Sunday, March 31, 2013

Thankful Thursdays (on a Sunday)-3/28/2013 - Easter

I have been pondering the many, many reasons I have to be thankful. The most important one is Jesus' resurrection that we celebrate today on Easter. Christmas brings promise, Easter bring fulfillment.

No matter what else I have (or don't have,) I am MOST thankful for Jesus paying for my sins. For doing what I was not able to do myself. For making a way for me to be reconciled to God. Whether I live with plenty, like Abraham, or lose it all, like Job, I can know that my Redeemer lives!

Growing up, our Easter morning church service always included singing "Up From the Grave." It is still one of my favorite hymns. I don't limit singing it to Easter time. It is a solid reminder of Whom I serve, the Risen Messiah.

This Easter, whatever your family's traditions, or lack thereof, allow me to leave you with these words from John Newton, who lived his early life as a slaver, sailing the Atlantic, and his later life in service to his Savior. May we remember his words, and the truth behind them, and be thankful!

"My memory is nearly gone,
     but I remember two things:
          that I am a great sinner,
               and that Christ is a great Savior."

-John Newton, 1807

Friday, March 29, 2013

Math-U-See Algebra 1 Review

One of my favorite things about being on the TOS Crew is the variety of curriculum and learning products that we have the priviledge of reviewing. We have had some outstanding products to review, and some less-than-stellar, or didn't-quite-work-for-us items.

This review is about Math-U-See's  Algebra 1 package that Arlene and I just had the chance to review. 

It is one of the outstanding ones! 

Step 1 - open the box and build something!

In the box from Math-U-See we received: The Algebra 1 Student Text (and Test Booklet) [$32], Instruction Manual (and DVD) [$57], along with 2 manipulative sets: Manipulative Block Set [$38], and Algebra/Decimal Inserts [$22]. That's $149 for the complete set.

(This picture is missing the DVD, see it in the next picture down)

For those of you who know me, that is a lot of money to spend on one thing, but I hope you'll see why I'm recommending you save up and buy this for your child who either :1- is a kinesthetic learner, or 2- struggles with math. (Or is/has both!)

See how all the books match? That will come in handy if you have a shelf-full of Math-U-See (MUS) books, as it makes it easy to find the set you need for each child.

Arlene has always been a Kinesthetic-heavy learner. Gross motor skills have always been her forte, fine motor skills... she's getting there. So I jumped at the chance to use MUS with her for Algebra because there are a few concepts she just wasn't understanding with our current Pre-Algebra curriculum. 

When your child switches from the basic 4 functions (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) into Algebra, they sometimes struggle with the unknowns (those pesky letters!) In fact, I have some adult friends who struggle with Algebra for the very same reason. Their minds have worked so hard to understand the concrete operations of math, that they have a hard time grasping how you can solve for an unknown letter. "What does X mean Mom?"

When we were learning about grouping like terms, Arlene got confused about my explanation of 1x and x being the same thing, and then she mistakenly thought that every time she saw an x it would represent 1- Ugh!

Math-U-See and Steve Demme's DVD's to the rescue! 
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In the beginning of the DVD's, Mr. Demme explains that each lesson (each new concept) would be presented in the DVD, and then the students would have time to practice the new concept in their books, using the manipulatives as needed. He also stressed that each student move at their own pace! This was key to Arlene who sometimes takes longer to learn a new math concept, but once she learns it, it sticks. Knowing that she could go at her own pace, and not a set schedule relieved a lot of pressure.

So, away she went, Arlene and the DVD (and her student book.) 

Now, when you read the Instruction manual, (which I think is fantastic,) you see that since MUS is a mastery program, the student does NOT have to complete all of the pages in each section -IF THEY UNDERSTAND IT. I chose NOT to mention this to Arlene, so she just started at the beginning and came to see me when she got to the "Honors" page in section 1. 

