Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Start the New Year with a Plan!

Hi! My name is Laura, and I'm a planner! I've been planning my whole life. I LOVE it! The endless possibilities of a blank planner page is just too much to bear. I must fill in each line.

Wait a minute! Each line!? Sadly, yes. I have been caught in this trap. Each line of that shiny new planner must be filled and everything must be completed! That's great, but that's not life. It leaves no room for the curve balls that get thrown at us each day, or the spontaneous trip to the park.

It's great to have a plan, but it's not great to become a slave to that plan. We must be flexible and allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives. If we aren't careful, we can plan Him right out of everything. Sad, but true.

That being said, I am sharing with you a blog planning form that I created today. I know what I just said, and I believe it 100%. However, just because we shouldn't over plan, doesn't mean we shouldn't have a plan at all. Some of us work better with a plan. I am one of those people. I like to plan for the ideal day, and then go from there. If it all happens, great! If not, oh well, there's always tomorrow.

I searched and searched this morning to find just what I wanted in a planner. I didn't want it too detailed. I didn't want it 30 pages long. I didn't want it plain and no fun. I DID want it to be short, simple, and cute. I finally got frustrated with my options and created my own.

Pretty, right? I thought so! It is very simple, ONE page for the whole month! There is even space for notes and planing out your weekly themes. On the bottom I added a space for future blog post ideas, in case I have the month full and inspiration hits. 

I am so happy with this new planner page! Hopefully, it will help me be a better blogger in this coming year. I post so sporadically, and I'd like to be more consistent. 

If you like this planner, and would like one of your own, you can download it for free, from my store at Teachers Pay Teachers.  

Thanks for reading. Leave me a comment to let me know what you think of this planner. If you are a blogger, and have a free planner of your own that you love, feel free to share it in the comments. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Review: Udderly Smooth Lotion

Udderly Smooth is a line of moisture rich lotions, perfect for dry, chapped skin in the winter. It's been manufactured in the USA for over 30 years! I recently had the opportunity to try some of these products out in exchange for a review. 

I was given two tubes of hand cream, one tub each of foot cream and 6 sample packets of body cream. To order all of this online from their website, it would cost me $16.75 plus $7.00 for shipping. That brings my total to $23.75. Not too bad, given the fact that these products will last you for quite a while. You don't have to order them from the company though. You can find them on many local stores: http://www.udderlysmooth.com/availability.shtml

My husband and I have been using all of these products since we received them on December 10th. We've barely made a dent in them! You seriously don't need a whole lot of product with each use. A little really does go a long way. 

We have noticed our skin feeling softer. I keep a tube of the hand cream next to my kitchen sink and put it on after I've washed dishes. Normally, my skin is really dry in the winter but this has really helped. I also gave a few of the samples to a friend to use on her children. Two of them had a rash that she was thinking was due to the dry winter air. She put the body cream on them and it cleared up the problem!  

I'm not a fan of all of the ingredients though. I would love to have it all be from natural, readable ingredients. Most of the time, I just use coconut oil for all of my moisturizing needs. That being said, if you are looking for something that works and you don't care about that sort of thing, this is your product. 

Overall, it's a great product. It does exactly as the company states it will. It's still made in the good, old USA! So, I wouldn't hesitate to spend my money on it at all. 

If you enjoyed my review and would like to read more, you can find them by heading over to Mosaic Reviews. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Review of "A Tale of Two Kingdoms" and "God's Unfolding Story of Salvation"

I received both "A Tale of Two Kingdoms" and "God's Unfolding Story of Salvation" a couple of months ago in exchange for this review. They are both written by Heather A. Kendall and can be found here. I have to say that I am not always excited about Bible study books. So many times, they are just not deep enough, or they are not in line with my beliefs.

I started reading these books with that in mind, but was quickly surprised. I will be upfront with you, I did not finish either of these books yet. I am slowly making my way through both of them. They are so in depth, that it takes me a bit to fully digest everything. This is a good thing. It gives me ideas and thoughts to ponder as I go about my daily life.

In "A Tale of Two Kingdoms" Heather shares God' story of salvation by incorporating all of the stories in the Bible into one, easy to follow book. Of course, the Bible should always be our go-to when it comes to, well, pretty much everything. Sometimes, it's hard to put it all together. I believe Heather did a wonderful job of putting it together for us. It truly has been a great read so far. I plan on finishing it and then sharing it with my church community.

The second book I was given, "God's Unfolding Story of Salvation," is more like your typical Bible study. She takes you through the scriptures and you really have to search through your Bible. I will be honest, I enjoy this style much more than the style of the previous book. In this study, Heather guides you through the scriptures to help you see the big picture in the Biblical storyline, it is Christ centered. I am only a few chapters in, at this point, but I am enjoying every minute of it so far. This is one study that I will have my children read as they grow a bit older.

I highly recommend both of these books. They are very informative and helpful in one's walk with Jesus. At $23 for "A Tale of Two Kingdoms" and $22 for "God's Unfolding Story of Salvation", they are well worth the investment.

