Thursday, July 25, 2013

Thankful Thursdays- 7/25/13 - A swimming pool

Today I was thankful for a swimming pool...the one owned by our friends! While the weather was unseasonably cool, it was still warm enough the girls still got to spend time with their friends in the swimming pool, and I got to talk with my friend, the other Mom. 

Sometimes, you just want to unwind. Today was that day for us. Life has been busy. Today we enjoyed a light lunch, and the girls got in the pool. They got to talk, I got to talk, and everyone had a good time.

I know it can be hard on our girls sometimes, because both of us work. We are thankful that God has provided our jobs, so we can provide for our family. I am especially thankful for the flexibility I have at my makes homeschooling easier. For some people, I think they have a hard time understanding what our life is like. We know it is where God has placed us, and we are thankful for His provisions. But, at times, I just want to give our girls a break, a day off, a day of fun. This isn't often possible because of the demands of work, or budget constraints.

God has blessed us in numerous ways over the years we have been home schooling. Sometimes it is a book, or a bag of cucumbers. Sometimes it is a praying friend, who encourages us to keep on keeping on!

Today our friends ministered to our needs, through an open door, a big yard, a pool, and a pizza. We are thankful for their generous hearts! I now feel refreshed and ready to minister again to others.

Go! Be an encourager to someone else today!

Thankful Thursdays - 7/18/13- Mentors for our Children...and sleep!

I know, I know, I'm a week late... I was thankful for sleep last Thursday, so I got some, and didn't write a blog post. :)

I will let you know that I was thankful last week for the other adults who help mentor our daughters. There are people they work with at Conner Prairie, members at our church, and even out great neighbor, Irene. Each of these people play a vital role in the growth of our daughters' character. 

Sometimes they pray for our girls. Sometimes they teach them new skills. Often they speak words of encouragement. For all the ways they help reinforce the messages of responsibility, love, and service that we are trying to teach, I am thankful!

So do YOUR children have mentors? Remember to tell them how thankful you are for them!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Stop the March - I want to get off the road!

Ever had those days when you see someone else's actions, and they remind you of your own? How about when that realization brings conviction that you need to change? I had that just the other day. 

I was at the grocery, and a Mom walked by with her 3 kids. Walked would be an euphemism, "Marched by" would be a more accurate term. This Mom obviously had a plan to be somewhere OTHER than the grocery store. In my mind I thought "stop marching your kids, they don't look like they're enjoying it."

Then God convicted my spirit. He was showing me how MY children feel when I march then through life. I'll admit we've done our share of marching in the past 12 months. Sometimes marching is good for you. It can build muscle and strength of character. Sometimes, though, it just discourages us.

I think there have been times when I've missed the heart issues because I've been so intent on where we're marching to, that I forget to check on my troops.

I pray that God will forgive me, and give me a more tender heart. I pray that the girls forgive me, and that I would more carefully listen to the Spirit for direction. This is our family, our school, our life...this is not 12 weeks of Basic Training for the US Army.

So stop this march! I want to get off of this road, and wander down the path for a while. I want to remember the journey, not just the destination.

Here's to a better tomorrow, with less marching. For us...and maybe for you too?!

Remember, God's mercies are new every morning... ours should be too!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Picaboo Yearbooks- A Review

If you are anything like our family, you take oodles and oodles of pictures every year... but unless it's Christmas or 4-H season, you hardly ever print them. What do you do with all those great pictures that capture your memories? Well, we made a yearbook!!! The Schoolhouse Review Crew has been on assignment for Picaboo Yearbooks and we were blessed to be a part of the review!
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First off, the price was good, then I realized all the options available on the online software (that you don't have to pay extra for) and I realized the price was great! For the review, we created, and Picaboo printed & shipped an 8.5 x 11 inch, softcover yearbook of 20 pages. The 20-page Soft Cover yearbook retails for $8.49 (no, seriously- ONLY $8.49) and shipping options vary depending on how soon you want it & where it is shipping to. We received ours Priority Ground, which costs $10.99 for the first copy, and $3.49 each for copies 2-8. If you are ordering for a group (like a co-op or your son's baseball team, they have special pricing on orders of 10 or more, and free shipping on orders of 50 or more. There is also an Economy Ground shipping option which is $8.99 for the first book, with discounts on shipping 2 or more copies.

