Monday, June 10, 2013

Let's Make a Web Page: Motherboard Books Review

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During the most recent school term my oldest 2 boys (ages 8 & 11) had the wonderful opportunity to learn some of the basics of computer programming. That homeschool co-op class has piqued their interest and their imagination when it comes to computers and what they could design. So, they were both really excited to hear that they also had the opportunity to learn the basics of designing a website as part of a review opportunity using an ebook from Motherboard Books titled Let's Make a Web Page!.

Let's Make a Web Page! is an ebook which requires the use of a 30-day free trial from to teach children ages 8-12 the basics of designing a web page. The design element from does not require the use of HTML code which in our experience, made the process of designing a web page less intimidating.

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Being that my boys have had some basic programming experience prior to this review, they found using the design website rather simple once they figured out the basic elements. I had both boys use my iPad to read the Let's Make a Web Page! ebook while they worked on their web page design projects. They were both able to complete their individual web page projects in just a few hours. However, because they enjoyed it so much they asked to play around with it a while after their pages were done. They enjoyed having fun and changing various elements to see the realm of various possibilities.

The book suggests making a web page based on an interview of another person. Both of my boys however, chose to design their pages around the books they are currently reading. Their pages turned out great so in my opinion the interview aspect is not a mandatory part of the lesson element.

Let's Make a Web Page! is 60 pages filled with not only text but helpful graphics to help your children throughout the entire design process. My 8 year old in particular found the pictures in the ebook helpful when he was confused on what to do next.

If you have a budding computer programmer or web page designer my boys and I all would recommend Let's Make a Web Page! It is a great introduction into the world of web design. You can purchase this ebook for $19.95 and find out if your children truly do enjoy this aspect of programming.

You can read more reviews from fellow crew members!


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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Spanish for you! Review: Estaciones e-book

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I grew up speaking Spanish, it was everywhere in the community in which I spent my childhood. As a new Mom I was diligent to teach my little ones to be bi-lingual but admittedly with each new addition speaking Spanish to them has become less and less of a priority. However, because I still personally retain the ability to speak the language I am particular when choosing a Spanish curriculum for our homeschool studies. As a member of The Schoolhouse Review Crew I had the opportunity to review Spanish for You! Estaciones e-book with my 3rd and 6th grade boys.

Spanish for You! is a year long curriculum for 3rd to 8th graders. There are 5 units in the entire book but you can work at your own pace, with 4 days per week as the recommended study frequency.

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Spanish for You! currently offers 2 themes for their curriculum, fiestas and estaciones. They are planning to add a third theme, viajes, in the near future. Because the curriculum is based on themes you do not need to choose level, but rather whichever topic you want to learn about first.

You can view samples of each here:

Each curriculum set includes (from the website)
  • Spanish for you! soft cover book (allow up to 2 weeks for delivery) or E-book (trial pkgs.)
  • Plus the following downloads:
  • Audio download (MP3) of the entire book. You use these as the lesson guide instructs.
  • A free bonus audio of the entire book recorded by a native speaker from Mexico. (MP3)
  • 24-30 Week Lesson Guide (PDF) - The student (and parent if needed) follows this guide step-by-step to know what to do, at whatever pace works for you.
  • Self-checking worksheets (PDF) - You just print these as you need them. The lesson guide will tell you what you need to print and when.
  • Free set of pictures for making flashcards and other activity materials. (PDF)

With my older 2 boys I used Estaciones the recommended 4 days per week. Each days activities took them 20-30 minutes which I thought was very reasonable considering the material taught. Each lesson begins with new vocabulary and making flashcards (or you can print them). There are also fun activities and games to play to reinforce the words that are being learned, such as simon says. In addition to the games, the audio files really helped my boys pronounce the words. For some reason my native accent is hard for my oldest to understand and replicate, he was able to learn the words much easier with the audio files. As a homeschool Mom with multiple ages to teach, I love when a curriculum can be used with each of my children and taught simultaneously, this feature is such a time and sanity saver.

Both of my boys thoroughly enjoyed this curriculum and I think it was a great way to introduce them to the language. For my 3rd grader who grew up speaking Spanish, it was a great refresher for him (since I've seriously been lacking in reinforcing his Spanish skills). If you are looking for an introductory Spanish curriculum, you should consider Spanish for You!

