Saturday, February 28, 2009


I seem to title a lot of posts "Saturday". Kinda boring but it seems to work for me.

We are busy around here. I guess we are always busy around here. That's ok though. Grocery shopping is done for the next few weeks. I bought some seeds to start here in the house for the garden. I can't wait to eat fresh veggies again. Nothing compares to stuff you pick out of your own garden and cook......canned and frozen and "fresh from the hothouse" just doesn't compare. It seem funny to be thinking of working in the garden when it is so cold and dreary here. We had such warm weather for about 2 days and then BAM back to winter. I am tried of winter.

Are you still working your way through reading the Bible in a year? I am plodding along. I finished Genesis, Exodus and Matthew. I am almost through Leviticus. I think throwing Matthew in there is helping me get through Leviticus. LOL That is usually where all my good intentions go down the drain. I know the information has eternal importance or God wouldn't have seen fit to include it, but I have trouble processing and applying it. So I am just reading it and mulling over it and letting it go this time instead of trying to figure out how to apply it. Maybe later I will need to apply it. For now I am just reading it. I do know that I couldn't have ever made it to heaven if I had to follow all those rules! Maybe that is the truth in Leviticus......I can't do anything on my own to get to heaven. Jesus had to come and save me! I need Him! So there you go, my Bible truth for the day. LOL

Many of the bloggers that I read online have decided to stop writing lately. That makes me sad. I can't help but wonder where I would be today in my online walk and in my life as homemaker and homeschooling mom if it wasn't for those bloggers. Sometimes that was all the encouragement that I had. I hope that others will step up and fill the void so that others will be encouraged in their walk as a child of Christ.

This week will be busy. Got more reviews. Hope that you aren't tired of them and that they are helpful to some. I know that I love to hear about new products. Also, for mothers of younger children, I have found a great new blog....I will work on cleaning up my blog and getting things in the sidebar tomorrow, but the blog is titled 1+1+1=1. She has an interesting idea called Tot School. I really wish that I had this blog 8 years ago.

So have a good weekend friends!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Heads Up!

Helping All Kinds of Special Kids

Heads Up! is a company that I don't think that I would have ever run across in my daily homeschooling adventure. Right now, I don't have any special needs kids. We don't deal with ADD or Dyslexia here.

Heads Up! is a company dedicated to provide expert information and products for struggling learners. They strive to assist a number of learning difficulties.

I received their large frames (6 colors), small frames (6 colors), readers (6 colors and clear), Double-time (2 colors) and top of the line (2 colors). The frames are designed to assist a reader in focusing attention on one certain spot. The different colors are available because some students are aided by certain colors more than others. We found the double-time and top of the line to be the most helpful ME mainly. I am a very distractable reader. I found the markers to be espcially helpful in Bible. My focus is able to stay on what I am reading and not the other verses or notes around it. I can only imagine how beneficial this must be for someone who is struggling with more than a jumbled mind :)

Heads Up! offers many other products for speech therapy, developmental delays, autism and sensory issues. If you are looking for something to help your struggling learner, please check out Heads Up! and see if they have something that can help you. I imagine that you will find just what you are looking for.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Molly's Money Saving Digest

In the current economic trouble that seems to be hanging heavy over all of us I have been so very blessed to receive the March issue of Molly's Money Saving Digest. Molly is Molly Green, contributor to The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. Molly's TOS articles have been a great blessing to me so I wasn't surpised that her Digest was full of great, practical information as well.

The theme of the March issue of the digest is Making Money from Home. Several of the articles included tips, tricks, and testimonials to aid in deciding if/when and how to work from home. There aren't any schemes here! This is all practical, usable advice.

Other articles in the digest included brown bag lunches, items on sale this month, budgeting advice (a continuing article), frugal decorating, special March/April dates and frugal ways to celebrate and how to raise business-minded children. Molly and her contributing authors make living frugally look fun and free rather than confining and boring. I consider myself fairly frugal (in the areas I want to be anyway) but came away with several new ideas that I can't wait to try out. I am sure that Molly and the gang will be able to assist you as well.

You can get your own copy of Molly digest electronically from the Old Schoolhouse Store for $4.95.

Math Tutor DVDs

Are you looking for a different way to explain math difficulties that isn't tied to a particular curriculum? Enter Math Tutor DVDs.

