Friday, December 30, 2016

Homeschool Goals for 2017

Homeschooling is pretty much my life right now. I have five kids ranging from 9th grade down to Preschool. I feel like my mind is running on "homeschool mode" constantly! It's a wonderful life to have, though. Here are my goals for the 2017 Homeschool Year.

  • Finish Bob Jones University with Mikaela and Eli. This curriculum has proven to be a challenge for them and for me! We have until the end of 2017 to finish the 9th and 7th grade courses, and there is no question in my mind that we will complete it. Before I ordered it, I made a promise to my husband that I would not switch or quit using it!
  • Teach Silas to read. Silas is 6 and 1/2, and he is still not reading. Sure, he can sound out some CVC words and recognize some sight words, but he cannot pick up a book and read yet. He has some speech issues which could be a hindrance.  I am not pressuring him, and we have been working steadily through the R.E.A.D. Curriculum. I am seeing some progress, but have decided to try Progressive Phonics with him. I've read so many great reviews about this FREE curriculum, so I printed off the first book for him to use. If he is reading by this time next year, I will be so happy.
  • Have a dedicated "Preschool Hour" each day. I plan to start having time with Titus each day one-on-one. An hour would be the perfect amount of time for us! I plan to read books to him, work on his school, and play games without any interruptions.
  • Have all of my kids on the same school year. I would love to have all of my children on the same "school year". We used to be, but lately things have gotten a little mixed up. I started Mikaela and Eli on their new school year the end of November. Mercie is almost finished with 3rd grade. I really feel she could move right into 4th grade curriculum with no problem, as it will begin with review and 3rd grade ends with review. If she could be finished with 4th grade by this time next year, when Mikaela and Eli are finishing. Silas is moving into mostly 1st grade work, and Titus has been doing preschool for a while now. Hopefully, the beginning of 2018, Mikaela will be in 10th, Eli in 8th, Mercie in 5th, Silas in 2nd and Titus in Kindergarten.
  • Read more. We get so busy sometimes that I don't read aloud to my kids like I used to. Sure, we read the Bible and I read to the little ones, but I miss taking the time to read a chapter book to everyone! If I could read 4 books to the kids by this time next year, I will have met my goal in my eyes.
  • Give each child a "Focus Day" each week. I have five kids and there are five days in a week. Perfect! Each child will have one day that is their "Focus Day". I will review their work with them, work on any problems, help with a project, and just devote most of my "homeschool mom" attention to them that day. Not that I will ignore the other kids, but I think it will help each one to know they have a special day where mom gives them more attention during school hours. The "Focus Day" will only be for school work and extra-curricular activities such as piano or karate.
What are your Homeschool Goals for 2017?

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The End of 2016

As this year draws to a close, I cannot help but marvel at how quickly it has gone by. So many things have happened and so many changes have been made this year!

I was on the Homeschool Review Crew this year, and it was such a blessing to our family. Together, my children and I tried lots of new curriculum, games, books and movies. We had fun experimenting with things we normally wouldn't have tried {like the Logic of English}, and I was happy to use some things I had been wanting to try {like Math U See}. I decided not to reapply for 2017 for several reasons, but I did get a spot on the Singles Review Crew. The Singles Review Crew differs from the Homeschool Review Crew in several ways - I don't have to post the review on my blog, for instance, and I can do as little or as many reviews as I want to. This will be a good balance for me.

My children, bless their hearts, have been such good sports as we have flip-flopped from one curriculum to the next. As Mikaela and Eli are getting older, though, I feel the need to have them stick with one curriculum. After many hours researching and reading review after review, I decided to order Bob Jones University Distance Learning for them. We are using the complete curriculum with the DVDs. Mikaela is in 9th grade, and Eli is in 7th grade. It has proven to be a challenge, but as we continue to use it, the kids are getting used to the workload, and I am seeing a real learning leap in both of them.