She had taken the readiness test, watched the Lesson 1 section of the DVD, and done sections 1A,1B,1C,1D, and 1E in 2 days. Not bad for a girl who usually doesn't like doing her math lessons!

Since she had been a self-starter, I excused her from doing the Honors page, and she moved on to Lesson 2. Now, lessons 2 and 3 took her more than 2 days each, but I want you to know that it has never been this easy to get Arlene to do her math. In fact, I had to make her take a break for a few days at the end of lesson 3 so I could catch up on grading her pages and spend time going back over a couple things she had not understood.

Now, about that Instruction manual...
There are 2 basic types of math instruction manuals I have seen, the "Looks like the student book, but with the answers in red" and the "Here's how to teach it, plus the answers" kind. This is one of the second kind... the better kind. 
Each lesson has examples for you to go over with your student (for if they didn't understand the concept from the DVD, or if they just need more time to process the information.) This is also helpful for the parent who hasn't cracked open an Algebra book in 20 years to review for themselves. If you have a self-motivated learner, you won't have to do anything...except grade once in a while! 

In my opinion, actual 'Algebra' starts in Lesson 3 with the lesson "Solve for Unknown with One Variable."

Now, it's time to get out those manipulative blocks... or if you're Arlene, to take apart the Lego-man castle you built on the day the box arrived! (You might have used the blocks in lessons 1 and 2, but here is where the Algebra inserts are awesome!

The only thing missing is an equals sign, so we made one ourselves. Here is a photo explanation of solving the equation: 3X + 2 = 2X +4

(Notice how the Algebra inserts click into the back of the blue "10 bars" to represent X(the unknown.) The blue inserts are X, the gray ones are -X, the red "ones" are negative as well)
3X +2=2X+4

Subtract 2X from each side

Figure out your "ones"

Subtract 2 from each side


And just like that, Arlene understood that she didn't have to know what 'X' meant before she started the problem.

So I must say "bravo" Math-U-See!

I am a math junky. Yes, I'm the one with a box of trophies and ribbons from math competitions from Jr High and High School. I could have taught Arlene Algebra myself, using a bunch of cheerios and carrots, but this is SO MUCH EASIER! 

You don't have to be a math junky to have your students learn Algebra. You just have to be willing to invest the money in MUS. The basic manipulative set can be used from the earliest Elementary level all the way through Algebra 1. Once you've purchased the Instruction pack with the DVD's, all you'll need for your next Algebra student is to purchase the Student Kit again. So it is a semi-consumable product.

If you're not sure what level your student is ready for, MUS has free downloadable placement tests on their website. That's how I knew which level to select for Arlene, I printed both the Pre-Algebra & Algebra Placement tests and gave her problems from both.

Overall, I would give Math-U-See an A+!

To see what other members of the Crew thought about the various levels, click the banner below!


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Monday, March 25, 2013

Difficult, not impossible.

As Christians, we are called to live a life of service to God. This almost always means a life of service to other people too. The Apostle Paul talked about his life being 'poured out' on behalf of others. That is my goal in life, to allow God to pour out my life in service to others.

It is often difficult, but not impossible.

The first step always seems to be a realization that God did not give me this life to live selfishly. So instead of trying to find ways to make myself happy, I need to look for ways He wants me to serve others...then I find true joy.

Difficult, but not impossible.

How do we serve others? Well, sometimes it's kind of like our offerings at church, where we shouldn't let our right hand know what our left hand is doing... sometimes. 

The reality is that our children need to see us serving if they are to grow into individuals who learn to love and serve God with their own lives. We should be setting an example. Then we can be like Paul, when he said 'follow me as I follow Christ.'

So how do YOU serve others? Think about that for a moment before you read on.

Maybe you watch another Mom's children so she can attend Bible study, maybe you cook meals for the local homeless shelter, maybe you give money to support a missionary. Whatever you are doing- continue on!

Then ask God: should you be doing more, or are you right where He wants you to be?!

