Tuesday, November 30, 2010

High School on the Horizon at MamaBuzz

I’m honored to be a contributing writer for MamaBuzz. If you haven’t checked out their web site yet, I strongly encourage you to. It’s a wealth of information and reviews on many aspects of life – not just homeschooling.

Of course, if I’m writing, it’s probably about kids, homeschooling, teens, etc. This time it was about the panic of homeschooling high school.

Check it out here: High School on the Horizon

I’m sure many of you have been, are, or will be there soon. Read and comment – I'm looking forward to finding those nuggets of gold that will make all the difference in our homeschooled high school success.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Extracurriculars and Balance

This week's blog cruise asks: What extracurricular activities do your children participate in? 

Our extra-curricular activities go in waves – sometimes we have tons of them going on, and, other times, we have just one or two things we are participating in.

Right now, our favorite extracurricular is Tae Kwon Do. The boys and I both go to TKD twice a week. The times we can go are very flexible, which allows us to move TKD around to fit our often hectic schedule. Right now, we are about half way to our high yellow belt. It’s great physical fitness; the principles that are taught are excellent, and the instructor’s are amazing role models for my kids. We feel very blessed to have found  Sangrock.

We are also part of the  Christian Communicators of the South East. This is a speech and debate club that meets weekly. Each week the boys get opportunities to deliver speeches they have written in addition to at least one impromptu opportunity. It’s been great for the self-confidence. We are excited as the competition season starts after the holidays. B will be doing apologetics and public forum while N will be doing apologetics and prose. I’m especially excited they like speech and debate as that was something I loved in high school.

We’ve just joined a support group called Grace. We’ve been in support groups before, but they all seem to focus on younger kids and not pre/teens. We discovered that Grace has many members that are also part of our Thursday co-op. So, we joined up. They have weekly park days that many of the kids like to go to. It’s a good opportunity for kids from the co-op to meet outside of academics.

That’s it for now. We’re considering drama for N again this year. B decided he was done with baseball. High school will start next year, so we’ll have opportunities related to that. B wants to be in Student Council and on the Yearbook staff.

What do your kids participate in? How do you decide the right balance? I see overload as a big issue with homeschooling families.

Memoir Monday - Week 10

Welcome to Memoir Mondays!

What a great looong weekend we had! Since we homeschool, we opted to take the week of Thanksgiving off. It was a much needed respite. In fact, it’s hard to think about spending the next three weeks back hitting the books. We’ll get back in the routine, though. We’ll take another two weeks at Christmas – can’t wait!

How was your holiday? Great, I hope. Grab these questions, write up a post, then come on back and link up so we can learn more about your traditions and life “Back in the day…”

1. Did your family participate in Black Friday? Was it something you looked forward too? If they didn’t, what was the tradition for the Friday after Thanksgiving?

2. Did you wish you had more brothers or sisters? Why?

1. Did your family participate in Black Friday? Was it something you looked forward too? If they didn’t, what was the tradition for the Friday after Thanksgiving?

This is a funny question because I’m not quite sure where the Black Friday phenomena came from. I understand the meaning behind it – retailers getting into the black over the holidays, but I’m not sure if Black Friday existed when I was a kid.

That being said – obviously, my parents didn’t participate if it was in existence. What I do remember about shopping is funny, though. My mother used to take us over to the mall in the evenings. She’d take us into Sears and let us play video games at the display while she shopped the mall. I’m don’t know if she left Sears or not. We loved the video game time and really looked forward to it. Back in the day (geesh, I’m old), parents didn’t have to have their eyes on their kids every second for fear of them getting gone.

The other memory I have is of my father – he always shopped the day before Christmas. Well, day or two before Christmas. I loved going out with him for his shopping. In our family, mom shopped for most everyone and he shopped for her. It was a fun time to spend with dad.

As for after Thanksgiving traditions, if I remember correctly, we always put up decorations the Friday (or weekend) after Thanksgiving, much like my family does today. Decorating played a big role in welcoming in the Christmas season.

2. Did you wish you had more brothers or sisters? Why?

Hmmmm… My sister and I did not get along. There are a lot of reasons for this that had nothing to do with she and I. Now that we are adults, we get along great. I’d do just about anything for her. So, I guess, I didn’t want more siblings. I can’t recall it ever really crossing my mind as a child. It's funny because we each have four children of our own.  Quite a different dynamic from what we grew up with.  It might have been fun to have more of us running around.  :-)

My father remarried when I was eighteen. His wife had two small children ages 3 & 5. We didn’t get to grow up together, so, even though I have two step siblings, we haven’t had the chance to really get to know each other. Kinda sad as they are in the twenties now.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Life Without Limits Review

Life Without Limits - Review

Author: Nick Vujicic

Like many others, I got my first introduction to Nick Vujicic on Facebook. One of his videos was posted by a friend. At first, I didn’t know what to think about the guy with no arms and no legs. As I watched the video, I became enamored by this young Australian who is more able than most able-bodied people I know. He was funny, articulate and engaging. I was hooked.

I was excited by the opportunity to review Nick’s book, Life Without Limits. He is a world-renowned speaker, surfer, drum player, swimmer, and evangelist. Not all in that order of course. His book is raw. He shares not only his successes, but his failures. I think this is what is most appealing about him and his book. At first glance, it’s obvious he’s overcome obstacles that most will never encounter. He’s done it with a smile on his face and an amazing attitude. But, it’s not always been that way. He’s triumphed over ridicule, medical needs, relocation, a need for independence, and even thoughts of suicide.

