Follow our family as we journey through life.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

I am a proud supporter of Halloween. I am not ashamed to admit that fact. We have a few "rules" when it comes to costumes and the ways we will participate, but I get a giddy feeling around the beginning of October knowing that Halloween is close.

The reason is simple. Halloween is bigger here than Christmas. More people decorate, more people come out of their houses, more neighbors get together to celebrate friendships within the community. Do I think this is right? I'm not sure. Do I care? Not really.

The fact that it takes a distorted Hallmark holiday to get the neighborhood to be neighborly doesn't bother me at all. Everything has to start somewhere. And truthfully, we need this event before we all go into winter hibernation mode.

Halloween here is more than just trick or treating on October 31st. It is a weekend long celebration. In fact, I forgot today was the actual day of Halloween because all our festivities are over. We've already attended the parties and already went trick or treating.

It started Friday night with trick or treating and a party at a friend's house. The friend had distributed flyer's to the neighbors saying the kids would be trick or treating. We have a rule about the kids and their costumes. We require them to be Saints. There's actually a fair amount of flexibility within this rule so there is never any whining or complaining. That being said, I let them dress however they wanted for this party. Michael was gone and I didn't want them messing up their All Saints Day costumes before that party.

Margaret was an adorable butterfly, thanks Grandma for sending the costume!

Henry was a transformer.

Margaret had her face painted for the first time at the party.

Isaac went to the party with another family, so I have no photos of him. James went the movies with a friend instead of the party.

So that was Friday night. On Saturday we woke up to this weather:

And Michael was out of town having been to this event:

So I had trick or treating and another party to go to with the five kids and no spouse. We went trick or treating in the snowy rain in a HUGE group so I had tons of friends pitch in and lend me extra hands.

Malcolm was a spider. For about five minutes. He wouldn't fit in the ERGO in the costume so we ditched it early.

Henry was Saint Louis.

Margaret was Saint Elizabeth of Hungary.

Isaac was saint Michael the Archangel, minus the wings because they would have gotten destroyed in the weather.

James is a beheaded friend of Jesus, disguised as Spiderman. Hey, you can never be too careful.

My company of Saints

And as I sit here munching a fun size Kit Kat, I know we are making the right decision about Halloween. Building friendships and community are very important, perhaps more now than ever before. I want my kids to foster relationships with those around them. 'Living' within their community is a good way to start.  

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Where was your husband on Friday night?

My husband was here,
in St. Louis, watching Game 7 of the World Series,
From a roof top bar.


Product Review: First Form Latin

First Form Latin by Memoria Press is a "grammar-first" program intended for grades five and up. According to the product description, this program focuses on grammar forms and vocabulary because those are the grammar stage skills suitable for the grammar stage student. However, the First Form Series is for students of all ages because all beginners, regardless of age, are in the grammar stage of learning. Syntax (how to use the grammar) and translation are logic and rhetoric stage skills, respectively, and quickly overwhelm the student unless they are introduced at a slow, gentle pace and taught for mastery.

For this review of the Latin program we received: Teacher Manual, Student Text, Student Workbook, Quizzes & Tests, Pronunciation CD, Flashcards, and DVDs. This package is priced at $115 on the Memoria Press website. They offer the same package, minus the Flashcards & DVDs for $55. In addition to the Latin program, Memoria Press offers many other curriculum materials for all ages. Way to many to list in this review. Some of the these materials include different levels of Latin instruction, Christian Studies, and History materials. I encourage you to visit the website to see the complete listings of curriculum offered.

Although intended for grades five and up, First Form Latin can also be used with a child that has completed Latina Christiana 1. Since James is currently doing fifth grade work and finished Latina Christiana over a year ago, we thought this would be a good fit for him.

The Adult View on the Program:

The program is your typical grammar approach: learn one grammar rule (future tense, past tense, etc.), and a random list of vocabulary per lesson. Due to this, I feel that the programs suggested age of fifth grade or previous Latin studies is accurate. The instruction is generally clear and a manageable amount of material is covered each week. The worksheets are what one would expect - a bunch of problem sets designed to facilitate understanding and memorization. Finally, a quiz is taken each week, and a unit test given after four or so lessons/weeks. I must say that I am impressed by how good this text is at reinforcing English grammar (especially teaching sentence types and parsing sentences into their grammatical parts), and at explaining how Latin is both similar to and different from English. Impressive!