This life of service is a balance. 

One of my favorite passages of Scripture is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12
'Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.'

My oldest daughter found it strange that this is one of my favorites, because she said "but you're always going and doing!" 

True, I am often going and doing. But I am focusing on what God tells me to go and do. I cannot be disobedient to His will for my life and still find joy. I am so thankful for a husband who understands my need to serve. I keep a planner at home, and a calendar on my phone, and I trust God to give me the strength and time needed to do His work. My first desire is to serve God. He directs me to serve my husband and children, and then He blesses me with other opportunities as well.

So if my week looks like this: homeschooling the girls, paying the bills, working at night, running a 4-H meeting, helping friends prepare for conventions or speaking engagements, answering questions and giving directions at Conner Prairie, signing at church, and planning dinner every night... well, you might only see a part of it and wonder if I'm very organized or not. Wonder away, I'll continue to go where God leads and do what He wants.

Sometimes people think I am doing too much, sometimes they probably think I don't do enough. It really doesn't matter to me what YOU think, it matters what GOD thinks. 

I have found that He is a much better organizer than I am. So I listen to His voice for when to say "yes" and when to say "no." Sometimes, I get tired. He understands my human limits. Often when I feel as thought I have been used up, He provides a wonderful respite, a small time of rest to once again focus on how awesome it is that God would allow me to join Him in His Kingdom's work.

I have learned that in order to be poured out in service for others, I need to first be filled up by the Holy Spirit. If you're not being filled, you run empty in a hurry, and your service is shallow and self-seeking, not God honoring.

So first- go be filled! Ask Him what he wants you to be doing, and remember that you are to do the serving with HIS strength, not your own.

Moms serve everyday. Sometimes that is all He wants you to do, to be a wife and Mom. That is enough.

Sometimes He calls you to have a job outside of the house to help with the family's bills. That is a three-way discussion between God, your husband, and you. (Know ahead of time that some people will not understand this calling that God gives some of us... that's OK, maybe God has called them to something different. Focus on what He is calling YOU to do.)

Maybe your children are older, or younger, and God has more planned for you. Don't be afraid to ask Him. He will give you the strength.

It may be difficult, but it is not impossible.

So whether you are being called to volunteer at church, with a 4-H club, at the local dance studio, or to tutor at the community center, know that He has the perfect plan for your life.

A final word of advise... expect that plan to change over time.

Serve in His strength, and find joy. Deep, deep joy that the world cannot comprehend!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Discovery of Deduction- TOS Crew review

How are your critical thinking skills? Emily and I have been reviewing "The Discovery of Deduction- An Introduction to Formal Logic" from Classical Academic Press. The further we get in the book, the more I see we BOTH need to work more on our critical thinking skills. This is not a lightweight book, but a High School level, year-long course about Formal Logic. (Formal logic focuses on the structure of the argument, whereas informal logic focuses on the content of what is being argued.)
This will be a course you will need to take WITH your child, or have them take as part of a group. There are several sections where Emily had questions and I had to go back and re-read it myself before I could help her. (That's not to say it is TOO difficult, but it IS an in-depth think-it-through, heavy-weight course.)

Emily has has some informal logic before this, but I think she would be better able to understand the rest of the course if we stop and take a few months to go back over a course in informal logic before we continue in the book. Thankfully, Classical Academic Press (CAP) has "The Art of Argument: An Introduction to the Informal Fallacies." CAP recommends using an informal logic program before beginning "The Discovery of Deduction" and even thought their website says that "Discovery of Deduction" can be used as a stand alone program, I would not recommend using it until AFTER your student has done quite a bit of informal logic.

