Wednesday, November 30, 2016

2017 School Year Planning

I think I might have mentioned a time or two that we school year round. That means that as the Christmas trees are going up our school year is winding down. We are in the last throws of our current curriculum and it is time for me to start planning and budgeting for our new school year.

We have been using My Father's World curriculum for all of our children. While I love the curriculum and the approach it takes to include the entire family into the process it just is not going to work for our family moving forward. Put simply we were dropping too much of the curriculum from our daily lessons to make it worthwhile for our family. Our children found the multiple books each day for history to be too repetitive. We chose to do a different Bible study and need special needs programs for spelling and reading. That leaves us just completing the Story of the World text and the science assignments each week. Our daughters are begging to study chemistry next year so that would mean dropping everything from MFW but Story of the World. It makes zero sense to continue purchasing MFW for just one book.

So.....that left me to put together an entire years worth of curriculum from scratch. I admit it, I like this part!

   We have been enjoying the Story of the World texts so we will be continuing with the 4th volume and the PDF student sheets.       $25 for all 5 children

   As I mentioned our children very badly want to cover chemistry this year. I went on a search for a middle school chemistry program and initially found a $100 option. I kept looking and after going down the rabbit hole for a while I found this FREE middle school chemistry curriculum! I have had a look through it and am very pleased with the content. It is over 740 pages however so my printer is not pleased with me.                       $0 for oldest 2 children

   Obviously middle school Chemistry is not going to work for my 1st graders and kindergartner. I have another FREE option for them as well. We are going to be watching our way through the Magic School Bus series on youtube! I found this wonderful free curriculum to go along with the episodes. It provides a break down of the lessons, gives ideas for experiments and projects, and discussion points.                                        $0 for our 3 younger children

   Our oldest daughter is a year ahead of her peers and at 12 year old will be taking 2 years to complete Pre-Algebra. We have already purchased this curriculum and she has made it through the first 9 lessons. It is slow going but she has plenty of time to finish it before she turns 14.
   Our 10 year old will be finishing up with her multiplication mastery and moving on to division mastery this year. I feel confident enough in my own division abilities to teach her division without purchasing a curriculum. I have reviewed what material she needs to master by the time she is 11 years old and the toughest thing will be 4 digit division by a 2 digit number. After teaching Pre-Algebra I got this one down cold.
   Next up are the soon to be 7 year old twins. They are just finishing up their kindergarten work and ready to get started on addition and subtraction. We have already begun some of this through board games and cooking so it is not completely new material. Again, I feel comfortable enough in my own addition and subtraction skills to teach this without a curriculum. If I can not teach a child how to add to 10 we have some serious problems.
   Lastly we have our brand new Kindergartner. He will be working on learning his numbers, counting to 20, place values to 100, adding doubles, skip counting 2's 5's and 10's, telling time, etc. You know what I am going to say by now.... I got this one!
                                                    $0 for all 5 children

Language Arts
  I am not overly fond of teaching language arts. Just sooooo boring. It has to be done however so here we go!
    The 12 year old will be finishing a 2 year grammar and writing program she began this year.  She has been working her way through Applications of Grammar book 1 and Writing with Skill level 1 this year. The budgeting side of me appreciates curriculum that is used for more than one year. Her spelling workbook is through Apples & Pears. She is up to her 3rd workbook which we purchased as a complete set when we began the curriculum. Last up we have her reading program. She has developed an obsession with the Who Was series and I am going to introduce her to the I Survived series this year as well. As long as she is reading several chapters of nonfiction works each day I try not to get to nit picky on what she is reading.
    Our 10 year old daughter has dyslexia and ADHD. As you can imagine this is not her favorite subject. For reading we are continuing with the Dancing Bears curriculum that we purchased several years ago. She is reading soooo much better these days but it is a constant push on my part to keep it moving. I encourage her to read a fun book as part of her school days as well. Spelling and writing comes from Apples & Pears workbook 2. She has started this workbook but we will be taking some time away from it to really drill the spelling words she has already covered before progressing to new words. We may have to just start back at the beginning and redo the entire workbook. Do NOT tell her that however!
   The twins are moving right along with cvc words. They are loving the BOB books along with file folder reading games and reading puzzles. They are working their way through Horizon's 1st grade Phonics workbooks.
   Last up we have our kindergartner. He will be using 3dinosaurs printable packs to master his ABC's and letter sounds this year. I have to say I love how simple this is when you get to the bottom of the list!
                                                             $25 for all 5 children