What I appreciated was not only the glimpses into the struggles he and his family have faced, but also the stories of those that have inspired him. Men and women in countries world-wide who have made a difference or taken a stand against huge odds. The spotlight is on accomplishment – what we are all able to achieve when we put our trust in God and focus on His plan for us rather than our own shortcomings.

Nick attempts to convey the same enthusiasm he has on stage through his message in his books. He gives advice on topics like being a friend, taking steps to help others, and even being ridiculous. (Something we all could be a little more of from time to time.) I found his book to be uplifting. Those looking for inspiration will enjoy Nick’s humor and his approach – he’s not preachy, just straightforward. Something I appreciate.

If you’re looking for a touching story to be inspired by, then I highly recommend that you find Nick on youtube, be inspired by the man, and then pick up this book. It’s truly a lesson in perspective and realization that we are all made perfectly by God; we are perfect just the way we are.

*** I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Memoir Monday - Week 10 Sneak Peek

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I hope you did too! My daughter and I actually braved Target at 4:00am to get in on some unexpected good deals. I may have to rethink my dislike of shopping the day after Thanksgiving.

Here are the Monday Memoir questions – I hope you have time during this busy weekend to pop by, check them out, and link back up on Monday…

1. Did your family participate in Black Friday? Was it something you looked forward too? If they didn’t, what was the tradition for the Friday after Thanksgiving?

2. Did you wish you had more brothers or sisters? Why?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Giving Black Friday a Second Chance

It’s Black Friday – my day to stay at home and decorate the house for Christmas. Or, so I thought. My daughter, who is home from college, wanted me to go to Target with her at 4am. Normally, I would veto the idea of anything at 4am in a New York minute. However, I don’t get to spend much time with her now that she’s away. So…

Yep, we went. She shopped the night away with a friend, then came back for me at 4. We really thought that our Target wouldn’t be that bad as we’re out of the way and not really close to much else retail. Wrong!

The line, when we got there, was all the way from the front door down the side of the Target to the end of the parking lot, hard left, and then down the parking lot to the end. We were astonished. Doors opened, people moved, and in we went. They had carts situated throughout the store so that everyone didn’t grab them at the front. They actually had a large stock of everything on sale! I was so impressed. People were getting what they came there for without running, without throwing elbows, without frustration.

We meandered through the store not having a dog in the fight – we were just there to check it out. Yes, I thought I was done with shopping, but… I’m a sucker for a half price sale – this is especially true when it’s something I know the kids will love, and it’s Christmas.

So, I spent money. Not a ton given the value of what I bought, but more than I would have had I stayed in bed. No regrets, though. It was fun and the kids will love their gifts.

Now, I’m up. The sojourn took all of an hour and a half. Back to bed, slept in a little, had leftover fruit salad for breakfast and now it’s time to think about decorating. So ready to get this party started…

The 4am Target run may become a tradition if it’s always this pleasant… I’ll just have to adjust my budget accordingly!

God bless to all!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Teens and Credit Cards

We all know that our teens need to establish credit. It’s important for many reasons as they get older and become adults. However, there is always the risk that credit will be abused. My oldest daughter, now 20, is away at college. She’s never had a credit card. However, she did rent an apartment for one year while going to a local university. I had to cosign for the apartment. Our goal was for that to establish some credit for her alleviating the need for us to continue to cosign.

This year, she transferred to another university, and, once again, I was required to cosign. While I’m happy to assist my daughter, I also feel it’s important for her to take on the responsibility of bills without the backup of mom being on the hook if she can’t pay.

Now, my son, who is 17, has decided he wants to make a large purchase, and, yep, he wants us to cosign. I’m conflicted. This is for several reasons. First, he wanted to buy a car. A car! He has one. The reasoning was that at low interest with $6000 for his trade-in (they were running a special) and a loan at 84 months, he could afford this car. 84 months! Clearly, the logic, while accurate in his ability to pay, was flawed. 84 months for a car he doesn’t need with mom on the hook just isn’t going to happen.

Now, he wants a new laptop. This actually makes sense. His screen got broken (apparently the dog sat on it), and he is starting college classes in February. Laptops are much more reasonably priced than they were just a few years ago. This idea I can get behind. However, he wants a $1200 dollar laptop. Cough, cough. We went to Best Buy and were able to find one comparable to what he wants for $700. Still too much in my opinion. When he turns 18, he is able to get his own card. Whether or not they will give him that much credit is another story. Again, he wants mom to just get the card or cosign. While I see the value in what he wants, I can’t just meet this need. I won’t just get the card, but I may end up cosigning. Should I refuse and force him to get a laptop in his budget, or should I cosign allowing him a machine that will last longer and perhaps be more beneficial as he enters his college years? Dilemma.

What happens when my name is no longer tied to their credit? Yes, we’ve taught the value of savings and not buying anything on interest. We’ve demonstrated that credit cards can be used to one’s advantage as long as they are paid off every month. However, we’ve all tasted the allure of instant gratification. My hope is they will use their “power” wisely and not have to learn the fiscal hard way.

How have you introduced your teens to the world of credit?

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Young Scholar's Guide to Composers Review

A Young Scholars Guide to Composers
Bright Ideas Press

Authors - Melissa E. Craig & Maggie S. Hogan

Cost - $34.95 Paperback, $29.95 CD Book

Ages – 4th to 8th Grade

Let me just start by saying, I love this book!

This is one of the most organized, well-thought-out books I have ever used. The authors are not only very knowledgeable about their topic, the composers, but they have also created a tool kit for helping students of all ages enjoy learning about them.

