Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Almost Wordless Wednesday

I took Terrific T out for Korean food the other night. I love it but no one else really does, so he got drug along. He was determined to eat everything with his chopsticks. And he did!


I couldn't figure out how to get these off my little phone so I took a picture of the phone. HAHA! 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Friday Family Fun

A client asked me to do pictures of them in Branson this week. They were going to put our family up in a condo for a few days for coming there for the pictures instead of them coming down here. It was perfect timing since it is Spring Break this week...but the weather ended up being yucky so we had to postpone it for a few weeks. Big Daddy had already taken off work so we wanted to do something fun. He got to take the kids to art on Thursday and hang out with Captain C for 2 hours while they painted. I got caught up on a bunch of work while they were gone - yay. I just love their canvases they made!

We rented a Redbox movie and made s'mores that night and called it a successful, relaxing day.

Then Friday morning we got up and headed to OKC to the Outlet Mall. I had no idea there was a Naartjie store just 2 hours from me! Sweet! We had a good time and everyone got a few new things. Then Terrific T wanted to go to Penn Square Mall to the Lego store. I have never seen a mall so busy...maybe this is why we don't go to the mall. It took us 10 minutes of driving up and down every aisle to find even one empty space. But it was worth is as he mentioned it as a highlight of this day. They each made a new person and we headed on our way.

After that, we swung into Sonic for some happy hour throw the kids off our trail (and to save a buck or twenty). They were surprised when we showed up at Pops a little while later. They love to go there and look at all the cool sodas.

They ended up buying Chocolate Covered Bacon Soda (C), Swamp Juice (T), and Parrot Punch (P) - yummy. ;)

We always see the Round Barn when we are going to Pops but have never stopped. This time we did. It was a quick stop but cool to do a little tour. C's favorite part was the outhouse, of course.

THEN...yes, it was a loooong day...we decided to brave the 40* weather and go to the drive in movies. We haven't been in years and I don't think the kids have ever been. We made dinner and bought some snacks (OK..."some" is an understatement...we looked like we were taking a weekend trip) and loaded up the van with blankets and pillows. We didn't even get out of the car because it was pretty cool, but we had a blast. After the first movie, Princess P climbed into the back seat and played on the ipad for about 10 minutes before falling sound asleep. I climbed into the middle seat and let C sit upfront for the second movie and enjoyed some snuggle time with my middle child. Loved every minute of it!

It was a great day all around. I love spending time with my family.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Captain C spent the night with a friend last night so isn't in these pics - oops. The rest of us got all greened up before church today and took a few pics of our St. Patrick's Day attire. Now to find something green for dinner. It is tradition to make whatever we eat 100% green on St. Pat's Day...yum!

Were you?

Review: Touch Math

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I used Touch Math, a multisensory approach to math, when I taught Special Ed years ago and it really clicked with a lot of my kids, so I was excited to get the chance to review it and use it with Princess P. We received all four units of the 2nd Grade Homeschool Program to use, as well as their amazing manipulatives. The kids flipped when they saw the big box of manipulatives they sent us for this review. Touch Math was SO generous to send us all the manipulates for 2nd grade. This post is going to be loooong as there is so much to cover. Grab a drink and keep reading...

The first thing they did when the box arrived, while I was reading the pdfs we received, was punch out all the touch dots on the Touch Numerals ($99) and play with those. The Touch Numerals are a wonderful tool for teaching the touch points and how to use them, base ten (the dots have cool holders that hold TEN dots each), and great hands on problem solving. They looked at the Student Number Cards ($24/10 sets) and matched up the dots on the Touch Numerals right away. Since they are older (T had to join in the fun with P on this - love when learning tools look fun so kids will think it is a game!), they picked up on the touch points really quickly. If you are starting with younger kids, you will have to spend some time teaching the correct locations and how they work - it teaches it in the curriculum too so don't stress and just let them play for a bit. Through "playing", P got comfortable with the locations of the dots and was ready to begin the lessons.  I can't wait to use these when she learns multiplication!

