Sunday, March 30, 2014

Two Great Reads For Your Kindle

Recently I started reading two books written by Amy Dingmann. I love them so far. She says everything that you always wanted to say out loud or thought about to other homeschoolers or society in general. I really recommend homeschool moms to read the two books I am linking. Great encouragement and only 2.99 each.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Weekly Wrap Up - The Week of Being Creative

We traveled to Greenville for the Great Homeschool Convention on last Saturday. Of course the rest of the family went to the Zoo and I got to walk around the vendor hall alone in my own thoughts as well as speaking with various vendors and fellow bloggers.

 This semester of Cooperative has been very challenging. Each of our teachers has been sick at one time or another. The past two weeks have found me subbing and teaching my classes at the same time. This past Tuesday I took my teenage 4:12 Ministries Class into the elementary choir class to lead group games for the teacher that was at home with sick children. Grace lead a statues game sort of like freeze tag.
 This week Grace has been furiously working on characters for a new book she has in mind to write. Illustrating is her passion but I really hope she gets to the writing part because the story she has to tell sounds really good. Game Over is the name of the book and the picture above is the cover. She still needs to decide if she wants it to be a traditional book with illustration here and there, a graphic novel, or a manga. She is leaning toward a traditional book.

What We Studied and Learned This Week
Xenophanes the Philosopher
The Cell - creating a 3D model 
  Gave a speech about the Malaysian Plane that Disappeared
Continued to Learn Study Skills
Started the Chapter on Exponents and Scientific Notation in Algebra

 Classes Attended
Speech Class
Pottery Class
Stage Makeup Class
Improv Class
Art Class

 Reviews We Are Working On
Philosophy Adventure
Artistic Pursuits
Victus Study Skills
Supercharged Science

This is Grace's second pottery piece she has created through one of our review products. I will have a review up next month for ARTistic Pursuits Model Book. We have been to the gym twice and hoping to go again this afternoon. Grace and her dad have gone this morning to get some of her artwork copied to sell at an upcoming art show. All in all it was a good week. I am still suffering pretty miserably with my acid reflux and broke down to make an appointment with the GI specialist. They couldn't get me in for another three weeks so I guess I will burn until then. Hope you all had a good week home educating your children and that warmer weather is on the way to brighten all our days.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Homemade Middle Ages Game

 This semester at Cooperative I teach an elementary Middle Ages class. This is mostly a class devoted to making things related to the Middle Ages time period. Yesterday we decided to have some fun with catapults. I had the kids build catapults with Popsicle sticks and rubber bands.
 I created a board the day before that looks like an aerial view of the top of a castle. Each section of the board were possible areas for the game pieces (pennies) to land and collect or subtract points. Land on the knight - collect 15 points, land inside the castle - collect 10 points, fall in the moat - subtract 5 points and so on. If they captured the King by landing on his picture they received 20 points.
 I think they all enjoyed the process of building the catapult and playing the game. As you can see from the picture most of the class is boys with just two girls. Boys + war games = fun.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Help a Girl Out - Picking History Curriculum

I thought I knew what I would use for history for the remainder of the high school years, but after visiting the convention this past weekend I am wavering. This year Grace has studied a full year of the Middle Ages. We used Famous Men of the Middle Ages as our spine and supplemented with other books and documentaries. Here are the three I am looking to use and would appreciate any input you my readers may have about any of them.

American, British, and World History - This set I already have on my shelf from a review last year. I like them well enough but will definitely need to supplement them some with other books, documentaries, etc.

Exploring World History From the Notgrass Company - I have used the younger version of Notgrass' American History and liked it. The high school package scares me a bit because if you use the whole package including the literature part you are using it 2-3 hours a day. Not sure if Grace is up for that. Of course on the bright side it would meet a history and english credit and I think even a Bible credit.

World Empires, World Missions, World Wars - This is the one that really has me wavering. I talked with someone in depth about it at the convention. Each unit takes 4 weeks to complete and has lots of neat choices for each unit. Plus the Cds of the stories by Diana Waring are amazing.

