Wednesday, August 23, 2017

My Apologies

Photobucket has recently changed the way they do things, and therefore links to SO MANY THINGS on my sidebar are broken! I do apologize for that, and am working on a way to fix it. Thank you for your patience!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Planning For Your Year-Round Homeschool

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Are you a year-round homeschooler? I confess, we typically homeschool all year long one finishes their work by the end of the traditional school year. Every year, my girls start out saying they want their summers OFF so they are going to work HARD and make sure that happens. Guess what? Other than possibly our kindergarten year, that has never happened. There are many reasons for this, but the bottom line is, life just happens.

Most homeschoolers I know are on the hunt for the "perfect" planner. Misty Leask of Year-Round Homeschooling has created a beautiful, affordable option: The Essential Year-Round Homeschooling Planner! In it, you will find: 
  • Pre-Planning - determine your schedule, plan your curricula, and keep track of how much you spend
  • Monthly Planning -  Blank calendar pages, undated, so you can start when you want to start 
  • Lesson Planning - sketch out your week at a glance on one page, then write in more detailed plans on the two-page weekly spread. There are also quarterly planning pages to help you keep track of the topics you want to cover and your goals. 
  • Review - Here's where you record where you "should" be in your books, where you are, and the average grade of your student(s). There are monthly, quarterly, and year-end review pages.
  • Tracking and Misc. Planning - Here you'll find your attendance log, grading helps, pages to record field trip ideas with a handy list of suggestions, and finally, notes and brainstorming pages. 
I was impressed by the level of detail in the pre-planning pages, in particular. I have been pretty good, in years past, about sitting down and marking out holidays and such on a year-at-a-glance calendar, but it never occurred to me to consider when we would take a vacation or when my husband's busy times at work might be. We don't always know very far in advance when we can do things, because our schedule often depends on when we can see relatives, but we always go the same time of year so it's worth marking on the calendar.

I also appreciate the curriculum planning pages. They are set up so you lay out a basic plan and then add in extras as you go. So often, I end up over-buying when I can't remember what I already planned. Yes, that is true. No judging. I often have ideas in my head, but if I haven't written them down, it's easy to forget that I had an idea, and even that I already purchased something. I will tell you what I tell my children: If you have to ask, the answer is, yes, I really am that forgetful. It would be good to have my choices written down, so when I want to consider a new resource, I can see what I already own and have planned. You wouldn't think that would be a new concept after homeschooling all these years, would you? And yet...

The bottom line is, this is a beautiful, well-designed planner. It's a frugal option, too, because it's a digital download and undated so you only need to purchase once. You can print the pages you want and leave others out if you don't need them.

This planner is a good deal even at full price, but for this introductory period you can save some money.
  • From now until July 14th:  $9.99 
  • July 15th-17th: $12.99
  • July 18th-20th: $15.99
  • July 21st it will be full price: $19.99
Do take a look and see if this planner might be what you're looking for! 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Guest Post Today at In All You Do

For the second year in a row, I'm participating in the 30 Days of Bible series put together by Annette over at In All You Do. This year, my post is about Journal & Doodle Bible Studies from Kari at Stone Soup for Five. I hope you have a moment to stop by, read my post, and check out the other wonderful resources being shared.

To help celebrate the series, there are FOUR great giveaways you can enter! Take a look, be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom, and enter the ones that will work for your family.

Family & Parenting Giveaway

Rules for the Giveaways:
  • The giveaways run June 1-30, 2016, ending 11:59pm EST.
  • Winners will be chosen and notified by Tuesday, July 5, 2016.
  • Each winner will have 72 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen.
  • You may enter more than one giveaway, but you will be allowed to win only once.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

REVIEW: Heroes, Heroines, and Tales of the Ancient Past

I was recently given the opportunity to review Amy Puetz's latest history curriculum, Heroes, Heroines, and Tales of Ancient History. Amy herself is a homeschool graduate, with a passion for history. She's the owner of Golden Grasses Press, where she publishes her history curricula as well as other books for Christian families. She's also a columnist for Homeschool Enrichment Magazine. You might find her at your local homeschool conference this summer! I reviewed her American history curriculum a couple of years ago, and I really liked it.