Click this button, to read more reviews of both of these books.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Cleaning Routines, Lots of Kids, & Not Enough Space

Or so I thought....

Before I get into all of that, I want to share with you some history.

Some of you may know that I spent some time in Iraq. It's where my husband and I met and fell in love. We came home, got married and had a baby, all in the same year. Well, more like a 3 month time span. It was a whirlwind! One that I'd never change, but one that brought many challenges.

I went from just having to take care of myself to having a husband and baby! Umm, what in the world!? I had no idea what to do. I did the best I could. I really did. We were fed, clothed (in clean clothes), healthy and relatively happy. I knew I needed to do more though. This was something I was determined to figure out.

Enter Fly Lady. Yeah!!! She had it all planned out. I just needed to do. Well, that didn't work so well for me. I got stuck somewhere between getting dressed to shoes every day and taking care of a baby as a first time mom. My ideals weren't lining up quite right.

Now, don't get me wrong, Fly Lady is awesome! I love her routines and her focus on forming good habits. I still read her e-mails for inspiration. It's wonderful!

I also use an app called "FlyHelper." You can find it in the Google Play Store. It's a wonderful app, and it's FREE. (I don't get anything by sharing, other than the satisfaction of helping another mom out who may be drowning the way I am.)

I tried Fly Lady off and on for a few years. I also tried a few other things. Some, I can't even remember the name of right now. I tried making my own. I tried following a schedule set to the time. That just didn't work for me either. If I could live my life without ever looking at a clock, I'd be one happy lady.

Throughout those years of trial and error, I found quite a few things that worked and quite a few more that didn't. I have finally found something that works for us. It involves everyone. Well, everyone except my husband since he's at work during the day. I have a clean house, that is free of clutter(mostly), toys are picked up, laundry is "done", dishes aren't scattered all over, and most of all we are happy living in. Now, if you were to knock on my door this second, you would not find a house straight from the pages of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. Far from it. We have a small house and 6 people living in it, there's stuff here. We LIVE in our house. We homeschool in this house. If you were to walk in, right now, you'd find kids happily playing with toys and dishes in the sink. Like I said, we live here, and I'm fine with that.

Would you like to hear my big secret on how we got on top of the clutter and mess? Okay, get ready to take notes. Got your paper and pen? Here it comes....

We have started spending 15 minutes a day in each room! Ha! That's it! I set my trusty timer(thank you FlyLady) for 15 minutes and off we go! We all work in the same room, from me all the way down to my 3 year old.

We start by simply picking things up and putting them in their place. You know the saying, "A place for everything and everything in it's place." This is very important. If it doesn't have a place, you don't use it or need it, out it goes. You don't need it in your house!

Once that is done, we start on our details. For this, I use FlyLadys zones. You can find them here. Just click on "zones." If we don't have time for the details, we don't do them. At least the beds are made and everything has found it's place for that day.

Laundry is done daily also. I wash, dry and fold anywhere from 2-6 loads a day, depending on what needs to be done. At the end of the day, we all work on getting it all put away. We do this after supper when dad is home and he helps. We all wear the clothes, we all do our part. It takes us, you guessed it 15 minutes. Sometimes it takes maybe 20-25 depending upon how much we have and how well the kids are cooperating.
                                     (Picture of FlyLady's timer is used with permission of FlyLady.)

Yes, it's that simple! We spend no more than 15 minutes in one room and no less. You can do it too! So, get your timers out and give it a try. Let me know how it goes!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

New addition to the family.... or make that FOUR new additions

Before you start wondering if I just gave birth to quadruplets. I didn't. We just bought 4 goldfish for the kids to take care of.

They have been begging for a while now to have some fish. I made a deal with them. They had to clean and de-clutter their room and I would buy them some fish. My husband and I talked about it and decided that 38 cent goldfish weren't too much of an investment if this little project goes south.

Since I have 4 kids, ready and willing, to help in the care of these cute little fish, I needed some way to track what had been done. The fish will need to be fed once or twice daily, not four. The tank will also need to be cleaned. We just purchased a typical goldfish bowl to start. That is why it will need to be cleaned so often. I plan on buying them something similar to this magnetic cleaner.

I searched online and couldn't find what I was looking for, so I made my own. I decided to share it with all of you too! You can print it by following this link to Teachers Pay Teachers: Goldfish Care Chart.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Math Mammoth Review

This week, my review is on Math Mammoth Light Blue Series 1A & 1B. I don't technically have any children in grade 1. However, my 5 year old, Hurricane, was ready to move past pre-school level math, so I thought we'd give this a try.

With my other two boys, we used Singapore Math 1A & 1B. We are very much a Singapore Math family, so it was very hard for me not to compare the two curricula when doing this review. It seems that most, if not all, homeschooling families have a certain math curriculum they use and they stick with it. Everyone has different tastes and learning styles, so they are all going to be different. Early on in my homeschooling "career," I referred to this chart from the Math Mammoth website to help me decide what would be best for our family. We use Singapore Math Standards Edition, so it doesn't line up exactly with Math Mammoth, but it's close.

