Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Very Quiet Thanksgiving Week

This week has been a pretty quiet one for us. No school, no shopping, and a small Thanksgiving dinner gathering on Thursday. I vegged and watched A LOT of TV. It was great. Even with all the slowed down pace we did manage to get a few things done and have some fun.

Scott spent Tuesday - Friday morning painting the back drop for our upcoming performance of the Aristocats. 

I spent a lot of time on the bed with puppy reading and watching television. She is a great cuddle bug.

We lightly decorated the house for Christmas. Last Christmas we decided (because of two cats and a ferret that would not stay out of the tree) to have a very not traditional Christmas tree. Scott built us a rustic tree that hangs on the wall to decorate. So far it has worked out very well. Occasionally we miss the old, big tree (but not often).  Grace did buy a very small white tree for her room and decorated it in blue and silver.

Today we visited our local art shop and attended an ornament making class. It was a design as you want kind of class with our beloved Ms. Christy. Grace just started watching Dr. Who and created her very own Dr. Who design. Grace's friends have been after her for two years to watch the show and finally she succumbed a bout two weeks ago and is hooked just like everyone else on the planet. 

Now the fun and craziness really begins. Drama practices, performances, four different parties to attend, two doctor appointments for my mom, multiple Zumba classes, and that is just in the first two weeks of December. Don't get me wrong - I thrive on being busy and having things to do. It is only a couple of times a year where I crawl into my house and don't do anything for an entire week. I just finished that week and am ready to move on for the the month of December. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Favorite Homeschooling Resources Part 3 - What We Believe Series

For many years I struggled with what we could use for morning devotions. Yes, we do read the Bible every morning and this year Grace is reading through the New Testament on her own. This month she is almost finished wit the book of John. I have always liked to have something we could read aloud and share together to get the day rolling on a positive note. The past year and a half we have used the What We Believe Series from Apologia. We absolutely love this series. There are four books in the series and we are currently on Book 3. Almost finished to be exact. I will be so bummed when we finished the series and have to look for something else to use during devotion time.

Volume 1 is Who is God and Can I Really Know Him
Volume 2 is Who Am I and What Am I Doing Here
Volume 3 is Who is My Neighbor and Why Does He Need Me
Volume 4 is What On Earth Can I Do

Who is my Neighbor?
Photo Credit to Apologia Website

The above photo is the volume we are about to finish. Each book is set up the same with sections of The Big Idea, What You Will Do, Short Story, Think About It, Words You Need to Know, Hid It In Your Heart, Integrated Learning, What Should I do, Prayer, Encounters with Jesus, Take a Closer Look, and House of Truth. Grace's is favorite part is always the short story. This volume's short story has to do with a family living through the Civil War. In this volume they also started adding Encounters with Jesus which happens to be one of my favorite parts. In Encounters the author takes scripture from the Bible about Jesus and writes it into story format to make you feel, hear, and see everything that the person who met Jesus experienced. The lessons covered in this volume are:

Does Anyone Really Need Me
How Can I Make a Difference
Who Is My Neighbor
Why Did God Make Families
What Can I Do For My Country
Why Can't We All Just Get Along
Who Is God's Family
Why Does The Church Need Me

All of the volumes in the What We Believe Series are set up to teach children a Christian worldview. I have found this series to be invaluable and we truly love reading from it each morning. There are other resources you can purchase to enhance the experience of using this series like a notebooking journal, coloring book, and audio cd. We found, especially since Grace is older, that simply reading through the book is best for us. Many, many people in the homschooling community are using the What We Believe Series. I just wanted to highlight one of the products we use in our home for daily devotions. This is not a review just simply my opinion about an awesome product that you might be interested in checking out.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tidbits From the Past Few Days

Sorry to be so silent over the past couple of days. Lots of Internet troubles. What I originally thought was a fried modem and router has actually turned out to be Windstream's issues. No Internet at all for two days then all of a sudden it is back this afternoon. This is after I had already bought a new modem and router which will now have to be returned. A few hours trying to get the new modem and router to work to no avail. Then contacting our Internet provider to discover it was a problem on their end all along and would need a service person to come out and check it. Of course this is to happen tomorrow morning. I will keep the appointment because deep down I have a feeling the service will lapse again before then. While it is up I am taking advantage of it and accomplishing some tasks.