I received 2 DVDs: The Basic Math Word Problem Tutor and The Algebra 2 Tutor.

These DVDs are simple and no-frills. Each DVD (2 DVDs per set) contains several lessons. For example, we watched the Adding Decimals segement on the Basic Math Word Problems DVD. Each lesson builds on the one before it. The lesson is presented with just Jason Gibson and a white board. The problem is given and he writes the solution as he works it on the white board. The concepts are each reviewed repeatedly. I loved that each segement contains many different review problems. Mr. Gibson explains in detail each part of the lesson. His voice is VERY soothing. He doesn't rush through the lessons or hurry anything along.

I appreciate that the lessons are presented by a man. I know that sounds silly, but it is wonderful when my boys can see a concept presented by someone other than MOM. LOL The only thing that I noticed that others might have a problem with is that Mr. Gibson seems to like to count on his fingers. I count on my fingers all the time so this doesn't bother me in the least....but I know it would bother some. So there is your warning! LOL

I am thrilled to have been able to try out these DVDs. I imagine that we will refer to them frequently in the future. There are DVDs for all different math concepts from basic math to physics and calculus. The DVDs are available from Math Tutor for $26.99 each.

Vision Forum coupon

Vision Forum will be sending out a $25 coupon (off an order of $75 or more) Wednesday. If you are not currently on their mailing list, make sure that you get signed up HERE. Scroll down the page to the newsletter membership box. Make sure that you get signed up and confirm your email before Wednesday so that you don't miss out on this great opportunity.

Vision Forum has many practical items and learning tools. We love the "toys". Jonathan Park has to be our all time favorite CDs in the car. The teaching in them is fantastic! You can't hardly stop listening. I don't know how many times we have sat in the driveway to finish one of the episodes :)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Reflections on the Past

I went to the cemetery today.

My best friend, Denise Marie Clark, was born 32 years ago Valentine's Day. She only walked on this earth for 14 years. For reasons that remain her own, she took her own life on Oct. 16, 1991. We were just into our freshman year of high school. I cried at her grave today.

The fall of 1991 was filled with life-altering moments for me. I started high school in August. Always terribly shy (and according to my freshman health teacher, introverted), I BEGGED my mother not to make me go. I did great as a student, but the required social interactions were terrifying to me (I am still not sure how I managed so well).

About 3 weeks into school I started dating a guy that I had pined over for almost a year. I am still not sure what I was thinking......probably wasn't, but he decided that I wasn't "enlightened" enough and it ended just about as quickly as it started. He made sure that all his friends knew about my "inexperience". A couple forward ones were kind enough to tell me. I was devastated.

I went to homecoming with a girl-friend. I clearly remember that evening trying to talk Denise into coming with us. She had a fight with some other girls earlier that evening and had come for the football game but decided not to stay for the dance afterwards. Waving goodbye to her still haunts me.

She took her own life on the following Monday morning. I never talked to her again. I found out from some gossiping people at school. Sat with another friend and cried on the school steps. Never occured to me that I could go home. I even went to school the day of the funeral. We left school and went to the funeral, graveside, dinner and then all trooped back to school like good little students. Why did we do that? What were our parents thinking?

Denise is buried on a hilltop near her childhood home way out in the middle of nowhere. The road is barely gravel. As I drove out there today I remember what it felt like driving out there then. It was cold that day. My friends and I huddled together at the graveside (the funeral was held at the Catholic church - the first time I was ever in a Catholic church). I remember not wanting to intrude upon the grief couldn't be as intense as theirs. I remember the drive back to town. The ladies of the church that served us lunch were very insistent that we all ate......and we did. I realize now that we were all in shock. How could this happen?

I have always wondered why she felt that she had to do that and why I missed that she needed help. The guilt of being a terrible friend has laid heavy on me. I miss my friend terribly.

Today I cried. The whole way to the cemetery and the whole time I was there. It was cold today too. I was all alone as I straightened flowers and asked why. All alone at that little cemetery. I cried more today than I think I ever have. Something inside of me let go.

My thoughts turned to those few months in the fall of 1991. Looking back I see that those things that happened impacted my life. I don't remember the rest of my high school years as clearly as I remember those 2 months. I learned survival by burying my feelings. I learned to never trust. I learned that things must sometimes be done in order to keep relationships (however wrong that thinking was). I know now that those things aren't true, but the damage done by my thinking during those years has haunted me the rest of my life. I am trying to overcome, but I am not sure that I ever will.