I think that is everything.....of course we have the extracurricular activities that are not on this list. Art, drama, engineering, chicken club, gardening club, swim team, etc. Other than $60 for engineering class for our oldest daughter all of our extracurricular activities are FREE. I love this place!

So the budget minded side of me must wrap up with a breakdown of the costs for our new school year. All of our school supplies were given to us by a local Vietnam Veteran's group. I can NOT tell you how blessed we are to have these folks in our lives. They give so unselfishly every year to our entire homeschool community. I have not had to purchase a pencil or a notebook in years. We love them to pieces.

With a boxed curriculum it would have cost our family over $1,000 to homeschool this year. It was more but I stopped adding it all up because it game me an ulcer to see the number going so high.

My original plan for this year was $420. That was with purchasing retail science books, math books, magic school house dvd's, etc.

After going through some rabbit holes thanks to pinterest I brought in our new school year for a total of $50 for curriculum plus $60 for engineering class.  I would have to say seeing a grand total of $110 is making me do a happy dance. We will probably need a new workbook here or there through the year. Usually by August they are getting close to being finished with their current workbooks. That could up the total by another $100 depending on which workbooks are needed. We however are ready to get started on our new school year!

Well....I am...the kids....not so much!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

What's new with us?

You may have noticed a reduction in the number of posts over the last few months. I have made the decision to stop contributing to the School House Review Crew. Not because I was unhappy with working with them but because I am finally happy with the curriculum options we have chosen for our children. I can be a bit of a magpie when it comes to school curriculum. Always looking for the newest and shiniest things to add to my collection. I have had to learn that it is best to just stick with what we are using as long as it is working for our family. So with that in mind it doesn't really make sense to keep reviewing new curriculum options.

Since I am not renewing my contract with School House for the new year there are a few other things that are changing as well. Number one will probably be the consistency with which I will be posting in the future. I am back to being a lone wolf blogger. I do intend to keep blogging at least for the foreseeable future.  Will that be 5 times a month or 2 times a month? I have no idea. I like the idea of being able to blog about topics that interest me when I feel like talking about them. With that said I have no idea what will interest me in the coming months.

Another new aspect in our lives is that we are finally buying a farm....okay....more like a farmette. What might you ask is a farmette? Think homesteading on an acre of land in a subdivision. That sounds kind of weird right? We are purchasing a farmette in a remote subdivision in the middle of a state forest. There are two streets within the subdivision and then miles and miles of state forest before you find another human being. I have no idea why this one small pocket of land was excluded from the state forest but I am glad of what ever fluke worked in our favor.

The home we are purchasing is at the end of a dead end street and surrounded on three sides by the forest. The previous owners built a small barn on the property and put up all of the boundary fencing needed for small livestock. I am told they had goats and miniature horses.

We intend to put in a raised garden, an orchard, and raise chickens. I would like to go to a Master Bee Keeping class over the winter and begin a bee hive in the spring as well. Another few ideas floating around in my brain have to do with raising tilapia and mushrooms.

As you can imagine I see a lot more homesteading posts coming up in the future. This should be quite the adventure and I am looking forward to sharing it with y'all!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Why I left Facebook

I have had an issue pressing on my heart for some time now.


When I joined Facebook 7 years ago (gasp!) I was in a very different place in my life. Both geographically and figuratively. I was a new mom living on a remote island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I did not have any local friends and my husband worked five 12 hour shifts a week. When he was home he was exhausted and did not want to hear all about my day. The poor man just wanted to sleep. I really can't blame him......I don't do well without my down time either.

So there I was figuratively alone in the world. I could, and did, call my friends and family on the phone but people were busy and did not have time to talk with me every day.

I was so lonely.