There are thirty two lessons that can be completed over the course of a year. Four different periods are covered along with composers from each of those periods. Each lesson ends with fill-in-the-blank note taking pages that help the student to follow along with the content as it is presented and learn from it. Many curricula stop there; however, the authors take the lesson much farther providing numerous activities to help students really understand the composer, his music, his life, his place in history and his faith.

The first thing I appreciated were the links provided so that we could listen to the works of the different composers. I wasn’t sure when I received the textbook how I was going to gain access to all of the music so that my boys could listen while they learn. Of course, that was all taken care of. The text provides urls to online sites (primarily youtube) where we can listen to the works of the composers. In addition to the links, questions are included so that parents can help their student think about what is happening in the composition. When we were able, I checked out a CD from the library. We could then listen to the music as we went about our travels.

Students create “Composer Info Cards” for each composer that they study. A sketched picture of each composer is provided so that the students have a visual image of who he is. The back of each card has his geographic location and asks the student to fill in his life, facts about him, his compositions, and what evidence they have about whether or not the composer is a Christian. These were wonderful – they really allow for greater exploration of who the composer is. We’ve all heard about Bach, or Haydn, or Mozart, but what do we really know about them? Additionally, the cards serve as a great reference for study and retention.

In addition, maps are provided so that the student understands where each of the composers came from. We really liked this. It was neat to see how many modern composers come from America in addition to the ones we knew were from Europe.

A timeline that students develop is provided that allows the students to get a sense of when these people existed in history. We used these timelines to discuss what was going on in the world at the time that these composers lived. (See the timeline answer key here to get a sense of how it works.) It was interesting to see composers that lived during the same timeframe and the impact they had on one another. These timelines go right up to modern day with composers like John Williams whose work was used in the Star Wars sagas.

Finally, there are games like Composer Bingo and Composer Jeopardy to really help the student practice what they have learned and commit the information to memory. Coloring pages are included for younger kids.

This one book is a wealth of information. Students not only study composers, but they get lessons in geography, history, and musical composition. I wish I could have had this text a long time ago, and I’m so glad I was blessed with the opportunity to use it now.

I highly recommend this book for anyone looking to teach their student about the composers past to present.

Don't just take my word for it, take a look - view sample pages here.

To see additional reviews by the Homeschool Crew click here.

*** I received a copy of this book free of charge for my honest review.

Memoir Monday - Week 9

It’s the week of Thanksgiving! I can’t believe how fast it came… We’re ready – mainly because I only have to bring three dishes for the feast. I’m so happy to live in a family of cooks. We will turn it out in a BIG way. Yum!

Here are the questions for this Memoir Monday – two things that have been on my mind a lot lately: Christmas and high school. Christmas we will be decorating for this Friday – can’t wait for the house to be all festive. High school – wow! That starts in August… I’m a little nervous about that. Keep checking back as my high school and teen wandering get penned to my blog. Stop by and offer advice! That being said, here are my answers…. I can’t wait to read yours!

1. Describe a typical day during your high school years.

2. Describe getting a Christmas tree as a child, when did you put it up and decorate it?

1. Describe a typical day during your high school years.

I remember really disliking going to school. I loved to learn; I just didn’t like to attend. It was easier for me to miss school and do all the work at home. I guess I was a homeschooler at heart and just didn’t know it.
A typical day, when I went, my senior year, started with my friends picking me up or vise versa. We all loved to drive to school and pile as many people as we could in the car in the process. We got to school, did our rounds of socializing and then headed off to classes. I don’t remember much about classes, except the ones I didn’t invest in. For example, gym. I would jog around the gym a couple of times and then out the back door when the teacher wasn’t looking. For photography, if my friend and I brought an ice cream sandwich, the teacher would let us leave. I invested in a lot of ice cream sandwiches. Same with any assemblies – straight for the cars and the mall. Bad, I know. I just knew I didn’t need to be there to succeed. Unfortunately, that wasn’t true for all of my friends, so, in reality, I was a bad example.

Looking back, high school was tough. We moved my senior year; prior to that I went to a high school where I felt like a total outcast. My senior year was fun, but not very academic.

2. Describe getting a Christmas tree as a child, when did you put it up and decorate it?

We had an artificial tree growing up. Right after Thanksgiving, we would drag out the box and begin to assemble the tree. The branches had color coded dots on the end of them that were inserted into the like colors on the three piece wooden trunk. Then we would put on all the ornaments (my parents did the lights). That was always fun as many of them were handmade. Finally, a layer of tinsel. I loved tinsel as a child. I won’t have it in the house now, but I thought it was beautiful then. Now it’s more mess than beautiful. That is true for real trees too – I love the smell and the feel, but the dry pine needles drive me nuts. We had a fake cardboard fireplace that we put up every year. It had a bulb with a little metal piece you set on it that would spin and give the illusion of fire. The stockings were hung from that fireplace. It was a great time to be a kid.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Christmas Traditions

This week's blog cruise asks: How does your family celebrate the holidays? 

There is something about family traditions that are so special. The things we look forward to each year can really make or break the holiday season. I know there are several activities we do during the Christmas season that really make it complete.

The first thing I do once November hits is find a radio station playing Christmas music. I know, many think this is too early, but, for me, the season passes by way too quickly without starting early. It gets us all in the mood as we enjoy singing the old carols driving down the road.

