It’s A Party!!!

Ultimate Blog Party 2011

This is my first time participating in the Ultimate Blog Party.   I’ve been debating all day as to whether or not I want to post.  And if I write a post what do I say?

As I sit and ponder and fret and wonder, I end up with Mercy Me’s  “No More, No Less” song running through my head.

“Let me introduce myself to you.  This is who I am. No more, No Less”

Maybe I should just let you listen to the song for yourself.  It’s become a theme song of sorts for myself.  Like the lyrics state “I’m just trying to be real.”

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

So who am I?  I’m not sure how to answer.  I could tell you things like, I’m married with four daughters or that I’m Christian.  I could tell you that I like to read and I like to cook.  Or maybe I should tell you that I home educate my children? Maybe I should warn you that sometimes I just ramble on about whatever’s on my mind.

I’m still trying to figure out exactly who I am and this blog is my way of processing my world!  Thanks for stopping by!


Reading Aloud Challenge Update 3/31

A couple of weeks ago my friend Debra issued a reading aloud challenge to herself.  Last week, I joined her albeit a little late.  Today I’m joining her again.  

In my last R.A.C (That’s Reading Aloud Challenge) post,  I mentioned that I was going to give the girls a choice between 3 books.  I plan on eventually reading all three books but let them decide which one to read first.

The girls voted for Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH and asked for The Last Battle to be added to the list of upcoming read alouds.

We have not done as much reading aloud as I originally planned so I’m trying to take the position of “some is better than none.”

Here is what we *have* read aloud this week:

  • Honeybear read at least 3 days worth of history to Tailorbear from the Usborne World Wars book.  They are almost finished!
  • I finished one story from The Dutch Twins and started the next week.  Only Supergirl is really listening to this one though I think Tailorbear secretly enjoys it.   She was choosing to tidy the living room while I read aloud
  • We’ve read one chapter from Mrs. Frisby.
  • We started another Yesterday’s Classic book on the Nook entitled Great Inventors and Their Inventions.  We started with James Watt.
  • Supergirl and I started reading a Circle C Beginners book: Andi’s Fair Surprise.  I’m mostly reading it aloud but she is reading some of the words she is able to read.

We did not listen to Caddie Woodlawn.  We only have one disk left and it is due back at the library on Saturday.   Planning on finishing it this week!

So how has Reading Aloud gone for you in your home this week?

This post is linked to Debra’s Reading Aloud Challenge at Footprints in the Butter.


TOS Review: Song School Latin


These past few weeks, Supergirl and I have been enjoying using an introductory Latin program from Classical Academic Press entitled Song School Latin.

As I type this I hear “Here comes Magistra. Salve. Salve!” coming from the family room as my 6th grader works on her math.  She’s not even the student I’m using this product with!  But she’s been listening to the songs as well.


Song School Latin, written by Amy Rehn, is an enjoyable way to introduce Latin to younger Elementary aged students. Children learn words and phrases from songs. Song School Latin presents both classical and ecclesiastical pronunciations. We’ve chosen to use the ecclesiastical pronunciation.

The Student Edition:

The student book includes the CD containing all 30 songs in both pronunciations.  A pronunciation guide with charts for both classical and ecclesiastical styles is included in the beginning of the book. This guide also describes the differences between the two pronunciations. The reader is told to “take your pick” because “either choice is a good one.” The CD tracks list all the classical songs first and then the ecclesiastical ones which makes it easier to use.  Additionally, in the book the track number for both is listed right next to the song title so you can quickly find it on the CD.


The book contains 31 chapters. Each chapter is one lesson.  Review Chapters occur every 3 to 4 lessons and cover new material presented since the last review.  The  first three lessons contain 2 to 3 songs. Subsequent new material lessons contain one new song per chapter.  Averaging 3 to 4 pages per chapter, each new material lesson contains 4 to 5 of  the following sections:

  • Words to Learn—A list of Latin words or phrases with the English translation
  • Chapter Song(s)—These are the lyrics to song or songs.  The Latin is bolded. 
  • Chapter Lesson—Grammar is gently introduced.  For example, in Chapter 8 the students are introduced to the idea that Latin nouns are divided into families called declensions.
  • Grow Your English—In this section children discover English derivatives.
  • Practice Your Latin--- This includes handwriting practice by tracing dots but also includes circling correct words and matching Latin words with English translation.
  • Show What You Know--- Similar to the Practice Your Latin section but does not include handwriting.  May also include fill in the blank questions in addition to the circling and matching activities.
  • Review Words— Occurring less frequently, this section reviews both vocabulary and grammar concepts.

