Tuesday, May 26, 2009

26 Reasons I Love our Big Family!

A few weeks ago a mom of eight I know invited me to a meeting at our church for "moms of five or more". It was just a fun night out with a salad supper and good conversation with women who could really understand what we were all going through. We plan to make it a quarterly meeting...interesting tidbit: Of the 14 moms there, our children totaled 109! I thought that was quite impressive!!

Today I received a phone call from a woman who writes for our church newspaper wanting to interview me about our group and about raising a large family. One of the questions she asked was why I thought raising a large family was such a blessing. Honestly, it caught me a little off guard...I mean that's a big question with a pretty big answer. I'm certain I didn't answer it very well, but it did remind me of an ABC scrapbook I put together a couple of years ago. So, I thought I'd share it with you.

Just remember, two years ago we were just a small "big" family of five...

26 Reasons I Love Our BIG Family!

Arrows...Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. - Psalm 127:3-5

Blue-eyed Babies...Now that we have five children, I guess we qualify for having a "big family". And though people are shocked when we say we want more and we get lots of funny stares at the grocery store, I wouldn't have it any other way! Our blue-eyes babies are a precious gift!

Cuddles...When we took this picture (left) of G8 and A7 cuddling on the couch, it reminded me so much of the above picture we took of them when A7 was just a couple weeks old.

Dimples...E5 is our #3 and we were so shocked when he was born to see his deep, deep dimples. I remember when he was an infant that I couldn't wait for him to begin smiling so I could truly see them. Since then we've had two more children with one dimple each. Just think...if we had stopped at two, we never would've known.

Encouragement...I love how the kids encourage each other and us. The picture above was taken on Christmas morning at Dad's house. The kids were in the kitchen while we were in the living room talking. We just so happened to walk in the room as the kids were all lifting their cups and saying, "Cheers...to Jesus' birthday!"

Formorrows and Lasterdays...I think its funny how our children have their own form of communication. I like how G8 says "hoo-man" instead of human and how H3 pronounces all her 'r's' like'w's' (just like I did when I was little). But my favorite is that they all say "formorrow" instead of "tomorrow" and "lasterday" instead of "yesterday". It's so cute, why correct them?

Generations...With each new baby our family legacy grows and grows. Above, Grandma holds E2.

Homeschool...I cannot begin to tell you how blessed we are that we get to teach our children at home and watch them learn.

Introductions...Oh, how sweet introductions can be! Here E5, A7, and H3 meet E2 for the first time. They were so excited and took turns holding him.

Just the two of us...(at least for an hour!) Having five kids definitely makes date night a special event. We know couples who go out on a date once a week, but that's not currently possible. We're doing good when we can get away once a month!

Kisses...Toddlers never seem to know how to give neat, polite kisses. They're always big and sloppy! I still remember being so surprised the first time G8 kissed me on the cheek without being prompted to. The boys like to make up kisses - a "Spiderman kiss" is when you kiss and then rub your noses together. H5 pats you on the back when you give her a kiss and A7 just likes lots of kisses!

Little Toes...Of all the stages of childhood, I think the infant stage may be my favorite. Tiny bundles all swaddled up in a blanket. I love to lay them against my chest, listen to their heart beat, feel them breathe, and imagine all the wonderful things God has in store for them. Nothing could illicit truer praise than when holding so precious a gift as a newborn baby.

More...We live in a society where enough is never enough. We seem to never be satisfied and always want more. Well, we may not have more according to society's terms, but we definitely have more! More kids does mean more tears, more challenges, and more frustrations. But it also means more laughs, more lessons learned, and more to love.

Naughty...Our kids may be beautiful, but they're not quite perfect. Chad walked into the bathroom to E5 (he was 3 then) looking very guilty and saying "I'll pick up the pieces!" E5 had shaved his head with Chad's beard trimmer!

Oh, how we love our dad!...We have a house full of Daddy's little helpers and Daddy's wrestle-mates. Here, Daddy poses with his princess, A7.

It's my Party...It's always a party at our house whether it's "just" the seven of us or we're celebrating one of our many birthdays. G8 turned 6 with a super hero theme.

