Friday, February 26, 2016

Things That Make Me Smile 2/19/16

Jake (10), Alyssa (7½), Zac (6), Tyler (3½), Nicholas (1)

Happy Friday! We've had another great week. Have you? Share a Smile of your own from this week so we can Smile with you!

1. Tyler: "Nicky has brown eyes! When is he going to get blue ones?"

2. Zac: "How many fortune cookies are there?"
Tyler: "Four."
Alysa: "Yeah, because they're fourtune cookies."

3. Nicholas watching the big kids play outside.

4. Jake: "Can someone who's missing an arm become president (of the U.S.)?"
Me: "What do you think?"
Jake: "Yes. But how would he raise his right hand and place his left hand on a book for his oath?"

5. Jake, about Nicholas: "He's such a cutie. Can we keep him?"

6. Zac: "Stop looking at me! . . . Stop! . . . . I said stop looking at me!"
Tyler, looking through binoculars: "Zachy, I want to see you."
Zac: "Stop!"
Tyler: "Let me see you!"
Zac: "Stop looking at me! Stop!"
Tyler: "Hey! Let me see!"
Zac: "Mom! Tyler won't stop looking at me!"
Tyler: "Mom! Zac won't let me look at him!"


8. Me: "Zac, be careful, please. You can break your leg if you fall. You know that, right?"
Jake: "No, we don't know. We're boys." 

9. Jake, while making fresh juice: "Hey, let's toss a steak in there!"

10. The kids were playing a monster game. Zac ran across the house, yelling. Tyler chased after him, concerned. "Zachy, it's just me, Tyler."

What made you Smile this week?

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Friday, February 19, 2016

Things That Make Me Smile 2/12/16

Jake (10), Alyssa (7½), Zac (6), Tyler (3½), Nicholas (1)

Happy Friday! This week we made paczki, Nicky played in the snow for the first time, and the kiddos spent a lot of time reading and playing with LEGOS. I hope you've Smiled this week, too!

1. Jake: "Is it just me, or am I getting hot?"

2. Jake, laughing: "Ugh, you smell like rotten eggs, baby."
Me: "Aw, Nicky, I think Jake wants to change your diaper."
Jake: "Nooooo! Please! I'd rather watch 15 episodes of My Little Pony!"

3. Alyssa: "Jake, guess what chapter I'm reading. 'Out of the Frying Pan into the Fire.'"
Jake: "I love that expression."


5. Tyler: "Gramma, I like you!"
My Mom: "I like you too."
Tyler: "And I love you."
My Mom: "I love you too. I love you so much I love you to pieces!"
Tyler, disgusted: "What? Why? I don't want to be in pieces."

6. Jake was wearing only a pair of shorts around the house. I was wearing layers and was still cold. He jumped when I put my hands on his sides. "Ah! Your hands are worse than ice!"

7. The kids made buttermilk pancakes (a triple batch!) and maple syrup for National Pancake Day.

8. Jake: "I'm not saying you're old. Well, you are, but you're not old old. You know what I mean . . . hopefully."  

9. Tyler: "Why do police officers drink coffee?"
Zac: "Just because they get free donuts."

10. Tyler: "I know why it's called a baffroom."
Me: "You do?"
Tyler: "Yeah, because there's a baff in it!"

What made you Smile this week?

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Presidential Elections Lap-Pak

With this being a presidential election year and my husband's interest in politics, there's been conversations around the house about candidates, debates, and whatnot.  My kids have been asking questions about the election, so I knew they'd appreciate studying and reviewing HISTORY Through the Ages Hands-on History Lap-Pak: U.S. Elections from Home School in the Woods.

Home School in the Woods is a family business that was started as a way to make history real, understandable, and applicable. Using timelines and realistic illustrations as a foundation, they've created many resources to make learning history an enjoyable process. I, like Amy the driving force of the company, did not enjoy the boring textbooks in high school. It wasn't until we started our own homeschooling journey that I started to realize that learning history wasn't boring, but, in fact, could be quite interesting. But politics? While my husband enjoys it, I do not. We enjoyed our last study from Home School in the Woods so much. Could they really create a study on the election process that was enjoyable?  I was excited to download it and find out.

