Sunday, July 5, 2015

In the Midst of the Move

When we moved to a rental about a year and a half ago, we were in the middle of a school semester. We were moving to a much smaller home, and I didn't want to get behind in our school work because we had our summer planned already. That was not an easy transition. It was a slow move, and we just did what we could when we were able. I'm pretty sure I would not attempt to keep our full time school schedule during a future move. It was brutal.

When we recently moved to our new home, things were still hectic. We had a shorter time frame to get everything from the rental. With the help of lots of good friends, we got all our stuff moved quickly. The challenge this time was getting the house company ready in time for a birthday party. We wanted to show our new home off, and I wanted it to look nice.

I had several friends ask how we got things done so fast. We didn't sleep! Just kidding. We did sleep but we worked (either on work, the house, or other responsibilities) from the time we got up until the time we went to bed each night. There was very little down time for about 4 weeks. It was exhausting to be sure, but it felt good too. Sometimes it is important to let go of all the "relaxing" time to accomplish a big goal.

It is so easy to fall into a routine of sleeping in, binge watching Netflix, and doing all the fun stuff. It is especially hard in the summertime to say no to some of the invitations to swim or play. It is absolutely essential that we all get some fun time in our week but sometimes we need to take an evaluation to see if we have more fun time than we do responsible time. The computer and television are huge time drains. If you really need some time to catch up on your favorite show, then fold some laundry while you watch.

Y'all know I love a good list! That would be my other biggest tip. Make a list of your to do items by priority order. Then set to work. Sometimes getting up to do the first thing is the biggest challenge. When we were so scattered and had things happening at two houses, I just made a short list each night. That way I stayed on task and didn't spend any extra time driving or forgetting things at the store. A little bit of organization goes a long way. It seems counter productive to spend time making a list if you are overwhelmed by the number of things you need to do, but it really will make a difference.

When you are finished with the chaos (well as finished as a mom can be...) THEN you can sit down on the couch and enjoy the clean house.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Baseball Boy's Dream Party

 So there was this boy, who loves baseball, that was having a birthday. He was so excited about his new house that he asked for a party to show it off.
His mom went to the local Dollar Tree where she found all sorts of fun baseball goodies like bubbles and balls.

There were even big bags of sunflower seeds and little cups to sit around. 

Since the theme was baseball, there were hot dogs, popcorn, and nachos. The popcorn was popped and put into white paper sacks with Kidecal stickers on them. 
Plenty of drinks were available because the kids were playing hard. (Not baseball. Our yard isn't that big!)

We even found HUGE bags of Cracker Jacks! How awesome are these?

 We used simple plastic tableclothes and a few reusable signs as decorations.

The baseball theme carried over to the cupcakes and carrot cake.

A great time was had by all! The baseball theme was very easy to accomplish. He was one happy little boy!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Short Stories from the Circle C Ranch

Susan K. Marlow was a homeschooling mom for twenty years. She has written a series of books for kids based on a character named Andi, and I recently received Tales from the Circle C Ranch to review. The books in the Circle C Adventures series follow Andi as she grows up. Tales from the Circle C Ranch is a collection of short stories that fit between some of the other stories. We also received Andrea Carter's Tales from the Circle C Ranch Lapbook.

I have to admit I wondered if these short stories would be enjoyable for us since we haven't read any of the other Circle C books. I'm glad to say that they were. The short stories are set on the Carter family ranch (Circle C) in the 1880s. The large family seems to have many adventures. Andrea Carter (Andi) is growing up on the large ranch with 3 older brothers and 1 older sister. She enjoys wearing overalls and riding her horse Taffy. The 11 stories cover many themes. Although the first story ended sadly, the other 10 contain so much excitement and humor.

Apple read the book first and she said,

                     "I like it because it had different stories. It felt very realistic because all of those stories could happen. I like that it was so real. I enjoyed that the book focused on a big family. It is great that their last name is Carter too! The historic prices are very interesting and helped me to figure out how money was back then. The historic facts about photography and calling cards was neat. I hope to read more books from this series soon."

I read the book when Apple finished it. I also appreciated some of the historical information in the book. Sneaky way to add some learning in there! The stories were very clean and wholesome which makes me interested in the other books for Apple as well. The main character Andi seems to find herself in trouble, usually on accident, quite often. I'm certain Apple was easily able to relate to her in that aspect. Finding books with a real life feel without cursing and romance can be difficult for the older elementary/ tween crowd. This book (and I feel confident the others in the series) meets those criteria.

