Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day 2010

This Memorial Day...
...offer a toast to an unseen soldier who is whiling away the hours in the sun... in full fatigues and loaded down with heavy artillery in the Middle East.
...say a prayer for a soldier headed out on a plane to an exotic location... to serve and protect far from hearth and home.
...give thanks to the men and women of yesteryear who dedicated themselves to the military in spite of homesickness, strenuous training, new births, heat and cold, family tragedies, little pay, daily risks, and losing friends to enemy fire.
...remember those who have served to keep us a free country... and got buried for their trouble.

Memorial Day is not just a day to save money at the mall or get a better deal on a car... it is A Day of Remembrance... A Day of Honor... A Day of Prayer... A Day of Respect... and A Day of Thanks.

For the countless members of the armed forces who train, equip, dispatch, salute, rescue, protect, risk, and sacrifice even their lives so that i can sit at this computer and wax poetic on their behalf... i humbly Remember, Honor, Pray, Respect, and THANK each one of you.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Kregel - 2nd Shipment (TOS Crew Review)

My Final Crew Review.  Wow.  Who knows what the future holds, but for now, I am going to step back from homeschool reviews and concentrate on things around here.  Being a part of the Crew has been an amazing blessing, and I am so grateful to go out with a BANG!


The second book we received from Kregel Publications was called Andrea Carter and the Trouble With Treasure by Susan Marlow. Here is the summary from the publishers: "When innocent horseplay temporarily lands Andi and her friends in jail, they decide that a trip into the mountains will leave their troubles far behind. Accompanied by big brother Mitch and armed with a map showing old gold diggings, they canĂ­t wait to strike it rich. What could be better than two weeks of camping and horseback riding?
But instead of gold they find heaps of trouble — trouble that leaves Mitch gravely wounded. Andi needs help fast. But who can she trust? And what good is a bag of gold when her beloved brother lies near death in the middle of nowhere?"


This is a story most kids can get into, with characters you can relate to, and it was an enjoyable read.  The story would appeal to girls and boys alike, and it keeps you hanging at the end of each chapter.  In fact, there were days my kids didn't want to listen (just because they wanted to go outside, though) and I wanted to keep reading, so it was often me begging to continue the story! :-)

I highly recommend the Kregel Publications books, and this latest book is a great read!  To see what my fellow Crew Mates had to say, click here.

*Disclaimer: I received the above book for FREE to read and review.  This is that review.  I have not been compensated for this review.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Summer Living

Yesterday, the kids and i made a solar oven and cooked hot dogs in it for lunch.  The oven got up to 175 degrees and cooked the hot dogs in one hour.  The Smallish Man-Child was VERY impressed and requested a second hot dot... then was joined by the others wanting another, too!

Then we went to the store and bought our yearly blow-up pool (smaller this year, though, so we don't annoy Daddy). We picked up some popsicles and ice cream while we were at it, and added a couple of new water blasters to our collection.  Fun times!

This morning was a beautiful morning, and our weekend was so crazy that it was nice to soak it up on the back patio with my coffee while the kiddos filled the small pool with water.  Then i got a wild hair and decided to mow the grass for my hubby.  Let me just tell you, that mower is not built for a 120-pound, just-over-5-foot-tall female.  Furthermore, you sure notice how lumpy and hilly your yard is when you're pushing a mower through it!  And lastly, you know you're overheated when a warm shower feels cool on your face.

Ah, summer living.....

Monday, May 24, 2010

Lobster Network (TOS Crew Review)


Okay, here's a fun review: LobsterNetwork.  The idea behind this is that you've got stuff, your friends have stuff, your extended family members have stuff, your local church members have stuff, and maybe, just maybe, you need something, like once.  Example: your Little Angel caught the latest stomach virus and, of course, she just had spaghetti for dinner... eww.  You can't go to the store to rent the Rug Doctor (or whatever That Monstrosity is called) because it's 10 o-clock at night and, well, you're coddling The Puking Princess.  You know someone was telling you that they just got a carpet cleaning thingy and you can't remember who it was, but you're sure they'd let you borrow it if they knew you needed it.... So, you hop onto the (Wonderfully Wicked) World Wide Web and log into your LobsterNetwork account while The Puking Princess naps on the floor by the commode, and you notice that your neighbor has a carpet cleaner listed that she is willing to lend.  Perfecto!  You make the call, she runs it down to you (hey, she's a good friend!), and your Beige Berber is back to its Pre-Primavera State.  Thank you, Lobster Network!

