Thursday, October 29, 2015

{Schoolhouse Review} ~ Maestro

We listen to lots of different kinds of music in our home. I love classical music so when Peter and the Wolf came up for review from Maestro Classics, I was thrilled to listen to it with the girls.

Maestro Classics Review

What It Is:

This CD is a journey through the music of Peter and the Wolf composed by Sergei Prokofiev. The CD begins with an introduction of the characters in the story and also tells which musical instruments depict them. Peter and the Wolf is a story about a boy names Peter, who decides to disobey his grandfather and go play on the other side of the garden wall. A wolf comes by from the forest and Peter, with the help of a duck, bird, and cat try to capture the wolf.

The stage and the scenes are set, and the orchestra begins to play.

The London Philharmonic Orchestra does an amazing job playing this approximately 21 minute piece. When the piece starts, there are pauses when the narrator adds the story. This only happens every few minutes, it is not a constant or distracting narrative.

The information  that the narrator gives is perfectly paces with the music and story. It is a beautifully played piece, with lots of emotion and feeling. When the piece is finished there is a chapter with extensive background on Prokofiev. He was born a Russian, immigrated to America, settled in France, and then ended up moving back to Russia. This narration is fascinating and complete with sounds effects.

The conductor narrates a section, explaining how each character in the story has its own musical theme, and gives examples of how this these is threaded throughout the piece. The themes also change as the story progresses; the music speeds up when the wolf is running away and then changes when the duck gets too close to the wolf.

Finally, the piece is played again in its entirety without any breaks. Before it plays, the listener is encourages to sit and listen; using their imagination to "see" what is happening in the story.

At the very end is a short musical piece, which is a fun, musical party piece. The entire CD is 68 minutes long.

Maestro Classics Review

How We Used This and What We Thought:

All three girls sat down with me to listen to this. It was the perfect length, and we divided it into two listening periods. I really enjoyed learning more about the piece and the background of the composer. I also really appreciated knowing the musical themes for each character, and then hearing it in the actual piece.

Inside the CD is a small booklet. This booklet has more information on the composer and different Russian instruments. And there are pages of fun activities: crossword puzzles, musical instrument matching, word searches, and code puzzles. My younger two had a blast going through the booklet and completing the pages.

Be warned, the duck does meet its demise, by ending up in the wolf's stomach. And Peter does talk to the animals and they understand him. This CD was the perfect rainy afternoon project. And I really liked that at one point, the piece was played in its entirety.

Other members of The Crew reviewed Peter and the Wolf and The Nutcracker; click below to see what they thought.

Maestro Classics Review

Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

{Schoolhouse Review} ~ Homeschool Planner

Planning is half the battle, right?

I do seem to spend a lot of my time planning out our schooling and am always looking for ways to be more efficient.

So when I was given the opportunity to review the Ultimate Homeschool Planner -Yellow Cover from Apologia Educational Ministries I was eager to see how it would work.

Apologia Ultimate Homeschool Planner

What It Is:

This truly is a planner.

The first 16 pages of the planner show you how to use it, and have examples of the different ways you can use this. There is a two page spread where you can see the entire year at a glance. Then there are a couple of pages where you can list each student's character and academic goals. A page to list family priorities is next; this is a very good way to cause you to step back and evaluate where the family is headed.

Apologia Ultimate Homeschool Planner

There are pages to list all resources, and then the calendar starts.

All the dates are blank so you can begin this calendar any time and in any year you wish. There is also plenty of margin space for notes. There is a years' worth of months here.

Then come the bulk of the planner, the weekly plans. This is a four page spread that repeats itself for 52 weeks. One the first two pages is the your goals page. There is a place to write prayers for the week, your battle plan, and to even record momentous occasions or accomplishments.

The third and fourth pages is where you can see your week at a glance, and plan out each day and write what each member of your family does. There is space to schedule six people. And this page spread is blank in the margins, so you can decide what format to use.

At the end of this section are grade pages, where you can conveniently keep records for up to six students. There is a place to record book and field trip lists and a place to list outside activities.