If you check out the webpage for the 2nd Grade Homeschool Curriculum (each of the units are $59.95 or $199.95 if you buy them all at once.), you can see that there are 4 units in each grade. They come as downloadable files in pdf format. They are HUGE files, at least to 200 pages each! - there is a lot of info there. I saved them all to, which I use to save everything so I can access it from all our computers or my ipad, then started at the beginning and read through the Implementation Guide. Read this. It explains the philosophy behind the program and  how to use everything. Trust me and read this! I didn't print all this out and just read it on the computer to save paper and ink. Then I went through each unit and chose the module (lessons) to start with. If we had received this at the first of the year, I would have just started at the beginning, but she has already covered some of the things so I wanted to get to new things to see how it teaches them. 
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I chose Unit C to start with first, printed and 3 hole punched it, and put it in a folder. Each lesson has Instructional Strategies to use while teaching and then a small copy of the worksheet with answers to follow along with the student. Touch Math suggests you do Math for 2 1/2 times as many minutes as your child's age. Princess P is 8 so we "should" do it for about 20 minutes a day. I like this suggestion, instead of "do 2 pages a day." We used it as a guideline but she really liked doing it so we usually did at least 30 minutes a day. 

Before we started, I let P help me put the TouchPoint Posters ($43)  and Skip Counting Posters (came with a CD for $79 that has printables of the posters so you could work on them more) on a display board. If you use a specific room for school, you could put them in the school room. Although we have a school room, we tend to move around where we do school (in front of the fire, at the table, in the bedroom, outside, etc, etc, etc) so I put them on here so we could move them around with us. We put the Touch Points on one side and Skip Counting on the other and they fit great. We put one of the Desktop TouchLines ($19/24) in her folder so she could use it each day too. The TouchLines and Student Number Cards come in large packs for classrooms so you could split those with a friend. They are great resources to keep close when doing their math since they show where all the points go on each number. The more you can cement that in, the better. We only used one set of the cards and one number line so far. You do use them for all the grades so if you are starting this in prek, you might want the whole pack for yourself so you can replace them when they get yucky.

We started with adding and subtracting multiples of 10 and 100. This was new to her and even with the touch points, she just wasn't quite getting it. Then I pulled out the Math Fans ($239) and YES! it started making sense. These are fantastic, durable manipulatives that were a great change from the normal base 10 blocks we use in other curriculum. These made it click! They are probably my favorite part of this review. :) They not only teach normal base 10 concepts, they also have shapes and fractions so we will continue to use these for many other lessons. Once she could SEE what it looked like to add 10 to a number, or 20, 30, or 60...she could do the problems and they made sense. WooHoo!

Once we started with the Math Fans, we had to have more. We spent at least an hour that day going through the 80 page PDF that came on a CD with these. We did ALL the pages in that kit over the next few days before going back to the normal lessons. I love homeschooling and that you can follow a rabbit trail sometimes if you just want to. ;) It made math fun and made P want to do Touch it was worth it!

We started back on our module after that and haven't looked back. We have now gone through more than 3 modules of Unit C and will definitely continue to use this until we finish it. There isn't a lot of time spent with you talking and the kids listening, you just get right to it. I like that in the "teacher's guide" there are real life applications for math all through it and we love the "Did you know?" random facts that were included. P likes doing worksheets too so this was great for her. They weren't the same everyday, which kept her liking them - lol. They mixed things up with HOW they asked the same things, if that makes sense. This is much more appealing than just a list of problems day after day. Anytime she got stuck on something, we would pull out our trusty Math Fans again and "show" her how to do it.