Yesterday we took a family day and went out together to Gainesville. We ate lunch at IHOP and did a little Christmas shopping. Mine and my sister's family cooked dinner last night at my parent's house. The main purpose was to get together to draw names. This is the first year we have every done it due to the economy. I am totally okay with it and have been trying to convince the family to do this for the past couple of years. The kids put my parent's tree together for them after dinner.

Last week I received my email to ask me to come back and serve another year on the TOS Review Crew. Looking forward to getting some new products in January to review. So thrilled to be asked back. Great group of homeschooling families to work with. 

I don't think I ever mentioned that a couple of months ago I started writing study guides for Knowledge Box Central. I have one more guide to write to finish the inventor's series I have been working on. I think next up will be historical figures. Go check out the website for all kinds of resources at very economical prices.

Believe it or not today I am finally watching The Hobbit. Scott and Grace are huge Lord of the Rings fans but I have never really gotten into the books or movies. Because the internet was out and I needed something to watch I picked up our copy and started it this morning. I guess it is kind of convenient to watch it now with the new one coming out in a few weeks. 

We went to the library today to check out some reading material and dvds to watch in case the internet goes out again. I decided on a whim to just take the whole Thanksgiving week off for a holiday and catch our breath before the craziness of the next two weeks. The first two weeks of December will prove to be very busy. Three practices for the elementary drama class and two performances of the Aristocats, three different Christmas parties (cast party, a teen party I am hosting, and Acts of Faith getting together to hang out). 

This week I need to sit down and start writing some of my lesson plans for the new semester at the Cooperative. I will be teaching 4 classes (Improv and Theatre Games, Build a Better Zoo science class, Knights and Maidens middle ages class, and a Youth Service Group) as well as helping with the High School Drama class. I started receiving all the materials I ordered in the mail over the past couple of days. Nothing more fun that getting packages in the mail with curriculum. 

The past 4-5 years I have always gone Black Friday shopping with my mom, sister, or a friend. This year I just want to stay home and sleep in. Being out in all that craziness just isn't very appealing this year. Not to mention I don't really have all that many presents to buy this year or money to spend. Everything that will be purchased for Christmas this year has been well thought out and budgeted.

I am so hooked (pun intended) on this season of Once Upon a Time. I have loved the story line taking place in Neverland with Peter Pan. So bummed that after this Sunday we won't get another new episode until March. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Weekly Wrap Up - Practices and Performances

Since Saturday it has been the week of performances and practices. Saturday night was A Night With Shakespeare performances with the high school drama class. They all did such a wonderful job. The spoofs of Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth and Hamlet, as well as a shortened version of Twelfth Night. Grace played Olivia.

Next came Recital Night for the Cooperative on Tuesday evening. We had close to 200 people in the audience to come and see many of the students perform. This go around Grace didn't have to perform but did help with setting up the art show and helping with sound for the choirs.
My Puppetry Class performing at Recital Night. This skit was called Born in a Barn and was about the birth of Jesus.
Thursday afternoon was practice for the Elementary Drama class for their upcoming Aristocats performance in early December. I had my Yearbook Staff also meet during this time and continue working on finalizing the Yearbook. We have to finish it and order it by mid December. Grace helped with the Yearbook until we discovered that two of the older girls that were to help with curtains and backstage didn't show up for practice. Grace then went to help them.