I have to say, this was one of MY favorite reviews this year. I love taking pictures, but often don't get many of them printed. Life gets in the way, or I can't make up my mind which ones to they sit on my computer. Because we got to make the yearbook to suit our tastes, I had a lot of creative freedom to use my photos and make something unique. I had heard mixed reviews from my friends about Picaboo before this review. Let me lay to rest your concerns, this is a quality product. While it might be possible to get a higher quality product elsewhere, I really don't think you're going to find one this good anywhere near this price range! This is a vendor we will be coming back to again.

Let me tell you a little about how this whole process works, and then I'll share some ideas of how it might work best for your family or group.

It is important to note, Picaboo's online software uses Adobe Flash, so you'll need to work from a standard computer, NOT a tablet. Go to the Picaboo website and create an account. Give your yearbook a name, a  year, and enter your shipping info. Estimate the number of pages you will want, and when you think you'll finish. THEN, choose the size of the pages--- the page size cannot be changed later, but just about everything else can be changed. For the review, we did a 20 page, 8.5 x 11" soft cover book. We had about 3 weeks to design and edit our books, then we sent them (approved and ordered) on to be printed and shipped.

Watch the tutorial video!!! This is the best use of 20 minutes you can make. Once you've watched the video (even through the parts you don't think apply to your situation,) you will be ready to get started. As you go along, Picaboo will adjust the price if you need to add additional pages. To use their pricing calculator, and find out about personalized pages for large groups (like your school) use the pricing calculator and watch the videos here.

On to the nitty-gritty. If you are like us... where Arlene and I can easily take 5000+ pictures in a year, the best first step is for you to use whatever photo editing software you have (we use iPhoto) and make a folder of the pictures you *might* want to use and label it Picaboo. This saves time when you're actually in the software. Since we knew we were only going to be making a 20 page book, we chose about 200 of our favorite photos from the past 12 months. Also, if you are certain that you want to crop your photos, consider doing this before importing them to Picaboo.

The first major step inside of the Picaboo software, is deciding how you want to divide up the sections in your yearbook. I wrote 1-20 on a piece of notebook paper, and decided how many pages each "topic" would receive. One of my friends on the Crew just made hers with one 20-page section. It is possible to move the sections around in order, but not change the number of pages in a section. Of course, if you get all messed up, it is fairly easy to delete the section and start over again.

 I started with the cover. We chose some of our best quality pictures for this section. You select "add pictures" and wait a few minutes while they upload to Picaboo. I never did more than a few at a time, because the one time I uploaded 18 pictures at a time took several minutes. (I went in and started prepping dinner while I waited.) This is an example of a wraparound cover.

The left is a 1 page section, the right is the first page of a 5 page section

On the regular sections, you can choose freeform or portrait. Since it was just us (and not for a co-op or school) we chose freeform. This still allows you to use their templates, but doesn't look like your 8th grade class pictures. :) I used some of Picaboos backgrounds (there are thousands,) but on most of our pages, I picked one of our photos to use as either a one-page or two-page spread background. It took me a little while to get used to the moving and rotating tools, but they were't difficult to learn. On pages where I knew I wanted a lot of pictures, I used one of their templates that looked like class photo pics, and then adjusted all the sizes once I had the pics on the page.

As you are doing each page's layout, pay attention to the yellow "warning - crop zone" messages. Some of these get cropped during the printing process, but not necessarily all of them, so I would suggest you leave a margin around the page edges. I had one that I didn't notice during my reviewing & locking the sections. It ended up cutting off the people's feet in the picture (better than their heads-LOL), but it was no great loss in the grand scheme of things.

On the softcover yearbooks, there is no printing on the inside of the covers. If you're making these for your co-op, this would make an excellent place for students to sign each other's books. At the end, you will choose whether you want a Matte or Glossy finish. We chose Matte (to hopefully cut down on fingerprints!) This 20 page yearbook can carefully be slid inside a standard sheet protector, which is how I've been carrying it around to show to our friends. At home, it sits on the shelf next to my husband's old High School yearbook. 

Inside the front cover

Inside the back cover

You can add as much, or as little, text as you want. We chose to not add much. It is possible to add text to the spine of the cover, but Picaboo doesn't recommend it because it's so hard to get the little type on the spine. I made our type larger, because I expect to make at least one every year, and this will help me find the right one on the shelf. The text boxes have dozens of fonts and colors to choose from...experiment to see what you like best.

