Monday, July 28, 2014

Curriculum Ch-ch-CHANGES!

Do you ever have a moment?  A moment that changes stuff?  You, homeschool stuff?  Well.   There I was, minding my own business when, without warning, it hit me!  
So, we are loosely a month into our new school year, although we are just doing a little here and a little there because we have so much going on...  Basically we were doing some math, some language arts, and history over the last month.  

So, it all started with fractions.  We had a fractions problem.  I tried to explain it, but Kayley didn't get it.  I tried to explain it know, slower, like maybe that would help.  It didn't.  So, I get out the teachers guide to see how they want me to explain it to her and the teachers guide is like, basically, Greek.  Once I read through the teachers materials, weeding out the classroom bits that didn't apply, I discovered, to my absolute HORROR, that they pretty much didn't explain it at all.  So...  we wait and luckily Daddy explains it in a different way that clicks, and we move on.

(1 week later)

Word problems.  "Uuuhhh!  I do NOT understand this word problem!  I can't...CAN'T do it!  I can't!!"  Where did this come from?  In 2nd grade, using Singapore my daughter would fly through complex word problems...  Multi-step word problems!  Granted BJU doesn't do very many word problems but I wouldn't have anticipated this crippling fear of word problems....  I help her through it.  It was not hard and we move on.

(2 weeks later)

Me:  "Just add it in your shouldn't need fingers"
Kayley:  "Uh..."  (trying very hard not to use her fingers)  

Me:  "Remember, 9 just wants to be a 10..."

Kayley:  "Oh yeah...."  (it clicks)

(3 weeks later)
We switch back to Singapore math.  I like BJU.  I do!  The running themes and story lines are great.  The teachers guides?  Not so great...  The tear out worksheets are awesome but the fact that there are so few word problems...  Not great.  Singapore really pushes word problems and mental math...  We need that.

So...  that is not all we have changed....

Now...  I'm feeling a little burned out.  Not a LOT burned out, just a little.  I have been what I guess would be considered a "Classical" homeschooler for a couple of years now.  Ever since we went to Classical Conversations the year before last.  I have to admit.  I'm a little tired of the strain of implementing a "rigorous" homeschool.  I want my kids to be smart, of course, but I also want them to love learning.  We are losing some of the love while we try to learn, at the age of 7, sentence diagramming, Latin, grammar, etc.  Now, I've read Susan Wise Bauer's The Well Trained Mind front to back and front again.  I took notes.  I created schedules and plans...  and I like them!  I admire them.  

But, I'm tired.  And we are going to take a year "off."  The first year that we did Sonlight I love, love, loved the Charlotte Mason approach to homeschooling...  So, with that in mind I sat down and researched and rewrote our year!  We will be using something I have never tried before!  

This is a year long animal science study that combines PreK to 4th graders.  Yes, I know, WinterPromise has a bad reputation of poor customer service and slow shipping.  I know a couple of years ago I read some very poor reviews of Winter Promise as well, but we are going to take a leap of faith and hope they are wonderful.  So far, they have treated me just fine.  I haven't started using this program yet but my kids are really really excited.
We needed to relax a bit on the Language Arts too and we will be trying out their Language Arts for 3rd Grade program called Tracking Down Good Grammar with Scout the Dog.  

We are sticking with our original Latin plan and I will be adding in the remainder of First Language Lessons volume 2.  The memory work found in there just cannot be beat!  Our spelling plans include finishing up Level 3 of All About Spelling but WinterPromise LA schedules Spellwell B so we will be switching over to that for ease of use.  I may throw in some of Writing With Ease but I haven't decided yet...  ;)  

Ok, so not to leave Maggie out!  She is still using her K5 Beginnings from BJU.  It was already something that we owned so I didn't invest much.  It is a solid program but--  we want relaxed and easy this year so I'm leaning toward the very simple text The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading.   This is a Peace Hill Press product that takes a systematic and scripted approach to teaching reading.  It looks simple and we know we already love so many of the Peace Hill Products!
I'm loosely looking at a few Language Arts options for Maggie.  I did purchase the Syllables to Sentences Language Arts program from Winter Promise but once it arrived I realized that Maggie already knew about 1/2 of what was in there!  (not to mention it didn't prove to be a good value - a separate review would be needed to explain that).  Anyway, I sent it back for a refund.  I may get the next level or I may consider Sonlight's Language Arts for K.

