October 30 ~ Read Aloud Challenge

Debra over at Footprints in the Butter has started back with her Read Aloud Challenge Link Up.  When the girls were younger we read aloud daily.  We have fond memories of reading aloud as a family.   Now that the girls are older I find it so much more difficult to carve out time to read aloud.   I keep telling myself that I need to make reading aloud a priority for Supergirl but unfortunately, I tend to push that aside as well getting caught up in striving to teach her to read, write, and do math.

It’s not that we’re not a book loving family.  The 5 independent readers can all be found with a book at some point during the day and the not-yet-reading-independently-but-still-loves-books girl is frequently reminded to “put down that book.”

We’ve done some reading aloud a few weeks ago.  We were reading Only the Names Remain, Sing Down The Moon, and Song of Hiawatha as part of our Native America studies.

About 3 weeks ago Tailorbear started Sonlight’s Core 7 (oops it was Core 7 when I purchased it… I think it might be Core H if you purchase it new): World History In-Depth Part 2.   She’s been reading the history and the reader herself but tonight we’re finally starting A Murder for Her Majesty. She could easily read this as a reader but I loved this book when I read it aloud several years ago and I want to read it aloud again.  Turtlegirl wants to hear it again as well so since the weather is chilly and rainy and Daddy and BooBear will be gone the rest of us will snuggle up with hot tea or hot chocolate and I’ll read aloud.

I have a pile of books set aside to read to Supergirl.  We started ages and ages ago with Sonlight’s Core 1(Core B?? now??) Introduction to World History Part 1 but we set it aside and decided to use a different literature based approach for her.  I still love the read alouds and so we’re going to pick those back up.  I know she is really looking forward to A Little Princess, but I think we’d better finish Mountain Born first.  I just hope we don’t have to start over as it has been so long since we picked up that book.

In addition to literature read alouds, I need to get back to reading aloud history and science to Supergirl on a more consistent basis or making use of the Story of the World audiobook.

The fall and winter seasons seem so much more conducive to reading aloud.  It gets dark early.  It’s cold.  It’s rainy.  I have high hopes that we’ll do more reading aloud.

I do not know if I will link up every week but I do want to link up at least every 2-3 weeks.  My primary goal will be to re-establish a reading aloud habit starting tonight!

Come join Debra at Footprints in the Butter for her weekly read aloud challenge.


H is for Holidays

Yes, I know I am really behind on my blogging through the alphabet.  I started a post but didn’t finish it E is for Evergreen and F is for fall.  It won’t be linked up but I do intend to polish it and get it posted.  I don’t even have a topic for G but I’m sure I’ll think of something and again, It won’t be linked up but I am really striving to do a post or a combination post for every letter of the alphabet this time!

This is the last day for linking up the letter H.  I was thinking of doing H is for health but I didn’t want to write a whining post about my health problems and I didn’t want to do the whole don’t take health for granted so I dumped that idea.  I moved on to H is for Hope.   I thought ‘oh I’ll do a post about how Christ is my hope!  I’ll find some bible verses and I’ll post on Sunday.’  It’s a good idea but I still have the doxology going through my mind and it’s lingering on the line “Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, according as we have hoped in Thee.”   But last night I went to a class at church: Church History.  It was a brief overview of the timeline of church history beginning at Pentecost.  I thought that would make a great post.  I could use my blog to write a narration.

So as I sat with my coffee and pondered what to say about Church history in general and how to fit 2,000 years of church history (that I’ve barely begun to understand) into one blog post, I remembered that this is the end of October.  The “Holidays” are right around the corner.  After 3 paragraphs of blabbering about potential H topics, I’ve hit on one that I can actually write about!

First let me do a plug for a blog hop that will be happening the first FULL week of November:  Five Days Of Holidays.   This is hosted by The Schoolhouse Review Crew.  Each day has a specific topic and a link up.  You do not have to be a member of the crew to participate.  You do not have to participate each day.   Here’s the topics:


The holidays are on my mind because I’m thinking of the blog hop and because I finally realized it was the end of October and I needed to pull out my fall decorations.  I don’t really think of Halloween as a holiday and my decorations are more harvest/fall/thanksgiving type decorations but I usually pull them out a few days before Halloween and leave them up through at least the Sunday after Thanksgiving.  I’m hoping to talk more about decorating as part of the 5 Days of Preparing for the Holidays.

For us the “holidays” include Thanksgiving, St. Nicholas Day, The Feast of the Nativity, the New Year which for us is a combination of the secular new year and St. Basil’s Day, and ends with Theophany on Jan 6th.  So feel free to wish me Happy Holidays, I won’t be offended. 