I also like to have all my Christmas shopping done by Thanksgiving. This is important because it’s a big stress reliever. Additionally, since we decorate the Friday after Thanksgiving, it allows me to put their presents under the tree right away. Decorating includes our 9ft prelit tree (saved us from all the tree light stringing arguments of days past), the stockings I made for each of us, our nativity in its place of honor, the old tyme choir that sings on the mantle and lighted pine strung up the banister. Decorating brings warmth into our home and opens it up to friends and family coming to visit.

Throughout December, we burn scented candles, light the fireplace, and play Christmas music. It’s such a festive time.

December also starts the baking season. We make peanut clusters, muddy buddies, snowball cookies, and decorate sugar cookies. This has to be strategically planned so we can leave a few out for Santa. I always bake a huge batch of pumpkin bread to share with friends.

The Christmas Cantata at church is an event we always look forward to. Both my hubby’s mother and aunt sing in the choir. Focusing on the reason for the season is the most important aspect of celebrating.
Finally, as the holiday approaches, we have our get-togethers.

My husband’s father’s family plans a get-together where we share gifts and food and fellowship. Each year we wonder why it takes a holiday to bring us together. Maybe this year, we’ll break that tradition and spend time together after the holidays.

Scott’s parents are always with us on Christmas morning. They come to open gifts and share the monkey bread I made the night before for breakfast. We start the morning gathering together for a cup of juice and prayer before descending the stairs to see what Santa has brought and open gifts.

This season is truly magical! I can’t imagine the holidays without begin surrounded by friends and family basking in the gift of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Memoir Monday - Week 9 Sneak Peek

We are finally on a break! Hurrah! The boys and I have been banking time so that we could take the week of Thanksgiving off. It’ll be nice to sleep in and just enjoy the holiday. Yes, of course, we have a bunch of things scheduled, but at least we won’t be doing school on top of it.

Here are the questions for this Memoir Monday – two things that have been on my mind a lot lately: Christmas and high school. If you are joining us for the first time, go ahead and grab the questions and answer them. Then come back Monday and link up!

1. Describe a typical day during your high school years.

2. Describe getting a Christmas tree as a child, when did you put it up and decorate it?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Five Question Friday

It’s Friday! The last day of classes before we go on break for Thanksgiving! A great perk of homeschooling – taking our breaks when we want to. We skipped two “public school” days off and pooled them into a week long hiatus from school to focus on being Thankful.

Join me in a little Five Question Friday? When you are done visit the My Little Life blog to see what others had to say.

1. What Christmas song do you loathe?

The Twelve Days of Christmas. It’s like 100 bottles of beer on the wall – after the 1,000,000 time I’ve heard it, it’s grating on my soul. That and Santa Baby.. Yuck!

2. Do you and your significant other cuddle at night or sleep on opposite sides of the bed?

We spoon. Me behind him. We would never, ever switch sides. We’re very comfortable in our own side of the room. Switching would result in a poor night’s sleep.

3. Have you ever had surgery?

C-section with baby number three. Shattered my wrist on Christmas Eve a couple years ago and had surgery to realign the bones. Then, a big cast followed by a second surgery to put in a plate and ten screws a couple days after Christmas. The lengths I’ll go to not to have to cook the turkey… lol

4. When do you typically have your holiday shopping done?

I always shoot for Thanksgiving as my target. I like to have all the purchasing done and ready to enjoy the season when Turkey Day arrives. That way I can sit back, enjoy the tree, sip cocoa and not worry about Black Friday.

5. If money were not an issue (and you HAD to pick something), what would your ultimate luxury item be?

Unlimited travel. Traveling is my favorite thing to do. I would love to experience all parts of the world some day.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Unsolicited Job Offer

So, I open my email and find I have quite a unique offer waiting for me…

“I have reviewed your resume today. Well done, I must say! We have an opening for a gift wrapper associate (full-time and part-time). I would like to offer you this position. Please let me know if you're interested.”

I mean; I DO love Christmas and all, but gift-wrapping is low on the enjoyment scale of the rest of the holiday fare. In addition to that, I’m pretty sure I have never applied for a gift wrapping job in my life. I had to chuckle.

I guess it’s good to feel wanted, but this may be stretching it just a tad…

Naturally, I immediately thought of my two job-aged teens. Would one of them benefit from wrapping gifts all season? Would my apparent stellar resume reflect favorably on them and get them hired? Bummer – one goes to school out of town and won’t be around until late in the bow and trimming season. The boy, well, I love his attempts at wrapping, but there just isn’t enough tape in the store…

So, while saying NO is not one of my strengths, this email will have to go unanswered. In a year when jobs are sparse, I truly hope this is a genuine offer and someone more willing and capable than I will benefit from it.

Speaking of wrapping gifts – I really need to get started if I ever want to get into my closet again…

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sending Teens to College

College is something I have worried about for my kids from the day they were born. I was raised in a family where my father worked as an administrator at universities. I grew up in college, so to speak. So, when it came time for me to graduate high school, I knew I was going to college. I was surprised to find that there would be no financial support coming from my family. I guess I always assumed they had planned for it. Assumption is a dangerous thing, but one that teens are prone to. Luckily for me, I qualified for grants, loans and work-study. The middle being an issue I didn’t think twice about as a teenager. Loans… Sure, I had them, but what did that mean? It was something I would worry about after I graduated.

Now that I’m much older and just a little bit wiser, I realize that loans, while often necessary, come with a price. That price is called interest. I vowed that as my children became college-aged that I would help them pay for college defraying much of that cost. What I didn’t count on is the dramatic increase in the costs of education over the twenty years since I had been there. College, especially four-year colleges, are expensive!

