Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Math musings

There are somethings in the homeschooling world that I find fascinating. There are obviously a million different methods and philosophy options when it comes to educating our children at home. I fall into an eclectic homeschool model. I do what works for my children regardless of what predetermined philosophy I might find interesting.

For some of my children that includes workbooks and copy work. For other children that includes hands on games and no papers in sight. It all depends on the child and how they learn.  It has taken me years to get to the point where I am comfortable enough to alter, and in some cases throw out, curriculum so that it works well for our children.. Even with tweaking and twisting however I have yet to find a math curriculum that I feel works perfectly for some of our children. I apparently need something that does not yet exist.

 I figured I would scour the web and find another parent that had been in my shoes and designed their own math curriculum. Something hands on that would spark some interest in my children who are workbook phobic. While searching I was struck by something I had never noticed in previous years. Homeschool parents are apparently willing to design their own curricula for science, history, english, etc but not for math. 

Why is that?

It seems that if you voyage away from the mainstream homeschool math workbooks you are in no mans land. Sure there are lots of games and worksheets available online but they are for one specific skill, not a total package sort of deal.

That makes me wonder. What are parents of children who hate workbooks doing with their children for math? Are they just sticking the book in front of them anyways and developing an ulcer as they teach their reluctant/hysterical child? Are they going off grid and developing their own plans...and not being considerate enough to share their curriculum plans with the rest of us desperate parents? Not like they don't have tons of time at their disposal to type out detailed plans, right? I mean we homeschool parents are known to have tons of free time at our disposal. *I am kidding in case you missed the sarcastic font.*

I am not talking advanced algebraic formulas here. Just regular old elementary math. Adding, subtracting, multiplication, division, fractions, etc. Surely if we are willing to design our own science curriculum we could come up with something for addition while we are at it.

I really have no point to this post other than to wonder out loud about the lack of options when it comes to homeschool math. It seems to be either workbooks or a free for all. I find this fascinating.  I am also tempted to write down what we are doing for math this year and design my own hands on math curriculum to share with the world. Obviously I have way too much time on my hands as well!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

A month without Facebook....

It has officially been a month since I made the decision to step away from my Facebook profile. I did not trust myself to simply walk away from the site cold turkey. In an effort to make my self control stronger I deleted all of my friends before I stepped away. I knew that the urge to peek into other people's lives would pop up and I would give in eventually. I was afraid that such a situation would bring me back into the cyber world once again. With no friends there really is not much pull to the site.

Having the time away has been amazing for my emotional and mental well being. At first I could not put my finger on why I was so strongly motivated to leave the site and so relieved once it was finished. I just knew I felt 100 times better and that was enough for me initially. It was not until a few weeks later that the reason suddenly struck me.

I was no longer being affected by other peoples emotional highs and lows.

You know how it goes, you are scanning your feed and see that someone is going through a difficult time. Maybe their baby was born prematurely or their family member died unexpectedly. Just seeing what they are going through breaks your heart. You are then carrying that sadness around with you all day.

 At least I was.

 I would get so depressed and upset over something that had absolutely nothing to do with my life.  Day after day after day. If it was not my friends personal stories it was ones they were sharing about children killed by their parents or lost in the woods and dying from starvation. I just felt like I was constantly being barraged by all of these heart breaking situations. I would look at my kids as they slept and burst into tears thinking about how horrible it would be if something like that happened in our family.

This was obviously not healthy.

It was not all horrible stories obviously. There was also the staged for Facebook photos of how amazing their lives were or the new car/vacation/clothes/jewelry they had just purchased. Nothing felt real anymore. Where is the sink full of dirty dishes? Or the laundry hamper overflowing with poopy underwear because their kid suddenly regressed in potty training? Was I the only one that did not have a perfect home? Perfect kids? A perfect husband? I knew in my head that their lives were not perfect and that the pictures were more than likely staged but it still lead me to self doubt and self deprecation.

I recently read a financial book addressed towards 20 somethings as they enter the real world. Yes, I know I am far from 20 years old but I am always interested in reading new financial books. Anyways, the book had an entire section on not allowing social media to negatively affect your spending habits. It is really easy to see someone else has a new car and then start to envy them for their purchase. Suddenly our 5 year old, paid for in cash, car is not good enough anymore. Or do not forget all of those lovely adds that pop up on your feed based on things you searched on other sites. I don't know about you but I find that extremely creepy. I do NOT like being tracked and marketed towards. I feel like I am being stalked!

