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

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Business Lessons- a Day of Homeschool…

Some days homeschooling somewhat resembles traditional curriculum in that there is a time for some math, a time for some history, a time for some writing, and a time for some science… this is not to say that the delivery of these subjects resembles a classroom though- in my home it probably doesn’t since all my children are in the same room together and they rarely sit at their desk to do worksheets…

So what about the other days? Today was one of them. A bit of literature, math, science, etc was covered, but the bulk of the day was spent learning about life and applying all those things we learn in school to a real life situation.

Tiger decided he was going to start a business. One of the girls at co-op had been selling lunches at lunch time during co-op but lost interest. Since Tiger likes to cook he decided to create his own lunch business. He selected a recipe for a rice and beans dish, made multiple calculations, had many discussions with me about business practices, made a test batch of his recipe for the family, and we took a trip to Business Costco. If you have never been to Business Costco, it is NOT the same as Costco. It has a totally different clientele- many in the restaurant and snacks business… so there are all sorts of pots, pans, serving dishes, etc. Tiger selected what containers, cutlery, etc. he wanted for his business. The whole time calculating cost out loud. I never bothered to show him that Costco actually does many of those calculations right on the price papers. I figured it was good practice for him to do the calculating and even better for his sisters to hear  him calculating. photo

This morning, as Tiger had been discussing and planning his business, Butterfly and Pumpkin Pie decided they too would have their businesses. Butterfly decided her should be a snack business- Snacks and Snips she wants to call it. We talked a little bit and I suggested she do a little market research. She agreed to market research since she has no startup capital and would need a loan… then her eyes got big at Costco. She wanted to buy fruit snacks to sell. Knowing her possible clientele I didn’t think that was such a good idea but I didn’t say anything. I reminded her of her decision to do some research and asked her what each pack of snacks would cost. She quickly realized she needed a few more math skills she didn’t quite have yet. She  wanted me to teach her how to do the calculations right there in the store. Ummm as happy as I was to see her wanting to do some math, I couldn’t teach her that in the store with a 3 yr old trying to climb out of the cart, a lack of adequate paper, and the 6 yr old clamoring to start her own business too…photo

After we got home, Butterfly has decided not to sell fruit snacks- she would have to sell too many to make $1 that it didn’t seem to be worth it to her. But, she did get a chance to see some division in live action… Once she realized her previous idea wasn’t well thought out yet, she tried to just get into her brother’s business without taking on any of his debt… She had to learn that if she wanted the benefit of the profit she had to invest in the risk too.

Pumpkin Pie is still clamoring that she must start her business tomorrow… and the menu?

1. Jus cavrd pretsls (Juice covered Pretzels)

2. Pretzels

3. Juice

4. Juice Covered Pretzels and a juice box

5. Frout salid (Fruit Salad)

Oh, and the Juice covered pretzels sell for $1 for 1 small pretzel. Yup- I have fallen down the rabbit hole of innocence!

Books have been read, studies have been done for the day now (well not everyone’s studies since at the time of this writing Tiger has returned to his other studies), and it is time for dinner and karate.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

New Toy! Meet my new thermal cooker

I am so excited. I just got a Saratoga Jacks thermal cooker… and the other day was going to be busy. I made dinner at 10am… Veggie and bean curry soup and rice. Tiger helped me with a few photos. 

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A thermal cooker is kind of like a crock pot except you bring the food to a boil for a couple minutes and then take the pots off the heat and place them inside an insulated container to allow the latent heat to cook the food slowly over the next several hours. I know it is possible to do stuff like make steamed bread and other dishes but for now I only know how to do soupy things and rice…

First I chopped up some veggies and added the curry powder. I sautéed the veggies right in the pot that would be in the thermal cooker. Plus one for the thermal cooker and minus one for the Crockpot!

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After sautéing the veggies and curry powder, I added water and brought the pot to a boil. Meanwhile I put rice and water into the smaller pot that fits inside the top pot.     Marisa's ipod 519   Marisa's ipod 522

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After boiling 2 minutes (vegetarian dish) then stack the pots, slip them into the thermal insulator, close the lid and dinner is done! Marisa's ipod 527

Dinner turned out fabulous. When we opened the cooker up, I added some lemon juice and coconut milk to the soup. The soup was the perfect eating temperature- hot but not too hot and the rice was done to perfection. I think I might have to make a giant pot of rice to pack into smaller portions it turned out so well!

Tonight’s dinner was in the cooker by 9:30. Lentils and veggies and rice. We will top with salsa and I will make some vegan veggie based cheesy sauce and spinach salad to add to it. Dinner should be on the table half an hour after we get home from church tonight!

Friday, May 17, 2013

At Home With My Family

photo The other day Strawberry was asked if she went to preschool. She responded, “No.” Then she was asked what grade she was in and she responded, “At home with my family!”

