Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Encouragement in strange places

I do not generally make a habit of reading the introduction to textbooks, but that just might change.

As we cracked out the Algebra 2 book I wanted to check that the book covered trigonometry concepts as well, so I took a glance through the chapters, the table of contents, and the introduction.

What I found there prompted an interesting discussion with my son Blake. He has often asked about the purpose of Algebra, and we give a few (very few) real life situations that have required us to put our knowledge of the subject to use. And, aside from that we tell him that just about any college degree in math or science will require algebra and then calculus.

Let's just say, he hasn't been too swayed by our reasoning. He has a great math mind, but does not particularly enjoy the subject of algebra.

Well, in the intro to Saxon Algebra 2 we found some great reasons that I hope will encourage him a bit more. The writer said that even he did not particularly like Algebra! How's that for one who wrote the book? However, he is so grateful that he took it because of the doors it opened. He had to have it to get into the engineering program in college which he had to have to become a test pilot for the Air Force (if you would like to read more of his bio, you can find it on the Saxon site).

He went on to say that you need to take advantage of every opportunity to learn because you never know when you might need something. And, at the moment of opportunity you will not find time to cram in the knowledge needed just then. This truth has such great application to all academic areas. Whether a subject they love or love to hate, our kids can tackle them with motivation of what the future may hold. Both core subjects and extra-curriculars fall under this encouragement.

We cannot know now what we might need to know in our future, but if we neglect opportunities now, we could miss opportunities later.

Of course, we tied this into our Christian walk as well. Neither Blake nor I can know at this point where his life journey will lead. We don't know how God plans to use him in the next year let alone the next 60 years! We both want him to move through life without regrets over having missed some learning opportunity which could limit his impact for Christ.

God can even use algebra, even just the introduction to algebra.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Dandelion study

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Barb over at Handbook of Nature Study often inspires me to take the time to breathe in nature with my kids, but I don't often blog about our experiences. I set the goal at the start of this year to get out each Friday for nature study, and have probably made it about half of the time.

This past Friday was one of those times. And, we really enjoyed a study of something we often get sick of seeing this time of year -- dandelions. We take for granted these annoying weeds and forget all they have to teach us.

To get started, check out the full description of the challenge for the week -- Dandelions, and her great introductory to getting started on nature study using outdoor hour challenges with your kids.

As we headed outdoors for the late morning we found many different specimens of dandelions to observe. (In other words, our yard is full of them!)

We found dandelions still closed, in bloom, closed while the flowers die, and reopened with seeds in full display, and empty as all the seeds had taken flight.

We read through the pages in the Handbook and enjoyed learning and discussing these tidbits:

- The name comes from "Dentes-de-lion" which means Lion's Teeth in french. Which made a lot of sense when you look at the jagged points on the leaves.

- The ground was dry, so we had a difficult time observing the roots, but found some helpful graphics on this site about the common dandelion.

- We brought out a container of water to make some dandelion curls:

- Many people find dandelion greens edible, especially before they flower -- none of my kids wanted to test that theory.

- We found some exceptionally tall ones in the undisturbed meadow nearby. The ones in the lawn that face repeated mowing rarely reach a few inches in height, but the others were a foot high or more.

- This site tries to convince you that dandelions are good for your lawn, but I doubt most homeowners would believe that, or at least their neighbors wouldn't go along with it. (One of the benefits of living in the middle of no where, I suppose. It doesn't really matter how many dandelions decide to take up residence around us).

We enjoyed spending a good bit of time looking at this common flower and learning about its look feel, purpose, and unique traits. I had no idea there would be so much to discover about a flower I thought I had known well all my life.

And, of course, we had to ask, "Do you like butter?"

To read about or share more outdoor hour experiences, head over to the Handbook of Nature Study blog.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Verse of the Week -- Psalm 78:1-8

Homeschooling is just a part of the picture in our house. We have decided that in order to properly mentor our children in their spiritual lives we needed it to be part of the picture.

But, I still need reminders now and then about why I do what I do day in and day out.

I recently started reading a book recommended by other homeschool moms called When You Rise Up, by R.C. Sproul Jr., another book I had to track down through Inter-Library Loan.

Near the beginning of the book he quotes from Psalm 78 that has great implications for us as parents:

1Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

2I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old:

3Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.

4We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.

5For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children:

6That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children:

7That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments:

8And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God.