Review Chapters are 5-6 pages in length and include the following section types:

  • Master Your Words—This section lets the student know how many new words or phrases she has learned. This cheering section does not occur in later review chapters.
  • Chapter Words—There is a section for each chapter with a list of Latin words.  The student writes the English words.  There will be 3 to 4 of these: one for each chapter being reviewed.
  • Master Your Songs—A listing of the songs with the track numbers.  Includes full lyrics for the first verse with notes about subsequent verses.
  • Activities—Similar in style to the Practice Your Latin and Show What You Know sections
  • Chapter Story—Each review chapter closes with a Chapter story.  Some of these are common fairytales such as “The Three Little Pigs” or “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”.  Some are bible stories such as “The Parable of the Vineyard”  The stories are in English with the Latin vocabulary substituted for English.  (Pater and Mater for Father and Mother in Goldilocks). As the program progresses, students choose the appropriate Latin word to fit the sentence in the story.

The student book also includes a Chapter by Chapter Glossary and an Alphabetical Glossary.

The Teacher Edition:


 The teacher edition is divided into three sections.  The first section contains the student book with answers.  Displaying two student pages per single teacher page, this section presents teacher tips and notes in a shaded box right on the corresponding student page. The second section offers additional activity pages. You will find one page per new material lesson and 2 pages per review chapter. These pages are  full size and fully reproducible.  The last section displays the answers to these activity pages. The pages are printed two activity pages to one teacher page.


 I received a sample pack of the Latin Monkey Match cards.  Not just flashcards, these cards can be used to play a variety of games.  I would recommend these for students who are reading fluently.  A full deck of cards contains over 200 cards of Latin and English words. 

My Thoughts:

I love Song School Latin.  Even though it is targeted for 2-3rd graders, my older children have had fun with the songs.  Developmentally, Supergirl is on the young side but she has mastered several Latin words and phrases.She doesn’t read fluently and struggles with writing but we’ve been able to adapt the workbook.  I read to her.  She responds. Then I record her answers in the book.  She does the tracing of the letters herself in the Practice Your Latin section and if I read the choices to her she can do some of the matching.   Some of the activities require drawing. These she *can* do independently. (For example draw a person who is feeling bene [fine] or optime [great]).  

Though I really love the student book and CD, I’m not as thrilled with the teacher edition.  I like having the additional activity pages, but I find the layout of the answer key/notes section to be difficult to read.  The font is necessarily small to allow for two pages on one page format but this makes the teacher notes and suggestions nearly unreadable for me.  Fortunately, I haven’t needed to use the answer key.

The program seems geared for classroom or co-op use (some activities require the student to interact with other students), but we’ve been able to adapt the activities in the student book by substituting parents and siblings for classmates. The suggested activities in the Teacher Edition appear geared for a classroom and since the text is difficult to read, I have not incorporated them into our studies.  These would be *excellent* to have if I were teaching Latin in a home school co-op situation.

Though I’m not sure the teacher book is necessary, I do highly recommend the Song School Latin program. By gently laying the foundation,  Song School Latin prepares students to transition to the Latin for Children program published by Classical Academic Press.

The student and teacher editions retail for $22.95 each.  The Latin Monkey Match cards are $24.95.   Classical Academic Press also offers a money saving bundle. 

Classical Academic Press offers products for Logic, Bible and Poetry as well as in languages other than Latin such as French, Spanish and Greek.  We’ve enjoyed Song School Latin so much that I am considering their Song School Greek program.

Visit the website to see all the resources that Classical Academic Press Offers.

You might also want to check out my review of Song School Spanish!


This Graphic contains the FTC Regulations statement for Reviews.

All information is correct and accurate as of the date of this review.

You can read my other Schoolhouse Review Crew Reviews to find more great products.

Classic Academic Press generously provided me with a Student Edition, A Teacher edition and a sample pack of the Monkey Match Game for review purposes.


Meet me on Monday--- 3/28 edition

Last week a couple of my friends participated in this fun blog hop/meme.   I’ve seen at least one of my blogging friends participate already this morning so today I’ve decided to join in the fun.

1.  Crunchy or soft tacos? Crunchy.  Definitely.  Hands down.  I’m a crunchy taco girl.   My husband prefers soft tacos so we end up with both when I make tacos.  Like tonight.  We’re having tacos tonight  and I have to remember to get the flour tortillas out of the freezer for Honeybear.  But it’s ok that he prefers soft tacos.  It just means more crunchy ones for me <grin>

2.  Do you scrapbook? No, not really.  I’m a scrapbook wannabe failure.  No, I don’t wannabe a failure.  I want to want to scrapbook but I fail.  My daughter kind of sort of scrapbooks.  She’s  a crafty kind of gal.  If she didn’t look like both my husband and I,  I would seriously consider wondering if she was switched at birth.  How can someone so talented come from someone who lacks those skills?  Gotta be a genetic throwback to a previous generation.

