O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles. Psalms 43:3

And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith. D&C 88:118

The kids

The kids

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Arrow of Light

The highest rank in Cub Scouting is Arrow of Light. It is awarded to a Webelos who has earned certain activity pins and has completed a myriad other requirements. It is the only rank from Cub Scouts that transitions with the scout to Boy Scouts and then on to adult leader uniforms. Some call it the Eagle of Cub Scouts.

I have been a Webelos leader for 2 years now and with the exception of one boy who just didn’t care at all about scouts and didn’t have parental support, all of the boys that have passed through my den have achieved their Arrow of Light. Most of them have earned it within a month or two of graduating out. One was 3 months from graduating.

A couple of weeks ago, Tiger earned his Arrow of Light. He will still be a Webelos until the end of February. He didn’t earn his arrow faster because he was my son. He earned it because he wanted to earn it as soon as he could. He is now on to earning the last 4 or 5 possible activity pins because he really wants to earn that Super Achiever patch for all 20 activity pins.

I am really proud of his efforts. Even as his leader, there is only so much I can do for him. I treated him just as I treated the rest of my boys. He had to work and he had to put in the effort to achieve his goals. He earned his Arrow of Light award with another boy in our den. The other boy was the first boy in about 3 or 4 years to earn the super achiever. I look forward to watching them both fly on in scouts.

Oct 2012 274 Oct 2012 275

The button blanket and mask were both made by a gentleman we go to church with. They are typical of the native attire for the area we live in.

Oct 2012 278 Oct 2012 281

Oct 2012 285

Oct 2012 286

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Teaching Kids to Sing- Schoolhouse Review

The Vocal Coach is a company created by Chris and Carole Beatty. PhotobucketThey have  been teaching people, young and old to sing for over 40 years.  Teaching Kids to Sing is just one of their many products designed to teach good singing mechanics.

PhotobucketTeaching Kids to Sing is a Christian program designed for children ages 5-13. It is a 2DVD/1CD set and costs $44.99. The first DVD covers foundational singing skills like breathing, posture, and tone. The second DVD builds on the first and includes topics like rhythm, diction, vocal health, and dynamics. Each video features children as well as Chris and Carole Beatty. The CD includes demonstration and accompaniment only tracks to the various songs presented throughout the videos as well as  warm up drills.

The method that Chris and Carole Beatty uses to present the information to children is geared to children. They use examples and hands on explanations to help children understand what is being taught. For example, when speaking of singing as something that requires certain techniques and practice, the children in the videos brought in many sports equipment items. They compared singing to soccer, dancing, tennis, etc. By doing this, my children were able to understand why such things as posture and breathing might be important.

My children love to sing. They often sing in the car and all around the house. Since I used to sing in choirs, I know about the foundations but was struggling to teach them to my children. I was excited to receive this set to review in order to share with them something I love- singing.

This was a very thorough overview of proper singing techniques. It contained a lot of scientific explanations which were easily understood by all of my children. I didn’t learn most of the information presented until I was in high school! Technical doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun though. We had fun with this program and I think all of my children learned from it. Like many children, mine have learned to breath incorrectly and are still struggling to learn how to breath correctly. That will come in time, but for now, by reminding them about their posture, tone, breathing, etc. the sound quality has greatly improved and they can recognize it.

The one negative I found was that my children did not like the songs. They were written to help spur a remembrance of a technique or skill but usually backfired on my kids.  They didn’t appreciate the lyrics and  spent more time creating spoofs on the songs than practicing them. For example one is about being an “Upright Child of a King” to help remember posture. Instead of standing tall, my children changed the lyrics and slouched. :( While some families want a strong Christian reminder in all subjects, we didn’t feel this was entirely necessary as it didn’t really add to the product.

Be sure to check out what other crew members thought about this product. The Crew also reviewed Vocal Coach Singer.



Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

IEW PAL Reading and PAL Writing

 The Institute for Excellence in Writing or IEW for short has long been known for its excellent writing curriculum.  They now have a curriculum called Primary Arts and Language or PAL. PAL is broken up into two parts: Reading and Writing. Both parts are designed to be used concurrently but also can be used alone. It is designed for use with children in K-2 or at about that reading and writing level.