I know these things that affected my life via Facebook are not going to be pertinent to everyone who uses social media. These are the things that were affecting me however. Things that I could not clearly see until I cut the cord so to speak. I do still have my blog facebook page up and running at this time. That is a bit different for me. I am able to post a picture of what I want to share and then walk away. There is no feed to look at or interact with. If someone decides to leave a comment I am happy to chat with them during the day. Since it is so removed from the things that were upsetting me I think I will keep it running at least for the time being.

So, one month of facebook freedom under my belt. I am happy to say there will be many more months to come!

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}
Crew Disclaimer

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}
Crew Disclaimer

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}
Crew Disclaimer

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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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Fall is in the air!

I have to say fall is by far my favorite season! There is something magical to me about the leaves changing, the weather cooling off, and the thought of sweatshirts by a fire pit roasting hotdogs. 

One of our favorite fall activities would have to be visiting a local farm for their military appreciation day. It is not often that you can find such an amazing activity for the entire family for FREE! Yep totally 100% free! 

While we were there this year the children took part in several activities inducing the mummy wrap. Yes that is one of my children wrapping another one in toilet paper. I was a bit worried they would try recreating the mummy wrap here at home but so far so good.


The fun did not end there however!  We were also treated to a free lunch, face painting, bouncy houses, barrel rides and much much more! 

The coolest part (for me anyways) was the hayride out to the pumpkin patch and the SIX free pumpkins they gave us! 

We absolutely loved getting to spend time exploring all of the activities provided and can not thank the local farm enough for opening up their grounds to so many military families. It was wonderful to be able to spend time enjoying the moment and making memories.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

4H has blessed our lives

Living in the middle of New Jersey as a military family we do not have a lot of opportunities to experience farm life. Things that were common every day experiences for me as a child are unique and amazing experiences for my children. When looking for opportunities to add more farm based activities into our lives I found our local 4H program to be a wealth of activities and information. 

I had no idea that the 4H programs covered such a variety of topics or that you did not have to own your own livestock to participate. I feel like a whole new world has opened up for our family! 

We started off my joining our local "Chicken Club". We get together as a group once a month to learn about chicken facts, do activities, and play with chickens. We also were assigned one day a week to feed and care for the chickens on a local farm. My children love getting to experience life with chickens....and I love not having the responsibility of 24/7 care! 

The 4H leader for our chicken club wanted any children who were interested in raising chickens to have the option to do so at home. With that in mind she purchased several chicks for the children to borrow and take home to raise. We came home with these adorable little balls of fluff!  The children get to take care of the chicks, play with them, and watch them grow up! When they get too big to stay inside any longer and we are ready to send them back to the farm we simply take them back and introduce them to the flock on the farm. I love it!

Our oldest two daughters will also be borrowing two chickens from the farm to show at Farm Fair this spring!

We did not stop and just chicken club however. We also joined the gardening club located on the same farm. Our family was given a small plot of land in which to learn square foot gardening. In this area the children are able to plant anything they like. The go each week to weed and care for their garden. The amazement on their faces when they pick a tomato they grew is seriously magical!

After working on their own square foot garden the children then get together to work on the community garden surrounding their private gardens. The children work together with the club leader to plant all sorts of new and exciting plants. Seeing all the children working together to plant and maintain the community garden is such a blessing to me. They always come home exhausted and absolutely filthy.

One of the huge blessings we have received through our gardening club would have to be the fact that it has gotten our 10yr old dyslexic daughter excited about writing! I know this sounds kind of odd...a gardening club does not necessarily scream "Learn to love writing" to me either. Our daughter however was extremely excited to be elected as the club reporter. She could not wait to start taking notes and writing articles to publish each week. I almost tipped over dead when she enthusiastically added her name to the election process for reporter. This is the child that has always hated reading or writing in any form. I will forever love 4H if for no other reason than showing our little girl that writing can be fun.

We did not stop with just two clubs that would be slacking. We signed up for two more that are a little more outside the preconceived notions about 4H.

All six of our children are taking part in a 4H based art class as well! I am head over heels in love!

 Our second unusual 4H program is a 6th though 12th grade engineering club! I was a bit nervous about signing our oldest daughter up for this club. It was a bit outside her comfort level but I figured it was worth checking it out. She absolutely loves it! On their very first day they made toothbrush robots and art bots. She was so excited to show me her little robot and tell me all about how she built it. She has been dealing with autism related social anxiety since she was a very little girl so seeing her jump right into a club and flourish has been amazing. She did not stop there however! She was voted as the club secretary and could not be more thrilled with the position.