Emily has spent some time on informal logic, and she loves to read Sherlock Holmes (I know, it's not the same thing,) yet, she still had a difficult time with some of the sections. We have been working on this review for about 5 weeks, and she is in chapter 3. (There are 9 chapters total.) Since I consider Emily above-average in both her verbal and comprehension skills, that leads me to recommend this course for High School Juniors or Seniors. Now, if you've been Classically educating your children for a few years, and you spent their Jr. High years on informal logic, then your children may be ready for this course as a Freshman or Sophmore. On their website, CAP has a free PDF download of a suggested schedule for the course. This, along with the sample chapter, can allow you to see how much work is assigned for each day and integrate it into your student's schedule.

I do think it is a quality book, and I recommend that you and your children study both informal and formal logic. If you have any doubts as to why... just watch the evening news, you'll see example after example of logical fallicies and invalid arguments. You will also see examples of people NOT using valid evidence to support their claims.

Photobucket One part of this book set (we received both the student [$26.95] and teacher [$29.95] books for the review) I really liked is the Glossary, which is in BOTH books. Not only does it give the short definition of all these new-to-me terms, it has the section references listed as well (like an index,) making it easier to go back and review the term in the context it was presented. My total school experience in logic consisted of a couple months of informal logic woven into my High School Government class- a LONG time ago!

When we do pick this course back up to complete (after a brief trip back through informal logic,) I think I will have Emily make a vocabulary list/ glossary of her own as we go through each lesson. Spending the extra time necessary to rewrite the terms in her own words should help her solidify the concepts better as we move through each chapter.

Whether you are Classically educating, are Charlotte Mason or Delight-Directed style learners, this book would be a solid choice for a High School elective. Note that it is a two-semester course, so don't try to rush it. If your student can be part of a co-op or class where this book is used, that would be excellent. If you are planning to do this course at home, remember that YOU the parent will also need to take this course. (It's really hard to argue logic with yourself, you always win, even if your argument is invalid!)

Check out what other Crew reviewers thought about this set by clicking the link below!


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Thankful Thursdays- 3/21/13- Homeschool Conventions

How often do you get discouraged? 

Be honest with yourself. 

For some of us, it happens often. Maybe you don't get discouraged easily, but you just feel worn thin...'like butter scraped over too much bread.' 

I have felt both of these over the past month. They don't overwhelm me very often, but I can feel the weight upon my shoulders. I sometimes have felt like Bunyan's "Christian" in Pilgrim's Progress, I want desperately to shed this burden, but am unsure how to do it. Sometimes the journey seems long, and frought with dangers.

Have you been there? Are you there today?

This journey of educating our children IS a long one, and while there are dangers along our path in life, feeling discouraged or worn thin IS NOT what God wants for us. He wants us to be victorious in Christ. 
So how do we get from where we are to where we know He wants us to be? A couple obvious things come to mind: prayer, and spending time in God's word.

Allow me to point out another helpful thing that you might have overlooked: attend a home school convention.

That's right, invest a few dollars into your sanity, your OWN education, and the welfare of your family.
You (and your family) will be glad you did.

Today I am thankful that it is only 2 weeks until I get to attend a homeschool convention! I need the refreshment, I need the encouragement, I need the time to focus on my own education...I even need a couple days away from the children I love so very much!

If you life's theme song sound like "Worn" by Tenth Avenue North, 

Tenth Avenue North - Worn Lyrics

Artist: Tenth Avenue North
Album: The Struggle
I’m Tired I’m worn
My heart is heavy
From the work it takes to keep on breathing
I’ve made mistakes
I’ve let my hope fail
My soul feels crushed by the weight of this world
And I know that you can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart that’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise from the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause I’m worn

I know I need to lift my eyes up
But I'm too weak
Life just won’t let up
And I know that you can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart that’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise from the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause I’m worn
My prayers are wearing thin
And I’m worn
Even before the day begins
I’m worn
I’ve lost my will to fight
I’m worn
Heaven come and flood my eyes

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart that’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise from the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause all that’s dead inside will be reborn

or maybe it sounds like "Get Back Up " by Toby Mac, then maybe YOU NEED a convention too!!!