Then there are short guides for helping certain learners and how they can best be helped by this planner; there is a lot of great information and ideas about independent and reluctant learners. Finally there is a schedule for high school students that are on a state university track, and a place to review your entire year.

How We Used This And What I Thought:

I sat down on a quiet afternoon and began filling in the broader parts of this planner. I liked how the overview of the year forced me to look at where I was going. What did I want to see my kids learn this year? What areas of their lives did we need to work on? After some thinking time I began to move into the weekly plans. For the sake of time, I only filled in the months of October and November. I was not wasting any space in this planner because like I already said, the months are all blank.

The first week I used the first page to write assignments for my younger ones. I ran into a bit of trouble because in each box (day), there are only 5 lines. I doubled up for a bit, but this did make my writing size much smaller.

Also, the grid is six by six, so if you have more than six subjects, you'll have to squeeze in. Bookworm has seven, so what I did we put her schedule on the second side; not by day but by subject.

She actually works better this way; many weeks she will work in time blocks and complete two or three assignments in one subject in a sitting.

I really liked the following page in the weekly section, that asked you to write down the week's memorable moments and also to remember evidences of grace. So many times we go through our weeks and forget all of the tiny moments and blessings that we have.

The 12 months of overview comes first in the book followed by the weekly plans; when I planned out November I did wish that the monthly overview immediately preceded the first week. That way I wouldn't be turning through pages so much. I fixed this by putting sticky tabs on each month so I could quickly turn back for reference.

So did I like this planner?. It was harder for me to fit all of our schooling things into the weekly planner, but after some playing around, I did get a system that worked going. But what I really liked was the emphasis on goals, planning out subjects, and remembering occasions. So many times, we as homeschooling moms are right in the thick of the forest of homeschooling, and are looking at the trees up close. This planner forces you to step back and look at the forest. To see where you are going in the long run, and where you have been.

Other members of The Crew reviewed this; check out what they thought by clicking below.

Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal Review

Crew Disclaimer

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

{Schoolhouse Review} ~ IEW's Resource Set

You would think that with all the reviewing I do I would be familiar with most companies and what they offer. But I am always surprised at all the amazing resources that are out there. And I was very happy to review the Institute for Excellence in Writing's Resource Set.

IEW Phonetic Zoo

The Resource set has three components to it:

Timeline of Classics
Teaching With Games Set
A Word Write Now

 IEW Phonetic Zoo

Timeline of Classics is a resource for both teachers and students. Basically it is a list of great books in timeline form. But this is way more than just a list. Each book has a short description of what is covered, including the time period or event. The title and author are listed, and then the reading level of the book is also given: E for elementary, M for middle school, and H for high school.

The book is divided into four periods of history:

  • Ancients (5,000 BC to AD 400)
  • The Middle Ages (AD 400 to 1450)
  • Renaissance and Reformation (1450 to1850)
  • The Modern World (1850 to present)
 Within these four sections are sub sections so all books pertaining to a certain civilization or event are grouped together. For example, in the Middle Ages there are sections on the Vikings, European Military Expansion, The Crusades, and The Renaissance Period in Italy.

Each page of this resource lists between 15 and 20 books, and with 87 pages of lists, there are plenty of good sources to read from. And not only are books categorized here, but also films and plays are a part of this list as well.

We are learning about explorers in our weekly co-op class. Bookworm reads a high school text as part of her work and so I needed to find a book for the younger two to read. I turned to the European Exploration and Colonization page. I found books on Columbus and Magellan that were perfect for them. Many of these books are primary sources; books that are either ship logs, personal journals, or autobiographies.

I appreciated that a date is listed with each book. And there is space to makes notes in the margin; I could see high school students using this to keep track of books they had read. There are also good quotes throughout the book and I found those to be inspirational as well. This is truly a wonderful resource! At a glance I can plan out literature lists for my kids to read that correspond with our history study.

 IEW Phonetic Zoo

The Title of Teaching With Games really caught my eye, and was the one resource in this set that I was most excited about. One of my children learns best when she has objects or things she can touch, so we play games a lot when we school. But my imagination can only go so far, so that was where this resource was an amazing help to our schooling.