A couple other fine-tuning points. Choose only your sharpest photos for enlarging to full-page size (like backgrounds.) Ours were fine, but I also use a high-GB chip in my camera so I can have great resolution. The pages will be numbered in the outside bottom corners in black. So sometimes, you may not see them on the page depending on what you placed there.

Don't be afraid to showcase your favorite photos! Crop and resize as much as you want. We had about three weeks to do ours because of review timeline constraints, but you should take as much time as you want or need. Since the maximum time from ordering to door in the continental US is 3 weeks, don't feel rushed. We chose LOTS of our favorites to highlight. After all, how many kids get a picture of them and Mario Andretti in their yearbook?!!

If you're thinking about making a yearbook for a group or school, you're going to want to investigate your options. There are ways to have a student gallery, and upload pictures directly from your school photographer. If you're making a group or school book, you can also assign roles of contributors and administrators to various individuals, and they can work on the appropriate sections, while still needing your final approval before the book is printed. I can see this being a great class-project for a co-op, or how much easier this would be than the yearbook process when I was in school. (This is so much easier than even the monthly newspaper was back then!)

There is also the option to set up a 'store' with your yearbook and accept orders from family members, or group members. If you're doing a group or school book, contact Picaboo and they can help you set yours up as a fundraiser with a small profit margin. Since you only order what you need, your school never has to go in debt over a yearbook again. (What would my High School teachers think about that!?)

Some final thoughts...

This would be SO AWESOME (and affordable) for your family, your son's baseball team, your daughter's dance class or band. What about your church? How long has it been since you had a directory done? I know there are professionals that do these, but most small congregations just don't have the time or resources for those companies. How much did your homeschool group spend on this year's yearbook? Consider using Picaboo for next year.

We are planning to start now and work on our yearbook for next school year. That way we won't feel rushed. I think we'll make each section as we have an idea figured out in our heads. I can see this turning into a particular high schooler's yearbook elective course can't you???

If you're making a school-sized yearbook, there is an option for each student to make up to 4 individualized pages to be included in their yearbook. How cool is that? So include pictures of you & your friends from Homecoming, a shot of you at summer camp, or your family photo with Grandma & Grandpa along with your other memories.

I went back and looked through some of my High School yearbooks to compare quality. This book from Picaboo was better...and didn't cost $50 or more (more like $75 today.)

Like I said before, this is a quality product for the price. Several Crew members mentioned that they were going to purchase additional copies to send to their families that live far away. Picaboo does have shipping options for Canada and overseas. Since the software is online, consider the possibilities. The missionaries from your church could contribute to your book, or even make them and have them sent to donors. The options are truly endless!

We took our book with us to 4-H judging this week and showed it to a couple friends. They liked it too, especially the price vs. quality aspect. They are planning to tell their friends and family about Picaboo. I know there are other places online to make a photo book, but this has SUCH great customization (not to mention the options of multiple contributors) that I think it is an all- around winner!

Click the banner below to read all the reviews!


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Monday, July 15, 2013

Summer Vacation

How is your summer going? Do you feel like you are just getting started, like you're in the lazy, hazy days, or like time is running out? Whether your kids go back to school in two weeks, or in two months, let's take a minute to evaluate where our relationships with our children are, and how you might be able to improve them.

First, take a deep breath. Realize that today might be over, but hopefully God will bless you with  tomorrow. I know parenting is hard, but the rewards can be SO GREAT! 

So here is your next step... pray! Ask God to show you where and how to connect with your kids. I know, at times, I get so busy with the list of things we're wanting to do, that we forget the important part of just hanging out together.

This is 4-H season in our family. That means a lot of deadlines, and sometimes, not the best of attitudes as we all feel stretched during judging week. That makes it even more important for us to spend some quality time together.

What is the most stressful part of your summer? Make sure you find a way to re-connect as a family when it is over. 

For us, it's a few days of 'nothing-much.' This summer we have some loose plans for after the 4-H fair. But mostly, it's just spending time together, without a lot of expectations. 

When the girls wander off to read a book, I might work on some lesson plans...or I might go out to the garden. I find the important thing is that they know I can and will stop what I'm doing to talk with them.