The rest of Psalm 78 is definitely worth a read, as a powerful reminder of a miraculous intervening God, and a forgetful unfaithful people. I don't want to be numbered among those that forget. I don't want my children to forget.

As a parent I need to retain a multi-generational vision for obedience to Christ. The eternal destination of generations to come rests on this. I need to set my heart right, stay steadily on God's path, live a life of worship and praise.

As always God can accomplish this with or without me, but my responsibility is to faithfully follow, as I bear some responsibility for my kids, and their kids, and the generations that follow.

4We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.

6That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children:

7That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandment

~Psalm 78:4,6-7~

Friday, April 23, 2010

TOS Crew Review -- Lesson Planet

Ideas and inspiration. Always looking for some of that, right? Lesson Planet is one website that tries to offer just that. They have lesson plans, worksheets, and ideas to fill your academic calendar.

Product: Lesson Planet
Details: Lesson Planet offers over 225,000 lesson plans to help educators find classroom tested and rated ideas for various topics of study.
Price: $39.95 per year after a free 10 day trial period.

What we loved . . .
  • LOTS of ideas. Just about any topic you find yourself studying, you can find corresponding lesson plans on the Lesson Planet site. When searching for ideas on fossils recently it came up with 1700 related plans.
  • Good search options. When searching, aside from the place to type in the subject you need ideas for, you can also search by grade level and the rating level that other users have given the specific lesson plan. You can also browse based on subject if you would prefer (art and music, health and nutrition, math, Language Arts, geography, science, education, social studies, and research resources).
  • Worksheets. If you just want a worksheet to print off to go along with your study, you can search specifically for those as well. These include puzzles and fun activities as well as fill in the blank worksheets that review or introduce the material being covered. (note that these do not always have answer keys included, so be sure to check as you browse these).
  • A thinking site. I like that the site helps you find what you are looking for. It lists your recent searches in case you want to look back at something again. It also provides a list of related searches, and a list of words to use if you would like to narrow your search further.
  • Calendar based ideas. The site also offers a calendar with significant historical events listed. If you ever lacking for something to do on a given day, you can see what happened on that day in history and pull up lots of activities to go along with it.

Some considerations . . .

  • Various worldviews represented. This is not a Christian site. When I searched the word "Christian" it came up with four worksheets -- one about the Easter bunny, one about Christmas, one about St. Patrick's Day, and the last a vocabulary matching page that referenced Christianity. Many of the lesson plans that I viewed on various topics were not ones I would find helpful because they do not come from a Biblical worldview.
  • Very formal. Some might definitely see this as a positive as the lesson plans are organized and often contain clear objectives, assignments, and instructions. We have a bit of a laid back style, and I don't need all of that to have a productive learning time. I felt like I had to sift through the technical jargon in some to get to the real lesson.
  • Mostly built for classes. While most activities can be adapted for in-home use, many are group projects, or contain what seems to me as busy work that is more needed in a large classroom. You can still definitely glean ideas, information, and resources, but for the most part, it is not designed for use within a homeschool environment.
  • Not much easier than google. Although it does bring up lots of relevant lesson plans, I didn't necessarily find it any easier or better than just doing a google search for the same topic.

I could see this site being quite helpful to a regular classroom teacher. Or, I could see it being useful if you want to put together your own curriculum with your own topics in a formal way, but not have to actually compile lesson plans and ideas yourself. A co-op teacher might find these types of plans helpful to flesh out their weekly classroom time. For me, I didn't find it very helpful to our homeschool format. Lots of information, but not a lot that looked like it would fit in our situation, and not a lot that lined up with my teaching methodology or my Christian foundational principles.

For more TOS Crew reviews on this product, check out the TOS Crew blog.

Disclaimer: This web membership was provided to me free of charge through Lesson Planet as part of my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. I received no additional compensation and the opinions expressed here come from my personal experiences and sincere thoughts.

Weekly wrap up - April 23

Time to get creative . . .

As the bookmarks move further and further toward the back of each school book, my kids' enthusiasm for completing the book builds, and they actually pick up speed. Because of this, my daughters both took their final English tests and we have stowed away Rod & Staff's third and fifth grade texts until the next child should need them.

So, next week I will have a little extra time to finish off 7th grade English with my son, and then we will all spend some extra time reading, reviewing parts of speech (which all of them can use), and then hopefully break out the IEW videos that were my "must have" item that sat neglected most of the year.