My God is a god of new beginnings. Today I think that I have finally laid my past, all the horrible things, experiences and decisions at that cemetery on the top of that hill in the middle of nowhere. God has granted me an opportunity to start over emotionally. I can make decisions based on God's will in my life. I am worthy of good things. My life has meaning.

Thank you for listening to my rambling. I have no doubt that it has no applicable meaning to anyone else, but I wanted to be able to look back - have my children look back and know that I was able to let go of my doesn't have to haunt us (ME) forever. God is merciful - great - and worthy to be praised. God is powerful and strong. God overcomes the terrible things that sin brings into our lives. My god is an AWESOME God!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Another Award

I must just be splendid :) As most of you know I am reviewer for the TOS Crew. My crew-mate Sheri gave this to me! Thanks Sheri!

I don't have a lot of time to read the blogs of my other crew-mates.....just two, so I am going to nominate Crystal and encourage you to read Sheri's blog. To see the great reviews that my other crew mates are doing (and some products that I am not reviewing) you can go to our Crew Blog. Enjoy!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Why I am Choosing Sonlight - Again

This is an article about why I am choosing to use Sonlight again this year rather than another curriculum. There are pros and cons of each that I looked at, but Sonlight really is the best fit for our family.

The other curriculums that I was looking at:
My Father's World Books
Living Books Curriculum

My homeschooling method is mostly Charlotte Mason with a little Classical and Relaxed thrown in. I roll with the punches and take things as they come. We follow rabbit trails (as seen by the 18 months it has taken us to get through Sonlight Core 3).

A Sonlight Catalog came to my house just after we decided to begin homeschooling. I was fascinated! I studied the poor thing until it fell apart and then waiting for the new one to come out. I didn't order though. I felt that Sonlight was too expensive for our family. My husband would have a fit if I spent that much money! I was sure that I could just as easily put together something similar using my own (not-so-frazzled-yet) brain and the library. I tried that for several years. Then I pieced together a year using Veritas Press as a base. Veritas Press is VERY classical and moved at a pace that was too advanced for us. The teacher's manual wasn't very user friendly. As a student I probably would have done well with VP but my boys were beginning to hate history, so we let that go. I ended up spending a ton of money that year on a lot of stuff that we either didn't use or hated.

The next year we used My Father's World (the 1st grade set and the 2nd/3rd grade American History). We really enjoyed the 1st grade set but there wasn't enough scheduled reading for Greg (who was learning to read). We did the American History together. The resources that they include in their curriculum were great (and many are similar to what Sonlight offers). The problem that I had with them is that there aren't scheduled reading assignments for the students to do themselves. MFW uses a "book basket". I have no doubt that this works for some families but it didn't work for us. I needed to know what they should be reading to reinforce history and science topics. By the end of the year I was weary of being "tied" to the library (we don't live in town and the library often meant a special trip - 30 mins. one way - for us).

I don't really remember what we did the next year. I was trying to put stuff together myself. I have doubts that they learned anything in history.

One day during that year the Sonlight catalog showed up again. By now, I realized that I had been spending more each year than Sonlight cost. So I jumped. My husband didn't fall over. We have had a wonderful year. Everything for history, Bible reading schedules, read-alouds and readers are laid out. The instructor's manual is wonderfully detailed and easy to use! There are reading discussion guides if you choose to use them (sometimes we do, sometimes we don't). We also used Sonlight science 3 that year, but I found the experiments tedious. We like to follow rabbit trails with science so we are going to do that this year, but if you need science laid out for you and love experiments, then you will love Sonlight science. I do like the reading assignments and discussion questions for Sonlight, but we decided to do something else. Everything that we need to read is HERE AT THE HOUSE when we need it. Trips to the library became fun again. Reading assignments weren't dictated by library due dates. School became fun again! The best thing about Sonlight was that my oldest, a self-proclaimed reading hater, loves to read the Sonlight books. He may not read anything else, but he doesn't complain about his reading assignments and frequently discusses what he is reading with me. He is finally reading at grade level. My mother's heart is so happy!