With all of this going on we were still able to get a good amount of school work accomplished this week. Grace is finally starting to get Algebra and the more she does the better she gets. It is just the little things that keep hanging her up, like forgetting to move a negative somewhere. In history this week we continued with our Famous Men of the Middle Ages study and started learning about Rollo the Viking, Feudal Life, etc. We finished Adam of the Road and Grace filled out a book report form for it. Now we can move on to another fictional history book, probably King Arthur or Ivanhoe. We are almost finished with the third Michael Vey book and then will start on the new Percy Jackson. In Science Grace continues to read the Bird Behavior book and takes notes for the paper she will be writing soon, plus we watched a documentary about meat eating birds. Some other things Grace continues working with is King Alfred's English, Marie's Words, Bridgeway Grammar, Gods World News, CNN Student News, Language Lessons from Queen Homeschool, and working out. As always Grace draws nearly every day. Looking forward to some break time next week with the holiday.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

TOS Review Crew Blue Ribbon Awards

Each year the TOS Review Crew vote on all the products that were reviewed throughout the year. Go to The Schoolhouse Review Crew and see what products won. It is truly hard to pick some of the winners because most of the products we review are just great. Some of our favorites this year were:
Spanish For You
Apologia Elementary Science Series
See the Light
Bridgeway Grammar
Teaching the Classics
Gods World News
Moving Beyond the Page
Progeny Press
Picaboo Yearbooks
The Presidential Game

Monday, November 18, 2013

Free Shipping For A Recent Review Book

The Sanders Family is currently offering free shipping for At Home in Dogwood Mudhole. This offer is good for up to two books that would be shipped in the United States. Visit At Home in Dogwood Mudhole and use this code at checkout TOSFREE to get your free shipping.

Favorite Homeschooling Resources Part 2 - A Study of the English Language

This is not a review just my personal opinion about a wonderful book that we use every week in our household.

I am not sure where to start with King Alfred's English. It is probably a book you have never heard of, but really need to read. King Alfred's English is written by a fellow Georgian by the name of Laurie White. I actually got to attend a seminar of hers back in March at the Great Homeschool Convention in Greenville. I had already read her book as a review product for The Review Crew before that time and was kind of  like a groupie wanting to see the author in person. I tucked the book away to use as a high school resource for Grace. So this year was her Freshman year and out popped the book I wanted to share with her about the history of the English language. We currently use this book as part of our English 101 credit but it could also be used as a history credit.

Photo Credit: The Shorter Word Website

This book is broken down into 15 chapters. Some of the topics discussed are:
  • The different language invasions, such as Latin, Norse, French, and Greek
  • Old, Middle, and Modern English
  • The journey of translating the Bible to English for the common people
  • Roman Empire
  • The Printing Press
  • Shakespeare
  • And so much more....
I truly love this book. All the information is written in such a conversational tone. It is probably one of those books that many people are not familiar with but really need to go out and buy. I am currently reading through it a second time with Grace and at some point I want to use it for a class at our Cooperative for the high school students. It is really that good. So much information I never learned in my high school years. 

She also has great free printables on her website that you don't want to miss.

Go check out this wonderful book and study out the English language came to be what it is today.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Night of Shakespeare

Grace is in the center in the blue

Last night was the long awaited performance of Shakespeare with Creative Christian Cooperative. We always seem to sweat it till the very last minute with getting it all together and the kids always come through with flying colors. I guess most drama productions are like that. We had so many students participating that we had to perform three Shakespeare spoofs (Hamlet, Macbeth, and Romeo and Juliet). All were very funny and well received.

I think the guys had just as much fun with this as the girls. After the spoofs we had an intermission then returned to perform Twelfth Night (Grace played the fair Olivia). Every time we have a performance different students shine. Yes, we have students that you can always count on to give 100 percent and are wonderful to watch. I am talking about those students that shine through with a particular part and steal the show. Truly every performance it is a different student. We are so blessed to have so many talented students that enjoy performing and enjoy each others company. Many of these drama students have been together for 4 or 5 years.

