And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children. Isaiah 54:13 KJV

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Fun Learning Online {Review} #literacy

Essential Skills Advantage graciously gave us a one year subscription to their Complete Home Learning Suite to review. This all online learning program is for students from K to 6th grades. Apple & Speedy have their own profiles under our account. With Essential Skills Advantage, Apple and Speedy received access to:
Science- Levels K-3
Geography- Levels 4-6
Math- Levels- K-6
Language and Grammar- Levels K-6
Reading- Levels K-6

Over the last few weeks, they have both been using ESA during our regular school days Monday through Thursday. I asked them both to focus on the Reading and Geography. Speedy picked up on the Reading with the third grade level since we started before the end of our school year. Apple was working solely in the 6th grade levels since that is the highest available. They dabbled in some of the other subjects but really only "worked" in Reading and Geography.
This website is very easy to navigate. We had one login for everyone. Once logged in, the Classroom page opens and the student can sign in to their account. This is also where I went to check reports to find their scores each day. I do wish there was an easier way to see the daily grades other than searching through the topics and looking for the date to find a score. However, for the kids the simplistic layout was a plus. The only drawback for them was that they sometimes found themselves in their sibling's account without realizing it. Often they figured it out right AFTER they completed an assignment. 

Speaking of assignments, there really isn't a way to assign them tasks through the program. Since this was for review, I just asked them to work in the two subjects each day. Some areas have only 4 or 5 activities while others had up to 120! It was difficult for them to know where they needed to stop because they weren't going to sit and do 120 activities or questions at one time. I usually had them stop based on time. These activities are fairly simple so they were able to accomplish a lot in a short time. They jumped all around within the subjects under their grade level. 
For some of the activities for grades 3 and 4, Speedy would read a paragraph or two and answer some questions, or he'd work on vocabulary through crossword puzzles or arranging words in alphabetical order. Apple had similar activities in her level, but they were a little harder. Geography is broken down into different categories. The activities often include looking at a map or picture and reading information about it. Then the student answers multiple choice questions to reinforce the information they've learned. 


All in all, the activities the kids have tried in Essential Skills Advantage have been fun and fairly easy for both of them. This feels like a great supplemental program to give students some relaxed learning time to go along with what they are studying. The only drawback to this is that there isn't a list of lessons to use. There's no way to coordinate lessons, but the students get plenty of practice within the areas they use in ESA. Apple was able to complete the 6th grade reading comprehension activities during our review period.
While it isn't easy to track down daily grades, ESA does offer a variety of reports. Their "marks" are accessible from the Classroom page. First you go into a page for the student with a graph of all the areas they have tried. The graph gives a percentage of the course they have completed as well as an overall grade for that area. Under any of those categories, you can click the "marks" symbol to access the page with more detailed marks. Completed activites offer a certificate you can print for your student. There is also an option for making a "report card" for the various subjects. 



While using the program, we came across an error on an activity. The customer service was fantastic! They got right on the problem and got it corrected which made my student very happy. While there are a few things I would tweak about this program, it does offer a wide range of subjects and grades for one price. Students can freely move between the grades and various subjects so they won't run out of activities to try! This program works best for us exactly how we've used it- to fill in days after the regular curriculum is finished. ESA is a great way to incorportate some "fun" learning through the summer.

See what the other Crew members though of Essential Skills Advantage
Essential Skills Advantage Review
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Monday, May 30, 2016

Family Fun at the Dixie Stampede

Last week I told you a little about our recent trip to the mountains. I promised to give you more information on a couple of the places we visited for the first time when we were there. I think the overwhelming favorite for the whole family was dinner and a show at Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede. It was a new experience for the 6 of us (grandparents were included) and one that we all enjoyed.



I'm going to go ahead and admit that I didn't take pictures there. Several places said that no pictures were allowed at the show, and I took that to heart. I was ready to relax and enjoy the experience without my phone in my hand for pictures. However, pictures were allowed when we were there but no flashes. I did pull out my phone one time to get a shot, but everything was just happening too fast to get a decent picture. The Dixie Stampede takes family photos as you go in, and we did buy some of those for souvenirs.

My attempt at a picture.
I looked online for tips before we went, and I'm glad I did! Here is my own short list of tips for the Dixie Stampede in Pigeon Forge to help you on your own trip:

*Make reservations in advance. We did and we had great seats on the 3rd row. Honestly the arena is set up so there are no horrible seats. I really wouldn't want to be on the first row (dust), but the third row was perfect. We sat on the side for the South and we upgraded to "premium" seating. As I said all the seats would allow for a great view but we were near the center of the arena. The seating is padded benches with a small tabletop. We were comfortable but someone in your group will be sat by people from other parties. It's not a roomy area, but it isn't too bad. Everything happens so quickly that you won't have much time to think about it.