Another scenario: you need to make room for your new curriculum books on the bookshelf, and you know there are a bunch of good books over there that no one in your family reads anymore.  Hmm.... You can log into LobsterNetwork and add all those Fun Fables to your account to sell... or trade... or give them away for free!  (That's precious real estate!!)  I sold an entire curriculum using LobsterNetwork!

Okay, okay, it's true: LobsterNetwork was created to help people keep track of their stuff when they lend it to friends.  Yes, it's true: there is a reminder built into the system to help the lender (and borrower) get their stuff back at the end of the designated period of time for the loan.  And sure, it is certainly true that you can create your own community on LobsterNetwork and not send your stuff to strangers (I created a community for my local Co-Op.).  But the best part of this inventive online community is that it is FREE.  That's right: F.R.E.E.  Zippo!  Zilch!  Your money's no good there!

So, you should definitely head over to www.LobsterNetwork.com and sign up... after all, you might have something I need. (wink)

To see what the other Crew Mates thought of LobsterNetwork, click here.

*Disclaimer: I was given a FREE subscription to LobsterNetwork for the purposes of reviewing the site... but YOU can have a FREE subscription, too, for the purposes of loaning/borrowing/trading/selling/buying YOUR stuff.  I have not been compensated for this review.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Season to Remember

The seasons will change, on that you can bet.
And this Spring will be one we won't likely forget.

A cake - or TWO - what fun! What a joy!
For a TWINS baby shower - a GIRL and a BOY!!

From Minivan Moments
The very next day, a surprise Mother's Day gift
Was a garden - a raised one - how perfect is this?!?

From Minivan Moments

We also acquired a couple new pets...
From Minivan Moments
From Minivan Moments
So you see, this Spring isn't one we'll forget.

Cerebellum Corp/Standard Deviants (TOS Crew Review)

We recently received a video from Cerebellum Corporation/Standard Deviants called AP Exam Prep: History of the U.S. Although my children are nowhere near needing Advanced Placement classes in U.S. History, I watched the video myself for the purposes of this review.  Having no experience with AP classes myself, I can only guess at the substance of the video, but it looks really good.

The beginning of the video is about the exam itself: what to expect, how to take the test in the most efficient manner, tips for writing the essays, and how the test is scored. Then there is a quick, but thorough, review of 30 main points in the United States' history from the early colonists to the Vietnam War (they call this "30 in 30" - 30 historical tips in 30 minutes).  Yep, I said it was quick.  Altogether, the video is 73 minutes.

There is also a digital workbook included on a separate disc that the student should print out and use along with the video.  It looks like it would really help the student understand and study the topics in the video and practice writing the essays.

The video costs $14.98, but it is currently on sale for $11.24.  That's a heck of a bargain for a crash course in US History!  And the video will hold your attention, too!

You can check out what my fellow Crew Mates thought of the video, and see reviews of some of the other Cerebellum Corporation/Standard Deviants products by clicking here.

*Disclaimer: The above DVD was provided for free for me to use and review.  An honest review was all that was promised, and this review is based on my own experience with the product.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Crew Favorites Are in!