Estaciones Pricing:
Grades 3-8, $64.95
Grades 3-4, 5-6, or 7-8 $39.95 each
Extra books, $12.95 each

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

LIteracy Soft Review: iPad App

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As a member of The Schoolhouse Review Crew I was given the opportunity to review the Phonics and Reading from McGuffey iPad app from Literacy Soft with my 6 year old daughter. My daughter is currently in Kindergarten and does not have much interest in learning to read so I was excited at the opportunity to give her a new tool to help spark her interest in learning to love reading.

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This iPad app is a 52 step program that when completed your child will be reading at a first grade level. Because my daughter shows little interest in reading and therefore is not at a typical kindergarten reading level, I appreciated that this app meets the child where they are currently at and expands from there to teach the child to enjoy reading.

To most effectively use this iPad app, I incorporated these lessons with the reading lessons we normally do one-on-one. When we are finished reading together, my daughter was able to use this app for as long as she liked (within reason of course). Using this tool she found a new interest in reading together and looked forward to her learning time on Mommy's iPad.

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Using games like the one shown above children learn to spell and read. The app is designed very well with an easy to use interface and large letters which make dragging easy for little fingers. In the time that we had for this review my daughter made noticeable improvement in her reading ability. At bedtime when we read together she now picks out words and says them all on her own without my prompting, I couldn't be more thrilled with her progress.

According to the website, this program is appropriate for homeschoolers, adult learners, dyslexia, and ESOL learners. 

The Phonics and Reading with McGuffey App is carefully crafted to: 
• Ensure no expert phonics supervisor is needed for students to gain maximum value from the lessons
• Work for any literacy level
• Act as your own personalized tutor, except in a computer
• Let students set their own pace, repeating or slowing down lessons as much as they like
• Guide your student step-by-step through reading and spelling practice
• Provide multi-sense learning including sound, vision, and motion to appeal to a wide variety of learning styles
• Utilize the power of synthetic phonics – the dyslexia-busting learning technique 
• Be simple and easy to use for students at any level  

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Details about the product:

Price: $19.99 through the iTunes store, it is also available in the lite version to try for free.

Over all I am very pleased with this learning tool and will continue using it with my daughter as well as my younger children when they are ready.


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Monday, April 22, 2013

Progeny Press Treasure Island Study Guide Review

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 photo a64739513876c78eaae8f5_m_zpsc345c325.jpgExposing my children to quality literature is something that is very important to me as a homeschool Mom. Unfortunately the demands of my family and home do not always allow me to pre-read the books and create study guides before my children need to read their books. That is why I was so excited for the opportunity to review the Treasure Island study guide from Progeny Press as a part of The Homeschool Review Crew.

My 11 year old son, who loves to read, was very excited to see that we had received the Treasure Island study guide for review. Even though he has read the book previously, he was looking forward to studying it more in depth than just reading.

After a trip to the library because we couldn't locate our own copy of Treasure Island my son dove right in to the study guide. As recommended in the study guide my son read the novel in it's entirety first then we began the study guide. Also as recommended I had him complete one page of the chapter sections each day. During this four week review period he was able to complete about half of the study guide. Still ahead is the overview section which I plan to use as a test and he will also complete the essay section to further reinforce not only his understanding of the book but also to help with his writing. Something about tying two subjects together in one (reading comprehension and writing in this case) makes my homeschool Momma's heart happy.

This particular study guide was broken up into 6 parts with three to six chapters per part. Each part of the study guide includes vocabulary questions, fill in the blank answer sections, critical thinking about the chapter, and dig deeper questions. The tech nerd in me loves that the pdf version of this study guide allows for fill in the blank, no more printing of paper and he can read the pdf of my iPad. Love it! The questions in each part of the study guide were challenging and thought provoking, definitely more in depth and complete than anything I could have ever created myself. They asked questions I would have never thought of and I learned quite a lot considering their questions in relation to the story. Progeny Press recommends that for best use of their study guides you also provide your student with a dictionary, thesaurus, a Bible, and a Bible concordance.

Well written and thorough study guides are very hard to come by, trust me I've searched high and low for a variety of study guides. Progeny Press is definitely a company you should consider when in the market for study guides.