That being said, it is not the most exciting text, and James began to find it repetitive and dull rather quickly. It doesn't take much to keep him engaged academically, so this would concern me if I was teaching a student who needs more stimulation. More generally, my view is that second languages should be taught as much as possible in the way that one teaches a first language - just start using it! This text does not provide conversational Latin, not even "salve" (hello), "quid agis" (how are you?"), etc. More importantly, the only translation exercises in the book are of single phrases rather than complete sentences. Although Latin is a "dead" Latin, it is still important, in my opinion, to speak it and hear it spoken. As with more everything, the more senses you use to learn something, the better you learn it.

There is no doubt that this is an excellent program. We will continue using it with James for sure. We also fully plan to use it for our other children when they are ready for it. In addition to this program, we will also be supplementing with other Latin materials that focus on conversational skills and translation.

What James think of the program?

I really liked the program at first. I still kind of like it, but I get tired doing all the same things on the pages. I don't really like workbooks.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Review Group, I received this product free of charge in exchange for my honest review on this blog. I received no other compensation. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

7 Quick Takes

1. We got a new roof this week! We had that big storm in March and every since then people all around town have been getting new roofs and siding. We had been on the list since April with a local company, and were so pleased to have it get done before winter weather moves in.

2. We got to choose the color for our new siding. That big storm really got us rolling for some needed home repairs. We are on another list for siding, and will have to wait another couple months to get the work done. The color we chose is a bit... boring. All the colors were. I mean, they had these really great colors, but they were thousands more and insurance wouldn't cover them so we are going with a boring color that insurance will pay for.

3. Malcolm has decided he no longer needs to sleep. At least, that's my take on it. I don't mind the night waking we can snuggle under the covers, but during the day I have to get more done than just snuggling.

4. Malcolm has been a complete beast lately. Probably due to number three.

5. Margaret is becoming a real little mommy. At least her interpretation of one. She pulls my sewing bag around saying, "I'm going to sewing." She grabs an apron and exclaims, "Everyone out! I am cooking!" She tells me that she needs "Puter time to check her mall." She will tell me what "our baby" needs at all times. "He needs to nurse. He needs to be changed. He's lonely." It's my life mirrored back to me, but in a much more interesting format.

6. Isaac finished Sound Beginnings! This is the program we use in first grade, my my little guy had a rough time with it and so we extended it into second. I am so glad that I did because by the end he had a genuine grasp of the material.

7. We are studying the Pangea in geography. Henry made a nice map of our world as the pangea.

In case you are having trouble reading the caption on the map, it reads: "My Pangea. By Henry Krom. A VARE NIS. WRK OF. ART. GEOGRAPHY." My heart swells with love for that boy.

Head over to Conversion Diary hosted by Jen to read more Quick Takes.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Jen over at Conversion Diary is talking about an important season in life, what she calls "Bare Minimum Mode." Catchy title. I am totally not that clever. I call it "surviving."  Most times I don't like to talk about this, but tonight I feel inspired by this post over at my friend Erika's blog. She's honest and real in her post. And I feel like being honest and real.

I don't like to use my blog to lay out how hectic and crazy my life is. Or how much the children are driving me absolutely crazy. I may mention things in passing, but mostly I like to maintain that "Crazy Superwoman with all those kids" image that I have going for me. So many people have criticized my choice to have all these kids that I don't feel like I can express anything remotely negative without getting a huge slap of "I told ya so!"

Truth is, my life is beyond busy, beyond crazy, beyond hectic, and beyond worth it. We race here, we run here, I blink and the baby is almost seven months. And that's just October.

When I was pregnant with Malcolm, I threw up everyday from August to January. Every. Single. Day. We were in survival mode then. We let membership passes expire. Michael didn't travel. Homeschooling was sporadic at best. We stayed home. And guess what? We survived. Meals got made. Friends pitched in to get the boys to activities. The house stayed messy. Laundry was washed when the clothes ran out. I was so sick I don't really remember those months. Would I do it again? You bet your you-know-what I would.

In a couple weeks I am putting my family on voluntary survival mode. We are escaping sports, classes, friends, and events. We are spending time together, minus Michael, seven hundred miles from this chaos. Is it still going to be busy and crazy? Yes. Are the kids still going to drive me nuts? Without a doubt. But what will be different is that we will set a schedule of relaxation instead of obligations. I am choosing to do this on purpose, instead of having to do this because of illness or obligation. Leaving the friends, school work, and house behind, we will be able to focus on just being together. Although being at the farm is beyond wonderful, it will make us appreciate all we have here even more. The crock pot meals, endless schoolwork, and stream of activities will be missed my the end of our visit south. And I will be excited to return to my normal level of surviving.

