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 SummerFitLearning.com 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 me...my 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: http://www.howtoteachyourchildrenshakespeare.com.  
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...



Wednesday, June 18, 2014

2014-2015 Homeschool Curriculum Choices {Link Up!}

I have to admit that one of the things that appealed to me most about homeschooling was the ability to learn as a family by choosing the curriculum that would best fit our needs and keep us interested in learning every day.  In order to do this I have "test driven" a LOT of curriculum.  A lot of things I have loved, some we have not enjoyed and we have had to make changes.  But!  Isn't that great about homeschooling?  The flexibility we have to make those changes when something is not working.

Over the course of 3 years I have swung from School-in-the-box to a more Charlotte Mason approach to a Classical approach to an eclectic style of homeschooling...  I am still working to find a good fit for our family!  (But that is a blog posting in itself).

Thanks to Tristan at Our Busy Homeschool for the opportunity to link up what we are doing for our 2014-2015 school year!  So, without further ado, here is our lineup:

For Kayley:

Math is one of her favorite subjects and I pick carefully because I do not want to do anything that will ruin a love of any subject...  Math was always my worst subject and I hated it in school.  We have tried a couple of math options over the last 3 years including Kindergarten and First Grade BJU Math K5 and 1, then a switch to Singapore 1A through 2B in 1st and 2nd grade, with a sample of Math Mammoth.  We have come full circle and we just really like BJU Math and Kayley completed BJU Math 3 and is moving into BJU Math 4.

What we love about it?  It has a running story-line throughout that makes it a little bit more interesting that just a workbook.  

What we don't love:  The price.  Luckily teachers guides and tests/answer keys can be reused leaving us only purchasing a workbook if we recycle this program for Maggie.

Language Arts:
Language Arts is one of those subjects that we have tried on several different programs to find a good fit.  We are just not at the place where Kayley wants to do a lot of writing or can without melting down.  She is still very young even though she is academically advanced.  Now, I do ask her to do some, but it is not worth the frustration of asking her to do a lot.  We started with BJU English for 2nd grade and quickly burned out on the overkill of the writing.  So last year, based on a recommendation, I decided to try First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind.  I am already a big fan of Susan Wise Bauer and I was so thrilled that this was a good fit!  We backed up to the 1st grade book and started there since SWB's classical approach to learning required quite a bit of memorization and we didn't want to miss anything.  We completed it and about 1/3 of Level 2 last year.  We will be finishing up Level 2 this year and then we may dabble with Level 3 but I'm still undecided as we have found that we really like the "all in one" English like we have found in Rod & Staff.

What we love:  These books are done 90% orally...not a lot of writing required.  Poetry memorization is a big plus!  Books are completely reusable.

What we don't love:  Nothing!

Rod & Staff is something we have done a little bit of this year as we started Level 2 of First Language Lessons.  We have completed several chapters as a supplement and Kayley likes the bite-sized lessons and the fact that a large portion of the work is done orally.  The textbook look to them and the black and white pages were something that made me hesitate at first.  Seriously at initial glance they look very boring but Kayley finds them to be a good fit so far.  We will be starting Beginning Wisely, grade 3 this year.

What we love:  Bite sized lessons, much of which can be done orally, make English a snap.  It's inexpensive and other than the worksheet and test packets (which are super cheap too) it is all reusable.

What we don't love:  These are old-fashioned textbooks so anything you write, you write on a separate piece of paper.

For writing we used Level 2 of Writing With Ease (also a Susan Wise Bauer program) this past year.  It is very effective but does get very repetitive.  Kayley enjoyed it fine for the most part but by the middle of the book burned out.  It is a great program for learning how to summarize a passage that you have read but it is the same thing over and over and over.  We have decided to take a break from that this year by starting on Classical Academic Press's Writing & Rhetoric.  This looks like a fun break from Writing With Ease.