Mercie is in third grade, and she is doing great. She has been using Math for a Living Education and is halfway through with her book. We are working on multiplication, fractions, and telling time and temperature. She is also using Learning Language Arts Through Literature and is nearly finished with the book. I will be ordering the next level in this series, the orange book, soon. She is also working through Language Smarts, level E, which was a review item. We work several pages a week, and it gives her a variety of language arts skills to review and practice. She is using Abeka's science and history textbooks for third grade. We read a little in them each day, and she creates a Notebooking page or we do some other activity. She is working on her cursive and getting better each day. She loves to read, especially books by Beverly Cleary.

Silas is in kindergarten/first grade. He is still not reading on his own, but he can sound out CVC words and knows close to 20 sight words. We have been using R.E.A.D. by the Kindergarten Mom, but I think he is ready for a bit more reading practice. I printed out the first book by Progressive Phonics, along with the flashcards and activity pages. We will start this next week. He is also using Math Lessons for a Living Education, but I also got him The Complete Book of Math for Grades 1-2. He wants more math that MLFLE is giving him, so I'll let him work a page or two in this book each day along with his regular math. He works on handwriting daily, and we have been using Elemental Science's Intro to Science a few times a week.

Titus is my preschooler. We will be starting the Alphabetti books by Progressive Phonics next week, along with handwriting practice. He will have a hands-on math activity at least three times a week, as well as at least one math worksheet to complete.

We had a great holiday season, from Thanksgiving until now, almost New Year's. We took off two weeks of school for Christmas. My sister, Melissa, is home from London, where she is attending med school. My sister, Ashlie, is home from Florida, where her husband is working and they are living for now. We have had lots of good visits and have enjoyed each other's company!

Mikaela, Eli, Bryton, Mercie, Sawyer, Silas, Laylah, Titus and Liam
I don't usually make New Year's Resolutions, but I do think they are a good idea! Last year, I made the "goal" of reading my Bible every single day of 2016. I am happy to say that I only missed about 3 or 4 days - not bad out of 365! Here are my "goals" for 2017:
  • read my Bible every single day
  • spend at least 20 minutes a day praying for others
  • cook and eat healthier for my family
  • get more exercise as a family
  • spend less money
  • memorize large chunks of scripture
My goals are mostly spiritual, but spiritual growth is a priority in my life. Cooking and eating healthier should always be priority but it gets pushed to the back burner too often.
What are your New Year's Goals?

Friday, December 16, 2016

First Thoughts on Bob Jones Distance Learning

My oldest two children, Mikaela {14} and Eli {11} have been using Bob Jones distance learning {using DVDs} for several weeks now. Mikaela is in 9th grade, and Eli is 7th grade. They have completed 18 days using this curriculum. This is in no way a review of BJ; these are just my first thoughts on this curriculum for anyone interested!

My very first thought was "Oh my goodness, what have I done?", when the UPS man brought me four gigantic boxes of curriculum. I have never received so much curriculum at one time for two children. I was so overwhelmed, I didn't open the boxes for a few days!

Once I did unpack the boxes, I was very impressed, and still a little overwhelmed. The textbooks are so beautiful, colorful and thick. I enjoyed flipping through them, looking at the pictures and reading some of the information. For each subject, there is a textbook, a teacher's guide, a test booklet, and a tests answer booklet. Some subjects also have an activity book and teacher's guide. There were also the DVD's, which are packed in their own cases - some have nearly 20 DVD's per subject! I didn't know where on earth to put all of this stuff in our smallish house. We don't have a school room, and I didn't expect there to be so much!

I had to go to the store and buy 12 binders for the teacher's guides, which come 3-hole punched, loose in shrink wrap. I didn't like this part, and don't know why they don't bind them like they do the textbooks. Some binders had to be 2 and 1/2 inches for the papers to fit! So, on top of all the money I spent on this curriculum {nearly $2000}, I had to buy binders.