I am so thankful we had the opportunity to review this product, we will definitely be purchasing additional study guides to use in our homeschool.

Product Details:
Printed Booklet: $18.99
CD $16.99
PDF $16.99


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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Knowledge Quest Timeline Builder iPad app: TOS Review

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I am going to come clean with a homeschool secret that I've never shared before, I do not do timelines for our history studies. There I said it, I hope you don't think any less of me. (insert smile) With everything else going on in our family and homeschool studies timelines were something I had wanted to do but had to put on the back burner for more pressing lesson plans. Then along came a review opportunity from Knowledge Quest for their Timeline Builder iPad App and everything changed.

This app has made creating timelines and enriching our history lessons incredibly easy, I no longer have an excuse for not using timelines in our history lessons.

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What does Timeline Builder do?
  1. Allows you to create a digital timeline as far back or as far forward as you like.
  2. Enter as many timeline events or people on your timeline as you want.
  3. Upoload images from your computer or the web and link them to your timeline entries.
  4. Flexibility to move timeline events on the timeline.
  5. Save and share timelines as an image to your photos. You can also choose to email your timelines as well as export and share with other Timeline Builder users.

How we used the Timeline Builder iPad App:

Can I just start out by saying I am absolutely loving all of the wonderful educational applications and ability to read teachers manuals from my iPad? Well, there I just did. The Timeline Builder app is no different, it has made teaching, interacting with, and learning form history amazing. My children have not mastered the art of filing papers in their school binders so that they can find them later so anything I can put into electronics makes all of our lives easier. I have tried creating timelines before, I had great intentions I really did, but lost papers, torn papers, or even chewed on papers made my previous attempts very frustrating.

My children and I have been studying early American history this semester so for the course of this review I jumped into our studies and started a timeline where we were currently studying, the slave trade. After quickly and easily acquainting myself with the app interface I introduced the timeline builder to my children, namely my older boys ages 11 and 8. My younger daughter, age 6, soon caught on that we were having fun with history and joined our lesson. After reading our history lesson for the day my boys each created their own timeline based on what they remembered from the story. Then after discussing events that they did not include on their timeline they each went back and added events, people, and places including pictures to bring the timeline to life. As a homeschool teacher I could see their wheels of learning firing on all cylinders. They were engaged in the lesson and absorbing the events rather than just skimming the surface as they read and forgetting it all as soon as the book closed. Surprisingly, even long after the history lesson was complete my boys were still talking about the facts they learned and having a healthy discussion on what they had learned. What's not to love about that? The Timeline Builder App brought history to life for my family in a way that paper timelines and other hands on activities could not do.

Product Specifics:
Watch this video to learn more

Timeline Builder iPad app available in the AppStore for $6.99


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Thursday, April 11, 2013

4 Tips for Eating Real Food While Traveling

This weekend I am traveling. I have been blessed with the opportunity to attend the 2:1 conference as part of my work with A Moment With Mom. This is the first time being away from my family for an extended period of time. Since their birth I have not been away from the twins for more than 36 hours at a time as I travelled back and forth between the NICU and home. My youngest son has never been away from his momma. Your prayers are greatly appreciated this weekend.

Traveling an sticking to a real food lifestyle has been challenging and eye opening. God has been good in sustaining me through the times when real food and drink were of available. I've gleaned a few tips during this trip that will hopefully make your next flight more enjoyable and save you the pain of dehydration or hunger.

1. Pack your own snacks. Fortunately current flight regulations do not prohibit you from taking your own food aboard your flight. Plan ahead and carefully consider snacks that will travel well and not easily perish. After a flight cancellation and an unexpected 3 hour drive to make a connecting flight I am thankful I grab a large bag of homemade trail mix a few minutes before heading out the door. Raw pumpkin seeds, raw almonds, raw cashews, and organic "Cherrios" helped to stave off hunger and keep me awake on my long drive. 

2. Plan to drink only water. This is one area you will not be able to bring your own from home. As many of you already know juices and sodas are full of unwanted and unnecessary preservatives, chemicals, and colorings. A word of caution, read the water bottle labels before you purchase. Sadly even a simple bottle of water can have added sodium and other undesirables. Fresh spring water is your best bet and stay away from the water bottle brands that are made by corporations, these are typically the glorified water bottles, nothing more than dressed up tap water.