Here are the winners of the 2010 Homeschool Crew Seaworthy Awards:

Favorite Language Arts Product => EDUDPS

Favorite History Product => Bright Ideas Press (All American History and Mystery of History)

Favorite Science Product => Nature Friend Magazine

Favorite Math Product => Math Mammoth

Favorite Online Math Product => Mathletics

Favorite Handwriting Product => Zeezok (Presidential Penmanship)

Favorite Fine Arts Product (art, music, etc.) => Artistic Pursuits

Favorite Pre-school Product => Time 4 Learning

Favorite Elementary Product => Critical Thinking

Favorite Upper-Grade Product => Professor in a Box

Favorite College Prep Product => Cerebellum/Standard Deviants

Favorite Special Needs Product => Super Star Speech

Favorite Health and Beauty Product => Virginia Soaps & Scents

Favorite Christian Product => Grapevine Studies

Best Resource I Didn't Know I Needed => Studypod

Best Homemaking Product => Sue Gregg

Best Customer Service => Graphics Toolbox
Best Online Resource => ABC Teach

Best e-product => Nutrition 101

Best Office and Technology Resource => Web Designs for Kids

Best Homeschool Resource => Apologia – Ultimate Guide

Best Map Resource => Homeschool in the Woods

Best Book, Novel or Magazine => Sarah Books

Best Children's Book => Children’s Bible Hour

Best Hands-On Resource => Journey Through Learning

Most Adaptable Resource => Sue Patrick’s Workbox System

Most Unique Resource => Lobster Network

Most Family-Oriented Product => Family Mint

Kid's Choice => Maverick Books

All Around Crew Favorite => All About Spelling

(I put the products I reviewed in BOLD TYPE so you can get a glimpse of some of what my family received.)

You can go to the Homeschool Crew website to check out all the reviews for these and more!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Lifelong Learning

Tonight, i am putting on my Student Hat and researching some new concepts i didn't even know about until an hour ago.  I need to go back to the basics with each of my children for a week or two and evaluate their personalities, strengths, weaknesses, and quirks.  I am hoping to find some gems in my search that will help me understand them better as a mother and as a teacher.

God keeps upping the ante around here and asking me to do a little more... the good news it that He asks after i have already done some of what He has laid on my heart to do.  I figure He must be taking me through some big stuff, and being God, He understands how i function so He is feeding me in small bits to keep me from being overwhelmed!  I look back over the past 2 years and i wonder how i got here, but then i see all the place markers along the way where God has stopped me and taught me something new.

I hope to be a lifelong learner, but more than that, i hope to encourage a love of learning in each of my children.  The desire to seek information and apply new concepts to your life is something invaluable, and i pray that i do enough to foster that in them from day to day and week to week.  I also hope and pray that i can instill a love for God and a passion for seeking His truths and wisdom in all aspects of their lives.  Without God, i would probably be living on the streets (if i was alive at all by now), addicted to some drug or other, tramping it up with virtual strangers... and who knows what else.  But since God has never left me, i have been comforted, loved, taught, Held.  I want my children to know God that way, too.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Ideal Curriculum (TOS Crew Review)


As a member of the 2009-2010 The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew, I received a free download from Ideal Curriculum.  Now, this one is a bit different.  Ideal Curriculum offers a full school year of monthly kits (9 altogether) just for preschool.  You can get a print version of each monthly unit for $55 or a downloadable version for $30.

I received the downloadable files for the first month/unit, which is Transportation.  In the downloads there are things to read on the computer, things to print (yes, that's right! There is a FILE of things that you can expect to print so there is no guessing!), music files, and teacher files.  The curriculum covers early literacy, math, science, and social studies.

I found the program to be well organized and expertly directed... if you want a formal preschool curriculum.  We don't particularly, but if we did, this would be one of my first choices!  There is a schedule, a teacher's guide, and a wide range of activities and advice for orchestrating this curriculum in meaningful and fun ways.  In the teacher's guides, there are educational tips for parents that may not know all the ways children learn through play.  I happen to, but I was impressed that the makers of this curriculum cared to offer that information.

So, although we're not going to rush out and purchase these kits to finish out the year's topics, I can say that if you are looking for a more structured preschool curriculum, this one is probably for you!  To check out what my fellow Crew Mates had to say about it, click here.

*Disclaimer: I was provided with Month 1 of the Ideal Curriculum preschool program at no cost in order to use and review it.  This review is my honest experience with the program.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Humbled

It is hard enough to go back to daily life around here after seeing the horrifying images of our fellow Middle Tennesseans in various stages of disaster.  It is hard enough to cook our breakfasts, lunches, and dinners knowing there are hundreds of people still without power.  It is hard enough to plant my garden and dream of the fresh veggies and fruit that will come out of it knowing that there are families nearby who are dreaming of the days they had a bed to sleep in and a roof of their own.

