Friday, September 30, 2011

It has been a gross week at our house.  All was well. Until someone got sick. I'm not sure who got sick first. But having a two year old vomit all over the breakfast table sure has a way of ruining a day.  But we tried to move on.  There were two sick that day, so off to bed they went, while everyone else got busy working on school work and house work.

We have actually been staying on task the last couple of weeks.  Many lessons have been finished, lots of laughing and learning, and even tons of family game time. We've played Tri-Cross and Apples to Apples. It has really been a nice, consistent schedule. Not overbearing, but productive.

Then Momma got sick yesterday. I'll spare you the gory details, but it wasn't pretty. And of course, the children were only down for about 6 hours, but I was plagued for over 36. And it feels like it was really two weeks. And you would think the kids have had an entire summer off. I can't believe how one day can make such a difference where routine is concerned! So, here are some pictures from the last few weeks, and I'm going to go take another nap.  Where's my 7-UP and crackers?

Can you tell she has older sisters?
Anderson in his mess.

More chore buddies
Chore buddies

Last of the buddies.


Monday, September 26, 2011


Ever since I was a little kid, games have been a staple in my life.  We played all sorts of card games, board games, and video games as a child.  Oh the memories I have playing Atari with my family!  And the first Nintendo system? Get out. We had Monopoly tournaments, Rail Baron marathons, and Mario Extravaganzas.  The board games were stored on the top self of my closet, and I remember I'd get some of them down and play by myself if no one was available. I don't think I ever lost a game of Clue or Life from 1989-1996.  And that counts even when I played with other people!

So I am constantly on the look out for new games to play. With a family our size, it's a must. The kids love to play games with just their siblings, and with the entire family.  We were sent a new game, TriCross, to try out, and the kids were instantly in love.

It comes from the people at Games for Competitors, and is made for kids eight and up.  Our oldest said it's like taking chess and checkers and combining them, and then twisting it.  Honestly, I haven't played it yet. But my husband and children have, and they love it. They were screaming, laughing, and strategizing  Apparently, they all schemed together, and made sure to knock their Dad out of every game played.  It didn't matter which kid won, as long as Dad lost!

Our kids really have enjoyed it, and play it together often.  There is even a travel game, so they are begging for a road trip so they can try it out. It will get to go with us over Fall Break. Maybe my parents will get in on the fun!

You can purchase your own game from Games for Competitors. The prices start at $19.95, and they have a few options.  I would highly recommend the game. It has endless strategic possibilities!

*I received this product for the purpose of review. All the opinions expressed are mine alone. For further reviews, please visit the TOS Homeschool Crew blog.


Friday, September 23, 2011

AIMS Educational Foundation

Today, I have another review.  It comes from AIMS Educational Foundation; a non-profit foundation geared to help teachers give students a firm grasp of math and science concepts.  I cannot even begin to tell you of all the hands on curriculum they offer.  The catalog is just chalked FULL of ideas!

We were sent the AREA Formulas for Parallelograms.  It looked like fun, so we began looking through it.  This supplement is geared towards students in grades 6-9.  I have a sixth grader and an eighth grader, so we were excited to try it out.  My son, the eighth grader, wasn't too impressed with the book.  Oh, he liked it. It was okay.  But he is so logical.  He is the child that reads the math book for fun, and rarely needs any further instruction or explanation.  He just "sees" math.  So, while he liked the comics in the book, he wasn't actually learning from them. They were just fun.

My daughter, on the other hand, is COMPLETELY different.  She is the child that has to do 50 math problems before she really masters it.  Repetition is the key.  And being able to manipulate, and put her hands on it.  And this is perfect for her.  Being able to cut out shapes, turn them, fold them in half, put them all together, and make sense of all the formulas that are thrown at her.  This was an AH-HA kind of moment for her.

Our next child is in fifth grade.  He is a artistic, and very visual.  And often draws his own comics.  I can't wait to see how this book helps him.  I can't imagine it will be anything less than a wonderful fit.

The book comes with a CD, and be purchased from AIMS for $9.99.  There is even a sample of the book here.