Math Mammoth 1A starts out with a Kindergarten math review. I LOVED this. Since Hurricane is still a bit young, it was nice to have a bit of review to go over with him. It also helped him to get used to the work text format.  We are moving nice and slow for him. One page a day, at this point. I plan on slowing down or speeding up, depending upon his needs.

After the Kindergarten math review, the curriculum covers four main areas; addition and subtraction, place value, measuring lengths and geometric shapes. A full table of contents can be viewed by clicking the link above for the Light Blue Series 1A & 1B and downloading the "contents and samples" file.

One thing I really love about Math Mammoth is the focus on UNDERSTANDING of mathematical concepts. It's not just all memorization, though that is helpful when it comes to math.  I am a "why" person. I don't just do things without a good reason. Math Mammoth will teach your children to understand why. I believe this really helps to master the concepts taught in mathematics, and is one main reason I would suggest Math Mammoth to any homeschooling family.

Maria really does a wonderful job explaining the Light Blue series here:

1. Very cost effective at $34 for the whole year.
2. Focuses on understanding of mathematical concepts.
3. Easy to use with the directions printed right in the workbook.
4. No teachers manual needed.
5. Very clear explanations.
6. Can be purchased in a few different forms. 
7. Very little "extras," like manipulatives, needed. 

I honestly can't think of any. 

I will say that we plan on continuing with this curriculum for Hurricane's first year of math. After that, the plan is to switch to Singapore Math Standards Edition. That is not a knock on Math Mammoth at all, just a personal preference. I feel the scope and sequence fits our family better. That is my ONLY reason. If there ever were a time that we needed to change our math curricula for any reason, Math Mammoth would be at the top of my list! 

If you would like to purchase this curricula, you can go to the Math Mammoth Light Blue Series Grade 1 site and choose which option you like best. Your options are printed, download and CD formats. The printed are a bit more expensive, but still not as expensive as some of the math curricula out there. 

You can also read more reviews for Math Mammoth here: Mosaic Reviews: Math Mammoth

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Rowing "The Tale of Peter Rabbit"

The week of September 3rd marked the start of our school year. I hadn't planned on starting until the following week, but the kids were begging to get going. Who am I to deny them? Since I didn't want to mess my plans up. I decided to do Tuesday and Thursday the first week and Monday, Wednesday, Friday the next week. That way we get our full first week in, and we can ease back into our school schedule.

For the first week, we decided to row "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" by Beatrix Potter. I LOVE this book. There are so many things to learn from it's characters. The kids love it too.

Most of our activities are right out of the Five In A Row Volume 2 manual, so I won't go into those much. The manuals are very much worth every penny spent. (Though, I didn't have to spent anything on mine since I found them at a local FREE store.) I really wanted to share with you the sensory bin I came up with.

What you will need (cost):
Bin large enough to hold everything (free since I had it at home)
Potting soil ($0.97 at Walmart)
Seed packets ($0.10 a piece on clearance)
"Silk" flowers ($0.50 a bunch on clearance, I bought 3)
Shovels and other play things ($1.60 a piece on clearance)

As you can see, I didn't spend much on this bin. You don't need to really. I plan my sensory bins a few weeks out, so I can look through clearance isles and 2nd hand stores. I just make a list of everything I am going to need and keep my eyes open. If something proves to be too hard to find, I can usually find something else to fit in the bin, or just change the bin idea.

My kids LOVED it! Once we finished reading the book and doing our learning activity for the day, I brought this bin out. I put it on the floor with a large vinyl tablecloth underneath. (That made for very easy clean up. I found it at Goodwill for $2) This bin kept the younger two (ages 3 and 5) busy while I continued teaching my older two.

I left it out for maybe 30-45 minutes, then picked it up. I have found, with my kids, that if I leave things out for them too long, it will just become a huge mess. They were usually done playing with it by this time anyway. I wouldn't take it away from them when they were in the middle of playing. That is serious business. I would just pay attention to when they were loosing interest and put it up at that point.

We had lots of fun rowing "The Tale of Peter Rabbit." We hope you do too!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Review - Homeschool Programming Kid Coder Web Design

Grades 4-12


Homeschool Programming is a super fun computer science curriculum that teaches your 4th-12th grade children how to write their own computer programs and games. The program was written by homeschool parents with over 17 years of experience in the software industry.

They offer "Kid Coder" and "Teen Coder" options. Kid Coder is for all grades within that range, while Teen Coder is for the student who would like a more in-depth study. 

Here's a photo from their site that shows everything they offer. 

Being that most of my children are too young for this program, I had my oldest work with it. Both of us have enjoyed it so far. "Lightening" seems to be catching on to most of it. He likes how it's laid out for him and the fact that he can work independently. I also like this aspect. I can set him to work and go about mine. I check in with him often and help him when he asks. Though it's not really needed as the program walks him through step by step. I barely have to help him!

