Monday, November 23, 2015

D is for Dinner Table

Dinner is an important meal in our home. It is the time when we all come together, talk, share, and eat good food.

Except for the our one date night each month when I am out with My Sweetie, or if the older two pull a dinner shift at their work, we all gather, at evening time to eat.

 {Christmas, 2103}

And we gather at the table. We try not to scarf down our food and quickly leave, but to have deliberate conversation. We ask questions, talk about the day, and make plans.

 {October 2006}

This can be hard, especially for some of my children, who are not talkers. Then there are the others who love to talk, so we try to use this time to draw out conversation from all.

When the children were younger we would talk about their day, things they had done, school subjects we had studied.

 {January, 2008}

Now that they are older, we sometimes talk finances, the world news (there has been plenty of that lately!), or even about their future plans.

 {My birthday, 2015}

This can be hard work! It is easy to just eat in the living room in front of the TV, or to all eat at different times, in different part of the house. It can be hard, but I can tell you that we have had some wonderful conversations while we eat. Conversations, that continue long passed when our plates are cleaned.

 {Silliness, 2015}

 I encourage you to focus your family on the dinner table. And not just the delicious food that is on it, but on the conversations that take place around it.

Blogging Through the Alphabet” style=

Thursday, November 19, 2015

C is for Chores

Chores. That dreaded word.

I saw this meme on Facebook the other day:

I really liked that. The goal of a mom is to "work yourself out of a job."

Now I am not saying at all that I am raising little slaves. I am raising kids, who will one day be functioning adults, and will one day need to know how to clean a bathroom, cook a meal, or start a load of laundry.
{clean laundry}

And when we started on this parenting journey, we knew that this training would start early. Seriously, if I had done all of the housework in our home each and every day for the last eighteen years, I would have died of exhaustion. So chores are important, and I am going to explain how we do chores in our home.

We started very young, as in when they could walk. Cleaning up their toys and putting laundry in the hamper were early jobs. As they got older, I made chore lists. We had and still have now, two clean-up times a day: first thing in the morning and then again around 4pm.

One fun thing I started doing quite a few years ago was what I called the Chore Game. I would cut out pieces of paper and write each chore on a paper. I had divided the chores into hard (vacuuming the living room, picking up everything in the hallway), and easy (wiping the table, cleaning the doorknobs). I also had chores that were done daily and others that were done weekly.

 {cleaning blinds}

I would lay out the chores on the floor and then they took turns picking their chores. Usually Mr. Lego had to pick two hard jobs and one easy, while Nutsy got all easy ones. This really cut down on arguments since they were choosing their own chores. And I always told them to expect to get one job that they did not like, but they still had to do it. Once they had made their choices we would write down who had what on the chalkboard, and they would keep those jobs for a few weeks. When I started hearing the complaining, we would get the cards out again and re-pick.

 {a clean room}

My Sweetie and I do not pay money for these chores. We figured that daily cleaning chores completed in any household are done because you live there. In other words, part of the responsibility of living in a house is cleaning it. For free.

But we did want our children to be able to earn money (so they could learn how to care for it), so I came up with a list of Paid Jobs. These were things like cleaning the bathrooms, dusting the baseboards, cleaning the blinds, washing the sliding door, and things like that. And, since we had four children who at times wanted to break the bank, I limited the number of paid jobs that anyone could do to one a week.

{cleaning the car}

Now, things are about the same. The older two are working more, so the younger ones are stepping it up and are taking on more jobs. Sometimes Mr. Lego will pay his sisters to do his part of the chore list. And to make things run smoother in our home, the younger two have long-term paying jobs. This means there is less planning for me, and everyone knows what their responsibilities are. 

So don't forget to change the chore list up to match the age and ability of the child. Expect good work done. My kids are certainly not perfect at doing their best or not complaining (Me too!), but by God's grace I am training them to become responsible adults.

