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

Monday, June 24, 2013

Moving Beyond the Page- Schoolhouse Review

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Moving Beyond the Page is a publisher of integrated homeschool curricula for ages 5-13 (with units for as young as 4 and as old as 14 coming soon). Their curriculum integrates a literature unit with a corresponding science and social studies unit. Moving Beyond the Page offers both full year packages as well as individual units. I was recently able to choose an online version of a literature unit as well as a physical copy of a science or social studies unit to review. Tiger helped me choose. We chose The Hobbit and received online access to the curriculum guide and a physical copy of the book. This package retails for $21.92. We also chose Light and the Eye and received a physical copy of the guide as well as a textbook to go with the guide. This package retails for $25.98. Both are intended for ages 11-13 or approximately grades 6-8. No other manipulatives or materials were included with these books. photo

hobbitThe Hobbit unit contains a lesson plan, reading comprehension questions, and activities from charting Bilbo’s journey on a map to building a mythical creature from clay, to practicing editing and grammar skills with worksheets, a culminating written response to the novel and unit test. The online guide contains all the materials of a physical guide and is accessed through a portal on the Moving Beyond the Page website. Parts are downloadable like the activity pages and reading question pages. There is also a downloadable guide to writing and grammar.  The rest of the guide like the directions, explanations, and lesson plan requires logging onto the website to reference. This means that it is not as portable as the physical guides. One nice feature of the online guide is a parent control button. This is toggled on and off so parents can easily see the correct answers for the lesson questions. As long as a student doesn’t know the online login password, he cannot turn on the answers himself. Each online guide is accessible for 3 months following activation. This means that if it is purchased in February but not activated until September, the student will have access to the guide until December. Since each unit is intended to take 19 days to complete, this should be sufficient.

Each day Tiger would log in and click on the next lesson in the list. He would read through the instructions and follow them. The reading comprehension questions always have an option to do them on paper or type them right into the program and print. After reading the selection and doing the comprehension questions, which I had printed, he would click the next button to access the activities. After completing the activities, Tiger would click a button saying “Lesson Completed.” This would strike through that lesson on the lesson menu  page. After the first day, it became apparent that I needed to go through and print out all the activities and reading questions ahead of time. We bound them into a notebook (the yellow book pictured above). Some of the activities in the literature portion required editing sentences. I typed the incorrect sentences out in a document and then printed them out as well with space for Tiger to rewrite because most of the editing pages were not included in the printed activities section.

 photoAs soon as he chose his unit study, Tiger was impatiently checking the mail. He had already read The Hobbit and couldn’t wait to begin again. The first few lessons were exciting to him because he got to research Tolkien’s life, play a vocabulary game, begin drawing a map, and write a message in runes. Once he got through the first couple of lessons, his enthusiasm began to wane.  He did not enjoy the grammar worksheets and didn’t really understand all of the directions given in the guide for some of the activities like listing out foreshadowing and flashbacks in the book.

light and eyeThe Light and Eye is an introductory exploration into light and how the eye perceives it. Like the literature guide, this unit included daily lesson plans reading comprehension questions, activities including a final project, and a unit test. The last several pages of the guide is the parent overview. This can be torn out as it contains all the answers to questions in the unit. The activities contained in The Light and the Eye were mostly experiments which corresponded to the reading. Like the online guide, there is a method to charting progress. This is done through little check boxes next to each activity or set of questions. All of the questions are embedded in the unit text and all the activity pages follow the entire lesson. At first this confused Tiger and he just didn’t do the activity because he didn’t know there was a page to do the activity on. Because this is a science unit, it requires extra materials. The materials needed for the Light and Eye unit are for the most part readily available in your home. There are two items I was not able to obtain. These were a model eye with snap together parts and a book which goes with the model of the eye. They don’t come with the unit as a manipulative, but are available if you purchase the entire semester science kit. If you do not purchase the entire semester science kit, then you will not be able to complete two days of lessons.

Tiger really loves science. He enjoyed some of the activities more than others. He would have liked to see the book move a little faster. He thought that the text spent too long on the same concept. One of the experiments he has attempted multiple times prior to this unit without success and once again attempted it to no avail. He wrote in his book, “This is a LOST CAUSE TO ME!!” under observations.

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If I were purchasing this curriculum and deciding between online access guide or physical guide, I would definitely go for the physical guides and pay the extra couple of dollars. Being tethered to the computer in order to complete each lesson of the literature study was annoying for Tiger as well as myself. It would have been nice to load the lesson plans on Tiger’s Kindle but this was not possible. While I found aspects of both guide editions to be a bit awkward in layout, I found the coil-bound guide to be more user-friendly than the online version.

I really wanted to like these units, but they just didn’t work for my family. For us, the literature portion had a few too many worksheets aimed at covering all the language arts objectives rather than really diving into the novel. I also found the comprehension questions did not elicit much thought from Tiger. They were treated like an obstacle to get around quickly- busywork.  I did like the way the final project, a written response to the novel, was explained to the student though. It was broken up into several days with bite-sized chunks to work on. I think this literature study would work for a more structured homeschool family where students are used to completing worksheets in order to achieve learning objectives.