When we complete this program (which looks like it will take about 6 months) we will be moving into Institute for Excellence in Writing - Student Writing Intensive A.  We saw this program at our homeschool conference and we listed to a seminar on how this program works and we were sold on it.  We had already purchased Writing & Rhetoric before the conference and I really want to enjoy a relaxing writing semester before we start on IEW-SWIA so we will do first one, then the other.

For Spelling in the past we've done BJU, A Reason for Spelling, and Spelling Workout.  Kayley is a natural speller and doesn't require a lot of help in this area but it was important for me that she learn the rules so we have switched to a program called All About Spelling.  So far we have LOVED it.  Marie Rippel recommends that all kids start with Level 1 regardless of age so Kayley completed level 1 and 2 in about 2 months and we are currently in level 3 and will continue to level 4 when we are done.

What we love:  Very hands-on using magnetic letter tiles and a white board for the majority of activities.  I love the fact that it drills rules and requires mastery of rules before moving on.  It is very motivating too using charts and stickers.

What we don't love:  Those magnets and all the little cards can get kind of annoying sometimes, causing a distraction when they are supposed to be helping.

We used Memoria Press' Prima Latina last year and it was simple and effective.  We prefer to learn things that have jingles, chants, songs, memory sentences, etc so we are going to try out Classical Academic Press' Latin for Children A.  I have no idea if we will like it better (or if we will wish we had stuck with Memoria Press and just moved into Latina Christiana I).  Time will tell.

For Maggie

Kindergarten is so much fun!  Maggie will be completing the exact same program Kayley did for Kindergarten using BJU K5 Beginnings and Math.  This was such a fun program and I am excited for Maggie to enjoy it.  We will not be using the video based course as Kayley did ($$$) so I will be teaching it myself.  Luckily I still remember most of the fun songs and activities and I saved a LOT of the cut outs and such from Kayley's time through the program so it makes implementing it super easy.

I also have started Maggie several months ago in this book I used with Kayley called the Reading Lesson.  Similar in style to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and An Ordinary Parents Guide to Reading this book is step-by-step teaching your child the basic phonics of reading.  Instant gratification has your child reading simple stories almost immediately.  I'm pretty amazed at how quickly and easily this works.  Maggie is my 2nd child now I've taught to read using this program.

Family Style Learning
(Subjects where we all learn together)

Even though my kids are far apart in age (relatively speaking) and we are not a large family, I still like to try to combine subjects if humanely possible.  Maggie being a preK-Kinder is basically along for the ride in most things but I try to get as many picture books as I can that tell the same story.

For history we are using BiblioPlan Year 3. This will be our second year using BiblioPlan and I am pretty happy with it.  Honestly it broke my heart to move away from Sonlight but there was just no way to combine the girls in Cores so that sent me shopping last year to find an alternative.  I was torn between Tapestry of Grace and BiblioPlan but finally decided that BP is the way to go.

What we love:  Classical with a charlotte mason living books approach.  Very much Sonlight-ish only you can combine all ages.

What we don't love:  Some of the family readers are, well, just boring.  I just replace them with something else....

Previously we have used Jeannie Fulbrights Exploring Creation series for science completing (so far) Astronomy, Botany, and Flying Creature.  (We really love these!)  Just for fun we decided to just try a different approach to science this year and give Dr. Jay Wiles Science in the Beginning a try.  It looks very hands on and it is recommended for Kindergarten and up so Maggie can tag along and at least watch the experiments.

Fine Arts
This is the worst at our house.  I really want to do better at getting art in on a more regular basis.  To do this I thought we would experiment this year with a Home Art Studio DVD.  I went ahead and bought the Kindergarten level which will work for both girls...  (check out some free videos here!)

We also learn about a lot of artists and composers through our history program as well so we do that as we go plus a good friend of mine recently started a homeschool co-op, called Legacy Academy, where we have had several opportunities to do art with them as well.

I think that is about it!  Thanks for the link up Tristan!
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