Monday, November 30, 2009

"F" is for "FARMING"

"A" is for the ANIMALS we got to see and feed.

"B" is for the BEAUTY we enjoyed at Fresh Earth Farm.
"C" is for the CREEK the Small Man-like Being couldn't resist jumping.
"D" is for the DUCK that waddled all around us.

"E" is for the EGGS we collected while we were there!
"F" is for the FEATHERS we admired in the chicken coop.
"G" is for the GOAT that tried to gore me with his horn!
"H" is for the HENS that were eager to eat.

"I" is for the kids' ICKY reaction to getting chicken poop on their hands!
"J" is for JESUS, who took Marble, the sick goat, home for Thanksgiving.
"K" is for the KID (who was bigger than his mama).

"L" is for the LOCKS that were expertly rigged all over the place!
"M" is for MAMA, who was the sweetest little goat.

"N" is for NOT wanting to leave.
"O" is for OVERCOMING a fear of chickens!
"P" is for POOP, which we scraped off roosting posts.
"Q" is for QUIN, who decided to catch a chicken!

"R" is for ROOSTER, who put up quite a fuss - vocally, thank You, Jesus!
"S" is for SURRENDER, when Quin thought he was giving up.

"T" is for TEAMWORK, which made the job more fun!
"U" is for UGH! when the children found a deer limb.
"V" is for the VARELAS, who got to play farmer for a day.
"W" is for WATER we checked and filled as needed.
"X" is for the X-RAY vision the animals had that we were there to feed them.
"Y" is for YIKES! which was heard by all the hens when the Small Man-Like Being finally caught one!

"Z" is for ZIPPING through the open spaces!

FaRmInG iS fUn!!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Exploramania (TOS Crew Review)

As a member of the 2009-2010 The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew, I received a DVD from Exploramania entitled, Gymathtics. This is actually an exercise program for the family that talks about and demonstrates math concepts. That's quite an attention-grabber, yes???

So, the kids and I popped the DVD into the computer (that's how we watch videos downstairs), moved the couches and coffee table, and proceeded to get fit! The really neat thing about the DVD is that it combines the warm up, the program, and the cool down all in one session. I am terrible at remembering to have my kids warm up before exercise, and with Gymathtics, I don't have to! Plus, even the three-year-old can do the workout with us - which adds entertainment, for sure.

My kids didn't even realize the video had been talking about math... {yes, dear children, shapes and lines and angles and counting are math concepts} Anytime I can sneak learning into their day without them knowing it is a plus - I love sparing us those groans that accompany my announcement that it is time to do school work.

While we currently enjoy outdoor fun that gives the kiddos plenty to do and lots of time to burn energy, I can totally see this Gymathtics video being a lifesaver this winter. I am NOT a fan of cold weather, and the less time I spend outdoors in below-50-degree temperatures, the happier I am, so I foresee LOTS of indoor exercise in our almost-immediate future.... Enter: Gymathtics.

For only $24.99, those 30 minutes are quite a value. Easy for me to say, right, since I got it free?? Well, you can enjoy FREE SHIPPING for a limited time right now, so order one before the winter weather steals both your outside time and this special promotion!

To see what my fellow Crew Members had to say about the Gymathtics video, click here.

*This product was provided to me for free with the intention that I use it in our homeschool and produce an honest review. This review is my opinion based on our use of the video. No other compensation was received.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

AVKO (TOS Crew Review)

As a current member of this year's The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew, I have gotten some really interesting things to review. There are gobs of homeschooling and supplemental materials and resources out there to be had that I didn't even know about! AVKO is one of them.

AVKO (which stands for audio, visual, kinesthetic, oral) Educational Research Foundation was created with the intention of helping dyslexics learn to read, write, and spell using a multi-sensory teaching style. You can read more about their philosophy here.

For the purposes of this review, I was provided with the online membership, and it is the benefits of that membership (which generally costs $25) that I am reviewing.

The membership to AVKO comes with free downloads, articles, supplemental materials for their Sequential Spelling program, discounts on printed materials, and much more. While it may be an amazing deal for many homeschooling families, I was too overwhelmed by the website to get much use from it. There was so much information about learning styles and dyslexia, but we don't suffer from those problems at this stage of the game. There were downloadable PDF files, MP3's, and diagnostic aides, but we didn't need most of it.

