Friday, April 24, 2015

My Garden

It has been a while since I have posted about my garden....I love having it, but I am not that great at gardening.

And we are now at T-minus 26 days until fair, so it is a miracle I have gotten anything planted at all.

 First off, my deck. (With the cat-that-is-not-our-cat.)

With my new picnic table!

I love having this table out here. Most weekends we grill and love eating outside. Although we don't do it too much in the summer.....too hot most days.

On the deck are my flowers and vegetables. The parts of my yard that get the most sun are the deck and fence line, and as you'll see below, I couldn't bear to pull out my beautiful roses to put in veggies.

I have two cucumber plants this year, one in each of my large pots. One is a Japanese cucumber, and the other is just a normal variety.

I have three Earth Boxes in use this year, and I am doing an experiment with them. I had one fertilizer kit from the Earth Box company left over from last year so that kit went into this box.

Those kits seem expensive to me, so I went ahead and did some research and bought some fertilizer and lime and did it myself, in these two boxes.

We'll see what happens.....I mostly did hybrid, indeterminate tomatoes; there is one heirloom Brandywine plant in there.

Here is my colorful corner. A friend gave me that tiered planter, and I hung those other basket thingys. (They had been in our little shed for the last two years.)

Turning around to see the other part of the yard......

And there are my roses.

They go all along the back fence, and every time I see them out my kitchen window, I smile.

Can't get enough of these beauties.

There are two raised beds against the other fence.

This one is the strawberry bed. We have picked a couple berries, but those darn slugs keep putting holes in my almost ripe ones. So my weapon of choice is a shallow container of beer. The little suckers get in there, get drunk (I assume they get drunk), and drown. Works pretty well.

The other bed is my herb bed. In here I have oregano and rosemary from last year, and I planted beets, radishes, and basil a few weeks ago.

 And against the house are my big half wine barrels.....these I am using to grow a lettuce mix in. My plan is to plant a barrel every three weeks or so; this was my first planting which was a little late.

Hey, I know those girls! They are on the side of the house, playing in our sandbox. I will tell you, that was one of the best things we built out there. They absolutely love being in it, and have villages, forests, and all sorts of adventures out there.

So that is the garden. Not too much, but enough that there is color out there, and Lord willing some nice ripe tomatoes in a few months.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

{Schoolhouse Review} Orphs of the Woodland

Ever have trouble getting your kids to read good books?

I know I have.

And this interactive, online program from Star Toaster is just the thing to get them reading again.

Star Toaster Review

What It Is:

I received an online program called Orphs of the Woodland. This online resource is full of fun reading and games. And the cool thing is that your child is having so much fun with the adventure that they forget they are actually learning.

The Orphs of the Woodland begins with a story called The Treasure of High Tower. This story is about a squirrel, which your child can actually name, and his adventures in the Woodland.

The story is actually quite involved! It begins by explaining that the Night Creatures had orphaned many other creatures, including your squirrel, and now terrorized the land. Your squirrel friend  becomes a spy for the good side and through the story, learns that having knowledge from books is the greatest tool of all.

The program consists of your child reading the story, and then interacting with the story by doing jobs. These jobs earn money, which then helps the little Orphs, or orphan animals, that are in your squirrel's care.

The reading level is 4th-7th grade. And that is exactly where Dasher is in her reading journey so I had her doing this for the last few weeks.

You begin by reading the story. The story is divided into chapters, which are between 20 and 50 pages long. There are 15 chapters total. As you read the story, harder words are highlighted in red. When you hover over the word, the definition is given.

There are even places where sound is a part of the story, and if you click on the icon, you hear the sounds that are being described. The story also shares recipes, quotes, and other tidbits of knowledge.

As you read further and further, different jobs become available. We didn't hit our first job until about halfway through the first chapter, which took us a bit to get to, but this did give Dasher incentive to keep reading.

The jobs are divided by category. These include:

  • Math
  • Vocabulary
  • Life Skills
  • The Arts 
  • Science
  • Thinking Skills
  • Character 
  • Language

The jobs are varied, and seem like a real job. For example, in the math job on Place Value, she watched a short lesson given by one of the characters in the book on place value. She then answered a couple of questions on place value in a bank job. If you get the answer, your character is rewarded with Goldstar coins, which is the currency of the Woodlands.

In a Life Skills job, she looked at the directions for Green Tea. (Which is the drink of choice in the Woodlands.) After studying the page, she answered a question about it and earned more Goldstars.

As your child moves through the story and does the various jobs, they are able to buy supplies for their Orphs. They can purchase water, food, defenses, medicines, clothing, and other things to help them survive.

What You Get and What We Thought:

A subscription to Star Toaster is $19.99 for 60 days. You can also purchase a 30 day extension for $6.99. And right now, Star Toaster is offering a free trial so that you can do the first lessons for free.

