief instructions and then many examples. For instance, the first lesson teaches the letter T and its sound. Then, there are 15 opportunities to choose the /t/ sound out of 3 choices. One of the robots articulately pronounces each picture word so the student can hear them. After the child clicks his choice, there is either positive reinforcement through clapping and cheering or simply a reply letting him know he picked an incorrect option.

The lessons are simple and short. The format is repetitive, and therefore, my little guy loses interest after a bit. I wish there were some different activities in the lessons. Also, when he gets an incorrect answer, it doesn't tell him which one was correct. It just tells him that he was wrong. I would like to see it do both. For example, the program says, "Pup does not rhyme with hop," and that's all. I wish it would say something like, "Pup does not rhyme with hop. Drop. Hop. Drop rhymes with hop."

It's really easy to move around through the program to find which lessons your child needs to practice. You just log into the admin section and choose the lesson. Otherwise, it will start you at the beginning and proceed through them on its own. You can also see your child's progress on each section and add more users.

All in all, I think the program is fine and a good job of teaching the aspects of reading. It's just not my favorite option. I really wish there was more variety. We'll still continue to use Fun-Time Phonics!™ Software - 2-PCs Win Download as a supplemental program at times, but I will not require it as part of our weekly schedule.


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

The Crew was able to review many different products offered by The Critical Thinking Co.™. If you'd like to read more reviews of this program, other components of the Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic Before Kindergarten!™ program, or reviews of some physical books, please visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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Monday, November 7, 2016

As the Lord Commanded

An alternate title could be Discouraged, Depressed, and Ready To Quit.

The month of October was difficult.

Not many people know the challenges we faced or how stressful the last 5 weeks have been. Without giving too many details, I'll list a few of  our struggles.

  • A child with an injury that would have sent him to the ER.
  • A husband with an impacted wisdom tooth that developed into an infection that covered half of his face and resulted in extreme pain.
  • A husband who had an oral surgery that was "traumatic" and "one of the worst" surgeries the doctor had ever seen and caused multiple complications.
  • A sickness for the children.
  • Another sickness for the children.
  • And yet another sickness for the children.
  • A child with a croupy cough that almost sent him to the ER and kept the family awake for hours in the night.
  • A child with a persistent disrespectful and rebellious spirit.
  • A child with an allergic reaction that sent him to Urgent Care.
  • A child with hives that lasted for weeks, causing itchiness, pain, and discomfort.

As a mom, one of my main jobs is to take care of everyone. My husband had that surgery and severe pain for weeks and at the same time all 5 children were very sick. I bounced around trying to make them all as comfortable as I could. As soon as the last child was better, the first one picked up a completely different bug, and the cycle continued. Our family who rarely gets sick, just could not get healthy. I felt helpless and overwhelmed as I watched the ones I love most suffer much physical pain.

Then, the not-quite-2-year-old broke out in ugly hives. Big, red blotches covered his body. A handful of home remedies, steroids, and allergy meds--nothing made a difference. My boy who normally runs around terrorizing the house all day, wanted Mama to hold him and nurse him every waking second. As far as nighttime, he has never been a good sleeper. In nearly 2 years of life, I can count on one hand how many times he's slept through the night. One hand. That's over 700 nights of restless sleep. I know exhaustion. Yet this past month was elevated to a new level. He was so irritable, so itchy, that he slept an hour or two before waking up whining. The rest of the night he insisted on staying attached to me. Night after night. Not only can I not fall asleep with him nursing, I became sore and dreaded him asking for that comfort. And while it's not unusual for him to get up for an hour or two to play in the middle of the night, this month it became more nights than not--2--3--4 hours at a time. Then just as I'd get him to fall asleep again, the other kids would begin to wake.

I was beyond exhausted.      

Chronic sleep deprivation, along with the increased stress of the other issues, began to show evidence. I experienced my own physical ailments, became short-fused, lost my ambition, and felt lonely and overwhelmed. Discouragement filled my days.

The house. The chores. The children. The schooling. Nothing seemed to be going right. I just couldn't catch up. Being someone who very much likes to be in control, it was difficult to admit that I couldn't handle it. I poured out my heart to my husband.

It became clear that something needed to change. My body was betraying me. And so were my emotions. I could not continue to get only a couple hours of sleep consistently and still keep up with everything else. But what? Where could I be remiss? Housework was not an option. A messy, cluttered house is stressful for me and would only have aggravated the problem. Cooking couldn't be overlooked, because the family expects to eat every day. Schooling wasn't an option either. Or was it?