Within the next week or so Blake should wrap up Jacob's Algebra, Paige should polish off Saxon 7/6, and Brooke will finish first grade math with Abeka. Faith already jumped into fourth grade a month or so ago, so she's just at the beginning of a new "year" in math.

As far as other subjects . . .

History: We finished week 12 of MOH 3 and the kids had fun building pueblos out of cardstock. Paige (10) really got into this and built a whole house for her toys that grows by the day.

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Science: We worked through Module 7 of Apologia's General Science. I will post a more thorough summary of that next week as we really enjoyed "digging" in to fossils and other related topics. Here is a little sneak peak into our fossil creations:

We enjoyed a nature study on dandelions, which also deserves a post of its own, hopefully coming next week:

We had LOTS of samples for this nature study. Definitely no shortage of dandelions within walking distance of our back door.

Bible: I had a gift certificate to use at a small company and found this book we have really enjoyed for Bible time, Big Truths for Young Hearts. Each reading is filled with Scripture and a verse to memorize if you so choose and lots of sound, meaty information on specific doctrines. We discussed various attributes of God and now are digging into the Trinity. All the kids listen well and it has really given some great opportunity for my older kids to articulate their faith and ask pointed questions.

Bruchko is our current missionary biography, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. My daughter's only complaint is that he doesn't know how to end a chapter (because we can't finish one without having a strong urge to toss the rest of our schedule for the day and dive into the next one, and the next one, and the next). Some of the events are a little intense for young ears (flying spears, serious illness, infected legs, etc.), but once they are old enough to digest that, this is a wonderful book about God's leading and provision and a young man's determination to follow Him in reaching this never before contacted tribe in South America.

Other reading . . .
- We just finished Lad, a Dog, which met with mixed reviews in our family. It has some cute parts, but ran a bit long in my mind. Most of us were pretty well ready to put it away by the time it was over.

- We are also listening to The Bronze Bow and enjoying the characters and events. This story takes place during the time of Jesus and shares about a young pre-teenage boy as he struggles with the hated Roman occupation that took the lives of his parents, while unable to shake the impression left on him by this carpenter-preacher that he met through a friend.

In addition to that, we wrapped up our Keepers at Home club last week, with ballet and AWANA winding down soon, just in time for baseball season to take over.

My kids have amazed me at what they learn and grab on to. We have accomplished so much this school year, with just a few weeks to go now, and they have each learned and grown in ways I never expected. They don't always get excited about what I think they will, but they do continue to develop a love of learning in their own time and around their own interests.

How was your week? Be sure to see how others have wrapped up their weeks as well.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


I think this is the longest unintentional blogging break I have taken since starting this blog a couple years ago. Sorry for the silence.

Thank you for checking in on me. It is nice to be missed. Nothing too unusual, just pregnancy finally really wearing me down. My energy levels took a serious nose dive last weekend and haven't really recovered.

I did have a good doctor's appointment this afternoon that confirmed that my body is indeed starting to prepare itself for birth, but I still don't expect to meet this baby for another four weeks. I have never gone "early" no matter how much I felt like I couldn't make it another day.

As much as I love blogging, when I need to cut something, it is one of the first things to go. So, homeschooling is getting done, Bible time is intact, we are eating three times a day, and we have clean clothes to put on each morning. But, aside from that I've been trimming the fat from my schedule.

That said, I do have a number of half written posts that I hope to get up in the next couple days . . . a review of a great speech product, some of our work on fossils, and maybe a weekly wrap up.

Whether I do much or not, life grows on.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

TOS Crew Review -- Time4Learning

Preschool is such a great age. The kids are sponges soaking up all the material, knowledge, and experiences that come within their circle.

Because I want to encourage their enthusiasm for learning, I was excited to try out this product from Time4Learning. My kids had a blast in the process, too.

