Monday, February 25, 2013

100 Verses ~ Week 9

100 Bible Verses in 2013
This Week's Memory Verses:

1 John 5:14-15  "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us--whatever we ask--we know that we have what we asked of him."

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Wet Dry Try App

Handwriting Without Tears is a handwriting curriculum for grades K through 5.  The program can be taught simply by parents and in just 15 minutes a day.  

 I have certainly heard of Handwriting Without Tears for many years , but it is one product that we had not yet had the opportunity to use in our homeschool.  Because of this, I had never heard of their "Wet, Dry, Try" method of teaching children to write letters and numbers.  In case you haven't heard of it either, here is a video that demonstrates it:

I love how the student gets repeated practice of each letter in such a fun way!  And now Handwriting Without Tears has developed the Wet Dry Try App based upon this method.   

The Wet Dry Try app is available for iPad and Android deviced with a 7" or larger screen.  It's available to download for only $4.99.  It is meant to be used as a supplemental tool along with your handwriting program.  Our family is not using the Handwriting Without Tears curriculum but we recently got to review the Wet Dry Try app and have been using it for the last few weeks.

One of the features about this app that I appreciated right away was the ability to add multiple users and customize the settings for each user.  I decided for the purpose of this review that I would mainly use this app for L4 who is just learning to write her letters.  Once your student clicks on his/her name she is able to play with this app in one of two modes. 

The first mode of play is called 'Pick and Play' and starts with the screen above.  Your student may choose any capital letter (there is another screen for numbers) and practice writing that letters on the screen using the 'Wet Dry Try' method.  First, they will hear voiced instructions and see the letter being written on screen.  Then they will choose the "wet sponge" to trace over the letter.  Afterwards they will choose the "paper towel" to dry the letter.  And finally the student will choose "chalk" to write the letter.

Your student will hear words of encouragement and correction as they are writing the letters as well as some background music (both of which can be turned off from the settings page).  They will receive a star when they have completed a letter correctly.  Once they receive three stars a "flashcard" will appear on the home page to indicate that they have mastered that letter.
The second mode of play is 'HWT's Winning Order'.  This mode of play is very similar to the first except that your student must follow the order that HWT has laid out, completing one letter at a time before unlocking a new letter.   I wanted L4 to use this mode of play the most so that she could get repeated practice before moving on to learn a new letter.  She has really enjoyed using the Wet Dry Try app and asks daily if she can "do school on the iPad".  She's completed more than half of her letters in this game and been awarded with stars and flashcards by using this app just a few minutes a day 3 or 4 times a week.

I would definitely recommend the Wet Dry Try app from Handwriting Without Tears.  Personally, I would happily pay $4.99 for an app that is educational, works well, and will get repeated use.  Since I plan to use this with both my 5 year old and 3 year old as well I think it is a great value.  I hope that HWT plans to make more apps in the future...especially one for lowercase letter practice!

Please check out the TOS Review Crew for more reviews of this app as well as reviews of the full Handwriting Without Tears curriculum.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.
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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Freezer Cooking Adventure

     My husband had a three day weekend. To me, a three day weekend should be used in one of three ways... 1. Family Fun, 2. Long Date with the Spouse, or 3. Complete a House a Project.

    Unfortunately a slew of sick kids limited the amount of Family Fun we could have over the weekend, but options 2 and 3 were still valid possibilities.  By Sunday afternoon, I had a adventurous plan.

     We've been incorporating freezer cooking into our routine for some time, but we've never tried the Once-A-Month cooking idea.  That type of freezer cooking takes planning and calculating.  It takes time and well, money. And most importantly, it takes guts.

     This is how I presented the idea to Chad anyway when I told him we should make Monday a 'freezer cooking adventure' date day.  He totally fell for it!  He was totally on board! 

    We actually did all of our planning on Sunday night.  First we searched through my Freezer Meal Pinterest Board for new recipes we wanted to try and choose some of those as well as a few tried and true family favorites.  We choose 10 meals with the plan to make 3 of each.  Our goal was 30 meals.  We would need to purchase the supplies and prepare them to freeze in one day.

     Once the meals were chosen, we made our grocery list and sought the advice of Facebook friends on where the best deals for meat were.  We choose to only prepare meals with either ground beef or boneless, skinless chicken breasts for simplicity.  We won't use a frozen meal every day of the week so we weren't too worried about a variety.  We estimated the cost, and looked through ads to find our best deals.  We decided on hitting two had ground beef on sale for $1.99 per lb, the other had boneless, skinless chicken breasts on sale for $1.99 a pound.

