Wednesday, December 28, 2011

When Their Love of Reading Blossoms

As a homeschooling Mom, I don't know if there is anything that touches my heart more than when my children learn to read and then eventually find their love for reading. I don't know what it is about reading that touches me so much, perhaps it is because reading is the backbone for everything else. You can't learn if you can't read.

I remember when my oldest who is now 10 discovered the joy of independent reading. It seemed like overnight he went from not picking up a book on his own to devouring everything he could get his hands on. I remember scrambling to find him books that were appropriate and on his reading level. Fortunately at that time he wasn't picky about which books he read, every subject and story line interested him.

Then along came my next son. He was my early reader so I thought for sure he would always have the love and curiosity for learning that he showed at such a young age. Just goes to show though that you can never assume anything, especially when it comes to your children. Reading has always been easy for "A" but he has never just picked up a book and started reading all on his own. Sure he will pull a picture book off of the shelf or thumb through a picture filed science book but to read a book from cover to cover all on his own hasn't ever happened. Well, I should say it hasn't happened up until very recently.

Shortly before Christmas I was in the schoolroom and found a few fiction books in a series with a science theme. The basis of the books is fiction but sprinkled throughout the story line are non-fiction facts about various animals. I showed these to "A" and he showed some interest in reading them. So we sat down together and he read a few pages here and there to me. Only later did I find out that he was also reading these books before bedtime. Each book is about 100 pages with 10 or so chapters. Once I realized I might be on to something with the science themed chapter books I set out to find another series that he might enjoy. Early chapter books with a science theme are far from common unfortunately. But I did stumble upon one series I thought he might enjoy so I ordered the first box set as a Christmas gift. Thankfully he loves them!

But I digress, what I want to stress here is the moment when you see your child reading all on his own, without your prompting, when he could otherwise be off playing and rough housing. That moment for me happened this morning. I was sitting on the couch feeding one of my twins when I looked in the kitchen and saw my son sitting at the kitchen table, knees to his chest with his nose in one of the new books I bought for him. I couldn't stop from staring. Finally I was witnessing an event that for a long time I thought would never happen. "A" had discovered his love for learning and it can only grow from here. After he was done reading his chapter he came and sat next to me on the couch and read another chapter to me out loud. My heart could not have swelled any bigger at that moment.

I am thrilled that finally together he and I discovered the key to unlocking his love for reading. Some kids will only read books on certain subjects. If the book subject does not interest them then they will have no interest in reading it thus preventing them from discovering their own love for reading. As I mentioned earlier my oldest was far from picky in the books he chose to read, any subject was fair game with him and he loved them all equally. Once I realized my next son was only excited about reading certain subjects I was a Mom on a mission. Thankfully I have succeeded in at least the early stages of my mission and prayerfully his love for reading will only continue to grow and blossom.

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Monday, December 26, 2011

Time off of school or not?

Homeschoolers have the flexibility of taking time off of "school" whenever needed and at various times throughout the year. Most commonly families take time off to celebrate Christmas, Easter, family birthdays, and of course summer. Some homeschool families might also follow a regular schedule of taking time off of school after completing a certain amount of school days. For example, 6 weeks of school followed by 1 week off continued throughout the year.

But what do you do if a child or even multiple children in your family do not handle a change in routine very easily? What if something as simple as taking a week off of school causes major mental and emotional stress when you try to resume school lessons?

I wish I had a steadfast and tested answer to these questions. I don't. Why? Well because I have one of those children that just not deal well with a change in daily routines. My child is not special needs or learning disabled in any way, he just functions best when he has a set routine. Does he deserve time off of school? Of course he does, just like the rest of us. We all need time to recharge our mental batteries so that we can tackle more lessons with enthusiasm and motivation. As his Mother though I am left to deal with the question of how to give this child and myself a break from schoolwork while still maintaining a sense of learning so that when we do return to lessons in earnest the adjustment isn't such a shock to my son. I don't have a clean cut answer, I wish I did.

Each time I take a little time off of our daily lessons, the break for my son who struggles looks a little different. Sometimes I think (or hope and pray) he will be ok with taking a break "cold turkey". In other words simply not doing any work for up to a week, sometimes more during the summer. Then there are other attempts at a school work hiatus when I know he still needs a tad bit of schoolwork everyday to keep his toes wet with the school routine. I haven't found the perfect fit for this child and breaks from daily schoolwork. Perhaps I never will because he is ever changing, maturing, and growing just like the rest of us. I know enough about this child though to know that what works one week will not necessarily work the next. All I can do is pray for wisdom, seek the counsel of my husband, and do my best daily.