I guess what it all comes down to is the fact that if I use the first choice I don't have to spend any money. All three years are already on my shelf. That means no purchasing history for three years. On the other hand I find them a little dry and I think Grace would get tired of them. Diana Waring's curriculum would be about 100.00 each year and they do not currently have a high school American History, which means I would have to switch to something else for that in her Junior year. Senior year I believe (because our state requires it) would be government and economics.

So this is a shout out to my readers. Have you used any of these programs and what do you think.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

What Does a Veteran Homeschooler Get From Attending a Convention

I only call myself a Veteran Homeschooler in the sense that I have been teaching my child for 8 years. I definitely do not have it all together and continue to learn through the years. Homeschool conventions have been a part of our families yearly trips for the entire 8 years. In the beginning it was overwhelming and my brain was on overload with all the wonderful vendor booths to chose from. Then after a year or two it was about touching and feeling all the products that I wanted to use for the next year in our homeschool. Now we come to the last two years and my focus has changed considerably. Being on the TOS Review Crew I get blessed every month with educational products that I can chose to continue with after the review period or put them on my shelf for a later date. This means that I don't really purchase a lot of "stuff" at the conventions. Now I do one of three things:

  1. Visit and talk with the vendors, especially if I have reviewed their products in the past. Letting them know how much I appreciated their product and so on. Visit and talk with fellow bloggers that happen to come to the same convention. It is always fun to meet your online buddies face to face.
  2. Get some encouragement and insight at seminars and talks. Meet some of the great people involved in the world of homeschooling.
  3. Research a particular product that you have had your eye on and get to talk with the author about any questions I might have concerning said product before purchasing.
Yesterday we drove up to Greenville for the afternoon to visit Great Homeschool Conventions. Last year was the first for us to go to this convention and we were impressed with the vendors and seminars. This year we were only their for a couple of hours - me in the vendor hall and hubby and daughter decided to do a quick visit to the Greenville Zoo. I had a couple of purposes for attending. This go around I didn't pay the extra money to hear some of the seminars so I just purchased them on CD for $6.00 each. Here are some of the great talks I purchased:

Heidi St. John - Better for Best: Keeping Christ as the Center of Your Homeschool
Carol Topp - No Job? No Problem: Micro Business for Teens
Heidi St. John - R.E.A.L. L.I.F.E. Homeschooling
Matthew Walsh - Matthew Walsh! Live!
Carol Topp - We;re Not Raising Children, We're Raising Grown Ups
Cyndi Kinney - Combining Homeschooling with Unschooling Successfully

Grace and Scott had fun at the Greenville Zoo

 Something that was very fun for me was meeting Mary from Homegrown Learners and Michelle from The Holistic Homeschooler. It is the little things in life but I read both of these blogs so it was way cool to meet them in person.

I also got to meet my "boss" Cyndi Kinney from Knowledge Box Central. I haven't written a lot about the fact that for the past six months I have started writing study guides for the lapbooks that Cyndi puts together. It was great to meet her in person after all the emails we have sent to one another. Their booth was crazy busy and lots of people buying lapbooks and journals from them. Just as exciting was seeing my product in print. I was like a proud momma and took a picture. The first series I wrote was all about inventors. I wrote the study guide part and then Cyndi does all the templates for the lapbooks as well as putting it all together.

It was an enjoyable afternoon and I only spent money on journal pages for our Apologia Biology book for next year and received all the flashcards for free with it. A normally $90.00 value for only $40.00. That was from Knowledge Box Central. I did look at three different history products for next year and at this point not really sure which one I will be going with (my next post will probably be about this). 

All in all I want to express that even moms that have homeschooled for years can get something out of attending a convention. I even plan on attending a state convention in the June with a friend to the vendor hall and big used book sale. Check out what conventions may be in your area and take a chance on visiting.

Thoughtful Spot Weekly Blog Hop

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Lots of Character Drawing Going On Yesterday

What do you do when inspiration strikes? In Grace's case you get very busy in the drawing department. 

She created all four of these characters in one evening while listening to music.

It always amazes me how she can just come up with so many different character drawings.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Weekly Wrap Up - Just Pushing Through

This week didn't flow easily at all. Everything seemed like a struggle. My acid reflux is bad - I see a doctor in my future. Grace wasn't feeling school this week and didn't want to accomplish much. One of our teachers was sick at Cooperative and I had to take on her class to add to my four that I already teach as well as find a sub for another. We didn't volunteer at the shelter because I am just plain tired and Grace had work that needed catching up on. So without further ado here is our week.