*This book was sent to me for the purposes of review. The opinions expressed are all mine. To read other reviews, visit The TOS Crew page.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Before Five in a Row

Schooling isn't always easy.  In fact, many days, it is down right hard.  I have 6 children that are old enough to be in book learning.  And some days, that just is overwhelming.  Copies have to be made, books have to be checked out, workbooks collected and in the right place, papers checked, graded, and recorded. Not to mention making sure all the supplies are ready. Pencils, paper, scissors, crayons, glue, just to name a few.  And add to that, I have a middle school aged child who is doing "real" science experiments and needs a massive research library, it's enough to send this Momma whimpering back to her room.

And it is always difficult to find things to entertain the young ones.  And while I have one in Kindergarten and one in Pre-K, they still need lots of entertaining too. So how do I keep a 1, 2, 4, and 5 year old busy for the day?  Well, lots of ways. I wrote about many of my tricks of the trade at The Homeschool Village.  And I have found another great resource.  It is the book Before Five in a Row by Jane Claire Lambert.  This is a wonderful book full of "creative ideas to inspire learning readiness".  Basically, this is a collection of 23 units based on children's books.  It however is NOT a teaching manual.  At two years old, my son Anderson is not ready to sit in a chair and be formally taught all day.  In fact, even if he could sit still that long, this is such a special time in his childhood, I wouldn't want to rob him of this imaginative time. 
BFIAR gives you ideas of how to integrate learning into your everyday life.  One of our favorite books, Corduroy  was part of this treasury, so we worked through many of the activities.  There is a Bible verse with the lesson that we repeated often throughout the day.  We remembered and practiced being respectful like Lisa from the story, and worked on our manners with at home and away from home.  We counted buttons from my button jar, and sorted them by color and size.  Their favorite activity was acting like Corduroy.  I overheard them during their play time jumping on the beds, hugging Lisa, sewing buttons on their stuffed animals, and running "just like Corduroy"!

Paulee and Anderson "reading" Corduroy

I love that this book includes "old" books and new. Some of the books we will be reading through next are, Caps for Sale, Blueberries for Sal, and Goodnight, Moon.This is not a book I will use everyday.  It's not set up to be used that day. But it is a book that is indispensable in our home.  And this is a great book for every parent of young children. Not just homeschool parents. These are things you would be doing with your child either way.
You can purchase your own copy of Before Five in a Row for $35 at Rainbow Resource.  You can also visit the website for Before Five in a Row for more on how this book works.
*I was given a copy of this book for review.  All opinions expressed are mine alone.  For more reviews, please visit TOS Homeschool Crew.*

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Big IQ Kids (Homeschool Crew Review)

While I am a computer junkie (but not to be confused with a techie), my children are pretty restricted when it comes to computer time and content.  So when I was given the chance to review Big IQ Kids, I was excited and a little reluctant.


Big IQ Kids is an educational website offering to enrich your child's schooling.  They offer programs in Spelling and Vocabulary, Math, and U.S. Geography.  You can sign up for free memberships to these programs, or you can sign up and pay for premium membership and access additional content in the Math and U.S. Geography programs.  There is also a premium membership offer for a Spelling Junior program.  The memberships can be as low as $3.33 a month if you buy a full year at a time, but they do offer monthly rates as well.


So, what did we think?  My kids love the site.  They run through the lessons quickly, enjoy answering the math problems, and shout out state facts to each other as they learn them.  Plus, as they finish lessons, they receive coins that can go to buy "game" time.  The games may or may not be educational, it just depends on the game.  But it is a great incentive to do the lessons.  My kids line up to get time on Big IQ, and are always sad when their time is up.

I personally have things I like and don't like about the site.  I see that it is great for visual learners.  Or for children that need incentives.  The lessons are highly modifiable (Modifiable? Is that even a word? Shhh....I'll look it up before I add it to any vocabulary list in our homeschool), and no lesson can be skipped.  This is a great way to get in extra proficiency work without boring your child to death with thousands of worksheets.  And, with the premium membership, you get updates emailed to you with everything your child did while on Big IQ.

The site is a little hard to navigate around at times.  And the emails get a little redundant after awhile.  You get one for each accomplishment or for each wrong answer. Not a summary of the day.  It can fill up the email box quick.  There is so much that can be personalized, that I often feel we may be missing something. But with time, that may just work itself out.