So, plan B. We would pay for the first two years. Then, if they chose a four-year institution, we would pay for room and board providing it was not local. (Out-of-state is out of the question.) Scholarships would have been nice, but we didn’t go that route much to my hindsight dismay. I feel blessed beyond measure to be able to do this much for them.

The economy is not playing nice – it really changes our perspectives about pursuing a degree. Back in the day, education was the pursuit of knowledge. We don’t have that luxury today. Now, there must be a lucrative end goal for the investment to be worth it. I realized that just expecting my kids to go to college without a plan in mind wasn’t realistic. We needed to really consider all avenues. That’s what we are doing now.

My oldest has gone the four-year route. She spent one semester at home going to the community college and is now away at the university she always dreamed of. The catch – transferring may have made her four-year stay into five years. Yikes! That’s a lot of debt for her to take on, especially since her end goal is to teach.

My oldest son graduates this January. He will be at the community college in the spring fulfilling some of the general education requirements. Right now, he’s trying to decide between going to a four-year institution or taking a vocational path and earning an associate’s degree and certifications to work in the automotive industry. Based on our research to date, the latter seems like the more profitable approach.

There’s a lot to be done between now and next spring. He’ll have to make choices, she’ll have to figure out if she can afford another year, and we’ll have to determine just how we can get the two younger ones positioned to know what they want to do and have the scholarships to pave the way. Phew!

What has been your approach to post-high school with your children?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Monday Memoir - Week 8

Ahhh... The weekend. I really enjoy lazy Saturdays spent with family. It's a great way to reenergize. Sunday church rounds out life. How has your weekend been? Between recognizing our veterans for Veteran's Day last week and realizing that Thanksgiving is less that two weeks away - there is a lot to be thankful for.
It's nice to walk down memory lane compiling a journal of the past to share with my kids.  Won't you join me?

1. Did you serve in the military? If so, where and when?

I never did serve in the military; however, I come from a long line of military people. My grandfather served in WWII. He was drafted when he was 25 and fought at Peleliu. My uncle was in the Korean war, and my father was a captain in the Marines during the Vietnam war. I am very proud of the service and sacrifice they gave for our country.

2. Describe what your family did to get ready for the Thanksgiving holiday

My mom used to love to decorate. She had these pictures of pilgrims and turkeys that she would hang around the house. While it sounds a little silly now, as kids we couldn’t wait to decorate. There was always a big, big turkey and her homemade sage dressing. Smelling the turkey baking first thing in the morning is a great memory. Mom always created a relish dish with cranberry sauce, cheese cubes and green and black olives. My sister and I would eat most of the olives before dinner was ever served. The day was completed with delicious pumpkin pie. She cooked the pumpkin herself, no canned pumpkin for her. While we didn’t spend it with extended family, it was a fun time. We always watched the Macy’s parade on Thanksgiving morning. I still love to do that even though my kids don’t really enjoy it. There’s just something about seeing Santa bringing up the end of the parade that symbolizes the start of Thanksgiving.

Now that I have a family of my own and a wonderful extended family, we spend most major holidays together. It’s a lot of fun getting together with my in-laws and my hubby’s extended family. We really cherish these times. As an added perk, I don’t have to cook as much. When we all come together, we bring our favorite dishes. Spreading around the cooking makes for a lot less stress and a lot more enjoyment.

Christmas starts the day after Thanksgiving. That’s when the decorating begins… I love the holidays!

Come on and link up...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Year with God - Review

A Year with God
Author: R.P. Nettelhorst

One thing that intrigued me about A Year with God by R. P. Nettelhorst was the concept of using God’s own words in the Old Testament to speak with us throughout the year. While I enjoy the Old Testament, like many Christians, I am much more versed in the New Testament. I did find it interesting that it seemed to exclude the words of Christ as God’s words; however, I don’t think that was the intent.

The difficulty with using the Old Testament is that there are events in the Old Testament that are difficult to apply to our modern day lives. One example is when God wipes out thousands because David had made a mistake. The meditation states that, “Why did those men suffer for David’s mistake? They had benefited from David’s rule; likewise, they suffered for it.” The lesson being that our actions affect others. My desire, however, is to delve more deeply into those actions and consequences. I felt like I needed more.

A Year with God does do a good job of providing scripture and commentary in many different categories: Perseverance and Quitting, Hope and Fear, Love and Hate, etc. While a devotion for each day of the year is provided, one is not limited by the order the devotions are presented. A person can pick and choose based on what is on their heart at the time. God spoke to me through several of the devotions I read.

I feel if I were more versed in the Old Testament, I believe I would have related to and felt more closure through the commentary provided post scripture. This will be a good book to keep on my shelf while I revisit my Bible and strive to better understand God’s Word through the Old Testament. I will then revisit and spend my Year with God.

*** I received this book free of charge from BookSneeze for my honest review.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Memoir Monday - Week 8 Sneak Peek

Yikes, what a fast week we've had!  In addition, things are already starting to wrap up.  One more week and both our co-op and our speech club will break for the holidays.  Time has flown by!  How about for you?

Here is a sneak peek of the questions for Memoir Monday.  It's nice to walk down memory lane compiling a journal of the past to share with your family or kids.  Won't you join me?

1. Did you serve in the military? If so, where and when?

2. Describe what your family did to get ready for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Great Digital Holiday Freebie

Five Question Friday

Friday came fast again! Who fast-forwarded the clock on me? I feel like I turn around twice and we’re once again at the weekend. Most would say this is a good thing, but the older I get the more I’d like time to sloooooow down.

Join me in a little Five Question Friday?  When you are done visit the My Little Life blog to see what others had to say.