I had previously refused to sign up for a Facebook account out of sheer orneriness. I was not going to do something just because the masses were doing it. I am still that way to this day. If everyone in the world is obsessed with a book, tv series, or app I purposely refuse to take part. Of course I will then "discover" this amazing thing several years after it has gone out of vogue. I am just ornery like that.

Anyways I had held strong and refused to sign up for Facebook. That is until the one person I knew on the island, my husband, got sent on a deployment. Now here I am totally and completely alone with our two very young children.

I was bored out of my mind. This is coincidentally when this blog was started as well. Boredom will apparently lead me to all sorts of new things. On a whim I signed up for Facebook and it soon because an obsessive situation.

You know what I am talking about. You have to check the site 50 times a day because you MIGHT miss some fascinating piece of information. Of course everyone will want to see those 50 pictures you took at the park while you are at it.  While we are at it might as well post what we are having for dinner. This was all before we even owned a smartphone. In my true lone wolf fashion I refused to own a smartphone until years after they had become popular. I did not get my first smartphone until 2014. That of course blew the Facebook obsession out of the water.

I can now check Facebook anywhere? Anytime? I can upload pictures immediately? I know there are many many people out there who have a Facebook account and never use it. Those that can limit their time to just a few times a week. I was not one of those people.

A few months ago I came to the realization that it had been months since I had actually seen anything interesting on Facebook. Anything life altering that happened in my life was relayed via phone calls from friends and loved ones. I no longer needed Facebook to fill some void in my life. We had moved to New Jersey and I had found an amazing homeschool community to become involved in. We had added four more children to our lives and we were crazy busy with school work, sports, and classes. I was no longer lonely and alone on a rock in the middle of the Pacific.

So why did I keep checking that stupid app 5 times a day?

Why if I am not seeing anything important or life altering on the site did I keep using it?

I turned all of my notifications off in an attempt to stop my interest in the site. After all no little red numbers calling my name then no need to check in right? Wrong. I still felt I might "miss something" so I would still check the app religiously and then spend countless time scrolling through what was for the most part adds and random stuff that did not interest me.

I made the decision to cut the cord and delete my Facebook account. The problem was that I did need to still be able to stay connected to our homeschool group. They only communicate via Facebook. I reached a standstill. I made the difficult decision to "unfriend" all of my friends and just leave the account open to the one group.

There is something about "unfriending" people that can hit a nerve. I really wish they would call it something else. These people are still my friends and I still want to hear from all of them. I just can not have Facebook in my life anymore. I did leave my blog Facebook page open so that I could share pictures of what we are up to as a family. Not having any friend's on Facebook makes it a lot easier to step away from the app once I have checked the group messages and made note of any upcoming classes or homework.

The first week without Facebook was so freeing to me. I just felt like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. The second week was just as relaxing. I no longer worry that I am missing something vital. You would think that would bother me more now that I have no access to friends pages. Just the opposite happened however.  Leaving Facebook was the right decision for me at this point in my life. Will it continue to be the right decision for me? That will depend on how life changes over time. I may find myself lonely and in need of human companionship again in the future. I have definitely learned never to say never.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Homeschool Legacy Review

Our family might be slightly obsessed with food. Just a teeny tiny bit. You can imagine how thrilled we were to be chosen to review Homeschool Legacy's Once-a-Week Micro-Studies on Cooking Up History with the Founding Presidents.
Once-a-Week Studies {Homeschool Legacy} 
We are currently studying the colonization of America through to the Deceleration of Independence and the election of our first President. With this, and our love of food, in mind we were thrilled to learn that Homeschool Legacy had a  Once-a-Week Micro-Studies Cooking Up History! This 4 week micro unit study covers George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison! I could not have picked a more perfect unit study to go along with our current history program!
Once-a-Week Studies {Homeschool Legacy}
So what exactly is a Once-a-week Micro-Study? The Cooking Up History with the Founding Presidents micro-study consists of 4 weeks of 30 min long lessons covering the biography of each president, pertinent historical and governmental information concerning their presidency, a brief language arts section with vocabulary or writing assignments, and of course a section sharing information concerning their favorite meals. 