Blogging Through the Alphabet” style=

Friday, November 13, 2015

B is for Bible Curriculum

The most important thing our family studies is the Bible. I do require my kids to have a personal Bible time each day, but we also deliberately study God's Word together. We are Reformed Presbyterian, so using the Westminster and Heidelberg Catechisms as guides are a focus.

Here are some of the resources we have used over the years.......

Big Truths For Little Kids was one of the first books we went through when the kids were younger. This book goes through the Children's Catechism and has little stories to go with them. While we were doing this, we did have our children memorize the catechism as we went through the book.

One thing I struggled with was transitioning to the Shorter Catechism. We had two of our children learning the Children's Catechism, but then they had a hard time learning the Shorter. I love, love the language of the Shorter Catechism so the younger two have only learned that one.

A great tool for learning the catechism are these lovely Children's Catechism books that my friend at the Purple Carrot makes.

As a family, we have gone through Starr Meade's Training Hearts, Teaching Minds.

Each week you study a new catechism question, and learn more about God's Word. She has also written Comforting Hearts, Teaching Minds, which is based on the Heidelberg Catechism. I am hoping to start that book sometime later this year.

Another book I have my high school students read is the Essentials Truths of the Christian Faith by RC Sproul. This book does an excellent job of over-viewing our faith.

One series of books I have been using during our school Bible time for a while now is Bible Doctrine for Teens and Young Adults by James W Beeke.

Now don't let the title mislead you, I have been using this three volume series for the last couple of years and I can easily paraphrase the contents for all my kids.

We also try to have family worship often. My Sweetie reads a chapter to all of us, we briefly talk about it, and then pray using our church's prayer guide. One thing we have found, is that we are more consistent when we don't get up right after dinner and go our separate ways, but instead stay at the table for another ten minutes for family worship.

We aren't perfect at carving out time each day to study the Bible. But I do strive to have my own personal study time, and also convey to our children how important this is to their daily life.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

{Schoolhouse Review} ~ U.S. History Detective

I have always taught history chronologically, and right now we are just beginning the Renaissance in our homeschooling co-op. Bookworm will be entering her last year of high school next year and I really wanted her to get more of a focus on American History, so when U. S. History Detective, Book 1 from The Critical Thinking Co. came up for review, I was quite excited.

What It Is:

This consumable workbook, meant for 8th through 12 graders, goes from the Colonial Era (1713) up to the Reconstruction Era (1850's). This period of time is divided into 9 sections. Within each section are lessons; in the book there are 65 lessons. Each lesson follows the same format. First, there are two or three pages of text reading. The text is appropriate for high school reading level. There are also maps, photos, and images of the time period.

Next are some review questions. These are mostly multiple choice or one sentence answers. And finally there is a written response question; this question requires more of an essay-type answer. These questions are thought provoking and cause the student to looks at the reasons behind historical events. There are also fun facts sprinkled throughout the text, which are interesting to read.

At the end of each section is a short review. These can be matching questions, map reviews, and vocabulary worksheets. There are also bonus activities every fifteen lessons or so; these can be short question-answer pages, or go into further depth, such as analyzing political cartoons. The answers to all questions are conveniently in the back of the book.

How We Used This:

Bookworm is in 11th grade, so we are definitely stepping it up this year. I had her complete 3 lessons a week during this review period. At this pace we will be able to finish the book this year. She spent time reading the text and answering the questions. Her favorite part was actually the written response questions. She really liked how they drew ideas out of the history lesson. In one of the response questions she needed to study a well known painting protesting British taxes, and then she was asked to analyze different symbols that she saw in the painting.

She also liked one of the bonus activities; she was asked to fill in a chart with the cause and effects of the Revolutionary Era. She would spend at least a half hour to 45 minutes doing this the three days each week, so I would definitely count it as a credit of high school history.