In January the high school students will get to perform a musical (Fiddler on the Roof)which is usually their favorite type of play. Surprisingly, Grace decided to take a break next semester and take a stage makeup class. I think all the Shakespearean lines really gave her a run for her money and she just wants to relax this next semester.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Favorite Homeschooling Products So Far This Year - Math

With the calendar getting closer and closer to the end of the year I thought I would do a few posts about what resources are working best for us. Today I want to talk about math. Math has ALWAYS been the least favorite subject in this household. We have used many different math resources over the years and one resource continues to stand out from the pack. Since 2nd grade we have used Modern Curriculum Press, Horizons Math, Making Math Meaningful, Math Mammoth, Math Essentials, Straight Forward Math Series, and Teaching Textbooks. Hands down Grace has learned more and retained more whenever we used Teaching Textbooks.

The first year we used Teaching Textbooks we bought the entire package and used the book, cds, and answer key. This year for Algebra 1 I had a friend that offered for us to use her copy which contained the textbook and answer key & test bank book. At first I thought it would be difficult without the cds, but we haven't missed them a bit.
Algebra 1 Teaching Textbook
Photo Credit from Teaching Textbooks Website
What I love about Teaching Textbooks:

First the introduction to a lesson is laid out very easily and plainly to understand. I choose to read it aloud to Grace because she tends to understand instructions better if they are read aloud to her. We then work through the problems together because her understanding of Algebra is coming slowly. 

I love the fact that everything is taught slowly step by step and builds on itself in a very fluent way. Grace loves that she is not inundated with tons of problems to solve everyday. We know what to expect every time we sit down to a new lesson. There will always be two word problems and a total of 21-22 problems to solve and answer. Plus some of those problems are true or false or multiple choice from the lesson. 

Currently I feel we are fine without the cds but next year if we do Geometry I am sure the cds will need to be purchased. Believe it or not I did not need Geometry to graduate from high school back in the 80s and I am afraid I will not be much help. But Algebra is a different story. I enjoyed it in college and so far am understanding it completely. 

If you are still looking for a math program for your child, especially that type of child that math does not come easily, I would very much recommend Teaching Textbooks. 

This is not a review but simply my own personal opinions. I will never stray from Teaching Textbooks again. For the remainder of Grace's high school years it will be Teaching Textbooks all the way.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Day In The Life of a Homeschool Cooperative

Games in LEGO Design class with the high school crowd
Today was our last official day of the fall semester at Creative Christian Cooperative. The next seven days will be insane with extra practices, performances, and recital night. With all the stress and exhaustion that goes along with it, I really wouldn't have it any other way. I love co-op days. I love the families that participate. I love the fellowship with the parents and students. I love seeing it all come together.

My first classes of the day to teach are Puppetry Arts and Fun With Literature. This group of kids are in both of those classes. Today it was all about practicing our puppetry skits to perform this Sunday and and next Tuesday.
A peek behind the scenes of the puppetry theatre
Currently we have 38 families participating and 64 students. We taught choir, art, puppetry, creative writing, LEGO Deign, literature, recorders, and Christmas crafts this semester. Next semester we will have even more choices with pottery, costuming, stage make up, science, medieval history, nature study, and improv.

Tonight the high school drama class stayed after to practice for our Night of Shakespeare on Saturday. We served pizza for dinner and then plunged right into three spoofs of Shakespeare with Hamlet, Macbeth, and Romeo and Juliet. Then the kids worked on the shortened version of Twelfth Night. Can you say long day! For me it was 1:00 - 8:30. So worth it!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Thoughts On This Fine Sunday

I am so gonna miss the fall colors once they disappear. I step out on my front porch during this time of the year and it is like walking out into a magical place. 

I am completely stressed out about the upcoming week. Two extra practices for Shakespeare (the kids are definitely not ready to perform), a Cooperative wide performance for my church on Sunday morning, then Recital night on next Tuesday. 

Six - eight months ago our Pastor left our church and his family went with him. I have known this family for almost nine years and missed them terribly. During the month of November he came back to preach for us. It was wonderful seeing them all today and listening to one of his sons lead the music. If only he would come back full time.