Another thing we really enjoyed were the FlipCards ($19 each set). Again, Touch Math was so generous and sent us all 12 sets for 2nd grade to review. P enjoyed doing this on her own. They are nice laminated-feeling cards that she could write answers on with a dry erase marker if she was doing them alone, or we could do them orally together. Some of them have the answers on the back (in the question on the back... ie.commutative law...nice review for that!) and some didn't. I would have preferred if all of them clearly had the answer on the backs so she could check them herself. Some of them, like the ones pictures, you couldn't put an answer on as she was comparing numbers with greater than, less than, or equals signs. She would just do a few and I could check them. There are FlipCards for so many different topics that I'm excited to get to - money, measurement, shapes, skip counting, adding, subtracting, etc. It was fun to have this extra too to help her learn. And again, it was fun!

Last, but not least, we were given the Touch Math Tutor Second Grade Software to review. This was nice because P could do it totally on her own. She didn't enjoy it as much as the hands on things, but that was just her preference. I can see where kids would like it a lot. It was great to have just one more way to solidify these facts and concepts.

I could go on and on (yes, even more than I did) about this curriculum. Almost all of these manipulatives are used for several years so you would only have to purchase them once. And you can pick and chose which ones you think would work for your kiddos. If they don't like computer software, skip that...don't like flash cards, pass on those. You don't have to have all the manipulatives to make this a great program. Really. It was a HUGE blessing for them to send us everything to try and I am so thankful, but don't let all of the "extras" scare you away from just getting the basic program. That is the meat and potatoes of it all and you could certainly get JUST that and have a very successful math program for your kids. I also love that none of the products are consumable - we can use them for years and pass them on to others when we are done. Hopefully we will have some foster kiddos here to be blessed by them too! I can't wait to start on multiplication using the Touch Math system. Now that she knows where the touch points are, she can skip count them to find her answer. Love it!
This is a wonderful curriculum for teaching math to elementary and special needs kids. At this time, they only offer Prek, K, 1st, 2nd...or for special needs. When I taught 1-4th Special Ed in public schools and we used this and it worked great with many of my kiddos. I love a company that acknowledges that everyone doesn't learn the same - and tries to find a way to help people learn who learn differently. The tactile, visual, auditory is all mixed together in Touch Math and it really works.

One totally free side note - all those pages to print can be intimating. Several yeas ago...maybe 8...I bought a  Samsung ML 1740 black laser printer. Best purchase ever! I get ink on amazon that is generic but compatible for less than $20 for about 5000 pages! It is so cheap to print like this - all homeschooling families need a good printer. Find one, then you won't blink when things like this come up with 100 pages to print at a time. I have a nice color printer too, but rarely use it because this is so cheap. For this program, I printed each module as we went - teacher's guide and activity sheets. You could JUST print the activity sheets and read the instructional guide online to save on ink/paper if you don't have a fab printer like this ;)

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Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Review: ARTistic Pursuits

As I have mentioned before, T and P take art classes each week and are loving them. All three kids are very gifted in art and really enjoy it, but with C's Challenge classes, he didn't have time to take the class this year. So when ARTistic Pursuits came up for review, I was all over it! They have curriculum for preschool through highschool; we were blessed to be able to review their brand new, third edition Middle School 6-8 Book One: The Elements of Art and Composition. which sells for $47.95.

The first page of the book lays out the units and also gives a supplies list. (click on that link to see that page!) We had all the supplies for the first semester already because of previous art classes. They are simple supplies, that most homeschooling families should have already, which is great so you aren't spending a fortune to get started. If you don't have the supplies or want to go collect them yourself, you can purchase a complete supplies kit on their site too. Cool!

Each unit is divided into 4 lessons and they suggest you do 2 lessons a week. They said that each lesson should take about an hour. For us the time varied. C did most of the lessons in 30 minutes. If you were a slower or hesitant artist, they could take longer. The thing I love about this book, is they can do it all on their own! There is no teacher's book. All the lessons are written TO the kids and they do the activities at the end of each lesson. So, if he wanted to take 2 hours on a piece, he could. We did this after school was done so it was just his free time he was using. LOL.