Be available for your kids. I know, it's not always convenient, but it's worth it!

God can grant you wisdom, He is waiting for you to ask.

In the meantime, whether you're picking green beans or buying back-to-school supplies, show your kids that you love them. Tell them...even if they're teenagers! 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Badge of Honor - A Book Review

For the past 10 years (ever since our oldest learned to read) we have been on a constant search for quality, age-appropriate books. It was easier when they were little... they didn't read as fast, most easy readers are a 'quick skim' to find the plot & worldview, and, for a little while, there was just one to find books for. Now, we have 2 adolescent girls who read every day. It is often a challenge to know whether to say 'yes' or 'no' to their request for a particular book.

Arlene (13) and I were pleased to be able to review the book Badge of Honor from Susan Marlow and Kregel Publications. Badge of Honor is the first book in the Goldtown Adventures Series. It retails for $7.99, or you can purchase it with its sequel Tunnel Of Gold for only $13.95.Shipping is $2.50 for a single book, or $3.00 for the combo-pack. You can even get them personalized. :)

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Arlene took off with the book the day it arrived. I didn't see her again until almost suppertime. Being at the top end of the suggested 9-13 year old age range, she got through it fairly quickly. I didn't count how many hours it took her, but she was done sometime on the second day. That was great, as it gave me a chance to read the 140 page book as well.

Badge of Honor is the story of twelve-year-old Jem (Jeremiah) Coulter, his family, and the fictional 'Goldtown, California.' Susan Marlow does a wonderful job of blending in historical facts about California's Gold Rush days (the story is set in 1864, almost after the rush was over) with every-day life. Jem learns hard lessons about dangers, and choosing wisely, throughout the book. One of my favorite aspects is Jem's knowledge that he is responsible for his younger sister Ellie (Ellianna) age 10, since their mother died and their Father is always working the family ranch.

Jem struggles with his Father accepting the new position of Sheriff in Goldtown. And, like most 12 year old boys, he struggles with the consequences of his actions when he fails to obey his Father's commands.

The story treads lightly around some unsavory parts  of the Gold Rush days, while staying mostly focused on the characters Jem *should* be spending his time with. Trouble comes when Jem disobeys. As a parent, I find that refreshing. Our children need to be reminded there are consequences, both good and bad, to their actions.

I don't want to spoil the storyline, but I will let you know, Jem realizes there is more to his Father's actions than he understands at first. Kind of like real life. Sometimes we parents do what is best for our kids without explaining to them why we are doing it.

I would recommend the book for ages 8-14. I enjoyed it myself, but I always enjoy a good western. You may be wondering what Arlene thought?! "It's a good book Mom, when can you get the next one?!"

Our Crew review was split between those who reviewed Badge of Honor and those who reviewed the sequel Tunnel of Gold. Click the link below to read all the reviews!


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High School Biology In Your Home by Bridget Ardoin - A Review

Sometimes, when your children get older, you start to wonder whether the methods and styles you have used to help them learn can be carried on through High School. I had been wondering about Emily’s High School Science courses, and how difficult it would be to continue using our Charlotte Mason methods, yet still give her solid courses that would prepare her for College and her career choice. (Part of her still wants to be an astronaut, but realizing that may never happen, she has decided on pursuing a career in nursing, with plans to one day be a Forensic Nurse.) Then along came the answer to my questioning in the form of a product to review from Science For High School: High School Biology In Your Home, by Bridget Ardoin.

homeschool biology, Charlotte Mason High School Biology

We are both enjoying this curriculum...probably because it’s so much like what we’ve been doing at our home for years. The box we received included 3 things: 1- The Student Manual, 2- The Parent's Guide, and 3- The Quizzes and Final Exams. These 3 resources work together to provide both the student, and the parent-teacher  the necessary information for a student-led, in-depth, lab-based High School level Biology course. This set retails for $79.99, and is SO worth every penny!

