Wednesday, November 26, 2008

mom-blog-haters, prepare yourselves.

because what i have for you here will give you fodder for your feelings to grow. i present to you the contents of my washing machine today. from one load. (actually there were clothes, as well. and homemade soap. because i am amazing. even without a steam-dryer. and occasionally frugal. however, not so much organized and disciplined, because this was one of SIX loads of laundry done today. but i digress.)
one large lens of some type found by my son in a dumpster at an undisclosed urban location used for a recent family portrait sitting (dumpster diving is not stealing, right?) and because of location certainty, i can also ascertain that this pocket-treasure culprit is #1, who assisted me for this shoot. eight gold-plastic pirate coins, pocketed by an unknown, and un-confessing child. (unless daddy's getting desperate.) two silver ring thingies used most often to attach keys. used in this case, most likely, as a "someday-i-might-use-this-to-attach-a-tool-or-weapon-to-my-beltloop" pocket treasure. one perfectly shiny pebble. one small thank-God-it-was-here-and-not-in-one-year-old's-mouth grey lego piece. and one very small what-appears-to-be-ceramic-or-stone... muskrat?

boy do i love this little girl.

i cannot begin to tell you how amazing she is. so i'll just show you. lucky you.

look what my Papa made.




it's an ethan week.

because our big little brother lost his FIRST TOOTH yesterday! the tooth fairy hadn't made an appearance by either of his two middle of the night wake-up-and-check-and-then-visit-your-parents-to-tell-them-the-tooth-fairy-hasn't-come-yet trips. however, by sunrise, lo and behold, a DOLLAR!


do you know what he told daddy? he thinks the tooth fairy might be mommy (which it ISN'T, i promise!) because "she's tiny enough!" okay, give the boy two dollars. and a candy bar.

the wiggles.

my sweetie e. got to spend an afternoon "shakin his hips with wags" and groovin' along with the wiggles, compliments of our buddies the w. girls. oh, my, is he a lucky man, because in addition to the company of two beautiful young women of God and their cousins, etc..., they were chaperoned by momma w., who actually (sorry, girl, forgive me for letting out "our" secret) gets teary-eyed at their concerts like me! yes, that's right, the wiggles have a special place in her heart... in fact, i'm quite sure if they'd asked her to join the crew, she'd have left our kids for the rest of the family to care for in a heartbeat. thanks, girls!

soapmaking.

my friend b. is this amazing, quirky, thing who is super creative and earthy at the same time. she's as at home in a theology book with her kids as she is, well, just about anywhere else. i got to spend an evening making soap with her and boy, i tell you, it was an experience. talk about a rush for the senses. as much as i love to cook, this was almost as yummy.
lined up on the counter, her pharmacy of scents and oils.
okay, i'm a little nervous. she pulls out her tiny leather book of potions. complete with notes on past creations. how do i get these friends? truly, i'm awed.
shea butter and palm oil and coconut oil, and others... melding together in a pungent and beautiful medley (yes, i know i'm a goofball, but, oh, the heaven!)
don't we look so natural? she made me wear goggles and gloves (you use lye - this is dangerous business!) but her husband mercifully allowed us to remove them for the -ahem- "impromptu" photo op. i did not, however, want to remove the vintage apron i was allowed to borrow from her collection.
the end result? it's curing at her house. lucky dog. you should smell the stuff we created! if you're lucky, maybe we'll share...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

concerns with a site...

I am a little concerned with some reviews from some fellow TOS Crew members regarding some inappropriate language and evolutionary content on the Time4Learning site. I think it's important to let you know that in case you've read my review on the start of our "journey" with them! I'll be checking out the site more in-depth this week, and I'll keep you posted!!

Help Me 2 Teach

We use an amazing and wonderful collection of curriculae for our children, and most everything I "need" can be found within the pages of the books I've collected. Sometimes, though, I just want to add some fun exploring time to what we're doing. I may need some more sources for photographs of ancient artwork, or I may just want a fun worksheet for E. on the planet we've been studying. I can easily dive head-first into the world-wide-web and get lost for hours, digging for that elusive "perfect" site. Apparently I'm not the only one, because HELPME2TEACH.COM is a subscription-based site created by a teacher of 40-plus years which includes the results of her countless hours of ongoing research to find the best sites for parents and students from pre-k through high school.

Sites are marked according to appropriateness, accessibility, affordability (many are free or low-cost).

I'm a girl who goes for what is either very low-cost, or very worth my family's investment. At $29.95 for a year (and the current special provides a second year for free!), this site may well be worth the hours spent finding online resources "solo." At the least, it's worth the trial period offered by the site's owner - who knows what treasures lie in wait for the teacher digging to find them?!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Homeschool Library Builder

This site just makes me happy. I am a book lover, raising a house full of book lovers. They aren't happy with me if we're out too many days in a row and they don't get their "quiet time." (Last night the oldest two proudly hung a sheet over the lower of the triple bunks so they could stay up late and read while the other two brothers slept...) We use a very literature-based curriculum. But in a single-income home, it's sometimes frustrating not to be able to buy all the books we think we want to own.

