Friday, April 29, 2016

7 Truths To Set You Straight

It is easy to forget true things when we our hearts are filled with false things.

No matter how many computers, ipads, kindles, smart phones, fit bits, or other electronic devices we have, people still need walks in the park, hugs around the neck, early wake up call to see the sunrise and gratitude in their heart for all of creation.

Bad people aren't just automatically and always bad.  They get hurt, hold on to anger and fear, and allow their senses to get out of control.  You and I are just one unresolved hurt away from being a 'bad' person.

We aren't supposed to be exactly the same.  We are supposed to take our completely different life and use it to obey and glorify God.

Media and the masses lie. like, a lot.

I can't get you to change very easily by complaining about you, talking down to you or ignoring you completely.  The best way for me to change you is to change me.

People - as in everybody - assume and build up a TON of things in their heads.  Remember to share the good stuff, work through the bad and just don't carry it around for very long.  If you do it usually grows into something very foreign to the truth.  

Friday, April 22, 2016

A Hard Day's Work

 I am sincerely grateful for the hours and hours of work that were put in to landscaping and planting in the past.  With spring in full force, we've just started to see the lush green of everything.  When you move in in December, it is a little brown and unexciting, but now I feel like I'm getting a show!  In rose bushes alone, I feel like I've hit the jackpot!

Trouble is - and you knew it was coming - maintaining someone else's large amount of work is still a lot of work!  And I get overwhelmed so easy.   Too many people, I get overwhelmed.  Too much to do, I get overwhelmed.  Something not what I excepted, I get overwhelmed!  So, with all of the spring blooming and the vegetable garden we're trying to install, we spent the weekend working in the yard.  It turned out to be a good experience for everyone.  Mr. Butler worked really hard setting posts for a fence to go around the vegetable garden and J was a big help.  Miss Z mostly just looked for ladybugs which was it's own educational experience.  A few barely escaped drowning because they apparently needed a bath. I pruned rose bushes, planted some veggies, and assisted when necessary in the midst of getting dinners ready.  

It reminded me of my Granny Elmore who cooked so much more than I do and daily chores were more involved to boot.  It was exhausting - so much so that I finally took a bath in our new tub - but a very satisfying day.  It is easy for me to look for a quick and easy solution, but if that's where I live, then I miss out on some really great things in life.  And so would my family.  Like I mentioned, I get easily overwhelmed, but I also got a double portion of conviction or principle or something.  I think Miss Z did too, but she's still in the relentless stage without educated principles.  What I'm seeing in myself is that the really important things are big undertakings.  I'm really passionate about things like eating well, spending time outside, and using the most simple things God has provided for us to be fruitful for our own needs and His good will.  Growing food yourself, cooking meals yourself, even reading for yourself all takes extra time, extra energy and sometimes extra money, which can be overwhelming.  We know this, but all too often we believe the message that says because it requires anything extra, it isn't worth it.  And in my experience, that is generally NOT true.  We all have different stages of life, circumstances and priorities so my particular worthwhile activities may not resonate with you, but if you are honest with yourself, you'll see some of what I'm talking about.  

In light of the gardening progress, don't forget to get your free gardening resources now through the end of April!

Monday, April 18, 2016

A+ Interactive Math Mini-Courses Review: Closing the Learning Gaps

Math Mini-Courses {A+ Interactive Math Review}
Throughout the course of their years in school, most every student hits a snag sooner or later, especially in math.  Sometimes the lesson moves too fast.  Other times a student just struggles with a concept, needing extra support.  It is even common to enter into a new mathematical area only to find out that a basic principle is really weak, requiring some reinforcement before advancing.  For whatever reason, learning gaps happen.   In this review we discovered that Math Mini-Courses from A+ Interactive Math, is a good tool for closing those gaps. 

Math Mini-Courses {A+ Interactive Math Review}

During the review period we received access to 2 Math Mini-Courses, Counting and Identifying Numbers and Place Value and Number Combinations.  Each mini-course that I reviewed included 15 online video lessons with interactive review questions, online and printable worksheets, tests, lesson pdfs, solution guides and summary reports providing a variety of learning platforms.  The content in each course follows a logical progression of a specific mathematical concept increasing from beginner to advanced levels of skill.  I requested these two courses because my son is just getting started in school and while he had some knowledge already in these areas, I expected that he could use some reinforcement.  As I had hoped, Counting and Identifying Numbers was a good place to start. It was familiar enough content that he wasn't lost, but going through each lesson helped him slow down and fully grasp details.  It took your basic knowledge of counting to 20 and expanded it to 1000 while incorporating counting by 2s, 5s, 10s and even backwards.  There was also multiple examples in multiple formats, not assuming that one explanation in one way would work for every student.  I really appreciated that built in to the lessons.  At the end of every instruction portion there were review questions to answer.  At first we had a little trouble because in order to submit your answer (on most questions) you were supposed to click on a frog on the screen.  We kept forgetting and then it wouldn't record the answer, requiring us to go back and repeat questions.