We are only about 4 chapters in at this point, but we do plan on continuing to the end. We may even purchase the other program options, if that is what Lightening wants to do. I do believe it's worth every penny! This is all information that I wish I knew, so I had no idea how to teach my children. Homeschool Programming took care of it all for me!

To read other great reviews of this product, go to Mosaic Reviews.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Cleaning and organizing and de-cluttering! Oh my!

Hello again. I know I've been really quiet this summer and I'm sorry. I've been busy. We had our first camping trip to celebrate Thunder's and Lightning's birthday. We had so much fun and got a lot of mosquito bites to prove it. They really had it out for Hurricane, who got three bites right around his eye! His eye was swollen shut! Poor guy. He's okay now though.

 I've also been working on my FlyLady routines. This is something I struggle with. I do well with a routine, but I start to feel trapped by it and have to re-vamp it. Instead of just changing it up for a bit, I end up stopping all together. In a 3 bedroom house with 6 people that simply can not happen! The laundry monster starts to take over first, then it's the dishes, then it's the toys. Before I know it, my house looks like a tornado ran through!

FlyLady to the rescue!! When my house gets that bad, I put on my mp3 player and go to town with a crisis clean! I know she says that we should never have to crisis clean again, but I do. I am getting better though. I used to have to do a crisis clean once or twice a week, just to maintain the CHAOS (Can't have anyone over syndrome). Lately, it's been just an occasional occurrence because I've been keeping up on my daily routines.

FlyLady's baby steps start with working on your evening routine. I found this a little weird at first, but have found it's very important. My day runs a lot smoother when I wake up to a clean house. I can actually cover some ground instead of treading water all day. I still have not perfected this, but I try. Some nights I am just too tired, by the time I get all 4 kids into bed and keep them there. A while back I pinned this cleaning routine from Little Green Notebook. I love the simplicity of it. Yes, I still do the FlyLady stuff, I just like to tweak everything to my life, so I take a bit from here and a bit from there.

Anyway, I knew that I needed to start with my evening routine, so I did exactly what that chart said to do. Low and behold, the next day went smooth too! Amazing! Thank you FlyLady for the inspiration to work at it 15 minutes at a time. The time I put in today, will benefit my family tomorrow!

The morning routine is next. This is straight out of FlyLady and goes as follows:

~Eat something good for you and take your medicine and vitamins
~Feed kids (they get up as they want and eat at different times.)
~ Shower and get dressed to lace up shoes, fix your hair and face. ( I do NOT put shoes on most days. I am not any more productive if I have shoes on, and I'm more comfortable in bare feet.)
~Make bed
~Grab a load of laundry and start the washer
~Empty dishwasher to start your day.(If you did your evening routine, it should be full of clean dishes)
~ Check your calendar for today's activities
~What's for dinner? Get it out and in the crock-pot.
~De-clutter for 15 minutes in the FlyLady zone.
~ De-clutter mission from Home Storage Solutions.

By this point, it's close to lunch time. I'm going to have to work something out once we start homeschooling again in September since that will not work for us. I'm thinking I will have to move the bulk of these steps to an afternoon routine, so we can get our schooling done in the morning.

I do try to get more than one load of laundry done in a day. With 6 people one load a day simply will not cut it! Laundry seems to be my sticking point, no matter what I do. One day, I will be caught up. Or we will move to a nudist colony. Either one, I'm not sure. 

This is about as far as I've gotten with my routines. It's working so far and my house is about 15-30 minutes away from company worthy. No, I don't have a Better Homes and Gardens picture worthy house, but it's clean and that's all that matters.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Classical Historian Review

When I was asked to review a game for The Classical Historian, I can honestly say that I had never heard of them before. After browsing their WEB SITE, I was excited to receive the game they sent as I did not know which game I would get.

I received the Medieval History Memory Game and promptly opened it up. The quality of the cards is very nice. The pictures are very clear and the words can be read easily. My kids have enjoyed looking at all of the pictures and it's actually spurred some great conversations.

So far, we have just played it as a true memory game, matching the pictures. The website says you can use it in a different way to teach geography and association skills. You can place the four category cards(Europe, The Americas, The Far East, Arabia) at the top of your playing area. Then each player takes turns placing the rest of the tiles under the correct category. I'm sure we will do this in the future as this coming school year we are going to study world geography. 

Overall, this is a fun game and worth the $14.95 asking price. The people with The Classical Historian are wonderful to work with and respond quickly with answers to questions. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Woolzies review and giveaway!

I was recently given an opportunity to review a set of Woolzies Dryer Balls. I can honestly say I LOVE them. I have been using dryer balls forever. Unfortunately, they've been those hard plastic balls that are so loud they sound like there is a war zone in my laundry room. Not cool!

Woolzies Dryer Balls are made out of, wait for it..... 100% New Zealand wool! They are handmade and will last you for 1,000 loads!! Since they are made of wool, and not plastic, they are PVC free and will not melt or break apart on you in the dryer. They act as a fabric softener, without the harsh chemicals, and will leave your clothes feeling soft and static free!

