Friday, May 31, 2013

Thankful Thursdays- 5/30/13 - Strawberries!!!

We are thankful for STRAWBERRIES! 

About 2 of the 17# of berries

This week we are especially thankful for local, untreated strawberries that are ripe and ready for picking! Our friends the Conrad's have a farm just a few miles from our house. Out front, across from the farmhouse is a huge strawberry patch. They sent out an e-mail last week alerting everyone that the strawberries were ready for picking. They have U-pick or prepicked, both at really good prices.

So Wednesday afternoon, the girls and I went picking. In less than half an hour, we had 3 pails full. It worked out to about 17 pounds.What do you do with that many strawberries? You eat them!!!

Topped and ready for the freezer!

After a nice visit with our friends ( a perk of knowing the farmer) we came home and got to work cleaning and topping the strawberries. All three of us girls worked on the strawberries, and in about an hour, they were all washed, topped, and either in the fridge or freezer.
We ended up with about 44 cups of strawberries...after we ate some while cleaning them.

If you have an opportunity to U-pick some strawberries - go for it! If you live near us, give me a ring & I'll give you directions to the Conrad's!

We are thankful for strawberries: the ripe ones we've been eating, the ones I chopped up for cereal and pancake toppings because they got squished in the washing process, and the 3 large containers of strawberries in the freezer for smoothies later this summer. At first it seems like a lot of berries, but at our house, they'll go quickly!

Chopping the slightly mushed ones
Next week we plan to go again. To pick more strawberries to eat...maybe we'll stick to just one bucket next time...but probably not!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Thankful Thursdays- 5/23/13 - Birthdays

Both of our daughters have birthdays this week, so I'd like to take just a minute to tell you a little bit about why I am thankful for Birthdays. Birthdays remind us of a particular person, they allow us an opportunity to celebrate and remember all that person has meant in our lives.

Even babies who did not live until full term have birthdays. I know this is a sensitive topic for many people, but I want to encourage those of you who have lost a child, either before or after their due date, God knows your precious child's birthday. He know you remember it too. Sometimes your remembrances will bring tears. Let God use those tears to heal your heart.

If you had/have a family where nothing special is done for your birthday, fret not. Know that God remembers your Birthday. He sees you living each day, your joys and your struggles. He wants a personal relationship with you! God rejoices not only on your birthday, but on every day that you turn to Him for help, on every day that your praise HIm.

I am thankful for the birthdays of each of our children. I am thankful that birthdays allow us to think back over all we have been through in the past year, both good and challenging times. I am thankful for the healthy births of each of our daughters, and that they continue to grow, change, and mature each year.

(It IS a little unnerving to realize our baby will be 13!)

The next time a birthday rolls around in your family, celebrate! It's not about the amount of presents, or cake, it's about having an opportunity to celebrate the life of that one special person. Tell them how much they mean to you, and how very thankful you are that they are in your life!

Monday, May 20, 2013

One Minute Mysteries: 65 More Short Mysteries You Solve With Science (Book Review)

Have you ever wondered how much your child actually retains from their science lessons? I have. Just a few weeks ago, we received One Minute Mysteries: 65 More Short Mysteries You Solve With Science to review. I was pleasantly surprised by how many of them Arlene could solve using what she has learned from our various science lessons over the years. This 160+ page softcover book from Science Naturally retails for $9.95. It actually contains 70 mysteries, the 5 bonus ones in the back are solved with math. 

 photo MysteriesMoreSciCoverFrontweb_0_zpse15319fb.jpg This fun book is designed for ages 8-12. If your kids are younger (6-7), you might want to try solving the mysteries together. Many 8-12 year olds will be able to solve many of them on their own. When the book first arrived, we read the mysteries out loud, then Arlene stated what she thought the answer was. Then we would turn the page to see if she was correct. She got 3 of the first 4 correct right off the bat. Then, I went to go make dinner. Arlene took the book and went to read some more. By the time dinner was over, she had solved over 20 of the mysteries. Arlene is almost 13, so she probably was a little faster than some kids, not just because of her age, but because she has always loved science and the outdoors!