I think I am still in denial that the holidays are right around the corner.  I better get myself organized so that I can enjoy them.

Marcy over at Ben and Me hosts Blogging Through the Alphabet.  This post is part of the Letter H.  Click on the button to learn more, visit a few links or join up!

Blogging Through the Alphabet


Crew Review: Samson’s Classroom

Learning how to read and how to spell can be hard work, but just because it is hard work doesn’t mean it can’t be fun.  Samson’s Classroom targets students in grades K-5th using a fun game style format to teach reading skills.  Technically comprised of 3 separate programs students learn sight words, spelling words, and practice reading comprehension.

Sight Words with Samson teaches the 224 most commonly used words in the English Language.  These commonly used words are divided into 4 levels with 7 lists each for a total of 28 lists.  Samson motivates students using a “black belt system.”   For each list of words that a student masters, she earns a star.  When she has earned 4 stars she gains another belt color level.  When she has mastered all 28 lists she’ll have earned the black belt of sight words.

Each step is a different “game”.  The first step introduces the list.  The word is said, spelled and used in a sentence.  The second and fourth steps are similar and remind me of ways to practice spelling words.   In step two, ‘build a word,’  only a few letters are presented.  The program instructs students to choose the letters that form the correct word.  Samson says the word, uses it in a sentence and spells the word.  In step four, ‘spell words’ the student must remember the spelling of the word.  Steps 3 and 5 are similar.  Step three is “identify the word.”  All the words for that list are laid out in a grid.  Samson says a word, uses it in a sentence, and the student clicks the correct word.  My favorite in the Sight Word section (and I think Supergirl’s favorite) is step five.   The student must choose the correct word after hearing the word spoken and used in a sentence.

Sight Word Step 4 Screen Shot

Spelling with Samson teaches more than 5,000 words and is organized by grade level as well as word grouping such as “commonly misspelled,” “clothes,” and “days of the week”.  Comprising three lists each, the grade level list spans 1st grade to 5th grade.  Spelling lists also include word family lists and sight words lists that correspond to the Samson Sight Word program.  The spelling program contains four “games”:  “Study Zone” which provides a printable option for the spelling list, “Missing Letters” where students select the missing letters and are rewarded with Samson breaking a wooden plank, “Spelling Scramble” in which students collect letters and then unscramble spelling words, and “Crunch Time” where students must correctly type each spelling word to safely advance Samson from iceberg to iceberg.

In “Spelling Scramble” the student must avoid the spider while collecting the letters needed.  This part proves difficult because it requires hand/eye coordination that Supergirl does not have.  She is unable to avoid the spider; however she still loves this game.  She lets the spider “get her” and then she works on collecting the letters.  My hand/eye coordination is not so great either but I am learning how to control Samson, though I too have yet to elude the spider.

Reading with Samson is the comprehension aspect of the program.  There are four levels.  As you progress through each level the number of passages decreases while the passages themselves increase in length and complexity.  Reading with Samson is beyond Supergirl’s current reading capabilities so I tried it myself (and asked my 13 year old to try it.)   There is a passage to read and questions to answer about the passage.  If a student answers incorrectly, it will highlight the sentence/paragraph where the student can find the answer.

Answering questions correctly earns you “swings” for the Hammer Time game. I think Supergirl would enjoy that.  I know Tailorbear did and so did I.  You “swing the hammer” to earn points.  The idea is to gain a high score.  We liked competing against ourselves rather than against the list of “high scores.”

Favorite Features:

  • Quick Launch ~ the teacher/parent can set up a code that all the students can use instead of using the tradition log in method.  Once the student types in the code, the student is instructed to pick the  first letter of her last name and then she picks her name.  This makes logging in so much easier, especially for younger students.
  • Hear Again ~ with a noisy house and speakers that aren’t the best, I really appreciate that Supergirl can click the Hear Again button to hear the word again.  Fortunately, she doesn’t need this feature as much as I do.
  • Dashboard ~ From the teacher/parent dashboard, I can access the games myself to try them, set up customized spelling lists, add students and check the scores/progress of each of my students.

A couple of things to mention:

  • I think it just might be me but when Samson uses the sword to break the wooden plank in Samson Spelling’s “Missing Letters” the sound hurts.  It’s very irritating and I cringe when Supergirl plays this game.
  • Because Samson bangs his head when the wrong letter is chosen, it is tempting for students like Supergirl to purposely choose wrong just to see Samson’s reaction.
  • The “Crunch Time” game requires some knowledge of the keyboard or some form of typing skills.  Supergirl did better at this than I thought she would but if the student types too slowly, Samson will end up as a block of ice.