Such wise words from such a little one.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Spanish For You Fiestas- Schoolhouse Review

Spanish for You - Fiestas photo spanishforyou-fiestas_zpsa80f3c2a.jpg  Recently I was able to review Spanish for You! Fiestas by Debbie Annett, MSEd. Ms. Annett has experience teaching Spanish to children of all ages. She developed Spanish for You! in response to needs she saw while teaching Spanish to children. A more extensive bio of the author can be found here.

Spanish for You! is a unique approach to teaching Spanish to children. Rather than going through a list of present tense verbs, nouns, and adjectives and teaching each new grammar point out of context, Spanish For You! is a collection of several theme-based units which can be completed in any order. Throughout the theme various grammar points are introduced with relation to the theme. For example, commands were presented in the first lesson. These commands were ones associated with a birthday party like open, eat, and sing. In the same chapter we covered some verb conjugations, also associated with a birthday party, and vocabulary. Currently available are Fiestas and Estaciones (Seasons). This summer Viajes (Trips) will be available as well. Here is a sample of Fiestas.

Included in each themed package are the following:

  • Spanish for you! soft cover book or E-book
  • Audio download of each lesson
  • Audio download of each lesson by a native speaker from Mexico 
  • 24-30 Week PDF Lesson Guides for all grades purchased (3-4, 5-6, and/or 7-8)
  • PDF Worksheets with answer key
  • PDF set of pictures for making flashcards and other activity materials.

With the audio downloads, worksheets with answer keys, and text, Spanish for You! is an entry level Spanish curriculum designed to be used by the parent even if the parent doesn’t speak Spanish. Fiestas only contained 5 chapters, and at first glance I thought it appeared to be very minimal. I was pleasantly surprised how much is covered in the short text. Each chapter is covered over several weeks so the vocabulary and grammar is learned really well by the students. Each theme book is tested for a year with students by the author before being published for sale. Lessons emphasize reading, writing, speaking, and listening to Spanish through various activities and games. The curriculum is also intended to be used over all ages. The book contains a very clear explanation to parents on how to use the curriculum and what steps need to be taken. There are also several pages of games and activities to do with the vocabulary words and flashcards. This is an open and go curriculum for the most part.

In our home we received the full package with all grades included. I used the 3-4 grade worksheets for Butterfly and Pumpkin Pie when she wanted to do a worksheet. I started with the 5-6 grade worksheets for Tiger but he decided he would prefer the 7-8 grade ones as they required a little more effort from him. Each day I would look at all three lesson plans. The author says to just do each lesson plan with each grade but I found that trying to combine several grades with different lesson plans at the same time was a little frustrating because they didn’t always overlap. In the end I found myself selecting one lesson plan and then using the various level worksheets for each level. Other times I would select one level and then add a component from another level. My children enjoyed playing the suggested games and making their flashcards to use in various games. Within a couple of lessons I began to hear my children saying things in Spanish and trying to put together phrases. Spanish for You! got them excited about learning Spanish.

One thing I really like about Spanish for You! is the fact that it is theme-based and commands and present tense conjugations are taught at the same time. I have taken Spanish 1-4 twice and still I am most comfortable with present tense only. Beyond that I struggle with proper conjugations of verbs. By teaching the commands and present tense together I think that will  help and prevent some of the isolated learning that takes place in traditional texts. I also really like that there is an audio of a native speaker. It would be nice if there were native speakers from several different countries, not just Mexico to listen to.  I also really like the author’s blog. Ms. Annett offers helpful information, inspiration, and new ideas of how to get your students using Spanish and practicing in an inviting way.

The only thing I found frustrating with this program was the way the worksheets and audios were organized. Shortly after I received my curriculum package I was notified by the author that she had reorganized the folders and files and hoped they would be more user-friendly. The way she described the reorganization sounded much better than the way they downloaded for me, so I am hopeful for new purchasers the organization will be more helpful.

Spanish for You! Fiestas is available for $64.95 for grades 3-8 or $39.95 for 1 level (grades 3-4, 5-6, or 7-8). Each theme based Spanish unit can be purchased here.


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Sunday, May 12, 2013

Papa’s Pearls- Schoolhouse Review

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Recently I was able to review Papa’s Pearls by Diane Flynn Keith. Papa’s Pearls is an uplifting biographical book that shares the wisdom and lessons Ms. Keith’s papa shared with her and her family. Not only is it a book of parental wisdom, but also the story of a man who turned himself around. Throughout the book, Ms. Keith shares these pearls of wisdom, or phrases Papa often said. She uses stories from his life and memories of hers and other family members.

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The book is intended primarily for adults, but many of the messages shared could be of value for any age. I don’t think I would hand it to my children to read though. Some of the stories were a little more mature and there was one or two expletives.