I looked at Living Books Curriculum this year. It is a pure Charlotte Mason approach. read-alouds and readers are included. The price is comparable. LBC uses the language arts books that we already use. The problem is that LBC teaches American History concurrent with Ancient History. My boys have enough trouble keeping up the way it is so I think that it would be best if we just stick with one historical time period at a time.

So we will be using Sonlight Core 4 this year. I wish, wish, wish that I had taken the plunge to do Sonlight when we first started. I imagine that I appreciate Sonlight more because of the other things we have tried though. Sonlight has a 18 week Love-To-Learn guarantee. You can try them and get a refund if you don't like them! I am pretty sure you will like them though once you give them a try. You can check them out HERE. The new catalog comes out in April..........oh, the agony of waiting!!!!

Let's Try This Again

I think that we may all finally be feeling better. The illness ended up being the contagious stomach bug variety. I was sick Tuesday, better Wednesday, and sick Thursday (Greg and Lee were also sick Thursday). We are all better again now, but I am moving slowly and seem to be having trouble recovering. I managed some light housework this morning and finished my Cadron Creek review (see below) but I am getting achy again so will probably call it a day pretty quick. I am hoping that this passes soon!

It is such a beautiful day! I wish that I was feeling better to enjoy it. God is blessing us with just a touch of spring. Snow, sleet and rain are in our forcast for the evening so winter isn't gone yet. Daily I am more eager to get outside and play in the dirt. Soon we will be placing our garden seed orders. I am so thankful for the knowledge of how to grow our own food. Eating from your very own garden is the very best of treats :)

Have a wonderful weekend!

Further Up and Further In

Available from Cadron Creek Christian Curriculum

The 5 Chronicles of Narnia books have always fascinated me. I can clearly remember my 3rd grade teacher reading The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe to our class at the end of each day. I was an adult before I knew that there were more! What a tragedy! I bought the 5 book set for our family as soon as we decided to homeschool. My older boys were 2 and 5 at the time!

Further Up and Further In was written by Diane Pendergraft (edited by Margie Gray) to facilitate using the Chronicles of Narnia books as a unit study. This was a tremendous blessing to my family as I am terrible at putting together unit studies!

The guides for all 5 books are in one volume. The introduction lays out different ways to use the resources. FUFI covers Bible (very thoroughly), Bible Memorization, Writing, Science, Hands-on Activities and Art. History topics are referred too and can be covered in more depth if the instructor wishes. We mainly used the Bible, Memory and Writing activities.

Vocabulary words are introduced for each chapter of each book. Students are encouraged to look the words up and keep a vocabulary section in their notebook. One chapter is read each day and then the teacher can choose which assignments to use for that chapter. FUFI is suggestion for grades 3-8 but could easily be adapted either way. I am working with a 3rd and 6th grader and the assignments were very grade-appropriate.

Some chapters have a lot of activities to choose from. The author encourages you to pick and choose what will best benefit your family.

We loved reading The Magician's Nephew and using FUFI to make our studies more meaningful. Each book takes about a month to get through. We used this to take a break from our regular studies as we came back from Christmas break. The study would also be wonderful used over a summer break.

Further Up and Further In is available from the Cadron Creek website for $56. They also offer many of the suggested resources.....although they are also available from your local library in many cases. Cadron Creek also offers studies that correspond with The Little House on the Prairie books and Anne of Green Gables books. Maybe one day I will have a daughter to share those studies with !

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

It's Late Again

9:00 p.m.

I guess this is the way that it is going to go for now.

Bear doesn't like me to be on the internet. I know that I shouldn't bend to the demands of a 1 year old, but I feel guilty that he wants to play with me and I am just fooling around. So we play. Today he ran back and forth on our sectional sofa. I would hold my arms out just as he almost got to me and he would squeal and run the other way. When I finally caught him, I tickled the dickens out of him :) Cause I am a good momma, you know :)

I was terribly sick yesterday. I really think that I must have eaten something that was bad because I am pretty sure that I haven't ever thrown up that much in my life......not even when we had the terrible, no good stomach bug earlier this year. However, nobody else is sick, so it must be something with me. I had some emotional stuff going on and that tends to affect my stomach but never this bad. I am leaning toward food poisoning of some kind. I am better today, but making a slow recovery. It is hard to be productive when you spent the better part of the day before on the bathroom floor. But I digress......

