Friday, March 30, 2012

Week 1 of Sensa - The Pros and the Cons

Well, I have to say that I’m not hungry.  This is surprising given that I’ve only been eating around 1,000 calories a day.  I was eating quite a bit more than that before I started dieting.  Weight loss is happening, but I would contribute that as much to the diet and exercise as I would to Sensa.

On the negative side, I have a sore throat.  It started yesterday.  I’m not sure if it’s from Sensa or not; however, I have no other symptoms.  It started shortly after starting Sensa, so I’m going to monitor it.  If it’s viral, it’ll go away in a few days.  If it’s bacterial, I’ll get sicker.  If it’s Sensa, then it probably won’t go away.  Then, I’ll have to take a week off to see if that’s what is causing it.  With all the blooming going on around here, it could just be an allergy as well.  I hope it’s not Sensa – I’m enjoying dieting and not feeling like I’m starving.

I have to say - Sensa is easy.  Sprinkle and eat.  Not being hungry is a wonderful experience while dieting.  When I diet and I'm hungry, that's when I miss those yummy foods I can't eat.  However, when I'm not hungry, I don't miss them. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - Epic Trampoline Adventure

We went to an indoor trampoline place this week - the boys had a blast.  Imagine dozens of huge trampolines, a foam bit and a dodgeball court.  They had a blast!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Blog Cruise - Incorporating "Extras" Into Our Routine

This week's cruise asks - What extracurricular activities do your students enjoy?

As homeschoolers, we have LOTS of options for extra-curricular activities.  The key, for us, is to pick what the boys really enjoy and get the most benefit from.  It’s easy to get so involved in extras that scholastics suffers. 

Throughout the years, we’ve been involved in many different extra-curricular activities.  Speech and debate, honors society, homeschool PE, taekwondo, various fun co-op activities, etc.  Through trial and error, we’ve found those that work best for us.  However, I keep looking as the next great opportunity might be right around the bend.

Right now, both of my boys participate in Gavel Club.  Gavel Club is an activity through Toastmasters for students.  Each week they meet with their clubs to give or evaluate speeches.  Their job ranges from presenter to evaluator to wordmaster to joke-of-the-day.  Some jobs are very simple and some require a fair bit of advanced preparation.  I love Gavel Club because it gets my boys writing speeches and presenting in front of an audience.  Public speaking is an important skill to have.  They enjoy it because it’s time with their friends sharing their interests through speeches.  After ten speeches, participants earn a certificate.  They can then go on to work toward advanced certificates.  These are great for college resumes!
Another extra we did this year was Yearbook.  We belong to a wonderful co-op!  I was the facilitator this year and had eight great kids on my team.  We enjoyed taking pics, choosing the layout and producing the final product.  Next year, I’ll do the same and my older son will also participate in student government.

Additionally, my younger son was part of a Battle of the Books team.  We have six young men who have all read twenty-seven books and met monthly to discuss and practice answering questions.  Our team and another team will have a competition at the end of the year.  It’s been fun for him to read books from many different genres and on many different topics he wouldn’t otherwise have chosen. 

My older son and I participate in taekwondo.  My youngest son used to do it with us, but, after blue belt, decided it wasn’t his thing.  Taekwondo has become a lifestyle more than just an activity.  We do about six classes a week which includes three regular classes, one weapons class, and demonstration team.  My older son has found confidence, discipline and a desire to one day become an instructor.  It’s truly morphed for both of us from an activity to a passion.

That leaves my youngest with a gap – he needs another activity, one that’s physical.  We’re working on that. He’s non-competitive, which makes it more difficult when they hit the middle school years.  I’m thinking swimming and looking into that as his physical education.
Other things we’re considering for next year – Key Club, Teen Court, and maybe some type of music lessons.

What do your children enjoy as extra-curriculars?

To see how other members of the TOS Homeschool handle extra-curricular activities - click here.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Trying Not to Chow Down

My dog is a food addict.  She goes crazy any time she thinks she is about to be fed.  Literally.  She starts shaking.  It’s pitiful.  When she does get fed, she if face first in the bowl taking huge bites and just swallowing.  I don’t know how she does it, but she never appears to even chew her food.  Sad for her since it’s over so fast and she surely couldn’t have enjoyed it that much.
It caused me to think.  Do I do that?  Certainly not to that extreme, but I’m not the type to slow down and that includes when eating.  Eat fast and be done with it.  The quick eating mentality hardly gives me a chance to enjoy my food or to realize when I am full. 