I know a lot of people think 4H is just for the farm children in the community but that could not be farther from the truth. It is an amazing program that will bless any child that is able to take part. I strongly urge you to contact your local 4H agent and see what they have to offer in your area. If they do not have a club you would like to see already set up it is a simple process to start a club yourself. If took me about 2 hours to get certified as a 4H volunteer and a friend and I have another club in the works!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Lizard Lady Strikes Again!

Our 10 yr old daughter is obsessed with lizards. 

No seriously she is flat out OBSESSED. 

She spends hours each day out in our backyard catching lizards and studying their markings and anatomy. I was shocked at how many small lizards she was able to catch each time she went out. I don't know about you but I am not the fastest moving person on the planet. The thought of being fast enough to catch a baby lizard just blows my mind.

Not only did she catch one....or two...but she has caught as many as eight in one afternoon!

She and her siblings used an old cooler to build a lizard habitat in which to keep them and continue studying them through out the day.

I do insist that she let them go at the end of the day. Of course that is always met with the puppy dog eyes and the "but mmmmmooooooooooommmmmm" response of a heartbroken child. I do not think I am going to be able to hold her off on purchasing her very own lizard for much longer.

I am trying to find ways to incorporate her love of lizards into her school day. I am currently researching different field manuals with the intent of having her identify each lizard type and hopefully keep a record book of her discoveries. If you have a favorite field manual please let me know!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Invertebrates are cool

Our science lessons this month have been revolving around invertebrates. I don't know about you but I am not all that keen on bugs. Butterflies are cool...the rest...nah....not so much. Unfortunately my children feel the same way about bugs as I do. I an attempt to spark some interest I thought a little field trip to the local bug museum was in order. 

First off who knew there were whole museums full of just bugs? That is entire building full of all different types of beetles, ants, butterflies, walking sticks, and much much more. 

We loved these "windows" into different habitats scattered through out the museum. It was like a game of where is waldo as we tried to find all of the different types of moths, walking sticks and such scattered through the "picture". It was a great chance to talk about camouflage techniques and  native habitats.

Of course the butterfly displays were the coolest things in the entire museum according to my oldest two daughters. They were however very sad that so many butterflies had to die to make these displays. We did learn a great deal about them as we worked our way through the museum. We can now tell you all the ways a butterfly is different from a moth and why the blue morpho butterfly has "eyes" on the underside of it's wings.

The coolest part of the museum would have to be the touching section! We were able to hear a brief talk about several different invertebrates before being able to touch them! I touched a hissing cockroach, a millipede, a scorpion, and a tarantula.  Some of my children were brave enough to touch a few of the specimens. Most however declined. We did learn a great deal about each of the invertebrates before they were brought around for touching. For example if you see a scorpion with small pinchers you want to stay far far away, it has very toxic poison.

So was I able to instill a life long love of all things creepy crawly? Not on your life.  I did however get a little more knowledge into their little heads and I got bonus points for a field trip in the middle of the week. That is always a hit with my family. I am looking forward to studying something a little more cuddly in the future....panda bears anyone?

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Everything is educational

We recently took a family vacation to Wisconsin to see my father's side of the family. While there I over heard my father telling someone that everything we do is in some way educational. While I do not think EVERYTHING we do is educational I do tend to make sure the kids are challenged and shown new things even when on vacation. 

One of the things I attempt to share with my children is an in depth look at things that can be seen as controversial. It is all well and good to tell someone "this is how this works". It is a whole new ball of wax to actually see and experience these places and to then allow the children to ask questions and come to their own conclusions about what we are seeing. 

One of the places we visited was a mink farm. These farm raised mink are raised in "houses" until they develop a desirable pelt. They are then killed, skinned, and turned into coats and such mainly for European countries.  I could have told my children what my ethical view point was on the subject while sitting at our dining room table. All while shading my talking points in an attempt to push them to see things my way. I did not do that. I intentionally did not share any of my view points or shade my narrative in any direction.

We took a walk around the mink farm and got an up close and personal tour from the owner of the farm. He took us through and showed us all of the different steps of raising farmed mink. This included preparing their food, how they are watered, where they are kept, their vaccination schedules, etc.


The children  asked quite a few very interesting questions about not only the farm raised mink but wild mink as well. Thank goodness for google on my cell phone!  

So what did they decide about mink farming? It doesn't really matter does it? 