The more I considered it, the more I began to believe our schooling situation was the variable that could be changed. I hated to think it. We are in our seventh year of homeschooling. My kids know nothing else. I have always loved it, even through the difficult times. What kind of teacher could I really be though if I were sleep deprived and wanting to hide from responsibility all day?  I realized that the older three could go to school in January for the second semester of this year. That would leave just the two little ones at home with me. I wouldn't have nearly as much to do during the the day. No more being responsible for the education of my children. No more dealing with attitudes when the assignments bothered them. Not nearly as much of a mess made--dishes, toys, books, papers. And I would even have the opportunity to sneak a nap in when the baby did. Hopefully, by the time school started up again next fall, the little one would be sleeping, and we could go back to our passion of schooling at home.

I prayed about it. And prayed about it. And as much as I disliked the idea, I really saw no other option. My husband and I briefly discussed it before leaving for church on Wednesday night. I was upset. With myself. The situation. Everything.

That night, our pastor had us turn to Joshua 11:15.

"As the Lord commanded Moses his servant, so did Moses command Joshua, and so did Joshua; 
he left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses."

By the time he finished reading the verse, my eyes were filled with tears. He left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses. There was the answer to my prayer. There, sitting in that pew, I heard the Lord's reply. It was not that "still small voice;" it was the strength of the wind, the power of the earthquake, the heat of the fire. I knew sending my little ones to school--even for a season--was not what He wanted.

No, I'm not claiming homeschooling is the best option for every family. But it is for ours. As the Lord commanded. Before Leighton and I had kids, we knew we'd homeschool. We had that settled. And, who knows, maybe one day it will be best for us to choose another option, but I know that for now, homeschooling is what we need. Homeschooling is what He commanded.

I spent the entire service trying not to bawl. I heard His answer, but still, "How, Lord? How can I go on?"

Trust Me, child. 

"But I'm so tired. I can't do this."

I know. Trust Me. 

In the midst of everything, I felt a peace. Yes, my children were still sick. Yes, my littlest one was still suffering. Yes, I still felt I was drowning. Yes, I was still spending the greater portion of the nights awake. My circumstances had not changed at all. But I had strength in His reply. 

As the Lord commanded.  

Getting that settled in my heart was not going to help with my physical issues though. We had to implement some changes. The kids gained a little more responsibility around the house in order to help out more. And I purchased a few freezer meals that I could just pop in the oven on super stressful days. (The kids accepted the chores better than that one, ha. The day I set one of those meals on the table, I got weird looks and was asked, "What is that?") I make nearly everything from scratch and we eat very little processed foods, so this was not easy for me. I had to admit that I cannot do it all. I am not Super Mom. It's ok. Just feed your children.

The past few days have been better. Chaotic. Loud. Busy.


Everyone is healthy again, attitudes are good, and the little one is back to just sleeping poorly, instead of practically not sleeping at all.

And we're still schooling at home--through the good and the bad--as the Lord commanded.

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Saturday, November 5, 2016

Things That Make Me Smile 10/7/16

Jake (10½), Alyssa (8½), Zac (6½), Tyler (4½), Nicholas (1½)

1. Tyler, about his Lego creation: "Can you tell if it's a boy or a girl?"
Me: "It's a boy."
Ty: "Yeah, 'cause it's bald . . . just like my daddy."

2. Zac: "I can't believe we have a spork! I always wanted one of those."

3. Tyler, looking at pictures from vacation 2 years ago: "Aw, that's when I had my Spider Man bathing suit. Now I have a Ninjago one. Can I wear the Spider Man one again?"
Me: "No, that one's too small for you, honey."
Tyler, annoyed: "Huh? Why do they shrink?"

4. Taking the kids to LEGOLAND.

5. Me: "So, what do you think, french bread with dinner tonight?"
Alyssa and Zac: "Yes!"
Jake, making a face: "Eh."
Me: "You don't think that goes with soup? What do you want? Rolls?"
Jake: "Yes . . . I just don't think syrup goes with chicken noodle soup very well."
Me: "Not french toast. French bread."
Jake: "Oh! Yeah! I love your french bread!"

6. Zac, about Nicholas:"Mom, thank you for having a baby that's so cute."

7. Zac: "Mom, will you help me? I need to write the differences."
Me, looking over his math paper: ""Ok, you did."
Zac: "But I need to write the differences."
Me: "The differences?"
Zac: "Yeah."
Me: "And what are they?"
Zac: "Well, this side is even numbers and this side is odd numbers."

