Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Importance of Dad in the Homeschool

When you homeschool, sometimes it is really hard to resist the public school day comparison.  Even though I realize that not only are my children thriving but the entire reason we choose this way of life is to give them something different.  So, Mr. Butler (aka Daddy) is one of the ways we're making this homeschool thing work.  By nature, this guy is artistic, mechanical and creative (he's an engineer after all!) and with everything that is on my plate, it is easy for my energy to be empty when it comes to the major activities portion of the day.  All I have to do is ask and suddenly after dinner they are busy building tepees. 

I helped in between baby tending and kitchen cleaning, but the creative director was all Mr. Butler.  Both kids made their own little camp and were very proud of them. 

So, of course they couldn't stop there.  They combined their creations to make a little village, complete with planes, frogs, and Eeyore.

He also usually reads to the kids at bedtime and if there is anything I want him to read - from textbook to instruction manuals - he'll fit it in too.  Now that the little race car is almost 6 months old, I really feel compelled to have our new normal figured out.  Since I really don't (have it all figured out), I'm so thankful that Mr. Butler fills in the gaps with his strengths.  

With a baby in tow, a part-time job and no children over the age of 6, there is only so much finite control I can have over any given school day.  So praise the Lord for Daddy!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: A Worthy Kids/Ideals Book Review


There are two big battles to be won in the life of a reader. #1 is to spark a love of reading.  #2 is to find them good books to read.  When said reader (J, 6 years old) goes from the mailbox to my bed with a new book and doesn't leave for a while, it would seem we have been victorious on both accounts!  Needless to say we were very happy for the opportunity to review the first two books in the time-traveling adventure series, The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls by M.J. Thomas, from WorthyKids/Ideals, the company that brings us the favorite children books VeggieTales and Berenstain Bears.  Like them, these two books are designed to build children's faith and knowledge of the Bible all while capturing the readers attention with mystery and excitement.
The author, M.J. Thomas, went looking for engaging books that taught his kids about the Bible.  Having no luck, he decided to write some himself!  The main characters are named after his son Peter, niece Mary and his dog, Hank.
The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls
The first installment is Book One: The Beginning, where Peter, Mary and Hank, the family dog,  are staying with their great-uncle Solomon, the archaeologist when they discover ancient scrolls and find themselves traveling through to time to witness stories from the Bible.  They must decode the scrolls' message before they are stuck in history forever.
What J had to say:

"Mom, Mom! You don't understand! It's like I'm really there! Like in the Bible!"
"They had to find out what the scrolls said.  Peter got chased by a rhino to a tree.  Then a monkey stole the scroll. My favorite part was when they had to swim to a boat because I like swimming.  I like Peter because he reminds me of Jack in the Magic Treehouse books."
The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls
Book Two: Race to the Ark find Peter, Mary and Hank traveling to the time of Noah where they have seven days to solve a riddle before getting wiped out with the flood.  
What J had to say:

"It started to rain then a lion roared when they needed to go to the city. They had to race to the ark.  They met Noah's family.  Noah's family was nice.  Mary decided to choose where the animals went - big animals on the top and little animals on the bottom and middle sized animals in the middle.  My favorite part was when they went back home because it was the same as when they had left.  Almost at the end when the lion roared at satan and it was scary and I seriously almost cried!"
These books are intended for independent readers age 6-9 or enjoyed by the whole family as a read-aloud.   In either case, these books could be a great way to engage Bible events in your family's daily life.  We were very impressed by these books and greatly anticipate reading new ones in the future!
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The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls. {WorthyKids/Ideals Reviews}
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Friday, September 22, 2017

Let Them Do What They Do

About a year before J was to be born, Mr. Butler and I started talking about getting a bigger car.  He was about to not have one and my 4-seater wasn't very roomy.  Once we narrowed it down to a type and size of car, I didn't care much.  What I should have expected, but didn't realize was that my husband is one of the most thorough people I know.  He lives and breathes for data so of course he scoured the internet for reviews and safety guidelines, options and colors.  For the next month, he would continually ask my opinion on things like trunk space and trim color.  After the second question, I absolutely didn't care anymore, but he was just getting started.  I fought him regularly when he questioned me because I didn't have the patience and didn't think it mattered much anyway.