TobyMac - Get Back Up Lyrics

Artist: TobyMac
Album: Tonight
Songwriters: Cary Barlowe, Toby Mckeehan, Jamie Moore, Aaron Rice
You turned away when I looked you in the eye
And hesitated when I asked if you were alright
Seems like you're fighting for your life
But why? Oh, why?

Wide awake in the middle of your nightmare
You saw it comin' but it hit you outta nowhere
And there's always scars
When you fall that far

We lose our way, we get back up again
It's never too late to get back up again
One day you gonna shine again
You may be knocked down but not out forever

Lose our way, we get back up again
So get up, get up, you gonna shine again
Never too late to get back up again
You may be knocked down but not out forever
(May be knocked down but not out forever)

You rolled out at the dawning of the day
Heart racin' as you made your little get away
It feels like you've been runnin' all your life
But why, oh, why?

So you've pulled away from the love that would've been there
You start believin' that your situation's unfair
But there's always scars
When you fall that far

We lose our way, we get back up again
Never too late to get back up again
One day you gonna shine again
You may be knocked down but not out forever

Lose our way, we get back up again
So get up, get up, you gonna shine again
It's never too late to get back up again
You may be knocked down but not out forever
May be knocked down, but not out forever

This is love callin', love callin'
Out to the broken
This is love callin'

This is love callin', love callin'
Out to the broken
This is love callin'

This is love callin', love callin'
I am so broken
This is love callin', love callin'

Lose our way
(Way, way, way, ay, ay, ay)
We get back up
(Get back up again)

It's never too late
(Late, late, late, ate, ate, ate)
You may be knocked down but not out forever

Lose our way, we get back up again
So get up, get up, you gonna shine again
Never too late to get back up again
You may be knocked down but not out forever
May be knocked down, but not out forever

This is love
(Lose our way)
Callin' love, callin'
(Get back up again)
To the broken

This is love
(Never too late)
(May be knocked down but not out forever)

This is love
(Lose our way)
Callin' love, callin'
(We get back up again)
To the broken

This is love
(Never too late)
(May be knocked down but not out forever)

This is love callin', love callin'
Out to the broken
This is love callin'

Or maybe, you just need a total re-write of your theme song...

It's OK. It is OK to need refreshed, it is ok to feel worn...


If you are struggling, if you are feeling lost or discouraged, or even if you just need a couple days away (or even just A DAY AWAY)- figure out a way to get to a convention near you!

I have been to several different conventions in our home educating life. Small ones, big ones, HUGE ones. They all offer a chance to be around other home schoolers, to listen to spreakers, to see and touch the books and tools you are considering, to be renewed in your spirit. Each one I have been to has also offered a way to attend for free or at a discount if you volunteer to help (with registration, with book sales, with packet-stuffing.)

If you are needing refreshed, find a way!

Living in the midwest, there are several for us to choose from, local, state, and regional. Each offers something slightly different, which is why I often attend two in the same year. I am doubly blessed because my Mom lives close enough that the girls can spend a couple days at her house, so sometimes I get to go alone. Ok, I'm not actually going alone this time... a bunch of us Mom-friends from church are going- girls' night!

You too can be thankful for Homeschool Conventions! 

If you've never attended one before, and you're feeling a bit overwhelmed about all the choices, Janice Campbell has a great article in her web archives about planning. It is the same advice I would give to you, so I'll just link to it here:

One last word of advice- wear comfortable shoes and drink lots of water!

So, what am I looking forward to at convention? Lots of things! 
I'm looking forward to hearing some of my favorite speakers, like: Carl Kerby, Diana Waring, Jim Weiss, Todd Wilson, and Janice Campbell.

I'm looking forward to seeing and holding in my hand a couple things I *think* I want to get for the girls for school for next year, just to make sure my online research has led me to the right choice. 

I'm looking forward to searching the vendor hall for hidden treasures! 