Of course, life is usually on the run.  Eating is done in the car, in front of my computer, in a hurry before we leave for our next activity, so it’s time to make the conscious choice to savor.  Even if that means nibbling my chicken sandwich between errands.

I have to say – one week on Sensa and I have felt fuller when eating.  Now, if I can slow down and enjoy and then feel fuller – it’ll be a real win! 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Weekend Diet Hurdle

For me, dieting during the week really isn’t that hard.  Since we homeschool, I’m home and have good diet foods accessible.  The boys can make their own breakfast/lunch, so I can just eat what I want without much worry.  In the evenings, I typically make a meal for the men and eat my own foods.

HOWEVER, the weekends, for me, are much more difficult.  That is when we are all home and either running or resting.  My husband loves making big breakfasts, and eating out happens a lot on the weekends.  In fact, he's in the kitchen making bacon right now.  (He did buy me a personal watermelon, though.)

It’s SO much harder to be disciplined and eat healthy when everyone else is ready to pig out at a local eatery.  Sure, there are healthy options, but when you are stuck in a booth with everyone around eating those yummy, fried delicacies that you crave, it’s hard to opt for the salad with lowfat/lowcal dressing on the side.

In theory, Sensa should help with that.  Even if I splurge, which I’m committed to not doing right now, I should be able to sprinkle and feel fuller, thus eating less.  We’ll see. 

My hubby loves me, but he also loves food.  He doesn’t like having to modify routine, either.  So…

Weekends, yeah.  We’ll see how this goes!

How do you get through the weekends while on a diet?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Dieting – Test Driving Sensa

I decided to try Sensa.  It’s based on the idea that you sprinkle a powder on your food that enhances the scent of the food making you fill fuller faster.  Seems a little hokey, but it is very true that scent has a lot to do with the enjoyment of food.  The science, at least on the surface, appears sound.

My sister is trying it as well.  I guess we will be a good mini-pool of testers.  No, I’m not getting this product for a review.  I’m just trying to lose weight, and this seemed worth a try.  Plus, having read blogs by several others that found it helpful, I figured it can’t hurt.

What I like about it is that it’s not messing with your body chemistry.  I know that the HCG diet works for most who can stick to the 500 calories a day, but I just don’t like the idea of taking hormones for weight loss.  More power to those that it works for, though!
I’ll keep you posted on how it’s working.  In addition to using Sensa, I’m eating healthy.  I’d really slipped into an all junk, most of the time scenario, so weight loss will also be attributable to a lower calorie/lower fat diet plus all of our TKD.  But, if it helps curb the hunger while I’m cutting back, then it’s a winning combination.

One note – several sites noted that if you buy Sense from the advertisement where you get the first month free, it can be hard to get them to stop charging you when you decide to cancel.  I’ve never liked those options where they automatically bill you.  So, my sister and I both went through Costco.  They have a good deal, and you buy as you go.
Anyone else trying Sensa?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Diet Again ! ? ! What REALLY Works?

I'm taking another diet plunge - nothing really hard core, but I have put on a few pounds that aren’t making me happy.  What works?

I hear about the HCG diet – eat 500 calories a day and take pregnancy hormones.  Hmmm…
Or the Slow Carb Diet – no carbs six days a week with one all you can eat free day.  I like the free day!  :-)

Or the low fat/low cal count everything diet - works, but ugh!
Or Sensa – anyone tried this?  It seems to be all the rage lately, but I don't know anyone really using it to know if it's worth the investment.

I just don’t know what works.  Frankly, I won’t stick to it, but if I can get my weight manageable and reduce hunger, then maybe I can keep a few of these pounds off.
What works for you?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Taekwondo, Life, and "Unschool" Opportunities

We are getting ready to spend much of today and all of tomorrow on Taekwondo.  We have a tournament this weekend and are helping to setup.  Should be interesting.

Personally, I think it’s wonderful that Master Singh gives the kids so much responsibility.  The teens and adults know they will be called upon to help.  I know some people don’t like this, but, for me, it feels like we’re all in it together instead of just going to a business to learn TKD.
The tournament is exciting for my middle son.  He’s looking forward to the competition.  I’m competeing just this once for the experience – I’ll just be glad when it’s over.  I love the demonstration team, but individual competition is not my forte. 

We’re having a raffle to raise money for the demonstration team.  My son has gotten to see the process of putting together a fundraiser and will spend much of tomorrow helping to try and make it a success.  Nothing like a little business knowledge mixed in with your martial arts.
Learning is truly an on-going, happening-around-you-all-of-the-time process.  He’s learning a work ethic, honor in competition, a martial art, business and money management all in one package.