Star Toaster Review

I decided to have Dasher do this online book. She struggles with reading and I thought that having the jobs and other activities might give her incentive. In the beginning it was slow going. The reading level was definitely at an upper elementary level, with a few vocabulary words on each page. I really liked that you just had to hover over the word and see the definition.

Dasher needs to be reminded to focus, so I would sit with her while she did Star Toaster. The reading part was tough for her and so I suggested a compromise: I read one page and then she read a page. This worked really well! And then once we did get to the jobs and projects, she really started to get into the program.

The math lessons were perfect for her; in chapters 1 and 2 they only focus on place value. There were over 10 different jobs that were about place value; I loved how this emphasis on one area of math really helped her to grasp place value in a fun way.

She loved telling the rest of the family all that had happened that day in the Woodlands, she is such an animal person so the storyline of a squirrel and mice was perfect for her. The animals do talk and each have different personalities.

Overall we really enjoyed this fun way to get some reading time in. This would be the PERFECT thing to do over the summer. For 15 minutes a day, you could get in some reading, math, vocabulary, science, and so much more.

Lots of other Crew members reviewed this online program; check out what they thought by clicking below.

Star Toaster Review

Crew Disclaimer

Thursday, April 9, 2015

{Real Life Homeschooling} Co-op, or What Saved My Sanity

There was a time, ions ago, that I really believed I could do it all myself.

After all, God had given me these precious children, and so it was my husbands' and mine responsibility alone to teach and raise them. But I took that to to the extreme for the first few years of our learning journey, and wouldn't have dreamed that anyone else would ever teach my children.

But God works all through His will, and one spring, I was done. I felt like I had no motivation, and wanted to quit homeschooling right then and there.

A dear veteran-homeschooling mom talked with me, and encouraged me to re-think where I was.

First off, I realized that I couldn't do it. I would never be the perfect mother. I needed God's grace just as much as my kids needed it. And thank God for His grace, because if it was up to me and what I do, my kids would all be going to Hell.

Second, she urged me to widen our scope of homeschooling. Up to this point, we had done nothing outside the home. Except for a weekly library trip and park days, all of our schooling was done at home by me.

I toyed with the idea, not quite sure where to start. But then in God's Providence, that same month a lady in our new church asked if I would like to join their small homeschooling co-op.

That first year there were 4 families with 14 children, ages 4 to 16.

We met weekly and learned geography/ecology, memorization, Bible, art history, and a monthly craft.

 {Ecology display they made}


Each year after that was different. We gained families, lost families... one year there were only 8 students and our biggest year was this year with 15 kiddos.

A couple of years later we split the classes in 'olders' and 'youngers'.

For example the youngers would learn elementary anatomy, while the olders would study high school biology. One year one of the moms taught a middle school writing course (She had been a middle school writing teacher) while the youngers did a literature unit study. Almost every year we have had separate writing and science classes but then all came together for history and other subjects.

And the moms would cater activities to each mapwork the youngest ones would only need to identify major countries, while the older ones would need to mark all rivers and major cities.

Over the years we have focused on....

California History

 {Making adobe houses}

 {Visiting Coloma, where gold was first discovered in California}


 {Robin Hood, slated to be performed the summer of 2015}


 {Cutting and gluing}

{Making colorful bird baths}

 {Learning about the color wheel}

 {Working with pastels}

 Modern History

 {Watching a video on the atomic bomb}


 {Using IEW as a spine}

Ancient History

 {Making Ancient Greek pots}

Earth Science

{Listening to our mom-teacher talk about rocks}

Medieval History

 {Another talking time, on this fascinating part of history}


 {An experiment in density}

So many amazing subjects, many of which would have been impossible for me to do on my own. 

Remember that you can't do it all; and rely on God's grace. He is merciful, and gives strength to the weary. And I encourage you to look beyond what only you can offer your children, and see those whom God has placed near to you.

 {Crazy times}

Discover real life in other homeschools with the Schoolhouse Review Crew bloggers! Join the blog hop to read more!

Real Life Homeschool Blog Hop

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

{Real Life Homeschool} What Homeschooling Looks Like In Our House

Homeschooling looks different for everyone.

Here is how it has looked in our house over the years.....

 {Hands-on phonics}

 {Science experiments}

 {Classes: this one was Lego engineering}

 {Online programs}

 {The library}

 {Lots of workbook pages}

 {Good books}

 {Field trips - this was the Academy of Science}

 {Schoolwork done outside on a nice day}

 {Math Wrap Ups done on the living room floor}

{4H Presentations}

Learning is done in so many ways and can be lots of fun.

Discover real life in other homeschools with the Schoolhouse Review Crew bloggers! Join the blog hop to read more!
Real Life Homeschool Blog Hop