1. What is the most physically painful thing that has ever happened to you?

Childbirth, duh! While it’s the most amazing experience anyone can go through, it’s also excruciatingly painful. They say you don’t remember the pain, you just remember being in pain. That must be true to get me to go through it four times! That final moment when you see your little one makes all that agony more than worthwhile.

2. How much sleep do you get at night?

Not enough. Seriously, though, I get more than most and am still always tired. We go to sleep around 11:00pm at the latest and I get up on school days around 8:00am. That’s nine hours!

3. How long did you believe in Santa Claus?

Still do! Santa Claus is the embodiment of childhood excitement and magic. No reason to think that doesn’t exist – I see it in my children’s eyes each and every season. I will always be a believer! The bell will always ring for me…

4. What was the last movie you saw in a theater?

Hmmm… I’m really trying to think. I just don’t know. Theaters aren’t my thing. They cost WAY too much, are crowded and dirty, and I always have to use the restroom right when we get to the good parts. Movies come out on DVD so fast these days, there’s little point in spending a fortune at the theater when I can relax at home, eat my own food, lay in my bed comfortable to watch it, and can pause when I need to make a pit stop.

5. What do you wear to bed?

PJ’s. Often flannel PJ’s. I love pajamas. The more comfy the better. I could care less what they look like as long as they are warm and comfortable. Two nights ago, I was wearing dark blue flannel PJ’s with Santa flying across the front of them. Lol…

Homeschool Blog Awards

Join Me at The Homeschool Post!

Yay!  I just found out I was nominated for the "Best New Homeschool Blog" at Homeschool Blog Awards.  Very exciting!  Check it out - there are lots of really great blogs out there! 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Teen Testing

Do you realize how much time we spend getting our teens ready for tests? I was thinking about this today as my thirteen-year-old mentioned I’m always talking about tests.

I don’t mean tests for their subjects. In fact, we don’t take a lot of tests in our subjects. Mastery is demonstrated rather than tested. (At least for now…)

However, I am always telling him that he’s going to need to know this, that and the other for the PSAT or the SAT or the ACT or a CLEP. Test, test, test…

One of the reasons I became very disillusioned with the public school system was testing. Teachers are pressured to prepare their students to take End of Grade, multiple guess tests. Teachers almost have to teach to the tests nowadays as their jobs and their salaries can be contingent on how their students score. I find this sad. It really takes the steam out of the love of teaching. I was tired of my children being taught to take a test rather than to master a subject and think critically.

Nonetheless… I find myself worrying about tests.

My oldest son is graduating in January from the local public high school. He recently took the SAT for the third time and today took a College Placement Test (CPT) so that he can take college classes in the spring prior to heading to the university in the fall. I’m glad he’s got his testing behind him. Now we get to focus on where and when and what classes he will take for the next several years of his life.

As a homeschool parent staring high school in the face, I’m worried. Will my son be evaluated on his transcript? Probably not since he was homeschooled. He’ll be evaluated based on his SAT or ACT or college level course performance exclusively? I know he can do it. In fact, I know he can do it very well. But, it begs the question, is a test a fair evaluation of a person’s academic ability?

Those of you who are homeschooling high school or have homeschooled kids into college – how did/will you handle college admission? Have you simply relied on their test scores to carry them? Did the university even look at their transcript? What’s the secret? What about scholarships? The clock, for me is ticking, and I want to know where to find the keys to the kingdom. Help!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Write Foundation Review

The Write Foundation

Essay Writing Level 3 – Lessons 1-15

Author – Rebecca Celsor

Cost – $65.00 plus tax and shipping

Suggested Ages – 14-17

I’ve been an English instructor/professor/adjunct with several institutions over the last eight years. Having taught remedial writing to those who enter college underprepared and senior level courses at universities, I cannot stress how important writing is for your students!

A firm writing foundation will help your student in all areas of life. Not only is it important for those on the college-bound path, but also for those entering the work sector. As I have often challenged my own boys, show me a career that doesn’t include some level of writing! An extension of that, show me a successful career with upward mobility that doesn't require the employee to be a strong communicator! To this date, we haven’t come up with one.

Choosing your writing curriculum carefully is important as well. I find it challenging to teach my boys writing because my expectations often exceed their abilities. I have to tone down my college background to fairly assess where they are at. Luckily, we belong to a wonderful co-op where my boys have taken writing from strong teachers who allow me to work with them in the background while they lay out the expectations. As my boys get closer to their collegiate years, my experience will be able to take a front seat.

That all being said, I was interested in The Write Foundation as provided to me by TOS because it incorporates strategies for teaching individuals or groups. After careful evaluation, here is what I believe to be the strengths and weaknesses of the curriculum.

  • Includes a good deal of grammar practice – I see students lacking in this area.
  • Teaches the writing process – so many students do not include the brainstorming and outlining steps when writing. This is critical!
  • Includes poetry each lesson – poetry is a fun way for students to learn writing and express themselves.
  • Works with different styles of essay writing – students will encounter many different styles once they hit college.
  • Goes beyond the five-paragraph essay – five paragraph is very rudimentary. Students must achieve beyond this level before entering college.
  • Includes good worksheets for students and teacher materials to use that coincide with the lesson.
  • Instructions were difficult to understand. It took several attempts to try to understand the approach for teaching a child.
  • Course is setup for individuals or for a group – this crossover can create confusion when providing instruction. (Would suggest two separate manuals.)
  • Grammatical errors throughout the curriculum
  • Teacher materials for use with groups are setup for making overhead slides – should be PowerPoint slides. (Individuals can just look at the computer screen or printout.)
  • Mind Benders are used for each lesson. While I love incorporating critical thinking into our day, I’m not sure it belongs as part of the writing curriculum. However, it certainly can’t hurt and helps students gain a critical mind.
With any writing program, it is important to evaluate what will work best for your child. Evaluate each program carefully looking at the types of assignments and how they relate to your child’s strengths and weaknesses. The program should first and foremost encourage your child to enjoy writing. If they like it, they will do it.