Unfortunately, the stuff I did print out either went over my head or required too much time and focus to make use of it. We have a very laid-back attitude toward schooling, and I am not motivated to spend hours researching something that we don't currently have an interest in. The website itself was also very cluttered and time-consuming to navigate, with quite a bit of fluff that was unnecessary (and often off-color). All of which is a drawback for me. For a family looking to get some real help with learning difficulties like dyslexia, this is probably well worth the money. For us, though, it wasn't really useful.

To see what my fellow TOS Crew Members had to say, as well as read more about the AVKO membership, click here.

* As a member of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine's Homeschool Crew, I was given a complimentary subscription to the AVKO website with the understanding that I would use and review the product. This is my honest review of that membership. No other compensation was provided.

Monday, November 16, 2009

God's Garage Sale

We Christians hear a lot these days about our purpose here on earth. We talk quite a bit about God's plan for our lives. We ask questions, read books, seek wise counsel, participate in Bible studies, and pray... all to determine some grand scheme that will give us a sense of belonging.

November has been an amazing month for me already... i have seen God move, i have heard God's voice, i have been a part of God's communication network, and i have helped God with His kingdom.... and now, i have to share a very memorable event with my readers in the blog-o-sphere.

Last weekend, God instructed me to have a garage sale, and He meant next week. [uh, really?] I planned the sale, packed up some stuff, involved a few others, and picked up some change... all in five days. God also told me i was to sell concessions to raise money for our adopted missionary family in New Zealand. I baked, bagged, and tagged muffins and brownies, made up some signs, and picked up some drinks from the grocery store.

Well, the day before the yard sale, we were priced, organized, and ready to roll - it was unlike any sale i have ever done... 'cuz it was God's garage sale. That night, lying in bed, i was second-guessing my efforts to raise money for the family in NZ... really, how much money could i raise with muffins?? $15?? $20?? God spoke into my spirit: "watch what I can do with $20"

The next morning, God woke me early. The garage sale was up and running almost an hour earlier than planned because it was God's garage sale, and He was in charge... i was just His puppet. At the end of a fairly successful sale, we looked at the money we had made in concessions. My sister-in-law said, "Looks like $14 plus a bunch of change." It came crashing back to me: "watch what I can do with $20" Excitedly, i described what God had spoken to me the night before. In anticipation, we counted out the coins.... Yes, we made $20 - almost exactly (it was something like $20.14).

We stood in awe.
What had we just witnessed?
What had we been a part of??

God's garage sale was a success - and in following His lead, we rid ourselves of unnecessary stuff, made a few extra bucks, and helped a missionary family in New Zealand. More importantly, though, we were part of God's amazing plan... is it a plan for my life? Is it a plan for my children's lives? Is it a plan for the Bennett family in NZ? I may never know... but what i do know is that i got to experience it.

When people ask me why i believe in God, this is the kind of stuff i tell them about.
How can i not believe in what i experience with all of my being?
We know the wind is there because we feel it, smell it, taste it, hear it, experience it.
I know my God is there because i experience Him... in ways i cannot even explain.

Be blessed.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Thought for the day

Thought for the day from a song i have stuck in my head:
"It’s your life
What you gonna do?

The world is watching you

Every day the choices you make

Say what you are and who

Your heart beats for

It’s an open door

It’s your life.
~ Francesca Battistelli (co-written with Ian Eskelin)

And more important than the world watching me, my children are watching me...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Three's a Crowd!

Have i ever told you that i hate crowds? I really get uncomfortable in crowded rooms, long lines, and busy places. I am more of a stay-at-home, peace-and-quiet kinda gal.

Well, what they say about three being a crowd is too true! We have three children now, and the house is almost never peaceful OR quiet. In addition to the number of little bodies running around trying to get their own way, the Littlest Angel is now three years old - and for anyone with more than one child, you know that the Terrible Two's have got NOTHING on the second- or third-born child going through the Throw 'Em Back Threes!

These days, nothing goes unchallenged:
"Honey, if you want to go outside, you have to put pants on. It is too cold to wear shorts," Mommy explains.
"I won't be cold," counters the Negotiator calmly.