3. If you are staying at a hotel call ahead. Nowadays, hotel kitchens are more than happy to accommodate guests with special dietary needs. Eating real food, although counterintuitive is classified as a special dietary condition. Perhaps one day it will not be, but until then, call ahead. Be prepared to provide the kitchen staff with meal ideas, especially if it is a smaller hotel.

4. Eating out can be a real challenge when sticking to a real food lifestyle. Choose your restaurants carefully and considering asking locals or hotel staff for recommendations. After you choose a spot to eat and are ordering, don't be afraid to make your food needs known. Most often the chef and wait staff are more than happy t accommodate your needs, after all they are no different that someone with a food allergy. There are certain things we will and will not eat, just like others with special dietary needs.

With some forethought traveling and continuing to eat real food is not only possible it will also be enjoyable.

Do you have other tips and tricks for eating real while traveling? Please share, I'd love to hear your feedback

Saturday, April 6, 2013

D is for Dry Storage

Dry storage becomes an essential part of your pantry when you make the transition to real foods. Not only is it better to store dry goods in a quality sealed container to maintain the freshness of the product but many times when you switch to real foods buying in bulk is most economical. When you buy in large quantities you will need food grade dry storage containers to keep the nutritional value and freshness of your foods.

There are many options available for storing your bulk grains, homemade snacks, and other high quality real food items that are now stocked in your kitchen.

Dry Bulk Storage options:

2 gallon bucket: 2 gallon buckets are most commonly used for storing small quantities of food or water. I have a few buckets of this size which I bought containing peanut butter. I keep these buckets to store overflow of dry goods which might not fit in the 5 gallon bucket or my smaller pantry dry storage containers.

5 gallon bucket: A five-gallon bucket will hold approximately 37 lbs. of dry rice and 33.5 lbs. of dried beans. Additionally, this size bucket will hold approximately 25 lbs of flour depending on compaction of the grain.

When storing dry goods in plastic buckets your choice of lids is critical. If you do not purchase a tight fitting lid then you food will spoil quickly.

Traditional bucket lid: Most people who store dry goods do not use the traditional white lids that come with the plastic buckets by default. These lids are fine if you are storing an item that you use quickly or that will not perish quickly (a month or less).

Gamma lid: The gamma lids are the more popular and wiser choice when it comes to purchasing lids for your dry bulk storage. Gamma lids are constructed in two parts. There is an outer ring which snaps securely to the outside top portion of the bucket. There is then a part in the middle which twists on and off of the outer ring. This lid construction insures a tighter fit and better option for long-term dry bulk storage and food freshness.

The most affordable place that I've found to purchase buckets and gamma lids is from Azure Standard.

Pantry/Kitchen Dry Good Storage:
The most important part of choosing dry good storage options for your kitchen and pantry is the quality of the seal and the functionality of the container. If the container you choose does not for an air tight seal then the food that you worked so hard at acquiring will spoil and go to waste. Also, if the container is not easy to open, close, and provides free access to your food item then you will experience frustration in the kitchen. Cooking real food is fun and incredibly satisfying, please don't let a poor choice of kitchen storage container derail all of the hard work and effort you put in to creating your real food kitchen.

With that in mind and taking those 2 important points into consideration, my favorite kitchen and pantry dry good storage container is the OXO Good Grips Pop-Top Container (affiliate link). These tight sealing and very functional dry good storage containers come in all sizes which is perfect for a variety of kitchen and pantry uses. I use the small ones for storing spices and small quantities of items we use for oatmeal and steel cut cereal toppings. The larger containers store things such as cocoa powder, beans for short-term uses, oats, rice, the list is virtually endless with options. I like that these containers have a very tight seal but you can open them with a simple push of a button. The only downfall is that they are not easy on the wallet. However, I have skirted this problem by shopping around and acquiring them as we can afford. A large kitchen and bath chain frequently mails coupons for their store, I save those and use them to buy these OXO pop-top containers at a discount. This option is particularly useful when you need a particular size. Otherwise, I have found that the large box stores have a 12 piece set for a very reasonable price. Just this week I purchased my second set.


An additional point that I like about these OXO containers is that they are clear sided. Being able to quickly see what is in each container (I haven't had a chance to label them with my label maker) makes cooking quicker and easier.