 Our constant companion during school is puppy. She thinks she has to be right there with us always. Grace has really enjoyed reading Gentle Ben. The author of the book has written many other animal stories and I hope to purchase her a couple of new ones soon once this one is finished. I guess from the picture you could come to the conclusion that yes we are one of those homeschooling families, at least Grace is, that stays in their pjs to work.
 Grace recreated a Georgia O'Keefe piece for her art homework this week. She spent a lot of time on this using her copic markers and blender pen to try and recreate the watercolor look.
 Bought a neat little book to add to our already great Japanese learning program through Mango Languages. On Sunday we took my mom out for lunch and shopping. Our main goal was to find a dress for the spring formal coming up next month. We were able to find something at Plato's Closet. Dress and shoes for 39.00. Due to modesty rules we needed a shrug that was purchased for 20.00 at Kohls. Regardless we got the whole ensemble for 60.00. It is looks vintage which was what Grace was looking for.
We have been blessed this year with some really wonderful review products. This week we received in the mail a new review product through ARTistic Pursuits. This is a new product they have and we will be working with clay. You should see a review on this one in about 6 weeks.

We still enjoy checking in each morning to see the Eaglecam at Berry College and the new to us Owlcam. Algebra has been a struggle this week. I think we have only gotten through 2 lessons and today we hope to finish a chapter test. I ordered a prep book for Grace's upcoming state required standardized test. I'm sure we will be working on that some next week. Another review product introduced us to a new philosopher this week through reading, writing, map work, and timeline. Gracie is gaining insight to study skills and how to take effective notes through yet another review product and in science we are learning about cells through our 4th review product. Today she will be choosing between two cell projects for diagramming purposes. On Tuesday Grace attended pottery, Improv, 4:12 Ministries, and stage makeup class. On Thursday she attended speech and art class. I think this week Grace's favorite educational endeavor was reading Gentle Ben. My favorite help in teaching would be the study skills guide.

Tomorrow we are driving to Greenville to check out the Great Homeschool Convention. We are driving up just for the day and only going to the vendor hall. I plan on purchasing some great CDs though of any seminars that look interesting.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Art Homework (Work With Copic Markers and Blender Pen)

Art class has Grace working with watercolor pencils. Last week the teacher asked them all to choose a famous watercolor painter to talk about and to recreate one of their works. Grace chose Georgie O'Keefe and as you can see she recreated one her flower paintings but in marker. When she got to class today everyone else had simply sketched their work, so Grace told her teacher she was an overachiever. Actually she just didn't remember the part about only sketching it out. Regardless I think it turned out beautifully. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Gluten Free Recipes From Pinterest I Want To Try

Lately my schedule has been so busy that I haven't been able to do hardly any gluten free from scratch cooking or baking. I really need to make the time to start trying the plethora of recipes I save on Pinterest. I thought I would share a few of the ones that really look good and I have at the top of my list to try.

Dairy and Gluten Free Hostess Cupcakes

Gluten Free Doughnuts with King Arthur Flour Mix

Gluten Free Cookie Cake

Slow Cooked Cheese Grits

Gluten Free Graham Crackers

Gluten Free Cheese Crackers

Paleo Caramel Cheesecake Bites

I am still looking for a really good gluten free mac and cheese if anyone out there has a good one.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

New Resources To Use

The past six weeks we have enjoyed using Mango Languages to study Japanese. You can see a review post here. We visited a great book store today and I found this book to help with also learning how to read and write in Japanese. You can also find the book at Amazon here.

Another fascination we have recently had is watching an Eagle Cam and Owl Cam. The Eagle Cam is through Berry College and has 6,000,000 daily viewers.  It is awesome to watch the Eagle parents raise their young. Another we just recently started watching I found out through another online support group. The Owl Cam is run by a homeschooling family that discovered an owl couple build a nest and lay eggs right there in front of their apartment. They purchased a camera and the rest is history. So adorable to watch.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Weekly Wrap Up In Pictures

 Every day begins with animals. All four of them believe they need to be with us every time we start school.
 Sorting rocks on day after lunch. This was instigated by one of our review products.
 Another afternoon volunteering at the animal shelter. The cats were forming a line waiting for love.
 We are about four chapters into the high school Life of Fred Language Arts program. Grace says it is still very easy but she still loves it.
This past week was all about the experiments in science. A full week of geology learning through Supercharged Science. I will post a review in about three weeks.