*When you arrive at the show, be prepared for pictures. They weren't horribly expensive ($25 for an 8x10 and 2 smaller photos). We were dressed cute but comfortable. I didn't expect them to take so many photos- 4 sets for our group of 6- but we did buy some of them because they were nice.

*Arriving at the suggested time is a great idea. You get your photos done and then you head to the saloon to watch the pre-show. It was a lot of fun! A stage in the middle held 3 guys who sang, told some jokes, and played instruments. There are drinks sold in the saloon, but you aren't going to need any because the meal during the actual show will fill you up! Some of the drinks do come in a souvenir mug. I read one blog that said the cups could be bought after the show in the gift shop, but that was not the case when we were there. Wasn't a big deal for us but if you have a child that really wants a cup, you may want to spring for one drink. When you go to the saloon, sit upstairs near the end where the restrooms and large maroon curtain are located. You will want to use the restroom before the show and the curtain is where you enter the arena. We were upstairs but on the opposite end. We still didn't have to wait in line long to get in. I was glad we weren't trying to manuever the stairs with the huge crowd that sat downstairs. If you arrive at the early time, someone will bring your pictures into the saloon. It was easy to see them in there and didn't interrupt our meal.

*Someone will go around just before the show and sell flags. The kids enjoyed having a flag to wave during the show and to bring home. Apple went around after the show and had the performers sign her flag. It made her happy and she had a nice souvenir. The flags were $3 each.

*Be prepared to eat with your hands and to take a lot of your food with you. You are served so much food. It was hard to eat and help a child with their food and watch the show all at one time. The food was very good. We really enjoyed the chicken and the apple turnover. One kid barely ate any food because they were so involved in the show, and that was okay. We took 3 bags of food with us when we left. Somehow I got stuck with all 3 bags while we were in the gift shop. I really wished I had a larger bag to put them in! It wasn't easy to carry everything. There isn't much room for a purse or bag while you are eating though. I had to keep my purse tucked on the floor by my feet during the show.

*Know what you want to drink because once you get in your seat, everything happens very quickly. We were offered water, Pepsi, tea, or lemonade. We also got coffee with our dessert. There is powdered creamer, sugar and sugar substitutes, and wet wipes on the table. It is all set up efficiently. Our waitress Lauren was super! Make sure you have some cash on hand for a tip at the end of the evening.

I tend to be a germophobe so my family was concerned about how I would fare at a meal with no silverware. Honestly I was worried too. I got over eating with my hands fairly quickly because it wasn't much of a problem with the food that was served. I was very happy for the wet wipes at the table. There were birds that flew around, but they stayed over the show area so I wasn't too put off by them. There are definitely some interesting odors, and there is dust/sand but the show was so good that I didn't worry too much. Since it is a show with lots of horses and some other animals in it, I thought it was all fairly clean.

The show divides the performers into the North and the South, and they compete in little games and activities throughout the show. There are lots of laughs and some singing and dancing. It was really a fun show to watch, and I enjoyed watching my kids enjoy it. While it isn't a cheap entertainment option, it is certainly a fun and memorable one!

If you've ever been to the Dixie Stampede, do you have any tips you'd add to these?


I did not receive any compensation for the post. I just want to share our experience with you!


Monday, May 23, 2016

Homeschool Science Online

Choosing a science curriculum is always tough. Speedy was excited to receive a year of Introductory Science from Science Shepherd for review because it includes online science lessons! This complete curriculum includes 35 weeks of lessons. The student logs on and watches the lesson online, then completes a short worksheet in their student book. The package also includes an answer key for the teacher.



You choose level A or level B for the workbook. Speedy is using the level B workbook. You can order additional workbooks if you are using the program with more than one student. Weeks 1 and 2 are introductions and cover Biblical creation. For week 3, Speedy was studying Science Skills and Tools. Week 4 started Earth Science, and weeks 4-6 were on Meteorology.

The videos are short. Most are under 3 minutes long. In the videos, the teacher is sitting at a large desk talking directly to the student. Some videos feature kids doing demonstrations or experiments to enhance the lessons. Each week includes 5 days of lessons. There are also "Video Activity" lessons between the daily lessons. Those encourage the student to do short experiments or observations at home. Some require a few typical household objects (a list is available), others involve using an extra page in the workbook, or simply observing the video.