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 We were intrigued to find out this was the third book written by the Father-Daughter team of Eric and Natalie Yoder. Their first 2 books, One Minute Mysteries: 65 Short Mysteries You Solve With Science and One Minute Mysteries: 65 Short Mysteries You Solve With Math were written when Natalie was a Middle Schooler, and then a High Schooler. These books have won several awards, one of the most notable is a recommendation from NSTA (National Science Taechers Association.)

For a limited time, you can order all three of the books online for $19.95 plus $2.95 shiping with the code: 3SPEC. That is a savings of $12.90.(They have other science books as well that can be included in the 3 book special, check out their website for details!)

These books would make a great dinner or lunch time read-aloud for the summer. They would be perfect to keep in the car, so you would always have something to work on together while waiting, whether for someone to get done with baseball practice, or, in our town, while waiting for a train!

Arlene has already asked for us to purchase the other two books, because this one was a lot of fun! Adults will also find themselves intrigued, as some of the solutions are ones we could be using as well! If you or your child struggles with solving the mysteries, maybe it's time for some review.

We recommend you get this book, or others from Science Naturally, for your whole family to enjoy, you'll be glad you did! 

To find out what other Crew families thought about the book, click the banner below!


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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Thankful Thursdays- 5/16/13- Grandparents

Do you have some great Grandparents? I did. Although my Grandparents have all passed away, I am still thankful for them daily! Grandparents can have such a great influence on their grandchildren, especially if the Grandparents have a vibrant relationship with Christ. 

If your Grandparents, or your children's Grandparents don't know Jesus, they can still be great role models for their grandchildren of values like perseverance and self control. Often, because the Grandparent isn't around the children 24/7 their words of wisdom about life choices, work ethic, responsibility or self-control have a great impact upon the child.

If you still have your Grandparents, call them, or better yet, go see them and give them a hug! Tell them how thankful you are for their presence in your life! If your relationship with them has not been the best, NOW is the time to try and make amends. Regardless of whose 'fault' it was for the argument, you can choose to make the situation right again. Treasure the time you have with your Grandparents, for one day, it will be gone.

I am so thankful that My Grandma got to meet and hold her Grandaughters. We still tell stories about Great Grandma Lucile, and the girls remember times spent with their Great-Grandparents on Kurt's side of the family. 

Not every 'Grandpparent' figure in our lives needs to actually be directly related to us! Sometimes a Great-Aunt or family friend takes the role of Grandparent in a child's life. I had many Great-Aunts and Great-Uncles who influenced me for good just as much as my own Grandparents did.

Today, I am thankful for Grandparents, both mine, Kurt's, and the ones our girls have! Grandparents have a special place in our lives. Don't wait for a special occasion to tell them how thankful you are for them!

High School Prep Genius: An Academic Guide to Excellence - Review

I am often asked "What are you going to do about Transcripts for your girls?" Since we educate them at home, this question comes up more often than you would think. Thankfully, we have several friends with older students, so I wasn't panicking yet. 

Then, a terrific answer appeared in our mailbox. Emily and I have been reviewing the book High School Prep Genius: An Academic Guide to Excellence by Jean Burk and Judah Burk, from the people at College Prep Genius. Even if your children go to a school building (public or private), you're going to want to spend the $29.95 on this book once you understand an inkling of all that it entails.

This meaty, 440 page book, is divided into 4 main sections, and also includes 5 appendices. Each part has something for the student to do, and something for the parent to do, and things to do together. It is a roadmap to use, whether or not your child is planning on college or career after High School. It has suggestions for students beginning in 7th grade. (Emily is in her first year of High School, but this summer, we're planningon using some of the younger student suggestions for Arlene.)

The first section is rather long, but OH SO IMPORTANT- the Introduction! Now, unlike other books' introductions, this is not optional. This section lets both the parent and student understand what they need to record, how to choose classes and actvities, and it is full of charts to give you ideas of how to keep your records...not only transcripts, but volunteer hours, book reading, course descriptions, and a host of other things you don't want to miss. It contains detailed instructions on how to organize a 'College and Career Notebook' and specific lists of what the student *should* be doing each summer and school year. 