So, anyway, I guess if you stuck with me this far you are a curriculum junkie like me...  I look forward to sharing my thoughts on many of these products!  Thanks for stopping by!  

Friday, July 25, 2014

Summer Photo Shoot!

Thanks to my good friend Christina for snapping these great pictures of my girls!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Reasons My Kid is Crying {Book Review}

It all started when busy father Greg Pembroke posted a few pictures online of his three-year-old son, mid-tantrum, alongside the reason his son was crying: He had broken his bit of cheese in half. InReasons My Kid is Crying, Greg collects together photos sent from parents around the world, documenting the many, completely logical reasons why small children cry.  Among them: “I let him play on the grass” . . . “He ran out of toys to throw into his pool” . . . “The neighbor’s dog isn’t outside”.  The result is both an affectionate portrait of the universal, baffling logic of toddlers—and a reminder for burned-out parents everywhere that they are not alone.
Reasons My Kid is Crying is too funny.  If you are overwhelmed with parenting and need some cheering up, just thumb through these ridiculous photographs of crying kids.  You'll feel better.   Everything from "I wouldn't let him electrocute himself" to "I wouldn't let him crawl into a 400 degree oven."  Kids cry for the craziest things....  You'll be crying too, with laughter.

Learn more about the book and the author Greg Pembroke by visiting the following links!
You can read Chapter 1 here.

Disclaimer:  I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Surviving Hitler {Deseret Book Review}

Gustav Palm kept his secret for more than forty years. He’d been a young man when Hitler invaded his native Norway. After being forced to guard a Nazi prison camp, however, Gustav took his only option for escape: he volunteered for the Waffen-SS to fight at the front.
Agnes Erdös grew up in privilege and prosperity as a child in Hungary. She and her parents were practicing Roman Catholics, but they were ethnic Jews, and after the Nazis invaded her country, Agnes and her parents were sent to the death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Miraculously, both Agnes and Gustav survived. And after the war, they found each other.
Told in their own words, Surviving Hitler is the story of two indomitable spirits who built on their life-altering experiences to overcome the past, help each other heal, and embrace a common faith in God that led them to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I have not read a holocaust book since reading The Diary of Ann Frank in high school.  It is such a horrible time in history and the outcome for thousands of innocent people is dreadful and caused me sleepless nights.  I was so horrified to discover what happens to dear Ann Frank that I have not been able to read another story like it since.  I just couldn't bring myself to do it.

When I was given the opportunity to review this book I was struck immediately by the fact that this book will show case survivors of Hitler's regime.  I gave it a chance and I'm so glad I did!  This story focuses on 2 individuals, Gustav and Agnes.

Gustav lived in Norway when Hitlers army invaded.  At the time, like so many others, he was "offered" an opportunity to join the Norwegian Battalion.  He wasn't particularly interested but after much pressure they convinced him that he owed allegiance to the socialist party and that he could be a "police officer."  Thinking "traffic police" Gustav knew that this opportunity would be better than farming so he took it.  Poor Gustav!  He was manipulated and found himself a guard at a Nazi prison camp.  He was trapped.  His heart broke for the "political prisoners" which he realized later were actually Jews and he remarks that as guards they were literally "prisoners guarding prisoners."  It's eye-opening to realize that so many members of Hitlers army were unwilling and ashamed to do his bidding - but they really had no choice.

Agnes was a young lady living in Hungary when Hitler invaded.  Her family, while of Jewish decent, had converted to Catholicism many years before.  It didn't matter, those of Jewish faith or those of Jewish decent were forced into the ghetto anyway.  Eventually, with her mother and father, she was loaded into a cramped boxcar and taken to Auschwitz.  Through a series of life-saving events Agnes made it into barracks with other healthy women who would be given the opportunity to work.  She never saw her parents again.

As you read this story you can see, amazingly, God's hand working through the tragedy as Agnes and Gustav eventually survive the war and find each other, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and happiness!