I was pleasantly surprised to find 6 dryer balls in the package. Of course, I had to do a load of laundry right away to test them out. I guess you could count that as another great thing about Woolzies, I actually WANTED to do laundry! I was so excited to get them in the dryer that I forgot to take a picture for this review! I was so happy to find that they are super quiet. Yes, you can hear them bouncing around a little bit, but it's NOTHING compared to those plastic dryer balls!! My clothes came out of the dryer soft and static free, just like the company claims! I did notice that it didn't take near as long to dry either! It's a win, win!!!

Now, you can get your own set of Woolzies Dryer Balls, one of two ways. If you just can't wait, you can go HERE to purchase your own set for $34.95. (Worth every penny, by the way.) Or you can enter to win a set below...

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*DISCLAIMER: I was given a free set of Woolzies Dryer Balls in exchange for an honest review. A positive review was not guaranteed.  

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Review of My Homeschool Grades

I really wasn't interested in My Home School Grades because in Prairie Peace Home school, I do not track grades. My children are still in elementary school and I don't feel it's necessary. That being said, I am glad I had the chance to check it out. I still don't give my children grades, but it has been helpful in allowing me to see the progress my children have made in certain areas.

My Home School Grades was created by a homeschool Dad and a recent homeschool graduate. Who better to know what homeschool families need? They really created a great product with My Home School Grades. Not only can you access it on your home computer, they have created an app that will work on your tablet or smartphone!

To get started all you need to do is enter in your students. The whole process is so easy! They also have "how to" videos for those that may need a bit of help. I just entered my two oldest children for now. I'm sure I will add the younger two later .

Then, you enter your classes for each student. To test it out, I just entered our Spelling Mechanics plan into the system. This proved to be super simple! It just took a bit of my time and I was off and running. You can choose to display grades by number, letter or letters with + & -. I chose the letter option. It was really easy to enter their grades into the system also. Grades can be entered as letters (A+, A), as numbers (96), or as fractions (16/19).
There is even an area to enter your extra curricular activities!

As time goes by, I am sure I will use the transcripts part of this system. Being we are still in elementary grades, it is not needed at this time. I am excited to be able to use My Homeschool Grades for transcripts though. Just like every other aspect of this program, it is super simple! My homeschool support group just had an educational evening on how to create transcripts. I think my eyes glossed over at some point. I actually left that meeting confused and concerned that I would not be able to handle transcripts. In came My Homeschool Grades and their simple program! I am no longer concerned that I won't be able to create transcripts for my children.
Even the price is simple! At $49.99 for a LIFETIME membership, I believe that any family can make that happen.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Teach your children to do better...

Bullying. It's become a buzz word of sorts. Do we really know what it means?

How about the kid that gets called a "Scaredy Cat" because he won't jump off the swing? 


The girl who gets poked fun of because her hair is too frizzy.


The boy who is picked last in gym class because he's not that athletic. 

Do we turn a blind eye to it and say, "Oh, kids will be kids."? I say, if you do, you are no better than the bullies on the playground or in the hallway at school. Kids will be kids, but it's up to us as parents to teach them how to be GOOD kids. The teachers that turn a blind eye are no better. They end up becoming a bully of sorts when they ignore it. They empower that bully to continue. 

Parents, if you hear of your child being a bully, even if you think it's just normal kid stuff, do something about it! Talk to your children. Search your own behavior. Kids do what they know. 

We can't let this go on. If you see a child being pushed around, either physically or emotionally, become an advocate for them.  I've stopped in the middle of the road while driving to stop a group of boys beating up another child. I sent them all home and made sure this poor boy made it home too. 

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
~ Matthew 25:40

Friday, May 17, 2013

Waterproof Bible Review

I am so excited about this Bible! When I first heard about the Waterproof Bible, I will admit that I was skeptical. I honestly didn't believe that any book could be truly waterproof. Well, I can assure you that this one is!

I received the Waterproof Bible ESV New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs. We really put it through the test. As a lover of books, this was especially hard for me. I pushed through and we did it anyway. We fully submerged it in a bowl of water, tossed it in the mud and tried to rip the pages. It still looks as new today as the day I got it in the mail. It will be put through a summer long test this summer, as we go camping quite often. We are tent campers, so it won't even get the protection that an RV has.

Here are pictures to prove that we did fully submerge it into the water. Another cool thing about this Bible is that it floats!  I took it out of this bowl of water and dried it off with paper towels and we were good to go.

This Bible is amazing! If you do anything outdoors, this Bible is for you! They have ESV, KJV, NIV, NKJV and NLT available! Prices range from $24.95 for a New Testament to $44.95 for a full Bible. In their store, you can also pick up a Waterproof Bible jacket, journals and notepads.

I have been singing the praises of the Waterproof Bible since the day I received it. I recommend this to everyone! It doesn't matter if you are a stay at home Mom (kids spill things), a college student (people spill things), an outdoors-men (or woman), camper, teacher, brother, sister, etc. I could go on and on. I think everyone needs to own a Waterproof Bible.

