Thursday, April 28, 2011

Heart of Haiti... Nancy - A Woman Who Helped Me

I’m blessed to participate with CleverGirl in another blog post supporting Heart of Haiti. This time we are honoring women who have helped us. At the end of this post, you will find a discount code for wonderful handmade items from Macy’s Heart of Haiti and Rwanda Path to Peace products.

A Woman Who Helped Me

When I think about the women in my life that have made a difference, one immediately jumps to mind. Her name is Nancy. We worked together at a local community college. When I started there, I had no idea the impact she would have on my life.

She is a model for strong women everywhere. Nancy has filled many roles in the college/university setting – Department Chair, Professor, VP, President. Her strength is her moniker. She’s a dogged worker who really cares about her students and her employees. It was easy to rally behind her because I knew she had our backs as well. But there’s more to it…

Nancy earned her Doctorate and worked in a “man’s” job for years before educational administration was open to women. She did this all while raising her son on her own. No small task. When I met her, she was helping support her now grown son while also taking care of her mother with Alzheimer’s. She was doing this while commuting at least an hour each way to work and building a strong developmental education department and academic support lab. The proverbial – “super woman”.

When I started at the college, she hired me to work in the academic support lab while I was earning my Master’s degree. Having her as a role model made striving for excellence easy. When a position opened teaching English, she encouraged and supported me. Teaching under her was a blessing. I learned to really give my time, energy, and, most importantly, compassion to my students. I hated to see her go.

While she has moved to Arkansas to help her son and his family, she continues to be my good friend. I still look to her for a model of strength and perseverance. Hopefully, I’m able to provide a little reciprocal comfort as well.

I continue to see her face issues that would bring most women to their knees with grace and determination. She supports those she loves without reservation, sometimes to a fault. But, love does that, doesn’t it? I’m very blessed to have this woman in my life.

Is there a woman in your life that has helped you?

Mother’s day is May 8th. Now is the time to remember that special woman who has helped you in your life. If you would like to also support Heart for Haiti, CleverGirls is providing a discount of 15% on your Mother’s Day gift purchase of Heart of Haiti and Rwanda Path to Peace products using the code CLEVERGIRLS between May 3rd and May 8th. Simply visit for gorgeous handmade items.

*** I was selected for this very special “CleverHaiti” opportunity by Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Fostering Baby Birds

These are our new foster babies.  Little robins who were in a nest in a man's gutter that he cleaned out.  Instead of just moving the nest (yes, you can do that!), he dropped them off at animal control.  If you have a nest in a bad spot, just move it to a better one nearby.  Mom will find them!

They'll be off to a bird rescue tomorrow - we're just the intermediary before transport.  Aren't they cute?  They eat every two hours or more, just like us humans.  Fortunately, unlike humans, their mom doesn't do nightly feedings.  Good for me - I'm not much of a late nighter myself.  :-)

If you're in the Charlotte area and have waterfowl that need help, you can contact the Carolina Waterfowl Rescue.  They do amazing work!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

CoverGirl NatureLuxe Beauty Buzz...

I’m not a big makeup wearer. I do wear some just to smooth out my face and add a little color, but glamour is just not a focus. Reviewing CoverGirl NatureLuxe products seemed like a great opportunity to try some products that are intended to go on naturally, just like I like it.

CoverGirl sent two products: NatureLuxe Silk Foundation and NatureLuxe Gloss Balm.

I was able to select the color of foundation I wanted to try. Let’s just say, I overestimated how tan I am. However, not by too much. A few afternoons spent by the pool and I’ll be ready for the darker shade. I did try it on anyway, and I really like it. First, it feels light going on. I hate to feel like I’m spackling my face. Heavy makeup is hot and uncomfortable. I was surprised by how smooth and light feeling this foundation is. I like it so much, in fact, I’m going to go buy the correct color for my skin tone now so that I have it.

The lip gloss worried me. It was so bright red when I opened the package (just like the one in the pic), I thought – no way I’m going to like this. However, it goes on with just a hint of color. It goes on smooth with just a touch of red and gloss.  It feels silky, not sticky and not heavy.  The tint lasts quite a while, but doesn't leave your lips with that dyed look.   Love it! Worked its way right into the lineup in my purse.

Needless to say – I’m very happy with both of these products. Yay for CoverGirl!