First, I’ll describe the Student Manual. This is actually NOT a book, but a shrink-wrapped package of possibilities.  (If you have 2 student working on this at the same time, you can order an additional student manual for $24.99.) The student’s sheets come three-hole punched and ready to put in a binder which will become both their science notes, and their Dissecting Manual. (Can I just insert here how ecstatic Emily was when her box of  things to dissect arrived?) Some students may balk at doing dissections, but not ours. Because of Emily’s desire to go into the medical field, we knew it was necessary to choose a Biology course full of hands on dissecting and microscope work. This one has both. We live in Indiana, where for Biology to be considered a ‘Lab Course’ carries  specific requirements: A laboratory course, identified by (L) in these course descriptions, is one in which a “minimum of twenty-five percent (25%) of the total instructional time is devoted to laboratory activities. Laboratory activities are those activities in which the pupil personally uses appropriate procedures and equipment in accomplishing that learning task.” This course provides that, and the opportunity for a whole lot more!

This is a researched-based, lab intensive course. Each week the students are presented with a list of questions, which they need to research answers to. The students will spend 3-4 days’ worth of ‘class time’ researching the answers and taking notes. Then, they organize what they have learned to present to their parent-teacher. It is up to the parent to specify how they want the information presented; orally, written, and/or with illustrations. This could be a key benefit to students who have processing issues or a learning challenge like dyslexia. The student is free to research in the way that best fits their learning style and available resources. Mrs. Ardoin suggests that they use a variety of resources. Emily has used both books we already owned, and ones she checked out from our local library. When Emily started the unit on the Integumentary System (skin, hair, & teeth), she watched the DVD of Dr. David Menton from his "Body of Evidence" set. The fifth day of each week is set aside for lab work. It is up to the parent to decide where to fit in each week's quiz, there are good suggestions in the Parent's Guide.

I made Em's spelling list from her notes :)

I love, love, love this aspect of this course. While Mrs. Ardoin includes basic answers in the Parent's Guide (more on this later), she allows the student to get as in-depth as they want (or their parents require.) Let's ponder some scenarios here...1. Your student has problems reading for comprehension, and does not plan to go into the science field. With your help, they find videos, either online, at the Library, or from a service like Netflix, and learn about each week's topic. Then they report back to you either orally or written. 2. Your student is good at reading for comprehension, but not strong in writing. They read about the topics for the week, then they make a presentation for you. Perhaps they make a powerpoint, or re-create the answer in a drawing, modeling clay, or food-stuff based creation. 3. Your student is science-oriented. They research, report, and draw their findings, they end up with a notebook worthy of a college-level class. Make sure they keep it to review & help them test out of their Freshman level college science courses. Because you can customize HOW your student studies, and how they report it from day one, I can see this fitting with a whole lot of learning styles and teaching methods. Since this also includes microscope and dissection work, any student should be able to use this curriculum (with appropriate help when needed) and get a year's worth of  Biology w/Lab credit for High School. I find Mrs. Ardoin's comments in the Parent's Guide encouraging. "The student will be drawing all of his observations in this(student) manual. He is to be thorough to the best of his ability." (pg 188)

Now, to the Parent's Guide. This includes everything you HAVE to know for your student to complete their course, and your life to continue on at the same time. I don't know about you...but it's been 20 years since I last cracked open my High School Biology book. I just *might* have forgotten something-LOL! After the introduction on how to use the curriculum, this book has a syllabus for the course, and a detailed supply list. If you need to order supplies, you can choose from the various kits available on the Science For High School website, or follow the recommendations printed in your Parent's Guide. Since we already owned several of the necessary  supplies, like a microscope, and several of the required slides, we just ordered the remaining items (including the critters to dissect) from our favorite online science source. The total of supplies Emily required for the year ended up being just over $80. This made me thankful for all those science-based Christmas gifts!!!

The answers provided in the Parent's Guide help you know what your student should be learning every week, without you needing to be there with them every minute. If they have learned everything listed in the Parent's Guide, they are ready for the Unit quiz, if not, you may need to point them back to what they missed. The first two large sections of the guide are the answers for the weekly questions for first and second semester. The third section gives answers to the quizzes and exams, and the fourth large section show what your student should be putting in their Dissecting Manual, from their weekly microscope or dissecting time. This course is quite adaptable for both the student and the parent. Follow the level of parent involvement you feel comfortable with.

The quizzes and exams come 3-hole punched and shrink-wrapped. I suggest you keep these with your Parent's Guide, but make sure you look them over before giving each one to your student.  I have found the answers provided in the Parent's Guide to be a great timesaver...especially as both girls have been working on their 4-H sewing projects during the time of this review. I DID remember that RNA paired up with DNA in the cell-replication process, but I didn't remember any of the names... The different quizzes vary and include the types of question and answer styles your student might find at college: short answer, matching, diagram labeling, and even an occasional bonus question.