We are on a modified schedule this week. My husband requested that the kids have a bit of a break this week from school but he agreed that our child who struggles with changes in routine will still need a bit of school work everyday to keep him at least partially in the mental game of doing school. Thankfully this child doesn't balk or complain at doing a bit of work everyday. Today was reading out loud and a lesson in math, nothing taxing or mentally draining. Just a bit to keep his mind in the school mode.

Obviously we can't do school year round without days or even weeks off of school. When I deliver in just 6 short weeks we will have to take at least a week if not more off of school so I can recover and we can all adjust to our new routines. I suppose that is the beauty of homeschooling. Even though my son struggles with a change in his daily routine, this fact doesn't detract from his long term learning. Eventually we all get back on track and learning resumes in earnest.

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Gratitude challenge 2011 Days 21-30

As I mentioned in my last Gratitude Challenge post, I am not good at everyday routines. :) Never the less, this challenge has been on my mind everyday and it has helped me be more aware of those little things in life that too easily get overlooked and unappreciated.

November 21 - Being that today is the first annual National Prematurity Awareness day, I am thankful for my micro preemie twins who have overcome more obstacles in their 9 months of life than perhaps I have in my entire 34 years. These two girls have taught me more than I could have ever imagined this past year and everyday I am thankful for their precious little lives.

November 22 - Today I am thankful for something simple and something that I at times take for granted, but today I give thanks for a reliable car that accommodates my growing family. A car that I know will start when I need it, keeps us warm in the winter, and cool in the summer.

November 23 - As my belly continues to grow and my energy continues to decrease I am more and more dependent on my husband for help. Today he was a tremendous amount of help in getting our house cleaned up for tomorrow. I couldn't have gotten half of the things accomplished today without him, he is a huge blessing to our family.

November 24 - Happy Thanksgiving!! As my family and I celebrated and gave thanks today I couldn't help but feel an overwhelming sense of blessing and I looked upon my family and all that we have thankful for, especially considering the events of this year.

November 25 - Can I be thankful for Thanksgiving leftovers today? Well good because I am. I purposely didn't eat them for lunch so I could enjoy all the yummy fixings for dinner. Sometimes it is the little things in life.

November 26- Today we put up our Christmas tree and the kids decorated it. As I sorted through ornaments I looked at my twins watching all the comings and goings from their high chair and was immediately struck with the emotions of this season. My girls are home and healthy, they will be at home to celebrate their first Christmas, I couldn't ask for anything more.

November 27 - I can't go all month without at least one mention of how grateful I am that I am able to stay home with my children and homeschool them. Neither of which I could do without the support of my husband. It isn't always easy but I can't imagine life any other way.

November 28 - Today I am struggling with pregnancy aches and pains but despite the discomfort I am thankful for the blessing that continues to grow within me. For numerous reasons above and beyond the normal "every child is a blessing and gift" the little boy that will arrive early next year is a special gift and I can't wait to see what God has in store for this little one. His life would not be possible is his twin sisters hadn't of arrived as early as they did.

November 29 - With the outside temperature hovering around freezing, I am so thankful to be able to come home to a nice warm house. A warm house where my family and I can be safe and protected from the cold just outside our windows is greatly appreciated today.

November 30 - Today, the last day of this challenge, I am simply thankful for this challenge. I have thought more about the blessings that surround me this past month than I have in a long time. I found myself saying more prayers throughout my day giving thanks and praise to God for all that He has provided for my family and I.

Everyday is a good day to give thanks for your blessings!

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Study the 50 States

The Shepherding Kind Hearts Academy (I just made that up, pretty good eh?) has started a year long unit study of the 50 United States. As a young child I remember having to memorize the 50 states and their capitals. I've decided to take it a bit farther and teach my children, namely my oldest who is a 5th grader some additional lessons beyond just the state names and their capitals. Through this unit he will learn notebooking, improve on his writing, online research, and a range of geographical terms.

Although this is very much still a unit in the making I wanted to share with you the resources, both written and online, that I have thus far discovered and are utilizing.

First and foremost we are utilizing the geography state notebooking pages from Notebooking The beauty of notebooking is that you can individualize your unit with these pages. Debra provides a wide range of notebook pages to suit and complement every possible research topic. I am handpicking about 10-12 pages from each state for my son to complete. These pages require him to do online and book research as well as improve upon his research writing skills. 