While we aren’t unschoolers, it’s easy to see how life provides so many opportunities to learn and grow.
Wishing everyone a wonderful weekend!  Will post pics next week!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Review and Giveaway - The Woodcarver (Releases Today!)

The Woodcarver
Christian Cinema

My father-in-law is a carpenter.  He makes amazing pieces of furniture.  When I was offered the opportunity to review the new movie, The Woodcarver from Christian Cinema – I immediately thought of him.
The other thing that drew my attention to this movie was the featured actor – John Ratzenberger.  I grew up with him as a funny character on Cheers.  He has a warm place in my heart.

The Woodcarver is an endearing movie about fifteen-year-old Matthew who vandalizes a church after losing faith when his parents decide to divorce.  He’s angry at the situation and mad at God because he prayed they would stay together.

Ratzenberger’s character, Ernest, was the original carver of the wood that was destroyed during Matthew’s vandalizing.  Additionally, Ernest has been asked to carve similar pieces to go on the new Sunday school building being built.  He is reluctant because he is still mourning the loss of his wife, but does eventually decide to complete the job.

Ernest and Matthew strike up a friendship.  Their characters play well off each other.  The young man playing Matthew does an excellent job transforming from a punk kid into a conscientious apprentice to Ernest.  Ernest helps Matthew shed some of his anger, focus on school (even getting him back into high school after a suspension), and encourages Matthew to always ask himself WWJD – What Would Jesus Do? 

This is a good movie for families with older kids.  The younger children might be upset by the violent attack in the beginning and the theme of divorce that is a focal point of the movie.  Additional themes such as loss, following Jesus, marriage building and honesty are also addressed. 

Interested in seeing this movie?  I have a copy to give away to one lucky reader.  If you would like to win, simply enter the giveaway below.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Review - Progeny Press Lit Guide - The Screwtape Letters

Progeny Press - The Screwtape Letters

Web Site:
Age:  High School (they have guides for the lower grades as well)
Cost:  Booklet $21.99, CD/Email Attachment $18.99, Booklet and CD $27.99

We’ve been struggling to effective incorporate literature into my son’s first year of high school.  There are several programs out there, and, believe me, I feel like we’ve tried most of them.  Some are too slow, some don’t provide enough guidance, and some are overwhelming.  We've ended up changing direction a couple of times this year, which I prefer not to do.
Right now, however, he is using the study guide from Progeny Press for C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, and I’m excited at how things are progressing.
The Screwtape Letters, if you’ve ever read them, are a somewhat humorous look at ‘the other side’.  Screwtape and Wormwood are demons bent on keeping souls from God.  Here’s how the website describes the book:
What if hell were organized as a fiendish bureaucracy with managers and field agents? Meet Screwtape, upper management and uncle to Wormwood. Hell shares no love, but it is full of advice on the weaknesses of humanity, and it is extremely practical. Screwtape, an undersecretary in the Lowerarchy of Hell, has undertaken the guidance and tutelage of his nephew Wormwood, who has been assigned a human patient to secure for eternity. In a series of letters, he guides the young demon through the finer points of temptation, the weaknesses and foibles of human beings, and the disaster of Wormwood's patient becoming a Christian. Though this may certainly complicate things, the two infernal beings won't let it stop them.
I knew the book would catch his attention; it's one that I really enjoyed a few years back.  I wasn’t sure about how a study guide would work for him, though.  As noted above, we’ve tried several.

Well…  The first thing we both loved was the format.  The file we received is an editable PDF file allowing him to type in his answers as he goes along.  No printing, no handwriting – all digital.  What a great benefit!  He emails me the file each day with his completed portion for me to check. 

The guide is broken down into chapter-based sections.  There are eight sections each covering about four chapters.  Each section is broken down as follows:

The vocabulary is challenging.  The guide uses different formats to enhance definition learning – multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, synonym/antonym, word search, etc.

Questions are a basic review of the content of the chapters read.  They ask the student questions to help them reflect back on the plot or theme of the story.

Analysis asks the students to really analyze how literary devices such as parody, allusion, metaphor, etc. are used.  I really like this application as it ensures the student not only understand what is being written, but why the author used the approach he did in writing it. 

Dig Deeper
For The Screwtape Letters, this section asks the student to open up his Bible and compare what he is reading with what the Bible tells him.  This is an especially effective device for this book as it is focused on Christianity. 