Having young children is hard. But these years are short even if the days are long. I could make a list of the things I do or don't do when my life is beyond crazy. But that would be listing everything. Because besides the fact that I am not vomiting every day, my life is no less crazy than it was a year ago. It's just a different crazy. Each day calls for it's own set of sacrifices; it doesn't matter if you have one child or five. It all comes down to your personal perspective of how to make it through your day still liking your kids.

Monday, October 24, 2011

So Sleepy

Of course, the first thing she asked for when she woke up (upstairs) was her granola bar.

Product Review: Marshall Publishing


Marshall Publishing strives to create family-friendly media products that are both educational and entertaining. In business since 2007, Marshall Publishing creates DVDs, books, CDs, CD-ROMs, Internet programming, and award-winning 'As Seen On TV' products. Some of their products include videos about trains, penguins, and bridges. Historical materials include titles about Lincoln at Gettysburg, Lewis & Clark, and The Oregon Trail and Pony Express (just to name a few). They also have a title in Spanish

As a member of the crew I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of the LOTS and LOTS of FIRE TRUCKS and FIREFIGHTERS BOOK and SAFETY SONGS DVD. This combo packs features a 30 minute DVD filled with fire safety tips and playful songs as well as a 128 page Fire Truck book. This book was particularly impressive due to the many glossy color photos it contained.

The DVD has an easily accessible menu that is divided up into two sections. The first section is an informative overview suitable for a presentation all about fire safety. The second part of the DVD is really where my kids were most interested. It contained songs and scenarios for them to learn from. 

As stated above, the book is quite impressive. It starts out with a lot of photos of all different types of firetrucks, including boat fire rescue and aerial vehicles. Another section profiles the fireman and talks about all different aspects of his job and duties. Fireman's alphabet, recipes of the fire hall, and many, many safety tips are also included. My favorite part of the book was the section devoted to the Greatest Fires in History.

You can get this amazing bundle for only $29.95 on sale from $49.95!

As an added and unexpected bonus I also received a new title from Marshall Publishing: George Washington Carver- His Life and His Work DVD. A newly released video, this is the heart warming story of how an uneducated poor person can achieve greatness. It is available on the website for a sale price of $19.95.

As one of my blog readers you are entitled to a discount on these products at the Marshall Publishing website. Simply enter the code: TOSC1 at the checkout to receive 15% off the sale price!

So what did my product testers think?

I liked the fire truck part, but not the fire.

I guess I liked that it was a DVD.

The part I liked was the music.

 I really liked the part when it showed them building the firetruck and the '9-1-1 help Will Come' song.

Can we nurse now?

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS homeschool Review group I received these products free of charge in exchange for an honest review on this blog. I received no other compensation.

Friday, October 21, 2011

7 Quick Takes

1. Does this conversation ever occur around you?
Boy 1: Wow! That's cool.
Boy 2: Yeah.
Boy 1: That could really hurt someone.
Boy 2: Yeah, it could.
Boy 1: Let's see if it hurts.
Boy 2: Yeah!

2. Are you the type of person that always thinks the best of people? If so, how do you do it? Can you teach me? I am the type that doesn't think ill of all people, but usually my thoughts aren't that positive. Like if I see or hear of someone doing something dumb, I usually think, "Wow. That person's an idiot."

3. My new iPhone is such fun! I have found all sorts of free apps to keep Margaret busy while we school. She now knows some of her letters! I feel a little guilty about it, you know, a phone teaching her instead of me.Wait, do I? Hmmm.

4. Speaking of iPhones, does anyone know some awesome apps for the kids? Free would be best, but I will consider others if they are super.

5. Margaret's All Saint's Day and Halloween dress came this week! It is totally gorgeous and well worth the expense. I could have totally made it, but I didn't have to because I found the perfect one on etsy. She is going to be Saint Elizabeth of Hungary.

6. Henry wanted to be a priest, but guess what? I found a king costume on sale that he is going to love. So that's what he will be. I'll tell him as soon as it arrives.

7. James' soccer got extended an extra week. They had to reschedule a game due to rain. He loves soccer and is thrilled. Me, not so much. It is in the 40s and 50s now and rains a lot. Not to mention that it gets dark so early. My days of sitting at soccer with a good book are now spent huddled in the mini-van waiting for practice to end.

Want to read more Quick Takes? Head over to Jen's Blog to check out tons more.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Vote for Me!!!

Time to Vote!

I have been nominated for a homeschooling award. Let me verify, it is a homeschooling misfit award. Oh the joy! I am totally excited and would love for you to vote for me. There are prizes involved, woo-whoo!