Book Research Resources:

National Geographic: Our Fifty States

Book description: Overflowing with beautiful illustrations, specially designed maps, and concise essays written and reviewed by members of the Society's Geographic Alliance Program, this authoritative guide stands alone in the children's reference category. From Maine to Hawaii, kids will discover fascinating details behind each state's unique history. Our Fifty States is a superior volume so chock-full of engaging information and stunning visuals, youngsters will never run out of things to learn. Foreword by Former President Jimmy Carter. The easy-to-read physical map that introduces each region of the U.S. is followed by a lively essay with absorbing descriptions of the area's history, climate, natural resources, and physical features. Then, within each regional chapter, children can explore the individual states through illustrated historical time lines, full-color political maps, photo essays, and state-at-a-glance boxes. Additional features include special essays on the District of Columbia and the territories, comparative charts, a list of additional resources, and a detailed index.

My perspective: This is a beautiful hard back book full of vivid images and a wealth of state history knowledge. We are using this book to help complete the timeline and state facts notebooking pages. Additionally, my oldest son is reading this book to help with his state research topics. For example, in the Pennsylvania section her read about the Battle of Gettysburg and completed a notebooking page about this battle as well as the Gettysburg Address. 

The Look It-Up Book of the 50 States

Book description: Entertaining, up-to-the-minute, and easy-to-use, The Look-It-Up Book of the 50 States is an affordable family reference to each state of the union. Illustrated throughout with photographs, drawings, and maps, it provides a concise history of each state from the time it was first explored to the present day–as well as information on places to visit, wildlife, natural resources, and fun facts.

My perspective: This wonderful resource is full of beautiful glossy color information packed pages. With 2-3 pages dedicated to each state this is a perfect reading resource for upper elementary students to read on their own or for reading to younger children who want to learn alongside their older siblings.

Online Research Resources:
The e-mail course of the 50 States is the guide I am using to dictate the order in which we study the 50 states. Each week will send you an e-mail with 2 states and the links from to help with your unit study. Beginning with the 1st and 2nd states, Delaware and Pennsylvania respectively, each following week you will receive an email with each subsequent state admitted to the union in their respective order. After I receive this email each week I go to and print off the appropriate notebooking pages for the upcoming state studies.

Class Brain for a plethora of state information including symbols, geography, and other fun information

Golden Gate Weather Service for weather information

City Population for population information for each state listed by city

Info Please for elevation information for each state

Mining and natural resources for each state

Current Results  for precipitation and other weather related information

50States for all kinds of fun U.S. state related information

As we venture into this long unit study I am quickly learning to adapt and change as we go. Depending on the research subject matter from each state I am amending the type of notebooking and research. For example, CT is full of fun historical subject matter. I am having my oldest son do a bit more research during the week of CT in the hopes that he gleans more historical information from this important seaboard state.

Happy studying!!

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Gratitude challenge 2011 days 12-20

I've fallen behind on my gratitude posting, not surprising really since schedules are not my forte. Nonetheless, this challenge has still been on my mind and heart everyday.

Day 12: On this cold and blustery day, I am thankful for the warm house I call home.

Day 13: I am thankful for a full night sleep. Jillian may not be the best napper during the day but she knows how to sleep through the night and that makes her lack of daytime sleep worth all the struggles.

Day 14: Today I am thankful for the little guy kicking inside my belly. So much of this pregnancy has been filled with thoughts and pondering of true blessings and miracles. If my twins hadn't arrived early the life that now grows within me would have never been possible simply by way of timing. I am excited to be this little guy's Momma, I know without a doubt he has a special purpose. Otherwise God would not have orchestrated all of the events of this year which made his life possible.

Day 15: Today is for my 4 year old daughter who is finally staying dry at night. There were days that I thought this milestone might never be reached but she has done it without much struggle.

Day 16: Today I am thankful for the simple things like hot tea and fresh brewed coffee with Almond Joy creamer. Sleep doesn't always come at night and these two drinks help me through my day when nothing else (besides prayer of course) does.

Day 17: November 17th was the 1st annual world prematurity day, so on this day I was incredibly thankful for my micro preemie twins born earlier this year at 26weeks 5days. Everyday I give thanks and praise for their health and well being.

Day 18: I am thankful for my first born. He is growing up into such a wonderful young boy. He is kind, caring, and so full of life.

Day 19: I am thankful that one of my babies has learned to put herself to sleep for naptime. I simply lay her in the crib and without a peep or whine she sleeps for hours on end. Thank you Britian for this and many other blessings you bring to our family.