I received these products free from CoverGirl as a BzzAgent for my honest review.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Blog Cruise - Instilling Academic Integrity

This week, the Homeschool Blog Cruise asks how we instill a moral work ethic in our children, discouraging shortcuts, and or cheating?

This issue is something that my children are very familiar with. I have taught at the college level for the last six years. Each course I have taught has had at least one plagiarism incident. I’m not just talking accidental plagiarism where the student didn’t cite quite correctly or didn’t understand. I’m talking blatant. Some worse than others.

As a result, my kids have heard me rant and rave about plagiarism and cheating regularly. I discuss with them ad nauseum why cheating is bad. Not only are there academic repercussions, but one’s integrity is also denigrated when this happens. In college, we give a zero for the assignment in which the cheating occurred and a report is generated with the administration going into the student’s personal file. A second instance means a zero for the class and additional administrative action. Depending on the school, one or more instances can result in expulsion.

Today, catching plagiarism is easy.   There are several tools at an instructor's disposal.  Submitting student papers to a plagiarism checker not only identifies where sources are improperly cited, but also provides instructors with clear illustration and proof when plagiarism has occured and links to the original source.

When I teach homeschoolers at a co-op, I will always cover the importance of academic integrity. I have had one instance of cheating in a homeschool class. That really saddens me as I tend to hold homeschoolers to a higher standard even than my college students. I’m not saddened by the impact on their grade; I’m saddened because, while I don’t hold it against them on further assignments, there is a breach of trust in their integrity that can’t easily be repaired. I want my children to really understand that as well.

I’ve always told my kids – I’d rather you get a bad grade than cheat. In the end, your integrity is more important than your GPA. One instance of poor judgment can be a part of your permanent academic or even work record.

How do you instill this understanding in your children?

To see additional interesting posts - hop on over to the Homeschool Blog Cruise...

Friday, April 22, 2011

Time with God for Fathers Review

Time with God for Fathers
Author:  Jack Countryman

Time with God for Fathers is a wonderful little gift book perfect for Father’s Day. I’m giving my copy to my husband. Any man with young children will appreciate this book if he’s truly dedicated to his role as father in the lives of his children as outlined by God.

Each page of the book offers both scripture and a challenge to dad to be the man God is calling him to be. Titles like “Godliness in the Family begins with You”, “A Father’s Lifestyle is Contagious”, “Courage to be a Father of Integrity” speak to the content of this small book.

Today, young fathers especially need straight talk about what it means to be a father and what God expects of them. We all say we wish parenthood came with a manual. Well, it does. The Bible. Seeing that the scripture is as relevant today as the day it was written is an important step in acknowledging the gift and responsibility of fatherhood.

Time with God doesn’t pull any punches. “Honesty and integrity in every area of a father’s life is a blueprint for the man God wishes you to be.” Acknowledging that how a father lives his life helps shape the roll his child will play in society and as a future parent is critically important. I appreciate a book that doesn’t sugar coat that responsibility and assures men that they are not only the head of the household but are empowered through prayer and time on their knees to lead their family along the path God intended for them.

What a great message to read this Easter weekend, when the greatest Father of them all sacrificed his son so that all of His children might share eternal life with Him in heaven.

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

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Nutrition 101: Choose Life! Review

Nutrition 101: Choose Life!

Growing Healthy Homes

Age: Elementary – High School

Cost: CD - $79.95, Book - $99.95, Both - $129.95

         Co-op License - $35.00 (See below for more info)

Nutrition 101 is a 448 page text on nutrition and the body from a biblical perspective. As stated on the web site, the text covers:

1. The Brain and Nervous System
2. Digestion and Elimination
3. Respiration and Olfactory
4. Muscular and Skeletal Systems
5. Cardiovascular and Immune Systems
6. Endocrine System and Emotions.

Each section consists of four chapters related to the topic. Each chapter consists of content about the topic, Discussion Questions/Activities/Resources, a “Power” recipe with activities, and, in some cases, additional recipes.  To see a sample section of the book, click here.

We found the content to be very educational. Not only does a chapter discuss a topic like what the brain is, but further study discusses what aspects of nutrition have positive and negative effects on the brain. One thing we didn’t particularly like about the chapters is that the content is often written in list form rather than paragraphically. There is a lot of content to cover, but lists can become confusing or distracting when trying to read the chapter like you would a textbook. I could see using flashcards or lapbooking to help reinforce these concepts.