What We Thought:

I really liked the scope of the book. By spending an entire year in about 150 years of America's history, you would really be able to study historical events in depth. This book could also be used as a resource for other history programs; the questions given are simple, yet would encourage older students to see the why behind our history. And I could definitely see expanding some of the written response questions into five paragraph essays.

I think this would perfectly round out our last years of high school. I do plan on having her complete this book, and then next year, I am hoping they will release U. S. History Detective Book 2.

Other members of The Crew reviewed other product from Critical Thinking Co; see what they thought by clicking below.

The Critical Thinking Company Review

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Monday, November 9, 2015

{Schoolhouse Review} ~ Eat Your Science Homework

Every once in a while I get to review something that is really fun. I knew this was going to be a hit the instant I saw the title of this book: Eat Your Science Homework from Ann McCallum Books.

This is a fun, hands-on activity book that helps elementary kids learn more about science. There are six recipes in this sturdy paperback book. But it is not just cooking recipes......

The book begins with an overview of the scientific method, and another page on safety in the kitchen. The meat of the book though is the recipes, each which focuses on a different scientific idea. The pages surrounding the recipe have valuable information in an easy to read format. There is an introduction page that brings out the topic. The recipe itself is simple and lists all equipment needed, things to do before you begin, and the instructions. These are not complicated recipes; they can easily be done by elementary kiddos with parental supervision. There are also pages after the recipe that explain what happened, give more information about what you learned while making the recipe, and also give ideas for further learning and experimenting.

 We made all of the recipes in the book, but had two favorites.

Atomic Popcorn Balls

Before beginning the recipe, we read in the book about elements, molecules, and atoms. This part was written simply enough, so that even ten year old Nutsy could understand it. We then gathered all of the materials we needed and began to cook. This recipe was a favorite of Nutsy's; she was very excited because she is dairy free and since there isn't any dairy in popcorn balls, she could eat it. (We used vegan butter.)

We made two batches as the recipe suggested, and made them different colors.

 In went the popcorn and we let it cool. We made them into atoms by shaping them into balls.

Then the girls started making molecules by sticking the atoms together with toothpicks.

Here you can see Nutsy stuck two blue and one green atom together to make water.

 Then, of course, we ate our creations. As we munched on them, we looked at the periodic table in the book and talked about common elements. There was also a section of information on the states of matter, and how a change in that matter causes a popcorn kernel to pop.

Invisible Ink Snack Pockets

When looking through the book, both of the younger girls really wanted to try this one. We have pizza each Friday, so one Friday I made some extra dough so we could make these fun pockets.

In the book we read about oxidation, and how heat can change substances. We also read about the pH scale and how ions effect liquids. Then we made pockets out of our pizza dough, made our special 'ink', and painted things on the pockets.

This was Dasher's.

This experiment really did work; when this pocket went into the oven you could not see the smiley face on it.

We really had fun though, with the activity suggested in the pages following the recipe. The girls had fun making invisible ink with other things in our kitchen, and wrote notes to each other. We compared which 'inks' did a better job of writing and then showing up when warmed.

The other recipes are just as fun. In this book your child will also learn about fingerprints, rocks and minerals, black holes, and density.

At the end of the book is a science review, which is an overview of all that was taught through the recipes. There is also a glossary with simple definitions in the back as well.

We really had a fun time with this book! It did feel like we were eating our homework, and my girls learned a lot about general science. My only complaint was that I wish there were more recipes! I firmly believe that hands on learning is so important, and these books are a great way to accomplish this in your schooling.

There are other books from Ann McCallum Books that The Crew reviewed: Eat Your Science Homework, Eat Your History Homework, and a couple of other fun story books. Check out what they thought by clicking below.

Ann McCallum Books Review

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Thursday, November 5, 2015

A is for Apples

A bunch of my online friends are doing a blogging through the alphabet challenge, and it starts this week with the letter A.....

When I think of something that starts with an A, I think of apples.