To say that it has been difficult for me to sit and do nothing is an understatement!  I have sent supplies, washed flood-affected laundry, cooked meals, and met some of the faces of the Nashville Flood of 2010.  But i am humbled by what i saw yesterday in East Nashville.... Ruined furniture and broken pieces of people's lives litter the curbs in the communities devastated by the floods.  But these people are back at school, back at work, and waiting for the gutted shells of their homes to dry out so they can begin to rebuild.

The kids and i met a charming family of 5, and the kids were sweet and cheerful in the midst of the chaos that had become their lives.  The grandmother who is raising her 4 grandchildren all alone (but she has Jesus and she knows it!) recently had hip-replacement surgery, but she was one of the families affected by the floods that had no help, so she was trying to do it alone when the Ordinary Hero people found her and got involved.  It was a pleasure to meet them, and i hope my children are changed by what they saw in her company.  Faith.  Family.  Perseverance.  Determination.  Joy.  Love.

Oh, i won't lie, Satan had a field day with me in my quest to show the love of Jesus.  But, once banished, the scene remains untarnished by lies and doubt, and i am humbled.  God called, i followed, and of course, there were consequences... But.  It.  Was.  All.  Worth.  It.  And i do love an opportunity to give the enemy a black eye. {grin}

God is Good.
I am Not.
So, i will continue to follow His lead.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Madsen Method (TOS Crew Review)

We had the opportunity to review English For Life: The Madsen Method with the TOS Crew.  We were not sent this package and forced into it.  I spoke with Joe Madsen by telephone.  The product is expensive and somewhat different from the average Language Arts curriculum, so he wanted to be sure we would want to try it.  Perfectly understandable.

Let me tell you about my initial reactions. I love the idea of The Madsen Method (TMM).  I love what it's setting out to do.  Speaking with Joe Madsen cemented that for me.  I believe in their goals, their passion, and their dedication.  I understand from a child-development stand-point just what it is they are trying to accomplish.  It makes sense.  I agree.  100%.

TMM believes in teaching the whole brain, and I whole-heartedly agree!  You teach the kids to say to hear and write to see, and you demonstrate the 4 ways that doing so puts information into their brains.  This concept is taught as Say and Do in TMM.  "When I say, I automatically hear; when I do, I automatically see."  The kids got it!  They understood it so much that we were using these techniques in other areas of our home within a few days.  Even the 3-year-old (who was not part of the L/A program) would Say and Do: "I put my cup in front of my plate" and "I put my shoes in the closet."

The idea of TMM goes beyond the HOW, too, and sets the bar pretty high: they believe that students can accomplish all 4 levels of TMM in 6-8 years and be done with all Language Arts.  They believe TMM is the way our forefathers in America were taught to read and write.  While all that sounds good, and I certainly like the idea of completing the coursework in less time, as a student of child development, I hesitate to fully embrace a system that is wholly based on a time when children were expected to be little adults.  So, it is possible that some of what we experienced might've been my own bias against the "mass education of large groups of children" that we see in the public school system.

In practice, however, it wasn't a great fit for our family as it was written.  With a 10-year-old and a 7-year-old, we might've been too far beyond the basics to appreciate the backpeddling the program asked us to do.  But it is my opinion that the biggest downside of this L/A program is the strict speech - both for the teacher and the student.  My son, who is very frustrated by not getting something right the first time, was discouraged by not being able to memorize all the words exactly as I said them after 2 or 3 tries.  My eldest could do it fine, so she got to move on more quickly.  That added to the poor boy's frustrations, I am sure!  (It didn't help matters that really early on we discovered we cannot physically "Go to the learning position" in any of the furniture in our home.)

I altered somewhat, as Joe Madsen allows, in order to "fit" our family but without compromising the "message."  It helped, but it was still pretty painfully slow.  I realize that the groundwork has to be laid, and that is a lot of what we were doing, but it made it really difficult to even pull the thing off the shelves after a few weeks... especially when the kids resisted it so much.

