Thursday, August 29, 2013

Thankful Thursdays - 8/29/13 - Reciprocal Programs

We are thankful for Reciprocal Membership Programs. Have you ever heard of them? They are a great benefit that many museums (& zoos) offer to their members. Many varieties of reciprocal benefits abound, so be sure to read the fine print if you're thinking of getting a membership to your local museum. Some give you $3 off admission or free parking at another 'member' institution. Most of the zoo reciprocal memberships give you 50% off of admission at other member zoos. 

Our all-time favorite reciprocal programs include the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) and the American Horticulture Society (AHS). These two gems give you admission for free (or a greatly reduced rate) to other member-sites across the USA. 

The ASTC reciprocal program allows your Family Membership Card from your local museum to grant you free (or almost free) access to over 290 member museums! The only catch, is that the 'other' museum must be at least 90 miles (as the crow flies) from your house. There are even a few International museums on this list. So from Alabama to Wyoming, and Australia to Sweden, you can take your family on a discounted adventure! To see the list you can click here. They update it every September for the next November-October period. 

The AHS reciprocal admissions program (RAP) lets you visit gardens, arboretums, conservatories, and botanical collections at almost 300 locations nationwide. You can visit their website here for all the details. (They also have a 90 mile exclusion.)

The coolest part for us, is that one of our local museums, Minnetrista in Muncie, IN is a member of both the ASTC and the AHS reciprocal programs! So for the price of our annual Family Membership to Minnetrista ($70) we have visited the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA, as well as the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, IL. We also really enjoy visiting the National Aviary in Pittsburgh.

The girls, inside the submarine, Carnegie Science Center - 2010

So, if you're thinking about taking a trip...especially one more than 90 miles away from home, check into the reciprocal benefits of your local museum or garden. You'll be thankful you did!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Thank You!

A big thanks to you --- our readers!

Yesterday, we passed 10,000 page views on the blog. While I know that may not sound impressive to some, that is a confirmation to us that you're still reading along & enjoying the journey with us!

When we started this blog, I had NO IDEA what I was doing on the technical side. Thankfully I had a couple friends who have been blogging several years who have mentored me. We DID have a goal in mind for the blog, and that goal is the same today --- to encourage families, through all sorts of ways, to spend time together! 

As we continue this journey, I just wanted to give you some updates on things to look forward to. We've had a busy summer, so not everything has been getting posted as soon as I would like, but there are several things in the works for you this fall. 

One of the first things you'l see a lot about is the Hope Conference, October 18 & 19, 2013 in Cicero, IN. We have been friends with Carl Kerby from Reasons for Hope (rforh*)for several years and want to support this endeavor of hosting the Hope Conference as much as possible. We know Carl's heart is to challenge, equip, and support strong families through the hope that only Jesus can give. At a cost of just $35 for the whole family (including a children's program) this is a weekend you won't want to miss! We'll continue to post about the speakers for the conference, have giveaways...and even give away a family ticket to the Hope Conference!

We have been blessed with a few other great giveaways for this Fall as well, from some great family-oriented groups. While we hope you're reading for more than just the giveaways, we understand that 'sharing' about a giveaway is an easy way to recommend our blog to your friends!

Our family has also been blessed to do some traveling this summer.(We've been in seven different states, just since Memorial Day weekend!) Whether you're looking for a one-day excursion, or ideas about where to go on a family vacation... we've got some family-friendly locations to tell you about. (To help those budget-minded readers, I'll also try to include the costs/ admission prices whenever I can!)

Indiana is FULL of great places to go as a family... so look forward to several one-day or over-night ideas. Maybe you're looking for something to do on the kids' Fall Break? Stay tuned for some of our favorites. If you haven't already, sign up to follow us by e-mail and make sure you don't miss a thing!Just click on the blue "join this site" box in the right sidebar.

Have a wonderful week!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Beauty in the Heart - a Crew Review

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Emily has been reviewing a new book from Doorposts titled Beauty in the Heart; A Study of Godly Beauty for Young Women. We were not familiar with Doorposts before the review began, but we had seen their names in homeschooling circles. Emily received a pre-publication copy of Pam Forster's book Beauty in the Heart. Since Emily is 15, I hoped it would be one she could work on daily during her Bible and devotional time. It was. :)

The book will be available for shipping next week, on August 29th, for $14. Doorposts has a pre-order special thru 8/31/13. If you order the print copy for $14 and use the coupon code 'beautystudy' you will receive an instant-download PDF version when you finish checking out.