Enter The Homeschool Library Builder, a neat company I discovered through my time with the TOS Crew! "Fill your bookshelves without emptying your wallet." That's the slogan, and they mean it. They're truly an online resource for homeschoolers desiring to add quality books to their collection, at a reasonable price.

"Your resource for literature-based homeschooling! We offer quality new and used living books at bargain prices -- selections recommended by your favorite curricula such as Five in a Row , Sonlight , Beautiful Feet , Veritas Press , Tapestry of Grace, Ambleside Online, and others." One of my favorite features on this site is their search options - they have specific search opportunities for some well-known literature-based curriculae. You can also search by age, price, and subject/category of books! (Check out their $1, $2, $3, and $5 bins! Book yumminess!)

They have an added feature of a savings bonus membership, which is free. When you join the HSLB savings program, "For each dollar you spend on merchandise at the Homeschool Library Builder, you earn a Book Point. Fifteen book points is equal to $1 in your account to use toward future purchases. The more you purchase, the more you earn!" Along with these features, they have a fundrasing and charitable giving program, as well as a wonderful general homeschooling resource section. (I just met a dad at the park today who is interested in homeschooling; this is a great place for me to "send" him!)

If you're a book lover, this is a great site to visit - but be ready to be smitten! Take it from a momma, this could be a great place to do a little always-appreciated Christmas shopping from the comfort of your own computer nook!

He is beautiful...

...in the life of this woman. I beg you, my mother-sisters, visit this link. Visit this blog - everyone. Her journey makes me ashamed of the ease of my life, and awed at the Grace of my Father to allow it. Turquoise Gates - Genevieve.

Monday, November 17, 2008

reading for fun....

We read TONS of great-quality literature in our home, from historical novels to classic children's literature, from devotional classics to in-depth Science studies. Sometimes, though, we just wanna have fun in our afternoon quiet reading time. I've been competing with Brian Jr. lately to be first to finish a great read from a company called Media Angels. Based in Ft. Myers, (our old stompin' grounds, sort of!) Media Angels "is a publishing company dedicated to serving the needs of Christian parents, students and teachers."

As part of our journey with TOS Crew, we received the book, The Missing Link, Found, co-written by homeschooler and mom team Christina and Felice Gerwitz.

The first in a series, this fun paperback mystery grabs your attention from page one. An added and really cool benefit is the collection of Creation Science facts that are tucked into the plot as the characters dive into their adventure!
With so much vying for our kids' attention that does NOT encourage the kind of character and family interaction we desire in our home, this book is filled with instances of respect-building within the family (sibling-to-sibling and child-to-parent); it's a refreshing opportunity for our kids. It's also filled with in-action instances of kids walking out their faith in Jesus!
This little book is a great "fun read," as well as a hidden little nugget of Science study - it may trigger some Creation Science exploration in your home... and it's got our gang clamoring for the next book in the series!

Rime to Read

Ethan and I had the chance last week to review a sweet little reading site called Rime to Read.

Visiting the site reminds me of my friend Tami, who always helps me remember the principal of keeping it simple. In our fast-paced world, even those of us who "stay at home" (ha!) for our schooling have resources abounding at our very fingertips. It's easy to overwhelm ourselves and our children with curriculum craziness.

Rime to Read is intentionally a very streamlined series of books available for you and your child to read, and print if you desire, from their site. As children learn "rimes," they are led through a series of stories that build their reading vocabulary. Nope, I didn't misspell - "rimes" are words that both sound, and look, alike... examples would be big, pig, wig, fig, or cat, bat, sat, and rat!

An added bonus is that key words are color-highlighted, and your reader can click on those words to hear them read aloud! (Ethan LOVED this feature - he had to click on each word, whether he "needed" to or not!)

Theoretically, we learn these groups or "families" of words, and as our knowledge expands, so does our ability to read!

I've had the privelege of communicating with Lynn of Rittenhouse Reading, who manages Rime to Read, and asked her a few preliminary questions. Here are her helpful answers!

"A child who already knows consonant sounds fairly well, can recognize both upper and lower case letters, and who expresses a desire to learn to read
is ready to begin using Rime to Read.
It is not necessary to use another program in conjunction with Rime to Read. If too many different approaches are being used simultaneously, it can get confusing. It is not a very long program, and when completed, children are ready to leap into more advanced readers. The wonderful thing about our program, is that it is a cumulative. Each books teaches a new “rime” or word family and new sight words while reviewing those taught in previous books. Short vowel sounds, sightwords and some consonant blends and digraphs are taught in the 20 books. The most common praise we here from parents is that the children feel so proud of themselves while working through the books. They were carefully designed for success. "

If you have a beginner in the "Three R's," and especially if you're longing to get back to the basics, Rime to Read is just the program for you!

fun with a camera.

this weekend was full of sessions... i had some serious fun with my trusty side-kick jr. now to get caught up on some serious editing! crazy antics to get a killer shot.
one of my two bestest assistants.
the fun and fabulous w. family.

the brave and very cool c/g families.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Time4Learning

This week we also began our journey with Time4Learning. This is an online subscription-based learning site where the kids can log in and complete educational activities in a game-type format. At first glance it looks to be a neat site... the kids are "placed" according to a simple preliminary parent-evaluation survey. As they progress, I'll be able to track their successes and spot areas that need more work. The "bigs" are excited for this "extra" opportunity for computer time. I especially anticipate it as a benefit for E, who always needs fun add-ons while the bigger ones go deeper.