This new ancient history offering is just as good. For $98.99, you receive a complete year's history curriculum (30 weeks, 150 lessons), geared for grades 1-6. The same price will get you the printed version or the digital version. Here's what's included:

  • Heroes, Heroines, and Tales of Ancient History, parts 1 & 2: These are your spine books, each containing 75 lessons. (TOC & Sample Pages) The first book covers from Creation through Alexander the Great, and Part 2 covers from the Hellnistic Age through the Dark Ages.
  • Additional Materials CD: SO much great stuff here! Picture study, printable games, crafts, timelines, and more. There are even pronunciation audio files, so you can figure out those tricksy ancient names. Ankhesenamen, anyone?
  • Ancient History Historical Skits: Fun skits of some of the stories for children to act out. These would be great for a co-op situation!
  • Listen to some Ancient History: Readings of various things, such as a portion of the Code of Hammurabi, Bible passages, and writings from ancient historical figures.
  • Sing Some Ancient History: Recordings of songs you can learn as you go through the curriculum. This is a particular favorite of mine.
For the purpose of my review, I received a copy of the digital version, and I really like having that. I lose books all the time, but I can usually find my iPad, so I just put the spine books and audio files on there. The other reason for doing so is that each spine book is roughly 300 pages long, so those are some hefty books to print. If you must have the printed books, I recommend ordering them from Amy and saving your printer.

What I like about the curriculum:
  • The narrative style of the spine texts: History is much more engaging through a story. I love that some of the readings are tales from the cultures being studied, such as Sargon of Akkad, and Queen Semiramis. 
  • Lots of biographies! 
  • The multiple learning styles incorporated in each lesson
  • Included activities: I can remember spending a lot of time searching the internet for the kinds of activities included here! My son loves to play the games, and anything hands-on is a hit.
  • The organization: Each lesson has suggested activities and notes the location in the course materials. 
  • Lessons are noted that might be too intense for some children, and there are alternative readings for those if you feel your children aren't ready.
Things I liked less:
  • The readings are separated into 1st-2nd-grade readings, which are somewhat simplified, and 3rd-6th-grade readings. Personally, I would just use the readings for older children. 
  • Five days per week for history is a lot, particularly when each lesson takes between 30-60 minutes to complete (including activities). However, since it's written for 30 weeks, you can certainly spread it out a bit and still finish in a school year. Other subjects come into play, too, such as picture study and geography.
As a side note, the Bible readings are from the KJV, but once you're finished with Creation, they are listed as references most of the time, for you to look up and read if you wish.

If you're looking for a complete history curriculum for Ancients written from a Christian perspective, this program is worth considering. Amy's passion for history shows in every bit of her program, and it's obvious she put a lot of thought and care into its design. Also, until May 27, 2016, you will receive free shipping on the printed version. 

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the digital curriculum from Amy Puetz/Golden Prairie Press in exhange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Motivated Moms Mother's Day Sale!

This post contains affiliate links.

It's really no secret that I am, as my friend Tauna puts it, "domestically challenged." I can clean really well, but there's a lot of clutter around here, so cleaning anything takes longer than it needs to because of all the picking up that has to happen first. Can anyone else identify with this scenario?

A few years ago, I learned of the Motivated Moms planner, and it has changed my life for the better. It started out as a printable ebook, and now they have both Apple and Android apps, too.

What is Motivated Moms? Well, let me tell you a bit about it. It's a daily list of tasks to help keep you on track with your home. There are daily tasks, weekly tasks, monthly tasks, and annual tasks. If you complete the lists every day, you will find your house takes shape fairly quickly and stays that way. There are things on the list that I would never think to do without a reminder - like cleaning the globes on ceiling fan light fixtures.

The lists in the apps are customizable. You can color-code chores to assign them to family members, and then sync across devices. This feature has worked really well for me, because we are a techie family and my kids all have iPads. Here are some views from my app:

I used to prefer the printable planner, because I like having the visual reference right in front of me. Unfortunately, it was easy for me to misplace it. I would move it, or someone else would, and it just didn't stay front-and-center as I'd hoped. I was resistant to the idea of depending on an app, but once everyone got used to it, I found it worked really well.