: Time4Learning
Details: Time4Learning offers a web based program for kids in Pre-kindergarten through 8th grade. It can be used to supplement learning or as a basis for teaching Language Arts and math. Their website also offers a parent forum and some lesson plans.
Price: $19.95 per month for the first child and $14.95 per month for each additional child

What we loved . . .
  • Fun, fun, fun. The website is crammed full of games and fun learning activities to keep the kids learning, laughing, and coming back for more. My four and six year old both played on this occasionally and both loved it.
  • Lots of age appropriate learning. Whether your child is reading or still learning, they can learn plenty through the activities that are easy for a computer-savvy four year old to navigate independently. My son had no problem getting where he wanted to go and find lots of great activities to fill his allotted time on the site.
  • Reports. You can review what your child spent time on that day and how much they seemed to comprehend what they interacted with. At this age I prefer to sit with them to see what they are actually doing, but it is nice to have a bit of a record of what they have done and the progress they have made.
  • Great time filler. This program is great to keep my kids busy while I work with other kids or when we face a busy day and need something still academic to occupy their time. The kids can easily jump on by themselves and enjoy and learn

Some considerations . . .

  • Lots of just games. While many of the activities have a strong academic focus, some of them are just plain fun, and my son often camped out on those. I don't think he really learned much by filling in the on-screen coloring page all black, but for some reason he kept returning to repeat that task. ;) Either way, he did have fun, and he did spend some time in the areas that involved more thought.
  • Pricey. As much as we loved this program, I could not see subscribing on a long term basis as the price is a bit much. Each month would cost me $35 for my two little ones and while I think it is great, I don't think it is worth that much more than some of the other free online academic sites out there.
  • Easy to overuse. As with all computer programs, this needs to be used in moderation. The kids would easily sit for a while, eyes glazing over as they listen and click away. I'm sure they are learning something, but I prefer my kids to interact more with real life experiences in objects if possible.

The website is easy for kids to navigate and packed with activities and learning. We got to try out the Pre-Kindergarten levels and they had lots to keep us busy and enjoying the time we had. They learned and reviewed their letters, numbers, math concepts, weather knowledge, and many other areas during their time online. This is definitely a great product.

For more TOS Crew reviews on this product, check out the TOS Crew blog.

Disclaimer: This web membership was provided to me free of charge through Time4Learning as part of my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. I received no additional compensation and the opinions expressed here come from my personal experiences and sincere thoughts.

Monday, April 12, 2010

TOS Crew Review -- What Am I?

All About Spelling has put out yet another winner. We already got to test drive All About Spelling Levels 1 and 2, which are a huge hit with almost every homeschooler that I talk to that has tried it (and many, many more can't wait to get their hands on it after looking it over). Then we enjoyed the Beehive Reader that supplements Level One. Now, we are once again thrilled by the reader that complements Level Two entitled What Am I?

This second reader in the series is still brand new, and you will need to wait a few more days to even find it on their website. But, don't worry, it will be there soon. If you were one of the fortunate ones to attend the homeschool convention in Cincinnati this past weekend, you might have seen it at their booth.

Just like the first reader, this book captivated my daughter and perfectly coordinated with the spelling lessons.


Product: What Am I? from All About Reading
Details: A 160 page beautiful early reader that can be used with or without the All About Spelling system. This book builds on earlier reading and spelling skills and reinforces concepts and rules learned during the first part of Level Two from All About Spelling.
Price: $19.95

What we loved . . .
  • Eye catching! This book quickly grabs the attention of the reader and offers a pleasant showcase for these delightful stories.
  • Focused on concepts. This book does a great job of reinforcing the concepts taken directly from the day's spelling lesson. My daughter read them easily, and we quickly made the connections between what we had just learned and studied during the spelling time.
  • Cute stories. Too many early readers are over simplified or very dry as they focus on one type of sound. However, these stories maintain the integrity of the lesson while still presenting an interesting story for the student to enjoy.

Some considerations . . .

  • The Price. If possible, I enjoyed this book more than the first, but I still balk a bit at the $20 price tag. A great book, and well made, but I just have a hard time spending $20 on one book.
  • Not a long use product. Again, same with the first book, this will not be in use a long time by one child, but it is obviously reusable with subsequent children.

This brand new book is not yet available on their website, but you should find it there very soon. If you are looking for well written, high-quality early readers, this book definitely fits that description.

For more TOS Crew reviews on this product, check out the TOS Crew blog.

Disclaimer: This reading book was provided to me free of charge from All About Spelling as part of my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. I received no additional compensation and the opinions expressed here come from my personal experiences and sincere thoughts.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Verse of the week -- Luke 15:31, 32

Second class Christian?

We have talked a bit recently with our oldest son about baptism. He shows interest, but then backs away when we start talking about the public testimony part of the process. Not because he doesn't have a testimony of God's goodness, but because his isn't as "good" as the others he hears. Or, it somehow seems like it is missing parts.