My son complains some about having to look up so much scripture; however, his answers reflect insight into his own faith that I find invaluable.
Optional Activities

These activities include opportunities for group discussion, creative representation of what is being read through art, research and essay, as well as many other suggestions.  I think it’s important to have the student really manipulating learning in several different formats and appreciate these activities.  While we may not do one each section (we’re about half way through right now), we have used essay as a way to help strengthen his writing during this process.
To see a sample from the first chapter of the guide - click here.
The end of the guide offers a Final Essays section.  Suggestions are given for writing essays of lengths varying from 2-4 pages to 8-10 pages.  Essay writing is a very important skill for college.  We jump at the chance to write essay whenever we can.  The ability to synthesize information and articulate it well in written form will go a long way to helping with college success!

I do wish there was a test at the end.  While I’m not big on testing, having to retain the information throughout the process in preparation for the final exam would be beneficial.

According to the web site, if you are using these guides for high school, each guide counts as 1/4 of a credit.  So, four guides would make a credit.  I plan to let my son pick one more after we are finished with The Screwtape Letters to finish out his year.
If you are looking for an effective, literature-based approach to early high school English, then I do recommend these guides.  One additional recommendation I have, incorporate a grammar text with the guides as well.

To see what other members of the TOS Crew thought of the guides they received – click here.

*** I received this guide free of charge as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Art of Argument - Review

The Art of Argument
An Introduction to the Informal Fallacies

Web Site 
Age: Middle School
Cost:  $88.95 - Basic Bundle

My family loves to argue.  No, not in the derogatory way (most of the time), but we love to debate and make our points.  Argument is something that allows us to not only express our opinions but also to work our logic skills.

My youngest has been told several times that he should be a lawyer when he grows up.  He is quickly becoming quite skilled at the art of negotiation and the ability to make his point through logical argument. 

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to review The Art of Argument  from Classical Academic Press because I thought it would be right up his alley.  I have to say – it has not disappointed.  I love this curriculum! 

The Art of Argument is setup in a way that middle school or even high school students can learn the different types of logical fallacies and recognize them in the media around them. 

I received the student text, teacher’s text and a DVD with lessons for all six chapters.

Student Text

The student’s text is excellent – especially for a creatively minded child like mine.  Twenty-eight fallacies are introduced textually, but then supplemented using a discussion format between Socrates and various students.  This approach is very engaging as the student can follow along with the dialogue and put him/herself into the shoes of the student talking with Socrates.  The tone is often quite humorous.

Throughout the student text, advertisements are used to demonstrate the various types of fallacies.  Fake political arguments, for example, demonstrate the ad hominem or personal attack type fallacy.  Or fake medication advertisements demonstrate how we are often subjected to Illegitimate Authority ploys.  This visual approach helps the student realize that daily the media uses fallacies to sell consumers products or influence public opinion.  We have a good time identifying the different fallacies we see on billboards, in magazines, and in this political climate, on TV.  This is very appealing because it demonstrates the real-world, lifelong application for learning logic.

Finally, each chapter includes vocabulary and worksheets that ask the student to take what he/she has learned and apply it to scenarios or to demonstrate their understanding.  Wonderful!  To view sample pages - click here.

Teacher’s Edition

One thing I really like about the teacher’s edition is that it includes the entire student text.  You can follow along with your student and guide them as they learn about the Art of Argument.  Included in the teacher’s edition are the answers to all of the worksheet and review questions along with tests and answer keys for each chapter and unit.  There is a lot of information to take in learning twenty-eight fallacies.  Having quizzes each chapter (or on occasion two per chapter) helps the parent evaluate the student’s understanding.  You can re-cover any information that has not been fully understood.

To view sample pages from the Teacher's Edition - click here.

DVD Lessons

Adding lessons to help explain to the student what the content of each chapter is teaching is a great idea.  However, my son didn’t find the videos to be very engaging.  The format is essentially a small group discussing each argument.  It does have a classroom feel.   For parents with auditory learners, this approach might prove strong.  Here is an example video from the DVD.

I could see this DVD being very helpful in a co-op setting where the video could be paused and the students in the class engaged in the discussion as well.
As stated, I am thrilled with this product.  Having taught Ancient Rhetoric at the college level, I know that logic is not something that should be overlooked in middle and high school.  The fallacies taught not only help the student recognize the fallacies they are bombarded with daily in the media, but they help him/her discern when he is using fallacies in his own writing.

To see what other TOS Homeschool Crew members thought of this product, click here.

*** I received this curriculum free of charge as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - Crazy Hat Day?

My kids love hats - especially trying on the funny ones.  These pics make me smile!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Blog Cruise: Standardized Testing in the Homeschool

This week's cruise asks - Do you administer standardized testing in your homeschool?  Why or why not?