Speedy (now 4th grade) was able to navigate this course almost entirely on his own. The only time he ever needed a little guidance or reminder was on the extra video activities and on the end of the week review pages. Usually he just didn't look ahead to make sure he had completed everything. We typically do seat work 4 days a week rather than 5 so he combined days 4 and 5 most weeks. Since the lessons are so short, he had no difficulty doing that. The workbook requires a little writing. Speedy still struggles with writing so he was glad there were no long, involved answers required. He feels good about this curriculum because he has been making great grades on it! He enjoys doing the little extra activities, and they keep him interested in the week's lesson. His favorite so far was leaf rubbing.


Speedy says, "I like the way the teacher describes stuff." Fairly high praise coming from an almost 9 year old boy!




I always appreciate science from a Biblical standpoint. This is one of the reasons we want to homeschool our children, so we can teach them from the viewpoint of our own beliefs. We don't question the Bible or Biblical creation, and that is what we want our children to learn (although we do teach them varying viewpoints for comparison). I also appreciate curriculum that is easy to use and all inclusive. This course from Science Shepherd also meets that standard. A course that my child can follow independently is another bonus. Give me a teacher's manual for easy grading, and I'm over the moon! So that's 4 thumbs up for Science Shepherd Introductory Science!

35 weeks of 5 lessons is a little more than I would typically choose for an elementary science course, but these lessons are so concise that it will be no problem to work it into our schedule. Introductory Science Level B is recommended for students 9-11. It has been just right for Speedy. Apple is 11, but this would have been a little too easy for her and the grade level she is working on. I would say this is a great upper elementary course and the online video format makes it perfect for homeschooling families. Science Shepherd also offers courses in Life Science and Biology. They also offer 3 free Creation Science lecture downloads. Speedy intends to continue this course to completion and is currently continuing the lessons on our "summer" work days. 

See what other Crew members have to say about Science Shepherd's courses:

Science Shepherd Review
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To the Mountains

Our family vacation this year was a quick trip to the mountains. We've gone to the Sevierville/ Pigeon Forge/ Gatlinburg area several times, but it had been a few years. My parents took the trip with us, and we stayed 4 nights. It is a beautiful area, and there is so much to do and see!

We always stay at Hidden Mountain Resort. I've always been impressed with their cabins and their service. This trip was no exception. In fact, they gave us a free upgrade when we arrived! The gentleman helping us said he didn't want the roomier cabin to sit empty while we were in an economy cabin so he moved us. Not only was the cabin a little bigger, it was easier to get to and closer to the pool! We were very pleased with the cabin and location. It had 2 bedrooms with king size beds, a sofa with a pullout, and a large screened in porch that held a hot tub and a pool table. The kids didn't want to leave the cabin and the pool that was in sight of our cabin! If you are looking for a cabin in the Sevierville area, I highly recommend Hidden Mountain.

How did they grow up so fast?!?!


This trip we spent time shopping, eating, and taking in a show at the Dixie Stampede. This was our first time going to The Dixie Stampede, and we made our first trip to Dollywood. I'm planning to give you a more thorough review of those soon! The Tanger Outlet mall in Sevierville is a great place to do some shopping. It seems like I never have much shopping time at home so I always enjoy doing a little on vacation. We also stopped at the Old Time Pottery and did some shopping at The Island in Pigeon Forge.

The Island (not really an island) was a new feature since our last trip. It includes a Margaritaville restaurant, a Paula Deen restaurant, and other eateries. There is also a HUGE ferris wheel and a few other games and rides. Small stores surround the area. A large water fountain sits in the center and has "shows" to music. It was really lovely at night when the water feature was lit with colored lights. A convenient free tram shuttles you back and forth to the parking lot. It was a fun place!


We also took our first trip to The Old Mill. Somehow we've missed that gem on previous trips. It is a similar area that is anchored by a historic Mill. There are a few places to eat and shop. The food at The Old Mill restaurant was fantastic. I had corn chowder followed by fruit with chicken salad, and I was STUFFED. We had a very nice waitress there who took great care of our table. Thanks Savannah!

Lots of memories made in the Great Smokey Mountains on this trip! Have you ever been to that area? What is your favorite place to visit there?