Reviews We Are Working On
Philosophy Adventure
Supercharged Science
Mango Languages
Artistic Pursuits
Victus Study Skills

Classes Attended
Stage makeup
4:12 Ministries

Subjects Studied
Philosopher Thales
God's World News Magazine
CNN Student News
Study Skills
Reading House of Hades and Gentle Ben

Here's hoping everyone else had a good week as well and will have a relaxing weekend.

TOS Review - Mango Languages - Mango Homeschool Edition

Mango Languages Review 
I'd like to start this review by addressing the fact that I have never learned any part of a foreign language and didn't even take a foreign language class in high school or college. I really regret this. If I could go back in time that is something I would change. So what does a parent do when their 14 year old daughter wishes not only to learn a foreign language but a language that is not available through the normal channels. This is where an online program like Mango Homeschool Edition from Mango Languages comes on the scene. We were thoroughly blessed by the TOS Review Crew and Mango Languages with the opportunity to review this product. We were given a one year online subscription to Mango Homeschool Edition to try it and give our honest opinion.
Mango Languages Review 
I would like to preface this review by letting my readers know that certain areas of the product were still in development during the review period and I was unable to use those. Mango Languages representatives did inform us that parent tracking, grading, and personal lessons plans are being developed and will be available in a few months. In essence we were given a beta edition to use and review.
This product could not have come at a better time for us. Let me explain. My daughter loves Japanese culture and decided early on that Japanese would be her foreign language choice. We live in a small town which equals no "in person" tutoring for her language choice. In walks Mango Languages and the problem is virtually solved. From day one of starting, Grace was excited to be using the program. But wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. First let's address some of the basic information you need and want to know.
  • Mango Homeschool Edition is for ages 6 - adult. That's right folks, you the parent can use it as well as your child to learn a new language.
  • This program works on Mac or PC and any browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome).
  • The developers are currently working on a mapping to determine how to apply the program for high school credits.
  • No restrictions or limits are placed on how many languages the student wants to study or how far they wish to go with each language.
  • If the parent wishes to use the program they will need to have a separate subscription from the student.

1 subscription is $18.00/month or $125.00/year
2 subscriptions is $28.00/month or $175.00/year
3 subscriptions is $38.00/month or $225.00/year
4 subscriptions is $48.00/month or $275.00/year
5 subscriptions is $58.00/month or $325.00/year

Subscriptions for 6 students and over is considered a group rate and will depend on number of students.Each student will need a subscription of their own.
Mango Languages Review 
Mango Languages has been available in many libraries across the country for a few years. You might ask "Why should I buy an online subscription when I can get it for free at my local library?" That is a very good question with a very good answer. The program available at the library only allows use of the first level of each language. The homeschool version allows all languages and all levels to be used by the student. Not to mention the community feature. Total package, total experience. Now you may wonder "What is the community feature?" The software developers created a online community specifically for this program. This community represents a different way to learn language sharing it with others through conversation in a safe online community. Parents and students across the world having the capability to share other language learning resources and learning together. Mango will be the facilitator in bringing this all together through audio, video, lessons, and more. This is their vision for Mango Homeschool Edition.
What Is Currently Available To Use In The Homeschool Edition
Over 60 different languages
Progress assessments
Built-in journals, discussion, and wikis
Collaborative learning spaces
eNote messaging/chat rooms
Access to embedded/downloadable content
Support from other community members
Calendars to schedule meetings or study groups 
Our Experience
We of course chose Japanese to study. Although we did take a quick look at Pirate and Gaelic. Each language is called a Passport. Our Passport included 3 levels (called Journeys) of learning plus downloadable files. The lessons gave us the opportunity to use: Audio and pronunciation guidance from native speakers, conversation and grammar goals, a voice comparison tool, phonetic spelling on demand, cultural insights like customs and etiquette, and grammar notes.