3.  Do you take any daily medications? Yes.  But I don’t wanna talk about it.

4.  What is your favorite sound? This is a tough question.  It’s a toss up between the laughter of my children, especially supergirl who didn’t really laugh until she was around 3 years old.  She was pretty non-verbal for years.  Hearing her giggle is one of the sweetest sounds I have ever heard, though I do enjoy the laughter of all 4 of my girls.  My other favorite sound is the ocean.  There is something very calming and relaxing for me to sit or walk along the beach and hear the waves and smell the salty air.   I loved it when we stayed in a hotel right on the beach.  I could hear the ocean through the window.  It was heavenly!  Ok.. I got it.. favorite sound…. the girls laughing while the ocean waves crash!

5.  Where were you born? The Windy City.  Which according to my geographically confused children is in the state of Michigan.  <shakes head>   No, dear, it is on Lake Michigan… it’s NOT in Michigan.   Guess I better order that Geography elective for school sooner rather than later.


Summer Salads: Tuna Macaroni Salad

Spring is here and summer is just around the corner. For me that means it’s time to bring out the salads!  On Friday, I made my first summer salad of the year: a tuna macaroni salad.  With some fresh fruit (I have a fondness for grapes with my macaroni salads) and crusty bread this main dish salad makes an excellent summer meal.

If you’ve read any of my other recipe type posts you already know that I don’t really measure anything.  I’m a “dump cook”.   I just dump the ingredients in a bowl and mix it altogether making adjustments as I go depending on how it looks or smells.

What you need:

  • 2 cups elbow macaroni, cooked according to package directions (I prefer elbows with my tuna but you can use any shape)
  • 1/2 cup or so mayonnaise or Vegenaise (more if you want it creamier. Vegenaise is a vegan alternative to mayo which contains no egg or dairy)
  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks or about 1/4 cup or so celery, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup or so GREEN olives, sliced (these are what takes the tuna salad to another dimension and the red pimento adds a nice bit of color)
  • Salt, Pepper and Garlic powder to taste

What you do:

  • combine, macaroni, tuna, onion, celery and olives in a large mixing bowl
  • you can use a small mixing bowl and mix together the mayo and spices
  • or you can dump the mayo on top of the salad and add the spices to the mayo
  • mix together thoroughly. 

I served it immediately (it was lunch time and we were all very hungry) but you can make it ahead and chill.  This will give the flavors time to meld and I think a chilled salad tastes better on a hot summer day.  When I make it ahead of time, I use more mayonnaise or I stir in a bit more mayo just before serving as I prefer a creamier salad.

Here is a picture of Friday’s lunch:  Tuna Macaroni Salad with sliced Cara Cara Oranges.


(This  post appears in the Christian Home—Issue 8  hosted by Mrs. White at The Legacy of Home.   The Christian Home is a weekly blog magazine.  For more information check out this about page.)


A Reading Aloud Challenge

Recently my friend Debra, from Footprints in the Butter began a reading aloud challenge for herself.   I want to join her in that challenge.

There are lots and lots of great reasons to read aloud to and with our children.  Sometimes I need to be reminded of those reasons.  I’m looking forward to reading Sarah Clarkson’s Read for the Heart so I can be reminded of those reasons and have a book list to help me choose some great literature.  (Look for my review of this book on May 27th)

I believe Reading Aloud is an essential component to home education.  We used to read aloud about  1 1/2 to 2 hours a day from history, science and literature selections.   This past school year, I have really dropped the ball.

Part of the reason we chose Sonlight Curriculum was for the great books.  I would spend about 45 minutes to an hour a day reading Science and History and in the evening, as a family, we would read for another 30 minutes to an hour from whatever our Read Aloud(s) were.  Sometimes we would even spend 20-30 minutes listening to an audiobook during lunch.

In January of this year I posted that I was participating in several reading challenges.   Those were for *me*.    But now I want to add in a challenge for my family to get back to reading great books aloud.

This past week I started reading The Dutch Twins to Supergirl.  I read one chapter of Nutrition 101: Choose Life to all the girls.  During lunch this week we listened to the audiobook version of In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson.   Daddy also participated by reading aloud to Tailorbear her history.  They read from Usborne Books The World Wars.

This coming week I’ll continue to read The Dutch Twins to Supergirl.  Honeybear will continue to read history to Tailorbear.  We’ll finish up the audiobook, Caddie Woodlawn and I’ll read another chapter from our nutrition book.  I’d also like to begin reading aloud a classic but we’ll hold a family vote to decide.  Some choices include Treasure Island, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, and From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

To quote Debra, I owe it to my kids to make myself be accountable so I’m going to join her in posting on Thursdays and I’m going to ask her to start a linky to make this a regular deal.


TOS Review: Big IQ Kids

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Big IQ Kids states that they have only have one mission: “to transform your young learner into an A+, 100 % student.”   