8. Tyler: "Mama, I love you."
Me: "And I love you. Lots."
Tyler: "I know."

9. My Dad: "What do you mean, jellybean?"
Tyler: "I'm not a jellybean."
My Dad: "What are you then?"
Tyler: "Sometimes, I'm a human."

What made you Smile this week?

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Friday, November 4, 2016

Pirates or Privateers Review

Ahoy, me mateys! Me hearties and me be studying the pirate ways. Brushing up on our pirate code, we be. And what bet'er way be there than a study from Homeschool Legacy? Once-A-Week Micro-Study Pirates or Privateers: You Decide  be the study I used with me scallywag crew.

Homeschool Legacy is known for their Once-A-Week unit studies. Sharon Gibson, its founder and fellow homeschooler, wanted to provide "exciting, Biblically-centered educational materials that incorporate creative, hands-on assignments and activities." Focusing on God and America's Christian heritage, the unit studies help build a strong family legacy.

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. It's a great option for families teaching multiple ages at once.

The micro-studies are designed in the same fashion, but are completed in a fraction of the time. They use the same cross-curricular approach to learning, include hands-on assignments, and suggest classical award-winning read-alouds.   

My kids have always liked pirates. Sailing the open seas, searching for buried treasures, funny speech, and cool eye patches--it's the perfect make believe play. I thought it would be fun to use Privates or Privateers: You Decide to help us learn more about a topic that was already appealing to them. Because this is a micro-study, there are only three 30-minute assignments for each of the four weeks of study.

  • Week 1: Early Pirataes 
  • Week 2: The Era of Privateers
  • week 3: Pirates of the Caribbean and The Age of Buccaneers
  • Week 4: The Golden Age of Piracy

Each week's lesson lists the required supplies, describes the history of the period, and then includes all the suggestions for assignments and movie options. The study is written so that you can read it to your students exactly as it's written. Black Bart's Pirate Code is included, as well. Did you know that all lights and candles had to be put out by 8 o'clock or that the musicians had the Sabbath off? It's all part of the Code.

We learned many things throughout the study: the difference between pirates and privateers, which of the typical pirate attributes are actually inaccurate (or at least have no record of truth), about present day pirates, and more. The study suggests reading Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island as the family read-aloud, but we chose the Great Illustrated Classic abridged version since it is a more appropriate read for my little ones.

We absolutely loved the other studies we've used from Homeschool Legacy. Both the Knights & Nobles unit study and the Birds of a Feather unit study were well-received by my kids. I would love to say that we've enjoyed this one, too. Unfortunately, it was not a good fit for our family. The study claims to be for students in 1st-8th grades. I used this with 6th, 3rd, and 1st, but it could not hold their attention. Much of the study was written for older students. I often read my kids books above their levels and they do wonderfully with them, but they were bored and disappointed with this one. Oh, they enjoyed certain aspects, like creating our own pirate story about Captain No Beard aboard the Avenger and seeing how the privateers fit into the Elizabethan Age that we recently studied and taking the pirate quiz. Their favorite part was reading Treasure Island, which really had nothing to do with the study at all. One thing that frustrated me specifically was all the mistakes throughout the study. There were letters missing (like ver instead of over), only a letter given (like p instead or piracy), and many instances were there was no word at all, just a blank space. Most of the time I could guess what word should have been there, but it was frustrating, nonetheless. It needs to be edited again.

Aside from our issues, I think this study would be much better for the older crowd. Junior high and even high school students would benefit as many of the assignments include reading extra articles, researching, and writing compositions. There simply isn't enough exercises for the little ones. I still love Homeschool Legacy and would gladly use another of their studies, but, sadly, Pirates or Privateers: You Decide was not a good fit for us.         

You can connect with Homeschool Legacy on their website and Facebook

Homeschool Legacy offers many Once-A-Week unit and micro studies, like Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims which would be perfect to study this month, Christmas Comes to America would would be great for December, and others that would be wonderful at any time. If you'd like to read more reviews of this study or some of the others, please visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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Friday, October 28, 2016

Things That Make Me Smile 9/30/16

 Jake (10½), Alyssa (8½), Zac (6½), Tyler (4½), Nicholas (1½)

Happy Friday! What made you Smile this week?

1. Me, at Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies: "Ooh, those sharks are ugly."
Alyssa: "It's a good thing they can't hear you. They'd be mad."

