Tuesday, November 29, 2016

We've Been Busy

I haven't blogged in a few weeks, and it's been a nice break! We have been really busy lately. I'll try to recap our past few weeks in a few paragraphs...

Silas and Eli were in their first karate tournament a few weeks ago. We traveled to Shreveport, which is about 3 hours from our house. My mom went with us, and we stayed in a hotel for two nights. My mom's mom lives in Shreveport, as does her sister and brother and their families. We got to visit with them, which was nice! We also went to Sci-Port, a huge science museum, and the Boardwalk, where the three little ones got to build a stuffed animal at Build-a-Bear. Silas brought home two medals and Eli brought home a third and second place trophy! I was so proud of them for entering.
{All of the boys who participated in the tournament from our dojo}

{The boys and their trophies and medals}
 
We started a new "school year" for Mikaela and Eli. They started the 7th and 9th grade! Wow! We are going a very, very different route for them this time. I ordered the Bob Jones University Distance Learning {DVD} full-grade kits for them! It has been an adjustment - their days went from 3 hours to 5 or 6 hours long. The workload is much heavier, but, honestly, it's what they needed! They start around 8 or 8:30 and have been finished before 2:00 each day. The challenge has been good for them. I have quite a bit of grading and work-checking to do, but it's a relief not to worry about what curriculum to use, what projects to do, and if I am teaching them the right way! They each have five subjects. Mikaela has Algebra 1, Physical Science, Cultural Geography, Writing and Grammar, and Bible. Halfway through the year, Writing and Grammar will turn in Literature. Eli has Fundamentals of Math, Life Science, World Studies, Bible, and Writing and Grammar {which will also turn into Literature halfway through}. The DVD's are anywhere from 15-30 minutes a day, with 10-30 minutes of work afterward. The teachers on the DVD's are great and make the kids laugh quite a bit.  They each have a portable DVD player with a 14 inch screen to watch their videos on {with earbuds}.
{Eli watching Mrs. Vick, his grammar and life science teacher}

I also decided not to rejoin the Homeschool Review Crew next year. With Mikaela and Eli using the DVDs, it would be too much for them to add anything to their day. I also will enjoy freedom on my blog to blog when I want to! The Crew was great, and I had a lot of fun, but it was for the best to say my farewells for now.

Mercie has been using Abeka history and science for a week or so. I only ordered the student books for her. She reads a little each day aloud, we talk about it and answer the questions orally. She has been doing well with her cursive since I created her own cursive book. Being left-handed is quite a challenge sometimes, especially when copying work. Her hand would cover what she was supposed to be copying, and she would get so frustrated. I took a cheap handwriting tablet  and wrote her words to copy on the right side of the page, so she can see them as she writes them. She has improved so much and has started writing everything in cursive {which is great!} She's been learning multiplication in math and is still using Learning Language Arts Through Literature. She has shown a deeper interest in reading lately, which is amazing. She reads for 20 minutes a day {required by me}, but I often find her reading beyond that time. She has about ten weeks left of 3rd grade, which mainly means I'll just buy her a 4th grade language arts and math book when it's time.

Silas is still using R.E.A.D. curriculum from the Kindergarten Mom. He is reading many word families and 15 or so sight words. He completes several lessons a day in math. He can count to 100 without much help, can count by 10's, and can recognize numbers from 1-99 pretty easily. He loves addition and will often get the dice out just to roll them and add them together! His handwriting is really improving, and he has been working in an interactive language arts journal twice a week.

Titus is using the Bible ABC curriculum from the Preschool Mom, and has learned A-G so far. We are going to take a week off next week to review these letters. He can recognize the numbers 1-6 and can count to ten without help. He can easily count items and can recognize the numbers on the dice by sight {we play a lot of Yahtzee!} I found some preschool math workbooks in my storage building this week, so I plan to up his math lessons to ten minutes a day instead of five. He will also be using a handwriting book soon. I have the All About Reading pre-reading level ready for him to use as soon as he finishes this ABC curriculum.

We started using Elemental Science's Intro to Science with Silas and Titus. We learned about solids and liquids last week. We melted broken crayons in muffin tins and made cookie crayons! We felt ice as it melted and talked about things that freeze and things that melt.
{The kids coloring with their cookie crayons!}

Eli killed his first deer this week! He was so excited. We have so much deer meat in our deep freezers, plus we butchered a cow, so we have hundreds of packages of fresh burger, roasts, and steaks.