The games are divided into groups; which include "No-Prep" Games, Matching Card Games, Question Games, Math Facts Games, and "Make As You Teach" Games.

Each game is described, with the game object, how to create the game, and then how to play and win. There are also different variations and ways that can make the game more fun. Each game also has at least one sample that you can also use.  But what makes this book such an excellent resource is that you are shown how to create games for all areas of study. Learning about the Kings of England? Then a fact matching game would be good. Or studying about planets? Then a variation on tic-tac-toe can be adapted to learn planet facts.

We played a few of these games over the review period. Looking through the book, my eye was immediately drawn to Time Bingo. Nutsy is learning time to the five minutes in math, so playing this game was perfect for her. I made copies and cut out all of the cards.

Part of the game is making your bingo card, so that was Nutsy's job.

I also had a board; Bingo is not fun with only one player. We took turns turning over the cards, and then matching them to our boards.

Instead of just filling out a worksheet, we played this game and I do feel that she learned the concept more thoroughly.

Some of you might know, but I do use IEW's Student Writing Intensive Series with my co-op classes. I was very happily surprised to find cards and games that are adapted to teaching concepts from their writing program.

A DVD set also comes with Teaching With Games; two DVD's are a recorded Teaching With Games workshop led by the author, Lori Verstegen. The third disc contains an e-book version of the hard copy and bonus materials; more games ideas that go along with Student Writing Intensive!

I really enjoyed thinking of fun ideas and ways that I can now incorporate games into our learning. And this book gave me so many great ideas and game templates.

IEW Phonetic Zoo

Finally, I also received A Word Write Now. This resource is basically a thesaurus that is based on certain themes. There are four sections: Character Traits, Descriptive Words, Words for Movement and Senses, and an Appendix.

There are 23 character traits listed. On each two page spread is the definition, quotes that exemplify the trait, a couple of excerpts from classical literature and then lists of synonyms; categorized by parts of speech.

In the Descriptive Words section there are extensive lists. For example on the pages on describing color there are lists to describe different colors (i.e. red=brick, burgundy, ruby, etc.) attributes of color, values of color, and words for light. There are also tips and warnings about traps you can easily fall into.

Movement and Senses follows the same format as Descriptive Words. Moving feet, hands, hearing and seeing are only some of the words that are covered.

The final section is the Appendix. There are game ideas, a list of prepositions, literary genre lists, and a glossary of literary words. The amount of information in this book is vast! This resource has been a huge help to my writers. I love it that the lists are divided up by parts of speech. I also loved it that there are blanks lines on every page, for you to also add your own.

This Resource Set is priceless. All three of these books should be in every homeschool household. They will add spice to your subjects, give ideas to you and your students, and can give a breath of fresh air into your scheduling.

Other members of the Crew also reviewed these books, plus Phonetic Zoo Spelling Levels; check out what they thought by clicking below.

IEW Review

Crew Disclaimer

Monday, October 26, 2015

Monday Musings

What I'm thinking: We heard a very convicting sermon yesterday. What would my life look like if I denied myself and took up my cross? How different would (should) my life be if I turn from self to God, and make my loyalties not to the things of this earth? Very convicting indeed.

What I'm reading: I got the last copy of The Martian by Andy Weir from our library. Really neat read. I was impressed with all of the technical information in the book too.

What I'm listening to: Laundry going upstairs, chattering in the kitchen, and Little Big Town on Pandora.

What we're learning: This week the older kids are wrapping up their learning about explorers in our co-op history class. My geology class is studying about the main rock types, and we are also learning about the Flood and how it affected our earth. We are entering our 8th week of school and so far, are keeping up with all the math, spelling, grammar, and Bible lessons.

What's cooking: This week I am making Chicken Chilaquiles, Roasted Chile Verde, and Donburi. I am also planning on perfecting a brownie recipe I tried last week.

What I'm thankful for: I am so thankful for the provisions God has given us. We truly have more than we need.