The discussion questions make the student think not only about that part of the body and how nutrition relates to it, but also how scripture relates to our bodies and how we treat them. Making this connection helped my boys see that God cares not only that He made us, but that we take care of the bodies He provided.

The activities are broken into Elementary and Secondary options. As homeschoolers, we appreciate the opportunity to utilize a curriculum for all the students in a family instead of just one age group. I really like the activities – they include “lab-like” options along with computer-based research and careful consideration of how the concepts apply to “real-life”. Many of these activities can be developed into long-term projects, great for the high-school experience.

The “power” recipes were exciting to me. However, my boys didn’t like them. As finicky boys who aren’t used to such a whole foods approach to eating, they didn’t like the recipe options. This is an issue with our family, not the book. I would have liked them to really give these recipes a chance, but it was a no go.

While we have enjoyed this book, I can really see it being wonderful in a co-op setting. Nutrition is an important aspect of growing up that high schoolers especially benefit from. The projects would be fun and could make the class very interactive. Making a recipe and sharing with all would allow for students to explore these new tastes and nutritional options. Growing Healthy Homes provides a multi-use license for this option. The instructor buys the combo package for the text, and then each student buys a license. The license allows the instructor to make copies of chapter activity pages, recipes and the Appendices only. For many co-ops this is an expensive product – that is the one drawback.  Fortunately, Growing Healthy Homes is offering a 15% discount to TOS readers using the code TOScrew11.

We will continue to work through this text until the end of the year. Learning that what we eat has a direct impact on more than just the waistline is an effective tool for starting new, more nutritional eating habits at home.

To see other reviews by the TOS Homeschool Crew click here.

*** I was provided with a copy of Nutrition 101 free of charge through the TOS Homeschool Crew for my honest opinion.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Ale Boy's Feast Review

The Ale Boy's Feast: A Novel (The Auralia Thread)

Author: Jeffery Overstreet

Let me first start by saying that when I agreed to review this book, I didn’t realize it was part of a series. That does complicate things when you come in on a series already underway. There were elements of the story that would have made more sense to me had I been following the series from the beginning.

That being said, Overstreet has a wonderful imagination. Even though I wasn’t always able to clearly follow what was going on in the story, the imagery was fantastic. I wish I could see things the way he does and then put them down on paper.

The characters are deep and display a lot of emotion and change throughout the story. There is a lot of death, a lot of hope, and some very imaginative fantasy in the mix. I was able to catch on to what the story was about, but never quite fully understood where the author was leading.

The ending, to me, left me wondering what just happened. Again, perhaps, if I had read the other novels it would make more sense. However, given the details throughout the story, I’m not entirely convinced of that. There are numerous series out there that are able to encapsulate a story within each individual novel so that the reader isn’t left behind by not starting at the beginning. I would have liked a little more of that here.

Have you ever read a book that spent so much time and energy leading up to the ending that the end itself was anticlimactic? That’s where I was with this one.

While I applaud the author’s imagination and writing style, I'm left feeling like a lot of time spent created confusion rather than catharsis.

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

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Blog Cruise - Dreaming of Something Different

This week, the Homeschool Blog Cruise asks, "If you didn't homeschool, what would you DREAM of doing?

If I didn’t homeschool, what would I DREAM of doing? Wow – what an interesting question since for years I dreamed of homeschooling. My husband wasn’t initially convinced it was the way for us to go. After sending our two oldest to high school, he realized there’s got to be a better way.

I know God was right there. My oldest is major social and would not have liked homeschooling. We would have bucked heads constantly. I believe my oldest son would have benefitted from homeschool, but he has found his own way and we are blessed for that.

I don’t want to be doing anything else right now.

If I HAD to pick something else and it was a DREAM job, then I’d be a reviewer for resorts. Send me around the world, let me live in the lap of luxury, eat gourmet food, take exotic excursions, and then write about them. That would be my dream job. Of course, if they want a family perspective, I’d bring the kids too and we’d homeschool on the road. Whoops, we’re back to homeschooling!

Honestly, having the resources we do here in the Charlotte area and getting to spend each and every day with my boys immersed in education is a dream come true. I’ll just be sad when it’s over.