Review of Ooka Island

Ooka Island is meant for Pre-K to 2nd grade children to learn to read. I had my 5 year old follow this program, so you will get his opinion as well as mine.

I was given a 3 month subscription for my child to use. The company sent me a disk and once I loaded it onto my computer we were off and running! My first impression was, "Wow! This is neat!" Hurricane has had so much fun playing around with it. I have just turned it on for him and let him explore on his own. He has been able to navigate it quite easily without guidance from me. This is awesome! He would sit for hours if I let him! There have been days that he begs to play Ooka Island.

Though it has been really fun, I'm not sure it has done much to teach him to read. This could be caused by a few different factors and I don't think the program is the problem. He is still young, in my opinion, to be reading. I don't think he's ready yet. That being said, this program is still a welcome addition to this home as it is still educational and I know he is getting some information from it. He is still learning his letter sounds and the games included in this program help with that. They also helped him learn the order of the alphabet. He has been able to recite the "ABC's" for a long time now, but Ooka Island helped him understand how to put them in order on "paper" or screen as it is in this case.

Another cool feature in this program is the "lighthouse." The lighthouse is where parents can track their child's progress. Being that I just let Hurricane do his thing, I used this a lot. It let me know where he was at and how he was doing. It was fun to see what he could do!

The cost for a homeschool family with one child is $12.95 a month or $124.95 annually. If you have more children, you can purchase this program for $19.95 a month or $149.95 annually for up to 4 children.They also have a home edition and a school edition available to purchase.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Finishing Up Our School Year

We are at then end of our school year. May is the month we start looking forward to summer and all of the events we will be doing then. We have a full summer of camping, swimming lessons, Roots and Shoots and Bible Scamp.

Among all of this, I still like to find time for some school. Mainly math and reading. I have found that if I let them go for too long without working on these subjects, they start to "forget." I don't know if it's forget as much as it is just getting out of the habit.

So, yesterday I sat down and planned our school work for the rest of May. We will finish everything that I wanted to by the end of this month! Yeah! We will have just math and reading for the month of June, take July off and the first week of August. Then, we will start to get back into the school habit the last three weeks of August with just math and reading again.

I created a planner document just for this. I don't need as much space for the summer as I do during our school year, and I didn't want to fuss with a whole planner. This is just one page with space for two children. My younger two are still learning through lots and lots of play, so they didn't need a column. You may download this and use it as you wish. All I ask is that you don't link directly to the document. If you would like to share it, please link back to this post and give me proper credit.

You can go here to download this item. It is a free document.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Spanish for You Reveiw

I really wasn't looking for a foreign language curricula, so I didn't have an opinion either way on this. Once I received my download files of Spanish for You! Fietas, I was still not too excited as it didn't make sense to me as I don't know a bit of Spanish. It wasn't until I listened to our conference call with Debbie Annett that it all started to fall into place. She has been very helpful!

1. Easy to use. (Once you know what you are looking at.)
2. Debbie gives you both a native speaker audio file and an audio file of her speaking. This really helps as it's hard to understand the native speaker if you don't know the language. I use the native speaker file the most because that is what I want my kids to hear and learn.
3. It had all of us, including my 5 year old, speaking and understanding Spanish the first day!
4. At only $39.95 per grade level, this is a really affordable curricula!

1. If you aren't familiar with Spanish at all, you may have to take some time to figure it all out. 

For my review, I received "Spanish for You!" Fiestas in a download format. In this package I received;
1. Spanish for You! textbook.
2. 30 week lesson plan for grades 3-4.
3. Self-checking worksheets.
4. Audio files of the entire textbook.
5. Flashcard/activity pictures.

I had everything I needed, once I figured out where to start. Like I said before, I did not speak a bit of Spanish so I had no idea what I was looking at. Part of it could have been that I like to have a physical book in my hands. It helps me make better sense of things. To remedy this, I printed out both the textbook and the lesson plan files. It still took me a bit to figure it all out though. This is most definitely an "open and go" type curricula! 

Once I had it all figured out, it was a snap! I had my 1st and 3rd grade children do this with me. I know that 1st grade is a bit below the target age, but I figured I could help him along. He has done very well! I have to help a bit with the worksheets, but I'm not too fond of worksheets anyway. What I'm impressed with is that it had us speaking Spanish the very 1st day! The flashcards are a huge help. We use them to play games, not just memorize.

We have been moving slower than Debbie suggests, only doing 2 days a week instead of 5. I don't want to fill our schedule so much that we burn out! Next school year I will add more days of Spanish though, as we are enjoying it so much! Even doing just 2 days a week, my children are retaining what they have learned! 

Overall, this is a great curricula! I plan on purchasing the other package, Estaciones, when we finish with Fiestas.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day plan.

We are taking the week "off" from our usual homeschooling routine, so I can get ready for the big birthday party! Hurricane and Raindrop will be celebrating their birthday's together due to some really bad weather in March. Hopefully all of this snow is gone by this weekend. Yes, it's snowing again. Don't ask me how I like it. I'm likely to start yelling.