If the name Pam Forster sounds familiar to you, it probably is. In 2003 Pam wrote the book Beauty and the Pig: A Study of Godly Beauty. The book we received is a complete re-write of that book's studies along with a lot of new additions. I appreciated that Pam includes information about Bible apps, online Bibles, and websites that the girls can use for looking things up during their study. I have the app from on my phone, but since Emily's 'technology time' is limited each week, she did the study with her Bible, my Study Bible, and a few commentaries from the library.

Beauty in the Heart includes 10 studies that vary in length from 4 days to 14 days. The types of studies also vary, giving your young woman a chance to experience  Inductive, Verse, Character, Book, Word & Topical, and Chapter studies. The 10th study is 'Beauty in Review' and reminds the reader of what they have studied. The book was designed for ages 12 to adult. If you have a mature 10 or 11 year old, they may also enjoy it. I personally would recommend this for young woman with an 8th grade or higher maturity level. So mostly for ages 14 and up. These are in-depth studies, and younger girls, while they would surely benefit, would probably need a couple things: 1- more than 1 day for each day's assigned section, and 2- a lot of help from Mom, Grandma, or another female mentor.

At 15, Emily only needed me to drive her to the library, and then I helped her find the commentaries. (Yeah, I know, she probably could have found those herself, but it's summer I was being nice!) This book also has 6 pages in the back with alternate questions for young men who wish to participate, either in a group (like all the teens in your family or co-op,) or on their own.

If your daughter is getting to the age where she has questions about life after graduation (or boys) then I highly recommend you look into this study. Girls are assaulted by the media with all sorts of images that tell them that outward beauty is all that matters. This study reminds them that TRUE beauty begins in their heart, with Jesus. I love this line in the book's introduction; "The beauty of a heart that loves Jesus is a beauty that doesn't fade. It only grows more and more beautiful."

As you work through the book, you will find a lot of gray sidebars with suggestions, or information to help you study. Emily enjoyed the studies she has done so far, although she did mention several times that she finds it hard to memorize the same passage in more than one translation. We talked about this, and I let her know that I have my favorite version to memorize out of. This reminded her of one of her old Awana leaders, who always quoted KJV after Emily had done her verse in NIV. The book does a good job of helping them understand the How-to study your Bible, so that whichever version they prefer, they can get more out of it.

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Other members of the Crew reviewed both this book, and another title from Doorposts, Because You are Strong (for young men.) Click the banner below to read all the reviews!


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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Thankful Thursdays- 8/22/13- Rainbows

Can you believe it is already August?! Today I'm going to tell you I am thankful for rainbows. Now, I'm guessing you're thinking about the ones in the sky after a storm. While I am thankful for those rainbows, today I'm going to tell you about some other rainbows...ones I see much more frequently!

Here is a rainbow.

It's one of many that we see (more days than not) in the front room of our house. On the east edge of this room is the staircase leading up. At the turning, there is a leaded-glass window, which we believe is original to the house (1910.) 

Several mornings a week, for most of the year, we get to glimpse rainbows in the room provided by the beveled edges of the glass. Now, it requires that you actually get out of bed and come downstairs-LOL! And, it only happens for a brief while after the sun comes no sleeping until noon! 

These rainbows are just as powerful a reminder to be thankful as the ones we sometimes see after a thunderstorm.  They remind me of many things: 

1- God is faithful. The sun comes up, and you might get to see a rainbow. 

2- There is more to this life we are living than is first apparent. Only when the light passes through the prism of the edge do we see the light's individual colors. Only when we pay attention to people will we see their individual personalities. Only when we search out beauty will we be awed by it. Otherwise it's 'just pretty.' Outside the window, it just looks like sunlight, inside the window...a rainbow! 

3- Just as the window separates the light, so God works in my heart to show me the separate parts of me that He is working to transform. Maybe there is too much blue in me, and He wants more green. Maybe I've forgotten how to be yellow and laugh. I am not just one-dimensional (and neither are you!) 

4- We need to be thankful for the small things. If I ever stop being thankful for these small miracles, I will become hardened and bitter...something I definitely DO NOT want! 

5- Time away can rejuvenate me, and help me see the small details. I often am most struck by the rainbows when we've been away for a few days, or when our schedule is so busy that we're out the door before the sun has risen far enough to make the rainbows. 

6- As the rainbow after the rain was God's promise to Noah, these rainbows are little reminders to me that God will not let me be overwhelmed. There truly is nothing that God cannot handle on my behalf. 