In terms of the Light and the Eye, I liked some of the experiments but, as mentioned above, I was really disappointed that 2 days lessons were missing due to not having the manipulatives necessary. In other stand-alone units Moving Beyond the Page includes manipulatives needed for the unit. I can see not including basics like mirrors and clay, which can be picked up locally, but to not include the model that is specifically mentioned in the text and is not available locally or online, was a bit frustrating to me. For Tiger, this was really disappointing and squashed a bit of his enthusiasm for the unit.

Many other families reviewed Moving Beyond the Page and had different experiences. Be sure to check out their reviews.

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Lily Lapp Amish Children’s Fiction Books- Schoolhouse Review

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Recently I had the privilege of reviewing two books published by the Baker Publishing Group. These books, Life with Lily and A New Home for Lily are juvenile Amish fiction written by Mary Ann Kinsinger, a former Amish woman and author of A Joyful Chaos, and Suzanne Woods Fisher. Both books are just over 250 pages and are intended for children ages 8-12, but I think the whole family will enjoy listening to the tales of Lily Lapp. Each book retails for 12.99 for paperback or ebook editions.

  photo lifewithlily_zpsc0af8377.jpgLife with Lily is the first book in the new Adventures of Lily Lapp series. This series chronicles the life of Lily starting when she is five years old and a new baby brother is born. Throughout the story, she has many experiences like getting a new teacher whom she doesn’t like and is different from the previous one, welcoming new animals to the home, and planning a move to a new state. While the chapters are chronological, they are also individual episodes in her life to create the novel. At one point Butterfly was flitting through the book reading random chapters that looked interesting to her and loving the mini-stories.

 photo anewhomeforlily_zps899a6825.jpgA New Home for Lily starts when seven year old Lily moves to a new state, Pennsylvania. Moving to Pennsylvania meant leaving behind everything Lily knew. Now she lives in an ugly house, has to start a new school, make new friends, put up with an annoying boy at school, gets another baby brother, and eventually welcomes her cousin Hannah to the farm next door. A New Home for Lily is every bit as fun and detailed as the first book.

The Verdict?

These books are very sweet and full of details about the life of an Amish child, who despite the cultural differences, really is a lot like a typical young child in thoughts and experiences. I love the way the author details Lily’s thought process as it makes Lily even more loveable and believable. I also like the little lessons on family duty, friendship, relationships, and kindness that are woven into the stories. My biggest problem with these books was that my 9 and 11 yr old children ran off with them before I could read them. They devoured them and left me scrambling to read them myself during the review period. I guess that isn’t so bad since they really enjoyed them. I think I have heard, “When will you get the next one!?” each day this week. Pumpkin Pie, my almost 7 year old loves them too. One day she wanted to know what happened next but no one was available to read to her. She opened up the book and started reading it out loud to herself despite the fact that these books are above her reading level and she has never attempted a full picture book let alone a novel before!

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Butterfly’s review: I liked the part when Lily got a new brother and she thought God dropped him off. I also like the part when Lily wanted to trade a treat for a store-bought cookie and was given a whole pumpkin pie to take to school. Lily was embarrassed so they ate half the pie and left it under a tree in the woods and lost the pie pan.

Tiger’s review: Tiger, being the budding chef in our home, loved reading about the mistakes Lily made in the kitchen, like making an entire bucket of jello for the family. He also liked that Lily was kind to everyone, even those who were unkind to her and that Lily thought God dropped off babies. He thought it was funny that Lily thought that when it was the Lapp’s turn for a baby God must have run out of baby girls. He noticed that Lily would make a bad choice once and then decide that wasn’t a good plan and she had good relationships with her  brothers.

Good, clean, and uplifting books are something I seek after for my children to read. The Lily Lapp books definitely fits this category. I look forward to continuing the read about the adventures that Lily has in future books.  

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Then and Now

After having three girls, I got rid of a lot of my baby boy clothes. I didn’t see the point of holding on to them, but I kept a small bucket of baby boy clothes. I am glad I did. One of the outfits that survived was a blue-shirted khaki pants jumpsuit and tie.

To give perspective, Tiger and Little One are 11 years and 1 week apart. When Tiger was 3 months old, he wore that outfit for Father’s Day and ironically, B matched him. Here is Tiger 11 years ago.Fathersday16June

Since I still had the outfit, I pulled it out for Father’s Day. Here is Little One and B for Father’s Day. June2013 005

And lastly, here are my boys. Tiger was so excited to try to recreate the original picture that he too wore khaki pants and the most blue shirt he could find to church on Father’s Day.

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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Do Something Fun

I am a huge fan of Nicholeen Peck because Teaching Self Government brought peace to my home. One things Nicholeen talks a lot about is building relationships. Correcting behavior should be the smaller part of the interactions with the family. Sometimes, it is easy to get into a rut and not get out and do fun things as a family though. Being sick with morning sickness and pregnant and a new baby definitely put a damper on our family getting out and doing things together.

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Over the past couple months, we have been trying to do more things on Saturdays and less house cleaning because we want to create positive memories and relationships. Last week Nia came to visit. We took the opportunity to do a few things we haven’t done before.