Makes sense, since it is apple season here. At least once during this time, I head up to Apple Hill to get a 40 pound box or two of 'seconds' to turn into yummy things.

What are some of these things?

Applesauce is the first thing I usually make.

All I do is layer sliced, peeled apples, with a little cinnamon and nutmeg.

Then let it go for the whole day on low in the crock pot. It really cooks down and I only get 4 or 5 pints from a full crock pot, so I just stick these in jars and freeze them.

Caramel Apples are always a treat.

We melted caramel candies in the microwave, then dipped the apples into it.

Some of them then got dipped into nuts or mini chocolate chips.

One year, we tried Apple Donuts.

We used this recipe and they turned out so yummy.

And a couple of years ago I was brave and made Apple Fruit Leather. {recipe}

This was way easier than I thought, and a fun snack to have on hand.

And of course, there is Apple Pie.

Always a hit at our home.

Other things I want to try:

Apple Fritters
Apple Butter
Apple Chutney

So many yummy things......

Blogging Through the Alphabet” style=

Monday, November 2, 2015

{Schoolhouse Review} ~ Standard Deviants Accelerate

Online learning is such a help to a homeschooling mom. Especially one who has high school students. So I was intrigued to review Standard Deviants Accelerate and their Homeschool Courses.

Standard Deviants Accelerate Review

What It Is:

This is an online program that has different courses for students. There are many to choose from including:

  • Earth Science (Grade 6 and up)
  •  Nutrition (Grade 6 and up)
  • Biology & Chemistry
  • Arithmetic & Fundamental Math (Grade 3 and up)
  •  English Composition (High School)
  • Test Prep for AP Classes, including Biology, Chemistry, Government and Politics, History, and English Composition

I planned on having Bookworm work through a few of the AP classes and I myself took a peek at some others.

These courses are all video based and split into lessons. The non-AP classes all follow a similar format. First there is a video lesson to watch. A cast of characters leads you through the lessons. Students are encouraged to take notes; either with paper or pen, or directly in a text box on the screen.

There are vocabulary words, which are defined on a vocabulary page. This is especially helpful for younger students, and is a perfect copywork activity. With each lesson there is also an activity to do; this usually entailed questions about the lesson that are then dropped and dragged into the correct place. And finally, each lesson has a quiz to take as well.

Another great feature is that you can also choose to print out the transcript of the video. This makes it easy to review the material.

Standard Deviants Accelerate also keeps track of your students grades, so it is easy to see exactly where they are in the course.

The AP Classes are laid out a bit differently. These classes are meant to help high school students prepare for the AP test.

First there is an introduction to the test and what you can expect it to consist of. Next the Free Response, or essay type questions are covered. There are many helpful tips on how to organize your answer so that it conveys the answer to the question that is being asked on the test.

The next part is the meat of this test prep class and is divided into two 30-minutes sections. Basically, it goes through all the main points that you learned in your high school class, and reviews them in preparation for the test.

There are a few activities at the end to help you remember all you were taught. These include a group discussion and different suggestions for preparing a presentation. There is also a final quiz and test to take as well.

Standard Deviants Accelerate Review

How We Used This and What We Thought:

Bookworm has done Biology, Chemistry, and US History in the last couple of years, so I had her spend time going through those three AP Test Prep Classes. She found the narrative to be engaging, and at times humorous, which helped all of that information being reviewed to go down easier.

She did take notes while she was listening. I really liked that she could just type away in the text box, and then print all her notes to study from. She felt that the course did a great job of over-viewing these subjects. It had been two years since we learned Chemistry in our co-op class, and this short course was  a perfect test preparation help for her. With all of the work that one class takes, I could see a high school student spending a week or two with Standard Deviants Accelerate, preparing to take the AP exam.

While we don't have any testing in her near future, I appreciated the review of material that this program gave her, and will use it as a reference in the future.

Members of The Crew reviewed other sections of the website; click below to see what they thought.

Standard Deviants Accelerate Review

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