Before you become overwhelmed, let me make two key points: 1- The authors remind you that it is never too late to start the process of planning for life after High School, it is just easier to work on it a season at a time, and 2- Our family is not the super-strict check the boxes, do all the worksheets, cover everything type, and we still found it quite helpful! This book is not designed to convey guilt for what you or your student hasn't done, but rather, it encourages you to take a few extra steps and choose wisely: courses, activities, record keeping, etc.

Don't let your student, or yourslf, get bogged down in section one. It is a work in progress, designed to cover 4 (or more) years. I am rather slow when making spreadsheets, so I'm glad it doesn't all need done at the first!

Section two "Foundation For Personal Success"starts really talking to the hearts of the students. It has lots of pondering questions, and includes space for the students to record their answers. What are your interests, what kind of person do you want to grow up to be, what are your beliefs, are you taking care of your health, how do you deal with change, and do you have a support system? are just a few of the topics covered. Each of the six chapters in section one have homework for the parent to do, to help, encourage, and guide their students.

Section three "Foundation For Academic Success" has six chapters that focus on the nitty-gritty details of being a responsible High School student. Topics covered include 'Effective Studying, Tests and Papers, Getting Organized,' and more.

The six chapters in Section four "Foundation For Future Success" help the student (and their parents) understand the choices that are coming up, like the differences between the SAT and ACT, and help the student learn how to prepare to make real-life decisions about college, career, and possible military service.

Having this book as a guide can save you SO many hours of research, and give you a solid path to follow as you navigate High School and beyond with your student. Even if you have a "transcripts" program or book, I think you'll want this one as well. The personal and academic development sections help your student understand how to grow from being a child to being an adult. When you work on this together, you help your adolescent grow, and you help yourself learn how to gently let go.

Emily is currently working on chapter 12. She has been reading, and answering the questions as she goes along. We have started discussing the sections, but she is much farther through the book than I am. In my defense, I'm the one making most of the spreadsheets to record her information on for the College and Career Notebook.

Now, when friends, or strangers, ask what we're going to do about transcripts and college, we have solid answers. We recommend this book! For good friends, I might even loan it to them...for a few days. But they're going to have to get their own copies, our will be well-used- often!


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In the Hands of a Child - America's Great Depression Curriculum- review and giveaway!

Emily and I recently had the opportunity to review the "America's Great Depression" Curriculum from In the Hands of a Child (also known as HOAC!) We were provided the Notepack Ebook version, which is designed for older kids (grades 6-10.) There is also the option for the Lapbook version, either as a download, or a printed copy. You can check out all those options by going to In the Hands of a Child's website.

For those of you with younger children, you would probably want the Lapbook option, and you might need to help your children a lot with the vocabulary, and the concepts. I haven't seen many options around for teaching about the Great Depression as more than just a passing paragraph or a short chapter in a history text, so this intrigued me.

The Curriculum comes with intro pages to help you as the parent be prepared for what your child will learn, and has a 2 page spread that shows a 10 day lesson plan and which activities are suggested for each day. You can obviously modify these plans if you want to, but I appreciate them showing an overview of what will be covered. 

Also included in the intro pages are "I have a Note Pack, NOW WHAT?" (which includes contact info for HOAC), a page of related reading books, activities and instructions pages, and their bibliography. 

Then come the fun pages! America's Great Depression lasted from 1929-1941. During this unit study, your children will learn about various concepts that are important to understanding the economics, politics, and daily life of people who were living during the Depression. For each section that they read, there is a corresponding Note Pack activity to reinforce their learning. I found the style of presentation reminded me of a newspaper, with the body of the information/ reading taking up the left 2/3rds of the page, and either the 'timeline' or photos streaming down the right 1/3 of the page. The section are well written, and not boring. 

