Follow our family as we journey through life.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Yearly Photo

 Every year, on or around May 25 we take a family photo. Since my current computer only has photos dating back to 2007, I can only post those ones right now.





 Becky and I were pregnant together this time. We were both pregnant with our fifth, or as she says, "one for the thumb!" She had three girls, then a boy. I had three boys, then my girl. She delivered a healthy boy, and three weeks later I delivered Malcolm.

They'll be good buds!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Product Review: Read for the Heart

For my final review of the school year for the TOS Homeschool Crew I got a copy of  Read for the Heart by Sarah Clarkson. This book contains a wealth of information about hundreds of children's books and stories and should be a part of every home library.

As a parent of three voracious readers, I just do not have the time to pre-read every book my children show interest in. Especially since two of those readers consume chapter books on a daily basis. We have already encountered problems with objectionable material in books that my oldest son, age nine, has read. These books had a target audience within his age range, but the content was inappropriate for the family values we are trying to instill.

Enter Read for the Heart. Priced at only $17.00, this text is essentially the "bible" of what books to share with your children. As I read through the text, I saw many familiar titles. Under titles are descriptions and other information and/or cautions about the book. I was pleased to see some lengthy chapter books that James had been eyeing at the library, but that I lack the time to read. The description and notes that followed were enough to help me make an informed decision about if the books were the right fit for James.

Although this book has a home on my reference book shelf, I fully intend to allow James to look through the titles to see if he can find any new reading material. I will be able to review the ones that he has interest in and we can request them from the library.

In addition to Read for the Heart, Apologia offers curriculum and materials in the areas of science, writing and geography, as well as an on-line academy to help you fulfill your homeschool needs.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool reivew crew, I received a free copy of Read for the Heart in exchange for an honest review on this blog. I received no other compensation. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Two dresses

The Kids (all but one at least)

Product Review: Eagle's Wings Considering God's Creation

Looking for a complete one-year natural science curriculum with a Christian perspective? You should check out Considering God's Creation. Thirty-six lessons offer an introduction to everything from creation of the universe, to the animal kingdom, to weather. A scripted teacher's manual makes the lessons easy to teach. The student book is reproducible making it a breeze for parents to teach multiple children at the same time without added expense. The complete program is only $29.95! That does not include materials for the projects, but I still thought that was an excellent bargain for a science program. In addition to science programs, the company offers curriculum for history, geography, math, bible,  and phonics.

This program easily fit into our already packed homeschool schedule. I used the program with Isaac (grade 1) and Henry (kindergarten). They loved it! I started at the beginning of the program which focuses on Creation. The boys are already pretty familiar with this from Sunday School, but they still really enjoyed the projects and the bible readings. Then the creation lessons flowed right into lessons about the solar system. They didn't even notice the transition! The boys loved making a space mobile  As with every homeschool product we use, I had to "tweak" the lessons here and there to adjust for our own family values and beliefs. But unlike some other programs, these changes fit in smoothly and without a lot of extra work and effort on my part.

Another great aspect of this program is the lesson length. Although it is different for each lesson, I never really encountered a lesson that was a huge time commitment for us. This was a bonus because we really don't have a lot of time to spend on science for the little ones. We usually just focus on the basics and science is an extra (they don't even start science at our local public school until grade 3!). I was easily able to complete one or two lessons per week and feel like we got some extra learning in!

I require the boys to keep a science notebook while we do this curriculum. I believe this is suggested in the beginning of the book, and I highly recommend it. We used blank sketch books and the boys tape or glue all their completed science work into the notebook. I also have Isaac write down the vocabulary words from each lesson. Since he is only in first grade, and some lessons have several words, I let him choose the ones to copy. These notebooks have become a nice reference for them of their science work.

Our school year is drawing to a close and the children are finishing up their books. Although this program was not in our initial school plan, we will continue using it throughout the summer because the boys are enjoying it so much.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Reivew Group, I received a free copy of this science curriculum in exchange for an honest review on this blog. I received no other compensation. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Happy Malcolm

40 seconds of Malcolm being a baby

Product Review: Pearson Education Social Studies

Pearson Education is a leader in creating educational products. I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of a social studies curriculum titled All Together. This textbook is intended for the first grader and offers worldwide facts and figures as well as civic duty suggestions. Lessons often cover a full page spread and include large colorful photographs and graphics.

A typical lesson might include the introduction of an important cultural occurrence such as the reporting of the news. Two or three sentences will describe what this is. Questions or suggestions for further investigation into this topic will be listed as well as an Internet link for an on-line activity (if available). Lessons are grouped into units and units end with vocabulary and skill review questions.

This textbook is available from the website for $43.47, add a workbook for less than $4.00 or a teacher's guide for $150. The company also offers a math program as well as a reading program for the lower grades.

What we thought:
The textbook is colorful and visually stimulating. It is easy to follow and the ideas and activities introduced are fun and engaging. Isaac enjoyed working through the lessons, and found them easy and simple to master. I did not have the teacher's guide, and did not really feel like I would need it to teach my own child at home.

What I struggled with is that this is a textbook in the simplest form. Plain and simple, that is exactly what you are getting. Textbooks may work for some families, but we are not a big textbook family. Another area I had difficulty with is the fact that this book is all over the place. It introduces everything with one or two sentences and then moves on to something different. It's as if it is teaching social studies in a TV commercial format. Every thirty or so seconds you turn the page and it is a whole new and different visually-stimulating idea. Maybe it is intended for those who only have a minute a day to teach social studies. If that sounds like your homeschooling schedule (and we definitely all go through times like that), then you should definitely check out this program.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Review group, I received a free copy of All Together in exchange for an honest review on this blog. I received no other compensation and all views are my own. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Quick Kid Photos

Margaret and Malcolm

Margaret and Malcolm are great friends. She gets the most smiles from him out of everyone.