Dry storage can be fun and strangely satisfying, if you are one that likes to be organized like myself (just don't look at my desktop).

What methods do you use for your bulk dry good storage?

Blogging Through the Alphabet 


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Sunday, March 31, 2013

C is for Christ

This week the focus is on Christ and His sacrifice and resurrection for me and for you. There is eternal life because of Jesus' death and resurrection, all you have to do is believe and follow God's Word.

May your Resurrection Sunday be filled with joy and peace!

Blogging Through the Alphabet 

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Ditching the Microwave: Test Run

Last month I read an article on How to Stop Using the Microwave from the Humbled Homemaker. Prior to reading this post my husband and I had a few discussions about our microwave use and how we wanted to curtail our dependance on it's use as part of our continued effort to live and eat healthier. The Humbled Homemaker's post brought those conversations to the forefront of my thoughts and helped spur me to do some of my own research.

I am spending a good deal of time and money sourcing, purchasing, and preparing organic and nutritious foods for my family. The thought of then reheating nutrient dense foods in a microwave, which kills all of the nutritional value of foods simply in the name of convenience just did not sit well with me. Why would I want to remove all of the nutrition from the foods we worked so hard to provide for our family simple to save a couple of minutes here and there? If I am in that big of a hurry, I need to re-evaluate my priorities!

On the flip side though I have to be realistic. There will be times when a "convenience" appliance for getting hot food to my starving children will be a sanity saver. So if I am going to make the leap and give up the radiation box above my stove I want to make sure I have a back-up option if I give our microwave the boot. Like The Humbled Homemaker I have decided on the Hamilton Beach Countertop Oven with Convection and Rotisserie in stainless steel. I love that it is convection and also includes the rotisserie option. My family enjoys rotisserie chicken and this feature would allow me to make our own at home without having to buy yet another kitchen appliance.

So far, I am just over 1 week into my journey of not being dependent on my microwave. Admittedly, the first couple of days I had to catch myself instinctively thinking about reheating leftovers in that box. However, now the thought doesn't cross my mind. I grab a pan to reheat our food on the stovetop and I make sure to defrost meat early enough in the day so I am not relying on the microwave to put dinner on the table at a reasonable hour. If I can make it more than 3 weeks without using the microwave I can justify spending the money to buy the countertop convection toaster over. It is my hope that we can replace the microwave with the toaster oven in order to avoid another appliance on our counters (which I've worked hard to eliminate).

If and when I make the leap to purchase the toaster oven, rest assured you will be the first to know and help me celebrate.

What steps are you in the process of taking to eat and live healthier?

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

B is for Baked Oatmeal

photo courtesy of The Family Kitchen
Late last year in our continued effort to replace processed foods with real wholesome food I made the decision to cut out cold breakfast cereals cold turkey. One morning I just told my older 3 children that once the cereal in the house was gone I would not be buying any more. Putting my decision to voice helped because I knew my children would hold me accountable if I ever brought processed cereal in our house again. I had serious reservations about making this leap towards real foods because my breakfast meal creativity was zilch. I typically mustered enough motivation and creativity to make breakfast from scratch once a week at best. What was I possibly going to do when I had to have something nutritious on the table every morning, day after day?

Thus began my journey with baked oatmeal. I can not say enough about this real food dish. It is nutritious, filling, quick, and convenient. What else could a Mother ask for in a breakfast dish? I've tried numerous variations on the basic baked oatmeal theme and all of them are quick and very tasty. My 8 year old requests this dish more times than not.

I've compiled a list of tried and true baked oatmeal recipes for your taste bud enjoyment.

Creme Brûlée from Tidy Mom

Baked Oatmeal with fruit from Whole Living

Apple Cinnamon from The Family Kitchen

Peanut Butter from Lynn's Kitchen Adventures

Pumpkin Spice from My Blessed Life

Pumpkin, Cranberry, and Apple from Emily Bites

Do you have another favorite baked oatmeal recipe? I'd love to hear about it, please leave a comment!

Please join me next week as I explore the letter C as part of Ben and Me Blogging Through the Alphabet.