They had a hands on view of a real life facility. They got to ask questions and delve into the information surrounding the operation. When the person they were asking did not know an answer they researched and found it for themselves. They then formulated their own view point on the subject based on their experience, research, and internal belief structure. 

Will their view point stay the same as they age? Maybe. That isn't the point however. I am not trying to teach my children to feel a certain way about certain subjects. I am teaching them to investigate, question, research, and become involved in things they know nothing about before forming an opinion. I am teaching them that they can not form a view point on a subject without first seeing and researching the subject.  Walking blindly into an opinion without all of the information is a dangerous way to live your life. 

I hope that as they age my children will continue to question and investigate the world around them. That they will never be persuaded to simply adopt someone's opinion on a subject simply because they are told to do so. The world is full of people willing to share their opinions based on little to no facts. I hope my children will learn to base their opinions on their own research and critical thinking. 

Not a bad lesson while on vacation, huh?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Self Directed Learning

I have to say there are somethings in life that I will never get tired of seeing. My children taking the lead and delving into topics that interest them would definitely fit this bill. 

We are not unschoolers in the traditional sense of the word. We do have a curriculum that we follow and I do make sure they are doing certain lessons each day. I do however let them spend quite a bit of time working on their own projects and interests through out the day in an attempt to encourage self directed learning.

There is nothing sweeter to me than to see children really investigate and learn about a topic that interests them. The fact that they are doing this all on their own makes it even sweeter.

You never really know which way their interests is going to take them on a given day. They may spend one entire day working on airplane collages and learning the name of every single air frame they can find (thank you hubby!). Then the next day they are learning how to build little cottages complete with peaked roofs and decorative accents.

I love watching their little brains work on new projects and follow their investigative instincts to new discoveries. I would have to say it is by far my favorite part of homeschooling!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

A day in the life

I have been hesitant to post this "day in the life" piece simply because I do not want to make any other mothers feel they are not doing enough....or show that *I* may not  be doing enough! I decided to go ahead and send it "out there" to the world in an effort to show how our lives flow while homeschooling 5 children and trying to keep everyone alive in the process. This is a "typical" day in our lives. Every day is not like this however. We are just like every other family out there. Some days go smoothly and some days are a struggle. It is what it is. I hope you find these notes on how our day progresses to be helpful.

The breakdown: 7th grader, 4th grader, 1st grader, 1st grader, kindergarten, and 3 yr old. Oh, and a husband who works nights.


Let's go!

  The children and I wake up. The kids brush their teeth and get dressed while their father dishes up the breakfast I made the night before.  After they eat it is time for the rabbit to be fed and then the children are free to go play. Meanwhile I am still in bed checking out what has happened on the internet since the night before.

  Hubby comes down and joins me in the master bedroom. We spend 30min together talking about how his night went and any plans I have for the day. This is the only alone time we have during the day.

  Hubby goes to sleep for the day and I head upstairs for my breakfast. I have my breakfasts made up in bulk and stored in the freezer. I make a quick protein shake while my spinach, egg, and feta quesadilla heats up.

  Time for my first workout of the day. I complete 35 minutes on my stationary bike completing a hills and valley routine. The children are still playing quietly together. This early in the morning they still like each other.

  I am done with the bike and start my morning chores. This is when I clean up the breakfast mess in the kitchen, dining room, and living room. I also take this time to pull a meal from the freezer and get it started in the crock pot.

 I pull out all of the books needed for the day and call all of the children to the table.

  Our oldest 4 children (12, 9, 6, and 6) begin working on their math work for the day. Meanwhile our 5 yr old works his way though his kindergarten workbooks and our 3 yr old works on her coloring and playing with the math manipulative blocks.

   The twins (6 yrs) finish up their math and move on to their handwriting practice. Sara (9yrs) also finishes up her math and moves on to her spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

  The twins move on to their phonics warm-up. I have found that having them do a quick phonics warm-up before starting their reading helps their letter recognition greatly.

  Sara (9) finishes her spelling and starts her morning break. The twins progress to their reading work.

   The 5 youngest children (9, 6, 6, 5, 3) sit down to watch the Leapfrog Talking Words video. Why do musical frogs make everything so much easier to learn?

  I move on to helping our oldest daughter (12) finish her math lesson. Why do percentage symbols and decimals make everyone crazy?

  Our oldest moves on to her spelling, grammar, and punctuation work.

  Snack for our youngest two children (5 and 3). The Leapfrog Talking Words movie has finished so all 5 of the younger children head outside for "recess".