I wanted to love it.  I really did.  The people are so wonderful to work with ("my success is their success" seems to be their motto!), and their passion for this product is so obvious and contagious!  But I guess I didn't expect it to be so rigid, which is just not a good fit for me.  And I still think if I could speed it up, skip a few lessons, and use the basic techniques to teach the "meat" of the program that it would work beautifully in our home.  And I may still do just that.  But for now, my kids would rather I not even get the books out of the cabinet.  So, we'll take a break, catch up on our grade-level L/A skills, and then... who knows?  Maybe with a summer of planning, I can modify TMM just enough to fit what I believe is a good theory into a homeschool environment that is just not that strict.

Side note: my youngest child might be the poster child for this program, so time will tell as the next year passes if we have more luck with her!

English For Life: The Madsen Method is available in four levels, and the level I received was Level One, which is available to homeschoolers for a discounted rate of $219.95.  To see what my fellow Crew Mates had to say about TMM, click here.

*Disclaimer: I received Part One of The Madsen Method for free to use and review, and this review is my own personal experience with the product.  No compensation for this review has been provided.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Beeyoutiful (TOS Crew Review)

Last year, when I signed up as a member of the 2009-2010 The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew, I opted to review items that were not specifically homeschooling resources.  Because of this, I was given the opportunity to review a product by Beeyoutiful.  Each member got to make selections and requests, so we got quite a variety of goodies to try.  Check out other reviews and products by clicking here.

I received Beeyoutiful Balance, which is a natural progesterone 'cream.'  As a woman embarking on the Peri-menopausal Journey, I was ecstatic to have this opportunity to try something that I had obsessed wondered about!  I have many annoying common symptoms of being on the Peri-menopausal Journey, but my doctors aren't concerned.  Of course, if you aren't the one forgetting to take a shower, snapping at your children, coping with irregular menstrual cycles, and feeling overly tired, I supposed you may not care... but since I AM, I kinda DO.


Okay, enough about me, let's talk about this cream: it is bio-identical and all natural, it comes in a 2 oz. tub and costs $23, and it has all of the ingredients listed on the bottle.  No "and others" or "natural oils" or such nonsense.  You get the real scoop on what it in the cream, and frankly, when you're talking about hormone replacements, that's a darn good thing!

Here's the WHY (from the Beeyoutiful Balance website):
"Beeyoutiful Balance progesterone cream is specially formulated to help women’s bodies achieve hormonal balance. Progesterone deficiency is epidemic in America, with approximately 90% of women suffering from a host of related symptoms such as PMS, hot flashes, osteoporosis, infertility, early miscarriage, depression, menstrual irregularity, and breast cancer. When applied properly, Beeyoutiful Balance will give the body the physiologic amount of progesterone needed to help bring balance to the hormonal system."
   (sounds good to me!)

Here's the WHAT (again, from the Beeyoutiful Balance website):
"Beeyoutiful Balance contains 1000 mg USP progesterone per 2 oz container. It is rubbed into the skin, absorbs into the fat, and then into the bloodstream with almost complete absorption, as opposed to oral doses of progesterone which filter through the liver. Beeyoutiful Balance is made with luxurious skin-nourishing Jojoba oil, expeller pressed Avocado oil, and Coconut oil, which help to restore damaged tissues and make skin appear healthy and more youthful. It is lightly scented with refreshing sweet orange essential oil."

 So, you're probably wondering what my results were...?  Well, it is my opinion that one month of using this cream should show improvements if someone is experiencing symptoms of low progesterone, and I probably could speak to that.... except I didn't get to use it for a month.  By the time Beeyoutiful Balance arrived in my mailbox, I was taking a 10-day course of antibiotics for strep throat and a bronchial infection and using a 5-day course of steroids.  I just didn't think it was a good idea to use a hormone replacement cream during all that.  So, I figured I would use the cream in the second manner suggested: for menstrual cramps.  However, I got my monthly "Visitor" on our campout that month... in another state... and the Beeyoutiful Balance was, naturally, at home.  I was actually wishing for it that day as I tried to cope with packing up a cabin of 5 people's belongings while enduring my usual Day 1 Abdominal Pains (the word "cramp" just doesn't adequately describe what happens to me...).