To see additional reviews by the Homeschool Crew click here.
*** This curriculum was provided to me free of charge through The Old Schoolhouse for review purposes.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Let's Talk Teenagers...

Teenagers!  What can we say about teenagers?

I knew when I started having children that I feared the teenage years. Yes, feared. Not because I was a terrible teen – I was actually pretty tame compared to most, but I knew the potential. Now that I have three, I understand that fear.

Don’t get me wrong – I love my teens! They are all good kids. I can’t complain – they give me a run for my money most days, but, overall, they do a good job. Yes, I’ve seen the horror stories of teens gone wrong! Some of you may be parenting those children – to you I offer my most heartfelt prayer. I have “good kids,” and I’m struggling.

Before we start, let’s get one thing straight right away – teen is not a numerical designation, it’s a hormonal one. Teen begins at 12 and ends about 22’ish. There’s a decade there, not the simple seven years they would lead us to believe.

I understand that God created teens so that we’d be willing to let them go. Unlike birds who give their babies the proverbial boot out of the nest, as humans, we want to hang on. That is until our teens realize that we know absolutely nothing and that they are just fine on their own (as long as we are fully financing them). That is when there are days that a little distance doesn’t sound like quite such a bad thing.

Maybe, just maybe, it isn’t the teens. Maybe, it’s us. We’ve invested so much that we don’t want to just throw caution to the wind and let them live their own lives. I know I struggle with that. I’ve lived my life protecting, cherishing and helping my babies, it’s a hard job to do a 180 and let them make their own mistakes. But, we must, right?

I look at each gray hair on my head, and I’m pretty sure I can identify the date and time it sprouted. I’m sure one day these grays will be badges of honor, but, for right now, they are evidence that teenagers exist in my life.

What about your teens? Do they put grays on your head? Do you lay awake at night wondering just how you are going to be the angel on their shoulder guiding them through right and wrong from a distance? If you do, then join me. I need your advice, your commiseration and I need to share in your joys. These are tough times – it takes a village to raise children, but it takes an interconnected network of spies, angels, and prayer to raise teens.

What are your thoughts on teens? I’ll take all the advice I can get!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Monday Memoir - Week 7

I have been taking my Crockpot into overdrive lately. There are so many good comfort food recipes that fit perfectly into the Crockpot AND allow for an easy dinner. I feel like the chicken or the egg – do I love to cook because I love to eat, or do I love to eat because I love to cook? I’m looking forward to hearing about your favorite foods… We’ll be ready for a sweet treat when we get home.

1. Describe your cooking skills and your favorite thing to cook.
2. Describe one of your favorite foods from childhood.

Describe your cooking skills and your favorite thing to cook.

I love to cook. There are times when my enthusiasm wanes – especially when there are several meals in a row where the boys initial reaction is – ewwww! However, I still do love to cook. Other than The Old Schoolhouse, the only magazines I subscribe to are cooking magazines. Not the foofy ones that have ingredients I don’t know where to get and the boys would never touch – down home recipes that we all enjoy. It brings me great pleasure to put food on the table for my family that they all love. Yes! Mom’s cooking mushroom chicken for dinner! Or, Hurray!, Chicken Pie! It’s a good feeling to provide that for them.

My favorite thing to cook – that’s a hard one. I love making foods that everyone will eat. When it comes to the holidays, there are some recipes that the season wouldn’t be complete without. Snowball cookies, butterscotch-chocolate peanut clusters, cornbread dressing, my favorite fruit salad. Desserts are probably my favorite – blueberry cream, flan, apple custard pie, cheesecake, the list goes on and on. (So will my behind if I make these too often!) So, my favorite thing to cook is dessert.

My least favorite thing to cook – fish. My husband doesn't eat fish, so I haven’t ever really learned how to handle it. I love to eat salmon, but I’ve never learned just how it’s supposed to be prepared.

Describe one of your favorite foods from childhood.

One of the recipes I miss from childhood is good old-fashioned pumpkin pie. My mother used to take the jack-o-lanterns right after Halloween and bake them. Then she’d puree the pumpkin and store it for pies. The smell of pumpkin pie always meant family and fun. A little dollop of whipped cream on top was the perfect complement.

Why do you miss pumpkin pie, you ask? Well… When I moved to the South, I discovered sweet potatoes. They are wonderful! Baked, sweet potato casserole, in a pie – yum! What I also discovered is that my husband’s family does not like pumpkin. If I make a pumpkin pie, I’m the only one that eats it. That’s no fun. Well, it is, but only briefly. If I’m going to put that much effort into making a pie, I want people to enjoy it with me. So, pumpkin pie is a rarity for me now, but the memories are still there.

Isn’t it funny how food comes to symbolize special times in our lives? What foods mean tradition and family to you? Link up - I want to read about your fond food memories.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Memoir Monday - Week 7 Sneak Peek

The cold weather is finally here. Not freezing cold, but cold enough to start me thinking about baking. I love to bake – it’s my downfall. Desserts are my favorite thing to cook and to eat. Not good for my thighs, but delicious nonetheless! So, this week we’ll talk about food. I may just have to go bake something today – the rain is falling, it’s chilly, and we’re having a co-op day.