 Our oldest has finished her spelling, grammar, and punctuation work. I spend a few minutes going over her remaining assignments for the day focusing on the work she needs to complete on her own. She then heads to the playroom for her "teenage" time alone with just the tv.   At this point I head to the kids bathroom to pick up the dirty laundry and clean the dried toothpaste off of the sink from the morning brushing frenzy.

  Time for my 30min morning workout with Faithful Workouts. The church ladies really kick my butt when it comes to squats and weights. Do I know how to have a good time or what?

  I am all finished with my workout and it is time to make a snack for our twins.

  The twins start their science and history work.

   Our oldest two (12 and 9) join in for their half of history as well.  Our youngest (3) comes to the table as well to color another picture.

  Sara (9) starts her eye exercises, Hailey (12) starts her reading work. The twins and our son take a break while I straighten the kitchen, dinging room, and living room again.

   Sara (9) is off on her break and we all begin our lunch routine. My lunch again comes from the prepared meals I put in the freezer over the weekend. The children make their own lunches consisting of sandwiches or leftovers.

  Sara (9) starts her science lessons. I read the material to her while she works on drawing a picture concerning the material covered. I have found that when dealing with dyslexia, eye muscle weakness, and ADHD it is best if she keeps her hands busy while listening to her material.

   Sara starts her reading work. We use a dyslexic curriculum for her and it has been a Godsend. The work is difficult for her but she is progressing through the material on a steady basis.

   Sara is done for the day and I am off to start the laundry from the kids bathroom hamper. After getting that started I clean up the mess in the kitchen from lunch and load the dishwasher.

  Our oldest daughter starts her science. She had 2 experiments to complete today which is always fun for everyone in the house. Of course this is also when my husband wakes up to ask for a sandwich and a glass of milk. I quickly take him his sandwich before getting back to the science experiments.

  The youngest 5 are all headed back outside to play in "chalk city". I love having a large paved area in our fenced in back yard. The children are able to ride their bikes and set up chalk villages all day long.

  Our oldest is finished with her science and headed off for some alone time in her room. I forgot how much "alone time" a pre-teen needs. She is very thankful to have her own room in this new house.

  I get a few minutes to spend some time working on my blog.

  I head off to check the laundry and  watch the oldest 4 girls put on a doll fashion show with the outfits they made all on their own.

 Off to the grocery store to get the essentials for our field trip tomorrow.

Back from the grocery store and mom gets a snack and some time to watch the news. Meanwhile our oldest finishes her writing assignment and 2/3rds of her reading assignment.

Time to make lunches for our field trip the next day. We will be heading to a living history village! We go with simple bagged lunches of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pretzels, oranges, and juice pouches.

I make rice to go with our crock pot dinner, pack husband's lunch and dinner for work, and then wake hubby up. We all sit down to eat dinner while hubby has his breakfast. This is usually a short affair as the kids never like what I have made for dinner and I am usually so hungry I eat like it is going out of style.

 The twins (6) and Meg (3) get their dunking in the bathtub. With 8 people and 1 hot water heater we have to spread our showers out throughout the day and double up when possible.

  I am off on my 40min hike through the local state forest. I love having this time alone to just think and decompress from my day. Meanwhile hubby is headed to his shower before work.

 I am finished with my hike and and headed for a shower and then a rest before it is time to get the rest of the children clean and ready for bed.

 It is time for Brent's bath. After finishing up with his bath I make breakfast for in the morning, clean up the kitchen again, and give twins their anti-seizure medicine. Hubby grabs his lunch box, kisses everyone goodbye and heads to work for the night.

Bedtime for the 4 youngest. This is my downtime to do whatever I want. I am a wild woman and head to the master bedroom to lay down and read a book. Meanwhile the older two girls are required to have quiet time in their room until their brother is asleep. Once he is asleep they are welcome to watch some tv until their bedtime. They are expected to turn the tv off on their own and begin their bedtime routine at 9pm.

 Older two girls take turns in the shower and then bed time. After her shower our oldest (12) finally finishes her reading for the day. I guess better late than never.

  I am exhausted headed to bed!

So there you go, a day in our lives. We completed all of our school work, the house is reasonably clean, meals for tomorrow finished and everyone is clean and in beds. Now to do it again tomorrow.....oh wait tomorrow is a field trip! Definitely the best part of homeschooling! Our lives may seem chaotic and slightly insane but I would not trade this time for all the money in the world. We are truly blessed each and every day to have this time together.


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