Saturday, February 25, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 2/3/17

Jake (11), Alyssa (8½), Zac (7), Tyler (4½), Nicholas (2)

Happy Weekend! I was so close to getting caught up on my Smiles lists! Then things came up that pushed me behind again. Oh these little ones. Always keeping me busy, always making me Smile.

1. (Found this written on a piece of paper from December, oops)
Zac, about the choir, because the church was decorated for Christmas: "It looks like they're singing in Heaven." 

2. Jake: "Reading is so cool. You just kinda get sucked into the book."

3. Nicholas woke up from his nap and was excited to see his siblings playing in the snow. 

4. Jake: "Do you think Dad would be upset about it?"
Me: "No. Besides, if I gave you permission and he was upset about it, whom do you think he would be upset with?"
Jake: "You . . . And that would never happen."
Alyssa: "Yeah, I've never seen you and Dad upset with each other."

5. Zac, eating a homemade breadstick: "Mmm, it's so relaxing." 

6. Tyler, jumping on a strip of bubble wrap: "These are awesome! I could do this forever!"

7. Tyler helping me make "pasketti." (spaghetti)

8. Alyssa, in the middle of a church service: "Are you going to have another child? 'Cause I really want a little sister."

9. Tyler, eating pretend cookies: "Mmm, tastes like rainbows."

What made you Smile this week?

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Project Passport: Ancient Egypt

A new year has started with the Homeschool Review Crew! And what better way is there to start than with  a review from one of our favorite vendors? Home School in the Woods is known for their detailed, hands-on history curricula. Their Project Passport series offers many studies that take you in a trip to various lands and time periods. The studies are created in a fashion that makes you feel as if you are truly traveling by taking you on a thrilling, educational journey.

We are currently "visiting" Ancient Egypt with the digital version of HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study: Ancient Egypt. My kids have always been fascinated by the pyramids, mummies, hieroglyphics, pharaohs, and all things Ancient Egypt. They were excited to take another Project Passport trip back in time.  

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. I was excited to download this study and travel to the Middle Ages.

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.   

Using Project Passport is like taking an actual trip to a specific time period. The program is divided into 25 stops or destinations:
  • Stops 1-2 Laying the Foundation
  • Stops 3-5 Everyday Life
  • Stop 6 Agriculture, Trade, and Transportation
  • Stop 7 Education
  • Stop 8 Literature and Writing
  • Stop 9 The Sciences
  • Stop 10 Medicine and Disease
  • Stop 11 Ancient Egyptian Arts
  • Stop 12 The Great Builders
  • Stop 13 Religion and the "gods"
  • Stop 14 Governing the Land
  • Stop 15 The First Dynasties
  • Stop 16 From Chaos to Order and Back Again to Chaos
  • Stop 17 A Land Divided
  • Stop 18 The New Kingdom Begins
  • Stop 19 Egypt's Most Famous Women
  • Stop 20 The Conquering Pharaoh
  • Stop 21 Akhenaton and Tutankhamen
  • Stop 22 Egypt Fades Away
  • Stop 23 Ancient Egypt and the Bible
  • Stop 24 Bringing Back the Past
  • Stop 25 Packing Up  

The first few stops require a bit of work. What makes this study so well-done, also makes it so much work. Laying the Foundation is where you create many of the things you'll need for the trip: a realistic passport, a luggage folder complete with tag, a scrapbook of sights, a postcard rack, a newspaper, timeline, and more. Since this is our second Project Passport trip, we were able to use the same luggage and passport from before. Everything else is specific to each individual study.

This study is recommended for grades 3-8, but, as with many things, we adapted it to be used as a family project. That means that I was completing each step for a 6th grader, 3rd grader, 1st grader, and a preschooler (a few stops along the way, the preschooler lost interest in many of the activities. I stopped printing the materials for him, but he does listen to and participate in the lessons).  It required much paper and cardstock and even more preparation. Since we are doing the trip together, I printed certain things (newspaper, Egyptian cookbook, games, etc.) only once and keep it in a separate 3-ring binder to be used by all. Other things (timelines, maps, souvenir cards, postcards, etc.) I printed a set for each child to be kept in their own binders. Since the kiddos are a bit older now, they can do much of their own cutting, gluing, and whatnot this time around.

For each stop, there is a guide book text, which contains all the reading material for learning, and a travel itinerary, which gives thorough step-by-step instructions for the activities. A sample stop might be like this: reading text, adding snapshot moments to the timeline, writing a newspaper article or a postcard, and one or more other activities like playing a game or creating a souvenir craft. Another impressive feature at some of the stops is the audio tours, where the "tour guide" and background noises make you feel like you're really in Egypt.