Day 20: Today I am thankful for my husband who willing takes our children places that he knows they will enjoy. This afternoon he is ice skating with our oldest 3.

What are you thankful for today?

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Gratitude Challenge 2011 Days 9-11

I fell a little behind in posting my gratitudes simply due to time constraints, they were on my heart each day though.

November 9th - with snow and rain falling all day I was thankful for a warm house and a working furnace.

November 10th - having completed a large grocery shopping trip I was thankful for the money in the bank to pay for all the food and necessities my family needed. My refrigerator still looks empty but I know there is food somewhere in the house for us to eat. :)

November 11th - Happy Veteran's day to all the men and women who have courageously served or are currently serving our nation to protect our freedoms. I am thankful for my husband, a veteran, for all the sacrifices he made as a young man to serve our country.

What are you thankful for today?

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Gratitude Challenge 2011 Day 7-8

November 7th - Yesterday I was thankful for my 4 year old daughter and the joy we got to experience together as she read her first 2 books all by herself. All day she insisted that she was ready to learn to read. So later in the afternoon we sat together and I reviewed a few sounds she would see in the first book we would read together. Not only did she read that first book all by herself she wanted to read another and so she did.

November 8th - I am thankful the rainy weather we have had today. We desperately need the rain. It has been raining all day today and is expected to continue into tomorrow. Now if it just stays as rain tomorrow I will really be thankful (joking of course). There is a chance that the nasty white stuff will start flying tomorrow, I am just NOT ready for that yet.

What are you thankful for today?

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Sunday, November 6, 2011

Gratitude Challenge 2011 Day 6

November 6th - Today is my husband's birthday so it is only fitting that I am especially thankful for him today. More specifically though I am grateful for the struggles we have overcome in our marriage to get to where we are now. It wasn't always an easy road to travel but together we conquered something I thought at one time was impossible. I love him more and more everyday!

What are you thankful for today?

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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Gratitude Challenge 2011 Day 5

November 5th - Today I am grateful for evening hours at my pediatrician's office and for wonderful health insurance. One of my infant twins was really struggling to breathe despite a medication that was prescribed for her earlier in the week. Night office hours yesterday meant no urgent care visit and our health insurance coverage saved me a ton in prescription costs.

What are you thankful for today?

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Friday, November 4, 2011

Gratitude Challenge 2011 Day 4

November 4th - Today I am thankful for God's graciousness and forgiveness. I struggle with so many things on a personal level, I am thankful that He is always there for me in my times of need.

What are you thankful for today?

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Gratitude Challenge 2011 Days 1-3

I have so much to be thankful for over this past year, choosing just one thing each day for the next month will be hard. But because my family has been so blessed in 2011 I can not think of a better way to bring this blog back to life than to begin with the Gratitude Challenge.

November 1st - I am thankful for my husband. He works incredibly hard for our family and does everything in his power to make sure I can stay home with our 5 (soon to be 6) children.

November 2nd - I am thankful for my micro preemie twin blessings, Britian and Jillian. Born 2/9/11 weighing 1 pound 6 ounces they have defied all the odds and are thriving beyond my wildest imagination at 8 months old.

November 3rd - I am thankful for the multitude of doctors and nurses that cared for my girls in the NICU for those 11 weeks. Their hands with God's grace brought them both back from death's doorstep.

What are you thankful for today?  

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lewis & Clark Study Guides & US State Unit coming soon!

This week in our homeschool we have begun a Lewis & Clark study. I have also decided to begin writing a United States state study with the main goal of memorizing the states and their capitals as well as key facts about each state. Both of these ventures are impromptu much like other parts of our history studies. Core subjects are always planned out ahead of time using prewritten curriculum but I tend to let my children and their interests dictate our history and social study topics. Once I get these study guides and lessons plans completed I will post them here on my blog for all to enjoy for free. Afterall, many hands make light work.

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Review: The Well Planned Day Homeschool Planner

Do you need to organize your homeschool? Perhaps you are like me and keep the majority of your lessons plans in your head. This method is manageable when you only have one child to homeschool but with two or more, lessons can get a little hectic if they are not written out and planned beforehand. I learned this the hard way, trust me.

Last year I stumbled upon The Well Planned Day Homeschool Planner published by Home Educating Family Magazine and immediately knew this was the planner for me. I really needed a planner that could accommodate multiple students on the same page and included the main subjects with areas to amend subject planning as needed. The Well Planned Day Homeschool Planner has everything I need and more. I loved this planner so much last year that I knew without a doubt that I would use the same planner this year eventhough I am now teaching three of my children. This planner can accommodate lesson plans for up to 4 students on one page in a very clean and organized format.