     Bright and early Monday morning...okay, it was a little before 9am...we headed out the door.  My MIL had bravely consented to watching the kids for us (they had all been on antibiotics for well over 24 hours) while we shopped.  I regret to say that we didn't take any pics while shopping, but we did get some great deals.  By comparing prices and shopping at just two different stores we were able to buy all of our items for less than we estimated.

     As a side note, we also stopped off at a local produce terminal that we had heard about from other moms that sell to the public and came home with this awesome haul...
     In addition to the freezer meals, the pineapples and strawberries were cut up to be frozen for smoothies and you will likely see a reoccurring zucchini theme in our freezer meals...that's because we bought a huge flat of them for just $5 and needed to use them up!  So we added them to many of the meals.

     Before we move on to recipes, I have to tell you that once again, I didn't take many pictures.  Once we got to cooking it was difficult to find a stopping point and quite frankly, it wasn't always a picture-perfect scene.  Messy floors, kids underfoot, dirty dishes...well, you get the idea.  I didn't even manage to get a pic of each individual meal.  My plan is to take pictures of the cooked meals as we prepare them and update this post with pictures then.

     Another thing that I must mention for those of you who don't know us...we are a large family and we require large family portions.  I am cooking for a family of 10...our 30 meals would likely equal out to about 60 average family meals.  Keep that in mind if you are trying these recipes.

    The first thing we did was divided up our meat and starting cooking it.  All of the ground beef would need to be browned except for 6 lbs that we set aside to use for 3 meatloaves.  About 15 lbs of chicken needed to be cooked and shredded.  We got that going and began labeling gallon sized freezer bags for our Chicken crockpot meals.

     Each of these bags would contain boneless, skinless chicken breasts uncooked as well as marinades/veggies.  These are all freezer to crockpot meals...when we are ready to cook them, we will just throw them in the crockpot and let them cook all day.  It will take 2 bags to feed our family, so we needed six bags for each chicken crockpot recipe to make 3 meals.  We lined all the bags up, cleaned the chicken, and divided it evenly amongst the bags.  Then we started making the marinades and adding them to the appropriate bags.  Here are the links to the Chicken Crockpot meals we made...

1. Cilantro Lime Chicken with Corn and Black Beans
2. Cafe Rio Crockpot Chicken

3. Creamy Chicken Italian-O

4. BBQ Chicken
We did add some veggies to this meal.  We went with bell peppers, onions, and sweet potatoes.

    Once our meat was cooked up, we started working on some of our casserole type dishes.

5. Poppyseed Chicken is a family favorite.  We keep it simple and don't add all of the "optionals" on this recipe, but I have found that we prefer to double the amount of ritz crackers she used on top.  We frozen this meal several times.

6. Mexican Mac and Cheese
I've adapted this recipe from some ideas I've seen online, so honestly this one is an experiment.  If I do it again, I will likely add taco seasoning to the meat as I'm cooking it.  Also, each meal wound up taking up two pans when all was said and done.  So we wound up with 6 of these!  I've reduced the amount in the following recipe so it should only be 1 meal's worth of food now.

1 lb of ground beef, browned
1 box of elbow macaroni, cooked
1 pkg of shredded mexican blend cheese
1 can of rotel

Once your macaroni is cooked and drained, return to pot and fill with milk about halfway.  Heat back to a boil, adding in butter and cheese to taste, stirring constantly.  Meanwhile, drain can of rotel and mix in with cooked ground beef.  Once your mac and cheese is warmed through add in ground beef mixture and stir.  Pour into aluminum pan.  Top with more cheese if desired.  Cover and freeze.  

Reheating Instructions:  Let dethaw.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbling.

7. Chicken Tortilla Soup


1 cup chopped celery

3/4 cup chopped carrots

1/2 cup chopped red onion

3 cans (14.5 oz) reduced-sodium Chicken broth

1 can (15 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained

1 can (14.5 oz) beef broth

1 can (10 oz) diced tomatoes with mild green chilies

2 cups cooked, cubed chicken breasts

2 cups frozen corn

2 tsp dried parsley flakes

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp chili powder

1. Saute the celery, carrots, and onion in oil until tender.  Stir in chicken broth, black beans, beef broth, tomatoes, corn, chicken, and seasoning.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes uncovered.

2. Serve with tortilla chips, cheese, and sour cream if desired.

Reheating Instructions:

Let dethaw.  Transfer to stove top and heat until warmed through.
      Finally, we finished up our 3 bags of chili, 3 Cowboy Casseroles, and 3 meatloaves.