I did not receive any compensation for this post. Just sharing about our fun trip!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Gather over the Table

Two years ago I took a book to the beach, and then reviewed it for you. Last year in May I read and reviewed the sequel to that book. This year I took the third book in the series on a trip to the mountains with me. Together at the Table by Hillary Manton Lodge was a terrific easy read for the long ride. I'm glad the family doesn't mind me reading for work on vacation!



Sometimes you can pick up anywhere in a series. As I started reading this book, I found myself striving to remember the first two books. I think you should start with A Table by the Window and then read Reservations for Two before beginning this third book. It would lead to greater enjoyment over the story line and characters.

Juliette is managing her brother Nico's restaurant and casually dating sous chef Adrian. She is enjoying her apartment over the restaurant with her roommate Clementine, and she's almost over her breakup with Neil. The pain from her mother's death is still fresh, but she's finding comfort in her routines. Several things happen at one time to jolt Juliette's world. She runs into Neil in Portland even though he lives in Memphis. Then her great aunt passes away before she can go and visit Italy again. Adrian makes a huge production out of her birthday and tries to make the relationship too serious too fast. How will Juliette cope with all these emotional upheavals?

This book, like others in the series, combines themes of food and family and relationships. Recipes are included in this book as in the previous two. Juliette's whole family is involved in cooking in one way or another and their family often gathers over food. Juliette must navigate through difficult circumstances to find the path for her and to finish uncovering the family secrets her grandmother left behind. Together at the Table feels like a peaceful conclusion. Although a few threads are left dangling that could be followed, many of the main storylines are completed in this book. I enjoyed this one every bit as much as I enjoyed the first two! It is a great easy reading trilogy.


Monday, May 16, 2016

Enjoy Poetry {Review} #poetrymemorization

I think one of the best parts of being a homeschool curriculum reviewer is when my kids surprise me with a product they love. That was certainly the case with Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization set from Institute for Excellence in Writing. We've use other IEW curricula regularly and generally their products are a big hit, but my kids have wanted nothing to do with poetry ever. My sweet book lover hasn't been a fan. My other kid who likes reading has shown no interest. This arrived, and now they BEG to do poetry time.



I love the way God brings it all together sometimes. Over Christmas break, I decided we really needed to be regularly memorizing scripture. The kids have typically balked at memorization of any kind, but they were receptive to the idea. Each week they have memorized a line or two of scripture that I've just randomly selected. I think this got them ready for poetry memorization (even though I didn't know it).

IEW always sends their curriculum nicely packaged. This set came in a sturdy box with a teacher's manual and a lovely brown case that contained 5 audio discs for the poetry memorization and a DVD of Andrew Pudewa's talk on Nuturing Competent Communicators. Listening to one of his talks is like being in a session at a homeschool convention. He always gives thorough information in a humorous way. That's why my kids like him! I did watch that talk, and I completely examined all the information in the teacher's manual before I ever started the program with the kids. The set includes the student book as an ebook that can be printed along with some other digital downloads. There are 7 digital downloads in all, and they include a digital copy of Nuturing Competent Communicators and On Listening, On Reading, On Speaking, On Writing, Mastery Learning, and Ten Thousand Times and Then Begins Understanding. All 7 of these are sessions from Andrew Pudewa and all 7 are worth a listen! As an added bonus, IEW even sent us one printed Student Book. The printed book is available for purchase separately from the set. I also printed out a separate copy of the student book so we'd have 2.
Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization  IEW Review

Level 1 (where it is recommended for everyone to begin) starts with a funny little poem titled "Ooey Gooey". I've now heard this little poem approximately a billion times. They love it! It is so short and a little humorous. So to begin the program the students begin with the first poem and recite it daily until it is memorized. They flew through the first 2. Every day they repeat all the poems they've memorized to that point and the one they are working on. IEW embraces full mastery learning, and I fully believe that is the best learning but I am often lax on that point. However, with the poems they will continue reciting them all until they have all 20 memorized. Mr. Pudewa recommends a big celebration when they reach the end of Level One so they can recite all their poems for others. I know my kids will totally dig that idea.

Each poem has a little picture they can color which they have enjoyed. The book contains 5 levels of poetry to memorize. This program can be used for a long time! The audio CDs are included so students can hear Mr. Pudewa speak each poem. It is important for them to learn proper timing for all of the pieces. They are also to learn the title and author of each selection. While level one includes many funny little poems, it includes one with 8 (very short) paragraphs. The last selection is left to personal choice, but there are suggestions. The humor in these poems is key for keeping students interested. I'm not sure either of my kids would be excited about doing poetry every day if they didn't find entertainment in each new poem. The competition between the two of them doesn't hurt either.