What I'm planning: I postponed our 4-H goat meetings until November. I figured with all the work we do in the spring that delaying the start by a month was a good thing. But now I need to plan out my year and figure out what we are going to focus on.

What we did this last weekend: We did lots of organizing on Saturday, and I successfully downsized our library by two bookcases. Sunday we were at church all morning, then My Sweetie took a gaggle of kids to the park to play football, while I visited with a dear friend.

What I'm looking forward to: We have a pretty quiet week ahead. I have a few reviews to write, and I am making a photo album from our Disneyland trip last year.

A picture to share:

~My babies. When they were babies.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

{Schoolhouse Review} ~ Koru Naturals

Earlier this year I was given the privilege of reviewing some amazing hair and skin care. So when the opportunity came up to once again review some more wonderful products from Koru Naturals, I jumped at the chance.

Koru Naturals Review

Koru Naturals sent me three lovely items:

Skin Clear Cream
Manuka Honey Propolis Soap
Emu Oil and Blue Tansy Oil Cream

I'll talk about each of them in turn, but first a little about Koru Naturals.

Koru Naturals uses products that are indigenous to New Zealand, including Emu oil, Manuka oil, rosehips, tea tree, and Rotorua Mud. All of these elements used in different combinations help skin, hair, and common ailments.

There are so many products that Koru Naturals carries - everything from oil blends, lip and skin care, fragrances, candles, hair care, and much more.

The first item I opened up was Skin Clear Cream.

 Koru Naturals Review

The two basic ingredients are raw Manuka Honey and steam distilled East Cape Manuka Oil. It also contains burdock root, which is known to help skin conditions\; and thyme, a natural anti-inflammatory extract. You can see the entire list of natural ingredients in Skin Clear Cream here.

This cream improves the damage done from acne and is an excellent moisturizer. It has a very subtle odor that not an added fragrance but rather the lovely combination of the ingredients.

The suggested use is to apply it to your face twice a day. I began to use this about four weeks ago and have pretty faithfully used it both morning and night. I have been very happy with how moist my face feels. I live in the northern central valley in California, where we are notoriously dry and I have struggled with dry skin in the past. But each morning I was pleased to wake up with a nicely moisturized face! After my morning face wash I re-applied the cream and was very pleased with how moist my face stayed through the day. And I have used this consistently, and the jar seems like it has barely been used.

The second item I received was the Manuka Honey Propolis Soap.

 Koru Naturals Review

This almost 5 ounce bar of soap contains Manuka Honey and Propolis. Manuka Honey has anti-bacterial properties and can help wounds heal faster. Propolis is the the substance that bees use to seal their honeycombs, and it's known to help fight infection and boost the immune system.

As soon as I unwrapped the soap, I put it in the shower to use each day. The sweet honey smell is very soothing, and the soap lathers up nicely. Both my husband and I used this soap for the last month and I swear, the bar is not any smaller. Seriously, this bar is going to last us six months! My skin does feel more moist after use and there isn't any residue on my skin.

Finally, I received the Emu Oil and Blue Tansy Oil Cream. This 4 ounce topical cream contains Emu Oil, Blue Tansy Oil, Arnica Extract, Aloe Vera, and more natural ingredients. You can see the entire ingredients list of the cream here. 

 Koru Naturals Review

This oil is very good for minor pains and aches. When I got my Koru Naturals package, I didn't have any aches or pains, and almost wanted to go get a bruise or something so I could try it out. I didn't have to wait long, and slept wrong one night and woke with a kinked neck and shoulder. I applied the soft cream a few times a day, and my neck felt better after a few days. I also wrenched my pinky finger the following week and used the Oil Cream on my finger as well. My kids have bruises and soreness (we play hard a lot) and so they got used to me bugging them to apply this product.

The scent is a lovely herbal scent that reminds me of mint, cinnamon, and lemon. Very soothing and yet at the same time, seems to wake up the muscles.

Koru Naturals has high quality, natural products, that helps your whole body feel rejuvenated. My family has benefited from these amazing products over the last month. I know I will definitely order the Manuka Honey Soap and the Skin Clear Cream when I run out. I love knowing that what I put on my skin is not only helpful for it, but natural too.