{Eli with the traditional bloody face from his first deer}

{Rod and Eli after he killed the doe}
 
Mikaela turned 14 on the 23rd of November. My mom, Mercie, Mikaela and I went to the mall for some shopping, and then we had a cake on Thanksgiving at my mom's house.
{Mikaela on the left, and her best friend on the right, taking selfies on the way to church}

How have you been?

Monday, November 14, 2016

Commissioned {TOS Review}

My kids and I love to play board games! I jumped at the chance to review "Commissioned" from Chara Games. Chara Games produces entertaining board games and card games with a Christian theme for teenagers and adults.
"Commissioned" is a cooperative-style board game for 2-6 players. It is historically-based - the games covers the first 150 years of church history. The game is played in rounds: Arm, Live, and Mature. Each player will choose an apostle to play as: Paul, Peter, Barnabas, Andrew, Thomas and John. The goal of the game is to grow the church, collect books of the New Testament and overcome trials and persecution. There are 5 scenarios to play with, 2 difficulty levels, and a 1-versus-all variation to the game.

When I first opened the game box, I was shocked at how many pieces were included and used in each game! Here is what is included in the game box:
  • 1 double-sided game board
  • 5 double-sided scenario cards
  • 6 unique player boards
  • 96 faith cards
  • 27 trial cards
  • 4 wooden "Missionary Meeples"
  • 75 wooden church member cubes
  • 1 wooden elder's staff
  • 6 wooden player pawns {they match the player boards}
  • 30 double-sided "stop" tokens
  • 5 double-sided "extinguished" tokens
  • 1 "Converted City" leader's token
  • 1 Roman Legion token
  • 1 8-sided die
  • 1 rule book
  • 1 theme appendix
Whew! Quite a bit of components! I immediately read through the 12-page rule book and was thoroughly confused. I read it aloud to my kids and tried to play a mock game while reading the rules, but I could tell I was doing something wrong. I went to the Chara Games website and watched the "Official How to Play" video, which helped immensely! It was a 24 minute video, but I highly suggest watching it first so you don't get discouraged.

I'm not going to go over all of the rules because not only would it take a long time, but it's really hard to explain all of the steps to the game. I will give a basic overview of how to play and how to win "Commissioned".

The first thing to do is choose a "scenario" card. First time players should choose the "Acts of the Apostles" card, as it is the easiest scenario to play with. The scenario card will tell you which side of the game board you will be playing on and where to place the pieces.
Next, you will choose an apostle to play as {each player chooses one}. You will receive the matching apostle playing board, pawn, and six Faith cards.

Then you will set the board up with the correct cards, tokens, and other pieces. Select an elder to start the game, and begin!

There are many different rules and parts to this game. The basic phases are Arm, Live and Mature. The first player takes the Elder Staff and begins the phases. I'll briefly explain these below.

ARM: You will draw six faith cards to use.

LIVE: There are 5 parts to this phase.
  1. Trials: you will draw a trial card and follow the instructions
  2. Pray: you place two faith cards face down on your apostle board, and then roll the die for further instructions
  3. Share: turn your faith cards over, and the elder chooses two cards to use in this phase
  4. Move: you will choose two moves - fellowship moves or mission moves
  5. Grow: you will add church members to each church that has three or more population
MATURE: After completing the Live phase the required amount of times, you will use the 2 Faith cards left in your hands to purchase more Faith cards. The Faith cards have a value of 1, 2, 3, or 4.

You will then pass the Elder Staff to the next player, and repeat the phases. You  play until the scenario card "victory conditions" are met {meaning you win the game}, 5 churches are extinguished, or the last Trial card is drawn. If the "victory conditions" are not met, or the churches are extinguished, you lose the game.

I played "Commissioned" with my 11-year old son, Eli. Eli loves board games, so I knew he would have a blast with this one. We watched the "how-to" video together so we could talk about the rules while we played. At first, we kind of fumbled our way through the phases. It didn't take long before we were playing confidently! We may have gotten a few things mixed up or wrong, but we had a good time together. It took us almost an hour, but we did complete the "victory conditions", therefore winning the game!