7- I need to share my joy. Hey look- rainbows!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Finish Strong

With back-to-school time upon us, I've been doing some thinking. As parents, we often want to start the school year with everything perfect. Ok, the reality is that we all know it's not going to be perfect, but we're trying just the same. But, something that might be even more important than how we start, is how we finish.

Now, I'm not just talking about looking forward to the end of this school year, I'm talking about looking at the end of our children's adolescence. How will you end your kids' childhood? It is important to finish strong. Finish with heart-strings tied, not severed. Finish knowing that you have actively loved your children every day (especially when they're being hard to love!) Finish with your children knowing that you love them. 

No grade on a spelling test, or placing in a sports tournament should come between your heart and your children. No mis-understanding, or even rebellion, should make your children think you don't love them. 

Parenting is hard work. You will probably have days when you are disappointed in a decision your child makes. There will be days when they are disappointed in you. But there are SO MANY days to live... don't waste them!

So start well, this year, this decade, this child...but more importantly, finish strong. Finish with your family intact, with heart-strings tied, and with love overflowing. God is able to do more than we can ask or imagine. Allow Him to work in your heart, so you can live a life that shows His love to your children.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Thankful Thursdays - 8/15/13 - The Great Indiana State Fair

Today I would like to show you just a few reasons why we are thankful for our State Fair. Indiana's is the 6th oldest State Fair in the nation. We have gone every year since Arlene was born...maybe even before, I can't remember. Anyway, there are days' worth of things to do, so we sometimes go more than once. It is a field trip, a vacation, and a whole lot of fun wrapped into one (or more) extremely long days! (BTW- the fair runs through this Sunday, August 18th, so there is still time to go!)

Here are some pictures of things we were thankful at this year's fair:

Our Family

The Pepsi Coliseum renovation

The Isle of Berk (How to Train Your Dragon) in the Animation display

Kurt got to play his FAVORITE video game!

A horse getting a bath...and giving one too!

Lambs at show

Baby cattle

The Normandy Barn

The giant cheese sculpture

Pioneer Village

Sunday, August 11, 2013

America The Beautiful by Charlene Notgrass - a Review

A review for the Schoolhouse Review Crew about the America The Beautiful Curriculum by Charlene Notgrass reviewed by Arlene Emmert, age 13, (and her Mom!)
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 America the Beautiful was originally published in 2011 by Notgrass Company, the two student texts were written by Mrs. Charlene Notgrass. The supplementary books are; Timeline of America the Beautiful written by Charlene and her husband Ray, We the People: Words from the Makers of American History, edited by Bethany Poore, America the Beautiful Student Workbook and America The Beautiful Lesson Review both written by Mary Evelyn McCurdy. The curriculum is available from the publishers, Notgrass Company for $99.95. This includes: America the Beautiful parts 1 and 2, We the People, Timeline of America The Beautiful, Maps of America the Beautiful, and the America the Beautiful answer key. Two additional books I recommend are the Student Workbook ($11.95) and the Lesson Review ($9.95.)

Inside the Student Workbook

The books were fun, I liked We the People and the Student Workbook the best. The maps were also fun, learning about the land divided up as it was back then. The Timeline was also cool once I started using it. I did not much like the Lesson Review book, but that is more because of my personality than the book, as it is still a great tool. 

Inside the Lesson Review

Inside We the People
Each lessons takes about one hour. 20 minutes is reading, and the other 40 is doing the various workbooks and activities. It is divided into Units, which are then divided into lessons. The first Unit is about the Indians that lived here in North America. It describes their way of life. The second Unit is about when the Spanish came, and the third unit is about when the French and the English came. The Units are each 5 lessons long, or about one week. At the end of each unit there is a 'Family Activity' that goes with each unit. These are crafts, games, or activities that range from building an Indian Longhouse out of gumdrops and toothpicks, to going into the kitchen and making Indian flatbread or Southern Plantation dinners. You can also make a Pocahontas museum, become a Niagra Falls tour guide, do dancing and singing, make paper airplanes, have a family game night, learn about a President and his family, make your own coins, and even celebrate with a party when you are done.
Family Activities

Although there are a lot of great family activities, there are still a lot of fun things for the student to do with each lesson. Such as: copying Bible verses, coloring the maps, making their timeline, and reading We the People (a complementary text filled with American literature, speeches, songs, and radio and TV reports that the child reads from during each lesson.) There are also two books that are sold separately, one is the Student Workbook. It has word puzzles and games that go with each lesson.  The second is the Lesson Review, which has questions to go with each lesson to help the child remember what they learned. Maps of America the Beautiful has maps separated into areas as it would have looked during the time you are studying. You color different sections of the map as the lessons go on. The Timeline you do not use every lesson, but when you do, you copy one or two short sentences out of the main textbook to the box labelled with the correct year.  