We found the teaching to be easy to understand - like I mentioned, it is written to the student, not the teacher. C could read through the lesson and do the activity all on his own. It really gave him good, quality art lessons too. I loved that they discussed actual artists and showed real art in the book.  Each unit has a section about an artist and different cultures and how art plays into those cultures. I liked that it wasn't just a step by step guide...they had a chance to be creative too.

For example:

In lesson 1 - the first day they taught about space and he did an activity with his name taking up different amounts of space on a page. He had fun with this and did it with our names too.

In the second lesson, he replicated this painting to learn about space on the page. They taught how space tells a story.

The next day, he practiced sketching and had more freedom in what he drew. He sketched his 3DS that day.

Then the last day of the unit, they do their final project. This time, it was drawing about a story called The Blind Men and the Elephant that was written in his book. He made his final project look like it was a game show called "Guess that Object" - lol. His elephant is surrounded by blind men guessing parts of the elephant. 

I like that he had freedom to make the final projects his own. That kept him from hating it - he doesn't like to be told exactly what to do. This gave him enough wiggle room to make them his own, but still taught him what he needed to know...if that makes sense. Each week went the same as the example. They show all of Unit 3 on their website. Check it out and try it before you buy it. I think you will love it!

During the week, we did art on Tuesday and Thursday, one lesson each day, so one unit took two weeks. Some weeks, we combined two lessons into one day and got through more - it just depended on how "into" it he was that day and how long the assignment took.

The entire book focuses on drawing and composition.  They learn about shapes and textures, balance and perspective and everything in between. It is a very well rounded art education. The second book in the series adds in color. I'm looking forward to that one too!

There are 64 lessons in the book, so if you do 2 a week, it will last your full year of school. So, while $50 seems high for "just a book," it is a great price for a years worth of fantastic art lessons! C is enjoying it a lot, so I think we can finish up this book this spring and summer and be ready to start the color one in the fall, when he starts 8th grade (what?!?). I really like this company and highly recommend them to people wanting an art curriculum for home that isn't crazy complicated and requiring crazy amounts of supplies. This is perfect for what we wanted for him.

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Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Got Sleep?

I think a week of too much fun, mixed with some sinus congestion wore little T right out. He came home from art yesterday and I told him to lay down for 30 minutes because I could tell he was pooped. He said he didn't need to, so I laid in there too and said we will just both rest for a few minutes. He said he wasn't tired. But 2 minutes later, was snoring like a grown man.

Big Daddy came home an hour and a half later and we figured we needed to wake the little sleeper up. So we opened the curtains and started talking normal (not whispering). He didn't budge. We started tickling him and pushing on him a little. Nothing. He hates we started kissing on him. At this point we double checked that he was breathing! Phew!

So, we did what all good parents would do. We grabed the camera.


He was out! We brought in P and C to kiss on him too...he SO hates being kissed that we were totally taking advantage of his slumber. He pushed P away...yay...progress. Then went right back to this:

We finally left him alone to his dreams. After his 3 hour nap, he woke up, ate dinner, watched Duck Dynasty with us, then went back to bed for 12 hours! He just woke up this morning. He was one sleepy boy!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Who is your hero?

T and P take art classes on Thursday. The lady that leads it is an amazingly talented artist and loves the Lord, which shows in everything she does. Their theme of the class this semester is "Heroes of the Bible." Each week, they have studied a hero and their piece reflected that hero. The first week was a self-portrait since they are made in God's image and He is the great artist. It was a great start to the year.

Today, they were to choose their favorite hero from the Bible and could choose their medium too. P had a new box of pastels that were calling her name, so she used that for this project and T used colored pencils.

I loved how they turned out! They love this class. P did her presentation last week on it and said, "I like how my teacher tells us a Bible story and prays to start each class." I'm so thankful that we have found quality art lessons with a Biblical twist.