The download (also available as a CD) comes as a zip file. Once you open it, and see the multiple folders, click on the "start" file. At that point, the entire program will open in your browser, making it very easy to use. Instead of clicking through multiple folders, trying to bounce back and forth among the resources, everything is laid out as you need it.

There are full step-by-step directions for everything you need. The text is given in 2 ways: printed and audio. The printed form can be chosen for a booklet format or a full-size binder format. The audio is the word-for-word version of the printed text and is divided into 2 sections with each topic listing the time index, making it simple to advance to the needed place.

The lap-pak topic activities include the following:
  •  Definition of Election
  • Different Forms of Government
  • The American Experiment
  • The Three Branches of Government
  • Suffrage
  • Who Do We Vote For?
  • Terms of Office
  •  A "Handful" of Political Parties
  • Caucuses & Primaries
  • National Conventions
  • The Presidential Campaign: Platform
  • The Presidential Campaign: Stump Speaking
  • The Presidential Campaign: Media--News Source
  • The Presidential Campaign:Advertising--Spreading the Word!
  • Raising Money
  • Statistics
  • Election Day
  • The Electoral College
  • Inauguration Day
  • The electoral Race!
  • The "Vocabinet"

I normally like to use these kinds of studies with all the kiddos and make it a family project, but this articular one is geared for 3rd-8th graders. While that hasn't stopped me from using material above my little ones' ages in the past, I didn't think the younger kids would follow along with political learning just yet. I'm sure they picked up bits and pieces of the information though as my 10-year-old and I sat at the table each day and listened to the audio together.

I chose to print the pages for the activities day-by-day, so while we listened to the text, I would work on cutting the projects and he would work on either coloring the pieces or simply building with Legos (I've found that it's best for retaining information for my little ones to keep their hands busy while listening to audio). This setup worked really well, because it gave me the opportunity to stop the narration to give further detail or ask him questions about it.

We completed 2-3 topics each day, depending on how long it took us to do them. After we listened to the narration, we completed the projects. Cutting, coloring, taping, gluing, folding--there is much work involved to make this lap-pak. But isn't there often much work involved to get a quality product? There are flaps that open, sections that pop-up, portions that slide, wheels that turn, tabs to pull. Pictures don't truly do the pak justice. We should have taken a quick video to show all the movable parts. 

 My son didn't enjoy the study at first. Coloring is not something he typically enjoys and listening to the text seemed boring. After a couple days of working and assembling the projects though, he began to have fun. He created his own items for a campaign as if he were running for president. He drew a commercial, designed a button, crafted a lawn sign, and even chose his own presidential slogan. He looked forward to the assignments each day and asked to work on them. I kept hearing things like "That is so cool!" and "That's cute." Mostly what I've heard from him though is "Thank you for helping me make this!" I'm not sure there's anything better to a homeschool mom's ears than her child thanking her for the study. 

"I like everything about it. I really like the pop-ups and all the things in the book. 
There's so much here! Thank you for letting me do this."  

The only frustrating thing I have about this study is the breakdown of the PDFs. Because everything has very specific printing instructions (regular paper, colored paper, white cardstock, colored cardstock) each page is its own file. I understand that need for the "special" pages. The problem comes in when you have to change and rechange the paper multiple times to print. Because of the individual files, you have to open the file, print one page, open another file, and print again. Even if you do not have to change the type of paper for each part of the project, you still have to open multiple files. To make things simpler, maybe all the files could be combined into one large file, so a user could choose to print all similar pages at one time.

Aside from the printing suggestion, I absolutely love this study. The amount of information at an easy-to-understand level and the varying activities are astounding. Not only has my son enjoyed learning about the election process, he's also retained much of the information and has been talking about it through the days. Because the lap-pak is creative and fun, he can keep it to review throughout the years, as well. If you're wanting a quality study to teach your kids the presiential election process, I highly recommend  this hands-on lap-pak.

You can connect with Home School in the Woods on the following social media sites:

If you'd like to read more reviews of this lap-pak, please visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog. 

Crew Disclaimer
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Friday, February 12, 2016

Things That Make Me Smile 2/5/16

Jake (10), Alyssa (7½), Zac (6), Tyler (3½), Nicholas (1)

Happy Friday! This week was filled with lots of reading, some Valentine's crafts, and many Smiles.

1. Jake: "I ran it in 9.4 seconds. I must have been tired from all the running though, because the next time, I ran it in 10 seconds."