8. Cowboy Casserole is another kid-friendly family favorite!  It's basically a tator tot casserole and freezes really well.

9. Meatloaf
I almost hate to give you this recipe because I pretty much make it different every time I make it.  I use something similar to the following each time.  We like to add bread to our meatloaf and top it with ketchup, but any way you make it I've found that meatloaf freezes well.
2 lbs ground beef
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
3 pieces of bread, torn into small pieces
1 tsp ground mustard
1 tsp of garlic powder
1 tsp of sage
salt and pepper
optional: cut up veggies like zucchini or carrots

Mix all together in a large mixing bowl.  Form into loaf and freeze.

Reheating Instructions: Let dethaw.  Cover with ketchup.  Bake at 350 uncovered for 1.5 hours.

10. Chili

2 lbs of ground beef
carton of Bloemer's chili paste
1 pkg of chil-o mix
 1 large can of tomato sauce
1 can of water
1 can of Brooks Chili beans
1 onion, chopped
1 box of sphaghetti noodles 

Brown ground beef, drain grease.  Add Bloemer's, mixing until completely melted.  Add tomato sauce and 1 can of water (use sauce can).  Add Chil-o mix, beans, and onion.  Let simmer for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.  Let cool.  Freeze in freezer bags.

Reheating Instructions: Let dethaw or place in pot on stovetop frozen.  Heat through, stirring occasionally and let simmer for about 10 minutes.  Meanwhile prepare spaghetti noodles. Stir in noodles and serve.

    We finally finished our cooking and cleaning up rather late, but we both felt like it was worth it.  Our 30 large-family meals cost us about $11 per meal, so I think it would equal out to about $6 per meal for the average family.  Totally happy with that!

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Flowering Baby Review

"We've been homeschooling since birth". It was a phrase I heard many years ago when we were first investigating the idea of homeschooling that left me feeling a little baffled.  But as we researched more, and more importantly as we dove into homeschool ourselves, I quickly discovered that homeschooling is a way of life.  It's hard for me to answer questions like, "How many hours a day does it take for you to do school?" because I know that we begin teaching our children as soon as their eyes are open each morning and until they close at night.  

Practically every mom is a homeschooler whether she claims it or not.  We moms teach our kids to walk, talk, and tie their shoes.  We teach them to be kind to their siblings, to tame their tempers, and to fold the towels correctly.  We teach them to use 'inside voices', to ask for forgiveness when they've wronged someone, and to love.

Yet, when it comes time to "do school", we moms falter.  We feel unqualified to teach our children, afraid that we are not trained enough to handle teaching a preschool education.  Thankfully, there are programs available to offer guidance and encouragement.

Flowering Baby, LLC is a program developed by Martha Saunders (a homeschooling mom) and Carolyn Schulte (an Early Childhood Education expert and Martha's mom).  It is a "whole child developmental approach" for ages birth to five.  It offers direction in the form of a simple, but purposeful curriculum to guide you in the early education of your children.

The program is divided into 5 one-year plans.

The first three year plans cost just $30 each. Years Two to Three and Four to Five are $38 each.  You may also opt to purchase all five year's worth of plans for $132.  They come as a PDF on a CD-Rom.  If you click on the links above, you will find information about each year plan as well as a full-month sample of the curriculum.

I received the full five year program in PDF form to review.  I read through the material and found delightful activities for each age level.  Suggestions in Birth to One include reading Guess How Much I Love You to your newborn and playing Mozart as well as games and exercises to help large motor skills as they grow.  None of these "lessons" will take longer than 15 minutes a day.  

In One to Two, once again listening to a song, reciting a nursery rhyme, or reading a book is featured in each day's lesson as well as a short activity.  Your one-year old will be introduced to many fine motor skill activities such as stacking cups, coloring, and painting.  

In Two to Three, Math Concepts, Color of the Day and Shape of the Day, as well as the alphabet are incorporated into each day's lesson.  The lessons are still short and simple but are starting to resemble more of a "curriculum feel".  

In both the Three to Four and Four to Five, the plans are divided into two Curriculum Guides: the Monthly Curriculum Guide and the Theme Curriculum Guide.  You will work through the Monthly Curriculum Guide according to the calendar month.  These daily lessons include ABC and Math skills as well as other preschool activities often revolving around holidays.  In addition to these lessons, you will choose two themes from the Theme Curriculum Guide to complete each month.  Themes include: Bodies of Water, Bugs & Birds, Farm Animals, Flowers, My Body, and Transportation.  There are 25 themes in all.  Each theme includes two weeks worth of lessons with book suggestions, field trip suggestions, and activities.