2. Jake: "You know this song?"
Me: "Yes, it's Raffi. I had this on a record when I was little."
Jake: "A record?"
Me: "Yes."
Jake: "You mean one of those big, black, CD-type of things?"
Me: "Yes."
Jake: "Whoa! Those are . . . something I'm not going to say."

3. Jake, about Nicholas: "He's so cute and adorable . . . yet so destructive."

4. Geocaching with the family.

5. I was checking over Alyssa math work . . .
Question: John had 11 marbles. He lost 9  of them. How many does he have now?
Her Answer: 2. This is a trick question. He still has them. He just can't get them.
She then told me, "They're probably just under the couch or something. He still has them, unless they get vacuumed up."

6. Leighton, teaching: "Sometimes I wear gloves at work when I'm dealing with oily things." 
A child in our class at church: "Like pizza!" 
7. Tyler: "What is that red stuff?"
Me: "Ground beef."
Tyler: "Oh, I thought it was brain."

8. Jake: "You don't have to have a gun to go hunting. You could have a bow and arrow."
Zac: "Or a rocket launcher!"

9. Jake trying to complete his schoolwork.

10. Tyler: "I know when I was a baby. When I was first made, right, Mom?"

11. Jake: "How come you get so much?"
Me: "Because I'm bigger than you. Bigger body, more elderberry syrup."
Jake: "But look how tall I am!"
Me: "And you weigh what, 60 pounds or so? I'm nearly twice your weight."
Jake: "Whoa! You weigh--"
Me: {giving warning look, thinking he's going to comment about how much that is}
Jake: "It's just . . . you're lighter than you look."

What made you Smile this week?

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What's In A Name?

I get to review all sorts of books, curricula, and other homeschool-related things as a member of the Homeschool Review Crew. Every now and then though, I get the opportunity to receive something very unique.  

CrossTimber offers many unique and personalized gifts. The great thing is that their products appeal to much more than just homeschoolers as they specialize in name-meaning items, and everybody has a name.  I was able to choose my own Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse.

Name meanings have always interested me. When we were planning for the births of our 5 children, my husband and I discussed names. And more names. And more names. We joked around a lot. I mean, there are many funny names that can be made with Leaf. Dewey Leaf. Rose Leaf. Violet Leaf. Forest Leaf. Rusty Leaf. Scarlet Leaf. Mary Jane Leaf. You get the idea. All joking aside, we looked at many names for our little ones. A name stays with you for life. We wanted to choose names that went well with our last name, ones we liked, and ones that were meaningful.

A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, 
and loving favour rather than silver and gold. ~ Proverbs 22:1

CrossTimber is a family business, so I was able to contact John, the owner, with all questions that I had. First of all, since I was choosing a framed plaque, I needed to decide which name to use on it. I asked him if it would be too much trouble to ask for the meanings of many names and listed out the first names of the 7 of us and then our last name, as well. I also gave any information I thought might help (i.e. my husband's name is his mother's last name, our last name is Scandinavian even though it looks like it's English). John personally replied to me in less than an hour and answered all my questions. He said, "Your list isn't troublesome at all." After only 46 minutes, I had a chart listing all 8 names, their meaning, origin, and accompany Bible verses.

I decided to use our last name for the plaque and then purchase bookmarks for the 3 older kids. Next came the difficult part: choosing the designs. Oh, my, the choices. There are multiple themes from which to choose and then many background options under each category.

  • Fath & Encouragement
  • Castles & Lighthouses
  • Scenic Landscapes
  • Sunsets & Sunrises
  • Flowers
  • Musical Instruments
  • Celtic, Irish, and Gaelic
  • Animals (many animal categories)
  • . . . and many more.     
Then, of course, there's the option to choose the frame. One thing that I absolutely love about this site is that they have it set up so you can see each option with each frame choice. That makes is so easy to decide if you like it! So many times online, you find 2 components that you like separately, but can't see how they'll look together until after you receive the product. I appreciate the ability to see them together before I place my order.

Once you have everything chosen, you can add things to it also, like a matching bookmark, greeting card, message on back, and more. You also have the option to change things. For instance, because John sent me the name meanings and verses before I purchased, I was able to see that not every verse he had chosen was from the Bible version we use. I sent him another email and received another quick reply. Not a problem, he assured me. I just simply had to make a note of which version and/or alternate verse I wanted after the name.