Jesse Tree


I have just discovered the neatest opportunity to incorporate into our Christmas season this year. I'd been reading about the Jesse Tree in a homeschool forum, and thought it sounded like such a powerful way to remind ourselves of the true reasons Christians celebrate.
The Jesse Tree is a tree or branch that is decorated, one day at a time, with ornaments that represent the story and lineage of Jesus. Similar to the concept of the Advent Wreath (which, with its rich history, became our favorite Christmas tradition last year - thanks Amy S.!!), the Jesse Tree becomes a living reminder of the depth of our history as children of the King of Kings.
If you're local (and maybe even if you're not, my blog sisters! Email me and let's figure out how to make it happen!) I'd like to invite you to join my friend Brenda in a Jesse Tree Ornament Exchange and begin a powerful new Christmas Tradition. Visit her site 2008JesseTree.blogspot.com to learn more!

begging to multiply!

okay, i've gotta be honest - at 6th and 5th grade, my boys still - STILL - do not consistently know their times tables. i know i need to get to that, and it's slowing down our math progress, but it just hasn't happened! i mean well - we have flash cards, and every-so-often, we dig them out at dinner. perhaps it's because i had a "crisis" as a kid when i got spanked by the principal for not knowing mine on time, and then talking back to the teacher about it. eek!
flash forward to this last week, when we received a little bundle from trigger memory systems, as part of our journey with The Old Schoolhouse TOS Crew. they included some adorable chore flip charts and - lo and behold - Times Tales. Times Tales is an awesome system of line drawings and "picture stories" that teach kids their multiplication facts, almost without their knowing! the proof is in the pudding... at 11 and 10, brian and joshua are eating it up. at 8 and 5, anna and ethan are begging - BEGGING - to "do Times Tales" every evening.
after day 1, in which we spent about 1 hour reading through the first section and quickly learning the little stories, we pulled out flash cards (included, both with and without picture cues) at dinner with daddy. the kids floored him with how much they'd learned in one day. now, let me be direct and say, i won't go around telling people to spend their hard-earned, carefully-budgeted funds if i don't believe in something. but i am telling you, get this product! if you homeschool or not, if you have kids who will ever need to multiply, go to this site and order this product. may your precious ones be spared childhood multiplicatory trauma!
p.s. - yes, we are homeschoolers, and yes, it is 10:57 am, and yes, they are doing math in - or out of - their pj's!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

oh, Papa...

i want to trust you, i do! you give us reason after reason to praise you for your faithfulness. you truly hold us in the palm of your hand!
I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
so why, oh why, is it so hard to rest there?

why do i so easily forget your provision, your comfort, and your strength? why, when the world is as the world will be until you return, do i act surprised?
But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
my husband and i have often said, almost jokingly, that if our homeland became "unsafe" for our children, we would move to where we could raise them at peace. yet as our dear country careens on a path toward darkness and ever-increasingly-evil choices, i hear Him gently remind me that we know of countless young parents who have answered His call to take their children where it is "unsafe" in order to carry the message of God's love to his people worldwide. i know that He mourns with me as we choose leaders who will not honor Him with their decisions. i know that He calls me to honor them second to my obeying Him. and i know without doubt that He has called us to raise our precious children as sharpened arrows, prepared with wisdom, and knowledge, and strength, to fire His grace into the world around them. who knows where He will call us - and them? perhaps He says to dig deep and be as trees planted by still water - a source of strenth in a faltering land. but it will be His call we will heed. and God help us, it will be with the faith that He will strengthen our feeble arms for the task at hand.
Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

reading and chore charts and websites, oh my!

this week we're inundated with a veritable cornucopia of homeschool products to try as part of the TOS Crew... and we've been diving in to start checking them out!
first up this week, we've signed up the four "bigs" for our trial of Time For Learning. I'm super excited about this opportunity, as friends have recommended the subscription-based learning site as a great "extra" to our school repertoire.
We are also reading some excellent books from Salem Ridge Press and Media Angels, two companies I can't wait to tell you about. We've received some cool flip charts from Triggermemorysystem.com, as well as a Multiplication-Table learning tool I'd been dying to try. We'll be starting a new spelling program, and several other products are lined up and ready to go. Woohoo - it's gonna be a fun ride! (Be sure to click on the links for more information...)