In order to vote for me (there are prizes! WOOO-WHOOO!!!), please click this link for the Not So Superwoman blog, and scroll down to number seven. There I am under The Meme Forgotten Award. At the bottom of the post is the link to vote. I would love to get more than one vote~ the one I give myself. Please consider voting for me. Prizes! Woo-whoo!


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pumpkin Patch

Moving things around

I just wanted to post this photo here so it is included in the blog book that I have published every year. The top photos aren't included unless I post them in an actual post.

Product Review: Wits & Wagers Family Game

Northstar Games creates products designed to bring friends and family together through games.


I was fortunate enough to receive one of their many products: Wits and Wagers Family.  Based on their popular game by the same name, Wits and Wagers Family has simpler, family-friendly questions so that everyone can join in the fun. Intended for ages eight and over, the game features over 300 questions based on everything from pop culture to home living.

The game is easy and fun to play. One person reads a question and everyone comes up with a guess. The person with the closest guess without going over is the winner. Don't like your guess? No problem. Just place your Meeple (a cute little playing piece) on the guess you do like. It is not required that you choose your own guess. You earn points based on the guess you wrote and where your Meeple is placed. Meeples come in two sizes and the larger Meeples are worth more points. It's that easy!
As far as family-friendly games go, this one ranked high with me for ease of play, amount of playing time, and cost. As explained above, the game is super easy to play. All the children could participate, even the ones that weren't eight or over. The amount of time playing can be completely up to you. Play can end when the first person reaches a certain number of points, or when the score cards are full. Since we play games usually before bedtime, we set a timer for 25 minutes and the person with the highest point total at the time won. Wits & Wagers Family can be purchased on amazon for $15.23. Pretty good price for a family game.
My only disappointment with the game was the number of pop culture questions that were TV and/or Tween based. These kinds of situations don't factor into our lives much and were hard to answer. My kids didn't know what Froot Loops are, let alone how many colors are in the cereal.

So what did my product testers think?
I liked the Meeples. They were funny shaped.

I am not sure if I liked it or not because it was hard to get the right answer.

I really liked it because there was a big wager and a little wager.

My favorite colors! Pink and purple people [Meeples].

Is it time to nurse yet?

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS homeschool review group I received this product free of charge in exchange for an honest review on this blog. I received no other compensation.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Number Nine!

Nine teeth have been lost. This gap is hard to see because of the large front top teeth!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Homeschooling ain't cheap!

It sneaks up on me every year. Lurking and waiting to claim a major spot on my credit card statement. No, it's not Christmas. This is bigger, much bigger. This happens every spring and occurs when I must purchase homeschooling materials for the following year. Something that non-homeschooling friends may not realize is the expense that goes into schooling our children at home. Hey, I'm not complaining. I would rather pay for books and curriculum and get to choose how, when, where, and what my children are learning than institutionalize them and have little or no say over these things.

There are ways to homeschool for little or no expense. But I don't follow those ways. I prefer prepackaged subject curriculum, the ones with good reviews and preferable a day-to-day schedule to follow. This equals less work for me and less work makes me happy. Problem is, these types of curriculum's can get pretty pricey. I do utilize the library, buy used when I can, and try other methods to get books cheaply, but sometimes I just have to bite the bullet and pay retail. Homeschooling is one of our highest expenses of the year, there is no doubt about it.

How does it get so expensive? Well, books aren't cheap. James' writing program alone cost $240 for this year. Anything a school kid does that we decide to do comes out of our pocket. Field trips, enrichment classes, music lessons, and sports. And just like a school kid, if one of our boys needs a tutor for a subject we are unable to help him with, we pay for that as well.

Do we budget for homeschooling? Sheepishly I must admit that we don't. We are careful to make reasonable decisions over what we purchase. A $300 LEGO robotics science program may look awesome, but it is not really a necessary expense. The boys would love it, there is no doubt. But robotics is not a required science. Paying $100 for an earth science curriculum is still a lot, but that is material that they need to learn to help master science at higher levels. So if we encounter a program that is a must have, like an amazing writing program, we purchase it regardless of the cost.

I buy what works for our family. When my kids are schooling successfully it makes our home life a lot better. Sometimes I make purchases that don't work out for us. A nice things about homeschooling curriculum is that a lot of it has a high resale value. We are often able to resell that material and put the money towards a better program. Another secret is that I tend to spread out our purchases over several months so I don't get hit with a huge bill all at once. I know what math and grammar program we will be using for the following year. Those curriculum's don't change for us. So I watch the websites and if they have promotions or offer free shipping I go ahead and get them. Even if it is only February.

Although homeschooling is not cheap and we don't budget for it, we make this financially work for our family through careful planning and purchasing only those items that we really need.