The Facts:

  • Not a a software product “Our learning applications are interactive tools that proactively work together with young learners to create individualized lessons around that particular student's own pace.”
  • Customizable—use predefined word lists for spelling and vocabulary or create your own.  Adjust the number and type of problems in math. Adjust the number of questions in the U.S. States program.
  • Online Subscription—access Big IQ Kids from any computer with internet access.
  • 4 Programs: Spelling, Math, Vocabulary and U.S. States
  • Programs for grades 1 through 8- The age range that benefits the most would be 2nd grade through 5th grade.  For math and spelling you can choose from “Grade 1 and below”  through “Grade 8”.   Vocabulary starts at 3rd grade, however there are guidelines for the number of words for each grade level.
  • Free and Premium programs available—Big IQ Kids offers several options for free and premium programs including money saving bundle options.  Click HERE for pricing options and click HERE for details on the free vs premium programs.
  • Can be used to supplement, enhance or work with a student’s current curriculum.  The U.S. States program is an excellent supplement when studying US History.  The spelling program can be customized to use the words from the child’s language arts programs.  
  • Rewards—students can earn coins to play games.  Parents can set some controls for the games such as “only on weekends”
  • Website located at www.bigiqkids.com

Here are some screen shots:


The Log-in Screen


The Math Program


The Modification Page of the Spelling Program


A Test Page from the Vocabulary Program


The Main Page for the U.S. States Program


 The Games Page

The Opinions:

  • Mom’s Thoughts (Likes):  I like that the program requires mastery.  A student cannot progress to the next level without achieving 100% on the quiz or test.  I like that Tailorbear (6th grade) can be completely independent with this program.  I like that Supergirl (1st grade level) is nearly independent with math and spelling.  I love that I can customize the spelling and vocabulary word lists. We use another program for spelling for Tailorbear but with the customization option I can have her master the words using the Big IQ Kids program.  I really liked the “state intro” section of the U.S. Program.  You click on a state to learn more about the state and then answer a question.
  • Mom’s Thoughts (dislikes): I didn’t care for the robotic sound of the voices but the girls didn’t seem to mind and never complained about the sound. However, the robotic voice did make discerning spelling words difficult and I often needed to use the context sentence to help Supergirl figure out which word to spell.  I disliked that I could not get a mix of math facts.  I could choose a mix of operations and I could choose a different fact for each operation but I could not set a percent for different facts within the same operation.  Customization options are limited for the U.S. States Program. There is no separate parent account.  I must sign in as the student in order to modify lessons.  This means that the student can easily make their own modifications.  This arrangement is ok for Supergirl but does present temptation for Tailorbear who will give herself more time for math quizzes.
  • Mom’s Thoughts (issues): The vocabulary program makes use of antonyms and synonyms but in the lower level this does not work well.  For example, BigIQKids Vocabulary states that nail is the opposite of board.   Board has no antonym. A nail is not a board and it is a word associated with board but is not a true antonym.  This confuses my daughter. For the younger children it can also be an issue that the synonyms and antonyms must be defined in addition to the new vocabulary word.  
  • Tailorbear’s Thoughts: “I liked that I could go play a game as a break if I was getting frustrated.  I liked the games.  I liked the U.S. States program because I didn’t know where all the states were.  Vocabulary was ok but I mostly knew the words already.”  (Mom notes that BigIQKids has helped improve Tailorbear’s spelling! And U.S. States did improve her knowledge of state locations on the map.)
  • Supergirl’s Thoughts: “Math is my favorite. Math is fun.  I get to play games and sandwich maker game is my favorite. U.S. States is my other favorite.  It’s my favorite because you learn about the states.  The vocabulary is too hard.  Spelling is my thirdest favorite.  I can spell cat and sad.” (Mom notes that Supergirl has enjoyed learning her +0, +1 and +2 facts.  Vocabulary and States require assistance and are quite difficult for her)

Click on the banner below to read what my crew mates have to say about Big IQ Kids.  Photobucket

Disclaimer: As a TOS Crew member, I received this product free of charge to review. This review is my honest opinion with, hopefully, enough detail as to why I liked or did not like a product so that my readers can make an informed decision. I received no compensation.

Big IQ Kids generously provided me with two premium bundle 12 month subscriptions for review purposes.


Five Question Friday (3/18/11)

1. Have you ever testified in court? For what?  Testified?  No.  

2. Do you still have your wedding dress?  Yes.  I don’t know how well it is preserved but it’s sitting in a box around here somewhere.  I have a daughter or two who wants to be able to wear it.

3. Is there a special place you like to go when you're happy, sad, stressed, etc.?  I have a place I’d love to go: the ocean.  I love the ocean.  I don’t get to go to the ocean as much I would like but it is where I would like to go when I am happy or sad or stressed or just need to ponder the Majesty of God.  

4. If you have kids, do they sleep with you? If you don't have kids...will you let your kids sleep with you when/if you have them?  Do they sleep with me?  No.   Did they sleep with me?  Yes.   I had one who very rarely ever came to sleep with us and one who I wasn’t sure we would ever get her OUT of of our bed.  Sometimes having the little one sleep with us meant we all actually got some sleep!

