Follow our family as we journey through life.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Beautiful Anna

We have a new God Daughter, Anna Jane. She was barely six pounds at birth! Now at six weeks she is getting to be a size that we feel more comfortable with the kids holding her. Margaret really loves Anna and regularly asks if Anna is our baby. James said that although he loves Anna, he really wants our baby to come because he knows it will be so much better.

Halloween 2010

Halloween in this area is more than just an evening event, it is an actual season. It begins about a week into October and includes parades, mass trick or treating events, pumpkin carving, decorating, etc. People around here get more into Halloween than they do Christmas.

Latrobe is a unique community which decides the schedule of events based on the convenience of people we don't know. Due to this, Latrobe decided that Halloween this year would be celebrated on October 30, instead of the nationally recognized day of October 31. They even decided the time that Halloween would be celebrated, and set that at 4pm to 6pm.

We decided that with the early trick or treating time, it would be no fun to endure the sugar-high of four children alone. So we invited several friends and neighbors to our house after the scheduled Halloween observance time. This way, instead of four wild and manic children, we could be around 15 wild and manic children. But there would be more adults around for moral support.

I decided to join in the spirit of this season and made some festive cookies for our gathering. I stole the ideas from this blog that I regularly read. My stuff didn't turn out as nice as hers, but it was still a good first attempt.
Finger cookies.
Ghost cookies made from nutter-butters.

The cookie tray.

Michael carved pumpkins with the kids in the morning.

James grew a pumpkin head!

Finally it was time to get going. Margaret was a beautiful princess.

James was Saint Sebastian.

Isaac was Saint Yves.

Henry was Saint Martin.

We went around with many friends. Here is part of our group. The little girl in the pink is a Super-Hero. She designed the costume herself. She is missing her mask and cape in this photo. Still, the whole thing is pretty creative for a seven year old.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

How I feel about Trick or Treating

When my kids become wild and unruly, I use a nice safe playpen. When they're finished, I climb out.
~Erma Bombeck

Learning to say no

Sometimes when I tell people that we homeschool they assume that we stay home a lot because opportunities are not available for my children to get out. In the course of these conversations, not sending them into an institutional setting for eight hours a day is often equated with missed chances for social and personal development. Quite the opposite it true, at least for us. I am frequently running into a problem that many homeschoolers face: we commit to too many activities outside the home.

Take an average week at my house. My school-age boys have regular weekly activities that include: homeschool co-op or Blue Knights, Cub Scouts, gymnastics, Friday classes at the college, Sunday School, piano lessons, and baseball (Fall and Spring). Then throw in the extra activities that were offered to us this week: Cub Scout field trip to corn maze, Homeschool Nature Camp, Fall celebration and scarecrow stuffing, field trip to historical site, Halloween Parade, and sewing lessons. Add to that a couple of scheduled appointments around town to see various doctors, and you have our possible week.

Our first year homeschooling, we probably would have tried to do all the activities. I wouldn't have wanted them to miss out on anything. And we would have paid for it the following week with overly tired kids and having to work extra hard to make up for lost school work time. If there is something that four years of homeschooling has taught me, it is to know when to say no. So I did, and the kids went to one of the extra activities instead of all.

We homeschool. We choose to take on the responsibility of the education of our children. We teach them at home using the world as our classroom. By doing this my children spend their days exploring classic literature (Isaac is currently reading Alice in Wonderland, James is on The Strange Case of Dr. Jekll and Mr. Hyde), while also studying music and languages. We set our own schedule and curriculum. We are able to buy a Lego Physics set and use it for science. We are able to take off to Georgia for two weeks every November and leave the school books behind.

Learning to say no isn't always easy, but it is definitely necessary. Especially when so many wonderful experiences await the eager learner.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday fun

Yes, my kids are surrounded by fast food "Happy" meals. No, it wasn't a moment of pregnancy sickness or parenting weakness. Great Grandma Phyllis sent the boys gift certificates and they were so excited to use them and get whatever they wanted. Each boy had a milkshake and a kids meal complete with some alien toy. Margaret also got a kids meal and a milk. She drank almost all the milk and ate exactly one bite of the meal before she began shoving her food into her mostly empty milk jug.

To my kids, who get exactly zero fast food in the course of their day, this was the ultimate treat. Thank you Grandma for thinking of them and for making my Friday a little easier!

Ah... the little things. Like when the littlest brother actually gets that the Lego mosaic set builds more than tall towers. Look at this beauty that Henry created. And with no help at all!