I thought deciding on the plaque was difficult, but it was nothing compared to choosing bookmarks for the kiddos. There are so many beautiful choices that it was hard to narrow it down. That's a good thing! Again, many options for backgrounds and again, possible add-ons, as well. I, personally, chose to keep to corners of the bookmark plain and more durable, instead of adding a fancy cut edge, since it was for the kids. I did, however, add a ribbon to the top. Honestly, that's the only thing I am a little unhappy with. The ribbon itself is silky and doesn't hold together very well. I do not see it staying on the bookmarks very long, especially with kids that I know will fiddle with it. A quick dot a glue should do the trick though.

I'm saving these for presents for Christmas, so, Shh! Don't tell, ha. My kids do a lot of reading as it is a big part of our schooling. They're often using a piece of scrap paper or wrapper or nothing to keep their place in the book. I think they will be very excited to receive a bookmark with their names. I'm hoping, too, that they will take to heart what their names mean. My oldest has always been bothered that his name means "deceiver." I'm excited to show him that Jacob can mean much more (scroll down for the beautiful explanation).      

The plaque (and bookmarks) came sandwiched between corrugated cardboard sheets and in a padded envelope, so it stayed safe through shipping. It is even more beautiful in person than the picture does justice. We are hanging it in a newly renovated bathroom because it matches perfectly.

I am incredibly pleased. The products, the company, the owner--I would gladly do business with them again. Along with these products, they also sell coffee mugs, music boxes, and multi-name plaques. I think it would be really neat to start a collection of these names of God plaques to display across the house. Everything is high-quality and beautiful.

Now through December 4th, CrossTimber is sponsoring a free name gift giveaway. This would be a perfect time to become acquainted with the company. You can also contact them to receive the meaning for your own name--no matter how unique--absolutely free.

You can connect with on the following social media sites:

If you'd like to see other signs, options, name meanings, or products, please read the reviews on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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Friday, October 21, 2016

Things That Make Me Smile 9/16/16

Jake (10½), Alyssa (8½), Zac (6½), Tyler (4), Nicholas (1½)

Happy Friday!

1. Zac, after vacation: "I'm so happy to be home!"
Me: "Aww, why's that?"
Zac: "Because I looooove home."

2. Me, after vacation: "Are you happy to be home?"
Tyler, nodding: "You know why?"
Me: "Why?"
Tyler, smiling: "Because now we have a bookshelf."

3. Zac, after I told them we bought tickets to LEGOLAND: "I'm so excited my brain is going to pop out!"


5. Me: "Your dad loved me even before he knew I could cook."
Jake: " Yeah, and now he reeeeeaaaallly loves you even more. I'd better marry someone like you or else I'm not going to survive . . . I know! I'll just come over here for dinner. And I'll repay you. You know how?"
Me: "How?"
Jake: "I'll bring your grandkids with me to your house."

6. Tyler: "Is there any plums in this orange juice?" (aka pulp)

7. Tyler: "Why is it called hangman? It should be called hang the man."  

8. A child in our class at church, about a game based on speed between the boys and girls: "They're cheating! They're doing it faster." 

9.  Jake got to go hunting with Leighton and shot his first deer.

10. Jake: "I'm so glad there's a Wednesday between two Sundays."
Me: "Why's that?"
Jake: "Because if there weren't, it would feel like forever until I got to go to church again."

What made you Smile this week?

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Familyman's Review

I can't believe how quickly this year is going. We're nearing the end of October. Soon it will be Thanksgiving season. And then the Christmas festivities begin. In fact, I purchased several Christmas gifts this past week since I found some really great deals. The kids were singing Christmas songs this morning and were already talking about our big cookie-baking day. It's easy to get caught up in the the joy of the season. The music, the decorations, the treats, the time spent with family, the presents--it's an exciting time. But while there are many things to love about the holiday, we always want to remember the true meaning of Christmas. We want to teach our kids that the reason we give gifts is because God gave His greatest gift to us when He sent His Son to Earth. The reason we sing those beautiful songs is to remember the miracle of Jesus coming as a baby, born of a virgin. Yes, we enjoy snowmen and candy canes, but we make sure to keep the focus of Christmas on Christ.

We always appreciate when we find books and other resources that reinforce the true meaning of Christmas, just like these stories from The Familyman. We incorporate audio books into our schooling quite often, so it was a special treat to receive the Digital Downloads version of The Familyman's Christmas Treasury - Audio Collection. This set, written by Todd Wilson (and read by master storyteller Jim Hodges), contains 6 books that not only teach the true meaning of Christmas, but also provide many hours of entertainment. There are also 2 more books in the collection.