We also received Andrea Carter's Tales from the Circle C Ranch Lapbook. This 39 page lapbook was an easy way to add extra fun and education into the reading of the book. There were activities for writing, coloring, cutting, pasting, answering questions, and more. Apple really went to work on this lapbook as soon as she finished reading all of the stories. The ones she commented on the most were the extra photography and calling card information pages and activities. I think the lapbook gave her more insight into the time period and the stories of the book. It felt like a great way to continue the educational aspect of reading the stories. I felt like it was a perfect summer activity. Since we are in summer mode, I let Apple work on the lapbook at her own pace.

The Circle C Adventures books are recommended for ages 9-14. Susan K. Marlow also wrote the Circle C Beginnings books for the younger crowd and a set called the Circle C Milestones books for the older girls. These books are fun and exciting and, as I mentioned before, very clean and wholesome. If you think your girl would like period fiction, I would highly recommend the Andi books. If you are studying California history, then this book will certainly add some fun reading into your studies. Theis book is perfect for pleasure reading but make a great addition to a homeschool schedule as well. The lapbook is an affordable addition to add more learning activities. A special preview of some of the stories is available on the Circle C Adventures webpage.

Check out what other Crew members had to say about the book:

Dynamic Literacy Review


Connect with Susan K. Marlow on Facebook and Twitter.

Crew Disclaimer

Monday, June 22, 2015

Digital Streaming for Homeschool Families

Streaming videos is certainly here to stay, and I had the chance to review a new digital media website. SmartKidz Media has realized the need for a dedicated service for homeschoolers to utilize these types of resources. SmartKidz Media Library for Homeschoolers offers educational videos, e-books, music, and more!

This is an affordable subscription website that runs well on platforms with an internet browser. Our subscription is for a full year! During our testing period, we used it on our home computer. The site is very user friendly. The main landing page (after log in) is a bright, colorful list of educational videos. Most of the videos currently available are informative animal shows. My kids love science and were very excited to have access to a whole new library of animal videos. It also went right along with our spring zoology study. The videos vary in length but many that we selected were around 25 minutes. The videos we watched were specific to things like animal migration and habitats.

There are also videos about food and culture available. Both kids enjoyed these videos as well. Apple has a keen interest in cooking so she spent more time watching these shows. I think they are a great way to introduce kids to cuisine that may not be available to try locally. Again the videos were very informative and not just entertaining.

In the main area there are also shows on exercise and newer history videos available. I know Speedy will really have an interest in these war videos. I am excited that we have access to some kid friendly exercise videos to work out some energy on days that are too hot or cold for playing outside.

The videos alone are a great addition to our homeschool but SmartKidz offers even more. There is a section on artists. Those videos focus on specific artists and play shots of their work with a musical overlay. What a great way to expose kids to the arts from the comfort of your own home. We live in an area that severely lacks in museums so I'm especially grateful for these videos. There are also many songs available to stream on the site. Just last year we started playing some classical music during our homeschool time. SmartKidz includes many classical selections and cultural music and even some blues and jazz! Now that's a great way to spice up study time.

Other features on the website are an e-book collection, study guides, special needs learning, and even kids karaoke! New things are being added so quickly that we haven't had a chance to try many of the features. There are also many cover teasers about the items that are coming soon. The kids scroll down the list each time they get on the site to see what has been added. The site is so well organized. Videos and music show up on the main page and then there are colorful tabs at the top of the screen for navigating to other resources.

SmartKidz is such a versatile resource. There are so many ways you could incorporate it into your homeschool. For the last few weeks, I've just give the kids certain times each week that they could pick a video to watch. They love the extra screen time, and I love that they are learning from it. Many people now use digital media as a primary curriculum. We don't fall into that category but I can certainly see the value in a resource like this. My goal is to have them watch a video for "fun" at least once a week and then I'd like to use specific videos, e-books, or study guides as additional resources for lessons we are working on during our regular school time. I know we will utilize streaming music in the background during individual work time. While it is intended as an educational resource, there is a lot of valuable media for toddlers and littles that might keep them entertained while the big kids do school. I wish I had this resource when my kids were younger just to give them safe shows to watch. Of course I recommend you preview any videos for questionable content. I do believe some of them contain evolutionary material although we have learned to pretty much block that out. Whether you use it for homeschool or for pleasure, SmartKidz really is a library of resources right at home!

See what others think about SmartKidz Media:

SmartKidz Media Review

Connect with SmartKidz on Facebook and Twitter.

Crew Disclaimer

Sunday, June 21, 2015

How to Plan Using Pinterest

I see Pinterest as more of a tool than a social media site. I told you before how I use Pinterest for homeschool. There are 3 other ways I use Pinterest to plan that might be useful to you.