This game is a lot of fun, but I wouldn't play with a child younger than 10 as the rules are confusing and the game is long. Chara Games also has a new card game called "Three Seeds", which is a 30-45 minute, 2-4 player, light-strategic game. I'm sure it will be fantastic just like "Commissioned".

See what the other Crew members had to say about "Commissioned".

Commissioned {Chara Games}

Monday, November 7, 2016

Critical Thinking Language Smarts {TOS Review}


The Critical Thinking Co.™ is a well-known company among homeschoolers. They have so many products to offer, such as "Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic Before Kindergarten!™" , Reading Detective, Mind Benders, Editor-in-Chief, and Mathematical Reasoning. For this review, I was sent a paperback copy of Language Smarts, Level E. 

Language Smarts can be used a full curriculum or a supplemental resource. Language Smarts teaches reading, writing, grammar, punctuation, vocabulary and critical thinking skills. This workbook is huge - 400 pages! There are so many topics included in this workbook that I can't list them all. I will, however, list the main topics in the table of contents:
  • Syllables
  • Word Parts {prefixes, suffixes, roots}
  • Word Relationships {synonyms, antonyms, anagrams, analogies and more}
  • Spelling
  • Editor in Chief
  • Reference Materials {using a dictionary, thesaurus, encyclopedia}
  • Writing Detective
  • Parts of Speech
  • Sentences {compound subjects and predicates, compound sentences, clauses and more}
  • Punctuation
  • Using Words Correctly {homophones, frequently misspelled words}
  • Reading and Writing {context clues, similes, metaphors, idioms, proverbs, genres of literature and more}
  • Writing {personal narratives, opinion writing, informative writing}
That may not look like much, but trust me - the Table of Contents is 3 pages long! There are even more subtopics than I listed.  I just wanted to give you an idea of the variety and depth of this workbook! There is also an answer key in the back of the book, which I had to look at a few times!

Level E is recommended for the 4th grade. Mercie is in 3rd grade, but I felt like this would be a good challenge for her. I was right! She loves this workbook, even though some of it has been a little difficult for her. We work about 1-2 pages per day in this workbook together.

The first few lessons were on syllables, which may sound simple, but there are many different activities the child will do. Not only did she have to count the syllables in words, she had to write new words with a certain number of syllables, learn where to divide words with dashes into syllables, and accent syllables. Some of this stretched her mind quite a bit!

Next, we worked on prefixes. She had to read clues, find the word in the word box, and write it down. Then, she had to find the words in a word search! She had to write new words for different prefixes {such as un-, pre-, mis-, and re-} and make sentences with the words. There were even pages with scrambled words and prefixes she had to unscramble - and that was hard! Right now, we are working
through the suffixes pages. These are much like the prefixes pages.

I am really looking forward to using this book with Mercie for the rest of the year, and even into next year! It is such a big book that it could take us two full years to use it all. She uses Language Smarts as a supplement to her regular language arts program, but it could absolutely stand alone as a full curriculum.

The quality of this workbook is outstanding. The pages are nice and thick, with a good-sized font that is very readable. There is plenty of room to write her answers on the lines provided. The puzzles are fun, although some are pretty hard - I had to look at the answer key on some of them.

I am very pleased with Language Smarts, Level E and The Critical Thinking Co.™. I have been looking through their website and finding so many items I would love to order! They have some software downloads for Windows computers that I am going to get for my two youngest - Alphabet, Letter Sounds, Vowels, and Fun Phonics.

See more reviews from the Crew by clicking the banner below!
Language Arts {The Critical Thinking Co.™}
 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Homeschool Legacy {TOS Review}

We haven't used many unit studies in our homeschool, so I jumped at the chance to review a Micro-Study from Homeschool Legacy. We chose to review "Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims" since Thanksgiving is coming soon!

Once-a-Week Studies {Homeschool Legacy}
What is a Micro-Study?

These Grab-N-Go Micro Studies are to be completed in three, thirty-minute increments a week, but you may finish it all in one day or spread it out however you see fit. The Most of the studies are 4 weeks long, but this one is 6 weeks, and are recommended for grades 1-8. The regular Unit Studies are recommended for grades 2-12. There are recommended books for your family to read aloud during the six weeks, but no weekly library list of books or weekly devotions like the regular Unit Studies do.