The reality is, this is an in-depth course, and it may take a few weeks for your student to get used to doing this much research on their own. If you have other students, I would suggest you start the Biology student a week or two before you jump into your normal school schedule with your younger students. This will give you time to devote to helping them understand both how to research, and what is expected of them each week.

We have been reviewing this for the past 8 weeks. Emily is almost to the end of the 3rd unit. Several things have come into play with this. First, it's summer, and Emily has other responsibilities, so she's only been working on it 4 days a week instead of the usual 5. Secondly, even though Emily has done research before, using the many resources, and gleaning what she needed to from them, taking notes, and formulating her answers took some getting used to. I'm also requiring her to keep a weekly list of the resources she has used, so she can go back and find the sources again if and when she wants. Thirdly, when Emily got to the Integumentary system, she went all in. For the past 5 years, Emily has struggled with psoriasis, so instead of just researching the 8 questions on her list for that unit, she also read 3 different books on the skin that dealt specifically with her issue. Even though I had researched her condition, she took ownership of her challenge and studied it for herself. She now understands her condition, without having to take my word for it, and is prepared to deal with her flareups better than she was before. Nothing like finding your child reading an EXTRA science book to cheer a Mom's heart.

A few final thoughts... I would wait until your student is at least a Freshman, but preferably a Sophomore before starting this Biology curriculum. It IS a lot of work, but SO worth it! Science for High School has a Physical Science In Your Home course that might be a better fit for your Freshman. One of the freedoms of home educating is getting to choose what works best for your student.

I also want you to be aware, your child is going to be dissecting that frog for quite a few weeks. Even though it's preserved, you might want to check those weeks up against your family's calendar for possible a visit from the Grandparents...or a sewing project for the 4-H fair. Emily's frog is patiently waiting in the box, because he could NOT come out while there were sewing projects on every available surface last week. :)

I feel like Emily is getting more out of this than a typical Biology textbook might provide. Since she is doing the digging, she is getting further into each topic. Since we started in the summer, she should still be able to continue this level of research and finish by next May, in time for me to add it to her transcript. If it takes up part of next summer too, it will still be worth it! Here is a picture of the resources Emily used for the first two units.

Other Crew families reviewed all 3 of the available topics from Science For High School, Physical Science, Biology, and Chemistry. Click the link below to read all the reviews!


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Friday, July 12, 2013

"Hero Tales" CD set- a review

Heard any good stories lately? We’ve been listening to some new ones in the car. We recently received the CD set “Hero Tales” from Raising Real Men to review. This set has  contains 3 CD’s with the stories from the book “Hero Tales” written by Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge, originally published in 1895.

The stories from the book cover both people and events that directed or influenced America’s history beginning at George Washington and continuing through the War between the states. The CD’s are read by Hal Young, one of the founders of Raising Real Men. 

Raising Real Men

Surviving, Teaching, and Appreciating Boys

I enjoyed listening to the stories, and our girls enjoyed them too. The one drawback we found, was that the background sound effects, which are a nice addition, are at times almost too loud and make it difficult to hear Hal telling the stories. We adjusted the settings on our car stereo and that helped a lot. Keep this in mind when listening to them.

Some of the people and events were familiar to us, like Daniel Boone and George Rogers Clark, while others were new discoveries, such as the Privateer George Armstrong from the War of 1812. Even thought we all like to read, listening to CD’s in the car is a way for us to be learning the same thing, without needing 3 copies of a book. I know a lot of families take turns reading aloud on a family book, but that doesn’t usually work with my husband and my work schedules, so CD’s allow us to use the travel time in the car for the same purpose.

If it’s been a few years since YOU studied early American History, I think you would also enjoy listening to the CD’s with your children or grandchildren. These stories are an easy way to digest people and events, and then discuss them as a family. I would recommend these for ages 10 and up. Younger children can definitely listen and learn, but may not be able to discuss or understand the implications of the underlying war.