I ordered our standardized tests for the year in January.  It’s bitter-sweet.  I’m glad to be in compliance and will happily meet the requirements that give me the freedom to homeschool, but, personally, I’m against standardized testing.

First, as a homeschooling parent, my children will come away with a broad knowledge base that will meet and exceed the requirements of the state.  However, we may not do it in the same order as say Iowa where the test is made.  There are many options for tests, but Iowa works best for us.
Second, standardized testing is a farce.  A onetime test is hardly a reflection of knowledge.  My kids always score well, that’s not the issue.  In fact, the state doesn’t care how they score, just that they take the test.  My issue is that a number is assigned to a child that says this is how competent he/she is based on one test.  What if a child has test anxiety, what if he/she is sick, what if there are things going on in the family at that time – all these factors are ignored as a test labels that child.  It’s one of my biggest complaints about No Child Left Behind!  A one-time test determines if a child is being left behind – I think not.  Teaching to the test instead of for knowledge is one of the reasons I pulled my children from the public system.

Finally, standardized testing takes days out of our school schedule that we could really be learning something.  These are long, brutal tests that either have to be done in a mind-numbing marathon sitting, or spread out taking valuable learning time away from me and the kids.  Not to mention the $40+ dollars per test. 
Alas, there is a bright side.  As homeschoolers, colleges will evaluate my children based primarily on their SAT or ACT scores.  My kids have got to be able to sit down and go through the process of dealing with these types of tests.  I get to see their strengths and their weaknesses when it comes to test taking and work on those skills so that the colleges get an accurate picture of their abilities as reflected by a test. 

So, tests ordered.  We’ll take them in May when our co-op time is done.  Then that monkey will be off our back for another year.  Like I said, the freedom to homeschool is worth a little testing aggravation – I’ll just be glad when it’s done for this year.
Does your state require standardized testing?   If so, what test do you use?

Take a look and see how other members of the TOS Homeschool Crew handle standardized testing.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Posthumous Baptism? Right or Wrong?

We had a very interesting lesson in Sunday school today.  It was about Baptism.  We attend a Presbyterian church – they believe in baptism.  Not the dunking kind – not that they are against it, but a sprinkle will do ya.

That, however, wasn’t the issue.  It was about baptizing posthumously.  It just so happens I've encountered this concept recently.  I’ve had a visit by three very nice Mormon young men, and we’ve been discussing the tenets of their faith.  One of these is the idea that a person can be baptized after death if someone is willing to stand in for them and go through the baptism.  I realize I’m watering down the concept, but that’s the gist of things.
Anyhow, it came up because one of the young men mentioned his grandfather had been baptized that way, since he died a non-believer.  It occurred to me that I had recently read that one of my favorite authors, Eli Wiesel, was taking issue with the LDS (Latter Day Saints / Mormon) church for just this practice.  Apparently, some of the LDS churches have been baptizing holocaust victims posthumously.

I see his point – a Jewish person does not want to be baptized Christian or Mormon without consent.  It does seem to fly in the face of all they went through.  I also had to chuckle a bit since he found out because he was being posthumously baptized.  Um – folks, he’s not dead yet!  At least Google the guy first. 
I, initially, was also appalled.  However, it made me think.  If I believed that the only way to save souls was through posthumous baptism – would I be wrong for doing it?  What do other faiths do to ensure the salvation of those they see as “unsaved”?  What do Christians do?

I’m on a faith journey.  Right now, through self-study, I’m hoping to better understand what others believe and why.  In fact, it’s leading to hard questions about my own belief.

What do you think?  Posthumous baptism?  Would you be upset if you were baptized without consent? 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Court, Consequences and Disciplining Young Adults

As you know by my earlier post, we went to court on Monday with a teen that is close to my heart.  We were waiting to hear what his consequence would be.  If he completes it – then his case will be dismissed.

8 hours of community service.  Apparently, that is the going punishment for shoplifting a beer.  Good to know, I guess.

My first reaction was – that’s not enough!  My second was relief that the teen getting the sentence received something manageable.  Will 8 hours have enough impact to prevent future incidents?  I don’t know.  Judging from the 210 people in court on Monday, it'll be about conscience not consequence that prevents future events.
I find disciplining young adults to be the hardest obstacle I’ve encountered as a parent.  They hit 18 and decide you have no authority – even if they still need to depend on your pocketbook.  You can’t ground them, you can’t sit them in a corner, there’s not much you can take away.  Do you just stop helping them financially alltogether? 

How does a parent guide young adults when the only consequence you can offer it to take away your support?