Quiet time...Okay, I admit it. Certainly one of my favorite times of the day is quiet time. After lunch all of the kids curl up on the couch and my ears get a much needed rest.

Raising a Godly heritage...We often hear the argument, "The world is filled with too much evil to bring children into it." That's exactly why we want to raise even more children who will grow up to impact the world for Christ and be a positive influence.

Share...Ask any one of the kids and they will tell you...our family shares! From toys to colds, there's simply no other option!

Teamwork...It takes a lot to make a big family work...Teamwork is very important. A lot of hands make our jobs get done faster. Luckily, our little ones are usually always ready to help.

United...I feel as though having a large family has given our kids a sense of belonging. No matter the disagreement they will always be united as siblings with love.

Very loud!...I remember trying to talk to a guest of ours one evening. As the kids got louder and louder, I in turn got louder as well. Before I knew it our friend's eyes were as big as saucers and I realized that I was actually yelling at him. We are a loud family!

What a mess!...Having toddlers can sometimes be a messy experience. But a mess is usually a sure sign of a lot of fun. Above, H3 helped me celebrate my birthday. She enjoyed the cake more than any of us.

fleXibility...The best advice I've heard about raising a large family is to have a schedule, but don't be too rigid about keeping it. Planning is nice, but often the blessings come in the unexpected.

Yep, they are all mine...and answers to other questions you've always wanted to know. Yes, we are crazy, but that happened a long time ago and has nothing to do with the size of our family. No, neither one of us come from particularly large families. Yes, my hands are full…usually of dirty diapers and baby wipes. No, we are not Catholic. Yes, we do know how his happens and we actually do have hobbies. Yes, we’ve seen Jon and Kate Plus 8 and the Dugger's show. And finally (try not to be shocked now) YES, WE DO WANT MORE!

Zzzzz...The end of a long day and the kids sleep sweetly in their beds. How I love to curl up next to them, pray over them, and give them kisses making sure not to wake them...just enough to make them stir. Pin It Now!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day Savings

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Hurry! This offer ends at midnight on Tuesday, May 26, 2009! Pin It Now!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Service project

A couple of months ago Chad and I sat down to discuss some family issues. We talked about goals we had for our family and brainstormed ideas for areas we thought we were falling short in. Then we drew up a family contract for each member of the family to sign. I wish I could report that we have followed through with every part of that contract...I can't. However, we had agreed to make an effort to participate in more family service projects and this weekend we got the opportunity to do just that!
Our church has really made it easy for us as they have organized several family service projects for the fourth Saturday of each month. We chose to go to a local pregnancy resource center and help out there for a few hours. Most of the woman were organizing the clothes closet, assembling baby baskets for expectant mothers, and making no-sew fleece blankets. I was so happy that the woman who worked there was so flexible with us and kept the kids busy with many small projects that they could handle.

The kids unloaded light boxes, organized a toy room, bookshelves, and a broom closet. They sorted shoes to find matches and finally we made about a 100 or so small baggies with little rubber babies in them the exact size and replica of 12 week old babies in the womb.

I did leave our two littlest at home but even H3 was a big help.
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Saturday, May 16, 2009

New Nature Study Resource, Giveaways, and More!

I am so excited to tell you about a new nature study resource for SO many reasons.

First, because the resources have been put together by two wonderful homeschool moms that I had the privilege of meeting last year at a homeschool conference and I'm blogging buddies with. (If their names sound familiar to you it's probably because I've mentioned them several times in posts already as they have truly inspired me in the way of nature study.) ...

Secondly, because I have had the opportunity to review one of their unit studies and as you'll see below... we loved it! ...

Third, because I am such a nature study wannabe but need serious help in the area...

Okay, I could go on and on, but let's just get right into it.

NatureExplorers Unit Study E-books have been created by Cindy West and Melissa Leach at Shining Dawn Books. So far they have created 12 unit studies and plan to add more every few months. The following titles are what they have currently:

Animal Signs Beautiful Birds Captivating Clouds Creatures of the Night Delightful Deciduous Trees Everchanging Erosion Frogs and Toads Fungus Among Us Hard as a Rock Peaceful Ponds Spectacular Spiders Wonderful Wildflowers

These affordable unit studies are not only a great way to introduce you to the idea of nature study but also terrific resources to add to the nature study you are already doing!