Not only does this homeschool planner accommodate a larger number of students than most other planners on the market it is packed full of wonderful articles and useful suggestions for Mom. The beautifully decorated pages along with the articles draw me to the planner even when I am not actively planning. I have read and re-read each article numerous times for encouragement and advice; each time gleaning something new from the pages.

If you are searching for the "perfect" homeschool curriculum planner I encourage you to consider The Well Planned Day homeschool planner.

You can preview The Well Planned Homeschool Planner here

Pricing and ordering information:
The Well Planned Day Homeschool Teacher Planner $24.95
Many other planers available such as student and on-the-go planners


  • Spiral Bound with Three Hole Drilled to Fit into Binders
  • Over 230 Full Color Pages
  • Full Year Planner: July 2011 - June 2012
  • Home Management with weekly cleaning schedule, monthly projects, greeting card registry, and monthly budgeting.
  • NEW in 2011, Holiday Organization Section: Greeting card registry, activities and event schedules, gift giving, around town shopping, and internet shopping.
  • Organize and plan for up to 4 children in one convenient book.
  • Four Student Class Plans: Schedule each student's class assignments.
  • Four Student Time Schedules: Track each day by the hour.
  • Weekly Schedule: Organize your week with class assignments, weekly priorities, prayer requests, dinner menu, and notes.
  • Month at a Glance: Plan field trips, enrichment activities and books to read
  • Semester Attendance & Progress Reports
  • Perforated Report Cards
  • Menu Planning: Plan weekly meals and conveniently shop with perforated shopping lists.
  • Family Worship: Read through the Bible in a year.
  • Insightful homeschool articles and tips to inspire you throughout the year.
  • and much more....

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Friday, June 17, 2011

Still here. . .

Oh my goodness how I have neglected this blog. It has been a hectic, stressful, and emotional year so far. As life settles down and we all adjust to our new lives with the twins at home I am beginning to redirect my thoughts towards homeschooling and the upcoming year. This past year was pretty much a wash. Yes there was school work, yes there was learning, but it wasn't the type of family homeschooling I had hoped for. The circumstances that kept us from learning together have been resolved and I am thoroughly looking forward to our third year of schooling together, as a family. As time allows I am researching, planning, and organizing for the upcoming year. Thank you for sticking around this past year during the drought of this blog. I promise hear friends that I will be posting much more frequently. Lots of article ideas are floating around in the empty space of my brain, I can't wait to dive in and start really writing here.

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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Praising Him During Times of Stress

Previously, during stressful times in my life I would throw my hands in the air, get frustrated, and ultimately ask God loads of "why" questions. These tactics would of course get me no where, just more frustration, anger, and disappointment. How long did it take me to learn my lesson and change my ways? Oh lets see here now. . .only 34 years. Just call me a slow learner!!

If you've been reading this blog or following my other blog Two Pink Peas in a Pod then you know my family and I are in the middle of an incredibly stressful and emotionally draining time in our lives. This is not a situation my husband and I can keep to ourselves. We can not hide this stress from our children, everyone in our family is affected; even our dog and cat. February 9th, when the youngest two members of our family were born our lives were thrown head first into a whirlwind of emotions and situations that I never thought I'd have to deal with in my life. But here I am, 8 weeks into a 4 month stay in a level 3 NICU, 1.5 hours away from my family, and advocating everyday for my precious miracles.

What have I learned over the past 8 weeks? Too much to completely write here on this blog, that much is for sure. But I will do my best to communicate what my Heavenly Father has taught me and is urging me to put into words for the rest of you.

I am a bit of a control freak, that much I will admit to. I was particularly bad with control before having children and in my college years. I used to harbor a lot of anxiety, anger, and stress when things did not go as I had planned or wanted. If you are a parent you know very well that all forms of absolute control have to fly out the window as soon as you have kids. There are just too many curve balls thrown at you everyday as a parent to worry about and try to control every little thing. Letting go of the little things in life was fairly easy for me but from time to time I still struggle with the bigger things. Letting go and letting God take control is something I have really been trying to work on over the past few years.