Once I got all of the papers and books organized, I was starting to feel a little better. It's still a lot of stuff, and my kids were very overwhelmed at first. We spent an entire day watching "orientation" videos, which helped us figure some things out, but took hours.

So far, there are things I really like about this curriculum, and there are things I'm not so sure about.

  • beautiful, colorful textbooks
  • interesting and engaging teachers
  • the DVD's are fun to watch {for the most part}
  • peace of mind for me - I don't have to worry about writing lesson plans or meeting grade level requirements
  • there are quizzes almost daily - this is a pro and a con - a pro because I like to see how much information the kids are retaining and they don't take long to do {except math}
  • the curriculum is very biblical based and the science is a young-earth mindset
  • the kids have to write essays and biographies
  • there are tons of fun projects to do in Eli's Life Science {making an insect collection, making a living organism scrapbook, etc}
  • long days - nearly 6 hours for each of them
  • the math is hard, very advanced, and there's a lot of math each day {it takes them over an hour to do math each day}
  • lots of writing and busy-work in some subjects {it can be overkill}
  • some teachers get long-winded {like Mr. Harmon!}
  • I have a lot of parent responsibility - grading quizzes, tests, and daily work and recording them
  • Mikaela's physical science has labs - this wouldn't be bad, but the equipment for the labs can get expensive! We are choosing to do half the labs and just watch the other half.
I am glad we are using Bob Jones, because I feel like it has been good for my kids so far. They are being challenged more than they ever have. The days are long, and a few days, I have let them split the day in half. They would complete 2-3 subjects on Monday, the other 2-3 subjects on Tuesday {completing one "day" in two}. The only bad thing about this is that we have a year to return the DVD's, so I want to complete the 180 days by next December.

These are my thoughts so far. I plan to do a detailed review of each subject for each grade after the new year, one a week. Have you used Bob Jones before? What are your thoughts?

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 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:
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:
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


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Why We Love Learning Language Arts Through Literature

This is our first year to use Learning Language Arts Through Literature, and I am so glad I took the chance on this curriculum! There are many negative reviews out there, and they almost kept me from trying it out. I wanted to put this good review out there for anyone who, like me, has been searching for reviews on LLATL without finding many good ones. This is my honest review, as I bought the curriculum myself for my children to use. No one is paying me to say this, no one asked me to review this, I just felt compelled because we are truly enjoying it and my children are thriving on it.

I have Mikaela, 8th grade, in the green book; Eli, 6th grade, in the tan book, and Mercie, 3rd grade, in the yellow book.