How we used it: I used Samson’s Classroom as a supplement for Supergirl.  She functions around age 6/1st grade with some skills at a late K level and some in a 2nd grade level.  She could use most of the spelling and sight word games but she is not yet at the level necessary for the reading comprehension games. She used Samson an average of 3 times per week often focusing on either sight words or spelling for that day.

Thoughts from Tailorbear (age 13): “<Note> this program was below my level, however, my Mother asked me if I could do this for her. <end of note> “I thought the program overall to be extremely good. There were some things I thought unsuitable for the age range. Like on one of the spelling games, the one with the spider, the controls were really difficult. I don’t think a child would be able to control Samson (the dog not the program) . I really feel the reading part of the program is the best part!! I mean reading short stories for ‘fun’ and then answering questions about them. Being a book person I really loved it!! Had we had this program when I was younger, I wouldn’t have enjoyed the Sight Words, or the Spelling part, but I would have loved the reading part!”

Thoughts from Supergirl (Developmentally functioning around 1st grade):  “I like Samson because it’s fun and I like the spider because it gets me and Samson jumps up and down to get free.  I also like the game where he has to stay out of the cold water because he’s trying not to get cold. I like typing the letters because that makes Samson jump to the next iceberg.  I like getting the stars because I try not to get the words wrong. [mom note: this previous statement refers to the Sight Word games]  I keep getting it wrong and he bangs his head. I like getting those words wrong so he will bang his head.[mom note: the previous statement refers to the second game in the spelling section.]

I’ve included a few screen shots but you check out more on the screenshot tab.  You can also try out the product for yourself without setting up an account.  I used this simply as a supplement to our full curriculum but check out the resource tab for lesson plan ideas, printable worksheets and more.

The Review Crew received the Family Plan which includes accounts for up to 4 students for $50 per year.  Samson’s Classroom offers several other pricing plans ranging from $30 for 1 student account up to a large classroom plan.

Click on the banner below to read what other Crew Members had to say about Samson’s Classroom.

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

Disclaimer: As a TOS Crew member, I received a Family Plan subscription free of charge to review. I am required to write a review but I am not required to write a positive review. This review contains my and/or my daughters’ honest opinion with, hopefully, enough detail as to why I/ we liked or did not like a product so that my readers can make an informed decision. I received no compensation.

You can read my other Schoolhouse Review Crew Reviews by clicking here.


To Judge or Not To Judge that is the question!

My heart has been heavy over judgments that Christians (yes even myself) make.  Lately my thoughts have been consumed  with “judge or judge not.”

When Christians say “don’t judge” are they being tolerant of sin?  What does it mean when people like me say “do not judge.”   I can’t speak for any other person but I do know that the meaning of the word judge depends on context. 

Let’s first look at Luke Chapter 6 verses 35-38:

“But love your enemies, do good and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give and it will given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”

Here’s a similar passage from Matthew (Mt 7: 1-5):

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged: and with the measure you use. it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

I am using the Orthodox Study Bible published by Thomas Nelson and in the notes for Matthew Chapter 7 verse 2 it says:

“We will be judged with our own level of judgment because we are guilty of the very things we judge in others (Rom 2:1). We ourselves have failed in repentance and in fleeing from sin.  To pass judgment is to assume God’s authority.”

We are commanded to love our enemies.  We are commanded to love our neighbors. We are admonished to give mercy and to be careful about judging. Context is everything. And the fallen world doesn’t operate in black and white.

When I say I will not judge someone (ok, that should really be read as when I say I will STRIVE to not judge someone) it means that I will not heap condemnation upon them because I do not want condemnation.  It means that I will not hold the past against them because I do not want my past held against me.  It means I strive for not questioning or assigning motives.  I do not know the hearts of others.  In fact, I don’t even know my own heart.

If I start to think “what kind of person does….” or “why didn’t they …..” then I know that I have slipped into the dangerous waters of judging and the measure or standard that I am using, God will use on me. 

In NO WAY does it mean that any sin committed is ok.  Sin is missing the mark.  Sin is falling short of the standard set by God.   To say “I will not judge” does not mean that sin is condoned.  It means “wow,  I am a sinner and I want mercy and forgiveness from God.”  It is an acknowledgment that God, that is Jesus when he comes again, has the authority to JUDGE the PERSON not me.

I am well aware of the sins of others, what I need is to be MORE aware of my own sins.  I need to focus on getting that plank out of my own eye.  My journey towards becoming more and more like Christ is hampered when I stop to inspect the specks in other people’s eyes.