If your child is not homeschooled, this site is still an asset to your child, and can even be used in a large classroom setting. Overall, the kids are enjoying the site, and it is reenforcing what we are teaching in their core curriculum.  We will continue to use our premium membership for the year as an incentive for good behavior and hard work in school.

Thank you to Big IQ Kids for providing me with two free one year premium memberships to review. All opinions expressed are my own.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Homeschool Link Up

Last night, I was "hanging" out with friends on the internet, and Steph was telling of her need to find things to keep her younger child busy during the 3rd graders lessons. So I shot her a link to a site I use nearly daily. Wow. I suddenly became her favorite person in the entire world! (Or something close to that)

But she did make an interesting point. We as homeschool parents don't often share little gems like that. I really didn't even think it was a big deal. But when I've been sitting here on this end of it, pulling my hair out trying to figure out how to teach something, it is a big deal. So today is Link-Up day! We are sharing our go-to, free websites we can't homeschool without.  But today, it's not about great bloggers, although many are helpful. But we're talking real, hands on, put this in front of your child today stuff.  So here are some of my favorite places to run for help:

Letter Mazes- My five year old LOVES these!
Color the animal letter- Hugely successful in keeping the 2 yo entertained for a while.
Color by Letter- Perfect in helping learn Capital and lowercase letters
Donna Young- I use this site for many things, but hand writing paper is used most often.
Paper Dolls- For history. My older kids really enjoy these. And I love that kids drew them!

Be sure to go to Education Layton to find more link ups and must have sites for homeschools!


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Some days, I just want to start over.

Actually, I don't want to start the day over, I just want it to come to a close.  Some days, it's easy to see the positive, some days, it's easier to try and be positive.  And some days, you just know it's not going to happen, and you wait for another try tomorrow.  Today was that day.

I started the day waking up late.  It was almost 8 o'clock before I was woke up.  It's never good to start behind.  And since Mom wasn't getting her day started, neither were the kids. And from the time I got up, it seemed I went from putting out one fire to the next.  There was milk, but no cereal. So I had to convince the screaming 4 year old oatmeal was okay. That she liked oatmeal.  That she ate it nearly every other day. But she had it in her head she wanted cold cereal.

Then there was the baby thinking it was funny to drink large gulps of her milk out of her cup and spray it all over the living room floor.  And everyone sat and laughed and didn't tell Mom until half the cup was gone. Try breaking THAT habit now.

Or how about opening all the school work folders to discover someone forgot to get the copies done.  And having to get those done while the two year old yells about having to sit on the toilet. (I WANT A DIAPER!)(Not happening now, buddy.) And the copier gripes at you every other copy that the toner is getting low. (It will do this for like a month) All the while, the 4 and 5 year old are playing Veggie Tag and asking in tandem, "Are we having school? Where's our school? What are we doing for school today? Did you forget our school today?"

Suddenly, it was lunch time.  I don't know how that snuck up on us, but we were once again running late for lunch.  Somehow I was Super Mom, and gave them something new, and didn't get one complaint.  Peanut butter and apple slices sandwiches with honey drizzled over it.  They were thrilled! 

Put the two year old and one year old to bed. And started back up with school.  While teaching the older three their Latin, the 8 year old screams at the two year old.  You know, the one that's supposed to be in bed? And if you come here often, you also know he is full of mischief.  Yeah, this time?  Red permanent marker all over the table, book, and KINDLE!!!! I think the 13 year old lost 5 years off his life. The screen was covered in red.  The table had a massive piece of art work on it.  The book, thankfully, only had the cover colored on.  The protective cover we made for the book. 

Super Mom to the rescue; I saved the Kindle.  It is color free again.  And in perfect working condition.  The table, not so much. And I cannot figure out what the eight year old was doing that he didn't notice until after 15 minutes worth of coloring had been done.

Back to Latin.  Two year old got up again.  Put him back to bed to notice the 4 and 5 year old looking awfully guilty.  Discover they have taken 13 year old's book, and traced their hands all over the inside pages.  And of course tell me they didn't do it.  But since they were smart enough to SIGN THEIR NAMES to their hand prints, they were busted.  Off to bed for lying to Mom and defacing books.