Level 2 also contains 19 poems and space for a personal choice on number 20. It includes some funny selections and some poems with a more serious tone. Students will also recite each poem they learn all the way through the end in Level 2. Some of the selections are wordy. In Level 3 there is a schedule to help keep previously memorized poems in the rotation of recitation. Most of these poems are in a serious tone but there are some fun selections thrown in among the 20. Casey at Bat is in Level 3. My baseball loving boy will be THRILLED to get to that one! Level 4 is generally the same with another recitation schedule. If your students make it to level 5, they will memorize excerpts from speeches. I love history, and I think that is fantastic!


As if 5 levels with all the extras mentioned above weren't enough, the teacher's manual also includes an enrichment section. There are biographies on the authors and additional information to go along with each poem. These are optional suggestions for further study. Some of the suggestions are about vocabulary or other literature suggestions. The rest of them give information on linking the poems to other subjects like literature, history, and science. IEW truly provides the instructor with everything they could need.

The kids really do love doing this. They are excited for their shared poetry time each day. It's a little competition for them to learn the new selections first. They don't need to be prompted to work on them even on off days. I am so happy that they love this activity because memorization increases a child's ability to learn and retain information. It is also giving them an opportunity to present information aloud (even if it's just to me). In a few short weeks, they have both successfully recited poems 1-5 and are working on number 6. I'm interested to see if they will continue through the summer on their own. I think they will!


See what other Crew members thought about Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization:
Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization  IEW Review

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Summer Fun on the Cheap

Here is a list of ideas to help you find some summer fun right in your own town (or nearby):



1. See the home team play- Go to a sporting event. Go see a minor league team, or to really save money, go and watch a Little League game.



2. Pull out the sprinkler. If you don't have one, they can be purchased for very little. If the kids are a little older, get a slip n slide (or make your own with a tarp) instead. Instant summer fun in your own backyard!

3. Go to the park. Most towns have several parks with playgrounds and picnic tables. If the kids are older, check out a state park and walk a nature trail. It's usually free and will provide an afternoon of fun.

4. Camp out! Find a local place for camping or pitch a tent in the backyard.

5. Build a fire in the backyard and have a hot dog roast. Don't forget the s'mores! The best part of this plan is the kitchen stays clean!

6. Invite some folks over for game night. Have everyone bring a finger food. You get to enjoy the company of friends and laughter is sure to ensue! We enjoy Phase 10. If you're feeling more competitive, try a high energy game of Spoons.

7. If you aren't in to card or board games, have a kickball game. If  there isn't room in your yard, take it to the park! All you need is a kickball and some "bases".

8. Serve in your community. Take the whole family to serve at a local soup kitchen or pick up trash. Most hospitals will allow visitors on noncritical floors. We've gone and asked at the nurses station to point us in the direction of someone that needed a visit. There's always someone.

9. Look in the paper and online for free and/ or inexpensive local events. A community theater play, an arts and crafts show, a car expo, or a concert by a local band can all be cheap and provide entertainment. Many times social media can be a great way to seek out these events. Last weekend a local attraction held a "free" day to celebrate an anniversary. Towards the end of the summer or beginning of fall, the local symphony holds a free outdoor concert. These are events that are family oriented and can provide some fun.

10. Have a yard sale! This isn't only cheap, it can make you some money! Pull out the things you no longer need or are using and set up in the front yard or driveway. Get the kids involved with a lemonade stand. If you just aren't in to having a yard sale, spend a Saturday morning going to yard sales for some bargains. You'd be surprised what you can find!

These are some simple ideas, but I hope they will inspire you to have some free or cheap fun this summer. You don't need a bucket list or even a daily schedule to fill the summer with laughter. Just take time to spend as a family and include friends on occasion to make the summer months a time of joy.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Needle Felting Novice #homeschoolart

For a long time, I have wanted to get a curriculum from ARTistic Pursuits Inc. for Apple. When the opportunity arose to receive Sculpture Technique Model for review, I knew she would be thrilled. She has such an artistic flair, and she really enjoys trying new things. I told her it was coming as soon as I received the shipment notification. She asked daily (DAILY!) if it had arrived. I was very happy when it was delivered, and so was she.