There is a time and a place to lovingly come alongside someone and warn them of the danger they may face with a particular sin he may struggle with but that admonishment, that warning should never come heaped with condemnation, nor should it ever be soaked in presumption that you have all the facts of the situation.

Let me focus on the commandments given by Christ to love God, to love my neighbor as myself, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and care for the sick but do not let me judge what is not my place to judge.

Lord have mercy!


Crew Review: WealthQuest for Teens

In today’s economy with so many families struggling with money, it is imperative that we teach our children sound money management skills now.  WealthQuest for Teens is a webinar based program that provides parents and teachers with a tool for teaching habits and attitudes about money to teens and helping those teens to develop a money management strategy they can begin to use now. 

The WeatlthQuest for Teens program, currently available for $39.95 was developed by Jill Suskind.  The program targets teens ages 14-19 and utilizes an online video seminar.  The Video Seminar includes an online workbook.  The program also includes a Quick Start Guide for Teens EBook and a Free Parent’s Guide.  The program recommends MoneyTrail, a free online program for helping teens track their allowances and items like gift cards and checks received.

Wealthquest product

I worked through this program with my 15 and 17 year old daughters.  We took about 1 1/2 weeks to go through the 7 modules of the online video seminar.  You cannot rewind the videos but you can pause them and you can re-watch them.  We paused frequently to discuss the ideas and concepts presented.  We worked through the online workbook together through oral discussion while watching each segment.  The girls each had a spiral notebook for taking notes or writing out journal like answers to questions such as “what causes are most important to you.”  They used those same notebooks while we worked through the ebook portion.

The e-book is laid out as a 30 day plan.   There are 30 journal like assignments that are very similar to the online workbook material.  We used these as discussion opportunities.  The girls did take time to think and write down in their notebooks some of the more thought provoking questions.  Though I did not write down answers, I participated in the discussion verbally sharing my lists of big ticket items or my favorite charities.

We did sign up for a family account with the recommended MoneyTrail.net however, I’m not sure we’ll continue using it.  There are options for family account or for an individual teen account and you can choose between an allowance plan which automatically deposits the allowance in the student account or a non-allowance account.  The categories do not match the “silo method” described in WealthQuest and the program encourages a credit or rather debit like situation.  The example listed tells of a mom and daughter out shopping.  The daughter wants to buy something but she has no cash but mom “owes” her x number of dollars of allowance.  Mom can use her smartphone to check the daughter’s balance on MoneyTrail.net and can purchase the book for the daughter.  Mom then simply deducts the amount from the account.  It is just a transaction recording program and no money is transferred out of mom’s account. 

Some things I liked:

  • “measuring the habit not the amount” ~ I like the emphasis on building a habit. The amount of money distributed into each category is not as important as the habit of using a money management system
  • “keep a money journal” ~ I didn’t agree with everything they suggested for the journal but the basic idea of keeping track of your money and perhaps keeping track of what you are learning about money, that is something I like. In fact I have something similar. I call it my “budget book” but it is the binder or journal that contains the money management system my husband and I use.
  • the encouragement to talk to my teens about money ~ I agree with Jill that we need to talk with our teens about money. We have to get them thinking about money and about their future now while they are still young.
  • Encouraging teens to think about charities or causes they support.
  • Encouraging teens to set up their “silo system” and to actually use it.


Some things I didn’t like or disagreed with:

  • The idea that teens learn best by being in groups of other teens.
  • The secular nature of the program. I would prefer a more faith based approach.
  • The overall style of the program. Some people like tomatoes some don’t. This is purely an aesthetic issue.
  • I didn’t care for the titles of some of the categories such as “Future Financial Freedom” which the parent guide defined as retirement fund but which my daughters interpreted to mean being young and not ever having to work again.
  • In the parent guide she said “budgets don’t work”. A money management system *is* a budget.
  • Jill emphasizes the role of attitudes. There were several attitudes she outlined that I did not agree with because they conflicted with my worldview.

At times, I really struggled with this program.  I found myself nodding my head in agreement going “yes, yes, yes!” and then with the next breath I was shouting “NO” at the top of my lungs.  I agree with the basic idea or premise that teens need to learn about money.  I want my teens to understand how money works.  I want them to be prudent and wise.  I want them to have effective strategies that maximize their ability to give money to charities.  But… but…but… I don’t want them so focused on money that they lose focus on Jesus Christ, the fountain of life.  For my family this program, used alone, is not a good fit. 

Because it is a secular based program that can be used by a wide variety of people, I found that the priorities or attitudes didn’t always match or agree with my faith based worldview.  The program encourages, assigns actually, additional reading of your choice.  I specifically chose one of the extra readings book to be a bible based view of money so that we could bring that aspect to our discussions. 