Hannah's Town

We took a field trip to Hanna's Town with some fellow homeschoolers. It was a beautiful day and the kids had a wonderful time learning some local history.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Power of Pink

I asked Margaret how her day was. She responded, "It's going good. I got to wear pink."

Monday, October 25, 2010

Adoption Update

We have heard some disappointing news from one of our grant applications. Yes, we've been rejected. You can read my post about it at Krom Family Adoption.

Friday, October 22, 2010

No luck allowed

Scene: We are cleaning the top floor playroom.

Boy 1: "OH! There is a dead bug under here!"

Boy 2: : "IT'S A BABY TURTLE!"

Boy 1: "Gross. You clean it up."

Boy 2: "No WAY! You touch that and you'll only have luck!"

And no, it wasn't really a baby turtle.

Product Review: Brill Kids Little Reader

Did you know that it is possible to teach your baby to read? Well it is! With Brill Kids Little Reader, not only will your baby be reading, but you will have the satisfaction of being the one to teach her!

Little Reader is a revolutionary software program designed to engage your little sweetie in the process of learning. The program encompasses daily lessons over a 12 month period that increase in difficulty while reflecting on materal already covered. Each lesson is different so that your child maintains interest. Many of the lessons and flashcards are able to be personalized with pictures of familiar people and objects.

The ready-made curriculum is easy for an adult to follow. The program really stresses the important fact that the best teacher for your baby is: YOU! Keeping that in mind the program is designed to be user friendly and engaging for both parent and child. You can customize the program to fit your needs.

The daily lessons use flashcards, repetition, visual aids, movement, and sound to help your baby learn. The program has a computer component, but it also includes tons of physical materials to help expand your child's learning. The company is continuously finding ways to make your job easier and they have just introduced a new BINDER SYSTEM to help keep your materials organized and ready to use.

Brill Kids Little Reader comes with two options to buy. The Basic Edition starts as low as $149(plus shipping) , and the Deluxe Edition is $360 (plus shipping). Not sure you want to commit? Brill Kids Little Reader offers a 14 Day Free Trial so that you can witness the results yourself before you purchase. Click Here for more information about the free trial.

In addition to the Little Reader Program, Brill Kids offers two other programs for young children. Little Math and Little Musician seem similar to Little Reader in teaching techniques; utilizing the parent as the main (and best) teacher for baby. Little Math starts at $119 (plus shipping), but can be purchased as a bundle package with Little Reader for as low as $222. Little Musician is still in the development process and pricing information is not yet availible. Click here for all pricing information on Brill Kids products.

What makes this program worth it:

*It was well-organized and easy to follow.

*The program adapts to the ever-changing ability of your baby.

*Lessons are never the same.

*Website is clear and easy to follow.

*Customer service seemed great! Although I never had to access help from the company, it was easy to find support on the website. From the help center you can ask other parents who are using Brill Kids, ask questions at the help desk, view the user manual, view some video tutorials, or contact Tech Support.

*There are a ton of reviews from parents who have had success using this program. These reviews serve as motviation and encouragement to find ways to make the program work for your family.

Why the program was not a good fit for us:

*Daily Lessons. It was only ten minutes five days a week, but it was still hard for my family to commit to such a rigorous program especially with baseball, gymnastics, Boy Scouts, co-op, art and science classes, homeschool subjects, and just regular everyday life.

*I have advanced degrees in child development and early childhood education and it was difficult for me to get over the fact that whole language approach to reading is not appropriate when taught alone, even when used on babies and toddlers. The program address this issue and said that the phonetic approach will occur naturally as your baby begins to vocalize, but I did not think that this was addressed enough throughout the program. Some phonetic instruction is included as your baby advances and the company does address this issue here.

*Cost of program.

*We don't let our children watch television or play video games, and I didn't like the idea of having my baby or toddler in front of the computer.

*I still don't really see the benefit of teaching my toddler to read, especially when early reading has not been linked with future school success. On the contrary, it has been shown that children who read early "average out" with their like-aged peers in third or fourth grade. There are definite proven benefits of instilling a love of reading and learning in your child from an early age, as well as numerous benefits of reading aloud to your babies and children.

*I don't runderstand the why of "Why would I want my baby or toddler to read?" Especially when there are numerous other life skills that young children must master. Brill Kids does address this issue. Click here to read what they have to say.

My final thoughts

Although not a good fit for my Montessori-based, Charlotte Mason inspired, classical homeschooling family, I know of several families that desire these types of programs for their children. I encourage others to research the programs themselves to see if they are a good fit for your learning environments.
Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS review group, I received Brill Kids Little Reader Free of charge in exchange for an honest review on this blog. I received no other compensation.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Monday, October 18, 2010

Cute! Cute! Cute!