While many of the pearls were not necessarily new to me, they were presented in a new way or with different words. In a few cases this helped clarify to me how I wanted to apply certain principles to my family. While I often agreed with Papa about many things, there were a few small things I didn’t agree with-I am not sure that I would send my 11 year old to ride a bus to another city without supervision. Overall, this is a book about hard work, honesty, love for fellow men and family, and tooling children to be able to go out into the real world and be successful adults. Papa was a man who loved his family unconditionally, and I found myself inspired to be a better mom.

Papa’s Pearls was a quick read of 110 pages and 17 chapters, but it was full of sage advice. I think my very favorite chapter was the very last one entitled “Fantastic.” An autographed copy of Papa’s Pearls is available for $14.97 plus $7 shipping. The author also has a link to Amazon for paperback or Kindle editions. If you want to know why it is called “Fantastic,” you will have to read it.


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Friday, May 10, 2013

There is Beauty All Around…

I truly love living in the Pacific Northwest. Yes, we have some rain- ok a lot of rain. But truthfully, the amazing days like we have had all this past week make every day of rain worth it. I am continually amazed at the gorgeous landscape around me. I am so grateful to the the Lord for the blessing to live in such a beautiful place.

Last Friday at the park after co-op we saw a whale. It swam down the sound and then back up. It was actually pretty close to shore. It was amazing. I am not sure if it was a humpback or a grey whale. I got to see another one today. I wish I had had my camera today, but these pictures from last week will have to do…

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Little Humor for the Princess Bride Fans

Tiger loves parodies and has written several of his own… The other day Tiger brought me this little cartoon he sketched. scan0001

In case you can’t read the writing- it says:

My name is I-need-my-Toyota. You killed my Honda. Prepare to DRIVE!

Well, I don’t have a license.

Oh… Me Neither.

Resume Sword fight!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

My Mother was Right- Thank you Mom!

Growing up my mom was always telling me to, “Turn off the TV.” or “Go outside.” and refused to invest in battery operated toys. We did have a couple of handheld video games because we were in the car a lot, but we didn’t play them very much since she was so against constant screen time. She would always tell us that the TV was making us “dull.”  At the time I didn’t think too much about what she said. In fact, I thought she was nuts and would have rather been pacified into filling time with the TV, but now, I see she was right. My sister and I didn’t need to “fill time.” We needed to do something constructive. So, Thank you Mom!

Twice recently I have been faced with questions from other parents with children, specifically boys, in the 10-12 range regarding media, boredom and inspiration.

In one case, the boy is homeschooled and the other he is in public schooled. The mom with the homeschooled boy stated that her son will do chores as asked but has no motivation to learn and even though he only gets 1 hour of video game time a day, he is difficult to inspire to learn anything. Anything she tries, he is interested in for a brief time and then wants to know if he can play his video game yet. The other mom said her kids are always bored unless they are watching TV or playing video games, especially her 12 year old. She wanted to know what to do with her kids and how to help them not be bored.

As I read these inquiries from moms, I reflected back on my nearly 11 years parenting a boy and thought about how seductive media is to some people. I pondered on the fact that in my home we don’t seem to have enough hours of the day to explore all the things we want to each day. We get to the end of the day and always have more we wanted to get to. We rarely have extra time to “fill.” With chores, learning time, and play time (which often for Tiger is more learning activities, board games, or more reading and for the girls the vast land of pretend), the kids are never bored (and if they were to ever come to me and tell me they were bored I would have a chore for them in the wings).

In the case of the mom with the son in public school, all the answers she received from friends on Facebook centered around enroll him in this class or that class to “fill time.” The mom wasn’t interested in more classes, she just didn’t want him to be bored anymore. I was not really part of the conversation, so I didn’t answer, but my answer would have been eliminate the media and get him some interactive toys and games. I know this boy to be very intelligent maybe some snap circuits or science experiment kits would inspire him.

In the case of the homeschooling mom, I and several others suggested removing media. I found it interesting that she became almost defensive- after all he ONLY got 1 hour a day and it wouldn’t be “fair” to remove the thing that he really enjoys to force him to do something he doesn’t love. I suppose that is one perspective. I have a different perspective.

Tiger loves media. He has always loved media. He loves video games, movies, anything with a screen draws him in. I have never allowed much media not only because I felt like it wasn’t necessary, but also because I noticed how seductive it was for him. Given even 20 minutes per day, he would begin to forget how much he liked to build, read, experiment, and play outside. He would complete tasks with the ever incessant question of, “Now can I play computer?” or “Now can I watch TV?” (Even choosing shows to watch that are the favorites of the three year old just so he could have screen on.) Even 20 minutes a day dulled him into boredom. He may have only had 20 minutes per day, but it still consumed most of the hours of the day in his mind. How sad!  Now that he has had a steady diet of educational toys, high quality board games, and classics without frequent media, he is actually capable to spending some time computer programming and then move on to something else. Even so, I have to be ever watchful that the addictive tendencies of media don’t overtake him, because the detox is always painful.