Other members received hair and facial products; check out what they thought by clicking below.

Koru Naturals Review

Crew Disclaimer

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

{Schoolhouse Review} ~ Brookdale House

I love geography.

And knowing the states and their locations is something I want to pass onto my children. So when I was given the opportunity to review a geography program from Brookdale House, I got quite excited.

 Brookdale House Review

What It Is:

I was given Drawing Around the World: USA, a digital geography drawing curriculum. This came as a download and opened with Adobe Reader.

 Brookdale House Review

Based on Charlotte Mason's principles, this course will teach your students the location of each of the 50 states. There are 4 steps you should complete each week:

  • Step 1: Study the new state by completing the state worksheet. Information includes area, population, date of statehood, state bird, state flower, and industry. Your student will also review previously learned states.

  • Step 2:  Locate and label all states that have been learned on the template map and trace.
  • Step 3: Locate and label all states that have been learned on the template map and trace. (Yes, you repeat Step 2. Repetition is a big part of this program.)

  • Step 4: List all states and capitals learned from memory and draw them on the blank map.

Very simple.

Each week, one to three states are introduced.The pace is excellent; the first six weeks you only learn nine states. The states are also learned in order from east to west, beginning with Maine. This makes the drawing part much easier. If you know where Maine is then it is easy to point out New Hampshire and Vermont.

The curriculum is 292 pages in length, and comes with the pages necessary for each week.The course is laid out by week, which makes the scheduling very easy. This course, if followed, would take 27 weeks to complete.

The course also provides some handy tips.

First, there are additional memorization techniques. These tips are especially helpful for younger ones that might have trouble memorizing. One tip is to use colored pencils for the states; this is especially helpful for all of those tiny states in the northeast.

There are also a couple of online links that are useful for filling out the state worksheet. I was very glad they included these links, which made it easy to find the information about each individual state.

How We Used This And What We Thought:

I had Nutsy do this course. On the first day we would sit and do state research. I found the websites very helpful and informative. This was also a good way for her to begin learning how to research online. In the worksheet is a place to draw the state; this was a little tricky for her, but she got the hang of it. On the review days she loved filling in the states she knew. I had her label each state with its postal code.

On the fourth day, I had her verbally tell me the capitals for each of the states she had learned, and then she would draw all learned states on an unmarked map. 

Learning the states in geographical order was key. If we had been learning them alphabetically as most people do, the drawing part of this program would not have worked. Since she was tracing each of the learned states four days a week, she actually got pretty good at the state shapes, and was able to identify not only their correct location, but shape as well.

This program is very complete; not only is your child learning the state location but they are also memorizing the capital and can draw the shape. By the end of this geography program your child can take a blank map without any lines, and fill in all state lines and capitals. Pretty impressive!

Brookdale House has other great products that follow the Charlotte Mason method. I am really intrigued by what they have....Fun With Spanish, Primary Language Lessons, and Writing Through History are some of the other products members of the Crew recieved. Check out what they thought by clicking below.


 Brookdale House Review

Crew Disclaimer

Monday, October 19, 2015

My Week In Images

Photos of my week.....

This view....

 because I can never get tired of it.

These carrots......

because fresh carrots straight from the farm are the best.

This girl......

 because tenth place at the Grand National Livestock Exposition was an amazing accomplishment.

These squash.....

because winter is coming.

This young man.....

because I hardly ever get photos of him, and he and this little one were too precious.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Co-op 2015-16

Our homeschooling co-op started up last month.

Every year it can grow, shrink, and the subjects can change based on what we think the needs of the students are. You can see how our co-op has developed over the years here.

This year we have three families with only 14 students.

I say 'only' because we graduate three children last year so it does seem a bit smaller.

Our main classes are writing, history, and science.

Youngers Science

My friend Kerri leads the Youngers in their science class, and this year they are going through Considering God's Creation, which is a study of natural creation, published by Eagle's Wings.