We’ll be ready for a sweet treat when we get home.

1. Describe your cooking skills and your favorite thing to cook.
2. Describe one of your favorite foods from childhood.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Five Question Friday

Friday again?  Time is really flying...  Yikes!  It makes me feel so stressed.  I have great visions of all we are going to accomplish this year - how to make it all happen when the weeks are scooting by at break-neck pace is beyond me right now.

Join me in a little Five Question Friday?  When you are done visit the My Little Life blog to see what others had to say.

1. If you could have any talent and turn it into an occupation, what would it be?

It would have to be a professional traveler. I’d go to all the exotic places, stay in the best hotels, eat the best food, participate in all the fun activities and get paid for it!

2. Would you rather have a house at the beach or a cabin in the woods?

Cabin in the woods, no question about it! I love the beach for about one week a year, beyond that, I’m a mountain girl. I just don’t like sand – it gets EVERYWHERE! Give me cool breezes, mountain hikes, rivers and waterfalls – that’s my idea of paradise!

3. Is there any meaning or reasoning for the names you chose for your child/children?

Kyra – her name came from Australia (as did my ex-husband). Love this name!

Kemper – I was studying middle English at the time – it means fighter or champion

Benjamin – named after my grandfather

Noah – we searched and searched and this name just fit

4. What is your guilty pleasure? (I know we've done this one before, but I'm guessing people's "guilty pleasures" change frequently. At least, mine do!)

Dessert. Especially flan! If I make flan, I eat ALL of them. It’s bad. Flan is like Lay’s potato chips to me – no one can eat just one. Yum!

5. Do you live in a house that is deep cleaned or straightened?

Hmmm… Good question. I wouldn’t say my house is deep cleaned, but it’s not lightly cleaned either. Is there a middle version? We are always straightening – it’s as bad as dishes or laundry, for everything we pick up two or more things get left out.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tis the Season to Think about my Holiday Cards...

Yes!  November is here!

I know you all already know how excited I am to “officially” be into the holidays! From November 1st all the way until Christmas Day, I am in holiday mode!

One of the first things I start thinking about is my Christmas cards. It’s time to make sure all my addresses are current, to make sure I have addresses for new friends, and to check the list (yes, check it twice) to make sure we won’t forget anyone.

Choosing the perfect Christmas card is not a task I take lightly. Do we include a picture? Should I write a newsletter telling everyone what’s been going on? Would a store bought card do the trick or should it be personalized?

This year, I get to participate as a blogger in Shutterfly’s holiday card promotion. How exciting is that? Shutterfly offers 748 different Christmas cards to choose from! Don’t believe me – take a look… In addition to that, they even carry cards for Thanksgiving. I hadn’t thought about Thanksgiving cards, but what a great way to tell others that they are one of the blessings you are thankful for? I may have to put that on my agenda for next year!

My favorite section, however, are the Christian Christmas cards. It’s always important to us as a family to honor the Reason for the Season as we reach out to friends and family both close by and far away. Without Christ, the season would have no meaning.

These are the three that we’re considering (with our family pictured, of course! Lol) Which one would you vote for?

Option 1 - This is nice because of the statement and room for one family pic

Option 2 - This one give us more room for pics and focuses on family

Option 3 - Love the message and the cool blue focus on the tranquility of the blessed night

Help me decide - which one do you like best?  Leave me a comment with your favorite... 

The coolest thing? Shutterfly is offering 20% off all holiday cards just go here - .

However you celebrate the holidays, may God Bless You All this holiday season and always! Let the holidays begin!

**** Shutterfly compensated me for this honest review…

Monday, November 1, 2010

Monday Memoir - Week 6

Can you believe it is November? Yikes! The holidays are right around the corner! Link up here with your posts from the Sneak Peek… Can’t wait to read what you thought about being the oldest/middle/youngest child…

Here are the questions:

1. How did you like being the oldest, youngest, or middle child? What were the advantages or disadvantages?

2. List all the costumes you have worn or characters you have been for Halloween.

1. How did you like being the oldest, youngest, or middle child? What were the advantages or disadvantages?

I was the oldest of two. I definitely fit the profile of being the independent, dominant sibling. We had our issues growing up. However, my sister and I are best friends today. I wouldn’t know what to do without her. It’s funny because the last time we visited we laughed over all the stupid stuff we did to each other as kids. I’m glad she’s forgiven me for most of it! Lol

I would say, from my perspective, that being the oldest was a disadvantage. As the oldest, you have to go through everything first. It’s from there that your parents figure out how to handle situations. I find this to be true with my kids as well. What didn’t work with my oldest we fix, and what did work we keep.

2. List all the costumes you have worn or characters you have been for Halloween.

I’m not a big fan of Halloween. It would be fine if we didn’t celebrate, but my husband and I decided long ago that trick-or-treating was harmless. I think this year will be our last– my youngest wanted to trick-or-treat one last time.

As for costumes, there are only a few that I can remember.

One year I wore a costume where there was a big blow-up head that was worn as a hat and then I painted my face the color of the head. I’m not sure if it was an alien or what. I just remember the huge head.

One year, I decided to go as a teenager. I wore a plaid skirt, white shirt, pigtails, glasses and freckles. I guess that was my idea of what a teenager was at the time.

Finally, my mother bought two costumes – a nun and a clown. After she bought those, my sister and I were forced to trade off wearing those year after year. I see her perspective – costumes are expensive for an hour’s worth of candy collecting!

Come on and linkup!