5. Do you watch late night TV?  Do you mean like the Tonight Show?  No.  Do I ever watch TV late at night?  Well technically if you’re talking about broadcast TV, no.  We don’t have cable or satellite or even an antenna, but we do watch streaming and get DVD’s from Netflix.  Very very rarely though do I watch late at night.  Once upon a long time ago I was a night owl but not now.

Those are my answers for this week’s Five Question Friday.  Check out My Little Life for more responses!


The Lost Treasure of the Incas

Whenever we do a deep cleaning (you know the kind where you dig out in the corners where you’ve stuffed everything out of sight, under couch cushions, and the far reaches of the closet?) my husband will call out “have you found the lost treasure of the Incas yet?”

This week we’ve been half heartedly doing some deep cleaning.  Today, Turtlegirl brought me a letter.  She said she found it in her room.  No one could answer how this folded, old note got into their room (from out of my dresser drawer!!).   She wanted to know what it was.

It was lost treasure.   I really thought I had lost it.  It was supposed to be in the rubbermaid container with other sentimental notes but wasn’t and I thought I had inadvertently tossed it in the trash.

It isn’t treasure that will pay the bills or fund our retirement.  It’s a treasure in my heart.   I still remember the day I received that note.  I don’t remember what I was wearing but I remember what he was wearing (his black cowboy boots, blue jeans, the black shirt open at the collar with a silver chain around his neck.   The cowboy boots are long gone as are the jeans but the shirt still sits in our closet.  It’s a little snug but hey it’s been 18 years).

It’s the first letter my husband ever wrote for me.  We’d had our first kiss and it was a very sweet and romantic note about our first kiss.  It was odd though to actually see my name at the top.  For years and years letters have been addressed to Dear and signed by Honey.   So I guess the letter proves that he did indeed learn my name after all. 

It may not be worth gold or silver but today we did indeed find the lost treasure of the Incas!


Home School Conference or Convention?

Blog Cruise Button

In the home school community spring means conventions and conferences.  This week’s TOS Blog Cruise is:  “Homeschool Conventions - Do you attend, what are the benefits, pitfalls, etc. Share your experience!”

I am blessed to live in an area that offers more than one convention or conference, yet with multiple possibilities I did not attend my first conference until 2006!!!  I just wasn’t sure how to work out the logistics with small children before then.

You may have noticed I have used the words conference and convention.  Some people may use them interchangeably but I do see a distinction between them, especially for home education.

In my experience a conference focuses on building up the home school by providing speakers that focus on topics related to the family.  These conferences may offer workshops and have speakers who do focus on the educational aspect of home schooling and they may offer a vendor hall, but primarily, the purpose appears to focus on a religious conviction to home school and to raise your family in a particular way.

While a conference primarily focuses on the family, a convention focuses more on providing practical support and encouragement for the educational aspect of home education.  Certainly there are speakers who may encourage home schooling as a way of life or a particular family life style but what I experienced were more speakers who encouraged me in the HOW to home educate.  Workshops were offered to teach me how to teach writing or designed to share how to use literature, for example, in history lessons.

I much prefer the convention style over the conference style.  I want to shop the vendor hall.  I want to see the materials and ask questions.  I like saving money by not having to pay shipping.    I don’t want to hear keynote speakers that present their lifestyle/ home school choices as the only valid choice for Christians and all other choices fall into the “not really Christians because they aren’t like me”  category.

I like going to our large home school convention that caters to ALL home educators.  You’ll find Christians from all denominations and backgrounds.  You’ll find home schoolers who home school for religious reasons along side those home educators who who home school for academic reasons.  Both of those groups mingle through the vendor exhibitions with all the other home school families who home school for every reason you can imagine.

The large family centered conference is just around the corner.  I won’t be attending.  I’m not interested in the key note speaker and I can’t afford the outrageous cost of a ticket especially for a vendor hall that only has a handful of exhibitors.   The large state-wide convention will happen in a couple of months.  I am planning on attending that one.


I love Lent

Growing up I can’t say that I even liked Lent let alone love it!   Lent was simply that 40 day period from Ash Wednesday to Easter that must be endured.

As a Catholic who disliked fish (immensely disliked!!),  I truly hated Fridays.   Public Schools (at least then) catered to Catholic students and served things like fish sticks (blech!) with parsleyed potatoes (those were good!) or cheese pizza.  

Dinner meant fish, or tuna noodle casserole, you know the kind made with cream of something soup.   My mom would also add slices of American Cheese Singles (I’ll just say “not my favorite”) and crushed potato chips (I liked that part!).   Sometimes we would order cheese pizza.  That would have been good but I really prefer pepperoni.

I didn’t understand what Lent meant.  I didn’t understand that it was a time of preparation.  I didn’t realize that experiencing Lent, would make the Resurrection of the Lord the most meaningful historical event in the history of humanity. I thought that Lent was about giving up something (usually chocolate) and being rewarded with a large basket of goodies.