Emily and I had some good discussions about the Depression. My Grandparents and their siblings grew up during the Depression, so I often found myself relating a story to her I had heard while growing up. For those of you without family stories to share, this curriculum does a good job of covering what was happening in daily life, not just in economics or politics.

As we were finishing up the review and getting ready to write, we ended up going to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and seeing an antique car show. That helped reinforce the idea of the opulance that SOME Americans were living in before the stock market crashed.

As a Mom, I appreciated the sections that covered everyday prices (and wages!) as well as the farming trials and the Dust Bowl states. 

If you, or your child, has never spent time studying the Great Depresiion, I want to encourage you to get this Unit Study and invest a couple weeks learning about this pivitol part of American history! The regular price of the downloadable Ebook version is $12, but for a limited time, you can purchase it for only $8! Yes, that's right, only $8. Printed versions and a version with it all on CD are also available at various prices.

Emily had fun learning about the Great Depression ( I know that's kind of ironic isn't it?) I enjoyed knowing that we didn't wait until her Junior year in High Shool to cover this important time period. A lot of what we discuss every week about politics and economics had its origins in the Depresion era.

Now, for the really FUN part! In the Hands of a Child has graciously offered to sponsor a giveaway of one copy of this curriculum (either the Lapbook Ebook OR the Note Pack Ebook version) for one of you, our readers, to win! How cool is that?

So keep reading below the disclaimer to learn how to enter the giveaway! Please tell your friends about it too!

Disclaimer: We received one downloadable copy of this curriculum to use in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are ours. We are disclosing this in accordance with FTC guidelines.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Thankful Thursdays- 5/9/13- Our Chiropractor!

This week I am especially thankful for our Chiropractor, Dr. Julie Carleton! Dr. Julie is both an excellent Chiropractor, and a great friend to our family. We've been friends since before she went to Palmer for her training, and I hope we always remain friends. 

This week though, I needed her skilled touch even more than her sympathetic ear. Somewhere along the way, I had mis-aligned both my scalene muscles, and something in my right shoulder. The combination was creating a dull but intense ache. 

I appreciate Dr. Julie's ability to assess what is wrong in my spinal alignment, and adjust me back where I belong. Our bodies have an amazing ability to heal themselves, if we let them. 

If you've never been to a Chiropractor, let me give you a suggestion---GO! When I go too long between adjustments, I feel older than I am. When I keep my regular appointments, and any mis-alignments are corrected early, I feel younger than my chronological age. That is a good feeling!

If you're looking for a Chiropractor, ask your friends for recommendations. If you live in central Indiana, Dr. Carleton's practice is located in Fishers. You can find more information on her website:

Today, I'm thankful that I feel better than I did on Thursday! Thanks to Dr. Julie!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Mother's Day Dinner Blog Hop

Mother's Day is coming up this Sunday. We are praying you have a fun day with your family! Just in case your family (or you, if you're having your own Mom over for dinner) needs some inspiration, we've joined up with several of our blogging friends to bring you a Mother's Day Dinner Blog Hop. Hope you find something new, and tasty, to try!

Our contribution is supposed to be an appetizer. Now, I don't know how you do appetizers at your house, but here, if we make them, the purpose is to keep you out of the cook's way so she can finish making dinner! :)

Usually our appetizers involve veggies or bread. Since I know some of you are gluten free, I'll include 2 options!

First- fresh bread! You can make the bread into whatever shape or size you desire once the dough is done rising the first time. Then, if it's not time to bake it yet, just put the pans in the fridge to slow the rising process until you're ready for them.
This is a picture of a double batch (we made hamburger buns instead of rolls)

Basic Bread recipe:
1 cup room temperature water
1 Tbsp. yeast (not rapid rise!)
3 Tbsp. oil (we like olive)
3 Tbsp. sugar (white)
2 tsp. salt
3-4 cups flour (we like about 50% whole wheat & 50% unbleached white)

Mix ingredients in order given, only adding 3 cups of flour to start. Then, mix in enough of the remaining cup of flour to get a doughy consistency. Remove the dough from the mixing bowl and knead it for about 2 minutes (adding extra flour as necessary.) Dough should be elastic-y, and not too sticky. If it is sticky- add more flour a Tbsp or two at a time.