The PAL Reading complete package includes a teacher’s manual with easy to follow steps for implementation; DVD-ROM with audio files, tutorials, and the student manual in PDF; Phonetic Games book with file folder games to make; and the Phonetic Farm folder with stickers. The Phonetic Farm is a tri-fold folder with a farm scene. As the student learns the phonograms, he adds stickers representing those phonograms. If purchased separately, this would cost $98. As a complete package, it costs $69. The entire package can be used for multiple children except for the Phonetic Farm. Subsequent children will want their own farm to build. An extra Phonetic Farm costs $19.


PAL Writing complete package includes a teacher’s manual, DVD-ROM with audio files, tutorials, and the student manual, the All About Spelling Basic Interactive Kit and All About Spelling Level 1 (Teacher’s manual and one student material packet). The cost for this set if purchased separately is $113 but bundled together it costs $89. While this curriculum seems costly, I believe it is worth every penny.

In order to avoid writing a thesis on this product, I highly recommend watching the webinar on the IEW site here.  It may be long, but it is worth it to truly understand this program. The webinar will show you inside many pieces of the program, tips for use, how and why it it was developed and what is included. When I first looked at the website I wasn’t sure that this program would be a good fit for our family. When I watched the video I realized  it would benefit Pumpkin Pie and I was very hopeful that I would be able to review this product. 

 Oct 2012 001    Opening the package can be intimidating because there are many pieces to each piece of the program. I was very grateful for the DVD-ROM to watch for both the PAL Reading as well as the PAL Writing. I suggest watching the videos before even trying to read the manual.  The PAL Reading package also comes with a little Welcome to PAL card Oct 2012 002that has the 4 steps to get started and an email address for extra questions. I especially love the small hint at the bottom of the card that says, “You may want to hide the Phonetic Farm stickers until you are ready to use them!” This is very good advice that I highly recommend. Upon opening the box Pumpkin Pie was itching to dive in and start using the materials. Those stickers would have been long gone if I hadn’t been holding the box! As it was, Strawberry later found the stickers and began sticking them :( Make sure you put them way up high!

Both the DVD from the Reading and the Writing portions contain bonus mp3 lectures. There are 9 total as one is on both discs. The lectures on the Reading disc are:

  • Nurturing Competent Communicators MP3 Audio by Andrew Pudewa
  • The Four Language Arts MP3 Audio by Andrew Pudewa
  • Poetry as an Integrator MP3 Audio by Anna Ingham
  • Intro to the Blended Sound Sight Program MP3 Audio by Anna Ingham

The lectures on the Writing disc are lectures from past Writing Teacher’s Symposiums and include:

  • The Four Language Arts MP3 Audio by Andrew Pudewa
  • Reading Comprehension MP3 Audio by Adam Andrews
  • Dictation, Narration, and Public Speaking MP3 Audio by Andrew Pudewa
  • Units 1 and 2 in the Primary Classroom by Shirley George
  • Unit 3 in the Primary Classroom by Shirley George

Oct 2012 018Setup for PAL Reading can be done lesson by lesson or all at once. I found it easier to set up as many games as possible in one sitting instead of setting up each game as the lesson dictated. Above is a picture of my work area setting up the games. I placed them all in a file box with the manuals. I also glued the CD sleeves into the backs of both the Reading and Writing manuals so I wouldn’t lose them. Another thing I did to prepare for teaching Pumpkin Pie was to print out the reading worksheets and letter writing sheets and then bind them into a notebook for her. She loves having her notebook to work through even though she hasn’t been a big workbook fan.

I am a tinkerer. I always mess with curriculum and never use it as spelled out. For the most part PAL has been an exception to that rule. I find that the flow is so smooth and logical, and the lesson manual is so clear that I don’t need to modify things much. My modifications include doing the journal during devotional with all children rather than during Pumpkin Pie’s reading time and not posting every poem or chart on my walls as well as a style of writing change.