The dress is definitely too big for her right now.
Malcolm is getting bigger and is already in the three to six month clothes and his cry is turning from newborn to big boy. Sigh. This is going way too fast for everyone.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Product Review: Mad Dog Math

If you are looking for a drill practice program to supplement your child's math curriculum, I reviewed one that you might want to consider. Mad Dog Math is a speed drill program that emphasizes basic math facts; facts your child needs to master in order to succeed in higher levels of mathematics.

Designed for children in kindergarten to fifth grade, Mad Dog Math is a one-of-a-kind program that drills addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, in "bite-sized" chunks that allow students to reach accessible goals and build confidence. In only ten minutes a day, your child will gain improved math skills. The company is confident that your child will go from hating math that is too hard, to liking math that comes naturally.

I received a free download of Mad Dog Math at Home which retails for $19.99 for a one-year license. This program is best for:

A family whose child is in a Mad Dog Math school/classroom
A teacher who is using Mad Dog Math in the classroom
A parent who is using Mad Dog Math at home to supplement what is going on in his child’s classroom
A home school family who is using Mad Dog Math
After school programs using Mad Dog Math
Tutoring centers using Mad Dog Math
Any child who wants to improve his computation skills
The program allows you to decide the fact families to review, as well as the goal that should be met. Total mastery is not required to move on. The pages are not cluttered with extra graphics or designs. The focus is on the math, not on silly or entertaining characters.

In addition to this computer product, the company offers their speed drill programs in a "binder-product" in which you can print out the drills to distribute for good old fashioned pen and pencil drill practice. This method would be ideal for a family with multiple children needing practice. The cost for these binders are between $69.99 and $89.99.
What we thought:
Honestly, I didn't really find anything unique or outstanding about this program to make it stand out among the hundreds of other drill-type programs out there. At least from a homeschooler perspective. I found the cost to be prohibitive for my family, especially if I wanted to use the paper form drills so that I could have a record to include in my homeschool reporting.
During the review period, I did see an improvement in Isaac with his addition fact recall. This improvement was not enough to keep him interested in using the program ten minutes a day. Math is challenging for my children, but they definitely don't hate it, and don't have the belief that it is too hard. They disliked this program, because the repetition of the drills was not motivating enough for them. After a short time we became "Mad Dog Math Dropouts."

I do want to say that if I had a child that was constantly struggling with math that I wouldn't hesitate to revisit this program in order to help him. The quick improvement with Isaac showed me that if the circumstances were right, this product might work for my family.
I think it is important that each family choose products that fit their needs. Speed Drill Type programs do not fit the needs of my children at this time. It causes unnecessary stress and panic where none is needed. My children haven't had any difficulty memorizing their math facts by just engaging in daily mathematical activities.
 Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Review group I received the above product in exchange for an honest review on this blog. I received no other compensation.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


 Malcolm has successfully taken naps in his own bed instead of Michael or I holding him while he sleeps. He even got into this comfortable position on his own.
 The older boys enjoyed a trip to the science museum as a reward for a successful year in Sunday school. This is one place that never gets old.
 This cute dress was on sale and Margaret adores the headband. The novelty will probably wear off soon. Even with her shorter haircut she won't let us comb or wash her hair without major fuss. I foresee a shorter haircut in her future.

New Pink Dress

I am so thrilled with how this dress is turning out, but I can already tell it is going to be too big for her to wear this summer. Margaret picked out the material herself!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Lessons learned so far this week

Falling on a play structure while running full speed can cause black eyes.

Babies are really cute in clothes that are too big and while sitting in a laundry basket.

New ballet shoes look prettiest with a matching tutu.

Product Review: Go Trybe is an online fitness and nutrition community that delivers daily fitness, nutrition, wellness, and motivation content to students and teachers across the US. This on-line fitness world allows your student to create workouts, learn about nutrition, and view videos to stay motviated all while earning points that can be used to customize your avatar.

The avatar is your own personal fitness friend. You start out by choosing the basics: skin tone, face features, etc. After that, your points allow you to "buy" items for your friend. The possibilities are endless!

One of the best features of the site is the workout aspect. You design your own personalized workout by choosing video thumbnails from a list. It could not be easier. You just drag and drop each desired thumbnail into your fitness bar. You can make the workout as long and as challenging as you like. They are ranked by age-level and difficulty for ease of use. Each short clip flows smoothly into the next. Clips are fun and with great fitness moves and upbeat music. A professional instructor and several students lead the workouts.

The program is affordable for any budget. Originally $39.95 for a year membership, you can use the promo code: GETFIT for a free trail offer. Upgrade to a year membership any time during the offer and get the year for only $19.95. Click here to start getting fit!

So what did my boys think about Go Trybe?

James (age 9): "I think the music was bad. Besides that it was pretty much okay. I like exercising and we were stretching and stuff like that."

Henry (age 5): "I didn't really like it because it was so long. I kind of liked the music and I liked watching the kids on the video."

Isaac (age 7): "I didn't really liked it. It was a little too long. I did like some of the exercises because you were moving a lot."

It looks like I made the workouts a little too long for my boys. I tried to keep them under 20 minutes, but apparently that was too much!

I encourage everyone to check out the program using the Free Trial offer. I think it is a valuable tool for the long winter months when it is too yucky to get outside and run around.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Review Group, I received a free subscription to Go Trybe in exchange for an honest review on this blog. I received no other compensation. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mother's Day Hike

 We went to Keystone Lake for a Mother's Day Hike. It has been super rainy here lately and the trail we chose turned out to be a mud pit! So we settled on walking around the lake and promised the kids they could play at the playground when we got there.


It is amazing to have older kids with a newborn in the house!