When the girls were born 8 weeks ago (tomorrow) I immediately lost all control of every aspect of my life. No longer was I home to direct homeschooling, house cleaning, grocery shopping, and taking care of my children. I was also thrown into the unknown abyss of the NICU. The care of my girls was under someone else's control and direction. My daily routine had been put in a blender and set on high speed. There were days in those first few weeks here at the NICU that I couldn't keep my head from spinning so I began to write. I can remember one day in particular, it was a Thursday. On that day Britian took a turn for the worse, doctor's and nurses were constantly flowing in and out of her room, all I could do to cope was write. I must have written in my journal for 2 hours straight. Anything and everything that came to my mind was put on paper. Why did I do it? I am not sure to be quite honest, it is just all I knew to do. Perhaps when this roller coaster is said and done I will look back on that journal and cry tears of joy for how far my girls have come because of His healing powers.

Everything happens for a reason. I learned his hard lesson very early on in my stressful childhood. God does not bring you or I to a place that we can not get through. As the dust is settling and I am in a new NICU routine I can now see more clearly the areas of my life where I should be praising Him rather than questioning Him. Where I was once overwhelmed at the large number of staff and faculty here at the hospital I can now give praise to Him for placing some very special doctors and nurses in our lives. Caring, educated, and genuine people who will always hold a special place in my heart and people I will do my best to chronicle to my girls when they are older. I have found a special friendship in a fellow NICU Mom here. A fellowship that would have not otherwise been possible had it not been for the blessings God has given us both. Also through our stay in the NICU my family and I have been surrounded with an enormous amount of love and support. For this He is owed an enormous amount of praise.

Could I question God for this chapter in my life? Of course I could. Could I wallow in grief and frustration asking Him why my family and I are enduring these struggles? Of course I could. Could I scream and yell at Him for giving my twins this and all the ongoing challenges? Absolutely. But am I? For a few days to be honest, yes I did. But through prayer and time in His word I have come to a beautiful and comforting place in my heart where I can give Him praise for everything He has set before my family and I.

For friendships, lessons learned, outpouring of love and financial support, and for all of the experiences yet to come I will give Him praise daily.

Praising God during a stressful time is not easy at all. But from experience I can tell you it gets easier and lifts your spirit. When I began praying in earnest and giving God all the praise and glory He is owed for my current stresses I was immediately able to see the joy and beauty in our situation. What a beautiful gift that was!

Rather than questioning, I will give God all the praise and glory for this stressful situation as well as all future challenges He sees fit for me to endure and overcome.

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Friday, March 25, 2011

TOS Review: Big IQ Kids

Big IQ Kids is an online spelling, math, vocabulary, and U.S. geography program all rolled into one. Through daily lessons students in elementary and middle school learn good study habits and increase their self confidence in the subjects covered. Big IQ Kids offers a free program as well as a paid premium program. You can view the differences in their programs here. As a part of The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool review crew, my children and I were able to review the premium program.

The spelling program includes over 40,000 words in the dictionary and is pre-set with 40 lessons and word lists. With this program you also have the option of adding your own word lists. Big IQ spelling will generate a weeks worth of lessons when you add your own spelling list. For this review I primarily used the "input your own" method but I also looked through the pre-loaded lesson plans. The 40 pre-loaded spelling list lessons are excellent and are appropriately challenging. For my 4th grade son we use a workbook method for spelling. While reviewing Big IQ Kids I simply input each of the 20 words from my son's workbook into a spelling list using this program. I liked that he could get more practice and reinforcement using this program. My son enjoyed doing some of his spelling lessons on the computer, it was a nice change of pace for him. I liked that he could not go on without mastering the quizzes which he often struggles with when he wants to "rush" through his assignments.

The Big IQ vocabulary program includes a large number of words from the elementary age through the SAT level. Like the spelling program there are pre-set word lists with lesson plans or you can input your own vocabulary words. The word lists are challenging and the lesson plans were appropriately structured. However, my son and I had a challenging time understanding the voice that "said" the words. It is a bit like a robot and the sounds were not always easy to understand. Also, the synonym and antonym portion of the lessons were at time illogical. However, once I explained the words to my son he grasped them a bit more. If I thought the antonym and synonym answers were not correct I just had my son skip that question and did not count the wrong answer on the overall quiz score. For example, one of the questions indicated that nail and board were anotonyms. The word board does not have an antonym so I had some trouble seeing how this was a plausible answer. Otherwise I thought the vocabulary exercises were challenging and the definitions were accurate.

Big IQ Kids math is a fun online program. As a parent you can customize the lessons and math facts included in each lesson. My son really enjoyed this math program and I think it provided him with math drills in a sufficiently challenging way. As with the other programs from Big IQ Kids, I wish as a parent I could review my son's progress without logging in as the student. Parent profiles linked to the child's information is helpful in creating lessons and reviewing progress. I could forsee older students or technilogically afvanced children modifying their own lessons without parental notice.