A couple of things to point out:

  • In the Parent Guide, “ is used instead of ‘ which made it difficult at times to read.  I would see the quote marks and expect a quotation and I’d have to stop and re-read because it didn’t make sense.  It should have been an apostrophe.
  • At least once the author uses “OMG”.  I found it out of place and distracting

Thoughts From Turtlegirl:I thought the teens in the video were shallow and not really enthusiastic. I wish that it could look a little more ‘real’. Also, they imply that in order to think like a rich person, you apparently have to be very knowledgeable and focused about money, you have to almost make it an obsession. I didn’t agree with that. I did like that they state that you need to make an income to manage money. I also liked that they gave you a budget/money management system to use that you could modify to fit you. It was good for me to learn about money, but I didn’t really like the style.”

Thoughts from BooBear:“It was nice to learn how to manage money and to be given a system to use, but I felt that they put to much of a focus on material things. There was a strong focus on how much money you had, not on what really matters, which is how are you living your life and what are you doing with your money. I think it is a great idea to try to teach teens how to manage their money, it just has too much of a material feel to it. One thing I wish they had talked about was what to do with all the extra change you get. What do you do with that? Does it go back into the envelope?”

My Bottom Line: I wanted to review this product because I want my daughters to develop good habits with money. I want them to have a solid money management system that lays the foundation for financial success. The secular aspect of the program disappointed me, however, I was pleased with the open discussion and conversation that the program generated. 

Click on the banner below to read what other Crew Members had to say about WealthQuest for Teens

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

Disclaimer: As a TOS Crew member, I received this product free of charge to review. I am required to write a review but I am not required to write a positive review. This review contains my and/or my daughters’ honest opinion with, hopefully, enough detail as to why I/ we liked or did not like a product so that my readers can make an informed decision. I received no compensation.

You can read my other Schoolhouse Review Crew Reviews by clicking here.


Crew Review: KinderBach at Home

Supergirl just came up to me and said “KinderBach is my most favorite thing ever!”  This is not the first time we’ve used KinderBach Piano at Home music lessons online.  I was first introduced to KinderBach in early 2011 during my first year with the Crew. 

What is KinderBach? It is a fun, engaging and interactive way to teach music lessons to young children. Karri, the developer and teacher, is enthusiastic and encouraging as she teaches a variety of foundational music skills.  Piano Lessons with KinderBach uses “playful characters to teach note reading, rhythm, singing, and composition” to children ages 3-7.

Lessons are taught using videos.  We received the online version but there is also an app version as well as a DVD format.  When we first used the program, these online video lessons would not work on devices such as smart phones or tablets.  Now the videos will stream for tables, smart phones, and iPads. 

In addition to the ability to stream to more devices, the improved video format also allows a FULL Screen option.  When we reviewed this in early 2011, this was not an option and it was difficult to see the videos.  Earlier in 2012 when I was using the program (I loved it so much I purchased a subscription at the end of my review period!) some of the levels/lessons had been updated but not all.  I am happy to report that ALL 6 levels have been transferred to the new format.

There are currently 6 levels.  Each level has 10 “weeks” of lessons.  Each week is broken into 4 sessions. As a member of the Review Crew, I’ve been given a sneak peak at a level 7 that is currently in production,though there is no release date yet.

In addition to the videos, each level has a printable activity book.  You can download the whole book or print out each page as needed from the session site.

One feature that I love about the new format is that the lesson “pops up” in a separate window. Let me show you:

In the lower left corner you can see the Activity Book Icon. That will allow you to download the entire activity book for this level. In the smaller window you can see green arrows on either side. With those arrows you can move backward or forward through the different lessons. There is a small printer icon so you can print the single page activity sheet for this particular session. You can maximize the window and you can use the video tool bar for FULL Screen. Did I mention already that I loved that feature?

How we’ve used KinderBach: This time I tried something different. Supergirl is developmentally around age 6 but in the past has not been quite so independent. She is now much more independent so I used a discovery approach to KinderBach. I let her set the pace and let her watch as many videos as time permitted and let her watch them again and again. Before I tried to be more structured. I tried to cover about a week’s worth of material in a week and I was hesitant to let her watch too much at one time. I was afraid she would not absorb the material. I have no doubt that she truly connected this time.