They will be learning about rocks, the weather, plants, insects, animals, and man.

This last couple of weeks they learned about our solar system, and made these cool dioramas. 

She spends a good 45 minutes with them each week, while they fill out multiple notebooking pages. At the end of the year, they will have an impressive science notebook, full of good information. 

Olders Science 

The older group of high school students are being taught by Yours Truly. We are doing two semesters of work this year; the first half we are doing Geology and the second half we are learning about Fossils.

I am really excited about doing this curriculum this year. Secular geology is not an option for us, so I am thankful that Patrick Nurre has created this Christian program. In Bedrock Geology we'll learn about different types of rocks, minerals, and land forms. And I love that this book focuses on a Biblical global Flood and Ice Age.


This class is taught by my friend, Kate. She really loves history and has some fun things planned for this year. We will be continuing to go through BiblioPlan's Medieval History, with a focus on the Renaissance and Reformation.

She is also utilizing a lot of hands-on projects, especially for our middle school and elementary kids. They will be putting together lap books through the year, based on what we are studying.

{Listening to Kate}

{Hands-on mapwork}


This class is once again taught by me. I love, love, love teaching writing, and using Institute for Exellence in Writing as our curriculum. I have three classes this year: the youngest two are doing Bible Heroes, a beginning writing program that is perfect for their reading level. The 'Middles' are doing Student Writing Intensive Level B. Since I have a wide range of students in this group I am going at a slower pace. And the high school students are doing Continuation Course level B. Since they are more advanced I am moving it along pretty quickly, and am emphasizing essay writing and research.

 And that is our co-op! We meet once a week and start right at 10 am, take a break for lunch at noon, then back to classes until about 2:30 or 3pm. I really appreciate our little co-op; it helps to keep me accountable and on schedule, and gives my kids someone else to be accountable to.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

{Journal Entry} Beach Camping Adventure

Last week we went on our annual trip to the beach for our camping trip.

My Sweetie and I grew up much closer to the coast so we miss it, and try to get out there at least once a year. We were going with our friends and their family, for a whopping total of 18 of us.

We were at the same beach for the third year, but in a different site. This one had a great big space for our kitchen, and lots of space for the 6 tents we all fit in.

There was even a jungle-gym tree that kept the younger ones entertained.

The first night we had our traditional Lamb Stew and hung out around the fire.

The kids all were on shifts to clean up so that the moms weren't always in the kitchen.

The games started....the game we played a lot of this trip was Texas Hold 'em, courtesy of the older kids.

And my contribution to the treats? Weird chocolate covered things, from my local grocery store.

The one that took the award for strangest was the yellow one....they were coconut curry cashews.

Each day we would get breakfast going around 9am, clean up, then head to the beach with munchies around 11am.

I will never get tired of this view.

We would stake out our spot, making sure that we had a flat space near us for the volleyball court.

 The kids played in the waves....

did some boogie boarding...

and dug holes and built sandcastles.

The older bunch dug themselves a massive hole, built a sand platform which they covered with a towel, then put all their chairs down there to get out of the wind to play games.

The adults went from volleyball, to sitting on the beach, to boogie boarding. (Not my friend and I; sorry, that water is too cold.)

This time of year there is a lot of activity in the water....we saw lots of dolphins and seals.

 {You can barely see a dolphin fin above}

There was a place that we would hike up to each night to watch the sunset.

The last night we started our dinner in a cast iron dutch oven on the beach. (In a fire pit, of course.) That way we were able to stay on the beach until it was almost dark.

We had also noticed the wind picking up while we were on the beach.

When we got back to our site, the E Z Up had lost its top, and the wind was getting stronger.

 Dinner was still delicious, even though I kept picking pine needles out of my salad.

We all gathered around the fire for S'mores.....

and then decided to head inside the 5th Wheel for games, since the wind was not letting up.

And what camping trip isn't a camping trip without a visit from the critters? These guys had no shame; when they were looking for yummies, we were sitting about 30 feet away.

And that was the trip. We had a great time enjoying God's creation, hanging out with friends, and relaxing.