The U.S. States geography program from Big IQ Kids is comprehensive and educational. My son learned a ton from this program and I am happy to say can now identify all of the states by shape and nearly has all of the capitals memorized. This program quizzes students on state capitals and state locations, state spelling, abbreviations, and basic state facts. Additionally, parents can add extra facts that they would like their student to learn. I found this program particularly helpful for a state postcard swap that my children and I are participating in this year. As each postcard arrives in our mail I enter additional facts that the sender included on the card. It is a fun way to include the poastcards in our learning.

Pricing information:
$19.99 for one month of all 4 programs or $99.99 for a year.
Individual subjects for one month from $7.99
You can read more about their pricing programs here
Also, you can begin with the free program and upgrade to the premium program at any time.

Want to read more reviews for this program?

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Monday, March 7, 2011

TOS Crew Review: Reading Kingdom

As a member of The Old Schoolhouse review crew I was given the opportunity to review the Reading Kingdom. Reading Kingdom is an online reading program that teaches sequencing, motor skills, sounds, meaning, grammar and comprehension. This program is recommended for ages 4-10 and teaches reading to a 3rd grade level. Dr. Marion Blank, the inventor of the Reading Kingdom, has been honored with the Upton Sinclair Award which is given to individuals who have made a significant contribution to education. She began with the Phonics Plus Five program and Reading Kingdom is an online “version” of that program.

Reading Kingdom teaches introduction to Reading & Writing, Keyboard & Mouse Training, Skills Survey 1, Seeing Sequences, and Letter Land. Once those are completed the child moves to reading & writing level 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

For this review I worked with both my 3yo and 6yo. My 3yo is a pre-reader and my 6yo is reading at about a 2nd grade level. I chose to do this review with both of my younger children because I knew my 3yo would benefit from letter recognition lessons and my 6yo would learn from the keyboarding practice available with this program. As we began this program I quickly realized that I would have to help both of my children with this program because of the short time limit for activity responses. In other words, my children were not able to find the letters on the keyboard quick enough for this program's pre-set parameters. This led to frustration despite my kids knowing their letters. So together my children and I worked on this reading program together. They were still learning but I provided a little extra guidance in the beginning to help them find the letters on the keyboard.

For example, in Letter Land the child learns to match and recognize letters by sight.

Then it progressively gets more difficult. . .

As the child progresses through Letter Land then they start reading and writing. In various portions of the reading and writing section the student is asked to match a singular word to its plural and choose the correct letter order for a given word. My 6yo particularly enjoyed this part of Reading Kingdom but I was always close by to help mitigate his frustration level by not being able to find a letter on the keyboard. Eventually, the more and more we played with this program both of my children became more adept at finding the letters on the keyboard quicker and needed less of my assistance.

Overall, both of my children enjoyed this program and learned a great deal from it. Working with both of them from the very beginning to prevent frustration with key hunting helped tremendously with their success in this program.

Program details:
Cost is $19.99 per month or $199.99 for a year. Each additional child is $9.99 per month.

Would you like to read more reviews from fellow crew members?

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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Pirose Nursing Cover & Scarf Review

My twins will be a month old in just a few short days. As a Mama Buzz reviewer, shortly before they were born I was given the opportunity to review the Reno Rose Pirose nursing cover and scarf. When I received this item to review, little did I know to what capacity I would be using this new nursing cover.

With my previous children whom I all breast fed I simply used a blanket to cover myself and my baby when we were nursing in a setting which required modesty. These blankets were at times bulky and never stayed where I most needed them. When I was pregnant with the twins I knew I wanted to get a more formal nursing cover. Not only would I need something when we were out in public but my other kids are older now so modesty and covering up at home is also needed. I was elated when Mama Buzz offered the opportunity to review the Pirose cover.

The Pirose cover for nursing is much more than your typical nursing cover. No, this cover does not include an adjustable neck strap or rigid neckline to view your baby. However, because of the way this scarf cover is designed these features are not needed nor are they missing. I beautiful and light material of this cover flows so freely around Mom and baby that the highly marketed features of other nursing covers are not needed. The Pirose cover is contoured in such a way that the front is longer than the back and provides ample coverage while nursing. The thin flowing scarf material is light and airy which would be perfect for nursing year round but would be particularly nice if you live in a warm summer climate. An added and unexpected use that I have found for this nursing cover is to use while pumping. My girls are micro preemies so they are not able to nurse yet but I am still frequently pumping for them and I need to be covered while I pump in the NICU and at home. This cover is perfect for this use. Also, because it comes with its own matching storage bag I am able to throw it in my purse or in my breast pump bag easily. The material is so light that when packed away it takes up hardly any space; the wallet in my purse in larger than this cover when packed away. In addition to being a nursing cover, you can use it as a scarf and add some flare to your favorite matching outfit. The Pirose nursing cover comes in a wide variety of beautiful patterns, it might be hard to choose just one to purchase.