Before I share our opinions, I thought it best to give an idea of how the pieces fit together. The best way for me to do this is to share our typical routine- which generally follows the outlined structure in the manuals. Reading time using the PAL system starts with me reading a short story and discussing the story sequence with Pumpkin Pie by asking her the typical who, what, where, why questions. We then will practice her handwriting. PAL does recommend teaching printing but it can be modified to use cursive. I personally believe in teaching cursive first, so I have modified all the letter worksheets to cursive and teach the cursive writing letters. Both the story sequencing and the handwriting practice come from the writing manual. I then get out the reading manual and we move on to reading and talking about a poem. The poem is used in the lesson to teach new phonograms, and review older phonograms. After the poem, we play some file folder games and continue talking about phonogram sounds. These games both introduce new material as well as review old material. The manual gives teaching tips and instructions rather than a script. As Pumpkin Pie plays a game, I can quickly scan over the next small section of information and know what to include in our discussion. Following the games we practice some reading sentences and phonograms and I explain the workbook pages she will do during her own time. Typically it is 1-2 short activities that includes a bit of thinking about letter sounds, helpers, and reading a couple words, coloring, cutting, and pasting. We then do Pumpkin Pie’s FAVORITE part of the whole lesson- the Phonetic Farm. After we review the Phonetic Farm, Pumpkin Pie works on her assignments for the lesson.

Oct 2012 020

At first I was a little worried about the sight component of PAL. I am a huge proponent of phonics learning. That said, while PAL does introduce some words by sight, it does not do it in a vacuum. Rather than telling the student, “This is green,” and making him memorize “green” the teacher does point out phonetic “helpers” and even underlines them or marks them according to the directions in the manual. As a result, the student might be building a sight word repertoire, but it includes understanding the phonetic clues and being able to apply those clues later. After introducing the word “green” with the card game (flash cards), we discussed the /ee/ phonogram and then added it to the phonetic farm. On the phonetic farm stickers, there are words that use the specific phonogram. One way to handle this is to have the teacher read the words and discuss them. Because Pumpkin Pie went into PAL Reading with knowledge of the primary sounds of each letter, when possible, I have asked her to decode the words on the stickers. She loves it and loves seeing that she is succeeding.

PAL has quickly and efficiently been building Pumpkin Pie’s confidence. She didn’t think she knew all the primary sounds that each individual letter makes. After she saw MUGS the dog game, she wanted to try all the letters so she could feed more bones through his mouth. She discovered she did know the letter sounds! Multi-letter phonograms have been a real problem for her though. The combination of the Phonetic Farm and the games has also been slowly building her confidence. At scripture reading, after she had completed three lessons, she was more excited to read and even attempted more words than she usually would have because they were longer or had a couple of multi-letter phonograms. Yeah! A huge step forward! She also recognized “helpers” in some of the words she was reading.

 Oct 2012 023

One of the PAL Writing components is time for a Class Journal. I love the idea of having a family group “class” journal. On the video for PAL Reading, it mentioned recording things like if someone lost a tooth or what you are studying. Butterfly and Tiger have their own journals but I had never thought about starting a school year journal for the family! When I presented the idea to the children, they loved it. I included all of them in our efforts. They like to add tidbits about their educational plans, the weather, what they see outside, and sometimes just descriptions. It is really a wonderful part of the program that I would never have thought of on my own. While I write for the family, I point out various structure mechanisms I am using to help Pumpkin Pie understand such things as capitals, lowercase, proper nouns, etc. It is good review for my older children as well.

As mentioned before, PAL Writing also comes with All About Spelling Level 1. Pumpkin Pie still has about 15 lessons before she begins All About Spelling, so I cannot comment on its use. Some of my crew mates did get to All About Spelling though, so be sure to read their reviews by clicking the banner below. Prior to receiving PAL, I had considered All About Spelling. It is based on the Orton-Gillingham methods of teaching spelling and is rooted in the phonograms and rules that really do apply to English. I have, in the past, used a similar program with great success. All About Spelling is multisensory and the manual is designed to be open and go. I look forward to Pumpkin Pie getting to the Spelling portion. I know that understanding the spelling rules will really help her to understand reading as well.