Blogging Through the Alphabet 

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Monday, March 18, 2013

A is for Alexis

My blog article inspiration has been non-existent lately which is not typical of my writing at all. Usually I have blog topics pop in my head all day and struggle to remember them when I finally have a chance to sit down and write. As of late however, nothing is coming to me, zilch, nada, and I don't like it one bit. So to help kick start my creative writing juices I will be joining the newest round of Blogging Through the Alphabet hosted on the wonderful site Ben and Me. I am hopeful that this weekly meme will get my fingers moving with regularity again and open my mind to new topics with which I can share on.

This week is the start of a new round of alphabet blogging. I racked my brain for what I could write about that started with A. Everything from alligators, animals, apples, arachnids, and azaleas popped in my head. None of them sounded like something I could turn into a post you my readers would enjoy. We haven't had homeschool lessons on any of these topics lately so I have nothing to relate to this blog on those topics. Then it hit me. . .I am an A. What would be more appropriate for starting this series then to write a little about myself. A lot has changed in my life since I first started this blog so it seems fitting to introduce myself to my new readers and update the rest of you who have stuck with me through my long dry periods of no writing at all. A heartfelt thank you to all of you who kept me in your readers and check in from time to time. Thank you!

So who is the person behind this blog?

I am Alexis, a mid-30s wife and mother of 6. My family and I are originally from San Diego but in an effort to raise our family in a better environment my husband and I decided in early 2010 to move to the midwest. We are now closer to my Mother and extended family. While we miss the warm weather and Pacific Ocean, having lived here for 3 years we can not imagine moving back to the hustle and bustle of San Diego. We are enjoying the cleaner air, lack of traffic, and kindness of those that live here in the corn belt of America.

My husband and I re-met in 2003 and were married in 2004. We will celebrate our 9th anniversary in June. We went to middle school together and after so many years separated we know that God had a hand in bringing our lives back together. Our oldest is my step-son, he is 11. Together we have an 8 year old son, 6 year old daughter, twin 2 year old daughters, and a 1 year old son. The younger 3 we affectionately refer to as the "triplets" because they were born 362 days apart making them Irish triplets. While we believe that all of our children are miracles and blessings our twins defied all of the odds and are a testament to the power of prayer. If you've been reading this blog for any length of time you know that our twins were born far too early at 26 weeks 5 days due to acute twin to twin transfusion syndrome. Weighing 1lb 6oz and 2lbs, our girls are a testament to the power of prayer. Micro preemies like our daughters typically spend well over 100 days in a high level NICU in order to get strong and healthy enough to come home. After only 78 days, 1 day before they would have been delivered at 38 weeks B & J got to come home. They are now healthy toddlers who bring pure joy and laughter to our lives daily. J  had the rougher start and was the smallest at birth having been the donor in the TTTS. She was recently diagnosed with dys-kinetic Cerebral Palsy. Her case is very mild and with therapy she will grow to live an independent life including walking and talking without assistance.

Our journey into homeschooling began in the fall of 2008. My 8 year old was set to start kindergarten that year and after some events during preschool and drastic budget cuts in our local school district we knew that putting him into public kindergarten would not be in his best interest academically. And so began our unintended journey with home educating. At this time I am home schooling a 6th grader, advanced 3rd grader, and a kindergartner. After trying boxed curriculums we have found a better fit with pieced together curriculum choices. As a curriculum reviewer for The Old Schoolhouse review crew this year I am also being introduced to curriculum that I might not have otherwise known about or had the opportunity to use. While our journey into homeschooling was seemingly made purely based on educational reasons my husband and I both know it was God calling us to do what was best for all of our children. Homeschooling has been a blessing beyond words, an experience I could never describe. While far from roses and bon bons, we know this is the best choice for our children and our family.

Personally, I am an only child and San Diego native. My childhood was broken and quality religious education which is why these two things are very near to my heart and why I work so hard to raise up my own family in a way in which I was not. I have a bachelors in Biology and at one time thought I would be a doctor. I have also been a fitness instructor for a national mother and baby fitness company. I enjoy writing, gardening, canning, and most recently have vowed to clean up my family's eating habits.

Lastly, from a blogging perspective I do my best to write as transparent as possible. My life is not all roses and perfection. We struggle, we argue, my house is often a disaster, and I am a sinner. At the end of the day though, we all do our best with what God gives us and give thanks for a new day with new grace.

Blogging Through the Alphabet 

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