Then, I became a protestant.   To me Lent was a Catholic thing so, no longer being Catholic meant that I no longer had to endure Lent and so I no longer even acknowledged the season.   I do know now that many protestants do observe lent but I didn’t.

Everything changed last year when I experienced my first Lent as an Orthodox Christian.    Lent is a beautiful time of remembering Christ’s earthly ministry.  It is a time of remembering why he came and why he died.  It is filled with hopeful anticipation of the greatest of all Church Feasts: Pascha.

Last Sunday was Forgiveness Sunday.  It was also the Sunday of Adam and Eve’s fall from paradise.   Today was the first Sunday of Lent. During Lent we remember that we were created in His image and that He will rescue us from the grave and we will become icons of Christ.

How will I be celebrating Lent this year?  I will be following the recipe given during the sermon last week: to forgive, to fast and to build up treasure in heaven.  

Forgiveness is a process that brings healing.  Sin builds up walls between God and man.  It brings up walls between man and man.  Forgiveness tears down those walls. Forgiveness builds up and restores relationships.

Fasting isn’t just about “giving up something” nor is it about not eating certain foods on certain days.  It is also about abstaining from sin.  We are encouraged to fast from worldly pursuits.

Treasure building is, I think, the proactive and visible part of Lent.  We build up treasure in heaven when we give to the poor.  We build up treasure in heaven when we serve one another.   I can be building up treasure in heaven for myself by spending more  time in prayer and by choosing to read the Bible more or choosing to read books that encourage me to focus on God.

I am looking forward to the rest of Lent.   I’m looking forward to Holy Week.   And I am especially looking forward to Pascha and the 40 days of celebrating His glorious resurrection!


TOS Review: Reading Kingdom


I am so excited today to tell you about this online reading program, Reading Kingdom, created by Dr. Marion Blank.

First let me share a little bit of background about Supergirl.  She is 13 years old but doesn’t look it and is certainly not 13 in her emotional, cognitive or social skills.   Generally she looks about 6-7 years old and her academic skills fall in the K-2nd grade range.  She is developmentally delayed both physically and mentally.

We had reached a wall of sorts when it came to reading.  Perhaps I wasn’t consistent enough or perhaps the learning issues associated with DiGeorge were emerging but whatever the reason we were still struggling with reading 2 and 3 letter short vowel words fluently.  She might read them fluently on the flashcard or in isolation but be unable to recognize them when reading a book and would slowly and painfully try sounding out even those words she had previously mastered.

We began using Reading Kingdom in mid-January.  She went from struggling to read ONE phonics reader (the controlled kind with generally 1 sentence of 4-6 words per page) to pulling books off the shelf to scan for words she now knows.  Several times a day I hear “look mom!  I found ’some’.”  Or “Look ‘bird’.”   And just this week she and sat on the couch and she read 3 of those little readers.  3!!  Her confidence has increased 1000% and words that she struggled to sound out are nearly fluent and through Reading Kingdom she has learned to read words such as boy, girl, bird, here, rest, some, are, is, the, plane, jump, swim and many more.

Though I mention phonics in my previous paragraph I need to stop and emphasize that Reading Kingdom is NOT a phonics program.  It uses more of a whole word/sight word approach.  If you are looking for phonics based reading instruction where phonograms and their associated phonemes (sounds) are formally and overtly taught, you will be disappointed. This program does subtly teach some phonogram/phoneme association through various activities but it is not a phonics based program.  (Please read this article and this article  for an explanation of Reading Kingdom’s approach to reading instruction.)

Reading Kingdom is organized into 6 levels of instruction.  It includes skills surveys, progress checks and reviews if necessary.  The six levels are:

  • Pre-Reading (sequencing and keyboard skills that lay the foundation)
  • Level 1 through Level 5


Levels 1-5 follow the same basic format.   Each level has 6 books.  Reading Kingdom teaches all the words necessary to read the first book, then the child is rewarded with reading the book and then moves to the next set of words.   SuperGirl began Level 1 on Feb 1st.   Just a few days ago completed all the words for book 4.  

You can read more about the organization of the levels by clicking here.   After completing each level, the program administers a progress check.  If the child has mastered the level, he will move to the next level.  If, however, the child has not mastered the level, the child will continue to do review activities.

The program customizes itself to meet the needs of the student so each student will have a unique experience with Reading Kingdom. Because the program adapts to the child it is imperative that parents do not help or complete the exercises for the child.   If the child is very young, he may require hand support or assistance and Reading Kingdom gives suggestions here on how to provide that type of help. This article explains how the customization works.


Perhaps now is a good time to give a summary of what a typical session looks like.   The student is greeted by the cute owl on the left at the beginning of every session. If a child requires both “Seeing Sequences” and “Letter Land” (the two sections of the Pre-Reading level) a session would involve the program telling the child to find the 2 or 3 letters in the correct order.   After several of those, it would move to teaching the child where the letters (and some punctuation) are on the keyboard.   The child is first encouraged to use the mouse to click on the keyboard on the screen and then will be instructed to use the keyboard to type the letter.  Only a few letters are taught each session and a session only lasts 10-15 minutes.