I had the opportunity to review Wonderful Wildflowers...perfect for this time of year! Truly, there is so much packed into this unit study so I'll just try to name a few things.

You'll find inspiration and some basic background information on wildflowers. Note: This is not an exhaustive listing of wildflowers, so you will want your own wildflower identification guide specific to your area or at least access to internet to help in identifying the wildflowers you find. There is a link to a very helpful article on identifying wildflowers included in Wonderful Wildflowers.

You'll also find TONS of practical ideas on how to look for wildflowers and what to do once you find them including hands on activities and crafts. Then there are:

Writing prompts and Research Ideas!
Bible Lessons!
Suggested Poetry, Art, Composer, and Literature References!
Internet Links!
Ideas for Nature Study Groups or Co-ops!
Notebook Pages!
And more!!

You can order the Wonderful Wildflowers and other NatureExplorer's Unit Study Ebooks from the Shining Dawn Books website...which is an incredible nature study resource in and of itself. Wonderful Wildflowers is only $7.00.

Other great nature study resources are Cindy's blog and Melissa's blog.

See a free sample of NatureExplorer's Unit Study Ebooks.

Plus...too cool...both Melissa and Cindy are giving away three of the units!! Make sure to check out their contests which run today through next Monday, May 25th.

I can assure you I will be purchasing more of these unit studies in the future. Actually, the first day I received Wonderful Wildflowers I opened it up just to skim through it and see what it was like. The more I read, the more excited I got. I looked out my window at the beautiful day and thought,"What are we doing inside?!" Five minutes later the kids had their shoes on and we were out the door with our digital camera in tote.

Here's what we found just while walking down the street in our neighborhood...all of these wildflowers were found in our neighbor's yards just next to the road! Of course we found more if they hadn't mowed recently :o). Plus, there is one empty lot that has not been maintained on our street that was a treasure trove of wildflowers!

Aren't these pretty! After our walk we identified these online. These are called Common or Philidelphia Fleabane.

These purple flowers are all around our area, but I haven't been able to identify them yet. Ideas, anyone? Update: Melissa let me know that these are Red Clovers, which explains my problem...I was searching in the purple flower section of all my identification guides!

This little patch of wildflowers are called Hop Clover.

This isn't a great picture and we're uncertain of what it is yet. We are thinking it's called Cow Vetch, but all the pictures online look a lot bigger than our flowers.

These are all over our area too. All the little girls used to tie them together to make necklaces and bracelets when I was a kid but I never knew what it was called. Apparently, they are White Clovers.

We actually found several more wildflowers, but not all of my pictures we're very clear. We're not worried though because our wildflower studies are far from over! Is it a pretty day where you are?...What are you are waiting for?!

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Rocket Phonics

The Rocket Phonics website boasts that this reading program is easy to use, fun for the student, and will improve reading skills drastically and quickly. This impressive-looking program is sold online for $160 and comes complete with the following materials:

*Rocket Phonics workbook
*Two sets of symbol cards
*Bingo chips and extra games
*Word lists for testing
*Helpful teaching tips

A few months ago I received this product to review and quickly opened it and began pouring through its contents and reading through the Teacher's Guide Notes. I was hopeful that this program would help jumpstart my Kindergartner's reading since he is such a hands-on learner.

What makes Rocket Phonics unique is its "One letter, one sound - No Exceptions" rule which eventually looks a little something like this:

Basically the student begins by memorizing one sound to each of the letters or letter combinations like you see above. So they will memorize that 'oa' says the long 'o' sound and the will memorize the sound of 'z' and so forth. They will do this mostly with the use of flashcards and game ideas that are included in the kit and offered by download from the Rocket Phonics website.

Then the students will begin reading simple sentences and stories which are included in the workbook that look exactly like the sentences above. The idea is that student will read faster because he doesn't have to guess which sound such letters as the 's' in 'frogs' makes because the clues are listed below so they will know.