I truly can not say enough good things about the PAL curriculum. I have never used a reading curriculum in the past but with Pumpkin Pie, she really needed something to help her grasp the connection between phonograms, sound, and words. This curriculum has been such a blessing to my family and I am so grateful that we were able to review it.

As I finished up this review, I asked BC to read it for me. I really wanted to make sure I did this fantastic curriculum justice. He wanted to add his two cents too. One day was especially busy and I didn’t get Pumpkin Pie’s reading lessons in. She wanted to continue so badly. I really needed to make dinner so I handed BC the teachers manual, showed him our materials and told him to have fun. He was pleased to see that even though he has not been using it from the beginning, it was easy for him to jump in and go. The manual was easy to follow and he really enjoyed giving Pumpkin Pie her reading lesson that day.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.


Friday, November 9, 2012

You Won’t See THAT on the Playground in a School- Episode 2

Today after co-op we were blessed with a gorgeous day. Granted it was a little cold- 47 when we finally left at 3pm, but we had warm jackets and lots of energy to keep us happy.

Nov 2012 064

As the children were playing and building forts with the driftwood and seaweed, one of the parents was down near the water and spotted a jellyfish washing up on shore. The purplish blob in this picture is the jellyfish. 

Nov 2012 044

As a good homeschooling mom does, she called out to the rest of us and we called all the children from the playground to come see.

Nov 2012 043 Nov 2012 055

Nov 2012 050

Homeschooling Through the Holidays

In past years I have always continued to plug along with whatever curriculum we were using prior to the holidays. Generally our outside classes dwindle about two weeks before Christmas and that leaves us with some more time for crafting, playing, and getting ready for the holiday.

This year I think I will do things a bit differently. We are finishing up Day Spring Pilgrim Story and will hopefully finish it by about Thanksgiving. We plan to take Thursday and Friday off from our regular school activities because we have traditions to carry on. Then I want to use Homeschool Legacy’s Christmas unit. The Early Settlers one I reviewed was so well done I think that the Christmas one will be very nice. I also plan to do some Christmas around the world during our family learning time. I anticipate that we will take the last two weeks of December off of our regular schedule and then return the first week of January to our regularly scheduled programming… The real question then becomes what will I do in January when Day Spring is done? Probably This Week in History.

What are your plans?


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Grace and Truth Books- Schoolhouse Review


Grace and Truth Books is a small family-run online Christian bookstore. They started their business distributing the Christian Character building books from the 1800’s which were owned by Triangle Press and eventually bought the company and rights to distribute these books. Eventually they also got into the business of publishing books including children’s character building books.

PhotobucketCollector's Edition: Seven Favorite 19th-Century Children's Stories is a collection of stories which was originally published by the American Tract Society of New York in the 1800’s and is currently published by Grace and Truth Books. This book contains seven stories including:

Farmer Goodwin's Rule: "Never do anything in the day which it will grieve you to think of at night."
Ruth's Reward
Little Bill at the Pump
Who is a Coward?
The Lost Lamb
The Good Shepherd
The Death of Emily

Each story depicts Christian character and commentates on how a good Christian should behave. They are written to the child.

These stories were cute stories with good morals. I was happy to see that Grace and Truth Books has maintained the integrity of the 19th century language and writing. This is great for preparing my children to read more of the classics as they get older.

While my children enjoyed me reading them aloud, at times I found the character explanations to be a bit extensive and preachy. Occasionally I would skip over the paragraph or page of preaching before continuing the story because I would notice my children getting a little restless. Don’t get me wrong, I think some of the explanations on character were good, they were just a little long winded for my taste. This one slight negative is not a negative on the book though. I loved the stories and find them to be a refreshing alternative to the current sappy trite character building books available today.

A paperback copy of Collector's Edition: Seven Favorite 19th-Century Children's Stories sells for $7.50 and is, at the time of this review, currently selling for $6.50.

Be sure to see what other crew members reviewed. the Review Crew reviewed a total of 13 different books ranging from fiction to non-fiction and spanning many ages.


Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Arts and Crafts- Tis the Season for Arts and Crafts

I am not one for cutesy crafts that sit and take up space. I prefer to craft useful things.

In our family, we try to get around to making Salt Dough each year. It is fun to make ornaments out of semi-stable “play dough.” I use a recipe of 2 cups all purpose flour, 1 cup table salt (the cheapest I can find), and 1 cup water. Knead together and you have salt dough. You can add oil or glycerine for other effects but I never do. Here is a good instruction page on how to make and bake salt dough. Here is another good one with great pictures. These salt dough ornaments are great gift tags.

Most of our arts and crafts focus on making presents though. Last year we made mini-toolboxes from Altoid tins. We have made Christmas ornaments and jewelry. We have also made sugar scrubs and other gifts. The possibilities are endless. The main thing is to have fun and do the projects together.

What are you going to be crafting?


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Gift Giving or Merging Traditions or Taming the Chaos

Some people hate the holidays because of the gift receiving and the materialism of the season. Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. What is a birthday without some presents though!? We celebrate Jesus Christ all month long from the nativities we display to the hymns we sing to the stories and scriptures we read and the nativity play we do each Christmas Eve. We talk of the symbols  of Christmas. For example, Santa is a symbol of charity and selfless giving, gifts given are a symbol of the ultimate gift which Christ gave us. Even though we focus on the Savior the whole season, we realized early in Tiger’s life we needed to have a plan for how many and what kinds of presents to give so as to maintain the spirit we wanted in our home.

When I was growing up, we did not attend church and the Jesus aspect of Christmas was not really part of our celebration.  Even so, Christmas morning was always a magical morning. Presents were rarely placed under the tree before Christmas. My sister and I would come out Christmas morning and the tree would be full of presents from our grandma, Santa, and my parents. Not only that, but there was always some wrapping paper that we never saw before or after Christmas morning that was only for Santa. Since my birthday is in December, I usually spent some of my birthday money to buy my sister a present, but I don’t remember her leaving something under the tree for me. It didn’t matter though because there was always an abundance of toys and clothes from my parents. While we were not wealthy, and often my parents struggled with money, my mom planned for gifts all year. She would find things and tuck them away to give to us later so she was able to afford to give us a rather large Christmas without debt.

In BC’s family, they were religious and gifts were not as many or as big as what I grew up with. There was a present from Santa, one or two from the parents and then each of the 5 boys would give a present to his brothers. There was also a box from an aunt or uncle for the family.

As BC and I have had our children, we had to merge our roots. I wanted the magic of Christmas that I remembered  but we also didn’t to overshadow the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ with too many presents. Furthermore, the more children we have had, the more chaotic it would be to have a ton for each child. We don’t like accumulating a ton of toys for the sake of toys (which is NOT what my family did) but it seems with more kids it would be easy to just accumulate junk for the sake of accumulating. As we worked to figure out how to merge our backgrounds and create our own traditions, I stumbled upon someone who had the idea of 3 gifts for each person to represent the gifts given to the Savior. Something “gold” or the big present that is the dream and hope of the child, something “myrrh” or something for the body like clothing, and something “frankincense” or something for spiritual or educational growth. This helped me get a vision for what we would do.

While we don’t necessarily follow the 3  gifts of the wise men to a T, I do keep it in mind while I select gifts for them. Our children will get one thing from Santa- usually something they really want unless what they really want requires batteries to make obnoxious noises and play for them or the item requires no imagination. As our kids get older sometimes it is out of our budget or conflicts with our family culture so we don’t get that either. They also receive a gift from the parents, some article of clothing, and a family gift of a game. Sometimes BC or I will also make a special gift like doll clothes or a treasure box. These homemade gifts are often made in conjunction with one or more children for a gift for their sibling. During the time before the holidays we talk to the children about what they want to give others rather than asking them what they want. BC always takes the kids shopping or into the garage to make something for me. He also likes to give them each $5 to spend on the other siblings unless they have chosen to make something. This year I have already been approached by one child with her desire to make an article of clothing for her brother.