In Level 1 the student begins to learn words.  But what if the child already knows the word?  No problem.  For nouns and verbs the child is told “if you can spell bug (for example) then type it here now”.  If the child correctly spells the word, a new word will be given.   If the child does not know the word, they will go through several different activities that teach them the word.   Small words or “sight words” such as a, here, the, some, most are taught in a slightly different way and the student is not asked if he knows this word.  In other words, though students can test out of most nouns and verbs, they cannot test out of these helping or “little” words.   For more details on the types of activities used including screen shots, please click here.

Overall, I am impressed with this program.  I was concerned because the program mentions “typing”.   SuperGirl is unable to fully use her left hand and I was afraid her physical disabilities would prevent her from using this program.  I am happy to share that touch typing is NOT a requirement and she is able to successfully type using just one finger. 

Next I was concerned that we’d be in Letter Land for the entire review period.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that she learned the keyboard very quickly.   She enjoys the program and we often do “post sessions”.   When the daily session is completed the cute owl comes out and tells you that you can click on the door to exit or you may click on the balloon to do more activities.

I love the post sessions!  This is where she can practice or review past words and re-read books.   The student may pick up to three activities.  We often do two to three depending on time and her motivation.

The website talks about parents getting progress reports by email and being able to view the child’s progress on the website but I have been disappointed with this aspect.   For example, if I click on Level 1 to get more information all I see is that she started Level 1 on  Feb 1st. Every single day I check that and so far every single day it says her progress is “very good”.    But it doesn’t tell me what she has actually done.

I do get more information with the Post Sessions report but if we don’t do a Post Session, then there is nothing to report.  With the post Session I can see what book we are working on and what word she learned that day.  I wish that I didn’t have to have Supergirl complete a post session in order to see what book she is on and what new word(s) she learned.

I mentioned that I sit with Supergirl when she does her Reading Kingdom sessions.   Reading Kingdom suggests that you sit with your child for the first few weeks.  I wholeheartedly agree!  This is especially important when doing the Skills Assessment and when doing Letter Land and Seeing Sequence. Sitting with the child allows you to see what he is doing and how he is doing it so that you can assess any problems.  For example, frequently, during Letter Land, Supergirl would want to use the keyboard when she was supposed to use the mouse.  Sometimes, even now, she will start to type before the program is ready for her to begin.   By sitting with her I can give her reminders to wait.

In the “How to Use Reading Kingdom” Article,  it says that this program is ideal for children 4-10 years of age.  It also says “it is also
useful with older children who may be having difficulty in learning to read.”    The website also suggests that this program is ideal for young children who have not yet begun to read. Click here to read what they believe is necessary for a child to do to be ready to read.  I’m not sure that I agree with Reading Kingdom as I do believe that Supergirl’s current success and progress with the program is due in part to having some phonics foundation.  Perhaps it is more of an age/maturity issue?  I don’t know. I do know  that BooBear would not have had the maturity to do this program at age 4 even though she would have met the basic skills required.

Overall, I am very happy with this program.  Completing all the levels should bring a child to a 3rd grade reading level. I look forward to Supergirl completing the program.  If she doesn’t complete it by the end of our generous subscription, I will be considering purchasing a subscription so she can finish.

Reading Kingdom is available on a month to month basis with no minimum time length for $19.99.  You may also purchase a 12 month subscription for $199.00.   Additional children are $9.99 per month.

Visit the Reading Kingdom Store to read more about acquiring a subscription or to see the other products available such as the book on which Reading Kingdom is based: The Reading Remedy by Dr. Marion Blank. To contact Reading Kingdom click here.

This program has been an excellent fit for my daughter.  Click on the banner below to read how Reading Kingdom worked for my fellow Crew Mates: Photobucket

Disclaimer: As a TOS Crew member, I received this product free of charge to review. This review is my honest opinion with, hopefully, enough detail as to why I liked or did not like a product so that my readers can make an informed decision. I received no compensation.

Reading Kingdom generously provided me with a 12 month subscription added on to a 30 day free trail for a total of 13 months of Reading Kingdom. 


Forgiveness Sunday

For Orthodox Christians today is Forgiveness Sunday. Today, we ask forgiveness from each other for sins and offenses we have committed against each other.  Sometimes we can hurt, wound or offend others without even realizing it and on Forgiveness Sunday Orthodox Christians acknowledge this. 

So today I ask you my readers to forgive me if I have given you offense or wounded you.

If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive you your trespasses (Matthew 6:14-15).

May God forgive us all!


Extra Creamy, Extra Cheesy Mac & Cheese

The other night I made Macaroni and Cheese for dinner.  I don’t usually make Mac & Cheese for our family meal (I usually just make it for the girls for lunch) so I wanted something a little more “grown up” and a little more classy.I wish I had taken a picture to share but alas  we ate it before could digitally immortalize it.