Sculpture Technique Model is a spiral bound book with 83 pages. It is a 36 week curriculum broken into 3 units. For the purpose of this review, I selected Unit 3 for Apple to try. Unit 3: Creating Surface with Fiber Arts is a 10 week focus on felting. It includes instructions on Wet Felting, Pre-felts as Surface Design, Felted Vessels, Needle Felting- Creating Mass, and Needle Felting Appendages and Surface Design. The Table of Contents Page lists materials needed for each unit so we went out and purchased the 4 items listed as required. Art supplies are not inexpensive, but I was able to pick up a felting needle tool, felting needles, felting mat, and natural wool roving at a reasonable cost.

ARTistic Pursuits Inc. Review

The book is written in conversational form with pictures to clarify. The unit begins with an introduction to surface with information on color and texture. There is also an additional page about wool and the other felting tools. Apple skipped over the first few projects and went straight to needle felting. I did not initially realize she had skipped some parts of the unit, but later I realized she did so because some of the other parts required materials we didn't have like dowel rods, bubble wrap, and tulle fabric.




She made birds as instructed in the book, and then she moved on to penguins. She worked on several penguins before I had her return to the book to try animals with appendages. She struggled a little with getting the wool tight enough for arms and legs, but she finally made a cat that she was willing to let me photograph. She wants to continue working on her needle felting to improve her technique. I think she's done a fabulous job for a novice! I have no artistic ability so she is always impressing me with the things she creates. I was just happy her projects actually looked like little birds and animals!



The other two units in Sculpture Technique Model are Creating Mass with Putty and Creating Scale with Clay. Apple has already been flipping through those getting ideas for the future. She does want to complete unit 3 first. The book is set up into lessons inside the units, and then projects to try with step by step instructions. There are 12 projects total in the book. At the end of each unit, there is a short evaluation to help the artist to reflect on what they have learned and achieved. An answer sheet is also included for those evaluations. 

I think this is a really well written art course that works well for the homeschool student. The combination of fully written instructions with color and black and white photos guided Apple through the processes. She did pull up some images on the internet for further clarification on final touches, but in general the book held everything she needed to know. As with any art projects, a well stocked set of supplies is the key to success. The supply list at the beginning is a great resource, but as we found, it's a good idea to flip through the project instructions for items that are maybe assumed to be available. I think the most successful way to use this curriculum would be to use it as intended one week at a time through a school year. For the purpose of review, dipping into a specific type of project worked well for Apple, and she spread her practice over several weeks. This is a middle/ high school level art instruction course. This is a pricier art curriculum, but it is a non-consumable book that can be used over and over again. Apple is already scoping out other fine arts courses from ARTistic Pursuits, Inc!

See what art projects the other Crew members have to show off:
ARTistic Pursuits Inc. Review

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Monday, May 9, 2016

My Favorite Breakfast

I've never been a big breakfast person. I have trouble eating when I first get up. I usually start to get hungry about 2 hours after rolling out of bed. My kids generally make their own breakfast before we begin school. So usually I will make a breakfast shake. It's my usual breakfast. Sometimes I will make a whole batch earlier because the kids like them too. When I'm making one for myself I use our Magic Bullet Blender. For the batch for all of us, I use our Ninja Blender. Here's the recipe for one. Just double or triple for more than one.



1/3 cup oats (I usually use quick oats for this but have used other types as well.)
1 banana
3-4 ice cubes
1-2 T peanut butter (crunchy!)
8-12 oz almond milk (or any milk of your choice)

Blend well. Drink with a straw. YUM.

I've never calculated the exact number of calories in this breakfast shake. I'm certain it's less than most other quick breakfast options. It's easy to customize and tastes great. You can add other flavors and ingredients to make it your favorite breakfast shake. Coffee makes a great side dish to this shake. :)

Music Education {Review} #homeschoolmusicprogram

Zeezok Publishing LLC graciously sent us Music Appreciation: Book 1 for the Elementary Grades to review. While this is an "elementary" curriculum, I knew Apple would LOVE it as she is appreciative of all things music and art related. The curriculum set comes with a Music Appreciation workbook, a lapbook disc, 5 music discs, and books on seven different composers.


Apple opted to begin with Joseph Haydn. She's read a little on him before and finds him interesting because of the surprises he added into his music. The large workbook gives a 4 week schedule for each composer. The schedules include time to read the individual books, complete work within the workbook, complete the lapbook for each composer, and listen to music on the discs. There are additional assignments suggested to meet national music standards. The scheduled activities are fairly short. Apple worked on 2-3 each day to complete the work assigned for each week.