Anyway, because we are taking the week off from our normal routine, doesn't mean we are stopping everything. It's Earth Day today, so I thought we could do something fun today! We are going to read "It's Earth Day" by Mercer Mayer. We will discuss some of the issues raised in the book. Such as; turning off lights when we leave the room, walking when we can, using the clothesline in the summer.

Then, I thought we could watch "The Lorax." Netflix has is available in streaming! Yea! To go along with this, I thought we could do some of the activities from Homeschoolshare.com. We won't do the whole lap book in one day. After all, this is supposed to be a light week.

So, what are you doing for Earth Day? Anything special? Is is just another day for you? If you do something special and want to share, be sure to put the link in the comments section! Have a great day!

Friday, April 19, 2013

40 Days to a Stronger Marriage ~ Day 39 & 40!!!!

Well, here we are at the end, or beginning, of our journey. I say that because you can look at it two different ways. We are at the end of our 40 day challenge, but the beginning of a new way in our marriage. Over the last 40 days I have had some easy days and some pretty challenging days. It's been an interesting journey.

I have noticed that my husband doesn't seem as irritable. This may be in part because I committed to speaking his love language as much as I possibly can. I am trying to make sure that he is "hearing" that I love him every day. In turn, he has been doing the same for me. It's been wonderful!

Last week I went through a very trying time in my personal life. G.I. Joe really stepped it up and protected me from the "blows" the just wouldn't stop. I am so blessed to have such a wonderful man in my life.

Without further ado, here is the last challenge for this 40 day journey.

Day 39
Watch a sunset together and reflect on the highs and lows of this 40 day journey.
Day 40
Commit to continuing to strengthen your marriage daily. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

40 Days to a Stronger Marriage ~ Day 38

Is there something that your husband needs today? What about a project that they've been working on? Or a daily task that he would love to have done for him? This is what today is all about. If we can sacrifice a little of our time and energy, it could go a long way in our marriage. Try it today and tell me how it went.

Day 38
Meet a need that your husband has today. Big or small.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

40 Days to a Stronger Marriage ~ Day 37

Today is all about touch. Physical touch is not one of my man love languages, but I still feel a need for it. Touching helps us connect. I relate it to dealing with children. When they are doing something and we want them to stop, the best way is to get on their level and gently touch them. That way, we know that we have their attention. Sure, we can yell, but does it really work? In my house, I am the one who yells. I am working on it, but it's hard. My kids are used to my yelling voice and can easily ignore it. When I take the time to gently touch their shoulder, I have their attention.

Back to the topic at hand, our husbands. We want their attention right? We need to touch them. As you walk by, touch his arm. Sneak a quick hug in as you pass in the hallway. Give a shoulder rub after a long day. It's easy to ignore this. I know, I have 4 kids and by the time G.I. Joe is home from work, I am "touched out." It's hard to fill his need for physical touch some days. I am open and honest with him when I just need some space, but I make sure to come back and do those little things throughout the day.

Day 37
Make an effort to physically touch your husband in some small way each day.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

40 Days to a Stronger Marriage ~ Day 36

Wow! Day 36! How are things going? Are you noticing a difference in your relationship? I sure am! I will wait to share the details with you until day 40.

I want to focus on politeness today. I believe it has become a lost art, so to speak. We are all in a hurry and it's so easy to be short with others. Especially, those who are closest to us. Our husband and kids can end up getting the short end of the stick most days. I'm guilty of this myself. It's something I'm working on.

Now, when I say polite, I do not mean doormat. I just mean polite. Miriam-Webster defines "polite" as this:

Definition of POLITE

a : of, relating to, or having the characteristics of advanced culture
b : marked by refined cultural interests and pursuits especially in arts and belles letters
a : showing or characterized by correct social usage
b : marked by an appearance of consideration, tact, deference, or courtesy
c : marked by a lack of roughness or crudities 
I believe that 2 b fits what I am trying to convey in this post. We need to treat our husbands with consideration, tact and courtesy. I learned a long time ago from some very wise women over at Gentle Christian Mothers to always assume positive intent in others actions and words. I strive to do this each day and it really does help. 

Day 36
Be polite in your words and actions toward your husband.

Monday, April 15, 2013

40 Days to a Stronger Marriage ~ Day 35

I want to start today with an apology for not posting the rest of last week. I was going through some pretty rough stuff personally, and I really didn't want to think about posting on my blog. Some things I posted on my blog were part of the reason people were questioning me in my personal life. So, I'm sure you can understand why I didn't even want to come here. Anyway, back to it! It's a new week!

Today I want you to commit to starting each day with a kiss. You can brush your teeth first if you prefer. It's so important for us to connect with our husbands each day and a kiss is a great way to do it. We talked about kissing before, and how much fun it can be. That challenge was about making sure you kissed him at least once a day. This challenge is about making sure to START your day that way. Have fun!