I chose to use Vol. 2 One to Two Years with J1 specifically for a few different reasons.  First, he was the only one of our little ones that I wasn't specifically using a preschool curriculum with.  Secondly, he has been showing a desire to be included in lessons during our "school time"...mostly in the form of climbing on siblings desks, stealing their pencils, or demanding to be held by me or one of the big kids at all times.  I also appreciated that the lessons were so simple at this age, I could easily print them out and assign a big kid the task of "doing school" with J1.

So for the past few weeks, J1 has been "doing school" with an older sibling for about 15-30 minutes directly before lunch time and it looks a little something like this...

Here J1 is learning how to use a glue stick and animal recognition by making a collage of magazine cut-out of animals.

A10 helped him with this project as well as sang a song with him and read books to him that day.  Depending on who is caught up with their school work at the moment, our 12, 10, 9, or 7 year old will take on the task of completing these lessons with J1.  Other activities J1 has done this month are crayon rubbings, identified body parts, worked on 'left' and 'right' skills, and drawn with markers.

My favorite part of J1's lessons is seeing my older children reading to him, and that my one year old is beginning to discover the wonder of books.

I mean, really...isn't this one of the most precious sights?

Go to the Flowering Baby online store to purchase this curriculum and use the code “Blog10” when ordering to receive a 10% discount.  You may also like to check out more reviews of Flowering Baby from the TOS Review Crew.

Disclaimer: I have been given the wonderful opportunity to review many homeschool products over the last few years. The only compensation that I receive for my review is the free product. I feel truly blessed to have had the opportunity to participate in review groups and I have enjoyed trying out these products and giving you my honest opinion.
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Monday, February 18, 2013

100 Verses ~ Week 8

100 Bible Verses in 2013
This Week's Verses

Hebrews 4:12   "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."

Hebrews 4:16   "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."
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Monday, February 11, 2013

100 Verses ~ Week 7

100 Bible Verses in 2013
     This week marks the week that we will be memorizing verses 13 and 14.  As I keep adding more and more verses to my memory, I am increasingly finding it difficult to keep the references straight.  This is always a struggle for me (and I think for many) which is why I shared the tip in Week 1 of reciting the reference at both the beginning and the end of the verse each time you recite it. This will give you double the practice of memorizing the reference.

     However, this week I tried a new trick to help aid me in really nailing down these references.  I am finding it helpful so I thought I would share it with you.  I write all of my memory verses on index cards and carry them with me in the car.  I like to have my kids quiz me on car rides.  Generally one of the kids will read the reference to me and I will recite the verse.  But this week I asked my daughter, A10, to read just the first 3 words of the verse.  Then I had to come up with both the reference and recite the entire verse from memory.  This was excellent practice for me! 

     The verses this week are close to my heart and I am praying that we not only memorize these verses this week, but apply them to our lives.  May your homes and families be richly blessed!

This Week's Verses 

 Deuteronomy 6:6-7   "These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."
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Saturday, February 9, 2013

Exploring Creation with Zoology 3

If you have been reading my blog for any significant amount of time, then you are already aware of my love affair with Apologia Educational Ministries.  But I am begging you, please don't let my redundancy of praise stop you from reading on.  You are going to want to know about this resource...

First, a little background info.  From the Apologia website: "Apologia exists because a small group of parents wanted their children to have an academically strong education that would deepen their Christian faith." 

Apologia now offers:
       *a K-12 Creation-based science curriculum
       *worldview curriculum for ages six to fourteen
       *practical and inspirational books about homeschooling
        *refreshing retreats for moms
        *online classes from Apologia Academy

One of the products that we have used year after year with our children is Apologia's science curricula, particularly their Young Explorer Series written by Jeannie Fulbright.  This year however, we have teamed up with another homeschool family and are working through the same history and science curricula.  We meet once a week to do special projects and experiments having to do with those subjects.  At the beginning of the year we chose a different science text to work through.  When we came to a stopping point in that curriculum, we decided that we would like to spend the remainder of our school year using one of the Young Explorer Series from Apologia that neither of our families had used yet...and wouldn't you just know it?  It was about that time that I received an email from the TOS Homeschool Review Crew saying they were looking for reviewers to review one of the books from this series!  Um... yes, please!!  Pick me!!    

