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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