Day 35
Start each day with a kiss!!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

40 Days to a Stronger Marriage ~ Day 34

Yesterday, we took a pretty serious look at ourselves. I pray that everyone took the steps they needed to create a healthier you. A healthy marriage is a wonderful by-product of two healthy people. If you would like some extra prayer, just make sure to comment here and I will put you on my prayer list. You don't have to share the specifics, if you aren't comfortable with that. God knows the details.

Today, our subject is a little bit easier. I want you do something special for your husband today. What will be special for him? What would make him feel special? You can do something huge or something simple. It's up to you, just make sure that what you do is for your husband.

Day 34
Do something special for your husband today. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

40 Days to a Stronger Marriage ~ Day 33

Welcome back! I hope your weekend went well. Last week we started to look deeper into some possible uncomfortable issues in our marriages. This week won't be much different.

Today, we are going to really focus in on ourselves. Specifically, that something that is hindering your relationship. An addiction or influence that is taking your affection from where it needs to be, on your husband and your children. This can be something as serious as a drinking problem or something a little more simple like the internet. Both can create a huge rift between you and your husband though.

So take a serious look at your life today and make sure your priorities are where they need to be. If you do have an addiction, please seek some help to get you back on track. I've heard great things about Celebrate Recovery groups. If it's not an addiction, but something is there, taking your focus and affection, make sure you get rid of it. You may have to take some drastic steps, you may not. Just do whatever you have to do for the sake of your marriage.

Day 33
Remove any addiction or influence that is taking your focus off of your marriage.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Review of Apologia planners

I have been excited about most of the reviews with Mosaic Reviews so far. This one made the top of my list when I found out we were going to do a review for Apologia Planners. If you know me, you know that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to use planners.

I have taken to making my own, because I am so particular on what I want my planner to do for me. This one is no exception. There are things that I love and things that I would change.

Pros of Apologia's Ultimate Homeschool Planner:
1. It is beautiful!
2. Very well set up.
3. The front and back covers have pocket folders.
4. Has a users guide right at the front, so you know what to do with all of it.
5. The quotes for inspiration throughout are a wonderful touch.
6. Dates are filled in by you, so you can start your year whenever you like.

Cons of Apologia's Ultimate Homeschool Planner:
1. Cost. At $28 dollars, it's a little restrictive when having to budget for the homeschool year.

This planner is truly beautiful! It's almost hard to write in it, it's so beautiful. That being said, I will write in it because it is so well set up and useful! It really walks you through the planning process, so you can have a productive and fruitful year in your homeschool. It starts you out planning your year, then the month, then the week. This makes it so easy to stay on target. The users guide walks you through all of it, so you are not alone. Reading through the users guide gives me the feeling of having Debra right next to me, talking me through it all. 

After the planning section, there is a record keeping section. Though I do not grade my children's work at this time, I will use this section to keep track of our progress. This will just be for me to see, as I don't want my children basing their education upon my evaluation of them. I will use the reading list pages and love that there is a generous amount of room for 6 different reading lists. The Field trips and outside activities pages will be super helpful also. Sometimes I forget to write them down, and I want to be able to remember what we have done throughout the year. 

Also included, is a "Teaching Tips" section. Most of all, I love that Debra wrote this with raising an independent learner in mind. This is ultimately what we need to be doing with our children. I want my children to be able to spread their wings in the world, on their own. Debra included a "Checklist for Raising an Independent Learner." Each family and child will look different, but this is a great list to start with.

As for the cost, that's just something that we all have to decide what is right for our family. Twenty-eight dollars does seem like a lot of money to put into the homeschooling budget, and I am honestly not sure if we could swing it each year. I do feel that it is worth it though. With the amount of wonderful helps and guidance throughout the planner, it really sets it apart from other planners. 

I also received "The Ultimate Daily Planner for Students." This really is part of the system for creating an independent learner. The idea is that the student meets with mom weekly to record their weekly assignments and to mark their progress. 

Pros of The Ultimate Daily Planner for Students:
1.Very well set up.
2. Durable plastic cover.
3. Glow in the dark spiral binding
4. Scripture and trivia questions printed on each assignment page.
5. Area for the student to keep track of grades.
6. Place to record student's reading list. 
7. Informational pages at the back, to include a U.S. and World history timeline.
8. Stickers for use on the calendars. What kid doesn't love stickers?
9. Dates are filled in by the student, so you can start your year whenever you like. 

Cons of The Ultimate Daily Planner for Students:
1. Cost = $19

This planner is really neat! I love how it is set up, with an "all about me" and "the future me I want to be" in the front. It really helps to focus the student on improving and moving forward. Then comes a "Study-Smart Student Toolkit." This is also a wonderful addition to the planner. I like that the monthly and weekly pages are separate, so you can plan ahead easily and you don't have to cram everything into one space. 

The weekly assignment pages have two places to check off each item. One for the student and one for the parent. I love this. That way they get the satisfaction of checking off a completed task, and the parent can still make sure it was done correctly.

I feel the same for this planner as I said above as far as the cost. If you can swing the $19, it's so worth it!