Put dough back in bowl and cover with a clean towel, allow to rise for 45 minutes. Punch down dough, knead it for about 30 seconds, then shape and place in  greased (buttered) bread pans or on greased cookie sheet for rolls. Cover again with the towel and allow to rise another 45 minutes.

Bake at 375 degrees F. If you make one loaf of bread, it will take about 35 minutes to bake, if you divide it into 2 loaves, it should take 30 minutes. Rolls usually take about 15-20 minutes, check them often and remove when they are a golden brown, and slide around on the cookie sheet when you shake it sideways.

IF you're following a gluten free lifestyle, or just don't want to take the time to make bread, make some potato fries!

Potato fries:
(you will want about 2 small red potatoes per person)

Slice potatoes (we like using our crinkle cutter)
Spray your cookie sheet with olive oil, place potato slices on sheet, sprinkle with parmesan cheese, and bake at 450 degrees F for about 15-20 minutes. (Time varies depending on how thick you sliced the potatoes. You're looking for them to start turning golden, and the cheese to brown.)

Enjoy your Mother's Day!

See the links below to find other great recipes!

**Welcome to the Mango Tango Mother's Day Dinner Blog Hop. Be sure to visit each of the bloggers below for your next course. Kathys Cluttered Mind - Table Center Piece Home Sweet Life - Appetizer Ben and Me - Appetizer For Him and My Family - Main Course Through the Calm and Through the Storm - Main Course Debbies Homeschool Corner - Dessert Treasuring Life's Blessings -  Dessert Our Homeschool Studio - Beverage Following Him Home - Beverage **

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Homeschooling, what is it really like?

When the girls were little, people would often say things like "That's amazing that you homeschool. I could never do that, I could never spend that much time with my kids every day." It made me wonder, was it the educating, or the child-rearing they were afraid of?

I'll be brutally honest here, educating your kids at home can be really tough...but so can parenting in general! Somedays it's the kids with a bad attitude, sometimes it's one (or both) of the parents. If this life was all daisies and bon-bons, more people would homeschool. 

Here's the reality, it's like digging a ditch and planting roses. It's hard work! Along the way, you sometimes get stuck by thorns, but when the time is invested to do the job well, and you don't rush things, you usually end up with beautiful flowers to enjoy at the end.

There are as many reasons to homeschool as there are families about a million! Some parents teach their kids at home because they were falling through the cracks, or falling behind in public school. Some parents disagree with the curriculum or philosophies taught in public school. Some parents want the discipline of an elite private school, but can't afford the cost. Some parents just believe that they should be the biggest influence in their young children's lives. And at least a few of us, like spending time with our children, and learning alongside them.

You may have thought about homeschooling your kids. Maybe you already do. It is not for the faint of heart, but neither is choosing to follow Christ. As a Christian, God calls me to do difficult things all the time, like: forgive someone who has wronged me, pray for my enemies, help the hurting, live an unselfish life. I have to trust that God will help me do all those other things He has called me to do, so I have learned I can trust Him to help me educate our girls as well.

Some homeschools look just like a traditional school, but at home, with less kids. Desks in a room, decorations on the walls, seven subjects from seven textbooks in the same order every day.

Other homeschools follow the Classical model...learning the Trivium.

Many of our friends follow a delight-directed path, usually with a lot of unit studies.

Us? Well, what our education looks like varies from year to year, sometimes even month to month. We are following a Charlotte Mason style of learning. We always have. Shorter lessons, that focus on mastery, rather than long lessons just to fill in all the blanks. Lots and Lots of nature study, and fieldtrips! Have I mentioned recently how much we love fieldtrips ?!? Here is a link to my favorite book about a Charlotte Mason education!

When the girls were little, they learned to narrate. As they grew we worked on learning how to write down what you want to tell. Yes, we do math. Now, often, the girls' work is laid out more in a 'University' fashion where they will spend more than an hour on a subject, but get them all in by the end of the week. So if they're working on a Lit paper, for example, they may spend a couple hours one day, and just proofread it the next. Yet on that first day they may not do much math, but do two or three lessons the day they're proofreading their papers. 