The individual books for the seven composers are biographies that the student can read along (ages 8-12). They include information about each composer along with illustrations and pieces of their music. Joseph Haydn, the Merry Little Peasant is 118 pages long and writed by Opal Wheeler and Sybil Deucher. It was illustrated by Mary Greenwalt.  The workbook includes further information on each musical great with "Tidbits of Interest" and comprehension questions from the books. There are also "Character Quality" pages which I thought were great.

 "Before this study, I didn't know Haydn left his house when he was 6 and went to his cousin's house to learn music," Apple said.

Most of the materials for the lapbooks are printed from the PDF disc, but a few pages are included in the workbook. The lapbook disc runs best through Adobe. It includes lapbook materials for each composer. It gives instructions on making a lapbook and pictures to show placement of each element on the lapbook. My kids love lapbooks, but I tend to be hesitant to do them. Apple is now old enough that I only needed to make the actual lapbook (although she probably could have done it) and print the pages for her. She did the rest of it independently, and I thought she did a terrific job! She really enjoyed learning more about Haydn and completing the work assigned for him.


The other composers in this set are Bach, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Paganini, and Schubert. She selected Bach for her next study. The activities are very similar for each composer. The biography, Sebastian Bach, the Boy from Thuringia, is 126 pages long and also written by Opal Wheeler and Sybil Deucher.

"I like how the discs include certain music pieces they composed so you can hear what they sound like. I really liked all the fun lapbook activities. I didn't know Bach came from a family of musicians," said Apple.

The workbook is 354 pages. It includes an introduction to the course, scope and sequence charts, a track list for all the music dics, and the outline and activities for each composer. The answers to the comprehension questions are included at the end of each composer's section.

While she enjoys completing the lapbooks, I think her very favorite part of this curriculum is the set of music discs. The 5 discs include over 200 tracks. The tracks include the pieces of music in the biographies as well as 35 more professionally recorded pieces. Disc 3 has tracks for 17 instruments like the piccolo and timpani. I am certain the discs will be in use long after all the music appreciation studies are completed.

Additional student activity books are available to purchase separately, and there is a coloring book that can be added to go along with these studies. Zeezok Publishing LLC intends to release Music Appreciation Book 2: for the Middle Grades in 2017. I know Apple would enjoy continuing the study!

Check out what other members of the Crew thought of Music Appreciation: Book 1 for the Elementary Grades:
Music Appreciation for the Elementary Grades {Zeezok Publishing LLC Review}

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Saturday, May 7, 2016

Exciting New Fiction Novel for the Middle School Crowd {Review & Giveaway} #FlyBy #TheLeagueandTheLantern

The League and the Lantern is a new adventure novel from Brian Wells. This is the author's first book but his name may be familiar as he has produced TV movies for some time. He wrote this book because he could not find quality entertainment for his kids. I think most of us can relate to that struggle!

In this first book of the new series, Jake is getting ready to being 7th grade. 6th grade was not a good year, and he's ready for a fresh start at a new school. Before he can even make it to the orientation lock-in, disaster strikes. Jake tries to shake off the embarrassing incident and arrives late to the lock-in. Within a couple of hours, everything goes awry. He finds himself with 2 new friends, Lucy and TJ, and they are on the run from bad guys with big connections. As things continue to unravel, Jake and his new friends must decide if there is anyone they can trust.

Apple read the book first and had this to say:

"I really like all the twists. When I thought I had something figured out, the opposite would happen, but it still made sense. I like how realistic the story felt. I could imagine it all happening in my own hometown. I thought Lucy was really funny. Since I studied Latin this year, I really liked that there were Latin words in the book. I tried to decipher them before the book translated them. There were lots of funny parts in the book. My favorite character was TJ because he was hilarious. I would LOVE to read other books from this series. My copy was signed and numbered by the author. That makes it feel like such a special book!"



I think you can tell she liked the book! She's always looking for new books to read, and she gets frustrated because there are so many books out there with questionable material. I read The League and the Lantern as well, and I was so impressed with the story. It was a very clean book. There is violence but no adult innuendo or situations. Although the main characters are 2 boys and 1 girl, there was really no romantic aspect in the story line. I appreciate that because my 11 year old doesn't need romance in an adventure novel.

I found the book to be exciting. There were certainly several twists and turns. Beyond entertainment, this book does contain large vocabulary, and as Apple mentioned, it even has some Latin in it. The three young characters interact in a very real manner, and the book includes several lessons on friendship and trust. While the characters couldn't trust every adult they encountered, this book didn't include direct disobedience to parents or authority figures like so many books do. The kids were on a whirlwind adventure but made moral choices most of the time.