Another nice feature of the app is, if you don't happen to complete a day's list, the next day's list appears the following morning. There is no guilt! I do try hard to get my lists done, but it doesn't always happen. Just keeping it real here, folks.

The best thing about the Motivated Moms planner is that it really helps keep me on track throughout the day. I am easily distracted. I might go to start a load of laundry, see that a cat threw up somewhere along the way, stop to clean that up, realize I should really vacuum the entire floor, see the shoes someone left out that should be put away... and then realize, after all that, I never did start the laundry! I'm also prone to being in a muddle, as my mom likes to say; at loose ends, so to speak. If I find myself unsure of what I should be doing next, I just pull up my task list.

The best news? The annual Mother's Day sale is happening RIGHT NOW! From today, May 5, through Monday, May 9, all MoMo products are 50% off!

  • Apps - iOS or Android,  including 2 months subscription - Regularly $1.99, now $0.99
  • 1-year app subscription, including free ebook - Regularly $7.99, now $3.99
  • Ebooks - Choose from black & white or color, full-page or half-page, with or without scheduled Bible readings
  • "Lite" apps  - 2 weeks' worth of tasks so you can try before you buy! (iOS/Android)
Please note that the free ebook offer is only valid when the subscription is purchased through the Motivated Moms website. It won't work if with in-app purchased. 

If you already have an app subscription, purchasing now will add a year to whatever you currently have. 

I really, really love the Motivated Moms planner. I hope you will check it out, if you're looking for something to help you manage your time better during your days. I can certainly use all the help I can get, and I appreciate the good habits my MoMo app is helping me develop.

Disclaimer: I received a free year's app subscription in exchange for offering my honest review.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin! And Other Books on Classical Music

This post contains affiliate links.

For the letter "Z," my final post of the #atozchallenge, I thought I'd share some of our favorite books for learning about classical music. One of the things I've enjoyed most in our homeschool has been exposing my children to great music, and we've enjoyed several books along the way.

What's that, you say? How on earth does one teach about classical music with books? I'm so glad you asked!

First of all, I want you to know that I know classical music is not all classical. I know about the musical eras. I promise. For the sake of simplicity, and for lack of a better term, I'm going to use the term "classical music."

When my girls were young, I loved to taking them through Story of the Orchestra. It was a lovely introduction, first to the eras of music (Baroque, Classical, etc.) and then the instrument families of the orchestra, and finally, the conductor. There is a CD that comes with the book with musical selections to listen to as you read through the story. The first one is Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" - what a wonderful beginning!

There are some other books along this vein, too, as that one seems to be out of print, which is sad. Meet The Orchestra, by Ann Hayes. You learn all about the instruments and how they work. There's no CD, but it's still a fun book.

Another really excellent one is Carnival of the Animals. Jack Prelutzky, one of our favorite poets, has written verse to accompany the songs written by Camille Saint-Saƫns. On the accompanying CD, he reads his poem preceding each corresponding piece of music. The last track on the CD is an uninterrupted performance of the entire thing.

We have also enjoyed Peter and the Wolf, a musical fairy tale by Prokofiev. This is another common suggestion for introducing children to classical music. My favorite character is the duck, who is portrayed by the oboe, followed closely by Grandfather, portrayed by the bassoon. (The version is narrated by Jim Dale, my very favorite audio book narrator!)

Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin! is a wonderful picture book. It begins with a trombone playing by itself, but one by one, other instruments join in, until an entire orchestra is assembled. The best part about this book, for myself, having read it approximately a gazillion times, is that it rhymes. I don't know about you, but I find it more enjoyable to read books repeatedly if they rhyme. It makes them go faster, for some reason. I love the way the instruments are described: the violins soar, the reeds implore, the basses roar, etc. This is a great book for very young children.

As my children have gotten older, we've enjoyed reading biographies of the composers we study. Opal Wheeler wrote several lovely biographies which are appropriate for children. Our favorites were the ones on Tchaikovsky. There is The Story of Peter Tchaikovsky, about his life in general, and then Peter Tchaikovsky and The Nutcracker. My ballerina loves Tchaikovsky, and we thoroughly enjoyed reading more about him. It's definitely worth looking to see if Ms. Wheeler wrote a biography of the composer you'd like to study. My 8 year old enjoys her books, and so do my high schoolers. I love that they work for a wide range of ages.