One of the things I love about educating our girls at home is flexibility. The girls know that if they focus on getting the basics done, there will be time for electives later in the week. It has taught them to be self-starters (most of the time) and to learn that there are consequences for not getting their work done well on time.

I would consider that my own education (in the public schools) was above average. Yet, by educating our girls at home, they are able to receive an excellent education. One that doesn't just check off boxes, but one that can give them knowledge, wisdom, and life skills.

When our country was young, 85% of the youth were educated at home, about 15% went to public school. It has obviously shifted the other way around. I know that not every family will choose to homeschool. But some will. For those that do, know that I pray for you...I know how hard a job it can be. For those of you whose children go to public school, know that I pray for you as well. Parenting is always a hard job, but SO worth it.

Even when you're feeling like the Christian, facing the Roman, God is in control !

Be encouraged- God has a Master plan. He wants you to join Him. He knows your future, and if you trust Him with it, your life, heart, and family will be changed. We are trusting Him to provide all that our girls need, and all that I need, not just for an education, but for life!

By the way, if I ever have one of those days that is all bon-bons and daisies... I'll let you know!

Praying for you & your family!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Gardens, bees, and apple trees

Each week in Spring brings something new...or challenging, or both! This week the weather started cooperating, and we have spent part of each of the past 4 days outside. 

The gardens need a lot of work. The yard ranks up there on the to-do list as well...but things need planted! Maybe you're like us and the first step is to divide out your perrenials that have overgrown. We did a lot of that this week, even traded some plants with our friends. We also donated a lot of starts to the Mother's Day plant sale at Conner Prairie.

As we worked in the gardens, and mowed the yard, we were always cognizant of the humming of the apple trees. Wednesday and Thursday the honeybees were all over the trees. 

We only have 2 apple trees, but they're rather big for the size of our yard. I know, they need trimmed, but not this week! If you could have captured a 3-D image of the trees, I'm sure you could have easily counted 100+ bees at any time. By Friday, the humming had lessoned. I guress the honeybees had pretty much polinated everything on their quest. There were a few bumble bees mixed in with the remaining honeybees. As the bees finish their job, the petals fall off of the flowers, it almost looked like snow!

I even managed to capture one picture of a bee resting on the flower. Trust me, I tried for about 20 times before I could get one in focus and photographed before it moved to the next blossom!

I hope you've had a good week. If you haven't, be encouraged, God sees all you have been through this week, this month, this year. He is still in control, and He still has an amazing future for you. Last week was a really hard week for me. This week God has graciously allowed me a small measure of rest. I pray He will do the same for you!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Thankful Thursdays- 5/2/13- Spring!

You might wonder why TODAY I am thankful for Spring. After all, didn't Spring 'officially' arrive back in March?! Well, yes, and no. This is Indiana...where if you don't like the weather, wait 5 minutes, it'll change!

So today I am thankful for Spring ACTUALLY arriving. Wednesday, May 1st was our 'average last frost date,' which means it should be safe to plant anything outside now. That's a good thing, because even wth my winter-sowing, I'm behind in the gardens. If this nicer weather (the past 2 days have been 80) continues, by the end of next week we should have everything in the ground.

That will take a lot of hard work. I'm OK with that. The girls...well, they like to eat produce, so they'll be busy helping too!

(I'm also doing the happy dance knowing I shouldn't have to scrape the car windows again until October!)

The past two days the apple trees outside the kitchen window have been so full of honey bees that you can hear the buzzing from several feet away. Hopefully that means there will be enough apples that we'll get some, in spite of the squirrels!

Today, I'm thankful for Spring. Tomorrow I'll be thankful again. If it should happen to rain on Saturday, and we need to stay inside, I don't think anyone will mind a day off of hard labor.   :)

Enjoy the day God has planned for you. Bask in the sunshine, or dance in the rain, and hug your kids!