Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Life of a Cooperative Director

I am a director of a Fine Arts Cooperative. It is at times daunting and exhausting, but many other times it is pure joy. The families are incredible. The students bring such joy to our lives. The Cooperative in general has been the hugest blessing to my family and most of that comes from the people we have grown to love and work with along the way.

This semester found us in a new location. This meant setting a date to deconstruct the old stage and get ready to put together a new stage at the new location. This new stage will only stay up a few weeks each semester. Two families from the Cooperative came this morning to lend a hand and the stage was down and off to storage in 2 1/2 hours. Many hands make light work.

These folks my life and job so much easier. Without them the Cooperative wouldn't be what it is right now. So I definitely cannot take all the credit. The new co-director for this year has taken on a lot of work for me and it is a blessing to have her on board.

After just a couple of hours it is almost like we were never there.

Of course lunch out for everyone in between deconstructing, loading, and then off to storage.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Little Game that Became a Favorite

You never know what you are going to come across in the clearance isle at the book store. I paid 12.00 for this game and in less than a week it has become the favorite game in the house. I originally bought it with the elementary students in mind - to use for practice in spelling and critical thinking. Grace got introduced to it and loves it.

The premise of the game is very similar to Boggle or Bananagrams. You get points for how many tiles you use, subtract points for the tiles you do not use, using the "Gecko (wild card)" tile gets you extra points, person spelling the longest word gets extra points, and so on. There is also a book that comes with the game not only explaining the directions but also added worksheets for unscrambling and word games.

I thought I was getting something that would be played a couple of times and then discarded. So wrong! The "Littles" and Grace ask for it almost everyday now.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

When Mother Nature has Other Plans

If you live in the South you take snow days whenever you can get them. We are lucky to get one good snow a year if that, but when you have two weeks back to back of freezing rain, ice accumulation, and snow it gets old real fast. So far I have had to cancel two weeks of Cooperative classes, a family birthday party (for me), all outside of the home classes, potty training for the puppies (no way to take 4 pound pups outside in this kind of weather) and a Spirit Night fundraiser at Chick-Fil-A. Needless to say I am ready to move on.

It is truly beautiful and today majestic with the sun beaming down and blue skies as bright as any blue you can imagine. The camera does not do it justice.

Our grand tally came to about 5 inches. They were predicting up to 8. It is not even 10 in the morning yet and the glorious sunbeams are melting the snow away. I know there will be a lot of kids out there disappointed at how quickly this snow goes away, but this momma is so ready for spring.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Update on Grace's Artwork

A lot of winter weather seems to bring creativity - at least as far as Grace is concerned. She is furiously working on a Beauty and the Beast inspired commission piece for customer to be delivered by this Friday.

The fairy is a redo of a piece she did for the art show.

This is a new piece. Grace loves everything galaxy which inspired the coloring for the dragon's horns.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

TOS Review - Heirloom Audio Productions - In Freedom's Cause

In Freedom's Cause Audio CD Review
One of the highlights of homeschooling for our family has been listening to audio theatre productions and sharing good literature. As Grace has grown older we have not shared this wonderful family bonding activity for a couple of years. This year I have three fifth grade girls that come to my house three days a week for tutoring and I felt they would enjoy the experience of listening to a professional audio theatre presentation. When the review for In Freedom's Cause by Heirloom Audio Productions became available I knew it would be a great choice for them.
Heirloom Audio Productions has taken very seriously their task of not only creating an entertaining audio production, but also making sure the historical information is as accurate as possible and that God and Christian values are not left out. This audio production is adapted from G.A. Henty's book, In Freedom's Cause. Many homeschoolers are quite familiar with G.A. Henty and all of his wonderful stories.
Something my students were excited about was the actors playing the parts in this production. The girls had recently watched the first three Narnia movies and loved the actor that portrayed Edmund. They were so excited to learn that Skander Keynes (the actor who portrayed Edmund) was a voice actor in this production.
In Freedom's Cause is an audio drama, not an audio book. That means it brings the story to life in so many wonderful ways. Background music, acting, suspense, sound effects, and adventure to name just a few. We chose to listen to a few tracks each morning (of course the girls always wanted just one more track to be played) while the girls sat around the table drawing. Occasionally I would pause the presentation to explain a vocabulary word, concept, or put something into context.
The story revolves around the journey of Scotland winning its independence from England through many individuals but especially William Wallace and John Bruce. It was fairly fitting that this piece of history came to us in a story as we are currently almost to that time period in our history studies.
We were given a CD set of the audio production, a downloadable study guide, a MP3 download of the soundtrack, the Ebook of In Freedom's Cause, a cast poster, behind the scenes documentary, cast of characters road map, membership weblink, and a printable copy of The Prayer of William Wallace. The CD set was used three days a week until it was completed due to the days I had the girls here for tutoring. They were so inspired and enjoyed the experience so much they asked if I had other audio productions they could hear. Conveniently the company sent an email out to us that the next audio theatre production, With Lee in Virginia, was to release around Memorial Day. I will definitely be checking that out. I utilized the study guide by reading the information about G.A. Henty, William Wallace, and John Bruce to the girls, as well as the provided study guide questions. This audio production is recommended for ages 6 and up.
Mostly the girls and myself enjoyed a wonderful story presented in a very professional, entertaining, and engaging way. I would most assuredly purchase more productions when they become available. Please go check out In Freedom's Cause presented by Heirloom Audio Productions. Also check out what other Crew Members thought of this product.
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Monday, February 23, 2015