How did we use "Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims?"

I received "Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims" in a digital format. I downloaded the file and printed out the 18 pages of material. There was about 3 pages of information, suggested videos and activities and discussion questions for each week. The weeks are titled as follows:

  • Week 1: The Scrooby Separatists
  • Week 2: The Voyage
  • Week 3: At Home in Plymouth
  • Week 4: Happy Thanksgiving
  • Week 5: The Puritans
  • Week 6: Merry Christmas
There are three suggested Family Read-Aloud Books for this study. I choose one for our family to read: "If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620" by Ann McGovern. I also purchased two more books that I knew would go along with what we would be studying.

We have completed three weeks of the six weeks in this study so far. The first week, we read about the religious persecution the Puritans and Separatists faced in England. We talked about how easy it is for people in America to change churches or denominations, but in England it was illegal to go to any church except the state church. We read about our First Amendment rights and thanked God for our religious freedom. We also talked about how important it is to pray for our country to continue to provide us with freedom of religion and how so many people in other countries don't have this privilege.

The second week, we read about the 66 day voyage the Pilgrims made to America. We read the book "If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620". The kids never realized how difficult the voyage was! Yet, only one person died on the trip over! We also read the Mayflower Compact and learned where and why it was written. The study suggested watching a portion of Kirk Cameron's documentary "Monumental". I found it for $5, so I bought the DVD. We watched it several times and learned so much more about the Pilgrims than I ever knew.

The third week, we learned how miserable the first winter was in Plymouth. Half of the Pilgrims died, and only four women remained. We also read about Squanto and how he helped to save the Pilgrims. I  bought a book titled "Squanto" which had so much information in it! The kids loved it, and I always love to learn new things, as well. One of the recommended activities was to make and play a typical Pilgrim's children game. We did a quick search and discovered that the Pilgrim children played many games similar to the ones we play - hand-made checkers, hide-and-seek, and leapfrog are just few.


I am excited to finish the three weeks left in this study! We are enjoying it very much. I love the discussion questions, the video links, and the recipe and game suggestions. Homeschool Legacy offers many different Micro Studies:

Pirates or Privateers: You Decide

Cooking up History with the Founding Presidents

Victoria and Her World

Many Nations


Once-a-Week Studies {Homeschool Legacy}

Monday, October 31, 2016

Mess Free Painting!

I reviewed Kwik Stix earlier this year; remember - the mess free paint sticks that my kids loved! Kwik Stix sent me two more packages to try out - the metallic and neon paint sticks, both a six pack. The kids were so excited to try them out!

Kwik Stix are basically paint sticks. They are about the same size and shape as a glue stick and work in the same way. You pop the cap off, twist, and paint! The paint dries in less than 90 seconds - seriously! You don't need water or brushes and they don't make a mess. Kwik Stix work on paper, cardboard, wood, and canvas.

Silas had a blast painting with the Kwik Stix, and he made sure to use every color on his pages! We also used these with our schoolwork. Instead of dot markers, Silas used Kwik Stix to color his word family pages.

When my kids ask to paint, I can say "yes" more quickly now! There is zero mess and virtually no clean up required. Anytime they have accidently gotten Kwik Stix on the counter or table, it washes right off.

Kwik Stix will make a great gift for any child this holiday season - simply buy a nice sketch pad and a 6-pack or 12-pack of Kwik Stix. Kwik Stix are available at Target.com and in Target stores. Get yours today!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Weekly Recap

This week, the kids and I took a field trip to Wal*Mart to fill our shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child! If you've never heard of this ministry, you can read all about it here. Basically, you take a plastic shoebox and fill it with items - toothbrushes, washcloths, deodorant, hairbrushes, small toys, notebooks, pens and crayons, and stuffed animals. The boxes are given to needy children overseas.

We did six boxes - a boy and girl box for ages 2-4, 5-9 and 10-14 {all of the gender and age groups}. My kids look forward to this every year, and so do I! The Collection Week is November 14-21 this year, so you still have plenty of time to fill a shoebox if you want to!