I have gained back 7 of the pounds I lost last year. It is time to get serious again for myself as well as Grace. Time to step up the exercise and slow down on all the fast food eating. Of course our schedules haven't really been conducive to cooking meals but I need to get back to it quick.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Weekly Wrap Up - The One With Wild Animals

This week has actually been kind of crazy. I will start off with our experiences with the wild animals. First, we had an extra drama practice Tuesday night after Cooperative. I left to get a bite to eat and the 30 minutes that I was gone we had TWO drama students get bitten by a baby squirrel that had somehow found his way into the backstage area. Both students are fine but it was crazy and something that will be remembered for a long time. Second, two raccoons have been visiting our chicken run for the past month or so. Routinely all the chickens are locked in their coops before the racoons come out for the night and the raccoons have seemed to be only interested in the leftover chicken feed on the ground. Well a few days ago the small raccoon decided to come out at like 4:30 in the afternoon while the chickens are still walking around in their run. This meant trap and relocate, which is just what we did on Thursday night. I have to admit though he was a real cutie and I really did not want to have to kill him

This week academically speaking we were able to get a good bit accomplished. Algebra really seems to be clicking now with Grace and it is a super relief. She gets very frustrated when she doesn't understand something and Algebra was a big frustration for her. We finished Beowulf and watched an animated version of the tale. I also showed her the epic poem in old English which is just baffling. In Science we started a new book about Bird Behavior and she is taking notes from her reading to combine into an essay once the book is finished. We are reading Adam of the Road, Michael Vey Book 3, A Year Down Yonder, the book of John, and Who is my Neighbor. 

Grace is creating many drawings and has started writing a short novel. 

Cooperative is taking up a lot of our time and will continue to over the next couple of weeks. We will have two more practices for Shakespeare and then perform it next Saturday. The Yearbook Staff has lots of work to finish the Yearbook before we can send it to print. I love my Yearbook Staff Class, most are kids I have known for years.

The weather has been beautiful and we have spent some time outdoors chasing down chickens that have escaped from the run and watching the birds outside at our feeder. Last night we attended a Zumba class and a friend of Grace's came home with us to spend the night. Zaxbys for dinner, practicing lines with said friend for upcoming performance, playing the Wii, and just great fellowship with friends. Hoping you all have a great week and see you next weekend for another Weekly Wrap Up.

Friday, November 8, 2013

TOS Review - At Home In Dogwood Mudhole

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We have always as a family had a dream about owning a little farm and homesteading. So far a flock of chickens and gardening is as far as we have gotten. Something about living off the land, living a simple life, and not relying on others is a very attractive way of life to many folks, including myself. When I saw that the TOS Review Crew had a book about this type of lifestyle coming up on the vendor list, I thought it would be a perfect read for me. I did end up being picked for this review and was sent At Home In Dogwood Mudhole to read and review.

At Home In Dogwood Mudhole came to me as a softcover book of 379 pages. This book currently retails for $22.95 for the paperback version and $16.95 for a digital edition. This book is mostly for adults but high schoolers could read it as well if they had an interest in farming and homesteading. The book I received is actually the first in a three volume series. This First Volume is "Nothing That Eats". The title is kind of funny in the fact that they accumulate many different types of animals that they need to feed. 

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The author of this series is Franklin Sanders. Franklin Sanders started writing many years ago for his monthly newsletter, "The Moneychanger". The letters that he included in this newsletter have now become part of a book series. "The Moneychanger" is still available as a monthly newsletter and includes information and articles about Christian life, the metals business, health alternatives, and many more.

At Home in Dogwood Mudhole Volume One: Nothing That Eats focuses on the family's original move to Dogwood Mudhole (which is a real place in Tennessee) and setting up their farm. A good portion of the book is letters about the family's love of Southern history and Civil War reenactments. Throughout the letters Franklin Sanders lists special places to visit and great inns and restaurants to patronize. The letters/articles begin in June 1995 and run through August 2002. It was interesting that as I was reading through the book as each month and year rolled by I was thinking about where I was in my life. Just like many others in this time period the Sanders family was anxious about Y2K and spent time preparing for the worst. This brought back memories of what we as a family, were also thinking about Y2K and what kind of problems might arise. 