These are some presents we made a couple of years ago- a cradle from  BC for Butterfly (a doll swing followed the following year with Tiger’s help), pajamas, doll cloths, and a treasure box.DSC05783 DSC05704  DSC05778 DSC05777 DSC05673DSC05675Last year I made some doll clothes for the girls and Pumpkin Pie wanted to make an apron and matching doll apron for Butterfly and her Felicity doll. December 2011 227

In addition  to the gifts for our immediate family, I usually make homemade gifts for extended family members. I have done things like fleece throws and car garbage bag holders. One year all the men received pajama pants I made.

In order to bring in some of the magic I remember growing up, we don’t place the presents from parents or Santa until the children are in bed on Christmas Eve. They usually put their own presents out before they go to bed. While we have continued to have Santa in our home for the season, we don’t make a big deal and our children know that Santa is a game we like to play for fun. They know the true origin of Santa and why we like to play Santa. Also, just as when I was growing up, Santa has his special paper to wrap everything with. That paper does not reappear after Christmas elsewhere. The rest of the presents are wrapped in homemade gift bags or recycled gift boxes. A tutorial for gift bags can be found here.

Even beyond the gifts received though, we really want the children to appreciate giving. When it is time to pass our presents, we have someone choose a present from under the tree to give to another. All four of our children can’t wait to have their turn to give. We then all watch the opening and exclaim over it. Sometimes we take a few moments to play with the toy, try on clothes, or play the game before moving on. We don’t worry about the time because each gift is special.

What giving traditions do you have in your home? How do you keep Christ the center instead of presents?


Monday, November 5, 2012

Holiday Cooking

November 2010 013What is a holiday without special holiday cooking? When we moved far away from family and it was just me, BC (my husband) and 2 kids, I didn’t want to cook a big Thanksgiving dinner. What was the point? It was just for us! They all protested and I got roped into hours in the kitchen.

So, what was the point? The point was that traditions are important. In a lot of ways, we have established new traditions for our Thanksgiving meal, but we have kept a few old favorites from when BC and I were younger. Now, our children are growing up with their own traditions for Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

I became vegetarian/vegan about 8.5 years ago when I realized our daughter was allergic to all animal products other than fish. So, what were we to do without the turkey BC and I grew up with? (BC still is not vegetarian but eats a mostly vegetarian diet). He didn’t care what we did as long as he could have mashed potatoes and gravy and stuffing. All I cared about was the cranberry sauce made from scratch… Thank goodness for the internet. I found recipes for vegan gravy, an incredibly yummy not too sweet yam and apple baked dish so we could have special yams without being overly sweet (I have never liked candied yams), a lentil and grain loaf, stuffing (which I make with sprouted grain bread from scratch) and a vegan pumpkin pie that does NOT have tofu in it. We also add in a salad and are quite happy with our meal. Last year we added a really delicious Brussels sprout recipe as well. We just omit the bacon.

I was going to share some of the other recipes, but I can’t find my cookbook! Oh dear, I better start searching because my family just might mutiny if they don’t have their traditional fare.

I did manage to find the Pumpkin Pie recipe though.

This recipe really should be made the day before so it can set and get firmer but I have succeeded the day of. Also, it is a very flavorful filling. You may wish to reduce the spice- I don’t.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Have ready, one 9" unbaked pastry crust (I make my own with sprouted grain a pinch of sugar, and a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice)

Blend in blender:
2 c. solid-pack canned pumpkin (if you use home-cooked pumpkin, drain it for
several hours hanging in a cloth bag, so it's thick like canned pumpkin)
1 c. non-dairy milk (preferably a rich soymilk) (I make rich almond)
3/4 c. brown sugar or Sucanat
1/4 c. cornstarch
1 T. molasses or blackstrap molasses
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. EACH ground ginger, nutmeg and salt
1/4 tsp. ground allspice or cloves
Pour the filling into the pastry and bake 60 minutes, covering the edges with foil if they begin to brown too quickly. Cool on a rack, then refrigerate overnight before serving.