From the very beginning I appreciated the fact that over 60 languages were at our fingertips. This means students can dabble in many different languages while trying to decide on one to thoroughly study for high school. I also liked the fact that the student wasn't bombarded with meaningless (in my humble opinion) words to study but could learn complete conversational sentences right away. Teaching Japanese conversationally is what Grace will use one day if she gets to visit Japan, not how to conjugate verbs, etc. We liked learning the cultural information which was interwoven into most of the lessons. This program is not just about memorization and reciting the learned words. Each lesson will throw a sentence at you to translate from what you have learned previously and what is being learned in the current lesson. If the student doesn't get "it" the first or second time, they have the ability to go back and repeat each and every lesson. We enjoyed listening to the narrator and found her very easy to listen to. Grace used this program 4 times a week and will continue to do so even after the review period. Some of the topics we have studied so far are: 

Greetings, Gratitudes, and Goodbyes
Inquiring About Someone's Nationality
Asking What Languages Someone Speaks
Names and Introductions
Getting Around

Mango Languages Review 
Seeing as we are using the 3 journeys to fill one high school credit, we added some extra activities to the already great program. I printed out the entire downloadable file which Grace uses to follow along with the narrator. She writes the lessons in a notebook phonetically and with the Japanese symbols. She also wrote out some of the words on flashcards to practice away from the computer as well. So far we are very happy with Mango Homeschool Edition from Mango Languages and plan to finish all three levels of Japanese. The developers of the program have quite a vision in place for this program and I am eager to see all of it come to fruition.
If your family is shopping around for a foreign language program, I would highly recommend checking out the Mango Homeschool Edition. Also go over to the TOS Review Crew to see what other reviewers thought of this program.

Mango Languages on Social Media:

Crew Disclaimer 
Review Crew

Thursday, March 13, 2014

What Do You Do When You Say "Yes" Too Much

In our modern times families stay busy. Sometimes incredibly busy. The business in our lives tends to ebb and flow. Sometimes like last summer we didn't have anything going on. For the first couple of weeks that was okay but then it seemed like the four walls were closing in on us. It was even worse because it rained every day for 8 solid weeks, but that is a different story to tell. After a really boring, slow summer I decided we were going to get more involved in the Fall when everything started back. Well, now I think it has gone in the opposite direction. Grace has gotten to the age where 1) she has high school work to do and it takes longer, 2) she wants to be around her friends more, 3) her art is taking off and requires more classes, time, etc. 4) likes taking classes outside of the home. Put all that together plus the fact that I run a Fine Arts Cooperative, write study guides for a lapbook company, review educational products that I need to write reviews and post on my blog, have recently joined a women's Bible study and small group as a family, working in exercise time at the gym at least three times a week, volunteer at the animal shelter once a week, planning and preparing for a spring formal, and going to two other classes outside the home each week -- leads to exhaustion and important things like extended family falling through the cracks. You can also add into this mix orthodontist appts, GI doctor appts, and my mother's doctor appts and there just seems like no time to sit and relax lately. The problem is Grace loves each and every one of these activities and it would be hard to let one go. Most will finish up in the beginning of May and we can all get a breather. Although we have already found two summer art camps Grace wants to attend as well as art classes with her normal teacher and helping with the little kid's art camps. Plus I know for sure math and science will continue through the summer because we are behind and there will be more review products to attend to as well.

I shouldn't complain and I'm not really. Am I exhausted? Yes. Sometimes do I want to quit everything? Yes. But the truth of the matter is I love homeschooling. I love our local homeschooling community. I like being involved. So I just keep on keeping on and look forward to a couple of weeks by the pool come June.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Recent Favorite Blogs To Visit

Down To Earth has been one of my favorite weekly reads for years. If you want information about scaling back, living simply, or maybe what it is like to live in Australia - you should visit this blog. She also has authored two books.

Footprints in the Butter has many interesting reviews of educational products and books. She is also a fellow Crew member.

Life At Cobble Hill Farm is a great read. I love to hear about her cat Jackson's escapades.

Joyful Living is a wonderful blog. Love to read about her family, homeschooling, and simple life.