Because the original book was written in the late 1800’s, you will notice that some of the stories presented are laden with “Manifest Destiny” ideals or viewpoints. While this was the prevailing idea at the time, (and for 100 years afterwards,) I hope that listening to the stories, and discussing them as a family, can help you understand and explain to your children both the positive and negative aspects of our history. My hope is that this leads to a better recognition of the facts surrounding when 'New' Americans chose unwisely in their dealings with the Native Americans. By teaching our children to value all life, we can inspire them to live with values like courage and determination, as well as compassion.

Don’t be turned away by the name, Raising Real Men, as they have many resources suitable for both boys and girls. You can click here to read our review of a book from Raising Real Men, “A Cry From Egypt.”

The Hero Tales CD set normally retails for $21, but is currently available for $15. That gives you three hours of entertainment and learning to share with your family. I really think you’ll enjoy listening to the stories, and maybe you’ll be inspired to study further the lives of these amazing people.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Thankful Thursdays -7/11/13 4-H Judging

I know I've mentioned before how thankful we are for the 4-H program in our county, but today is where it really shines. Today, 4-H judging for our local county fair begins...with sewing judging!

Why am I thankful for the judging? First off, it teaches our girls that real deadlines DO matter. Sometimes in life it's not important if you complete a task today or tomorrow...but sometimes it is! By learning how to be properly prepared, with their projects done on time, we are trying to walk them towards being responsible adults. You know, the ones who pay their light bill on time & remember to take out the trash the night before? That's what we're aiming for.

Secondly, the judging process allows our girls the opportunity to extend grace to others in real-life. Understanding that the judge may have a different opinion than they do, but still maintaining their composure, and not speaking ill of others are valuable life skills. I've worked with a few adults over the years who had not learned these lessons. They are also learning how to let others go first, and how to give a sincere compliment.

Thirdly, I like seeing my friends, the other Moms who are busy most of the time, just like me. Some days we just sit in the "parents' corner" and chat. Sometimes we work on goals or lesson plans for fall. Tomorrow, I plan to be working on some more reviews...we've got a lot of them posting in the next week!

Fourth, our girls learn about the joy of patience. Some years, it takes a loooooong time for it to be their turn. (Especially now that they're in the upper divisions.) They learn how to talk quietly with both friends and acquaintances, and how to wait without feeling rushed.

So if you wonder why the backgrounds on my pictures look different next's probably because I took them on the kitchen floor. It seems to be the only surface in the house not covered by part of a 4-H project-LOL!

Enjoy the week with your kids! Tell them how happy you are to see them doing a job well done!

These are the girls' 4-H sewing projects for this year!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Mayan Mysteries iPad App- a Review

How often do your kids bug you to let them play on the iPad? Let’s be honest here, technology can be a great thing, but we need to be choosing wisely how we spend our time. At our house, everyone likes to play a game on the iPad, but I often feel like we need some educational apps to balance out the silly ones. So of course I said “yes” when an educational app came up for review for the Crew! We have been reviewing the “Mayan Mysteries” app from Dig-It Games for the past few weeks.
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Here is what we found out: this app is part one of a continuing saga. At first, Emily (age 15) was a little disappointed that the app’s game gets ‘completed’ without you solving all of the ‘who-dunnit’ mystery...then she realized that meant there would be a second part eventually, so she’s hoping it is available soon. Arlene (age 13) was happy that Emily finished it in a little over a week (about 8 hours of playing time), so she could restart it and play the game. There were a few times where Arlene struggled with some of the conversions (Mayans used base 20, whereas we use base 10), but Emily helped her understand, and the game progressed.

The Mayan Mysteries App retails for $9.99 on iTunes. That is considerably more than we usually are willing to pay for an app. I know that this one is a history lesson, with a game-like setting, but I’m not too sure if I will be willing to pay another $9.99 for the second part. Now, I’m sure some of you have a bigger iTunes budget than we do, so the price may not be a factor for your family. I'm hoping the second part is a little less... maybe $7?

If you’re wondering about ages, it is rated for ages 9 and up, but I think it is more appropriate for ages 11 or 12 and up. There is a lot of information your children can learn from this app/ game. While not all of it is necessary to ‘solve’ each section and move forward, I did find it cool that there are clickable links under ‘unusual’ terms (think vocabulary words!) Look at the pictures below for a better explanation!

Open the app

I clicked "resume game", then I selected the pyramid in the 'Belize' area, then I clicked "travel now"

When I clicked the blue pyramid in the right corner, I got this screen...see the options?