Recipe by Bryanna Clark Grogan from www.vegsource.com


As for Christmas, we don’t have our menu as set in stone, but we usually have a southwest pea soup made with yams, chili, and lime juice.

So what do you do?


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Decorating for the Holidays

I love the holidays. I don’t do a whole lot of decorating for Thanksgiving, but I do enjoy decorating for Christmas. Our decorating begins the day after Thanksgiving. In our home, the day after Thanksgiving is the day to start our Christmas traditions, even if Thanksgiving falls early in November. The first thing we do is get out our tree and set it up- this takes a few hours as each branch must be shaped and the lights strung.

As I wrote this post, I took a trip down memory lane and found some old pictures of us decorating. These first 3 are from 2009.

 2009Tiger 20092009Butterfly 20092009   Pumpkin Pie 20092007 Pumpkin Pie 2007

There is always someone who gets tangled in lights. 20072007Butterfly & Tiger 2007November 2010 Strawberry 2010November 2010 All the girls 2010

Sometimes someone will climb in one of the boxes that the tree pieces are stored in…Pumpkin Pie 2007Pumpkin Pie 2007!2009Strawberry 2009

Ultimately even the smallest one gets to put something on the tree, even if it is with some help from Daddy…

We also put up our nativity scenes around the house. For some reason I have never taken pictures of that- maybe this year. One goes in on the piano, one goes on the table in the living room, one goes on the napkin hutch in the dining room, and there are a few more small ones scattered throughout. The mantle also gets treated with nativity scenes intermixed with the pine boughs and lights I string there.

What special decorations do you put up for the holidays?


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Travel Activities in a Binder- Schoolhouse Review


Several years ago at a homeschool convention I ran across a product called Preschool Activities in a Bag. The idea was to compile gallon size Ziploc bags with various activities a preschooler could get out, play with, and put back. I thought that was a brilliant idea but since I didn’t have any preschoolers at the time I didn’t pick it up. Until a few weeks ago, I thought that that was the only products Activity Bags made were for preschoolers. I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong. Activity Bags has science, travel, math, and reading activities in addition to two preschool books. Each Activity Bags product can be compiled individually or in a swap. A swap is  coordinated by one person and each participant makes multiple copies of one or more activity. The coordinator redistributes all the activities so each participant gets one of each activity back. A coordinator handbook is available free on the Activity Bags website for those who don’t own the science or preschool books.

Photobucket I was offered a chance to test Travel Activities in a Binder. Travel Activities in a Binder are perfect for long car trips or other trips where elementary age children need to be kept busy. Most of the activities seemed to be geared for grades 2+  although there are a couple that a younger child can do, especially if she or he can read.

Unlike the other Activity Bags products, Travel Activities is compiled into a binder rather than Ziploc bags. Each activity is printed on cardstock and inserted into page protectors. A zippered pouch with dry erase markers and a piece of cloth are also placed in the binder. Thus the entire product is contained in a binder for the car and nothing gets lost. There are many activities some of the types of activities include  tic-tac-toe and some variations, mazes, bingo searches, drawing activities, and hangman.

During the review period, our family drove approximately 1,000 miles round trip over the course of a weekend. Needless to say, there were many hours in the car that needed to be filled. I have always packed a couple of toys/surprises for the kids to look forward to on long trips. This trip was no different except for one thing- I had made the binder! Due to user error on my part, my printer  had some difficulty printing pages on both sides- I should have changed the settings to cardstock. As a result of my struggles, I only printed one binder for the trip. The binder has such a variety of activities that it kept my children happy for many hours. The children would take turns with possession for one player games and then would pass the page inside the page protector back and forth between the middle row and back row of the minivan so they could play together. Having the pages in a 3-ring binder really made the games accessible no matter the seating arrangement of the players.

Travel Activities in a Binder comes as an eBook download and retails for $15.00. Once printed and compiled, it will provide many hours of play and entertainment. I was very glad to have our binder on our trip and will be making another binder.

The other crewmembers reviewed both the Activities in a Binder as well as the other Activities in a Bag products. Be sure to check out their reviews by clicking the banner below.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.