What about you?

To see additional interesting posts - hop on over to the Homeschool Blog Cruise...

Friday, April 15, 2011

Country Crock

I don't know about you, but we like to keep a tub of Country Crock in the refrigerator.  It's easy, convenient, and tastes great as a spread.  We're toast eaters, and Country Crock is much easier to spread on toast than a hard stick of butter.  Don't get me wrong - we love butter too, but it isn't always easy to use.

I appreciated the opportunity to try Country Crock for free from  I appreciate most anything that's free!  :-)

Convenience is always a good thing around our chaotic home.  I try to have good dinners on the table several days a week.  The hubby loves bread with his meal.  During the summer, we love to eat fresh corn on the cob.  That's when Country Crock comes in - quick on the cob and easy for the kids to spread on their rolls.  Love it!

If you haven't tried it, give it a shot.  They are offering a .40 cent off coupon here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Lessons My Grandparents Taught Me this Week

Leaving for home today – have been in Colorado for the last five days. It’s wonderful seeing family! My goal this time was just to help my grandmother with my grandfather.

What I learned is that my grandparents put the S in stubborn! What a challenge! I’m more exhausted chasing my 96/97 year old grandparents than I am chasing my four kids. That’s probably where their longevity comes from – too stubborn to let anything get them down!

The other thing I learned is that you can’t worry about the small stuff when there is so much BIG stuff to deal with. My grandmother worries about EVERYTHING! ARRRRGGGGHHHH! I wish I could just turn off her worry motor sometimes. Grandpa has dementia. She’s taking care of him mostly by herself. She can’t see well, can’t hear well, and, did I mention, is 97 years old! So, whether his hair is combed for the fifth time before we go down to their cafeteria for lunch, and whether or not he’s tucked in his shirt, and whether or not he’s taken his shoes off to watch TV just isn’t that important. Well…. Not in my eyes, in hers, yes. It’s constant.

The last thing I learned – empathy is about putting aside the way we think and trying to fill that person’s shoes. She’s petrified to lose him. That’s where the worry and nervous energy comes from.

I’m praying for them both. For patience and for peace. She asks me why they are still here – I know God’s not finished with them yet here on earth. Lord – please give her peace to enjoy the time they have left.

On a flight in a few – ready to be home to my own chaos, but wishing there was some way to be there for Grandma.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Guest Post: Lee Binz - Keys to the College Application Essay

Since I'm out of town this week, I'd thought I'd take advantage of a guest post.  Lee Binz from The HomeScholar is an amazing woman with a plethora of helpful information for homeschooling your child through college.  Her advice is inavaluable.  Please enjoy the following from Lee and then check out her web site -

October 2009
by Lee Binz, The HomeScholar

Keys to the College Application Essay

What's the big deal about a little essay? All the colleges want is a perfectly written and very compelling 500-word essay demonstrating thoughtful self-reflection. Is that so hard?

Yeah, right! Are they serious? They obviously don't understand teenagers. The words "teenager" and "thoughtful self-reflection" don't even belong in the same sentence!My son Alex is working on his law school application essays. I give him advice and he politely says, "Thanks Mom! I love you." But then... He doesn't actually do it.

Nope. He just hasn't gotten around to writing those required essays. Although he is a college senior, he's still just 19 years old. So when I tell people that I understand what it's like to get your teens to write their college application essays, what I mean is that I *really* know what it's like!

If you have a high school senior, college admissions are looming large. It's a huge job for everyone, and quite stressful. The essay is the key part of the application.

Colleges want to know two things about your student – who they are and how well they communicate. They may see 4 years of “English” on a public transcript, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the child can write well. They may see 4 years of choir on their activity list, but they may not be sure if choir was just an “easy A” or a real passionate interest. By requesting an essay, colleges can learn who they are (or rather, who the student THINKS they are) and determine their true writing skills. A teen’s essay should be a well-written partial answer the question “Who are you?”

The essay as a portrait

Each college admission essay is like a portrait of your child. If a college asks for three essays, make sure you give them three portraits. For those photographers out there, that means three costume changes, three background choices, and three different props! Each essay should be a completely different perspective on your child. Because it is a portrait of your child, it has to have your child’s voice. Voice is the author's style. It is what makes their writing unique, conveys their attitude, personality, values and character. Voice is how colleges will know if the essay was written (or too heavily edited) by a parent. Believe it or not, teens don’t write like adults. For those who live in the world of application essays, this distinction is VERY easy to detect.