He ended up finding a 1998 Honda CRV for less than most people were asking for it with all the specs he wanted and it has served us very well.  I was more than pleased and he was satisfied with the decision.  It would take me another 3 or 4 years before I would start to really appreciate and value the skill set and nature that he possessed.  I've joked about him being the smartest person in the room and really it's more like he's the most informed person.  He's the guy who reads the instructions cover to cover, inhales product reviews and watches several youtube videos before trying anything.  The guy loves info and possesses the patience and diligence of an ant.  Sometimes I would get so mad at him for being so consumed with playing the guitar or reading some book that he wouldn't respond to me when I talked to him.

We celebrate 11 years of marriage this month and I'm sorry to say that I'm just now coming to terms with (instead of fighting) how much more valuable we are to each other if we just do what we do in a lot of cases.  I need his thorough, logical approach to the world.  We all need somebody to pay attention to the details and the directions.  And yes, he needs someone to remind him to value other people's feelings and that expedience isn't really next to godliness.  I come hardwired to nurture and love his children.  He has built-in confidence and ambition for days.  We are so much better together, doing what we do.  So, the next time you scoff at that opposite in your life, stop.  Try letting them do what they do and appreciating them for that.  You do what you do.  Let them do what they do.  And we just might all be better off.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Let's Go Geography: A Review

Let's Go Geography

One of the most valuable semesters of college that I had included three separate classes studying different aspects of the same time period.  20th Century Music History, the American Novel since 1920, and 20th Century British Literature all hovered around a time period that literally started the change our culture as we know it.  I learned so much during those 3 months that I never wanted to learn any other way.  Up for review today is Let's Go Geography from Carol Henderson, author of a versatile Geography curriculum that facilitates the kind of holistic learning that I love!  Through the base of world geography, students are exploring various skills and subjects including coloring, writing, maps, flags, crafts and culture.
Let's Go Geography
This online product is loaded with content that will stand on its own or can springboard you into other subjects.  There are a few individual country lessons, but the best value is the subscription service that is available for a semester or a year at a time.  
To cover the entire curriculum, it is spread out over three years (6 semesters).  Every week you'll receive an email linking you to the next country to explore, but you always have the option through the website to hop around however you would like.  As a bonus, you receive a free printable Travel Journal Cover that is fun for the students to keep their work and projects in.
Let's Go Geography
Each country or region's lesson follows a similar format consisting of 6 chapters: Map It!, The Flag, The Music, Let's Explore, Create!, and Printables.  All the lessons are a downloadable pdf that include several links and videos accessible through the individual document. Each year covers 26 countries and two regions of the United States.  
This is a very hands-on curriculum geared towards K-4th grade  and we can attest to that!  The activities are easily modified for age and regardless of skill, there were plenty of activities for everyone!  If you do the entire lesson as designed, each should take about an hour.  We started at the beginning where we focused on the Northeast, Hawaii and Canada.  This gave us the chance to incorporate our recently acquired goodies from Hawaii that the grandparents had just brought back to us.  This was a great example of learning about a place in multiple different formats from curriculum and regular life!

From there we skipped around and below is our craft from Sweden that both kids really enjoyed making!

Sprinkled throughout the lessons are breaks and review lessons.  The review weeks include more new content in new formats that goes over information already covered thus far in the curriculum.  Over all the different chapters and types of lessons, I started to think of so many different ways to implement this curriculum beyond the recommended full three years.  You could isolate one aspect - like crafts or music - and learn about more places in a week just through that category.  As another curriculum touches on different places, this could easily be used as a supplement.  It provides lots of ways to reinforce learning on multiple planes. Whatever the case, we found Let's Go Geography useful for any classroom and certain a great resource over time.  Check out what other people thought by reading their reviews below.