During baptism the pastors often ask people to share when they became a Christian, what they were like before, and who they are now because of Christ. Well, as one of those that became a Christian at a young age our son doesn't have a breath-taking story of redemption. He doesn't have a list of behaviors or experiences that he walked away from when God saved him.

I know how he feels, I felt the same way growing up. Now, I have the wisdom to be thankful for all that God saved me from, rather than what He had to save me out of. But, at times those of us who were fortunate enough to find Christ at a young age can feel like second-class citizens when it comes to testimony time.

Today, as I read the story of the prodigal son, I realized that sometimes I looked, and look, too much like the older brother. Sitting silently as everyone oohs and ahhs over another amazing life change. Comparing my "lame" testimony to these dramatic transformations. Missing all that God has done in and through me despite my early conversion.

Silly, eh?

The end of the parable did strike me today though. It says, " 'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' "

I don't really have a problem recognizing the greatness of a new creation from something that was so clearly old, I just sometimes feel like my story isn't as special. And, then the Father said to me, "You are always with me, and everything I have is yours."

However we got here, however short or long it took, however much or little we had to overcome or throw out in the process, however much God had to chisel away and purify, now we can be always with Him as joint heirs with His Son.

After all, it's not about my story, it's about HIS story. More Good News

31" 'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' "
~Luke 15:31, 32~

Friday, April 9, 2010


A while back I read the Purpose Driven Life and remember picking up a few encouragements from it, but didn't find it quite the rage that others had made it out to be.

But, a simple book that we currently use for our Bible time (while on inter-library loan) has really struck a cord with me. Simple lessons, incorporating Scripture and the shorter catechism have prompted wonderful conversations about our spiritual lives. This book has moved to the top of my "want to buy" list.

Many of us may find this line familiar: To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. We might even peg it as from a catechism. But, how much have I really uncovered the meaning of that comfortable phrase.

Author Starr Meade in Training Hearts and Teaching Minds goes through each of these questions, some more well known than others. Each question has a week of devotions to go along with it, allowing two years to complete the Shorter Catechism.

We only completed a couple weeks before having to return it, but I know this will "appear" on our bookshelves soon and can't wait to get back into it.

I know my purpose is to glorify God. I know that everything I do should have that mindset. But, I still needed this reminder that my primary purpose is His glory.

When His glory is my focus it doesn't matter if circumstances rise or fall.

When His glory dominates my thinking I won't dance with discouragement when my day doesn't go as I had anticipated.

When His glory sharpens my vision my sight won't blur with a change of direction or a stormy day.

When His glory retains my attention little else matters, because I can glorify Him regardless.

And, thankfully, He provided a Book that shows me how to bring Him glory. What a great God!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Sewing Class!

I find some classes and subjects difficult to find time for. Not that they take so much time out of the day, but because they involve so much planning and prep work. Sometimes we take advantage of outside classes to satisfy these subjects (like PE, ballet, and such), sometimes we decide they aren't really critical to the school day at this point (like speech and foreign language), and sometimes I squeeze it in because I feel we must (like nature study, art, etc.)

Back in the fall my mom proposed coming out and teaching a sewing class for my kids once a month, and wondered if that would interest me. Hmmmmm. How long did I need to think before answering that one? I think I said, "yes" before she finished offering. This is one of those subjects that takes more time, energy, and knowledge than I have to put together and consistently execute for my kids.

My parents wintered down south and recently returned, ready to jump into our sewing classes. The first class far exceeded my expectations, even as well as I know my mom. I wanted to share the lesson concepts and the craft we did in case anyone else would like to start something along these lines. In the process, you will also get some of my mom's amazing frugal ideas . . .

She opened by talking about different types of fabric -- woven, knit, etc. She asked for other ideas and I was thrilled when Blake mentioned felt and could even explain the two different processes to make felt (thanks to a field trip to a sheep farm and wool shop a year and a half ago -- See? They do actually listen and learn on those trips!)

We also talked about some types of stitches, string vs. thread, and went over the project of the day -- Cactus Pincushions. These were great beginner projects and would be the perfect end to a unit study on deserts, a southwest state, or cacti (not that we were doing any of those things, just looking for different applications).