I enjoyed his tales of all the animals; horses, dogs, pigs, and chickens and the love he and his family had for them. Because of his thoughts and worries about Y2K I can only imagine what he might think about our economy today. I also enjoyed the fact that the book is written from a Southerner's perspective because I too am born and bred from the South. This book was not exactly what I was expecting, but that is okay. I was expecting more of a "how to" kind of book for homesteading like I see on the shelves at the bookstore. It was still a good read. I continue to have the dream of one day owning a wide stretch of land with a little farm on it. All kinds of animals and living a more simple life. Not simple in the sense of hard work but just less hectic with the world's trappings. Volume Two: Best Thing We Ever Did is also available by pre-order.

Be sure to go take a look at Franklin Sander's book At Home in Dogwood Mudhole and see what kind of treasure you may find.

Also go to the the TOS Review Crew Page and check out what the other readers thought of this book.

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Middle Ages - Beowulf

As I mentioned in a previous post our entire year of history is devoted to the Middle Ages. The book we are using as our spine is Famous Men of the Middle Ages and the accompanying workbook. Last week it was recommended through the workbook to read Beowulf. I am ashamed to say that I have no recollection of ever reading this epic Anglo-Saxon poem. We chose a young adult retelling to read.

We enjoyed it but did find it to be quite gruesome. The illustrations were beautiful, well done, and suited the story well..

Today we watched an animated version on you tube to give Grace a different perspective.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

My Top Five Thoughts For Today

Sorry things have been so silent around here the past few days. The past couple of weeks have been so busy that I decided to take a big break over the weekend from everything. I basically sat and watched TV all weekend. A little house work was thrown in but otherwise, nada. So here are the top five things that are occupying my mind at the moment.

  1. Registration for our fine arts cooperative was yesterday and was very hectic. I am very excited about the classes I will be teaching starting in January - High School Drama, Improv and Theatre Games, Knights and Maidens, and Youth Service Group. Because my thoughts are on next semester I am sorta ready for this semester to be done. Only two more class periods to teach for me then we break for all the holidays. Believe it or not this next semester will be the first that Grace is not performing in a drama production. She wanted to take the Stage Makeup class instead.
  2. This weekend I watched an entire season of Revenge to try and catch up with the current season that is airing. I am officially addicted to this show. I am also watching Once Upon A Time and thrilled that Hook and Emma might have a chance. I am an official TV Geek and always have been.
  3. Tonight is an extra practice for Night of Shakespeare and I need to pick up all the food to feed the kids tonight. I am about to head out to get everything that will be needed.
  4. In the back of my head I am trying to figure out how in the world we are going to pay for Christmas. Just like everyone else out there, money is very tight. This year it is also tight for all of my extended family. I am fairly sure that we will drawing names and actually sticking to it.
  5. We have a raccoon visiting our backyard every night. Normally that wouldn't be such a big deal and we would be relishing in our opportunity to see wildlife, but we have chickens and I am sure he would love to have one for dinner. We are constantly watching for when it starts to get dark and locking the chickens up before the coon comes out. So far I think he has only been interested in the grain left on the ground but sooner or later he will figure out chicken tastes better. I am thinking we are going to set a trap for the coon and move him to farther away lands.

Friday, November 1, 2013

I Love Where I Live

Fall is my absolute most favorite time of the year. Living in the Northeast Georgia Mountains is beautiful this time of year. Leaves everywhere. Colors abounding in the sky. It often feels like something out of a fairy tale. When the wind blows and the leaves rain down, it is so beautiful.

How Theatre Students Get Together and Celebrate Halloween

Drama students tend to take any chance they can get to dress up. Halloween is the perfect venue for them. Last night a group of our drama students got together at Truett McConnell College to do their annual Halloween Fest. This is only a smattering of our drama class (currently there are 25 participating). Lots of fun was had by all. Hayrides, a magic show, trick or treating in the girls dorms, carnival games, and just plain hanging out. The weather was perfect. Not hot , not cold and the rain held off until we were done. I love spending time with these kids.