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Let’s Go Geography {Reviews}
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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Beards, Susannah, Italy and Squirrel: A Carole P. Roman Books Review

Carole P Roman
I may be a terribly typical teacher when I say this, but the love of reading is one of the best gifts you can give a person!  Reading is more than just a brain exercise.  It takes you on adventures, it teaches you how to grow, and most importantly it helps you understand the people and world around you.  That is something we lack as a society.  I'm so thankful we are a reading family.  So you can imagine the excitement in our house when we received 5 books in the mail from Carole P. Roman to review!  
Books by Carole P RomanI wasn't familiar with this author before this review, but I'm not sure how.  She has written over 35 books (most of which are children's), received over 100 book awards and over 3000 online reviews.  Can you believe all of that came from her son daring her to start writing?  Her background in teaching combined with a spirit for discovery has turned out to be a great recipe for the job of an author.

Books by Carole P RomanThe first two books we received are from Roman's Captain No Beard seriesCaptain No Beard: An Imaginary Tale of a Pirate's Life and A Captain No Beard Story: The Crew Goes Coconuts! Cousins Hallie and Alexander explore the edges of the earth with their trusty imaginations and lively stuffed animals.  In the first story, we get introduced to all the key characters and the grand pirate adventure they are on together.  In The Crew Goes Coconuts! the crew learns to deal with bullying and the struggles it brings.  As Hallie aptly says, "No one is perfect! That's why we should look for something to like in everyone."  These were big hits with my kids (ages 6 and 4) who are big into imagination adventure right now.  After reading these, I'm interested in the others in the series that continue to address real life problems our kids will face.

Books by Carole P Roman
In a similar way, One To Ten: Squirrel's Bad Day seeks to demonstrate what really matters when life gets a little too overwhelming.  We had a great discussion together after reading this book because this is relevant to our life every. single. day.  Our household is full of strong personalities and children to boot, so EVERYTHING is a HUUUGE deal, even when it's not.  Learning along with Squirrel to evaluate just how bad this situation really is gave us all a tool that can be carried into any activity of life.  For a typical picture book it was a little longer than I expected, but the content was worthwhile.

Books by Carole P Roman

For the independent reader who is ready for a chapter book, the Oh Susannah series is a good place to start. Oh Susannah: It's in the bag walks us into the life of 3rd grader Susannah and all the things swimming through her head from breakfast to homework to a ripped bag.  As we read this together as a family (because I wanted my non-reader to benefit from the content too), I identified with the parents so much in the book.  They were trying to take care of their lives, but getting caught up in schedules and expectations.  Talk about calling me out!  Since the baby was born, we're still trying to find the normal without ripping everyone's head off! It didn't take long for my 6 year old to notice the resemblance either.  The mom character is constantly looking at the clock and more than once he glanced knowingly at me.  That kid!
Like the others, this book was full of relevant and encouraging content that successfully captured my kids attention.  Especially as the readers grow, I'm thankful for good books I can throw their way.
Books by Carole P Roman
When we were offered this review, we got to choose two books and then given some surprise books to go along with it.  This is one of my surprise ones that certainly didn't apply to anything we are learning right now, but turned out to be a great find for the future.  If You Were Me and Lived in... Renaissance Italy is part of the If You Were Me and Lived in...Series that explores all aspects of life in this different times and countries, especially through the eyes of children.  We learned about kids' names, clothing, art, geography, food, and history including famous people of the time and all of it was supported by a glossary in the back.  This series is extensive and could serve as a great addition to history and geography lessons. 
All of these books had fun artwork and good quality paper that sealed the deal of good quality literature.  If you are looking for some new books for your kids' needs, take a look at all that Carole P. Roman has to offer.
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All of the reviewers received different books so check out what others had to say:

Oh Susannah, Bedtime Stories, Captain No Beard, If you were Me ... {Carole P. Roman Reviews}

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Bears on Hemlock Mountain E-Guide: A Progeny Press Review

Progeny Press

One of the benefits I appreciate about homeschooling is the opportunity to integrate my children's education with character building and development.  Even if I agreed with my child's public school teacher on everything, they are still usually limited in the topics and curriculum they are allowed to use in the classroom.  My review today is about The Bears on Hemlock Mountain E-Guide from Progeny Press, something that most public schools couldn't allow because, as the title indicates, is from a plainly Christian perspective.  