Who would you choose for your Bible hero? They are doing Jesus next week. :)

Review: Lone Star Learning

If you haven't heard of Lone Star Learning, you are missing out. I was blessed to be able to review their Target Vocabulary Picture cards for math and they are so cool! Each card has a word related to math on it, and it is drawn or arranged to show the meaning of the word. They are intended for grades 3-8, but I had P using them too and think really they can help anyone. Even adults can benefit from these picture triggers.

Aren't they cool? We received set 1, in the small 5.5″ x 4.25″ size. These were great fun for us and so bright and colorful that we loved "playing" with them. It is awesome when you can learn while playing! We chose a word a day...or sometimes a couple of them if they went together, like right, acute, and obtuse angles....then discussed them and reviewed them at lunch. I just left them out on the table all the time. After about two weeks, we had gone through enough of them that they started using them like flash cards and drilling each other. Thankfully, there was a sheet of definitions included in the package so I knew how to describe the pictures to the kids. :)

Here is P, practicing with the new words for the day. They have already memorized how to find the area of different shapes and circumference of a circle in CC, so this just puts a picture with that peg. Love it!

The math cards sell for $29.99 and include the following words (copied from site):

acute angle
complementary angles
equilateral triangle
greater than
intersecting lines
isosceles triangle
less than
line segment
obtuse angle
ordered pair
right angle
supplementary angles
X axis
Y axis

The company actually made a mistake and sent me set 1 of the Science Vocabulary Picture cards first, but promptly sent out the correct math cards AND let me keep the science too! Awesome customer service!! There are 40 cards in the set and they are 5.5″ x 8.5″ in size. They are the same as the math cards - bright and coated for durability and full of possibilities for learning. It was a fun bonus to get these too. Many of the words are in our CC science lists we are memorizing so it was nice to put a picture with those words.


The science cards sell for $29.99 and include (copied from site): 

fibrous root
load – fulcrum
inclined plane

I think these are both fantastic products for visual learners, which my kiddos are!  Lone Star Learning has several other sets of math and science cards, as well as Latin/Greek root cards, which I want to get next. I liked that there were a lot of words they have learned in CC in there - since they are familiar with those "big" words, they could then attach a picture to it in their brains which will help them remember them forever. The price might seem a little high for "flashcards", but when you consider that all of your kids can use them, for years, it isn't so tough to swallow. ;)

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Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Shovel and an Ax

I was 20 weeks pregnant when I found out Captain C was going to be a boy. I was in shock. I had two sisters and zero brothers growing up. What in the world was I going to do with a boy? Once I met him, I was 100% in love and confident that I could figure it out.

Then came Terrific T, who just so happened to be....another boy. I was getting the hang of the boy thing now. Bring it on, God!

Then...2 years later...we were expecting our third bundle of joy. We figured it was going to be another boy, but weren't quite ready to hear that at 20 weeks pregnant. We decided we would wait until we saw his sweet face to hear those magic words, "It's a boy!" Imagine the surprise when they said, "It's a GIRL!" the day Princess P was born.

And she is all girl. Painted fingernails. Pink, pink, pink clothes. Drama, drama, drama. 100% girl.

And yet...she has two big brothers.

I love that she is girly, but not always. This weekend, she was so excited because she found a huge worm (not snake huge, thankfully, just huge for a worm) and carried it to the back glass door to show it off as it dangled from her little fingers. So not my girl!

So today, when she comes in looking for an ax and a shovel, I told her where to find them and didn't think a thing of it.

I went out back and this is what is going on:

C is destroying the Halloween pumpkin...yes, finally. It became a Santa pumpkin for a month or so, then sat on the back porch waiting for a day like today. You can see the cotton balls still glued to him for his beard and hair.  T is videoing the whole thing so they can make a stop-motion film of it. He dug a hole first so they could bury the remains. Phew.