The Pirose for nursing covers are available for $35

Disclaimer: I received this product for free in exchange for my honest opinion and review. No other form of compensation was received.

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Monday, February 28, 2011

TOS Review Crew: I See Sam

The Reading for all Learners Little Books, otherwise known as I See Sam is a collection of 8 sets of books, each containing up to 27 books per set. Published by Academic Success for all Learners, the Little Books collection begin at a kindergarten reading level and progress up to a 3.6 reading level. As a TOS Homeschool Review Crew member I had the opportunity to review the Little Books sets 1-4 with my 6 year old.

You can read the scope and sequence of the Little Books series here.

Little Books Set 1: for reading level K-1.0 and includes 27 books. This set teaches 27 new sounds, new sound combinations, 73 new words, 9 new sight words, and comprehension skills. Reading assessments are covered in books 6, 11,16, 21, 26. $30

Little Books Set 2: for reading level: 1.0 - 1.3 and includes 27 different books. This set teaches 5 new sounds, 2 new sound combinations, 98 new regular words, 8 new sight words, and comprehension skills. Reading assessments are covered in books 6,11,16,21,26. $30

Little Books Set 3 for reading level: 1.3 - 1.6 and includes 22 different books. This set teaches 15 new sounds, 2 new sound combinations, 109 new regular words, 15 new sight words, and comprehension skills. Reading assessments are covered in books 6,11,16,21. $30

Little Books Set 4 for reading level: 1.6 - 2.0 and includes 15 different books. This set teaches 8 new sounds, 4 new sound combinations, 374 new regular words, 44 new sight words, comprehension skills, and contractions. Reading assessments are covered in books 2,4,6,8,10,12,14. $30

When my 6 year old son and I first began this review I started with a couple of the reading assessments provided in sets 1 and 2. I wanted to make sure I was starting him in the appropriate set of books which would be at his learning level and not his frustration level. Once I found his learning reading level we dove right in to that set of books. Initially my son wanted to read multiple books at one setting, it was new curriculum so he was excited. Reading is something that comes easy to my son so I allowed him to set the pace at which he wanted to move through these books. With each book completed however I made sure he knew the words he was reading, could identify them on the flash cards included with each book set, and was mastering reading comprehension. There are scripted questions throughout each of the books which help assess reading comprehension, you could choose to use these questions or make up your own if you prefer. Also helpful in these book sets are the review and new "upcoming" words included in the front and back of every book. Before reading the story in each book, the student is encouraged to review the previously introduced words at the beginning of the book and then upon reading the story there is a list of new and upcoming words that will be included in the following book in that set. This feature was nice for my son because it helped review and reinforce words that he may have forgotten and it served as a quick reminder of the words he would be seeing in the upcoming story.

Also included as part of our review packet, I received the flash cards that correspond to each set of books. You have the option of purchasing these flash cards or downloading them for free. I found the flash cards to be very helpful with my son. When beginning a new set of books I sat with my son and we read through all of the flash cards for that set. As he tried to read the words I separated each card into a "know" and "need to work on" pile. Then before beginning any new book in that set we would read through the "need to work on" pile again and take out the ones he had learned, adding them to the "know" pile. My son really enjoyed this exercise. Not only did he gain confidence from seeing how big his "know" pile was but he also gained encouragement when he got to transfer a card form his "need to work on" pile to the "know" pile. This process not only helped him learn but it also helped me to gauge his overall learning and sound blends that we need to work on and reinforce more often.

I am happy to report that my son is still enjoying his I See Sam books. He will choose to read these books on his own fruition and enjoys the cute little story lines and fun characters.

Click here for an interactive view of a book in set 1.

Academic Success for all Learners has also made a bunch of downloads freely available for your use.

I will definitely be using this series of books to help start my preschool age daughter reading later this year!

You can read more reviews from fellow TOS Homeschool Crew Members!

Disclaimer: I received this product for free in exchange for my honest review and opinion. No other form of compensation was received.

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