I can see where all of the fun games and materials included with Rocket Phonics would be appealing to the reluctant reader, but unfortunately after a month long attempt to use it with E5 I knew it wasn't going to work for us. There were small things that bothered me initially about the program. The included flashcards are vital to memorizing the sound and are quite sturdy with beautiful illustrations. But two of them in particular where confusing for E5. One was the 'O' card that had a picture of an otter displayed on it. Maybe its just E5, but he kept confusing the otter with a walrus and it somehow stuck in his brain. It was quite a struggle for me to re-teach him that the letter 'O' does not make a 'w' sound. Also, the flashcard for the letter 'U' included a picture of a duck. Oh, WHY?, I ask would one use this example for a five year old to teach the letter 'U' sound?! This one bothered me so much that I drew a picture of an umbrella and pasted it over the picture of the duck in the workbook and on the flashcard.

Still the confusion continued for E5 and the frustration continued to grow with me, but I think this is simply because I had already began teaching E5 to read using a completely different method which I felt was easier. I have always found that it has been simple for me to teach all of the sounds of each letter to our children at once and reading follows quite quickly after that. So I teach them that the letter 'A' has three sounds: 'a' like in 'cat', 'a' like in 'gate', and 'a' like in 'water'. They memorize all the sounds of each letter and several letter combinations (or multi-letter phonograms) like 'sh', 'oa', 'eigh' and so forth and they memorize the sounds in order that the sound is most frequently used in English language. The reason I am trying to explain the way we have always taught our kids to read is so that you might understand why it was confusing to E5 to switch him to the Rocket Phonics program. He had already memorized that the letter 'A' had 3 sounds, but Rocket Phonics wanted him to only use one of them. He had already memorized that 'oo' has 3 sounds, but Rocket Phonics only wanted him to use one of them, etc. Can you see how that might be confusing? I even tried to use Rocket Phonics with my older kids to see if it might help them with quicker reading fluency, but they quickly became confused as well.

While this program didn't work for us, a quick read through the customer testimonials will prove that it has worked for many. Also Rocket Phonics offers a 90-Day Money back guarantee which is helpful in making that initial purchase. If you are looking for a program to help your child learn to read or improve their reading skills, please take some time to look at the Rocket Phonics website to see if it might work for you.

You can also read more Rocket Phonics reviews on the TOS Crew Blog.

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WriteShop Primary A

I have often heard of incremental learning as it applies to the subject of math, but while reviewing WriteShop Primary Book A I have since learned the concept of applying it to writing. Basically, incremental learning simply means teaching a subject step by step with each new lesson building on the prior. In this way, old lessons will be reviewed and reinforced with each new lesson. WriteShop is a company that has developed an incremental writing program for homeschoolers.

Their newest line of curriculum is designed for your K-3rd grade student and is a series of 3 books called WriteShop Primary. Book A is the only book available just yet as Books B and C are still in the works. You can move your student at a pace of only 1 book a year, or move them through the books more quickly. Three suggested schedules are listed in the beginning of the book.

From the back of the book:

In Book A, children learn to plan, create, and publish simple stories with parent help. They will:
*Generate story ideas
*Experience planning a story before writing it
*Gather simple information about a topic
*Use a story web to organize information
*Identify beginning, middle, and end
*Choose appropriate titles
*Think of simple ways to improve a story
*"Publish" stories through projects and crafts

There are two things that I especially appreciate about this curriculum. One is that it is incredibly teacher-friendly. The book is laid out very simply with thorough instructions for the teacher including teaching scripts. If you have ever felt intimidated by the concept of teaching writing, WriteShop Primary will be a tremendous resource for you.

I also appreciate that the lesson times are kept quite short and simple at the Book A level. This book has 10 Themed Lessons and each lesson is divided into 8 Activity Sets. Depending on how quickly you want to move through the book will depend on how many Activity Sets you will do each day. Activity Sets usually only took us about 15-20 minutes and we never did more than one a day. Each set starts with a Guided Writing Practice prompting the student to create simple sentences on a provided subject and then ends with an activity/lesson. There are also suggested picture story books referenced in the back of the book for each lesson.