When I make my mac & cheese from scratch I start with a basic cream sauce and add cheese.  Then I just stir in the macaroni.  This time however,  I wanted to bake the cheesy pasta.

What I Used:

  • Macaroni (I wanted to use all medium shells but I ended up not quite having enough so we had a mixture of small shells and medium shells.   about 4 – 5 cups uncooked; cooked according to directions
  • 6 cups Milk  (actually I reconstituted non-fat instant milk for 4 cups and then used 2 cups of our 2% milk.  I was running low on milk)
  • 1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil  
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp ground mustard
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp garlic (or to taste)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • (I didn’t measure the cheese…. all measurements for cheese are approximate)
  • 4-6 oz cream cheese (I used slightly more than 1/2 of an 8 oz package)
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese

What I did:

  • I had my daughter cook the macaroni and set aside.  She made about 8 oz (1/2 of a 16 oz box) medium shells.  We realized that was NOT enough so then she made 2 cups of small shells.  About 4 cups of small shells or elbow macaronis or about 4-5 cups of medium shells would work.
  • melt butter with oil in large heavy sauce pan; when butter is melted and bubbly whisk in flour.  At this point I whisk in my seasonings.  Cook and stir for about a minute or until flour/oil mixture is bubbly.
  • gradually whisk in milk
  • over med high heat bring to a boil (it should thicken as it begins to boil) (you should stir constantly but I stir very frequently or get a daughter to stir constantly)
  • after reaching boil, reduce heat and stir in all the cheeses
  • place macaroni in bottom of baking dish (I used my 11 X 15)
  • Pour cheese sauce over macaroni (I used a spoon to kind of mix it a little and spread the sauce evenly)
  • I sprinkled a bit more parmesan and cheddar cheese over the top and baked at 375 degrees until the cheese was melted and browned.  (about 25 minutes give or take)

I intended to serve this as the main dish but I did end up serving Boca Chik”in Patties with it. (These are vegetarian patties that resemble breaded chicken patties).  I also served salad, carrots and green beans.   This was a HUGE hit with my family with one daughter going back for seconds and thirds!   We did have enough left over for daddy to take for two lunches.  So I would say this would serve 8-10 people depending on the size of the appetite.

(This blog post has been submitted to the Blog Carnival The Christian Home hosted by The Legacy of Home)


Five Question Friday

It’s been way too long since I’ve participated in Five Question Friday over at My Little Life.   These are fun, and since I am procrastinating and since it is Friday and who doesn’t like to have fun on a Friday, I’m participating today.

1. Have you ever forgotten your child in a store or at school? At school? LOL.. nope since we home school, I’ll add that I’ve never forgotten a child at home either.  At a store.. no…. leave a baby in a hospital room while I walk with her twin to the OR and then return to the waiting room because I thought baby was with Grandma? Um.. I plead the 5th.

2. Where did you go on your very first date? (Like...first first, not first with your spouse or current significant other!)  I don’t know.  I didn’t really date much.  I can’t even remember WHO was my first date let alone where we went or what we did.  It could have been Mike but I don’t remember where we went. Maybe it was a school concert? 

I guess it doesn’t stick in my mind because he wasn’t the one.  Now if you were to ask about first date with my husband?  I’d have to ask: you mean the first time we got together after meeting which was like a date or the first actual official first date? (I can remember both!)

3. What's your "silly" fear? (We're not talking water and heights.)  Silly fear?  I don’t know.  What do you mean by silly?  Fear of something that can’t really hurt me?  I’m sure I have some silly fears.  I know I have irrational fears.  I have a fear of stinging creatures which makes me feel quite silly at times.  If it has a stinger or looks like it has a stinger then look out cause I might scream and run.  It’s silly in certain situations to be afraid of them so I guess that’s my silly fear; I’m afraid of flying insects that sting even where there is no danger.

4. Confrontation: do you cause it, deal with is as it comes, or run far far away? Yes.

Oh, that wasn’t a yes or no question?  Well, yes sometimes I cause confrontation because sometimes you just have to confront somebody.  Yes, I deal with confrontation as it comes because sometimes you have to (usually related to causing it LOL) but I prefer to run far far away from confrontation and avoid it altogether.  I don’t like rocking the boat because rocking boats have a nasty habit of tipping over and dumping me in to the deep end where it is over my head.

5. Wood floors or carpet? (Do you mean what I have or what I would like?) What I have:  carpet.  What I prefer: BOTH.  I loved having hardwood floors.  I found them easier to keep clean than carpeting.   But I like a decent carpet too.  In my dining room I would prefer hardwood floors.  In the living room, I think I’d like hardwood floors with maybe an area rug.  In the bedrooms I prefer carpet cause hardwood is COLD when you climb out of bed in the morning.