1. Vacation Bible School- I coordinate the VBS for our church. I've found a great way to plan and keep track of ideas is on Pinterest. Each year I create a board and add on my top VBS volunteers as contributors. We can use the board well in advance to pin ideas on experiments, decorations, games, and even snack ideas! I search Pinterest for the type of Bible school we are using for the year. I also pin items from retailers where I may buy supplies. Oriental Trading Co is one of my favorite resources. I also like to put pins on the board from other sites so that all the websites I need are located in one spot. It's great to have my leaders pinning as well so I can see the ideas they have without a face to face meeting. When we do have meetings in person, I can pull our board up and have all the information on hand that we will need. Our VBS this year was G-Force and here is the board we created. 

2. House hunting- Thankfully we are now out of this market but it took us 2 years to find the home we wanted. I made a "secret" board to keep track of homes that I was interested in seeing. Over the 2 years time, I had lots of pins! They were so useful when we were talking with realtors and really just getting a feel for the area. If you were selling a home, this could also be a useful tool for finding comparable homes and upgrades you might want to make on the house. The secret boards are a great tool for any planning you are doing that isn't public knowledge. You can pin directly from real estate websites like Zillow.

3. Party planning- I think this was one of the very first boards I ever created. Pinterest is an exceptional place for finding ideas related to pretty much any birthday party theme. You can search by specific characters or movies. I used Pinterest heavily when planning an ice cream sundae bar for a party earlier this year. I keep all the party ideas on one board because most of the ideas can be adjusted for different themes. We have a baseball themed birthday party in the works right now and I've found so many ideas just searching Pinterest. Again, I've also pinned many items and ideas directly from other websites so that all the information is neatly collected in one place. 

I love to organize and plan. Don't forget about Pinterest as a free and easy to use tool. Think of it as a digital list of ideas. There's no better way to keep websites neatly catalogued. What's your favorite way to use Pinterest?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Great Book for Tweens and Teens

It isn't an easy transition from toddler sized Bible story books to stories and devotionals for kids to appropriate Biblical material for middle schoolers. If they have studied the Bible since a very young age, then regular books of Bible stories can lose their attention. There are many good devotionals on the market for the tween crowd, but finding books for them to help them understand how to live out Christianity in their lives can be difficult. It can be difficult for adults too! I have had my kids read books about missionaries the last couple of years. We've recently read some aloud as a family too. When I got the opportunity to review Bonhoeffer: Student Edition: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, I wondered if it would be above Apple's level. It wasn't!

She reads so many books, and we don't always spend a lot of time discussing them. When she was reading this book by Eric Metaxas, she was coming to me often sharing facts and asking questions. I love that! She told me several things that I didn't know. Once she was finished reading it, I read it too. This is a great book y'all. Dietrich Bonhoeffer grew up in Germany with a Jewish father and a Christian mother. It was a large family who learned about Christianity from their mother but rarely attended church. From this beginning, Dietrich went on to study theology and then found a faith that many around him didn't understand. His story is fascinating.

This is a great book for tweens and teens. It contains so much information, not only on Bonhoeffer's life but on Hitler and history too. It includes questions at the end of each chapter that would make it perfect for a study group. There is so much wisdom included in this book. The quotes from Bonhoeffer are great. His ideas seem so timely to today. He noted that in America the students had a "lack of seriousness" about God and the world. Bonhoeffer also stepped on toes in a church in Berlin by telling them it wasn't enough to just show up to church. Sounds relevant to today!

I received a free copy of this book from BookLook bloggers in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Action and Adventure

Normally the books I review are fairly low-key. I like action and adventure, but it can be difficult to find those books that don't involve unsavory themes like fornication and vampires. I received Centralia by Mike Dellosso as a review item for Tyndale Blog Network. I knew from the description that this wouldn't be the typical Christian novel.

Peter Ryan wakes up to a normal day. The sun is shining and he hears his wife and daughter downstairs. That's the last moment of "normal" for Peter. His life goes on an insane roller coaster of twists and turns. I was dizzy by the end of the book! If you enjoyed Terminator 2 or if you love a good action/ adventure story then you will thoroughly enjoy this book. It has a little conspiracy and a little government involvement for you too. It is a Christian book so there is a faith journey involved as well.

Honestly I felt like I was watching a movie as I read this book. It is descriptive. The main character goes through a well developed journey. It kept me guessing until the end. After a little research it seems this is a typical book for Mike Dellosso. I'm interested to read some of his other works now. This would be a great book to give the guy in your life. I find there aren't as many good Christian reads for men as there are for women. This book does contain some violence but I didn't find it to be too graphic.

I received a free copy of this book from Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.