Cootie McKay's Nativity
This story takes place in 1956 and is a page out of the author's past. It starts when an elderly lady drives her car directly into the town's nativity set, nearly ruining Christmas for everyone. The people reluctantly depend on an eccentric man, Cootie McKay, to build a new nativity. Along the way, Cootie learns about the Baby in the manger, how He came to pay for our sins, and trusts in Him as his Savior. But what do the people think of his nativity set that was made with broken junk like aluminum cans, fishing lure,s license plates, and typewriter keys?

Captain Chaos and the Manger Blaster
Jason and his sister are playing with the nativity set when he decides that the Christmas story is boring. As a typical 10-year-old boy, he adds a superhero to the story and pretends to blast the manger to bits. After being sent to bed early because of his bad attitude, Jason comes face-to-face with Captain Chaos himself, and learns what the world would be like if there had never been the manger. He learns a valuable lesson and finds new excitement in the Christmas story.

The Stranger
It was Christmas Eve and the members of a small-town church were fearful of The Stranger that had been visiting their homes. Dirty, foul-smelling, homeless--no one wanted this man around. When he knocked at their doors, they hid and prayed that he left them alone. Sam and his family went home that night in a snow storm. They had plans to enjoy the evening, but things start to go wrong. The tree won't work, they lose power, and eventually, the dreaded stranger knocks. The family shows the man pity as they invite him in and share their hot cocoa. By the next morning, they learned the true identity of the Stranger and the importance of loving all men.

The Bishop's Dream
This is a story of the original St. Nicholas who loved orphans--poor, dirty children, clothed in rags. He and his donkey Jonathon went from town to town delivering food, clothing, and love to these little ones. He believed that "helping others brings joy, not only to oneself, but more importantly, to God." The bishop dreams that he travels to the future, where he learns of a big man in a red suit. He's chocked to learn that this man has taken the priority at Christmastime and even more shocked to learn that the man is him. He wakes with the prayer, "It's all about You, not me. Help them to remember that."

Harold Grubbs
Isaac is a little embarrassed when his dad pulls out the ugly red and green Christmas vest that he wears every Sunday in December. It's not until he hears the story behind it though, that he understands the importance of it. When his father was a boy, Harold Grubbs, a cranky old man who disliked children visited their church. Harold sat by himself with a scowl on his face. After many weeks, the man softened and accepted Jesus as his Savior. He was a changed man. He went from being the meanest man in town to the nicest; from hating children, to loving them. From then on, he wore that ugly vest in December.When Isaac's dad grew up and Mr. Grubbs died, he learned why the vest was special and how a nail and straw man reminds us that Jesus still changes people.

Gladys Remembers Christmas
There were two things Gladys hated: Christmas and her name. She was 6 years old when her mother died and her life was forever changed. Christmas was a depressing time as it reminded her that everyone else was happy, while she was not. When she grew up and moved her 90-year-old father into a nursing home, she revisits her childhood home to look for a box that he requested. It was while she was there in the attic that she receives a visit from her deceased mother. The home is transformed back to when she was young. Through this experience, Gladys understands that God loves her more than anyone else and why He allowed her mother to die. She gains a new love for Christmas and her name.

The Secret of the Snow Village
Katherine is staying at her grandmother's house with her whole family. She spends time by herself staring and the elaborate Christmas village scene, longing to be a part of it. That night, she's awakened by the sound of a bell chiming and kids giggling. She's drawn to the sounds and follows them, letting her curiosity guide her. As she walks out the front door of the house, she's surprised to see so many people on the streets. They all seemed to be walking in the same direction, following the sound of the bell. She gets caught up in the crowd and find herself by a Baby in a manger and discovers what she's been looking for all along. 

It's Called Christmas
What might the future look like?  Hover chairs, hydrated lasagna, and life without Christmas? This letter is written from the future when one boy is told, "It's called Christmas," from a man at the mall. When he can find no information from his parents, history teacher, or any historical documents and books, he becomes determined to learn why the word has been erased. He heads back to find the man and through a series of events, learns that Christmas is "not so much about what it is, but Who it's about."      
We have loved listening to these stories! They are all so different, yet all point back to the true meaning of Christmas. Each story puts the focus on Jesus, while bringing in different aspects of the holiday. I started the first book as the kids were playing with Legos. They were immediately absorbed in the story. When it ended, they begged for another. They sat for hours building with bricks and enjoying the quality books and story-reading. We all enjoyed them so much in fact that we've listened to them twice already. This Christmas stories collection is perfect for any family and would make a wonderful gift. These are stories that we will cherish for many years. 

You can connect with The Familyman on the following social media sites:

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

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