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It seems today that younger and younger children are getting cell phones- not just cell phones but smart phones, handheld video games, game consoles, and computer games. They are truly taking over many of our nation’s children. These kids don’t know how to play board games, read classics, construct a model airplane from Legos, or play constructively outsides. I believe that as parents we need to recognize this fact and pull back on the media. As Nicholeen Peck says, email, computer, etc. are adult tools to be used as tools not toys. Am I totally anti-video game? No. I have had my share of fun playing them. I am opposed to the mind-dulling incessant use of these tools as toys. I am opposed to bored kids who can’t be inspired to learn anything new because they are being pulled back towards a computer game. I am opposed to sacrificing the potential my child has in favor of pop culture. Like my mom, I am choosing to not go with the flow. I am choosing to be the “weird” mom. I am choosing for my children to have the choice rather than the addiction to rule them.

Monday, May 6, 2013


A few weeks ago we got to see a member of our co-op insert her new bees into the hive. She showed us the hive she bought and how all the bees were swarming around the queen and the pot of food in the center of the cage.

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She showed the children her bee suit and talked about it and parts of the hive.

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Then she dumped the bees into the hive! Wow that was interesting.  April 2013 202 April 2013 203

After we watched the bees, we played and thankfully no one got stung.

Watching her with her bees was so inspiring. Maybe someday I will have the courage and location to have some bees of my own!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Home School in the Woods Composer Activity Pak- Schoolhouse Review

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Over the years I have heard people talk about really neat Timeline Figures from Home School in the Woods. I was not aware that they had several other products available though. When the opportunity to review the Hands-On History Activity-Pak: Composers was given to me, I was really excited to try it. I am really good at teaching Math, History, Science, and selecting really good literature but when it comes to teaching the arts like music history or composers, I am a little weak. This was the spur to get me to take some time to teach my children about composers and music history and give them a taste of different periods of music in a fun way.

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The Composer Activity Pak is a collection of Lap Book materials for 6 activities plus an orchestra file folder activity and composer cards. Also included are 29 selections of classical music to listen to. This product does not provide much for the teacher to teach with as it is more of a supplemental tool, although there are a few resources suggested in the pak. The Composer Activity Pak is all the lapbook materials that you might wish to have included in a study on composers through history organized into activities or themes. There is a chronology timeline with timeline figures of 42 composers through the ages, mini books for each of the composers, piano and music terminology, descriptions of the periods of music history, materials to discuss composing music for a purpose, and a music appreciation project. The Activity Pak comes with clear directions of how to assemble each activity, and how to assemble the entire Lap Book. Some of the activities take longer than others.

The Composer Activity Pak arrived as a download with all the files available locally arranged in file folders. There was also an icon to take me to an in-browser page with all the activities listed out with pictures of the activities and all the activities organized by activity.

I used the lapbook activities to guide me in what to cover next in our study of composers. I used the suggested resources list for some ideas but unfortunately was not able to find most of the suggested resources in my library system (we have a very extensive library system). The list did give me ideas on the types of books to look for though. We also used our composer study as an opportunity to use the internet for research and to discuss what makes a quality resource. When we were doing the activity on the different periods of music, I really wanted my children to hear the difference between the time periods and I found  Sound Junction to illustrate and explore the differences between the various periods of music. Without the Composer Activity Pak to guide me, I would have never thought to compare and contrast pieces with my children or to create a timeline of composers. As we were working through the timeline and the periods, Tiger and Marin both had a few Ah hah! moments. I love those moments.

The Composer Activity Pak has a recommended age range of 3-8th grade. I used this with my children in 1-5/6 grade. I would have to agree on the age range. While my 1st grader was able to do some the activities, the level of writing on some was over her abilities. It was challenging but doable for my 3rd grader and my oldest breezed through it but still had to do some research on parts of the materials. He tends to work at a solid middle school level so I can see using this with a solid 8th grader if he was required to do some research on his own.

The illustrations in the Composer Activity Pak are beautiful. They are realistic and inviting. The lapbook pieces are well conceived and laid out. The directions are clear and concise. The only thing I don’t like about this program is that each page is printed separately.  This was frustrating to me to open 4-7 different files to print all the pieces. It also would have saved me some paper on occasion if all the pieces were in one document. The inconvenience of printing was a minor inconvenience though and I definitely recommend Home School in the Woods Composer Activity Pak as a supplement to enhance a study on composers. It is available for $18.95 as a download or $19.95 for the CD.

Be sure to check out the other reviews for the Composer Activity Pak as well as the 20th Century Lap-Pak and the Great Empires activity study.


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