Bears on Hemlock Mountain, The - E-Guide
Progeny Press is a Christian company that strives to help students aptly understand literature through their study guides that cover literature of all ages.  The Bears on Hemlock Mountain was the appropriate grade for my son (1st - 3rd), but there were three other study guides that were reviewed by the Crew: 

 For this review we received a downloadable eBook that corresponds with the reading of the book.  We didn't have the text in our personal library so we obtained a copy of The Bears on Hemlock Mountain  by Alice Dalgliesh from our local library, but you can also purchase a copy from Progeny Press for $4.99.  The book is a short 10 chapters, a Newberry Honor Book and written in 1952.  The Hemlock Mountain E-Guide is 35 pages long complete with instructor notes, a synopsis of the book, author information, background information on the book, and over 25 pages of activities related to the book.  There is 2 pages of before-you-read activities all having to do with animal tracks, the outdoors, or hospitality.  For every two or three chapters, there is vocabulary work, comprehension questions and Bible verse application. 

What We Thought 

The instructor notes recommend reading the entire book first before beginning the chapter activities, but due to my son's age (6) I chose to have him read a couple of chapters and then do the activities.  While that worked fine, in retrospect I believe that reading the entire thing first would have benefited his comprehension a little better.  Sometimes it pays to trust the experts!  

Many of the questions are open or discussion-type in nature.  That initially was a great frustration for us, but only because my son would rather have a one word answer he knew was exactly right than come up with a couple of different sentences that would work.  Some doodling was certainly found in the margins.  

As we powered through though it proved to be a good learning experience in patience and qualitative work.  One of the best aspects of this study guide was the Bible verse application in each section.  Sometimes we would look up the verses in our own Bible to see how different translations read it and it always led to a spiritual application of principles found in the book.  As Christian parents, the training of our children always requires pointing out the spiritual aspects of life.  It's extra nice when their schoolwork lays it out for me!

Overall, we had a good experience with this product and I look forward to use more from this company as my children get older!

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Read what other people thought about Progeny Press and the other E-Guides:

Study Guides for Literature {Progeny Press Reviews}

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Monday, September 11, 2017

Go Outside: Your Sanity May Depend On It

We took a walk the other day after breakfast and before we started school.  The weather was significantly cool for late summer so all of us were a little more motivated than usual.  The weight (physical and emotional) of the Race car's pregnancy and transitional months following had made motivation fleeting.  With three kids plus personal recovery, making anything (other than meal time) a habit is a big struggle.  But the chill in the air somehow gave us an extra spring in our step and a walking we did go.

There are a lot of scientific and biological reasons why being active outside and spending time in nature is terribly important to a healthy life.  But if those reasons matter to you, you're probably already doing it. For the rest of us - especially the emotionally driven - we need a little more than somebody telling us we're supposed to do something.  This morning walk gave me exactly what I needed in this arena.  Halfway through the kids wanted to rest and they sat at this bench on the edge of the pond.  They weren't terribly out of breath, but they just sat still quietly talking and taking in the view.  Little sister proved to be tired from then on out and then pouted about how tired she was once we got home.

When we got home, we started schoolwork and EVERYONE had such a good attitude, myself included.  It wasn't until I experienced this surge in energy and attitude that I was reminded of how important going outside is to so much - even morale!

It's easy to get busy and in a rut, but when you feel how effective that energy is, you will WANT to start a new habit!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Kwik Stix Now Available at BJ's!