I love that all of the information needed for the unit study is compiled for the reader. No need to go to the library to find specific books on each president. No searching the internet for recipes. You just have to print the pages off and start. So simple! With six children currently "doing school" I definitely need something that is low maintenance and user friendly. This unit study fits the bill! The information presented was well written and easy for my children, 12 to 6yrs old, to understand and digest. For the Presidents we had already covered it was a good review of the information we had already covered. For the Presidents we have yet to cover it was a great introduction to the material that they will be covering in the future. Of course the addition of cherry pie, ice cream, and other yummy treats as part of their school work was a massive hit. We did appreciate switching from Oyster ice cream (Dolley Madison's favorite flavor) to Thomas Jefferson's Vanilla ice cream! I don't think we would have been game for Oyster ice cream!

We have used Homeschool Legacy's Once-a-week Unit studies before and knew we were going to be receiving a wonderful product. I was not disappointed! I would recommend their Once-a-week Micro-Studies to anyone who is interested in adding a bit more depth to their current curriculum! 
 Homeschool Legacy was very generous and gave the Homeschool Review Crew more than just ONE Once-a-week study to review! They very generously gave the review crew members a choice of the units below to review!
If you would like to learn more about Cooking Up History with the Founding Presidents or any of the unit studies listed above you can click HERE or on the graphic below to be taken to the main link page for Homeschool Legacy.
Once-a-Week Studies {Homeschool Legacy}
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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

MyFreezEasy Review

If you have been reading my blog for any length of time you know that I love freezer meals. They are seriously the only thing that got me though several pregnancies and deployments. There is something so comforting about knowing that dinner is ready and in the freezer waiting for you. No mad rush to make dinner or figure out what in the world you are going to make at the last second. That is why I was so thrilled to learn about MyFreezEasy!  Our family was delighted to be chosen to receive a Freezer Meal Plan Membership! Freezer Meal Plan Membership {MyFreezEasy}
I don't know about your family but my family is pretty busy these days. With six children in various activities, a full homeschool curriculum to fulfill, a full time employed spouse, and my own 5 days a week in the gym I am spinning like a top most days. Anything I can do to simplify my life is a gold mine for my sanity. I learned a long time ago that freezer meals are the way to go for busy families. 
Over the years I have put away 3 months of meals every time I got the verification that I was pregnant. I get pretty severe morning sickness and the thought of having to cook for all of these people while trying desperately not to throw up was not working for me. I would spend one entire day making up freezer meals and then just have to reheat the meals through my first trimester. I loved knowing that I had meals ready to go for my family and I did not have to touch raw meat or smell cooking food while sick to my stomach.

I would then repeat the process right before I was due to give birth. Again knowing those meals are in the freezer and ready to go for my family while I am in the hospital and for those first few months with a newborn is priceless. Having to go grocery shopping, meal plan, and cook with a newborn and 5 other children under foot? Not happening. By stocking my freezer and pantry before hand I was able to send my husband to get a few odds and ends (bread and milk) though the week and spend my time relaxing and recovering. 

Freezer meals are not just for new mothers however! My youngest child is 3 years old and I am not currently pregnant. I however still continue to stock my freezer with meals for my family. Why? What happens if you get sick but everyone else in your house is fine and starving? What about when your child spikes a 104 fever on the day you intended to go to the grocery store? Or you were up late working on a project and have to be out of the house a dawn for a meeting? 
I have found a food emergency fund is just as important as a financial emergency fund. Both protect your family in times of sickness, job loss, and injury. Yes, you COULD go out to eat but who can afford that more than once or twice a week? For some reason these little people need to eat three times a day...what is up with that?