She took the time to what she was learning. She would grab an oatmeal container or a bucket and tap out a steady ‘walking” beat. She also started singing “stay on step” or “stepping up.” Many days I would hear her at the piano hunting for Dodi’s house or picking out the train station. She has very weak fine motor skills but KinderBach motivated her to practice using three fingers together to play all three black “train station” keys at the same time. She delighted in explaining to me about Carla and eagerly pointed out where her key was. She lives next to Dodi. In addition to learning about such things as rhythm and note reading, young children, or developmentally young children such as Supergirl, also learn things like left and right. KinderBach has an article that preschool moms may find fascinating an article explaining how KinderBach helps preschoolers prepare for learning the three R’s.  You may also be interested in how KinderBach lines up with the Common Core standards.

Like her sisters Supergirl loves music. Unlike her sisters she is unable to take traditional piano lessons. KinderBach is the perfect solution for us! You can try the first two weeks for FREE to see if it would be a good fit for you.  The online subscription can be as low as $7.99 per month when you purchase a year long subscription.  A monthly subscription option as well as a day pass are also available.

Click on the banner below to read what other Crew Members had to say about KinderBach.  Some of us reviewed the Online Membership and others reviewed the iPad App.

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

Disclaimer: As a TOS Crew member, I received a 6 month online subscription free of charge to review. I am required to write a review but I am not required to write a positive review. This review contains my and/or my daughters’ honest opinion with, hopefully, enough detail as to why I/ we liked or did not like a product so that my readers can make an informed decision. I received no compensation.

You can read my other Schoolhouse Review Crew Reviews by clicking here.


Thankful Thursday 10-11-12

I’ve been feeling sorry for myself quite frequently lately.  Lots of things going on; some are big and some are little.

Then a friend posted today’s date on his FB status as a “date funny” or something like that.  It made me smile.  I like things like having the date be three consecutive numbers.

And then another friend posted a Thankful Thursday FB status update.  Hmm Thursday.. Thankful.. and it’s 10-11-12.

So I’ll just make a list of things I am thankful for and maybe that will tame the inner toddler tantrums.  (That inner toddler really threw some nasty tantrums yesterday and she reared her ugly head again this afternoon.  She really hates being told no!)

So what am I thankful for:

  1. Allergy Medication.   I do have some symptoms today but I am so thankful that I am not having the issues I was having in mid-to-late July.  I only wish I had known sooner that it was allergies and not a never ending cold!
  2. Tea.  Though I am out of Earl Gray, I do have some British Blend.  I find a cup of tea in the afternoon to be quite refreshing.  Tea and a good book is the prescription for taming the inner toddler.  Just in case you need to know.
  3. Dinner for tomorrow night is in the crockpot (or Saturday night.  We’ll see).  Why?  Um, because it was supposed to be dinner for TONIGHT but we found some meat in the fridge that NEEDS TO BE COOKED NOW so we’re having lots and lots of steak fajitas tonight.  I think I’ll try to set some aside for lunches.  Two meals worth of chuck steak and I didn’t want it to go to waste.
  4. I am very thankful that the chuck steak had not yet gone bad and that even though it ALL has to be cooked NOW (meaning today) at least it can be cooked and eaten and I don’t have to throw it away.
  5. We have LOTS and LOTS of fabric.  This means that I won’t have to buy fabric for practice sewing or for our pin cushions and maybe not even for our first assessment project: the Apron.   Money is tight and I am thankful that I don’t have spend money on fabric because we already have so much that will meet our needs.  (Look for my review of You CAN Sew by Modesty Matters in early November!)
  6. Since I mentioned the You CAN Sew curriculum I’ll go ahead and mention how incredibly grateful I am that my girls and I have the opportunity to review this program.  I am grateful for the crew in general but today I am especially thankful for this review product.
  7. I am glad that my county library has e-books that I can check out immediately and read on my NOOK.  (See the above comments about the inner toddler). I have two new books waiting for me to start and two that I am working through.
  8. Speaking of the Library, I am grateful that our library provides FREE cards to rural county residents.  I am grateful for the public funding that provides money for the public library. 
  9. I am thankful for the sunshine.  Sunshine in October in the Pacific Northwest is a rare treat.  I know we need the rain (and I think it’s coming!) but as I type this the sun is shining.  It’s easier to find things to be thankful for when the sun is shining!
  10. And last but certainly not least I do not have the adjective to describe how grateful I am for my friends.  Friends who cry with me, laugh with me and love me through the best and worst of times.  Truly grateful for the love and support of my friends.

What are you thankful for today? 


Backyard Wildlife: Birds

Over the summer I started blogging about the wildlife that we’ve seen in our backyard.  I’ve been planning this post about birds forever (ok it just feels that way!) but haven’t taken the time to finish it.