Exploring Creation with Zoology 3: Land Animals of the Sixth Day arrived in the mail just in time for us to begin back to school lessons after Christmas break.  I would encourage you to check out all the nitty gritty details on the website including the full first chapter that you can read for free, but here are a few highlights of the program:

     ~14 Lessons, each focusing on different land animals.  Lessons can be spread out over a period of 2 weeks, though we have chosen to work at a faster pace, completing one lesson a week.  (We are currently on Lesson 5.)

     ~The text has beautiful, full color pictures!  I cannot possibly turn a page without being sure that every last child has seen each picture.  They all flock to the book when I announce I am holding it up for them to see during our read-aloud time. 

     ~This curriculum is perfect for elementary ages.  I am using it with my pre-K, K, 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grader.  They are each enjoying it and being challenged by it which is the mark of a truly well-done multi-age curriculum.

     ~Your students will use both narration and notebooking as well as projects and experiments to complete this program.  You may also take advantage of a Course Website to dig a little deeper into each chapter's subjects.

Our family likes to read the lessons together which usually means I am reading aloud.  Generally I spread this out over two days as the chapters are so full of information and rather long.  However, we honestly don't mind that.  Jeannie Fulbright is a talented and delightful author.  She writes in a conversational tone which is especially engaging to our children.  Then we spend one day working on the Notebook, Map it!, and Track it! experiments as well as any projects or experiments.

In this photo, you can see one of our student's notebook binders as well as some Track it! examples.  She will put those animal prints behind the Track it! tab of her binder.
Our students also make a page for each family of animals, drawing or pasting pictures of those animals and including facts they have learned.  Obviously, these pages look different for each age level but the notebooking is great for reinforcing the material that we have read about.

I love the visual aid of the Map it! project that this curriculum suggests.  You can use any large map, but the lovely homeschool mom that I co-teach science with printed out this awesome, huge wall map.  Each week, the kids take turns placing pictures of the animals we learned about in the regions that they live in.
Above is a close-up of the stickers we are using.  These stickers do not come with the book, so you will need to print out your own pictures of the animals you are learning about.  However, if you purchase the accompanying Junior Notebooking Journal, these wonderful full-color stickers come with it!  I'll be talking more about the Notebooking Journal below, so stay tuned!

The projects and experiments are optional, but very fun and often using everyday household items.  Above is a picture of our kids enjoying 'The Cougar Eats the Deer' Experiment from Lesson 4.  Basically, they each took turns 'being the cougar' and tried to 'catch the deer' by throwing a cardstock photo of a cougar onto a taped off area full of photos of the deer.  If the deer were "caught", they died.  If the cougar didn't get enough to eat (land on the right amount of deer), he died.  As they recorded their findings, they also discovered how population increases or decreases of one species effected the other.

We also received the Junior Zoology 3 Notebooking Journal from Apologia recommended for beginning writers.  We had never used these journals which are offered with all of the Apologia Young Explorer Series before and I honestly had my doubts if we would enjoy it.  Since I only received one, I decided to assign it to H8, my second grader.  Not only did she fall into the recommended age range of the project (grades K-2), but I felt she was most likely to enjoy the extra work.  I was right!  She loves keeping this guided notebook, and quite frankly I will most definitely be buying these in the future because I prefer them over the traditional notebooking. 

Inside the Notebooking Journals you will find beautiful coloring pages that your kids can color while the lessons are being read aloud.  Actually, usually several of my children gather around this one journal to help H8 color during the read aloud time!

Each lesson includes lined pages for narration work to be completed and pictures to be drawn to go along with the lessons.
There are also cut and paste vocabulary activities to complete.

I loved these fun drawings that H8 drew to demonstrate what to do (and what NOT to do) if you come in contact with a bear.  She actually completed this without any instruction from me and both my husband and I got a good giggle out of her creative comic-like drawings!

In addition to my photos, you'll also find copywork pages (in both cursive and print), project/experiment pages, Explore More pages with additional activity, DVD, and book suggestions, and more!  If that doesn't sell you, I'm telling you those full color Map It! Stickers that I mentioned above are worth the price of the book!  Speaking of price, the Zoology 3 Junior Notebooking Journal sells for $24.

In conclusion, I am so happy that our family decided to conclude our science studies this year with Exploring Creation with Zoology 3!  I have and will continue to recommend this curriculum again and again.  You can purchase the Zoology 3 text for $39 at the Apologia website.  You may also enjoy reading reviews from the TOS Review Crew of this and other Young Explorer Series curriculum.
Disclaimer: I have been given the wonderful opportunity to review many homeschool products over the last few years. The only compensation that I receive for my review is the free product. I feel truly blessed to have had the opportunity to participate in review groups and I have enjoyed trying out these products and giving you my honest opinion.
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