I think we can all see the value in having freezer meals at our disposal. The snag for most people seems to be the planning and implementation of the meals. It can be a lot of work to come up with a list of freezer appropriate meals that actually taste good and do not break the bank. I found the MyFreezEasy site to be a wonderful solution to this issue. Freezer Meal Plan Membership {MyFreezEasy} 
The MyFreezEasy freezer meal plan membership I was given was a wealth of information and recipes. There were so many different types of meals available each month. I personally chose to review the 10 meals available in the Clean Eating Meal Plan, but as you can see there were 7 other options to chose from! Freezer Meal Plan Membership {MyFreezEasy} 
I was able to peak into all of the meal plans offered above and they all had very yummy recipe options! Once you pick your meal plan you are given access to that month's recipes, grocery lists,  and instructions for assembling and freezing the meals. I found these instructions to be extremely easy to follow and very clearly written. Freezer Meal Plan Membership {MyFreezEasy} 
What about the actual meals? As I stated I reviewed the Clean Eating Meal Plan. The recipes within the meal plan were all very tasty, made with clean ingredients that were easy to find, and simple to make. For the month I reviewed I was given recipes for Paleo Chicken Taco Salad, Spinach Chicken Burgers, Bolognese Sauce, Slow Cooker Italian Chicken and Vegetables, and Mediterranean Chicken Thighs. Each of these meals were doubled and then placed in the freezer to be used within the months to come. Since I needed to review the meals for this blog post I doubled the meals, ate one, and froze one. My family really enjoyed the meals and will not have an issue with eating the second meal waiting in our freezer. 

I have to say I really enjoyed reviewing this product and look forward to using more of their meals in the future. Want to know what the other reviewers at the Homeschool Review Crew thought of this product? You can click HERE or on the banner below to find out! Freezer Meal Plan Membership {MyFreezEasy}
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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Review: Everyday Education, LLC

If you are a regular reader of my blog you already know that reading and handwriting are do not come easily to our 10 year old daughter. She has dyslexia and dysgraphia which makes reading and writing "properly" difficult. I am sure you can imagine we have tried every thing we could find in an attempt to find something that would make things easier for her. When we were given the opportunity to try out Perfect Reading, Beautiful Handwriting  by Everyday Education, LLC we were excited to check it out.
 Beautiful Handwriting, Literature and Poetry {Everyday Education, LLC} 
When teaching a child to write we have all seen or used printed ABC sheets to teach the child how to properly form the letters. I can not count the number of times I have said "take the line up to top line and not past" to one of my children while they are working on their handwriting assignments. It always goes the same doesn't it? Same sheets, same technique, same struggles. The author of Perfect Reading, Beautiful Handwriting has a different approach. She has found that an italic style of writing is easier for children with learning difficulties to read and write. By using a triangular writing style the children are better able to not only read the letters but also form them while writing. 
The book Perfect Reading, Beautiful Handwriting starts at the beginning, always a good place to start right? The lessons start with learning how to write the ABC's in this new italic form and then move on to simple CVC words. After the child has learned the new style of handwriting the author introduces yet another new concept....slant writing. This is where my brain starts to struggle with the concept but it seems to be helping children who have a difficult time with handwriting and reading. Our daughter has not progressed to this point yet but I am really interested to see how it works for her! There are several pages of copywork with the slanted lines pre-printed as well as several sheets of paper with just the lines for the children to use for their own writing assignments. From what I understand of the process, again we have not implemented this section of the book yet, the lines help the child to "cement" the placement of items on the page. It is a very interesting concept that I am looking forward to trying out!
 In the last few weeks our daughter has progressed from "I can't read and I hate writing" to "I love to read chapter books and write....just not in my spelling book." While I would love for her to be an amazing speller I am finding solace in the fact that she is learning to love to read and write. That to me is more than half the battle. In this day and age spelling is overrated...I can not even count the number of times I have used spell check on this post! The ingrained love of reading and writing is the real gold mine for future success. The fact that this curriculum can help make that love easier and faster to complete makes it a gold mine as well. I am excited to keep trying this curriculum with our 10 year old daughter and will definitely consider using it with our younger daughter who is showing signs of dyslexia as well. 

The Perfect Reading, Beautiful Handwriting book by Everyday Education, LLC was not the only book the Homeschool Review Crew were given to review! Everyday Education, LLC was quite generous and also shared their  Excellence in Literature Handbook for Writers and their Working It Out: Poetry Analysis with George Herbert.