I am currently anticipating my May "Visitor," so I have used the 'cream' for several days.  Here is what I have found: I am not as tired, I have not craved chocolate (at all, Wow!), and I have not lost my temper with my kids.  My "Visitor" is due in the next few days, but this review is due today, so I cannot speak to the full effects, and I feel I have let the suppliers of this remarkable product down!  I did wake up with slight cramping this morning (which is a normal sign of my impending "Visitor") and I immediately applied the 'cream' - and lo and behold, the cramping has stopped!  Seriously.

I plan to use the 'cream' with my Day 1 Abdominal Pains this go-round, and I will update you all here on this blog post if you care to come back next week.... I also intend to continue using it for the 2 weeks prior to my "Visitor" the next few times so I can really get a feel for my own need for hormone supplements.  So far, I am leaning toward becoming a regular customer of this stuff!

One more note about the product: since the skin is the body's largest organ, I really like that it is in a sort of ointment form (it isn't really a cream, it is thicker and more like an A&D-type ointment) and absorbs more quickly and more efficiently into my body.  This really makes me think that there is less waste - if more of the active ingredients are being absorbed, less junk is floating through my system that I don't need, right?  Also, the 'cream' does have a pleasant ointment scent, but it fades (after rubbing it in) so quickly that I am certain it is being absorbed right away!

Well, there were many other fun treasures that my fellow Crew Mates got to try, so be sure and check them out... or see what other Mates thought of Beeyoutiful Balance (click here to go to reviews page).

* Disclaimer: I received Beeyoutiful Balance for free in order to use it and review it.  An honest review was all that was expected, and this review is my own experience with the product.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

Well, this has been a beautifully busy Mother's Day for me!  My husband and children got me a garden, and i got to plant all the herbs and veggies i have been wanting to plant, as well as all the potted seedlings i started last month.  And thanks to Home Depot, i finally planted Stevia plants!!

I got 2 apple trees and a hummingbird feeder, too.  The back yard took on a whole new look!  I also took the ripped-up grass from where the garden went (okay, grass is a bit strong; clover is a better fit!) and patched up the bare spots in the front yard that our dogs blessed us with last fall.  That is messy work, people!!  My nails may never be clean again....

After having breakfast and dinner made for me, i finished the day with my delicious beef and barley soup and French bread, and i got to sprinkle my new fresh parsley in it - right out of my garden!!

Now, the house is getting quiet, and this Mommy is getting tired.  I hope each of you had a great day, and that all you Mothers got a fabulous day of peaceful relaxation.  I leave you with one thought: it may take a village to raise a child, but it is the Mommies in the village who makes it a success.

God bless.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Rain

We beg for rain; our grass is brown.
Water restrictions begin in our town.
We start to worry and wonder, it's true:
With spring so dry, what'll summer do?

Then the news says rain is coming our way.
We can't help it: we shout "Hurray!"
An end to the drought that we worried would be
A ray of hope, we're beginning to see.

But when the rains come, they keep coming all day,
The rain doesn't stop; it won't go away!
And after two days of this unending rain,
The community sure is feeling the strain!

The rivers are up, the streets are now oceans.
The parks are all ponds, and houses are coastin'!
I watched a school building float by like a boat!
I saw people's houses with newly-filled moats!

"The 100-year flood," they are saying in town.
And then they tell us how many people have drowned.
What a sight! What a state! What a terrible thing!
How could any imagine what those rains would bring?

Our family is fine; our neighborhood's high
Atop a great hill, so we're practically dry.
But i know there are some who have lost all they owned
When it floated away or got drenched in their homes.

And i begin to feel helpless and start in to pray,
And i thank God for all of our blessings today.
And i ask Him to comfort those most in need.
But i know that He will.  It's guaranteed.

(The above poem was written by Angela Varela.  Please do not use without permission.)