I look over and P is busy with her "restaurant" she is running. She got the supplies for the boys, then went back to making mud pies. 

I love this crew God gave me. He knew just what I needed when he picked each of them to be mine! I am thankful we are able to homeschool and be together all the time. Some days are tough. I'm not gonna lie. Big Daddy gets "YOUR kids are insane" emails frequently. But I wouldn't have it any other way. I love these little crazy kiddos!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Review: College Common Sense


My kiddos are 7th grade, 4th grade, and 2nd grade. That seems way too early to be thinking about college, right? But I know it will be here before I know it and College Common Sense wants to help parents prepare, and not be caught off guard with the ridiculous high costs of college, which will be here before we know it. I was given Going to College and Paying for it Online Video and Workbook to review, and honestly, was completely unsure about how this would relate to my kids at their ages, but excited about hearing the information.

denise amesDenise C. Ames is a Financial Aid Consultant, who is passionate about helping young people find money for college. When I first heard we were going to review this, I signed up for her free lesson plans and free newsletter. I wanted to start checking it out and seeing what I was getting into. ;) There is a wealth of valuable information in these and on her blog that she offers totally free. I was very impressed already and looking forward to getting the subscription to check it out too. Along with the Going to College and Paying for it Online Video and Workbook which is $25 for a 12 month subscription, she also offers the Going to College and Paying for it DVD and Workbook which is $50 + $5 shipping.

The series is divided into 6 videos that are roughly 20 minutes each, and include an accompanying PDF workbook. The topics are:

1 - The Big Picture
2 - How Financial Aid Works
3 - All About the Free Money
4 -  The System that Works
5 - You in the Process
6 - Pull it all Together

Your subscription gives you access to all of these for the whole year. 

There is a short intro document that lays out the program and has instructions for completeing the activities. She suggests that you get a scholorship binder and a spiral to do your assignments in. She divides the assignments into different groups:

A. Parents of students of elementary school age
B. Parents AND students of middle school age
C. Parents and students of high school age
D. Parents and students of college age 

Since my kids are younger (A and early B), I decided to watch the videos first on my own, then have them do the assignments that applied to them. Like anything though, when the kids hear sound, any sound, coming from the computer, they all come trickling in to see what they are missing - lol. The videos are simple with Ms. Ames speaking, though she does put some of the information she is discussing on the screen too. The kids didn't last long - haha! I ended up listening to each of them on my own.They weren't very exciting for kids. ;)

The video covers all the info in the workbooks, but she adds on to explain it all and help it make more sense. I highly recommend following along in the workbooks and making notes as you go. I printed them out and put them in the front of our binder. Video 4 describes how to set up a binder to use for tracking the scholorships, etc. This is something that I will continue to build over the years since they are so young now. I also added in loose leaf paper to act as the "spiral" she mentions so we could keep it all together and not lose anything.

Now for my opinion - these videos are full of fantastic information. She says the program is for elementary age children on up. Honestly, think it is more for parents of elementary age on up ;) Even C, in 7th grade, has no idea what he wants his major to be or what college he wants to attend.  I had a very hard time getting any of the three to do the activities. It was more ME doing them for them. We completed the All About Me page together, as described in the All About Free Money Video, but again, it was mostly me doing the "work." I do think that it is good information for all parents to hear. I like how she encourages you to find your child's strengths - never too young to start looking for those!

I think if you have children 9th grade or up, you should make them sit with you and watch it and do the activities. They are definitely thinking more about what they want to be and where they want to go to school  at that age and will have more input for you.

Listening to these brought back a lot of memories from when I was preparing for college. I had no idea what I was doing, and my parents didn't either. I wonder how much money we let slip through our fingers! She mentioned that there are over 40,000 scholarships out there, waiting to be taken! I had no idea. The more I listened, the more excited I got. It is almost like a game to try to acquire money for college! Maybe finding "free money" will help take some of the sting out of the kids heading to college.

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Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.