Learning Language Arts Through Literature is a language arts program that includes grammar instruction, spelling, punctuation, writing, and literature analysis all in one book. Here are the things we love about LLATL:
  • The lessons are short, but full of information, practice, and review. Mercie, my 3rd grader, can finish a lesson in less than 10 minutes a day. Eli takes about 15 minutes and Mikaela about 20 minutes each day. Obviously, some days are longer than others due to a writing assignment or something like that, but this is the average time it takes to complete a lesson {for my kids}. As we embrace many of Charlotte Mason's ideas about education {though not all of them}, this is definitely one of the things I agree with - short lessons are more effective.
  • The lessons include good literature. Each week, there is a copy-work {or dictation} passage for your child to write. These always come from a classic book or a well-known poem. I let all of my kids use this as copy-work {and handwriting practice}, even my 6th and 8th graders.
  • I don't have several different books for each aspect of language arts. This is important, as I have five children homeschooling. Each book contains my children's spelling, grammar, literature analysis, handwriting, and writing instruction. I don't have to worry that they will forget their spelling or their grammar lesson, as it's all in one book, one lesson, each day.
  • My older kids can do this independently. I do have to help, occasionally, and give spelling tests weekly, but the book is written to the student. They can read the lesson, understand the concepts, and work their problems out on their own.
  • I sit with Mercie while she completes each lesson, but as I stated before, it takes around ten minutes. I read from the Teacher's Guide, help her with her work, and then she's done. Quick and painless.
  • The lessons are the perfect balance in the younger years. Mercie, my 3rd grader, has the perfect balance of handwriting, spelling {6 words weekly}, and grammar instruction. Sprinkled throughout the book are lessons on looking up words in a dictionary, looking up listings in a phonebook, addressing envelopes, and putting words in alphabetical order.
  • There are enrichment portions of the lessons that get my kids thinking critically. Several times a week, there is an enrichment portion that has my kids categorizing things, problem solving, or working puzzles. I love this! It's something I would want them to do anyway, and since it's part of their lesson, I don't have to plan something.
  • There is plenty of diagramming practice in the older years. Diagramming is an important skill for dissecting parts of speech in sentences. I am glad this is included, and my daughter, Mikaela, has diagramming practice each week.
  • My kids have a great book list of literature to read throughout the year. There are 3-5 books your child will read throughout the program, and they are all classics! For example, in the 7th grade book, Mikaela will read "Adam and His Kin", "Much Ado About Nothing", and "Star of Light". Eli, who is working in the 6th grade book, will read "The Bronze Bow", "Carry On, Mr. Bowditch", "The Horse and His Boy", and "Big Red". And, Mercie, in the 3rd grade book, will read "The White Stallion", "Madeline", "Meet George Washington", and "The Courage of Sarah Noble". It's great to have these books already scheduled to read, although I do have them read more than this.
I really can't think of anything that I don't like about LLATL. At first, I was afraid it wasn't enough for my children. As time goes on, I can see how much they're learning! I am now very impressed with the short lessons, gentle grammar instruction, and living literature passages my children do each day. The price is pretty great, too. I ordered mine from Rainbow Resources, and they included all of the books that my kids would need for the year. I paid around $50 for the Teacher's Book, Student Workbook, and the books needed. That's not a bad price, considering you're getting a spelling program, literature program, writing program, grammar program, handwriting program, and poetry program all in one!

Learning Language Arts Through Literature Complete Package Tan | Main Photo (Cover)Learning Language Arts Through Literature Complete Package Yellow | Main Photo (Cover)
Learning Language Arts Through Literature Complete Package Green | Main Photo (Cover)

 If you're on the fence about buying LLATL, I suggest jumping right into it. It's a great program, especially if you know going in that there will be short lessons without a lot of busy work and that concepts kind of jump around a bit in the younger years {which is not a problem for us}. I am so glad that I went ahead and ordered this program. I plan to keep on using it with all of my children.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Weekly Recap

This week was pretty much like all of the other weeks we have had lately. Mercie, Eli, Silas and Titus did start Expedition Earth this week. You can read about our fun week in China here.

Mikaela has three units left in America the Beautiful. She is so ready to be finished with this program! It's a beautiful book, and she has enjoyed reading it, but she is ready for a change. We haven't decided what we're going to use next. I'm considering using North Star Geography with her, and maybe some historical fiction. We have also looked at Master Books World Geography. Decisions, decisions!

She is also nearly finished with Principals of Mathematics, Book One. She counted today and has about eight weeks left. She will be moving into Book Two of this same series, so no decisions to make there! She learned about measuring the area of irregular polygons this week.

She completed Lesson 23 {out of 34} in Learning Language Arts Through Literature. She is diagramming compound sentences among other things. She enjoys LLATL, and we plan to get the next book in this series as well. I love how it incorporates literature, grammar, and spelling in one book. The lessons aren't too long, either. She is reading "Adam and His Kin" for a book study, also.

We took a week off from writing and science this week. This mama was tired!

Eli is on chapter 6 in Principals of Mathematics. He is learning about dividing fractions and working some really tough word problems. Seriously tough. I had trouble with them!

He completed Unit 11 in America the Beautiful. He is enjoying all of the reading, mapping and timeline activities.

He also Lesson 20 in Learning Language Arts Through Literature. He is learning how to write an essay this week. I'm sure we will continue with this series when he is finished.