Bakerella is one of those blogs just about everyone knows, but for those that don't the recipes are great.

North Point Online is not a blog but if you are every looking for some great messages by Andy Stanley and others this is the place to watch them.

Spoon & Tamago is more like an artist's blog with all things Japan thrown in the mix.

Petra School is another fellow Crew member and I love how she homeschools her boys.

So here are some places I would like to share with you and hopefully you will enjoy them as much as I do. Happy reading!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

My Favorite Reasons For Homeschooling

All homeschool families have their reasons for choosing to homeschool. The past 8 years of homeschooling have taught me that every day/month/year is different and to roll with the punches. Here is my list of favorite reasons to homeschool.

  1. Watching Your Child Grow Up - There are so many firsts I would have missed if I had sent my child to school 8 hours a day every day for most of the year. So many discussions we would not have had and a real closeness that we have as a family would not be there.
  2. Adjusting to Each Child's Internal Clock - I have a night owl that has suffered with insomnia for many years. Early mornings just haven't happened over the years. My child learns best after lunch so much of our school work happens in the afternoons, not the mornings. There is just no way that through the years my child could have gotten up at 5:30 each morning to be ready for a bus pick up at 6:45 or even me driving at 7:30.
  3. Strengths and Weaknesses - All children have strengths and weaknesses that sometimes get overlooked. A real weakness for us is math and we get to stick with something as long as it takes before moving on to a new concept. In that same breath art is a major strength and we get to spend so much more time pursuing that sometimes even in place of a more academic subject.
  4. Learning Outside of the Box - Trying many different ways and avenues to teach a hard to follow concept. Using methods that are more relaxed and less structured to accomplish the same tasks.
  5. Strong Family Ties - I touched on this some in the watching your child grow comments but just plain being together more.
  6. Learning Together - I love the fact that I get to relearn so many things and share them with my daughter. Many of these concepts and events from history either I didn't learn or don't remember. We get to share learning about these things together and have many discussions to think it all through.
These are just a few of the thoughts that have been swishing around in my head lately. I feel truly blessed that I am able to spend this time with my child, watch them grow up and become a productive member of society and help shape their little lives into something awesome!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Weekly Wrap Up - Recovering From Sickness and Trying To Get Back on Track

Sunday and Monday found me recovering from a stomach bug so we didn't really get back to school until Tuesday. Luckily this Tuesday was a break from the Cooperative which meant we could catch up on some schoolwork. Grace started a new project for the art show in May. We visited the art store and found a new line of markers that are cheaper than her precious copics. She can buy three of these markers for the price of one copic. 

Grace spent one afternoon color sorting all her markers and colored pencils. Then two days later color coded all her clothes in the closet and hats hanging on the wall.

Wednesday afternoon the new bird cage arrived. This was a pic I took from the loft of them putting it together. The birds are so happy with their new bigger space. As you can see I tried to move them out to the main living area but Grace insisted on them staying in her room.

We got a new review product this week with Philosophy Adventure. Looking forward to really digging into this. Lots of neat writing assignments.

Yesterday Grace attended Speech Class, Art Class, and then off to the animal shelter to volunteer. This cat, MaryLynn really won over Grace's heart. Playing with the cats and giving them some social interaction was a lot easier than walking all the dogs last week, but she will continue to do both.

Another new product we are working on is Life of Fred Language Arts Series for High School age kids. We did the first chapter and Grace looked at me and said, "Are you sure this is for high school because it seems very elementary." I told her it definitely progresses.

What We Discussed or Studied This Week

Watched a documentary about Henry II and Finished the Reading and Questions
Started learning study skills with a new review product
Wrote a speech about the future from an information gained from a interview
Japanese Language Lessons
Volunteers in the cat room at the local animal shelter
Geology through Supercharged Science
Sir Gawain from King Arthur book
Vocabulary words with Marie's Words
CNN Student News - Ukraine, Russia invading
God's World News Magazine 

Classes Attended

This week Cooperative had Spring Break so Grace attended only Speech and Art Class this week

Upcoming Adventures 

Another new review product
Two outings with friends
Cooperative Classes
Creative Canvas Classes
Friends coming to spend the night