TOS Review - Great Comission Films - Indoctrination

IndoctriNation DVD Review
Every homeschooling family has their own story. The purpose behind why they decided to homeschool. In our family what started out as health issues for pulling our daughter out of the public school system has changed over the years and morphed into many other factors that keep us homeschooling. This list of reasons to keep your child home from school can run the gamut of health, religious, safety, and on and on. The movie Indoctrination from Great Commission Films just solidified all my reasons for homeschooling and quite frankly, gave me a few more.
Our family was given the opportunity to watch and review Indoctrination through the TOS Review Crew. We were given a physical DVD to watch. Currently the DVD can be purchased for $19.99 and they also offer other study materials that can be purchased separately. There is not a recommended age for this movie, but in my opinion 14 years old and up it would be suitable. The day I received the documentary, I handed it off to my husband to watch. See, this type of movie is right up his alley and I knew he would enjoy it and give me an honest opinion to include in the review.
"Indoctrination can be a helpful tool for a Christian family making decisions pertaining to their child's education. It gives clear pointed examples that are just small glimpses into the many challenges that are against kids in the public school setting. The salt and light argument is very flawed as kids need a solid foundation to prepare them for the world that they will be living in. This film, along with the other source materials that they used in the making of the film can be a great tool in the decision making process for Christian parents." - The Husband
The filmmaker, Colin Gunn, has done a good job of collecting information, interviews, and media clips to support his case of children being indoctrinated by attending public school. The film shows Colin Gunn and his family traveling across America in a school bus investigating the perils of a public school education. He also gives a timeline starting back in the 1600s to present day as to how a government run education came to be. You will see interviews and clips from many famous names in the homeschool community, including; Voddie Baucham, Ken Ham, Doug Phillips, Kevin Swanson, and John Taylor Gatto.
The debates and conversation that take place concerning public school vs. homeschool can sometimes be a powder keg, but Colin Gunn handled it with integrity while still pulling no punches about what your child will come in contact with in a public school setting. Some clips were truly frightening as to how much the government wishes to invade upon your child and family's life as well as how powerful the teacher's unions have become. Not to mention the inappropriate topics and discussions that the school thinks is okay to discuss with your child. After watching Indoctrination I feel truly blessed to homeschool my child. As my husband said before in this post, this DVD is a great tool to show to Christian parents that might be on the edge of making the decision of pulling their children out of the public school system.
Now saying all of this and that yes I agree whole heartedly with what was discussed in this DVD - I think parents of public school kids and teachers in the public school system (whether they are Christian or not) might be offended by some of the information provided and discussed, which would then fall on deaf ears so to speak. Some of the statements and topics are very heavy handed in the arguments against a child attending public school. Yes, Indoctrination is a great tool to show to Christian parents considering homeschooling and needing that last little bit of information and encouragement to do so. Would public school teachers and parents see it the same way? I don't know, but it is definitely worth a look on their part.
Go check out Indoctrination from Great Commission Films and also see what my Fellow Crewmates thought of the movie.
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Friday, February 20, 2015

New to Me Educational and Fun Websites

Recently I have been researching various topics for educational purposes and have come across some new websites/blogs that you may be interested in checking out. Also there are many of us trapped in the house due to snow, ice, and bone chilling temperatures. So here's some new stuff for you to read and investigate to pass the time.