It is now seven o'clock.  The 13 year old is still doing school work.  Everyone else finally finished around two hours ago.  Dinner has been eaten and cleaned up.  And all were kicked outside to run off some of the energy.  I did ask my eight year old if he could remember the memory verse from last week. "Sure! It's Philippians 4:6-7.  Be obnoxious in nothing, but in prayer, ask God for help.....I can't remember the rest".  Needless to say, I'm still rolling in laughter.  And I think I may go play with the kids!


Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;  and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Lord, guard my heart from wrath. Let me be patient and kind, and thank you for blessing me with these children. 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Always the first

I don't even know where to start with today's post. I've known it was coming for a very long time now. And I have been ignoring it. If I don't acknowledge it, maybe it will go away. But I cannot control time, and I can't stop it's march, so this day is here. And I am a bundle of emotions.

From the night I sat in my bathroom staring at the two blue lines, I've known this day would get here. I had never taken a test like this before, but apparently I passed. With trembling hands, and a voice I did not trust, I showed my husband the test results. It was a first for us. A positive pregnancy test.  And we did what any dumbfounded couple would do. We went to Wal-mart.  And bought the child's first onesie.

There was the first OB visit. It was my first ever. And they confirmed what we already knew.  We then told our parents. A first for mine. It would be their first grandchild.  Heath shipped off to basic training, and we were apart for the first time.

I remember seeing our baby for the first time. It was so unreal. My first impression? That's a big head.  I bought my first pair of maternity pants, and a cute yellow maternity shirt to match. Each month seemed to bring on another first.

Heath was injured at basic, and left the Army with a medical discharge.  He would see his first child into the world after all.  It was such a hot summer, and I was glad to have him there with me.

The time came for me to deliver our child. No matter how many movies you watch in labor classes, you are not prepared for this experience. It would be like watching the moon landing and thinking you understood what the astronauts felt.  With a final push, I delivered our first born child at 03:59pm on this day in 1998.  And for the first time I heard, "It's a boy!"

As any parent knows, a baby's life is completely recorded by their firsts. We did too. The first night he slept through, the first tooth, the first roll over, the first time he sat up. The first word. I thought my heart would burst the first time I leaned over his crib and he smiled at me.  There was of course the first sniffles, the first late night doctor's office call.  The first step, the first run, the first scraped knee, and the first bandage. 

On and on the list goes, and I can remember them each. But I struggle today. Don't get me wrong, I'm so happy to watch this child grow, to see him change, to see him mature.  But this is my baby boy. And today I see him across the room reading, and I see a man-child before me.  No longer does he stretch to see when he will out grow me. I have to tippy-toe just to see him eye-to-eye. No longer does that high-pitched little voice squeal in laughter. I often mistake him for his Father.  His shoes are bigger than his Dad's, and soon I'll be shedding tears as he shaves his face for the first time.  I'll be seeing the first time I washed it.

I knew this day was coming, but I just don't know if I'm ready for this first. My first teenager.   And it's not because of all the usual reasons. No, my son still likes to be around us, doesn't storm through the house, doesn't slam doors or such. He's not surly or moody. In fact, he laughs often, hugs us for no reason, loves to cart his little siblings around, and is always willing to help when asked.  He holds lengthy discussions with his Dad over the latest book he's read, or Bible passage he is pondering.  He can't wait to go to his grandparent's houses, or see his young cousins.  Yes, my son is a treasure, and a joy to have around.
Anderson surprising Malc with a kiss.
So today, as I find quite moments, I will reflect.  I will shed a few tears. I really didn't know how hard this would be. But I will laugh, I'll tell him stories of that silly little boy, and his antics, and I will make it through this first as well. Some of it will be curled up next to him as he pats me on the shoulder. And if I cry, he'll cry with me too. And I will thank the Lord for these 13 years. For all the firsts. For all the things this child has taught us. For the blessing that God gave us. And for holding this Mom up.