Collect topics

College websites will usually list the application essay topics, and those topics don’t usually change much from year to year. Some colleges will ask for just one essay, and others will ask for several. As you collect those essays from the different colleges, you will notice some common themes. This will help you to reduce the overall number of essays the student needs to write. Even if your child is not a senior, you can still collect those questions and have them practice writing college admission essays as part of their English program. When they reach senior year, you’ll have lots of essays from which to glean ideas.

Read the topic together

Essay topics are written by adults but read by teenagers. Think about the communication issues you currently face with your teen and you can see why this might pose a problem. When faced with questions like “Tell us about your experiences with diversity,” my teens thought they had nothing to say. Their reasoning went something like this, “I’m a white guy. Duh!” As parents, we could read the topic and discuss it together, and explain what the question meant, and brainstorm some possible experiences that might be considered diverse.

Brainstorm together

Older teenagers often want to do everything themselves, but college essays really require input from parents. Brainstorming is an idea-generating technique where a group will all call out spontaneous ideas, without evaluating each idea as they call them out. Nothing is too silly or far-fetched to be suggested. It’s a great way to think outside the box. If you are completely stuck, fill out the profile information on Every time you click “yes” to something on the questionnaire, it is a brainstorming idea to consider for your essay. After generating ideas, circle ideas that you think might work. Only assign each idea to one single essay.

Never repeat anything.

It bears repeating; never repeat anything. If you mention the word “chess” in one essay, never use that word in another essay to the same college. If you refer to “Thomas Jefferson” in one essay, don’t use his name again, no matter how much you want to! Each essay is unique, and nothing should be repeated between essays. In addition, don’t repeat anything that is found in another place on your college application. If you have written about your homeschool philosophy on the application, don’t repeat it in the essay. Don’t mention your grades, course titles, grade point average, or test scores either. Those things are found on the application already. There, I have repeated myself eight times, which will hopefully drive home the point of not repeating yourself. Nine times – sorry.

Paint a word picture

Think about a photo of your child that is meaningful to you. We have a picture of my smiling son on his bike, my husband running after him with his hands raised toward the sky. The photo screams “success” and was taken when Kevin rode his bike without training wheels for the first time. That picture is the kind of essay to write. The essay is a word picture about the student, written by the student. It is a first person singular short story that is true. Yes, you have to use the word “I” in this essay. Think of a specific moment in time, like the photo I described above. That may be your introduction.

Modify essays to specific colleges

Once you have written an essay, you can modify it slightly to match the college you are applying to. When you use the essay again, remove those identifying statements, and change them to be specific to the next college. Before you submit the essays, however, make very sure you have the right college details on the right college essay! Do NOT mention Dartmouth when sending your application to Yale! It would be like your son sending a love letter to two different girls and getting their names reversed. It would not bode well for either relationship!

Seek Perfection

College admission essays help the college know your student, but they are also evaluating how you’re your child writes. The essay must be “perfect.” It is sometimes difficult for teens to accept feedback, but this is extremely important. Parents and other adults must help edit the paper. Remove redundancies, cut down the fluff, and keep the meat. It must be perfect in terms of spelling, punctuation, verb tense, and grammar. Point out any errors, but allow the student to correct them. This will help the essay to retain the student’s voice. That’s how the college will get to know your student.

Enough about you, let’s talk about me!

The love letter analogy mentioned above is pretty close to the truth. Yes, you are telling the college all about yourself, but you should do it in a way that endears them to you rather than turns them off. Your child should avoid appearing narcissistic. That is not an easy task for teens who must write glowingly about themselves. The antidote for this is honest self-reflection, with perhaps a dash of self-deprecating humor. The colleges know you aren’t perfect. Never leave the impression that you think you are!

Keeping it real

Above all, colleges are looking for something real – something authentic. A diamond may be “in the rough” but it beats a rhinestone every time! Sometimes being honest and real means “being a character.” In this regard, homeschoolers have a distinct advantage over their public school peers. Homeschoolers have tremendous freedom in the high school years to seek outlets for their areas of interest. This, by definition, will make your child stand out from the crowd. Your job as parent is to help them to first discover and then communicate their uniqueness to the world.