Written by their son O. Hakan Palm, and told as journal entries from the perspective of Agnes and Gustav, this book will take you to Hitler's Reich and back again.  It is amazing!  I will be holding onto this book to use while we study World War II  in our homeschool.  It is well written and perfect for High School age students.

Surviving Hitler retails currently in hardback for $17.99 and as an Deseret Bookshelf eBook for TODAY only at $9.99!  (Regular price is $19.99 so snatch it up quick!)

You can read an excerpt here.

Disclaimer:  I received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed here are my very own.  Thank you so much Deseret Book!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Nature Center & Mobile Library {Field Trip}

The summer library programs are pretty great.   We really like to take advantage of them when we can!  Since we school all year round (taking breaks as desired), the summer programs provide alternate ways to "do school" and have fun!

We headed to the Nature Center to participate in a science & nature themed summer reading program.  
While there we had a chance to see the "bookmobile!"  
What a fun opportunity to check out a library on wheels!

 In the nature center we had an opportunity to learn about caves, animals, plants and a lot more!  Here the girls are learning all about animals found in caves in this "cave" created by the Nature Center staff.

We went on a scavenger hunt on a short hiking trail.

We learned about bats.

Animals and how the Native Americans used them.

We learned about camouflage, made a camouflage mask and posed for a picture with this ginormous prairie chicken.

Kayley got to do an experiment to discover how caves are formed.

We ended the day with lunch at Braums where ice cream cones were definitely in order.

We had a great time!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Summer Fit Learning {Curriculum Review}

Without opportunities to learn and practice essentials skills over the summer, most children fall behind academically. Research shows that summer learning loss varies, but children can lose the equivalency of 2.5 months of math and 2 months of reading skills while away from school. Children run the risk of losing more than just academic knowledge during the summer. Research also shows that children are at greater risk of actually gaining more weight during summer vacation than during the school year without daily play, activity and physical fitness.

We had an opportunity to check out this fun series (we got PreK - Kindergarten) from Summer Fit Learning.  What looks like a "regular" summer workbook is really so much more.  Inside the pages of this book you will find activities that focus on several key areas:  having a fit brain, fit body, and fit values.

Summer Fit workbooks are divided into 10 sections that coordinate with the traditional 10 weeks of summer.  Each section offers an overview and incentive calendar followed by 10 pages of activities for each week.  It is recommended that a child completes 2 pages per day.  This offers a simple routine that reinforces basic skills, physical fitness, healthy habits,  character building and social skills.  Activities support common core standards and progressively increase in difficulty.  By the end of the workbook your child is ready for the grade ahead.

At you will find a lot of extras too!  Exercise videos, ideas to help you implement a summer game plan for learning, and free downloadable Summer Reading Lists, and Book Report forms keep your child reading all summer long!

Summer Fit Learning has books from PreK to 8th grade.  You can find out where to purchase here.

Maggie loves workbooks and has enjoyed toting this one through the house.  If you are looking for a simple but effective summer school workbook then you might enjoy Summer Fit Learning!

Disclaimer:  I received Summer Fit Learning free of charge in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed here are my own.   :)

Monday, June 30, 2014

How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare {Book Review}

It had not crossed my mind to teach my children Shakespeare.  At least, not yet.  I mean, my kids are 4 and 7!  But, I was given the opportunity to review this book and it looked fascinating.   Author Ken Ludwig insists, "To know some Shakespeare provides a head start in life."  We all know that Shakespeare is numbered among the greatest play writes of all time...or is he, perhaps, THE greatest play write of all time?  In fact, several years ago, I read and article that demonstrated that nearly every single modern day story has its foundation in Shakespeare.  All just rewritten into modern themes and language.

Now, by a show of hands, who is scared of Shakespeare (besides hand is up!)  I recall reading Shakespeare in high school and finding it confusing and beautiful all rolled up into one messy little book.  The language can be both perplexing and lovely.  I wish I had given it more effort.  I mean, think of all the things we say today that came right from Shakespeare!  "In a Pickle"  "The Laughing Stock" "There's a method to my madness" and so much more.

In this book, How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare, Ludwig has provided a user-friendly and easy method for teaching children to memorize Shakespeare.  I'm not kidding.  He begins by having a child memorize 1 line, then the next, until the child has mastered full passages from a play.  He walks the reader through time period, what the passages mean, and shares what is to be learned behind the passages.