October is here.  It’s been a beautiful month so far.  An unusual month for us actually.  Lots of sunshine and little to no rain.  October heralds the wet winter season but my grass isn’t green.  It’s brown.  It looks like a strange type of science fiction alternate universe August outside.  Brown, dried out grass with leaves that are just beginning to change colors.  We have green grass most of the year.  We tend to need to mow the lawn from March through November. (Though really unless you water your lawn regularly the only thing that needs mowing in August are the weeds.)

The sunshine this afternoon reminds me of the spring and that brings me back to wildlife in the backyard.  We had a bird family move into my beautiful plant.  They built a nest and laid an egg or two or three.  

Here’s a picture of the plant before the birds moved in:


Do you recognize it?  It’s the plant that is my header and my button for my blog.  We moved it from one side of the house to the other and it didn’t do as well and the birds moved in.  We couldn’t water or care for the plant with the bird family living there.

Here’s a picture of one of the parent birds. The bird is near the center of the photo. You cannot see the babies. 


Those parents would squawk and make all kinds of noises whenever we opened the back door.  They would fly to the the trampoline or grill and just let us have it with their angry chirps.  Well, if you didn’t move into the plant hanging by my back door, we wouldn’t disturb you Mr. and Mrs. Bird!  I confess to laughing when my husband was grilling and the lid was closed.  The bird landed but couldn’t stay because the lid was hot. I promise we never disturbed the nest.  The bird pictures were taken from INSIDE the house.

This one is my favorite of the baby bird. The sun provides a spotlight on the baby’s head and you can see the little beak:


Are you worried about the plant?  With a little loving and some daily watering the plant has made a comeback.  Even now in October it still has lots of leaves.  No flowers that we can see at the moment but it has been very cold at night.

What wildlife have you been seeing your backyard?


Crew Review: Box of I.D.E.As. SALT

In the interest of full disclosure I must tell you that when I first visited the website for Box of I.D.E.As.  I did not immediately jump and down with excitement.  A box full of activity ideas focused on one topic such as Salt or Pearl Harbor?  Sounds too much like a unit study for this non-unit study mom. But I read the descriptions and Turtlegirl read the descriptions and my non-excitement became full enthusiasm when Turtlegirl shared with me how much she wanted to try out the BOX of Ideally Dynamic Enrichment Activities: SALT.


We received a literal box labeled SALT filled with 10 Activity Bags.  Each bag is clearly labeled and contains nearly everything you need to complete the activity.  For example, the activity that teaches about sodium levels of food includes the laminated planner, a dry erase marker and a list of foods with their sodium content.  Another activity bag included ice melt, rock salt and extra bags for an experiment.  Turtlegirl only needed a pencil! and some water.  The portfolio page included the charts and graphs she needed to record the rate of ice melting.  I was so impressed that they had included the three bags needed to freeze water.  One of the bags was already labeled “control.”

What types of Activities are Included? Fun types.  Well, we thought they were fun. The Salt Box contains 10 activity modules and many of those include game like activities.  There was one experiment type activity which Turtlegirl thoroughly enjoyed.  Together the modules covered history, geography, language, and science. 


How We Used the Product: Turtlegirl set aside her regular science curriculum to make time to use these activities.  She completed all 10 modules.  Some she did alone, a few we did together (ok, she redid  a few of the games with me!) and some of the games she played with her sisters.   Many of these modules sparked discussions and led to more questions which brought us back to the weblinks. 

Thoughts from Turtlegirl (age 15): “I loved how they were all in individual plastic ‘sleeves’. It made it very easy for me to select the one I wanted. It also made it really simple for me to clean up. I also liked the variety of activities in the different modules. Every module contained an introduction, a portfolio page, and an activity or game. Sometimes the activity would help you complete the portfolio page and vice versa. I loved the experiment. I also loved that they had discussion questions for the experiment and charts for you to record the data from the experiment. They also have a unit test to see how much you learned! I really enjoyed this program, and I hope to revisit them with Tailorbear too! In other words, I highly recommend it!”


A Couple of Things to Mention:

  • We encountered a few typos.  Mostly ok but one that I found glaring (misuse of effect/affect)  Perhaps for the next printing these will be corrected.
  • Some of the game directions seemed incomplete or confusing.  We were able to make them work and we enjoyed them.  It was not difficult to take a few moments to talk/think through the directions and “fill in the gaps.”