Got laundry caught up. Dishwasher loaded and ran TWICE. The boys did light school and played in the mud caused by the torrential rains we have been having. The little creek (think big ditch) flooded out. I made them pinky swear not to get in it while they were outside, but I doubt that they listened too much. It is amazing to me that Lee and Greg can go outside in the mud, do the same things, and Lee comes in clean while Greg comes in covered in mud. I just don't understand it. I guess that is one of those mysteries of life. Needless to say, there will be more laundry tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow, boy am I busy! Norman has a dentist appointment (he is having 8 teeth pulled in preparation for partials). In the evening, Lee is taking part in the library's chess night and Greg is attending a 4-H event. In different towns. At the same time. That translates into much driving for the mother. And another late night.

Still have the wonderful product review to do. It is a priority on Friday. I think that I actually have 2 to do. One is for TEACH magazine though and won't be published here. Sorry! You will have to subscribe in order to read it.

I also want to do an article on why I choose Sonlight over the other curriculums that I was looking at for this next year. In case anyone cares.

Going to bed now. Have a good night!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Exhausted Ramblings

It is almost night. If you know me at all you are asking yourself why I am still up. I don't function well on no sleep. I don't function well on less than 8 hours of sleep. If I go to bed RIGHT NOW......I will be pushing to get 7 hours in. Tis looking bad already.

But I feel compelled to write and share. I don't always know why but I often pray that something I say will bless someone else. I also have a great review to post, but feel that I am too tired to do it tomorrow I hope to get that done.

Everything is dandy here. Life is full of laundry, cooking, school and cleaning. Bear has become quite a "curtain climber". My housekeeping isn't great to begin with and now it is nearing non-existant and I struggle to stay ahead of his whirlwind of activity. It is fabulous having a toddler in the house again though. They are always exploring and find the smallest things fascinating. I love to take the time to sit and explore things with them too. Bear is learning how to shake his head no and nod his head yes. He doesn't always get them right, but it is so funny watching him think about a question and decide how to answer. I am not thrilled that he has started being clingy already, but I suppose it is time and this too will pass. The worst part of that is last night he literally slept ON TOP OF ME most of the night. With one hand in my hair and the other around my neck. If I got away from him and scooched over, he went with me. Eventually I was hanging off the bed. When Norman got home from work he pulled him over and snuggled with him but I suspect it didn't last long because I was in the same situation when I got up this morning.

Our income tax refund was put toward the great use of paying down our debt. It is so freeing to not owe so much money to others. I can't imagine how people who are overloaded with debt can manage to operate daily. Our small debt load was weighing heavily on us. I am so thankful it is ever lighter now.

I have decided after much self-debate and searching to go with Sonlight again this year. I will be purchasing Core 4 in 3-4 weeks and we will start in 6 weeks at the most. Hopefully sooner than that. I am going to try to keep us on track with this one (no more rabbit trails!!!!) so that we can finish in 12 months rather than 18. We are reading Carry On Mr. Bowditch right now (we are doing our read-alouds out of order if you are wondering). I am loving it already and the boys are thrilled!

I have got to go to bed. I am going to try to harness the rest of my thoughts and put them to the keyboard at another time. I hope that all of you are having a great week! Goodnight!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Write Shop

Animal Story Builders
World of Sports Story Builders
Available from Write Shop

This is a neat idea that my poor feeble brain hadn't thought of yet. Probably never would have either! Anyway, the story builders are sets of themed cards that contain the following: character, character traits, settings and plots. The student draws randomly or selects one of each card and writes about that topic within those perameters.

From the animals card set I could draw the following cards: rabbit, persistance, field and angry hunter and then write or tell a story using those cards. See? Fabulous isn't it? The possibilities are endless! These cards can be used by children that can't write yet, telling the story orally. The teacher's manual/instructions lists several different ways that the writing can be done using the cards. I particularly like the idea of using them on car rides!

The authors suggest that these cards be used as supplemental creative writing practice and encourages the use of dialogue. My boys have been having a lot of fun with them!

I have also used Wordsmith Apprentice with great results! I suspect that all of the Write Shop products are just as top-notch as these. The Story Builders are available from their website for $7.95 and are purchased in ebook form for immediate use!