Plan ahead

Practice college application essays before senior year. If you go to a college fair, grab some application packets and look at their essay topics. Use those for writing assignments this year. Save these “practice” essays. In case of emergency (like writer’s block) you may be able to use some of the essay ideas during senior year. It will make senior year so much more pleasant!

And then, when they are done and accepted into the college of their dreams, they may say “Thanks, mom” and actually mean it!

"It's almost 2AM, and I just finished listening to your College Scholarships for High School Credit lecture--what a wealth of information (and what a great, efficient idea!). I have been telling people about you and your materials--all the support a parent homeschooling high school could possibly need is to be found in your website and other materials. I am so enjoying learning from you, and I do hope I will be able to implement more of your great ideas as we head into Nate's senior year (and Ethan's junior year!). I am so much better prepared now, and I do wish I hadn't waited so long to look into these things (transcripts, college admissions, scholarships, etc.). That's part of the reason I encourage friends to check out your website--I want to encourage them to start learning about these things earlier on--the earlier, the better."

-Ann in Connecticut

Copyright Lee Binz, 2009

You have permission to reprint this article as long as you don't make any changes and include the bio below.

Lee Binz, The HomeScholar, and her husband Matt specialize in helping parents homeschool high school. Get Lee's 5 part mini-course, "The 5 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make When Homeschooling High School." You can find us at

Friday, April 8, 2011

Science Weekly Review

Science Weekly

Cost: 15 issues for $19.95

Ages:  Grades 1-6

Science Weekly is a 15-issue science magazine delivered to your door. This magazine is a fun supplement to your regular elementary science studies.

What I liked most about the magazine was its colorful approach to the topic (we had composting). The visual appeal makes students want to read and work with the material. Science weekly offers six different levels of the same topic so that you can engage all of your students at once! This is wonderful for homeschooling families with a wide age range in their children. Everyone on the same topic, enjoying the same activity is a blessing.

The Composting issues we received contained the following:

1. Content about what composting is

2. Vocabulary, Math, Science and puzzle based activities

3. A lab that we could perform and track

We were not able to actually compost, but I would have liked to. The lab was simple and would have been a fun learning experience for my children. Additionally, I appreciated the teaching notes that included not only the answers to the activities, but suggestions for engaging the kids.

I would note that while the grade level says through sixth grade - the magazine was a little too easy for my sixth grader.  I would say these would be applicable pre-K to fourth grade.

If you are looking for a fun way to engage your elementary age children while supplementing your science curriculum with interesting interdisciplinary activities, then Science Weekly is a good option.

Order Science Weekly here.
See four levels of five different interactive topics here.
View and download a fun issue about Coral Reefs here.

To see other reviews by the TOS Homeschool Crew click here.

*** I was provided Science Weekly free of charge as part of my participation on the TOS Homeschool Crew for my honest review.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The First Escape (The Dopple Ganger Chronicles) Review

The First Escape (The Dopple Ganger Chronicles)

Author:  G. P. Taylor

What an exciting book to receive - it was right up my boys' alley.  Part book, part graphic novel, I couldn't wait for them to read it.  My eleven year old took to it right away, and he is the one that ended up writing this review.  Enjoy!

The book I was sent to review, the “Doppelganger,” was a mixture between a book, a comic, a horror, a comedy, a moral, and an adventure. All in one. The concept of writing it was that half the book was written out and the other half was more like some sort of graphic novel. It basically takes place at an orphanage where the main characters, two mischievous twin girls named Saskia and Sadie p- who were left behind by their mom, are separated when a strange lady adopts Saskia alone without Sadie. They both have misadventures as Sadie is accused of trying to burn down the school and Saskia attempts to save Muss Elliot (the strange lady) from being murdered by her twin sister.

The thing I liked about this book is the characters. They were smart enough to get through things without it randomly appearing to them like in other stories. Muss Elliot’s character is easily unlikeable as she runs over a swan and scares an onion seller off his bike, but in the end appears to be a nice, friendly lady. The driver of her car, the Jaguar, is named Brummagem (his name is Irish). He is a mysterious, scary character who in the end betrays Muss Elliot and tries to kill her.