Why memorize it?  Memory is the key to understanding.  When you can recall something with very little effort, then you can really delve into what it means.  We do this in our homeschool daily with memorizing many things.  Scripture being where we start.  Followed by character catch phrases... and so forth.

Now, what did I really think of this book?  Let me start by saying this.  We are (currently) Classical Homeschoolers.  We believe in the beauty of memorizing.  Lots of stuff.  Poetry being one of those things that we have worked on memorizing...  It did not cross my mind to memorize Shakespeare, but now that this book has been planted in my path I felt excitement with the prospect of introducing this into our homeschool day.  It is simple to implement and fun to use!

This would be a welcome addition to any homeschool shelf!
Learn more about the author, Ken Ludwig and purchase his book by visiting his website at:  
You can read an excerpt here.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

Stuck Together by Mary Connealy {Book Review}

Does this sound familiar?
I enjoyed Swept Away but I have to tell you:  In this story, Ruthie and Luke were not my biggest concern after we meet two other characters: Dare and Glynna.  I was a lot more concerned about what would happen to them than I was with Ruthie and Luke.  Hey, guess what?  Of course Mary Connealy leaves you hanging at the end!  LOL.  If you want to know what happens to Dare and Glynna, you will have to hold out (impatiently like me!) for Book 2.

Or how about this??
Fired Up is another fabulous, clean, romantic read from Mary Connealy that....YES...leaves you hanging at the end and makes you want to know what will happen to Tina & Vince?  And what about Jonas?  I think it is possible we will be seeing at another book or 2 coming in this series.  ;)

Well!  Guess what!  Here is book 3 from Mary Connealy's Trouble in Texas series!  And YES!  We get to find out what happens to Tina and Vince AND Jonas!  I'll give you a little bit of details, but just enough to get you interested in reading it for yourself.   Let me tell you about Stuck Together!

Remember Tina Cahill?  She spends most of her time picketing in front of the local saloon.  "Abandon all ye Hope, who enter Here" her sign reads...much to the consternation of those who just want to go in and have a drink.  Well, Vince, the local law man, sure gets frustrated by all the ruckus Tina continues to cause as she marches back and forth in front of the saloon with her picketing signs.  Daily.  From 1-3pm weather permitting.  At the beginning of the story Tina indirectly causes a brawl and she is lucky she doesn't end up locked up.   Well, as Tina & Vince keep having paths cross...(she is a trouble maker after all) they realize that they are pretty much the only 2 single people left in town.  Except for Tina's brother Jonas, a preacher.  It looks like they may be doomed to be "stuck together."

When Vince's estranged parents show up unannounced his father demands that Vince take care of his mother who has dementia.  Oh, and by the way, this is your sister, he adds.   Say what!?  Apparently Vince's father kept another woman for years and this young woman, Melissa, is Vince's half sister who has been caring for Vince's mother for several years.

What a mess.  Vince has a mother to care for who is very confused, a full grown sister (who Jonas notices is very lovely), and Tina...who causes trouble every time he turns around.

Ah!  I'm not going to tell you any more.  You should read book 3 from the Trouble in Texas series, Stuck Together.  It is fun and romantic.  Another clean read from Mary Connealy!

Disclaimer:  I received Stuck Together free of charge in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed here are my very own.

Monday, June 23, 2014

13 Articles of Faith!

Congrats to Kayley who signed off on memorizing 
all 13 Articles of Faith in Sunday School!  

Way to Go!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Discovery Center

I get pretty spoiled having my parents come to visit me the grandkids quite often.  Since they were here again pretty recently, and we needed something fun to do, we headed downtown to the discovery center to spend an afternoon...  If you haven't had a chance to visit I recommend it.  We had a great time and it is a lot of fun for all ages.  Here are several pictures from our visit!

Hurricane simulator...

Maggie laying on a bed of nails!

Generating electricity by running on the big "hamster wheel."

Talking through the whisper tube.

Water play, learning about currents and Archimedes screw.



Blowing huge soap bubbles.

Have a refreshing drink out of the toilet.

Kayley convinced Gramma to go into the science lab with her...



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