Minds in Bloom - The three girls I tutor will start 6th grade in August. I have started researching topics, etc. that would appeal to that age group when I came across this blog. There are many references to Common Core (which I skip over), but also lots of fun tips, tricks, and ideas to help along the learning process for middle schoolers.

Art for Kids Hub - I was first introduced to this site over at my online friend Jessica's blog Teachable Moments and used it for a Christmas drawing the girls did in December. We revisited the site last week for more drawing tutorials. Fun to watch, easy tutorials for kids to follow.

Berry College Eagle Cam - Great time to start watching the eaglets that hatched last week. This is a college in Georgia that has a pair of Eagles that revisit the same nest each year to raise their young. Be aware that if you have very sensitive children, it is my understanding that one of the eaglets is not eating well due to the sibling pushing it away.

A Winter at Many Glacier - Okay this one is for the adults. I stumbled across this blog of a couple caretaking a lodge in Montana. The pictures are beautiful and I enjoy reading what their day to day lives are like. Of course I can't help but think of the movie The Shining as well. Ha Ha

Jen Hatmaker - My new favorite Christian writer. She is funny and so down to earth.

Northpoint Online - Favorite place to watch an online sermon. I get so much out of listening to Andy Stanley present a sermon.

The Old Schoolhouse Family Blog - Of course I am on the Review Crew again this year so maybe I am a little biased. The Old Schoolhouse magazine got me through so many months of homeschooling in the early years. So much informative articles and encouragement. The blog is the same, so check it out.

Here's hoping spring comes quick

Sunday, February 15, 2015

When They Grow Up in the Blink of an Eye

When did this baby is nearly a grown woman. Watching her become her own person with her own thoughts has been challenging for me. Now she doesn't always agree with what I want or need her to do and she wants to forge her own path so to speak. That is a tough pill to swallow sometimes.

This week was her first real dance with a boyfriend. It was magical and special. She had the time of her life or at least so far in her life.
The dance was small with students from our Cooperative and the private school that we rent space from for classes.

We took them out for Japanese food before the dance which was delicious and fast becoming Grace's favorite place to eat.

All the ballroom dance classes are paying off. Grace knows how to Waltz, Cha Cha, and sill start learning a new dance this next week.

It was a great night for everyone, parents included.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Knocked Over the Head With the Truth

This morning I read something that really spoke to me. This blog post by Heidi St. John made me do a double take. Everything she talks about in the post is my true feeling about homeschooling and education. The Big Truth in this whole discussion is that once us homeschoolers reach the homeschooling high school age we all get a little or a lot "held hostage".

How easy it is to fall in the trappings of this world. When your are a homeschooling mom you are not immune from these trappings. All the reasons and benefits of homeschooling my child have kind of gone out the window while we try to jump through all the hoops that society thinks we should be doing. I swear, sometimes unschooling looks more and more attractive everyday. One of my close friends is mostly an unschooler and I covet her schooling days sometimes. If only I had the courage to do it that way.

I think it is time to make some changes. What those changes may be remains to be seen. What are your feelings about going against the grain of typical education/subjects in the high school years? Do you worry about your child getting into college if you don't do it right? What is right? Questions revolving around in my brain on this early Saturday morning. Your thoughts and comments would be greatly appreciated.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Life Update Through Pictures

First on the agenda should be addressing the puppies who have brought so much JOY and HARDSHIP to our lives. They are the cutest and sweetest thing ever. Everyone has had their first treatment for sarcoptic mange and so far me and Grace are in the clear after our treatment. I will feel so much better this time next week after all the animals have had their second treatment which cures 95 percent of the cases. Then a third treatment will be issued and everyone at that point should be in the clear. This is been a true learning experience (even after working in an animal hospital for 17 years in my younger days).

I think for the teens this semester at Cooperative has been the best one yet. The teens seem to be truly enjoying each other and all the classes being offered. The surprising favorite is Ballroom Dancing. Normally we offer this one just for spring semester to get the kids ready for spring formal in May, but due to popular demand it will be offered again in the fall. The most surprising for me is how much Grace is loving this class. She never wanted to take the class in the past, but it is her favorite class this semester (even over drama).

Grace's drawings are coming few and far between at the moment due to her new love of a particular video game. She spends most night playing it which is cutting into her creative time. Periodically her creative juices start flowing again and she produces something she is proud of.