Since WriteShop Primary takes minimal time to prepare and use, it really makes teaching writing (a subject I wouldn't necessarily begin teaching at such a young age) much easier to slip into your K-3rd grade curriculum. I would especially suggest using it with a child who has already expressed interest in writing their own stories and enjoys that creative process. You can view samples of WriteShop Primary Book A online and order the curriculum in either the print version for $26.95 or a downloadable version for $24.25 on the WriteShop website.

Read more WriteShop reviews at the TOS Crew Blog.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Memoria Press

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I have been given the wonderful opportunity to review many homeschool products over the next several months. I feel truly blessed to be participating in this review group and I'm looking forward to trying out the products and giving you my honest opinion.

When I was in the 7th grade my Language Arts teacher spent about three months teaching us Latin roots. Call me weird, but my 12-year-old self was so excited about what I was learning. I was an avid reader and it simply delighted me that by memorizing the meaning of these Latin roots I suddenly had access to the meanings of hundreds of English words. Truly, I need no explanation of why learning Latin is beneficial to my children because I experienced firsthand.

Never the less, teaching Latin to my children is a rather intimidating prospect...

Latina Christiana was sent to me by Memoria Press in a small box brimming with helpful materials to aid me in my quest to teach Latin. What type of materials? Well, there is a Teacher's Manual and Student workbook, plus a pronunciation CD. Also included, (my favorite), was the Latina Christiana Instructional DVD set. This is a 5 DVD set with 17 hours of instruction following the Student Workbook. This means I can simply pop in the DVD and learn Latin right alongside my children. That's not too intimidating...

Also, the lessons are actually pretty short. There are 25 lessons and the course is designed to only have you do one lesson at the start of the week. The rest of the week is for review. Weekly quizzes are included as well. Over the course of the year students will learn 200 Latin words, 25 Latin sayings, two prayers, and three songs. They will also learn and be exposed to many English words of Latin origin so that they can begin to make the connection between Latin and English words.

Another gorgeous book we received from Memoria Press was Famous Men of Rome complete with a Teacher's Guide and Student Workbook. It seems the perfect time to teach a little Roman history is while the students are already learning the Roman language. So this book rounds out the Latin studies nicely. Famous Men of Rome is a unique read aloud with full color illustrations that tells the stories of 25 Roman men. Workbook pages help the students with vocabulary from the text, comprehension questions and even include some geography. The preface includes this statement,

"It has been the aim of the authors to make an interesting story of each man's life and to tell these stories in a style so simple that pupils in the lower grades will read them with pleasure, and so dignified that they may be used with profit as textbooks for reading."

I think they have succeeded. The stories have held my third grader's attention while certainly providing profitable education for myself.

The only real disappointment I have had just yet with Latina Christiana has nothing to do with the curriculum itself. It's simply that I don't think my little ones are big enough for the program just yet. The curriculum suggests it is suitable for 3rd-9th grades. Even with my oldest going into 3rd grade next year I think I will still wait one to two years before using the program with him. I feel confident that he could grasp the content next year, but he would still struggle with the reading and writing involved so I'd rather just wait. Memoria Press also offers Prima Latina designed for K-4th which can be used before Latina Christiana. I haven't looked into this yet, but you can find reviews of it and other Memoria Press curriculum on the TOS Crew blog.

For ordering information be sure to visit the Memoria Press website.

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Friday, May 1, 2009

Jesus' Top 10 Statements

An interesting post came up on a Yahoo group I am on.

A man has been witnessing to a friend who has had a hard time accepting the claims of Christ and the Bible. His friend asked him if there was a "Jesus for Dummies" book because he was beginning to feel confused. He also asked what were the most important statements made by Jesus in the Bible. So this man asked our Yahoo group for a Top 10 list of what we thought were Jesus' most important statements.

I only spent about 20 or 30 minutes on this, but here's what I came up with...

(BTW, I didn't order them.)

John 14:6 NIV
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 19:30
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

John 17:20
"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me,that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."

Matthew 19:18-20
Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

John 14: 2-3
"In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you with me that you might also be where I am."

John 16:33
"I have told you these things so that you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!"

Matthew 22:37
Jesus replies: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

John 13: 13-17
"You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord' and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should was one another's feet. I have set an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them."

Luke 16:13 NIV
"No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money."

Revelation 3:20 NIV
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

What would you add? Pin It Now!


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