Math Mini-Courses {A+ Interactive Math Review}

The second Math Mini-Course, Place Value and Number Combinations continued the same format but began to highlight new territory for my son.  When the new concepts would grow too challenging he could immediately go back and listen to a portion again.  I appreciated the multiple visual demonstrations of place value in this course because of how tricky it can be for a beginner.  The course does a good job of ensuring comprehension via multiple avenues.  If there was a mastery deadline or some kind of other test we were preparing for, there are worksheets and tests available with different content.  In this way, these targeted lessons are an important asset to public and homeschool alike.  For our household and learning needs, Math Mini-Courses would not be good for a primary curriculum or main source of math instruction simply because it is all online and doesn't involve manipulatives or games in the instruction.  However, for specific skill work or supplemental reinforcement it is a great tool to have in the bag. 


What surprised me the most was how often J requested to do one of these lessons.    Honestly, the graphics and color scheme, while very effective in instructing, at first glance reminded me of a DOS program and somehow that equated to outdated, less than engaging and just not fun in my mind.  Thankfully, my son is less judgmental than I and seemed to really enjoy it!  If his little sister came around making too much noise and he got distracted during an instruction portion, he always made me stop it and start back where he was in order to not miss something. After one, he was usually done and ready to go run around, but he seemed to look forward to the one most days. This was certainly not something I had to force him to do very often.  

Math Mini-Courses {A+ Interactive Math Review}

We are just getting started in elementary math, but A+ Interactive Math Mini Courses offer 20 different courses from counting all the way to geometry, decimals and statistics. Each course varies in price (for an entire year's use) from $9.99 to $19.99.  Perhaps your math education needs are currently filled and you don't see a place for something like this.  The likelihood is that it will be useful to someone's education in your family in the future so be sure to follow them on social media:

Twitter @aplustutorsoft

Math Mini-Courses {A+ Interactive Math Review}
Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Gardening Giveaway

Over the weekend, my little family made a visit to Sunrise Acres to buy some vegetable starter plants for the garden.  The owners there were so helpful and I love that it is just down the road from us now.  There was a moment when we were checking out that struck me with such gratitude.  Mr. Butler had asked about growing sweet potatoes and was getting a very knowledgeable and thorough explanation (his favorite kind).  J had found a basketball and Miss Z was trying to keep up with a couple of dogs.  I was thankful for kind people in the world doing good things with their life.  I was thankful for a Saturday when we were allowed to do several things as a family.  I was thankful for the hope in the air you feel when you get a whiff of a tomato plant or cucumber vine.  Planting and keeping a garden is good for the soul.

If you're new to planting a vegetable garden, you might not realize how important planning is to the whole process.  Thanks to The Old Schoolhouse Magazine and Molly Green, throughout the month of April you can get in touch with your inner gardener and be prepared with some great free books!  Just use the code ABCREW16 at checkout.

 I would love to see some pictures of your garden, big or small! Just use the tag #getupandgarden or #writebalance.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Homeschool Copywork Review: More Than Just Handwriting Practice

Homeschool Copywork Review
From the very beginning of our lives, we learn what we see.  When our children see what others do, they attempt to imitate it.  Whether you have a good example or a poor one, we still work to create our own version.  A great way to ensure success in our children is to make sure they see others succeeding around them.  A child learning to play the piano should hear great pianists play!  You wouldn't expect a chef who had never had great food to be very good at his job.  The elements involved in handwriting, like spelling, punctuation, and even reading comprehension, are treated in the same way at Homeschool Copywork with the added benefit of memorization options as well. They provide a number of significant poems, hymns, and stories to use in handwriting practice and general copy work in ebook form ready to download and save for multiple uses.  This surrounds your students with meaningful literature and significant words while also training their hands and discerning eyes to write and communicate well.  This is an especially great asset to those using a Charlotte Mason or Classical education model.

For this review we received a Lifetime Membership to Homeschool Copywork which gave us access to all of their downloadable products.  Since my son is learning to read, his handwriting is certainly in progress so we mainly focused on Animal Alphabet Copywork pages first and then moved onto Transportation Copywork, both of which are good for PreK, Kindergarten and 1st grade students.  In both collections, each page had a word or phrase to copy and a corresponding illustration for coloring.  I really appreciated that several words were less trivial or mundane, and a few even included the definition if it was a particularly uncommon word like nimbus and lorry.  My son really enjoys his coloring lately and the illustrations are like those from coloring books.  More than once he asked if he could skip the writing part and just color the picture!  I chose to print out the entire collection of pages at one time so he could access them himself easily as we're getting started in the morning.  It turned out to be a nice warm-up for school activities.