2. Zac, covering my hair with Alyssa's hair bows, clips, and barrettes; sincerely: "We should do this sometime right before we leave for church. You would look so pretty!"

3. Me: "Are you ready to go to Gramma's?"
Alyssa: "I forgot it was Friday."
Tyler: "I love all the Fridays!"


5. Jake, singing: "Down by the bay
Where the watermelons grow
Back to my home
I dare not go
For if I do
My mother will say,
'Did you ever see a LEGO
driving a winnebago?'
Down by the bay."

6. Tyler: "I like that God made us." 

7. Tyler: "Mama, I want you to trap me in that box!"
Me: "Ok, Ty-Ty."
Tyler: "First, you need duct tape!"


9. Tyler: "Why did the water not want to cross the road?"
Me: "I don't know. Why?"
Tyler: "Because there was a man on the other side of the road who wanted to drink the water!"

10. Tyler: "I like Gramma's car. It's so cute! It has only 2 seats--1 seat for Gramma and 1 spot for me."

What made you Smile this week?

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Friday, February 5, 2016

Things That Make Me Smile 1/29/16

Jake (10), Alyssa (7½), Zac (6), Tyler (3½), Nicholas (1)

Happy Friday! I hope you've looked for reasons to Smile this week.

1. Jake, chewing sour gum: "This is awesomely horrible! It burns and it's sour at once. It's the best thing ever."

2. Tyler: "Have you seen my LEGO guy?"
Me: "No, I haven't."
Tyler: "He has a shirt and pants and a face and hair."


4. Zac: "I'm playing spies . . . Hey, I have an idea! I'll be your kid playing spies! Can we pretend that, Mom?"

5. "Every year you need a bigger cake for your birthday, because you can eat more."

6. Zac was teaching his little brother to read. He would read a sentence and Tyler would repeat it. They went through the entire book like that. They were both so proud. 

7. Jake: "I love those laugh-so-hard-you-can't-breathe jokes."

8. Me: "I'm pretty sure she doesn't have a basement."
Zac: "Then where does she keep all her spider webs?"

What made you Smile this week?
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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Bacon Cheeseburger Soup

I love cheeseburgers.

Seriously, I could eat cheeseburgers all the time. My mom and I were just talking about this recently. Some families eat spaghetti every Wednesday or pizza every Friday; I could eat a burger every Tuesday. Or Saturday. Or whatever.

Nine times out of ten I order a hamburger when we go out to eat. We rarely go to a restaurant, but that's beside the point. Too many times I've been disappointed in a pasta or let down by a piece of chicken, but a burger always makes me happy.

We don't grill a lot in the winter months though, so cheeseburgers are rarely on the menu. Instead, I make a lot of soups. So when I found a recipe years ago for cheeseburger soup, I was a happy girl.

This soup tastes eerily like a cheeseburger. I know, cheeseburger soup. But really, it's like someone tossed a burger in a blender, hit the pulse button a few times and poured it in a bowl. 

Speaking of bowls, I always serve this soup in homemade bread bowls to give it that hamburger bun feel. The French friend onions garnish is reminiscent of a side dish of onion rings. And bacon, well, everyone knows bacon makes everything better. 

I always have a difficult time posting soup recipes because I don't follow recipes for soup. I toss in some of this and some of that, taste, and sprinkle in some more. This recipe though I follow pretty closely. Sure, I could swap out the processed cheese soup for a roux with real cheddar cheese or chop up my own tomatoes, but really, this soup is perfect as it is. It's a family favorite and is even requested by the kids. Everyone loves a cheeseburger.   

Need more cheeseburger-flavored food in your life? Try our bacon cheeseburger pizza recipe, too.

Bacon Cheeseburger Soup
2 lbs ground beef
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chicken broth
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (10.75 oz) can cheddar cheese soup
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup chopped pickled
cheddar cheese, shredded
bacon, cooked and crumbled
French fried onions

1. In a large pot, cook ground beef, onion, and garlic until beef is no longer pink. Drain off grease.
2. Add chicken broth, tomatoes, cheddar cheese soup, and Worcestershire sauce to the meat mixture. Cook 10-15 minutes, or until heated through.
3. Mix in pickles. Serve immediately and garnish with cheese, bacon, and French fried onions.
Recipe adapted from Real Mom Kitchen
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