Now for the really fun part...one of you will win a copy of this book! Enter via the Giveaway Tools widget, and one entry will be randomly selected to win. Please not the promotion rules from Flyby: Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.






Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A Bible for Your Girly Girl


My tween girl was all kinds of excited over her new Girls Slimline Bible that we received to review from Tyndale Blog Network. It has a fuzzy blue cover with the word "LOVE" in block letters complete with a heart for the "O". This is a girly girl Bible. I'm not a fan of glitter, but this Bible is edged in a glitter "look" whick won't leave sparkles all over my house so I'm good with it. This Holy Bible is in the NLT version.

It is a full Bible with the Old Testament and New Testament included in this slimline version. Even though this is a slimmer, easy to carry version, it includes eight pages of color maps. There are references throughout the Bible and the back contains a NLT Dictionary/ Concordance. There's also a 365 Day Reading Plan and a list of Great Verses to Memorize. The pages are edged in a pinkish purple color to continue the girly theme. It also holds an attached bookmark ribbon, and this is a red letter edition Bible.

As I said, Apple (11) was estatic over this Bible. She has faithfully been carrying it around with her. It fits in her favorite tote bag, but she says it is also easy to carry in hand. I've heard several of her friends "Ohh" and "Ahh" over it. I would have loved it at her age as well! She's been very faithful in her daily Bible reading and has done well learning her memory verses this semester. I told her this is just another version to add to her personal Bible study time. We did have to look up what the crosses at the end of verses mean in the NLT. I guess neither of us had noticed that in one before. It is just a reminder that there is a scripture reference at the end of the section.

This is a great Bible for tween girls to carry in boldness! It would make a lovely gift or a fun surprise for the end of the school year.


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Mess Free Art Makes Mama Happy

Art is messy. The Pencil Grip, Inc company made non-messy Kwik Stix just for people like me, and they sent me some to review! The Kwik Stix 12 pk are vibrantly colored solid tempera paint sticks. These non- toxic paints work on a variety of mediums and don't require water or brushes. The sticks dry quickly and come with caps to ensure that there are no messes.


My kids still manage to get markers all over themselves when coloring. So far they haven't gotten any paint on themselves using the Kwik Stix. Both children have commented how easy the Kwik Stix are to use. Apple has made replicas of famous art using art paper. She has also used regular computer paper to make colorful fish. She's had these paint sticks out several times a week using them for one purpose or another. Speedy has used them a few times and has enjoyed them. He's not a big fan of messes either so these may inspire him to do more art!

This kid would be happy to paint and do art everyday. Definitely didn't get that from me!


The Kwik Stix 12 pc set we received came with white, yellow, orange, red, pink, light green, green, blue, dark blue, purple, brown, and black. Kwik Stix are also available in neon and metalix sets.



Apple says, "I like them, but I wish the tip was thinner so I could do more detail work. I really like how vibrant they are, and I'd like to try the other colors. I think I'd really like the metalix set."

I gave one a try. It's a lot like a tube of lip balm. The tube is larger, but it is the same concept for rolling up the stick. When you finish painting, you can roll it back down and recap it for easy storage. The design would make it very easy for younger children to grip. It really does take less than 90 seconds to dry! It also didn't bleed through on a regular piece of paper. I tend to be very sensitive to smells and the Kwik Stik did not bother me. If you stick it up to your nose then you can smell a light scent. I didn't smell it at all while I was using it or while the kids were using theirs. No mess, easy to use, no overwhelming smell, dries fast- even I could like art like that!

Don't mistake it for lipstick! 

About as fancy as my art gets!

I keep thinking these Kwik Stix would be PERFECT for Sunday School classes and co-op classes. Usually thinking about the mess will keep me from pulling out paint with a group of kids. With these there would be no worry about a mess and no need to tell parents to send their children in old clothes or with an extra t-shirt. The kids wouldn't even need paint brushes! This would make craft time so much fun without extra stress!

The Pencil Grip, Inc was generous enough to include one of The Pencil Grip Original grips along with a pen and an extra Kwik Stix. I have an odd pencil hold and both of my children have similar holds. Apple has messy handwriting but it is legible, so I haven't worried with her's too much. Speedy's handwriting needs loads of improvement. I've bought other grip aids, but he hasn't liked any of them. The minute the one arrived from The Pencil Grip, Inc, he took it and has used it daily! Thank you to the company for including that extra freebie!


See how other members of the Crew used Kwik Stix:
Kwik Stix The Pencil Grip, Inc. Review

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