Brooke tracing with the finished project sample on display

Supplies needed:
Green felt
Brown/tan felt
Green string (if you have brown/tan as well that could be used on the base)
Heavy cardstock (an old cereal box works well)
Sewing needle
A small rock (about the size of a marshmallow)
A cap from a medicine bottle
Straight pins to put in your new pin cushion!

Cut out the patterns for the shapes. Free hand draw a cactus (about 5 1/2 inches high) and two rectangles, one about 1-1/4" x 5" (this will be used to cut out another heavy cardstock triangle for each project) and the other about 3" x 5-3/4" (this will be traced on the tan felt).

Trace the patterns. The cactus pattern gets traced twice onto green felt, the large rectangle onto tan felt, and the smaller rectangle onto more cardstock.

Sew cactus halves together. After cutting out the two cactus halves, they had to sew them together using a whip stitch all around the edge. This is one of the easiest stitches, that even a four year old can often accomplish with a little direction to get started. Do not sew the bottom closed.

Stuff cactus. ** Frugal tip ** My mom saves the cotton from pill and vitamin bottles! She has quite a bag full and we used this for our stuffing! The stuffing can be started when you are still only 2/3 of the way around with the stitching. That makes it a little easier to get into the arm of the cactus and all the way to the top. Stuff it firmly, but not so hard that you break the felt. We did have to touch up a couple spots from over-zealous stuffing. A pen or pencil can help to gently stuff where fingers can't quite reach.

Sew the tan felt into a cylinder. After completing the cactus, now do another whip stitch connecting the two shorter sides of the felt rectangle.

Gathering stitch. Then they put a running stitch along one opening of the brown tube. Put the cactus into the tube and gather/tighten the stitch like a draw string and tie in place. Then sew around the base of the cactus (whip stitch), securing it to the tan felt.

Make the base. Once the base and cactus are connected, you flip the base right side out (like a skirt on the bottom of the cactus). Take the cardboard rectangle and shape it into a circle. Put this inside the tan cylinder to help it hold the circular shape. Add some stuffing, the rock, and the medicine cap inside the tan felt to add stability to the base.

Sew shut. Once around the base with a running stitch. Pull ends of thread to gather the felt closed and tie securely.

Final touches
. Put the straight pins into your new pin cushion just like the spines on a cactus. My son helped with this, but he actually did a different project (which you can kind of see my dad assembling in the background here -- I'll have to post on that one another day).

The pincushion took us about 2 hours including set up and clean up, and the teaching time as well. My 12 year old finished a bit sooner, and the 6 year old would have taken a bit longer if we hadn't helped her a bit now and then.

Although we completed this project in one afternoon, it could easily be spread out over a few days if you preferred. My kids really stayed focused and worked well the whole time.

My mom even gave some homework (and the kids didn't even groan!):

My mom left papers with various doodles on them. Each child has one of the following: one page with straight lines, another with wavy lines, and another with a spiral.

They need to practice with the sewing machine without thread. The idea is to get comfortable with maneuvering the machine and needle by staying on the line as much as possible. They have gone through far more than those first sheets of paper she left in just a couple days. They love to practice sewing!

She also asked that they look for types of material that get used to make fabric. She gave cotton as an example, and they need to find as many others as they can before our next class. They have talked about reading clothing tags and looking online to find as many as possible. Of course, Blake has said he's going to "win" and find the most. Everything becomes a competition to him, if possible.

We had an amazing lesson, used up some of the 49 years of scraps my mom has around her house, and helped us all build some great memories together. I can't wait until next month, and neither can the kids.

Lessons learned . . .
The kids learned the value of time spent and lessons learned from grandparents, not something we get to enjoy every day.

The kids definitely learned some new sewing terms, skills, and had a productive project to fill their afternoon. (with a somewhat useful end product as well!)

Me? I appreciate more the knowledge from others who also love my kids and the benefit of tapping into it for our homeschool day. You might not have grandparents nearby that can invest this kind of time into your kids, but you might be able to "adopt" a grandparent or neighbor that can help enrich your kids' lives and enhance the breadth or depth of your school subjects.

Friday, April 2, 2010

TOS Crew Review -- Terrestria Chronicles

After recently finishing Pilgrim's Progress and appreciating the allegorical lessons interwoven in the plot, we started into the Terrestria Chronicles. These books have grabbed the interest of my kids and they have enjoyed this new addition to our afternoon read aloud time.