Malcolm Thomas age 13

Happy 13th Birthday, Malcolm Thomas. May we continue to document every first, and meet it together.  And may you always love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. 


Saturday, September 3, 2011

A story about a Boy

Today is another joyous occasion.  We are celebrating another birthday in our home. I know for some of you, it must seem like we party all the time, and we almost do. In our house alone, we have a birthday in 9 of the 12 months.  This birthday today is extra special.  Our fourth child, third son, was born this day eight years ago.  Heath Jr. was a beautiful child, and I have written many things about him.  Being five weeks early, and spending almost three weeks in the NICU, I've written about him often.  So I'll just add in links so you can read about some of his history. 

Heath and Mom, age 2

This year, as always, I look at my now eight year old boy through the shimmer of brimming tears. I melt as I look into those massive pools of chocolate brown eyes; my heart trembles when he smiles and reveals his crooked smile and dimple.  And when he bounces into the room, cheerful as always, and hugs my neck, those tears spill over and I send up yet another prayer of thanksgiving to the God who gave me this child.

age 3
This boy has a heart to serve. Often I have to stop myself from scolding him for being in the way, or slowing me down. He has pushed me to find ways a small child can serve our household.  From reading to his younger siblings, entertaining babies, to asking me, "Mom, is there anything I can help you with", this child has an eye for needs.  He is tenderhearted, easily cries, and takes everything to heart. 

Cousins. They are inseparable.
At the same time, he is also my most adventurous.  I remember the first time he put skates on at a roller rink.  He was five years old, and within 15 minutes he was spinning circles, skating backwards, and teaching all the other boys how to speed skate into a wicked slide.  He has balance and coordination, and hasn't found anything with wheels he can't conquer.  He loves playing outside, and will spend hours playing catch.  He finds more dirt and mud than any other of the boys in my house.  And it never can seem to resist him!

So this eighth birthday, I will try not to hear the echoing of beeping hospital machines, nor see the ghosts of tubes and equipment hooked to my baby son.  I will live in this moment, and choose to see this precious child for what he is today.  And I think I'll cry anyway.

Looking far too grown up with his glasses.

Age 7

age 8

Happy Birthday, Richard Heath Jr. I love you more than I can ever express.


Friday, September 2, 2011

Had I truely lost my H.E.A.R.T.?

I plopped down on my couch. I was tired, cranky, exhausted, and sick of my daily routine. The dishes from last week's dinner were still all over the counter, the dirty laundry was soon going to eat me alive if I didn't do something with it, and our children avoided me for fear the screaming banshee would return. As I sat there that hot, miserable night, I was hit with the reality of what I had become. And I didn't like me.

After much time spent crying out to God, I picked up a book recently delivered to my house. Titled, How to have a H.E.A.R.T. for Your Kids, I began reading. And it struck the chords of my heart. Showing me how inward my sight had become. How I was only caring about myself. My wants. My needs. I saw my family as a burden. And I needed to change.


From the first paragraph, author Rachel Carman was telling the story of her heart, and speaking directly to mine.  It was as if she had stepped into our home, observed me for a few days, and this was her assessment.

Mrs. Carman takes the letters of the H.E.A.R.T. acronym and expounds each into its own convicting chapter. After marking, notating, highlighting, and dog earring nearly the entire introduction, I hit chapter one thinking my hand might get a rest. But I was so wrong. Each chapter was just packed with wise council and drove me back to my knees. I was encouraged through Mrs. Carman's experiences and through scripture after scripture upon which she shone a light. I was also challenged by the Heart checklist found at the end of each chapter.  Through it all, I was reminded my world, my children, my husband are not my own. Nor does my world revolve around me or my family.  Not even partly. I had to give my whole heart back to God. I had to die to my self, so I could live abundantly in Him. Then, I could have a H.E.A.R.T. for my children.

If you would like to experience How to Have a H.E.A.R.T. for Your Kids for yourself, it is available for purchase through Apologia for $13.00. You can read a sample chapter, to experience the book for yourself. Visit Apologia to see a whole line of resources designed to encourage and strengthen homeschooling families.


As a member of the TOS Crew I was given a copy of this book for review purposes. I was not paid to write this post and my opinions are my own.