The Timeline book is illustrated with black and white blackline pictures like those in a coloring book, that depending on whether you wish it or not, you can have your child color them in. The main textbooks are 2 parts. Part one, America from 1000 -1877. Part two, America from the late 1800's through the present.

From Mom (Carol)
I gave Arlene the box of books, and told her to let me know if she had any questions. As you progress through the curriculum, there are 10 outside literature books for your student to read. Most of these can be found at your local library, but are also available from Notgrass for $59.95. Since Arlene had read one of the first two titles this past year (Amos Fortune Free Man) and we own the first one (The Sign of the Beaver) this was an open and go curriculum. The student texts clearly outline what the students should accomplish for each lesson, including telling them when to read from the outside literature selections.

Other than the family activities, Arlene was able to accomplish everything on her own...with some gentle reminders from me. She did admit, it would be easier to do during the school year, because she found it more difficult to focus when the great summer weather was beckoning her outdoors. Rest assured, she was richly rewarded for her efforts on this review. :)

The American the Beautiful course is designed for students in grades 5-8. Your younger students may require more attention as they learn how to follow the lesson plans, your older students can be self- sufficient. I would label this a unit-study approach wrapped into a textbook. Arlene's favorite part was the We the People book. It might be my favorite too. The excerpts in it vary, and include a wide range of sources. Arlene pointed out to me that if you had two or more students in the same age range doing this, you would only need one set of the texts and We the People, and could just purchase them their own timeline book , maps book, and either a workbook or lesson review. (I gave Arlene both the Student Workbook and the Lesson Review, but it is recommended that you choose one or the other for your student.) Some do better with activities, many older students do better with the Lesson Review where they can write the answers out in their own words.

Cost can be a real factor when deciding what to use for history for your students. If you are going to use this, I would definitely recommend purchasing the Curriculum package @ $99.95 for the six main books. If you choose not to purchase either the Student Workbook or Lesson Review book, know that it will mean you as the parent need to spend more time reviewing the materials covered each day/ week with your children. For Middle School aged students, this could definitely cover both History and Literature. While Notgrass also offers a High School level American History course, Exploring America, I feel that if you have a challenged student, you could adapt this level and use it for High school as well.

We had not used any resources from Notgrass before this review, and I will say I was pleasantly surprised with this curriculum. I had thought it might require more work from me than it did, and it could be a great resource to recommend to families new to homeschooling who have no idea where or how to start.


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Thankful Thursdays- 8/8/13 - Leftovers

Yes, you read that correctly, I am thankful for leftovers. There have been numerous times over the last month when we have been thankful to eat leftovers! The month of July always seems to be one of the busiest time in our household. That is probably because our 4-H fair is during the month, and with all the activities and judging days that lead up to the fair, leftovers are a lifesaver.

Leftovers let us enjoy a meal twice...but only require preparing it once. Leftovers are something we all enjoy, otherwise why would we have made the meal in the first place? Leftovers, especially ones that can be enjoyed cold, make great last-minute lunches. Those that should be reheated still take less time than preparing another meal.

So yes, I'm thankful for leftovers! What are you thankful for today?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Thankful Thursdays - 8/1/13 - the Dollar Store

There are time when I am just thankful for the small things. Like this week. I've been thinking about some good deals I've gotten at the Dollar Store recently. One of my biggest finds was dividers, you know, the kind your kid always seems to need for their notebook? I was ecstatic to find these at the dollar store. Usually we have to make a trip to the big box store, or office supply store to get some. Let me tell you, they're NEVER a dollar there. In fact, we needed some for a review once, and I asked Kurt to get them. He said "$3.99! What does she need them for?" He reluctantly bought them... with a caveat that Emily had better use them!

So yes, I'm a school supply junkie, and I get great joy out of finding deals at the dollar store.

Another thing I found at the dollar store recently was a 100 sheet notepad of wide ruled 5-3/4" by 8-1/2" paper. Why is this a big deal? Because I have a mini-sized binder that uses those sized sheets. Usually they cost about $3.50 a package...but with my dollar store find, I took the pad home, pulled off the sheets and used my trusty 3-hole punch myself. I know, some of you may say that your time is more valuable...but I used the other $2.50 I saved to buy the dividers (and cover the sales tax.)So it was totally worth my 5-10 minutes to punch some holes!