Homeschool Copywork Membership Sign-Up

With my son being young and even dragging his feet at times, you might wonder if this kind of thing is worthwhile until he is older and able to stick with some of the more literary collections like works of Lewis Carroll or Emily Dickinson.  Something I've discovered about our family is how heavy we lean to gradual learning.  Small amounts of something most every day over time results in solid learning and improvement.  Beginning simple copy work like this now is setting the stage for an easy transition into the great masterpieces later.  Some of the other products available come from all manner of subjects including artist studies, scriptures, poetry, great quotes from composers, presidents, and authors, holiday themed pages, coloring books and even themed blank notebooking pages for when you have a customized assignment.  In some selections from the upper elementary and junior high section there are cursive options as well as regular print. 
If you think Homeschool Copywork might be a good fit for you, keep in mind there are three separate membership levels: Free Membership (includes only free products), One Year Full Membership ($29.95), and Lifetime Membership ($45).  If you expect to use these products for longer than a year or with multiple children and you would like more than what the free level offers, the Lifetime Membership really is the best deal because you will always have access to everything.  And finally, here are some more products they offer:
Homeschool Copywork Review

Homeschool Copywork Review

Follow Homeschool Copywork on your social media outlet of choice!
Twitter:  @AmyBlevins

Homeschool Copywork Review
Crew Disclaimer

Friday, April 8, 2016

Mothering is a Verb

Have you ever felt labeled?  Not in the good way, like 'Most likely to succeed' or 'Best Smile' but in the 'you have this one characteristic therefore you must belong in this huge category and are instantly nothing more' kind of way.  From racism to sexism, I'm sure we all are familiar with how not okay it feels to be labeled prematurely.  Since this is certainly my season of life, I've thought about how we label mothers.  The infamous mommy wars are constantly stirring up our insecurities within our own mothering and the judgement and bitterness in our perceptions of other mothers.  We expect others to validate our own choices and then resent everyone else's choices, especially those that would suggest we follow their example.  And we wonder why we all can't just get along! :)

Mothering or being a mother - in its truest form - is a verb.  Growing a child, giving birth, nourishing, protecting, educating, loving are all parts of mothering.  Mothering is so much something you do.  When we label each other and often ourselves - formula, breastfeed, cloth, disposable, work, stay at home, public, private, homeschool, crunchy, anti-vax, vax, epidural, c-section, and every other variable that comes into play in mothering - we are confusing the mess further.  Let's talk about IF you are mothering rather than HOW you are mothering first.  I've only had 2 children and the oldest is 5.  So at best I've had 6 years of parenting experience.  Science and best practices and trending methods of everything have changed since I started.  Does that mean I was an awful mother, but now if I'm caught up with the latest fads, I'm the best mom?  Riiight.  When you know better you do better. Except when you are bitter and angry.  Then we're probably not mothering well, if at all sometimes.

It is very easy to be angry with those that choose differently than you.  It is easy to build others into the big bad guys because they feel strongly about something and it doesn't resonate with you.  It is easy to carry a chip on our shoulder when mothering is different than we expected, but our pride won't allow us to change our minds about anything.   There are a million and 1 opinions about how to mother and of course I have my own, but it is time we focused on the fact that you are mothering for a while.  Because many don't.  Women choose not to mother every day.  From conception to college, there are women who walk away or stay and abuse - certainly not mother.  There are a lot of subjective levels of good mothering, but let's celebrate the verb of mothering rather than hunting someone down to evaluate their 'level' of goodness.  When the heart of a mother is in tune with doing what is good for their child - and not in fighting all the opinions of levels, then those levels will improve over time.  Being angry, defensive or bitter does not a good mother make in the long run.

Once the comparing, judging and defending stops, the passion for mothering well grows.  When you're looking for a reason to choose this option over that, there will be plenty of information available.  Until then, let me be the first to say thank you to the ladies who choose to mother.  There are a lot of ways to change the world, but there isn't anything quite like producing humans after our own living.  Thank you for the mothering that you do.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Get Up and Garden Month

Do you grow vegetables at your house?  Have you ever tried?  This month is Get Up and Garden month here at the Butlers and Write Balance.  Mr. Butler has just finished building and preparing some raised beds and here in Oklahoma it is about time to plant.  My entire life  I have had a grandparent, parent or in-law growing a vegetable garden in some fashion.  It is my hope that my family will grow up understanding the importance and value of growing much of their own food and I believe this is the best way to do it!  Years and locations are all different with what is possible in growing and maintaining, but investing in locally grown food is a must!  The health benefits alone demand that homegrown food can NOT go by the wayside.  With the health of our country growing worse, we can't ignore every family's need for nutrient dense food.  What better way to provide for your family than to grow some delicious veggies in the back yard!  And yes, they will taste different than the store bought usually and that is a very good thing!

So, throughout the month of April I'll be giving away some great resources from The Old Schoolhouse and Molly Green to help you Get Up and Garden!

How to participate:

Tell me how YOU are going to Get Up and Garden.  Share this post, share a picture of your gardening hopes, and/or use #getupandgarden and tag me on any of the social media sites below.  That's it! Once you do that, I'll send you some great resources for FREE!
Instagram: writebalance
Facebook: Finding the Write Balance
Twitter: @writebalance
Pinterest: amylizz9