One of my favorite companies has expanded their products and where you can buy them! The Pencil Grip, Inc's Kwik Stix are now available at BJ's Wholesale Clubs and Amazon

The Kwik Stix's original form was tempura paint in the form of glue stick containers.  Their new Thin Stix is the same paint but in pen or highlighter form.  We have tried both kinds and enjoy them both equally, depending on what kind of art work you are attempting.

In our house they fall close in line with playdough in how long they will occupy the kids.  Kwik Stix are better because of the mess they don't leave behind!  Every classroom - especially large groups in public school - should have a couple of sets of these!  They are reasonably priced and easier to get all the time.

I will a FREE copy of this product in exchange for spreading the news of where to buy this product.  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.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Growing Grace Is Hard

I was watching some friends' wedding video from earlier this year and couldn't keep the tears from falling a bit.  It was a beautiful venue and such a sweet reminder of our own wedding almost 11 years ago.  The excitement just starting out in your marriage is just one of the coolest things.  I wish so badly to tell my younger self a few things to save us from a few extra unnecessary fights.  I love my kids, but I can't deny the tiny longing to live that newlywed time over again - to do it better.  I think the perfectionist in me longs to keep the beautiful beginning to the marriage just as it is - beautiful and perfect.  We don't want the marriage to be stained by things like loss, fear, dishonesty, emergencies, weight gain, tempers, money problems, etc.  I just want that long, relaxed walk down the aisle to towards this guy who shared his heart with me.

Of course, that is the trouble with us perfectionists.  We have a hard time being glad and thankful in the imperfect moments.  The "life is about the journey" way of thinking is often lost on us.  Journey or not, things aren't the way we want them (aka RIGHT) so we're not yet pleased.  I had a baby in April followed by several large stress events in my life.  My body is extremely sensitive to stress, not getting enough sleep and change (so why did I have kids again? ha!) and the past month I've been working hard at solidifying a routine for school and housekeeping, despite having a 4 month old who hasn't mastered sleeping through the night yet.  My hormones have taken the long way to evening out, the battle between sleep and exercise isn't funny anymore, the extra weight is still hanging around and this introvert is finding it a lot harder with 3 kids to find true alone time than I expected.  Enjoying the journey feels like a joke or near impossible some days when the first bit of alone time I get (which still includes the baby of course) and before the rest of the family is even off of the property, my little race car dumps a bowl of (delicious!) homemade granola. While I'm cleaning that up he also manages to dump my water bottle on the ground too.

Sooo, whether it is enjoy the journey or enjoy them while they are little talk, my point is that it's way harder than a meme on facebook pretends it is.  Some moments it is pride that tells me I want to do everything or other times it is perfectionism that convinces me to be miserable until all the things are just right.  Neither of which are ever satisfied.  I don't have to rely on a ringer washer for clean clothes, my family's bellies are full at night, I have three of the most beautiful children (not that I'm biased) and I get to climb into bed at night with a handsome guy who just happens to be my best friend.  Despite the huge blessings we have in our life, sometimes it doesn't matter (the way it should) in the heat of the day.  Life is messy, heartbreaking and just hard.  There's always someone who has it worse, but there's also always somebody who seems to be doing it better that is hard to ignore.

One thing I really lacked as a newlywed - and still struggle with on a daily basis - is grace.  Grace for my husband, grace for my circumstances, grace for others opinions, and even grace for myself.  My passion and pride typically take me to one extreme or another, thus the name of this blog was born.  Sometimes balance is another word for the appropriate amount of grace.  Not overlooking sin, but not stamping out hope either.  The struggles of the middle parts of life seems to be where grace is being grown, if we'll let it.  It's so easy to judge others and congratulate yourself for doing it better (especially when you haven't yet).  Having kids certainly punches you in the gut some days.  But it seems to be for good reason.  Growing grace is hard.

Most everything feels better in the morning so maybe a good night's sleep is all you need to stay on the brighter side of things.  Or maybe you just need to write it down like I do to get the weight of it all off your shoulders.  Whatever you need to do, just be sure and do it.  And know that you're not alone. :)