This is Benedict Arnold and was created for her American History portfolio for the Dave Raymond's History curriculum.

The littles are plugging along with review products, including: In Freedom's Cause, Editor in Chief, Visual Learning Systems, and GPALoveMath. Blog posts about the products will be coming soon.
This year is moving so fast I cannot believe we are about to get ready to move into spring. I am ready though. Looking forward to warmer weather and nature coming back to life. Yesterday afternoon we saw a truly marvelous sight - a large group of starlings land in all our trees then fly off - just like in the videos you see online. Really magical.

Friday, February 6, 2015

When Life Just Gets Out of Control

Remember those precious little puppies we purchased. Well the puppies are still precious but boy oh boy they have packed a powerful punch to our wallet and life. Nothing but health issues since practically day one. First off they were diagnosed with giardia (think drinking water in Mexico and getting sick) - that is most times what giardia is. After a 10 day treatment costing 35 dollars the puppies are clear and we dodged the bullet of contracting it. Next health crisis we were not so lucky. Both puppies, but one more than the other, had been plagued with hair loss and scratching since the day we brought them home. Initially we thought it was related to the fleas that came with them but after applying Advantix for the fleas we knew something else was going on. Multiple visits and tests later still no definitive diagnosis - until yesterday when I discovered a few tiny red bumps on my belly. Low and behold the one thing I was praying it wasn't turned out to be the diagnosis for them and me and ultimately Grace as well. SCABIES!!!!! Yuck!!!!!!!

Much money, stress, anxiety, and all those other words later - all the pets in the house except the ferret (who has had no contact with the puppies) have had their first treatment for scabies, otherwise known as sarcoptic mange. Last night myself and Grace had to use the prescription lotion from the tip of our neck to the bottom of our toes and everything in between. Sleep in it for 8 hours then shower upon waking in the morning. Today found me washing a gazillion loads of laundry, washing every surface, spraying Lysol on everything in sight, and trying not to touch any of the animals in the house. Currently I have shoes, makeup, and a memory foam in the deep freezer for 12 hours which supposedly works in killing the mites. I also have a ton of items from Grace's room in garbage bags tightly closed until Monday.

I am truly the walking dead from all the work I have done today with still more to do tomorrow. I am drinking a cup of coffee tonight at 8:45 to keep myself awake just a little longer to finish off all the clothes in Grace's closet. Mine will have to wait till morning. Do we still love the puppies? Of course we do. But a little divine intervention would be wonderful at the moment. Please God let the mites die and be gone.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Establishing a Love for Literature at All Ages

Through Grace's elementary years we read lots of good literature. Our days revolved around read alouds for history, for English, and just for fun. It was our favorite parts of the day. I even continued to read aloud to her during middle school and just a little up through 9th grade. We enjoyed that time together and didn't want to let go. That changed this year with Grace being much more independent with her school work. One of her outside of the home classes is an analytical literature class. I could not be more pleased with the book choices for the class and also have loved hearing what Grace has thought about each book. Some of them I have never read. So far she has read The Outsiders, The Pearl, The Giver, Farenheight 451, and Animal Farm. The remainder of the year will focus on To Kill a Mockingbird and The Great Gatsby. By far her favorites have been The Outsiders and Animal Farm. She thought Animal Farm was incredibly depressing, thought provoking, and enjoyable - all at the same time. I am very eager to hear what she thinks of To Kill a Mockingbird and The Great Gatsby. The class tackles a book each month with much discussion among the students and writing activities revolving around the book. The class is taught every year with a different book list. I am quite sure that Grace will continue taking the class as most of her high school credits for English.

With Grace on her own in the reading department that left a lot of my time free. Well, in walks three 5th grade girls in need of tutoring. I decided to take the same path with them - introducing good literature through read alouds. Each month we tackle a new book. So far that would include Mr. Popper's Penguins, Black Beauty, Treasure Island, an Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. All have been enjoyable with the exception of (at least for me) Treasure Island. Next week we start Misty of Chincoteague. The girls started a horse unit with Black Beauty and have not finished it yet so I thought the obvious choice would be to read another crowd pleaser involving horses. What young girl doesn't love horses and Misty of Chincoteague. At the end of each book we tend to have a day of fun with activities themed from that book.

Reading has been such a huge part of my life I hope that for Grace and my tutoring students that they will grow up loving to read and have it become a big part of their lives as well.