If you would like to see what the other review crew members thought of Perfect Reading, Beautiful Handwriting or either of the other books offered you can click HERE or on the banner below to find out!

Beautiful Handwriting, Literature and Poetry {Everyday Education, LLC}
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Review: Away We Go Media

Our family is a bit obsessed with living history books at the moment.  Specifically books concerning how children lived in various time periods. There is something very appealing to our children about this type of learning approach. They find they can relate to the historical subject matter better when the main character is someone their own age. When we were give the opportunity to review a historical book series centered around children's lives during a wide range of time periods we jumped at the opportunity. We were blessed to be chosen to review Brought to you by Carole P. Roman and
If You Were Me and Lived in ... {by Carole P. Roman and}

We are currently studying American history from colonization to 1850. When we were chosen to review this amazing book series we found several that fit perfectly into our current school program.

The first book we chose to read was  If You Were Me and Lived in...Colonial America (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 4. 
If You Were Me and Lived in ... {by Carole P. Roman and}

I was pleasantly surprised by how in depth this book went into the history of Colonial America. I have found that many well illustrated books lack on content and are geared towards much younger children. This book series however is quite different. I found the books to be on a middle school reading level with colorful illustrations on alternating pages.

This book begins in England in 1620 and follows the puritans from their initial move to the Netherlands and their subsequent dissatisfaction and progression to America. The book goes in depth into the difficulties of the journey on board the ship and how difficult life was once they landed. The author beautifully manages to cover the difficulties and the trials of the colonial children while still showing the beauty and love found within families.

At the end of each book there are two informational sections concerning the time period the book is centered around. For the If You Were Me and Lived in...Colonial America (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 4) selection this consisted of two pages of information concerning people who influenced the colonies along the entire eastern seaboard as well as a glossary of terms used  throughout the book.

In our family if I assign a reading item I also assign the child to design their own project based on what they have read. I have found by assigning the child to design and complete their own project they pay better attention to the material and think more in depth about what they are reading. We have completed a wide variety of projects over the years. Some examples include themed meals, art projects, dioramas, decorative crafts, etc.

After reading If You Were Me and Lived in...Colonial America (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 4) our 12 year old daughter chose to make her own rag doll like those made by children in Colonial America. After a quick google session we were able to find instructions on how to make the doll from fabric scraps found in my sewing stash. Our daughter read the instructions and then proceeded to make her very own "poppet".

The second book we chose to read within this series was If You Were Me and Lived in...the American West (Volume 7).  This book follows much of the same format as the first book we read. Again we start out in a well established city and follow a family as they make a pilgrimage to a new and undiscovered land. In this book however we follow a family as they leave an Eastern American town and progress out into the American West as part of the Great Migration of 1843.

If You Were Me and Lived in ... {by Carole P. Roman and}

The book follows a family as they learn how  to live out of a covered wagon, the hardships they faced during the journey, and how they found their new homestead. The book does not end there however! The author then takes us through how the family would have built their new home from logs foraged from the land, learning to till the land and plant crops, taking care of livestock, and much much more. Again I was thrilled with how in depth the author went into the logistics of life in the American West in 1843 while still including illustrations on alternating pages. I personally think that information is easier to "upload" into a child's brain if there are illustrations included in the text.

With that in mind our oldest daughter chose to design her own illustration for the book as part of her project for this book.

We were given four books within this amazing series to look through and review for you! The two other books we were given include If You Were Me and Lived in...Ancient Greece (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 1).

If You Were Me and Lived in ... {by Carole P. Roman and}

And If You Were Me and Lived in... Elizabethan England (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 3).

If You Were Me and Lived in ... {by Carole P. Roman and}
I have read through both of these books and can not wait to share them with our children in the future! I am absolutely thrilled with this series and can not wait to delve further into these books and complete our collection! 
Want to check out the entire series brought to you by Carole P. Roman and ? 
Here you go!

If you would like to see what the other Schoolhouse Homeschool Review Crew members thought of this series brought to you by Carole P. Roman and you can click HERE or on the banner below to be taken to a list of reviews.
 If You Were Me and Lived in ... {by Carole P. Roman and}
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