The thing I don’t like about this story is when the humor is slightly inappropriate and unnecessary. For instance, the gold, hidden by Muss Elliot’s great grandfather, was hidden in the half of a donkey situated on the wall. It was a neat concept, but would have been more likeable if it was the FRONT half of the donkey. He basically hid a bunch of money in an ass’s backside. Many pieces of the book were sort of like that.

*** I received this book free of charge from Tyndale in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Blog Cruise - Household Duties while Homeschooling

This week, the Homeschool Blog Cruise asks how we divide household duties and needs with our homeschool schedule.

I like to have a clean, uncluttered house.  In a perfect world, this would happen when I wiggled my nose or waved a wand.  Unfortunately, I posses neither a magical nose or wand, so...

Having older kids - 18, 13 and 11, I do believe that they have a responsiblity to the household chores as much as the hubby and I do.  So, we have a list.  One that is followed loosely with the exception of a few key items.

Monday is our cleaning day.  My oldest gets the opportunity to dust the house from top to bottom.  I rarely have to break out the white gloves although I have called "re-do" a couple of times.  The second oldest is in charge of trash gathering.  We have numerous small trash receptacles throughout the house. He has to collect, get it in the bin and get it to the curb for trash pickup.  The 11-year-old has to clean three bathrooms.  He's working on that skill - I usually come behind him to polish everything off. He also has to get the recycling to the curb.  Me - I'm vacuuming and mopping.  Hubby - he does the laundry.

So, that's how we handle the "chores".  As for keeping it all clean and picked up, as with any family homeschooling or not, it's an ongoing chore.  Grocery runs might happen while the boys are in homeschool PE, the crockpot gets used for nights when we have activities during the day and in the evening, and repairs happen as I can get to them. 

The house looks like a tornado struck most homeschooling days as we spread from the livingroom to the kitchen to the bedroom to the car.  But, we each have a "bucket" where we keep our perspective stuff and everything gets collected and returned to the cupboards when we're done.  That's been our biggest success - keeping a bucket for each of us.  It's good for organization, keeping picked up and ownership of our own materials and tasks.

How do you do it?

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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Working the Dog Show

My boys had a wonderful opportunity to spend the last three days working at a Dog Show. We didn’t know what to expect, but we did know they were being paid $25 per day and would be there from 7:45 until 3:00 at the latest.

When we arrived, it was obvious this was a whole new world. Stations were setup throughout a large room with dogs of every breed I can imagine being groomed and polished for the day’s events. Going to the place we were directed, the boys were put straight to work. Ben was to be the assistant pooper scooper and Noah was a go-fer. They weren’t too excited, but I thought, ok, I guess this won’t be so bad. My plan was to stick around, observe and read or crochet. After a short time, it became apparent that we were in the wrong place. Asking a few questions, it was determined there were really two shows going on and we belonged to the other show.

We did find the right people, they were understanding knowing we were clueless and sent the boys to agility. This is where dogs climb ramps, jump hurdles, etc. all on instructor command. It was a looooong day as there were more workers than needed. They would work for thirty minutes and then sit for thirty minutes to an hour. On the plus side, I got a lot of crocheting done, but it didn’t bode well for days two and three.

On day two, we were assured that the mix-up is what caused the wait. Our fault – I felt bad even though there’s no way we could have known. Sure enough, Ben became a timer and Noah helped with obedience setup, and both were doing their jobs straight through. Day two ended around 12:15, which was nice.  Day three was pretty much the same as day two, Ben was the timer for one of the arenas and Noah was in charge of setting the obstacles and placing gloves for the dogs to retrieve in another arena.  They ended up having a really good time.

It’s been quite the experience. “Dog people” are definitely their own breed. Most are breeders (or hired showers) hoping for champions so they can sire or produce high dollar puppies. They were all very nice and quite proud of their canines. One lady remarked that it costs $20,000 a year to show dogs. Wow! I’m kinda partial to my rescue animals, so I don't get that end of the business, but it’s obviously lucrative. Good for them!

The “work” experience was a success. Ben and Noah learned that work is not all fun and games, but, when done right, it can be rewarding and sometimes enjoyable. They already have big plans for their $75 that is burning a hole in their pockets. I’m glad they had the chance for responsibility, hard work, engaging adults, seeing a world they’d never normally get to see and earning their own money. I hope we get to do it again!