Classical Music for Dummies is an outstanding resource. This book describes just about every facet of classical music you'd ever want to know. It discusses instruments, composers, the history of musical eras, musical forms, and includes a CD with examples of the works it describes. The one thing I didn't care for was it's often flippant, somewhat disrespectful tone. I'm all about fun, but there was a fair bit of innuendo I found unnecessary.

Young Scholar's Guide to the Great Composers is a curriculum from Bright Ideas Press. We didn't use it for the curriculum; we use it as a resource for short biographies if we don't have room in our schedule to read a longer book. There are nice resources in this book, including discussion of the 6 musical eras, timeline, maps, a card game, and listening suggestions. As I said, we mainly use it for the biographies, but there's a lot there if you'd like to use it. It seems to be out of print in a printed version; I've linked to used copies on Amazon, but you can get a digital edition from BIP.

There are many, many more books you can read with your children as you study classical music. I am a bit of a music nerd, so I love all the information, and for the most part, my children enjoy learning it, too.  As this is my 11th year homeschooling, I'm able to see when their eyes start to glaze over, so I know when I've gone overboard. It's important to know, though, that Charlotte Mason's goal was to expose children to the great composers. It was not necessary for them to know their lives in great detail. If you don't have room in your read-aloud time for a composer biography, your have not ruined your children's entire education. Okay? I'm offering these resources as helps, not guilt-inducing devices.

I hope to discuss classical music further on my blog at some point. Do you have any favorite books I haven't listed? I'd love to hear about them!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Yellow And Pink and William Steig (#atozchallenge)

This post contains affiliate links.

Shhhh.... I skipped "X." So sorry. I could not come up with an author, or a book, beginning with X that I felt comfortable discussing. So, here we are on "Y!"

My favorite thing about homeschooling has been discovering new-to-me authors of children's books. I wasn't familiar with William Steig's name, but once I started looking for his books, I realized I was familiar with more of his work than I'd realized.

William Steig was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1907. His parents both appreciated the fine arts, and he received his first lessons in art from his older brother. During the Great Depression, his father went broke, and it fell to William to support his family. He began selling his art work. He eventually became known as "The King of Cartoons," and drew 2600 cartoons and 117 covers for the New Yorker. He wrote his first children's book, CDB! when he was 61 years old, in 1968. He passed away in Boston, Massachusetts in 2003, at the age of 95. I love his illustrations - they are simple and engaging. If you look at any of his cartoons, you will see his signature style carried over into his children's books illustrations.

I'm first heard of Yellow and Pink when I began homeschooling. We used My Father's World kindergarten program, and it was listed in the booklist for Creation studies. It was hard to find, even then. If you can believe it, I just found a copy at a library sale for $0.25. TWENTY FIVE CENTS. Take a look at the used prices on Amazon, and you will see why this makes me so happy!

Yellow and Pink is a lovely little book about two puppets, one yellow and one pink (imagine that!), who become self-aware as they are lying on newspapers in a meadow, waiting for their paint to dry. They begin to wonder how they came to be, and come up with interesting, implausible explanations. Their creator comes to find him, and they have no idea who he is. It's a great little story, and Christians interpret it as a story about God creating man. I've read a bit about Steig, and from what I can gather, he was an evolutionist. It's an interesting conundrum, to say the least, but it's still a great story, and each of us will take from it what we will, yes? Unfortunately, this book is not currently in print, but it IS available as an ebook (link below).

He wrote many other picture books. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble is one I remember from my own childhood, and I was delighted to rediscover it and share it with my children. It won a Caldecott Medal, AND it was banned because the police in the book were portrayed as pigs (all the characters are animals and pigs are drawn doing other things as well). Did you know he wrote the book Shrek, upon which the movies are loosely based? I had no idea until I was researching for this post! Doctor De SotoBrave Irene... the list goes on.

Mr. Steig wrote some chapter books, too. A friend recently recommended The Real Thief, which my son and I have begun reading - it's a great story! There's also Abel's Island, a Newbery Honor Book, and Dominic.

I hope you will take a look at some of Mr Steig's books, if you're unfamiliar with him. I don't think you'll be disappointed.