This is my third study from Home School in the Woods, and I am just as impressed as I was the first time. We average about one stop a week, as there is so much involved with the lessons. Since we have a busy get-into-everything toddler in our home, we wait until his nap time to head back to Egypt. One day we'll read the guidebook text (which usually spirals into deeper discussions of the topics and results in our looking at various pictures). Another day, we'll work on some of the simpler projects. Day three, we reserve for some of the more complicated, hands-on learning.   

One thing that really increased our learning that my parents visited Egypt a few years ago. The kids and I were able to look through their pictures and see the places and things that we are learning about. I was also able to show them my own cartouche that my parents brought back for me. All these things made the learning more personal for us.   

Here's what my kids said about this product:

"I like the Pyramids! And I like the projects.

"I like that it has a lot of coloring."

"I like when you read about it to us. I don't like the coloring, but I like the projects."

The only negative opinion 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 individual page is its own file. I understand the need for the "special" pages. The problem comes in when you have to print lengthy things like the timeline or newspaper. Because of the individual files, you have to open the file, print one page, turn it around, open another file, and print the back. To make things simpler, I would like to see those entire resources as one file so I can choose the double-sided printing option and my printer can do the work for me. My techie husband was able to grab those files, combine them in a PDF converter app, and then print all at once. It was faster than printing it according to the directions, but it seems like an unnecessary step when it could come as one file in the download. 

Aside from the printing suggestion, I absolutely love this study. The amount of information and the varying activities are astounding. It is a lot of work to prepare, but that's part of why it's so well-loved in our home. I can guarantee we'll take another Project Passport trip one day as there are so many places we can visit, like their newest title, Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome (coming 2018). 

I think the biggest compliment I can share about this product is when my daughter announced in the middle of our study one day, "This is my favorite school thing ever."

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

If you'd like to see some of the other fun studies from this company, please read the reviews on the Homeschool Review Crew blog. 

Crew Disclaimer
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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Thin Stix

My kids love Kwik Stix from The Pencil Grip, Inc.. They enjoy them so much in fact, that we have a set of the classic colors, a set of the neon colors, and a set of the metallic colors! So when the company came out with the stix in a thinner version, I knew the kiddos would be pleased to try them out. 

The Thin Stix, just like the original Kwik Stix, are solid tempera paint sticks, but without the mess. That means we don't always have to pull out the paint, brushes, smocks, and cups whenever the kiddos want to create masterpieces. With these paint sticks, they can simply uncap, twist, and paint to their hearts' content. On top of that, the fast-drying formula of the stix though allows the color to dry in only 90 seconds!  Now we don't have paintings drying all over the house. The pages can simply be stacked in one neat pile.

The stix remind me of a big tube of lipstick. The paint is waxy and slightly tacky. They silkily glide across the paper as you swipe. Using them is more like coloring than painting though since you draw instead of brush the color around. The finish on the page is paint-like with a shimmery sheen, so the completed project looks like it was painted.

The Thin Stix are much slimmer than their original counterpart. Their size and length are similar to markers. They have slightly less paint inside (0.35 oz for the original, 0.21 oz for the thin). You can be more precise and accurate with the thin version.

We've used these to paint on all types of paper, coffee filters, popsicle sticks, and styrofoam plates. The paint easily colors them all. My kids have been having so much fun creating crafts and pictures with these. They love being able to pull them out whenever they want. I love the versatility and lack of mess. These stix are convenient, easy-to-use, easy-to-store, and mess-free. We keep all of ours in a plastic pencil box, so we can grab them whenever the kids feel the creative bug biting. We can take them outside, in the car, on vacation, or at the kitchen table. All the kids, from the toddler all the way through the 11-year-old, enjoy using these. 

If you haven't tried out Kwik Stix yet, you should! My kids like both sizes and appreciate the variety of colors. These are great art supplies to have in any home.

* We received this product in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. I was not paid monetarily for this post.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Love Their Daddy

Leighton gets up early for work every day. Like really early. Between 4:00-5:00 a.m. early. I used to make sure that he had something quick and easy to grab (like breakfast burritos, quick breads and muffins, breakfast sandwiches, pancakes, granola, etc.). I have slacked in this department, which translates to his skipping breakfast most days. On top of that, he often works through lunch too, which is not good for a man who works a very physical job. 