We received books four and five of the series, and although we kind of feel like we have jumped in mid stream, we have not been confused or needed explanation to enjoy the story and the lessons contained between the covers of these books.

"The Castle of Faith is in an uproar when the priceless Crown of Kuros is stolen in broad daylight from the castle keep. All evidence points to Morphina who is in league with Argamor. Prince Josiah, Prince Selwyn, and the other knights of the castle engage in a quest to find the crown before it falls into the hands of Argamor. But Josiah alone can recover the crown, and to do so he must engage in an impossible battle."

And the next book:

"When Princess Gilda and Prince Selwyn refuse the offer of a gift forbidden by King Emmanuel, Prince Josiah accepts, not realizing that his actions will impact the Castle of Faith. For a time, the young prince is able to conceal his act of treachery, and it seems that all is well. But when a Cararian Greatwing—the fiercest of dragons—begins terrorizing the kingdom, Josiah learns too late that he is powerless to control the beast that he has unleashed upon Terrestria."

: Terrestria Chronicles
Details: (from their website) The Terrestria Chronicles allegory series was written with a three-fold purpose: to honor Jesus Christ as King, to challenge young readers to love and serve Him, and to teach them to guard their hearts for Him. The focus of the series is always on the King. Biblical doctrines and character principles are taught in such a compelling, fascinating way that they will stay with the reader for a lifetime. Written for ages ten and up.
- We received books 4 (The Crown of Kuros - 185 pages)and 5 (The Dragon’s Egg - 199 pages)
Price: $7.99 each book or $39.99 for all seven books. A spiral bound study guide is also available for $5.99

What we loved . . .
  • Magical without the magic. These books hold the reader's attention and draw them into a world of knights, valor, and adventure. They do not glorify magic or wizardry. They do contain an allegorical world that challenges kids to think about their own choices and the need to choose to do what is right.
  • Character lessons. Clearly good receives a place of honor in these books. Evil is not confused, but is judged as wrong. Standards and values are important to the lead characters.
  • Engaging story. Each of my kids enjoyed hearing these stories and eagerly looked forward to the next day's readings. Lots of action and intriguing characters kept us wanting more.
  • Well written. The stories themselves are also well written and a joy to read.

Some considerations . . .

  • You might get hooked. Of course, if you read one, you just might have to read them all. While the stories are somewhat self-contained, they do also build on each other, and you might as well plan on getting the whole series.
  • Written for 10 and up. I think that most younger kids would enjoy these books as well, but 10 year olds would likely be able to read them on their own. I have not come across anything that I felt needed editing or softening for the younger ears in my living room.
I would definitely recommend these books as additions to your home library. Whether your kids read them on their own, or you read them aloud as a family they provide more than just entertaining reading.

For more TOS Crew reviews on this product, check out the TOS Crew blog.

Disclaimer: These books were provided to me free of charge through Dunlop Ministries as part of my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. I received no additional compensation and the opinions expressed here come from my personal experiences and sincere thoughts.

TOS Crew Review -- Wiglington and Wenks

Kids often want something new to fill their free time. Moms want something productive to fill their free time. I thought I had found something that would satisfy both of those requirements in a program called Wiglington and Wenks.

Apparently this virtual world started as a book (see Media Freaks blog for more):
The Travels of Wiglington and Wenks was originally a children story book series by veteran businessman John Bittleston, later adapted into a virtual world for kids by creative entrepreneur Aldric Chang and Ngo Chee Yong.
I definitely saw great potential in this concept and website.


Product: Wiglington and Wenks
Details: A website that offers kids a place to search for historical figures while traveling the globe and learning about object, places and people of historical significance. Most of the site is free, but a membership is required to have full access and to enjoy some enhanced features. My kids played mostly on their free accounts although we did get a free membership account to use for a month.
Price: $5.99 each month with better rates for multiple months, up to $29.99 for six months

What we loved . . .
  • Lots to do. They boast the largest virtual world with over 100 different locations and lots of games, activities, house and islands to buy, and hidden objects to uncover. You can travel the world without leaving your computer chair.
  • Educational base. The idea is that kids search for historical figures that have lost their memory and then they find their lost objects to help restore their memory.
  • Great graphics. This is definitely a well put together website. The characters are endearing, the scenery is detailed and unique, and there is a lot going on visually.
  • Creative idea. I appreciate the idea behind W&W. Kids exploring the world to make connections between important people and related objects. They should be able to learn while having fun doing so.