I'm looking forward to seeing some of my far-away friends that I only get to facebook and e-mail the rest of the year. 

Of course, I'm also looking forward to a couple days away with my girlfriends! (And I'm pretty sure Kurt is looking forward to a couple days of a quiet house!)

When you focus on the refreshing a convention can give you, and take care to NOT be overwhelmed by the choices, you too can be thankful for homeschool conventions!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Gardening 202- a seed giveaway!

The calendar may say it's the first day of Spring, but here in Indiana it is still winter. The sun was shining earlier, but the temperature was only about 30 degrees and the wind was fierce.

So, to in an effort to imspire you to think about Spring, we're hosting a little seed giveaway!

For the past few years, our 4-H club has had a seed sale fundraiser to help pay for trophies and plaques for the county fair. When the order went in this time, I added a few extra packets to MY order, so I could share them with one of you! I tried to pick easy to grow varieties, so even if you're a novice gardener, you should have good results.

The seed giveaway consists of one packet each of:
Autumn Beauty Sunflower Mix
Buttercrunch Bibb Lettuce
Masai Bush Haricot Vert (a bush-style green been)

If you would like to know more about these varieties, you can click over to my earlier post about getting ready to garden in then click on the link near the bottom about FEDCO seeds.

So, get ready, get set, enter to win some seeds for YOUR hopeful garden!

Be sure to tell your friends! The giveaway will end at 11:00 p.m. EST on Saturday, March 30th!


Friday, March 15, 2013

Hands-On-Projects and Fieldtrips!

If you're known us for a while, you know that we are almost always working on a hands-on project, or going on a fieldtrip. These two go hand-in-hand because they take learning to a deeper level. Making something, or doing something related to what you've been studying can help you retain the information.

I've often said "Life is a Fieldtrip!" When our girls were little, we went on a fieldtrip almost every week. Friday was set aside as the day to be out of the house "doing" something. While we don't always go on a fieldtrip every Friday now that the girls are older...often they volunteer at Conner Prairie as costumed interpreters on Fridays. So sometimes they ARE the fieldtrip!

Don't worry, we still get in a LOT of fieldtrips and hands-on projects. Below you'll see pictures of just a few of the places we've been, or things we've been doing over the past year.

If you subscribe to our blog, every Thursday you'll find a "Thankful Thursday" post, many of which highlight our favorite activities and/or places to go.

Remember, this is a blog hop! Click the links below our pictures to learn about how other families use Hands-On Projects!

4-H Archery w/ friends
What could be more Hands-on than ice cream?

Tree climbing- hand and feet-on :)

How about a trip to the Children's museum of Indianapolis with your cousins?

Orville Wright re-enactor

Trip to the zoo w/Grammy Mary

Last Spring, Arlene received her Timothy Award and Emily received her Meritorious Award at Awana

We watched these goats being born at Conner Prairie

Our friend, Mike Marsh, explaining how the Gatlin gun works during Civil War days @ CP

Legos- need I say more?

The swallowtail caterpillar eating our parsley, we consider it a fair exchange!

Another trip to CP

Another trip to the zoo w/Gram

Just a small part of our Butterfly garden we have been adding to for the past 3 summers
Small investment, big rewards!

 Another fun day at Conner Prairie, with our cousins & family

A spelling lesson, or a tasty snack? Why not both!

Arlene's favorite hands-on project- her backpack

Emily modeling at the State Fair Fashion Revue

Waiting to hear Vivaldi @ Symphony on the Prairie

The Gene Stratton Porter home in Rome City, IN

Grandpa (Papa) took us on a fieldtrip to Feast of the Hunter's Moon, near Lafayette, IN

Here are a couple shots of the girls at work at Conner Prairie, "Being" someone else's fieldtrip!
Arlene and her friend Grace

Arlene- 1863

Emily in 1836

Emily "working?" in the Animal encounters barn

Here are some links to our "favorite" fieldtrips spots