Yesterday, I made 3 dozen egg cups for him. Chopping, sautéeing, cracking, mixing, filling. I made 2 variations of the cups. And a mess across the kitchen.  

The kids were in and out of the kitchen as they always are when I'm working in there, especially when their noses are drawn to the smell of cooking sausage. As the first batch was coming out of the oven, Alyssa commented that they looked and smelled delicious. "Dad's going to love them!" Then she smiled and said, "You love him and he loves you."

That simple statement got me thinking. One of the best things I can do for my children is to make sure they know how much I love their daddy. 

You see, love is so much more than a feeling. It is action. 

I Cointhians 13 says,

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth.

When I tell my husband, "I love you," I'm really saying, "I'll suffer long for you. I'll be kind to you. I won't envy you. I won't build myself up and put you down . . . I won't give up on you, on us."

Love is forgiving her when she snaps at you due to exhaustion. Love is showing him grace when he doesn't finish a project around the house. Love is giving her much-needed time to herself after a hard day with the kids. Love is doing something for him when he doesn't have time to do it for himself.

It's important for these little ones of ours to see that. When they know that their parents' love "seeketh not her own" and "is not easily provoked" there is no tension in the home. They feel secure. There is confidence. There is no playing one parent against the other. There are no secrets. They know that Dad and Mom are one.

That love that we have for each other spreads to our children. Just like our love never fails, our love for them won't either (even when they try our patience and push the "beareth all things" and "not easily provoked" parts, ha). When they make mistakes, we love them. When they're cranky, we love them. When they misbehave, we love them. Always, we love them. It never fails.

I don't want my kids looking to the media or celebrities or books to learn what it means to love. I want them to know true love and all that it holds, because they have a dad and mom that taught by example.

"You love him and he loves you." 

That we do, my child. A lot.

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Saturday, February 11, 2017

Blessing from a Stranger

We were at the store today when I noticed an older lady smiling at our family. She had just stopped in the middle of the aisle and was watching as the kids talked and laughed together. I caught her gaze and returned her smile. We moved on, but she stood there, smiling still. 

A few minutes later, I was kneeling down looking at something on the next aisle over. She walked up to me, bent down, and placed money in my hands. She explained that she had a daughter and son-in-law who had 5 children--4 boys and 1 girl--who live in Washington. Our family reminded her of her own that she loves and misses so much and she wanted to bless us because of it.

Fast forward one hour and another store. We were standing in line at the checkout at the thrift store when one of the kids noticed a large bag of Legos. I looked at the price and determined that it cost too much. Immediately, our cashier offered them to us for another amount--40% off. I shop at this store often and have never once seen them change a price. 


Until today.

Here we are now with thousands of new Legos, paid for mostly by a complete stranger (and made possible by another). I am humbled by her generosity and hope to be able to bless others like that one day. 

Too often we talk about the negativity, but there are still nice people in this world. 

It doesn't always mean giving money. It could be a smile, a kind word, or a helping hand. 

Be those nice people.

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Friday, February 3, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 1/20/17

Jake (11), Alyssa (8½), Zac (7), Tyler (4½), Nicholas (2)

Happy Friday!  This week we got some new curriculum, worked on science experiments, and spent a lot of time reading. What made you Smile?

1. Jake: "Nicholas, you're way too cute. Like unbelievably cute."

2. Tyler, eating dinner: "There's a mushroom in mine."
Me: "If you eat it with everything else, you won't even taste it."
Tyler, nodding: "I heard that before."

3. Taking these two to the used book store and seeing how excited they were.

4. Tyler, playing with a handheld mirror: "Look! The light is reflectioning over there!"

5. Jake, after a 4-day missions conference at church: "It's over already? I wish it were longer."

6. Me: "Look! There are 44,444 miles on the van!"
Nicholas: "Miles?"
Me: "Yes."
Nicholas: "Oh, beebee."
Me: "No, not baby Myles (cousin). Driving miles."
Nicholas: "Beebee hug!"
Me: "You want to give baby Myles a hug?"
Nicholas: "Queeeeeeeze!"

7. Alyssa, eating breakfast: "Oh, man, my teeth are tired."


9. Jake: "One time at church, Dad asked me where Tyler was and I said, 'I don't know. Am I my brother's keeper?'"
Me: "And then you got in trouble?"
Jake, laughing: "Yes, ma'am, but it was kinda worth it!"

10. Alyssa: "People lie on the internet all the time."
Me: "And how do you know this?"
Alyssa: "TV."

What made you Smile this week?

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