Some considerations . . .

  • ***Caution required***. Kids have fairly free reign as far as what they say to other travelers in this virtual world. They can't type numbers (to help prevent them from typing ages, phone numbers and addresses), but they can write them out. Kids quickly learn how to work around the system. If profanity isn't allowed, they type in one letter at a time. Moderators roam the world as well trying to keep inappropriate activity to a minimum, but they definitely do not catch it all. And, many kids just get banned for a day when they do get reported. If they get blocked entirely there isn't much keeping them from starting a new account with a new name and email address. Because there is so much freedom in the chat and forum features I do not consider this a safe place for kids to hang out unsupervised for long periods of time.
  • Moderation is inconsistent. Now, I will say that they do try to keep a close eye on things. My son actually got banned one day. He was asking people to play water balloons and because he was repeating the question with capital letters, someone reported him as spamming and he was booted for 24 hours. Another time my daughter stepped away from her person for a couple minutes and my four year old started typing in gobbledygook. She also was then banned for 24 hours. I was glad they were trying, but I think they miss too much of the really serious stuff that goes on. Also, I reported a comment on a post in which another traveler said something about "slashing you up" and it is still there (last I checked, a few days after I reported it). They may have done something and reprimanded the individual, but the post still stands, so apparently they don't find that inappropriate and feel the need to remove it.
  • Questionable historical value. Some of the characters and objects that they choose don't rank high in my book as far as historically significant. I would rather see presidents, kings, queens, inventors, artists, authors, etc. Instead you have Buffalo Bill, Darwin, Gandhi, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, etc.
  • Lots of distractions. Most kids will probably spend lots of time "chatting" with other kids or playing games, and not really learning anything about the historical figures anyway. There is a lot of play available in comparison to the learning available.

I hope that the designers and managers of the program work out a way to make this program safer, because it does have a lot to offer, but I really cannot whole-heartedly encourage you to get a membership, or even a free account, as the program stands right now. It definitely has benefits, and has some great educational fun to offer, but the liability in doing so is not worth it currently.

For more TOS Crew reviews on this product, check out the TOS Crew blog.

Disclaimer: This web membership was provided to me free of charge through Wiglington and Wenks as part of my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. I received no additional compensation and the opinions expressed here come from my personal experiences and sincere thoughts.

Verse of the week -- I Corinthians 15

Promise, hope, security, confidence, praise, worship, reassurance, victory. All the result of the crucifixion and resurrection which we celebrate at Easter.

Sadly the cross sits largely ignored most of the year. Decorating stages and baptisteries and steeples, the misrepresented symbol of Christianity. Some mistakenly think the cross is what sets us apart from other world religions. But, the power of the cross comes in what followed, the conquering of that death.

Many people died on crosses in Jesus' day, but no one accomplished what He did in doing so and rising again, proving He is God.

Each day should contain time of reflection on the sacrifice Christ paid on the cross, and each day should be lived in celebration of the victory He claimed over sin and death as He rose again on the third day.

Could I possibly narrow my focus to just one verse of this great chapter as I mull over the resurrection?

I actually heard two sermons on this chapter this week. They both compelled me to focus on different aspects of the resurrection. One reminded me of the great conviction of the disciples who all died a martyr's death for this doctrine. The other reminded me of all the great truths that hinge on my confidence in the resurrection.

To sum up I Corinthians 15, if Christ did not rise then:
- we have no hope of resurrection
- my spreading the gospel has no purpose
- our faith has no focal point
- our sins remain unpaid for (daily the guilt and shame multiply, unforgiven)
- my loved ones are not waiting for me in heaven
- we are pitiful
- we may as well live it up, because this life is all there is
- there is no eternal inheritance.

But, in fact HE IS RISEN, so:
- We also have this hope of resurrection if we place our trust in Him
- We have a driving purpose to not keep silent about the Good News
- Our faith has a living center
- Our sins are paid in full, we stand in His righteousness
- Heaven will be an amazing reunion of Christians (so many people I can't wait to meet again and for the first time in heaven)
- We are a new creation, as God has made us so
- We have a purpose in living (just as Mary knew as she sat at Jesus' feet)
- Eternal rewards await us at the end of this life.

And, we live with hope, purpose, determination. The chapter then ends this way:

55O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

56The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.

57But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

~I Corinthians 15:55-58~