"You can't have candy right now; it is too close to bedtime," Mommy says.
"It okay; i not tired, Mommy," counters the Negotiator calmly.

"I will read you a story after I am done with my work," promises Mommy.
"Done now, Mommy?" she asks after climbing to her new position between me and the computer.

"You need to clean up those puzzle pieces before you can watch Caillou," reminds Mommy.
"You can do it," counters the Negotiator calmly.

There just isn't enough room in our house for all three of these little people to have their own way! On top of that, there are whole outlines of hierarchy inside their own heads, and somehow they have all come up with the same solution: i will be demoted to make room for them!

I realize that the Throw 'Em Back Threes are temporary; i have done it a time or two before. My question is this: In order to totally solve the problem of THREE, do i have to have FOUR? God, please, no.

Monday, November 9, 2009

American Heritage (TOS Crew Review)

As a member of the 2009-2010 The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew, I received a CD from the American Heritage Education Foundation. The CD is offered to all educators for FREE, so I am not really all that special this time - YOU, TOO, can get this one free!

Now, let me give you some background information about this product. The American Heritage Education Foundation (AHEF) is "a non-profit, non-partisan educational foundation dedicated to the understanding and teaching of America's factual and philosophical heritage to promote constructive citizenship and Freedom, Unity, Progress, and Responsibility among our students and citizens." AHEF provides a set of FREE lesson plans, but they also offer printed binders for a fee. I received the CD with the FREE information, so we
printed what we wanted to use when we wanted to use it.

The information contained in the CD was vast, and I can see how a family with younger children like mine could study these topics over and over, in greater detail each time. Unfortunately, our family found them to be a bit dry since we are more of a "learn about it because we're interested in it" kind of family and there were so many details in the lessons, so we discussed mostly the main points. The kids did enjoy learning about how America was established and why, and we talked quite a bit about the different kinds of government... which, naturally, made their backs go up when we talked about the not-so-nice and not-very-fair governments of the world!

The American Heritage study is in PDF format and is designed for all ages (elementary, middle, and high school), and though it is designed for group learning, as in regular schools, we homeschoolers are pretty good at adapting things to meet our needs. If you like the idea of teaching your children about the history of America no matter how many grades you are simultaneously teaching, this curriculum is probably a good fit for you. The program is also available in Spanish for those of you who would prefer that.

I believe in what the AHEF is doing, and I am always talking with my children about how blessed we are to live in America, the ways our country is different than other places in the world, and why we have to use the voice our democracy gives us to make changes when we disagree with the "powers that be." However, I also believe that some of the "fuzzy, warm" messages of our heritage are glossed-over atrocities that we wish we didn't have to own. Yes, the early people of the new America did some great things in establishing this country, but I also believe that they made
horrible errors in judgment along the way. American Heritage doesn't really address those issues.

My 2 cents about American history: If we only talk about the wonderful things our forefathers did, how can we learn from their mistakes? And if we are to discuss what "freedom" means, as the AHEF does in their lessons, how can we not feel hypocritical when we celebrate the Founding Fathers and their pursuit of freedom while ignoring the fact that they were responsible for killing Indigenous Americans and forcing them off their land at gunpoint? This strikes a chord in me, and it gave me quite a bit of discomfort during the lessons, so I eventually just put it aside. I believe in learning the truth, and while there is quite a bit of that in the American Heritage lesson plans, there is also quite a bit of it missing. To their credit, the information they give is accurate - it just isn't the entire story. (~This is probably a good place to tell you that we do not teach our children about mythical holiday figures like Santa or the Tooth Fairy, either, but rather the history behind a holiday and the meaning of it. Let that help you decide what to take from this review!)

I realize that many families would disagree with me in this, and so I hope each of you finds something you can use in this review. You can then make the best decision for your homeschool. To read the reviews of my fellow TOS Crew Members, click here.

* This product was provided to me for free in exchange for my honest review after using it in our homeschool.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Therapeutic Thursday - With a Twist!

Today, i am focusing on being "other-centered" rather than self-centered. Though i have not spent most of my life in a self-centered state, i have to admit these last few weeks have been quite full of unpacking myself - the bits and pieces of the child i was, the memories of events that shaped who i have become, and the issues and struggles of today and how they come from all those past events and memories. I am happy to report that this week, i have so much more peace.