A fellow homeschooling mom and seamstress has opened a shop on etsy featuring these adorable T-shirt dresses. Her shop name is modesTee and you can access her shop by clicking here.

Stop by and check out her shop. I think you will be impressed with her views on modesty, and her affordable prices. You can outfit your little girl for as low as $10! She is super friendly, so if you don't see something you like, convo her and tell her what you are looking for. I am sure she will do her best to accomondate your needs.

modesTee on etsy

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Idlewild HallowBoo Part 2

It was another beautiful weekend and we decided to spend some more time at Idlewild enjoying the sun and Fall beauty. The kids enjoyed dressing up in clothes from the dress-up bin and playing at Jumping Jungle and Storybook forest. The crowds were incredibly thick, and I was ever grateful to return home again after our adventure.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Why I homeschool

There are so many reasons that I won't try to list them, but this morning was a clear example of how I know I made the right choice for my kids.

After the school lessons were done and the piano teacher had left, my kids spent the morning creating a newspaper stand. Most of the newspapers were difficult to understand, but two of the easier titles to make out were: "Margaret makes a mess of the chex mix," and "Missing: One magnetic bakugan card."

It is this type of creativity that I knew would be stifled in a traditional classroom setting.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Family Portrait

By my favorite four-year old.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sewing Lessons

The older boys take sewing lessons once or twice a month. This week they made some fantastic reversible aprons!

James also got some much needed new glasses!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Idlewild HallowBoo!

Since the summer passes to Idlewild are also good in October for HallowBoo, we decided to check it out this weekend. It was super crowded and so we didn't see everything, but the kids still had a great time.

The bumper cars were closed all summer for repairs and so it was a great surprise to find them running. The kids rode them twice in a row.

There were lines for everything, but the kids were pretty patient during the long waits.
They turned all the water and fountains spooky colors for HallowBoo. Here they are in front of their favorite one.

Product Review: Talking Fingers

As a member of the TOS homeschool curriculum review group, I was fortunate enough to receive a free trial subscription to a computer software program called Talking Fingers. I received this program in exchange for an honest review on this blog. I received no other compensation.

Talking Fingers is a program designed to improve and teach phonics, reading, writing, and typing to young learners. The Talking Fingers approach is based on the idea that text is speech made visible. When children begin to link speech sounds to letters they can use the alphabet to write the sounds. Thus the company says "Their fingers are talking."

I received my trial subscription to the: Read Write & Type Learning System. This program is designed for children in kindergarten to third grade. Starting at only $35 for one user for one year (online version), the home edition of this program includes: over 90 games, 118 typing lessons, 40 animated stories, and 84 writng samples. Quite a deal for such a comprehensive program.

So what did my boys think of the program?

I am sure that no one will be surprised to hear that the boys LOVED the program. They ask to play it every single day. Although the program was a bit easy for James (fourth grade) he enjoyed it just as much as Isaac (first grade). I think that because all the phonics and reading lessons were super easy for James, he really excelled at the typing aspect of the program. He never mastered typing without looking at the keyboard, but he worked hard on hand placement and correct finger usage. Isaac, on the other hand, was challenged by the reading and phonics aspect of the program and didn't work on the typing aspect at all. He used the same one finger to type every letter while using the program. Because the phonics aspect was so challenging to him, I didn't push him to type correctly.

In addtion to the student aspect of the program, there is also a parent/teacher component that allows you to monitor the progress of the children enrolled in the program. This helped me monitor where the children were at in the program and what skills Isaac may be struggling to master.

Talking Fingers also offers a program designed for second and third graders called Word Qwerty. This program focuses on spelling rules and improving reading fluency. It offers 20 lessons each teaching one or more spelling rules. Products from talking fngers are available in CD-ROM and online versions. Prices are different based on number of users and the product that you choose. Click here to view the pricing options.

My final thoughts on the program:

Although I definitely think the program is a good value for the price, I found the program to be a bit to much like a video game to fit in well with our "no TV no video game" family. I also found the teacher/parent site very difficult to navigate, although I am not a "computer" person, and the problem may very well have been user error. The program was really strong in the area of phonics and reading (a good thing in my opinion), but a little weak in the area of typing. There seemed to be very little reinforcement of correct finger and hand placement throughout the program.

I could definitely see this program as a good supplement to a phonics program for a student who needs a little extra practice, or a parent looking for a self directed program for a young learner.