What I love about BOX of I.D.E.As. SALT (Physical Box):

  • Very Well Organized Modules!~ Each module is labeled with the contents of that module, the materials needed, and a Salt related quote.  Oh and each module has the parts contained in labeled bags.  This makes it so easy to just grab and go!
  • Nearly Everything You Need is INCLUDED! ~ Many of the modules require only a writing instrument. 
  • Each Module Includes Extensions and Weblinks! ~ You can use these to expand the learning and take the topic deeper.
  • A Fun and Engaging Way to Learn! ~ I especially enjoyed the Language of Salt module.   Even my developmentally delayed daughter who functions around age 6 wanted to participate.
  • Can Be Done Independently! ~ For older children, this program can be done independently.  Turtlegirl didn’t need me though we enjoyed working together.
  • I Didn’t Have to Do Any Planning or Prep! ~  I loved this part more than anything else.  It really is just grab out of the box and do it!

My Bottom Line: We loved it!  It was easy to use.  I would be interested in trying another of these and will be watching for the release of Light & Optics.

This is a multi-level product targeting ages 9-16.  I think it can be used with children 9-12 with assistance.  This worked beautifully with my 13 and 15 year old children.  I think many of the extension activities would work better for children in the upper end of the range. 

In addition to the physical box format, available for $79.00,  Box of I.D.E.As. also has a PDF Download version and  Extra Student Module for the Physical format.  Some of my crew mates reviewed the Pearl Harbor BOX.

Click on the banner below to read what other Crew Members had to say about Box of I.D.E.As. Salt or WWII Pearl Harbor

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

Disclaimer: As a TOS Crew member, I received this physical print version of this product free of charge to review. I am required to write a review but I am not required to write a positive review. This review contains my and/or my daughters’ honest opinion with, hopefully, enough detail as to why I/ we liked or did not like a product so that my readers can make an informed decision. I received no compensation.

You can read my other Schoolhouse Review Crew Reviews by clicking here.


Games: They’re Not Just for Fun!

If you’ve read any of my game reviews such as Notable Novelists of the 20th Century, Wits & Wagers (Family Edition) or Say Anything (Family Edition) then you know that we’re a game loving family.

We have lots and lots of games.  Here, let me show you:


We have board games, dice games, and card games.  We have games that require a DVD and games that require batteries.  We have trivia games and games from other countries.

We have fairly regular family game nights and we have a family tradition of playing games on holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. We play a lot of games during the Christmas Holiday Break because daddy is home and playing games is such a fun way to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas.

Lots of math and learn to read programs suggest games for learning numbers or letters or words but I don’t want to talk about those kinds of games.  Instead I’d like to list some subject areas and the games that we have that I could count for school hours if we needed them.  Some games fall under more than one category.

Thinking Sklls such as planning or strategy:

  • Risk- players must plan out a strategy and think through each one of their moves if they want to conquer the world
  • Blokus or its relative Blokus Trigon- you must carefully think through each move you make
  • Chess—my girls do not really know how to play this well and it is not one that we play as a family.  I hesitate to put it here because we rarely play and we’re not good at it.
  • Checkers—a favorite with the girls
  • Mancala- I have not mastered the strategy of this game.  I have NEVER won a game against Turtlegirl who has seemed to master this game of African origin.


  • 10 Days In… We have three of them.. 10 Days in Africa, 10 Days in Europe and 10 Days in Asia.  In addition to helping with learn some geography you also practice thinking skills.  The only problem with these games are they are only for 2 to 4 players.  We end up doing “teams” so that we can all play
  • TransAmerica/TransEuropa- You build a railroad to connect your five cities.  Another one that requires planning and strategy.
  • Professor Noggin’s Countries of the World (we have both volume 1 and volume 2). This is a trivia card game.  We have lots of Professor Noggin card games.  The others are more history based.
  • Civilize This!—a trivia game about different civilizations such as ancient Greece or the Roman empire.


Language Arts:

  • Notable Novelists:  This is such a fun way to learn about a few of the Novelists of the 20th Century.  This game also helps you build up your memory skills as you try to remember who asks for which cards and it builds your thinking skills as you try to figure out who has the cards you need!
  • Apples to Apples:  In addition to learning vocabulary words, this can also help with cultural literacy.  At least in our family it is also about cultural literacy.  We often have to explain people or events to the girls.  This is one of our top 10 favorite games to play on game night or a holiday game marathon.
  • In A Pickle: This one is even more popular with my family than Apples to Apples.  This can get the creative juices flowing as we create little stories to fit the words.  This is a fun way to play with language.

Education is a way of life for us.  We desire our children to love learning.  What better way than to play games that subtly reinforce or even introduce subjects we’re formally studying.

This post is in response to TOS Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog Cruise Topic “Homeschooling with Games”  The Blog Cruise Post will be live on Tuesday in the mean time you can read past Blog Cruise Posts.