Mikaela and Eli both worked on Rosetta Stone Spanish this week. They have both logged in over 100 hours so far, which is amazing.

Mercie completed Lesson 20 in Learning Language Arts Through Literature. She is learning about subjects and predicates as well as quotation marks. I plan to keep using this series with her.

She finished chapter 9 in Math Lessons for a Living Education. She worked on rounding numbers, and reviewed addition and subtraction facts, clocks, and mental math. She loves this math book! It's so fun and quick.

She also worked in her Critical Thinking Language Smarts book. She learned about prefixes, which come very easily to her even though she's never worked on them before.

She read more in Charlotte's Web and worked on her book study. She read about spiders in the Christian Liberty Nature Reader. She finished reading about spiders, but loves these books so much, she went on to read about shellfish!

Silas worked on blends this week - bl, fl, and gl. We worked on his sight word flashcards, too. He had some fun "how to draw" pages to complete. He enjoyed these a lot!

In math, he learned about the numbers 0-50. We made numbers with our place value village, wrote the numbers down on the marker board, and he had copy-work each day in his math book. He is doing really well with recognizing and breaking down these numbers into tens and ones. We tried all of this last year, and he was just not ready for it. Amazing what difference a year can make.

Titus learned that C is for Commandments. He loves his worksheets from the Preschool Mom! He had fun with pattern blocks, play-dough mats, and alphabet stamps! We worked on putting the lowercase letters with the capital letters for A, B, and C.

We don't do much math with him yet, as he is only in preschool. We worked on the numbers 1-5 this week, which he can recognize already. We played a few games with numbers, like "Which is bigger?" I wrote the numbers 1-5 twice on index cards. We each get a set and mix them up. We turn over one card. The number that is bigger wins! The winner takes the two cards. Whoever has the  most at the end of the game wins. We also draw a card, take that many counters, and whoever gets the most wins.

We had a full week with karate, gymnastics, piano  lessons and church! How was your week?

Linking up with :

Homeschool Coffee Break

Friday, October 21, 2016

Expedition Earth: CHINA

Eli, Mercie, Silas and Titus have begun a journey around the earth. We started Expedition Earth {from Confessions of a Homeschooler} this week, and it has been so much fun! I have decided to add in missionary studies with each country - biographies, stories, and praying for missionaries. We began on the continent of Asia, and our first stop was China.

The kids were excited to receive their own passport, which included a picture of themselves. We added the China flag sticker, and I stamped it with a date stamp {which added an extra element of fun}. I forgot to take a picture of this, but you'll see it next week.

A visit to our library was very disappointing. There were no books on China available, except a Magic Tree House book which we already had. I got on Amazon and and purchased some great books on China! I don't mind adding to our living books library.

Here are the books we used this week:

{I bought these from Amazon. They are all wonderful, living books.}

{These two books came from I love both!}

{We had these two books already. Some of the countries we will study are in these books, some are not.}

{We also had these books. We will use these to look at one animal each week from each country.}

Here is a breakdown of our week:

Monday: We found China on our wall map and added a flag. I read some Fun Facts about China to the kids, and we completed a mapping activity in our student binder. We also read some missionary stories from "I Heard the Good News" from China.

Tuesday: We learned about China's flag and colored one in our student binder. I asked review questions from yesterday, surprised that they remembered so much. We read the book on Lottie Moon and talked about the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

Wednesday: We read about the Great Wall of China, and then we made one with Legos and one with wooden blocks. We also colored a picture of the Great Wall and label it as one of the 7 Wonders of the World.

Thursday: We read about panda bears and did a simple craft.

Friday: We read some more books on China and made a postcard. I laminated them and put them on a metal ring, so we make one each week and add to it. We reviewed everything we learned this week.

The kids also completed a puzzle of Asia each day this week. They really loved this puzzle, and I plan to buy each continent as we come to it.

We had a lot of fun this week "visiting" China. Next week, we're off to South Korea!