I feel as if the pain is finally coming to the surface so it can leave, which is the whole point, according to my therapist!

I have not only attempted to get on a schedule, i am kicking schedule butt! I have not only endeavored to get caught up in our school work, we are tearing school work up! I have not only tried to make a molehill out of the mountain of laundry, i have eliminated the problem altogether! {although, with laundry, that is always a temporary state!}

Anyway, this week, the kids and i have adopted a missionary family in New Zealand.
We are praying for and writing to the Bennetts, a young couple following God over land, over sea, wherever He leads! We are so humbled to know them, to pray for them, to learn about them. God is so good to bring us this opportunity at this point in my healing. Please join us as we pray for them.

Yesterday, the eldest child gave almost half of her remaining birthday money to me for the Nashville Rescue Mission Thanksgiving Meal. I was humbled... and honored to be her mother.

I had the opportunity to participate in a conversation with God and a friend of mine regarding love, true love,
Godly, Jesus-like love, unconditional love. I was granted the most amazing words of wisdom, and i am humbled and honored to have been part of that.

You seeing a pattern here? Yeah, me, too. God is bigger and greater and more amazing than i can even hope for, and He loves me in a way i cannot begin to imagine or understand. And that, my brothers and sisters in Christ, is quite enough on any day.

I will now leave you with a chuckle. The littlest peanut decided not to wait for me to put on her favorite show, so she put it on "
all by her-soss." (note: the shows are recorded in a program on the computer that is hooked up to display on the television, and proper menu surfing with the mouse is required)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Wonder-FULL Website! (TOS Crew Review)

When I was given a complimentary temporary subscription to the ABC Teach website as a member of the 2009-2010 The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew, I was thrilled! It seems like nearly very time I do a web search for worksheets or handouts to compliment a lesson in our homeschool or my co-op, is one of the top (if not THE top) links that comes back. And that is when I put the word "FREE" in my search! I could only imagine the gobs of stuff they have for paying members.

Well, I had the privilege of finding out just how much they provide for members for a short time (and it seemed far too short!). The site is just so FULL of great stuff - it is like someone handed me $5,000 and set me loose in a homeschool supply store!!

There are lesson plans for all ages, handouts, coloring pages, and games for any subject you can imagine! For example, I searched for worksheets for my oldest to practice her cursive handwriting, and not only are there prepared handouts for just this lesson, but as a member, I had the opportunity to create my own! So, naturally, I did. I made her a couple of handwriting practice sheets with "story starters" - that way, she does her creative writing, grammar, and handwriting all at the same time... we're big fans of lessening the workload around here. Those turned out so well that I created some personalized handouts for my son to practice his name and telephone number!

In addition to all of the wonder-FULL materials you can get at, you will discover how well they are organized so you can get in, get what you need, and get on with your busy life! That was ABSOLUTELY, HANDS-DOWN my favorite part of this particular educational website. So many sites that offer free materials are time-consuming, tedious, and jumbled. Obviously, to be offering free educational materials, a site need not be fantastic or organized, and I shouldn't be complaining, but certainly breaks the mold on that one!

As great as the site's free stuff is, the "member's only" materials are amazing. There are more lesson plans, more activities, more subjects, more games, just plain MORE. This website absolutely proves that you get what you pay for. And with, you get A LOT. I absolutely believe that you can teach at least preschool and kindergarten with just this website alone. You can almost teach first grade (I know, because I am teaching first grade this year), too! In the upper elementary grades (since I do not have middle or high schoolers, I did not check the site out for those ages), you can search science topics, or math topics, or social studies, or grammar, or whatever! For example, I searched for information about leaves since I was slated to teach a science co-op on the subject, and I got some GREAT ideas, some lesson plans, and some handouts for my kids to follow up on the lesson.

There really is just so much there, and we had such a short time to enjoy it all {do you hear the whine in my voice??}, so this membership will probably be going in our school-year budget for next year... we have 2 more years of preschool and then kindergarten still ahead of us, and is an invaluable resource! To see what my fellow Crew members had to say about, click here.

* No monies were exchanged for this product or this review. This review is based on my own honest opinion of a product that was provided to me for free with the agreement that I would use and honestly review it as a part of our homeschool experience. This is that review.