While we were in Wal*Mart, Mercie found a really nice analog watch that she used her own money to buy. She has been asking for an analog watch like mine for a few weeks now. She has learned to tell time in math, and she loves it! She is getting better and quicker at telling time on her watch, and she has worn it everyday since she bought it. If your child is having trouble with learning to tell time, I recommend getting them an analog watch. Mercie has had the best time with it {pun not intended!}.

Eli and Silas ranked up again in karate. Eli is now an advanced orange belt, and Silas is an advanced yellow belt. They have a karate tournament in Shreveport next weekend, so my mom, the kids and I are going to go spend Thursday through Saturday night over there. My grandmother and aunt and uncle live there, and it will be nice to visit with them. It's been a long time!

Mikaela is doing really well with piano, and I'm so glad she is taking lessons! Mercie is loving gymnastics, too. All of these activities mean some running around throughout the week, but I am glad that my kids can be involved in extracurricular activities.

Titus learned the letter D this week and the numbers 1-6. We played some fun games with dice {I have the dice with the digits on them} and counting bears.

Silas learned the -an word family and the sight words "see", "it" and "at". He can count to 50 without  much help, recognize any number 0-50, and count by 10's to 100. His handwriting keeps improving, which makes me happy.

Mercie finished reading "Charlotte's Web", and I bought her the movie. She watched it today and loved it, although she almost cried when Charlotte died. She knew it was going to happen, but it was still emotional for her when it did! She learned how to add and subtract money this week in math. She also learned the three different sounds that "ed" makes at the end of words - "d", "t", and "ed".

We went to South Korea in Expedition Earth this week, but I will make that a separate post next week!

How was your week?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

CrossTimber {TOS Review}

Normally, my reviews are homeschool related - curriculum, books, movies, or games. Every now and then, I get to review a product that is not for the children, but for me. This is one of those times, and I'm really excited to share this review with you!
CrossTimber makes and sells unique name-meaning gifts - anything from bookmarks to coffee mugs to framed prints. I received one Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse. I also ordered {with my own money} a coffee mug with my husband's name on it for his birthday, which was October 20.

I contacted John through their website with questions about our family's name meanings. He answered me right away, and immediately I was impressed with how thorough and beautiful the meanings of our names were. I always knew that my name, Megan, meant "A Pearl", and most name cards just say "Megan - A Pearl". Here is the full meaning of my name from CrossTimber:
Pearl, Precious before God:
One of Mighty Victory
Malachi 3:16
"A book of remembrance was written before Him for those who feared the LORD and thought upon his name.  And they shall be mine in that day when I make up my jewels and I will spare them like they were my own son."
 
I knew right away that I wanted to order name gifts for each member of my family! My husband's birthday was coming up, so I ordered him a coffee mug. He is an avid hunter, so I had a deer picture put on the mug, along with his name meaning:
Rodrick
Rich in Glory; Powerful Leader
Devoted: One of Humility Before God
Micah 6:8
"He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"
 
 
He loved his gift! It seemed much more personal than a new shirt or pair of boots. I am very impressed with the quality of the coffee mug. It is a heavy mug, the printed portion is dishwasher safe and very brightly colored. Also included was a bookmark with his name and one with our family name. The picture cannot do it justice. It's absolutely beautiful. I plan to buy several of these for gifts this holiday season.
 
The name plaque I received was also beautiful. The quality is wonderful, the 5x7 frame is so pretty with the background I chose. I decided to have our last name on this plaque:
Russell
Fair Countenance:
One who uses Power Wisely
"Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning: for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee." Psalm 143:8
 

 
Ordering from CrossTimber was easy. After I knew our name meanings, I could choose from hundreds of different background designs. This actually wasn't easy - I had a difficult time deciding which beautiful theme to use! There are designs of flowers, scenic landscapes, animals, and more! I chose a simple background for our family name. If you're ordering a framed print, there are several different frame options.
John from CrossTimber is a pleasure to work with. He responds immediately through the chat option on his website, and is always so willing to give you the name meaning or respond to a question you have. The shipping was fast, and the products were wrapped in bubble wrap to prevent any breaking during delivery. I was very pleased with my order through CrossTimber!
 
CrossTimber offers discounts, as well:
I plan to take full advantage of these discounts when ordering my holiday gifts this year! This is the perfect gift idea for that person in your life who already has everything or is difficult to buy for.
 
Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse {CrossTimber} Reviews