So, what is your best dollar store find? Leave a comment & we'll be thankful right alongside you!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder DVD - a Review

Do you have any 'Little House' fans in your family? We have a whole house full of them! So we were excited to be chosen to participate in the Schoolhouse Review Crew's review of DVD's from Legacy Documentaries. The Crew reviewed two different DVD's by Dean Butler and Legacy Documentaries: Little House on the Prairie: The Legacy Of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura. We received the Laura DVD. If you'd like to read reviews of the Almanzo DVD, click the link at the bottom of this post!

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 photo legacyoflauraingallswilder_zpsafffba0c.jpg When it came time to choose a DVD to request, I let Arlene (age 13) our current biggest Little House fan choose. Since she enjoys the books about Laura's childhood, she chose the Laura DVD. I must say that all 4 of us (including Kurt) were impressed with the quality and depth of this video. The DVD is narrated by Dean Butler (whom many of you will remember from his days portraying Almanzo on the Little House TV series.) The DVD's main story runs about an hour, and is a skillfully crafted combination of narration, historic photos, animated illustrations (from the original illustrations by Anna Sewell,) and historic re-enactments. Most of the people portraying Laura and her family in the DVD are from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historical Society in De Smet, S.D.

As the story of Laura's life is woven, and the story behind the stories in the books unfolds, there are also interviews with Historians and Biography writers who share about both Laura and her family, and what life was like during the time Laura was writing her books (the Great Depression and WWII.) Since I've been reading Laura's books for decades, and grew up watching the Little House series on TV, it was quite fun to hear about the process that Laura's first book, "Little House in the Big Woods" underwent as it was written, rewritten, re-titled, and eventually published in 1932.

The DVD is not boring at all (unlike some documentaries,) yet rather, draws you into Laura's life, and her marriage to Almanzo that spanned 64 years until his death at age 90. I appreciated the focus on how Laura's books were published with a mind to entertain and inspire the children living through the Great Depression through stories of simple, hard-working American pioneers. I do not know what first inspired Laura to write her books, although many sources point to the passing of 'Pa,' but I am thankful that her publisher saw the value of sharing these simple, difficult, yet also joy-filled lives.

As a blog writer, I chuckled when I learned that Laura began her writing career as a columnist for the "Missouri Ruralist" writing her column "As a Farm Woman Thinks" for 13 years. That sounds a lot like blogging... before computers. Laura was a known authority on chickens, and she shared that knowledge, and other things, with her readers. I was also reminded that a lot of Laura's writing was edited by her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, who was already a published magazine writer. (Kind of like when one of our girls proof-reads my blog posts-LOL!)

The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder DVD retails for $24.95, and would make a quality gift for your favorite Little House fan...or the whole family! While this DVD is suitable for any age to watch, I would say that children 8 and up would probably get the most out of it. Of course, if you're done a family read-aloud of any of the Little House books, everyone will remember something from the book while watching, so keep your remote handy to pause the DVD when someone "just has to share!"

We watched the DVD as a family, and all of us, including Kurt, learned a lot. It appears his education suffered, as he never read any of the Little House books growing up. (We offered to loan him our copies!) My Grandmother saved a boxed set of the Little House books for me to one day pass on to our children. My Grandma's copies are from the 1970 edition. Yeah, that's right, she bought them before I was born, and wanted to make sure that as an adult, I had copies for my children! (I told you I grew up on Little House!) This was a great gift, because none of MY copies matched, but Grandma's do!  I think I enjoyed watching the DVD the second time even more than the first time, because I could pick up details I missed the first time through. I know it is one we'll watch again and again.

When you're done watching the main documentary (because you ARE going to want to get it,) be sure to go back to the disc menu and watch the 'Director's Diary' from Dean Butler. He shares the story of the filming and production process for the documentary, along with a running story of his trip through and around the great plains and Missouri. 

Since we had just been in Missouri a few weeks before the DVD arrived, I heard lots of comments form both girls about how they recognized the terrain. Kurt wanted to be reminded of why we hadn't stopped at Rocky Ridge Farm on the trip. (An oversight that will be corrected on our next trip to MO!)

 photo almanzowilderlifebeforelaura_zps15bde20c.jpgSo go ahead, plan 
now to get your copy of this great DVD... even if it DOES have the longest name ever :) Little House on the Prairie: The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Also, be sure to click the banner below to read reviews about the Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura DVD!


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