I clicked "Culture" then "Art"

Right above the picture of the woman, there is an arrow to see the next or previous page

See the linked (in blue) words?

When you click on "quetzel bird" this opens and you can learn about the quetzel & see a picture... Cool Huh ?
If the girls were here, I'd show you even more cool shots of the game...but they're off volunteering tonight, and I don't want to be accused of ruining their game.

The graphics, and the way the story is laid out, remind me of the graphic novels the girls sometimes get from the Library. It is animated, without being little-kid cartoonish. One of the things about iPad apps, as opposed to phone apps, is that you see the details, and whether they have been skipped. The attention to detail in the graphics, and all of the 'extras' that are available to the player through the clickable links, makes it mush easier to stay focused on the game aspect while playing. Even if you begin with no knowledge of the Mayans at all, you will have a decent understanding of what Archaeologists have discovered about this culture. One of the reasons I'm recommending it for slightly older ages is that is shared the bad parts of Mayan culture too.

Overall, if you view this app as a history/ social studies book on your iPad, it has more value for the price. I guess the true test will be whether the girls forget about it next month, or ask to go back and play it again. I do know they have learned more about the Mayans, which is the purpose of the game. If I were the type to assign grades...which I’m not... I would probably give the Mayan Mysteries app a B. It seems solid enough to use for learning, but I’m wondering about the retention rate. If you’re looking for an easy way to learn more about the Mayans, this would be worth your time and money, but remember it is more learning than game, and some kids may balk at the idea. My girls? They were happy for a chance to play on the iPad, and they learned I'm happy too!


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Friday, July 5, 2013

PreScripts Cursive Passages and Illuminations - a Review

Most Moms and Dads realize that their children need practice with handwriting in order to improve. While there are many, many options out there for beginning handwriting, there are not nearly as many available for older students. (I have also found that my older students don't necessarily think they need practice, even when they do!) Thus, I was excited to be able to review the new PreScripts Cursive Passages and Illuminations  book from Classical Conversations.

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This new book includes more than 130 pages of cursive practice, and lessons on making Illuminated letters (think Medieval texts.) While Classical Conversations (CC) recommends this copybook for students aged 9 thru High School, I would recommend it for students 12 and up. The cursive style presented in the book is not difficult to copy, but I think most younger students would struggle with the Illuminated letters exercises.

In our house, Emily (age 15) was the tester. I gave her the book and told her to work in it every morning we were at home (about 4 days a week.) She usually worked for about 45 minutes a day. That was usually enough time to either copy a page of text, or do an illuminated letter, but not both. The point of the book is to improve your handwriting, not hurry through just to check off a box.

The text sources for this level of PreScript are American Documents, so Emily has copied sections from  Christopher Columbus's 'Apologia,' the 'Mayflower Compact,' and several sections from 'The Declaration of Independence." At a retail price of $12.99, this book should last Emily most of the school year. She will have principals of American history reinforced as she copies sections from John C. Calhoun, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and even Ronald Reagan's 'Speech at Brandenburg Gate.' I am hoping that we will have discussions along the way about what was happening during each time period as she writes. How many of us parents remember Reagan's statement: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!!"?

Emily has enjoyed the illuminated letters, although she admits, some styles are rather difficult to replicate. But, she has soldiered on, and attempted them...she just didn't want me to show you the ones she struggled with. The ones she found most difficult look more like a fancy typeface, while she enjoyed the ones that look more like a work of art. She even got out her own drawing book and Illuminated the first line to some of her favorite books!

If your student is struggling with cursive... or they attend a school where cursive is no longer being taught... you will want to make a careful study of the earlier levels of PreScripts. There are 4 levels in all, each progressing in difficulty. The Passages and Illuminations text we reviewed is the most difficult. If your student is capable of cursive, but just needs more practice, than this might be the book for you. 

The book has the documents printed out on every other line, so the students can copy directly under the text. I think if I had given this book to our 13 year old, she would have struggled, because her fine motor skills in handwriting have always been slower than normal. She would probably do well with the third book, "Cursive Sentences and Art Lessons." If you go to CC's website, you can view sample pages and choose the correct level for your student.

Families from the Crew reviewed all 4 levels, so click the banner below to read all about them!


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