One thing we did was take a ferry and explore a beach, lighthouse, and town we had not been to before. We also got to eat the most decadent ice cream!

Our adventure began with Butterfly and B almost missing the ferry. They had gone for a walk while we were waiting in line for the ferry and didn’t get back to the car when it was our turn to drive on. They had to run about a half mile. As it was, our car was second to last on the boat! The ferry workers initially said they would have to wait for the next boat, but then we saw them racing down the street. The ferry captain held the boat as long as they kept running. As soon as they crossed onto the ferry, the net was raised and we left the dock. June 2246

Next stop- super yummy ice cream.

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Then it was on to a beach to explore. June 2267 June 2278June 2283

We found beautiful shells as we walked along the beach towards the lighthouse.

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Then the kids modified some driftwood forts and played until we were hungry for dinner.

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Finally we ate super yummy veggie burgers (usually veggie burgers are ho-hum but these were homemade and delicious) and headed home. We arrived home covered in sand with many memories in our minds. I can’t wait for our next adventure.

Do you plan adventures ahead of time or do you just go out and explore? What plans do you have to strengthen family relationships and create lasting memories?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Why I Enjoy Getting up with my Babies in the Middle of the Night


June 2013 002 When I first had Tiger, people would ask me if he was a “good baby” or not. Now, let me just say I don’t believe there is a such thing as a bad baby. All babies are good. What they really meant was does your baby sleep through the night and keep quiet? No he didn’t- and neither have my other babies.

At first getting up in the middle of the night was hard. I felt tired. I just wanted to sleep. I wished my baby would sleep. I dreamed of the day when my baby would sleep through the night. Then when I had Butterfly I similarly dreamed of a full night of sleep. Once I had Pumpkin Pie, I again dreamed of a full night’s sleep.

When she was about 8 months old things changed. I travelled to my mom’s house and arrived late one night. That night, I was so tired from flying but Pumpkin Pie was wide awake. She would not go to sleep! All I wanted to do was take a shower and go to sleep. After all, I had been flying on an airplane, drove over an hour, and arrived at about 12:30 am. That night, as I held my daughter to try and coax her to sleep, I gazed out across the horizon.

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My mom lives on forty acres in the middle of nowhere in the foothills. Gazing out across the landscape for miles and miles was a beautiful scene of silhouetted oak trees, rock outcrops, hills, and some pine trees. Native American women used to prepare food for their families in a nearby outcrop. That night as I gazed out across the hills, I realized that hundreds of mothers before me had stood on those hills holding their babies gazing out across the hills. These mothers had all rocked and cuddled their babies in the middle of the night, listening to the owls and crickets. They too had seen the landscape that I was watching as I held that sweet baby.

It was in that quiet moment that I realized that I was not up all night alone with my baby. I was surrounded by love. I was surrounded by the women who have come before me holding their babies. I was in good company. I realized it really didn’t matter anymore if I was up in the middle of the night with that baby. I could choose to enjoy it instead. I could choose to enjoy the peaceful moment that a baby in the middle of the night allowed me. The peaceful stillness that rules the night gave me a precious gift that night. I wasn’t lonely. I had the sweet opportunity to connect to my baby and all the mothers who also get up with babies.

Now when I get up in the middle of the night, yes sometimes I am really tired, but I always reflect on that night near the Native American kitchen. I gaze down at my baby and hold him tight. I smell his sweet baby smell that will all too soon go away, and I try to burn the memory of his sweet round cheeks into my memory to draw on when he is older and has passed out of the infant stage. I then go to the window and stand to look out across the suburban skyline that is my view. I remember the women and the babies before me and I listen to the sound of the quiet night and the breathing of my baby as  he drifts off to sleep.  I may even take an extra minute or two to enjoy holding my sweet baby before I put him back in his cradle and crawl back into bed. May 2013 278

Yes, once upon a time I yearned for the full night sleep. Now I enjoy the moments. They will be gone before I know it and my Little One, like his brother and sisters, will no longer wake at night. He will be walking and talking soon and I will once again have a full night sleep. June 2013 017

Friday, June 14, 2013

Lava Lamp Experiment

May 2013 323 My children are still loving E-Science. The children were learning about the states of matter and density. One of the experiments involved layering oil, water, and using salt to create a lava lamp in a jar. May 2013 314

After putting water and oil in a jar, they sprinkled salt on top of the oil and watched the oil sink to the bottom, break free of the salt, and rise again to the top. They colored the water and watched what happened. They also watched what happened when they added more color drops to an already saturated salt water and then sprinkled more salt on top…

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

I Love when Dinner Cooks Itself!

Ok, so maybe dinner didn’t totally cook itself, but pretty close. For dinner tonight, we had garden fresh corn chowder and a raspberry rhubarb “crisp” made in my thermal cooker. I started with the garden corn chowder from Hezzi-D’s to make a vegan corn chowder with a few more veggies… 

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My recipe:

4 c. + 1 c frozen organic corn kernels,
4 c. water
1/3 c almonds
1 t. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large onion, diced
2 medium red bell pepper, diced
2 medium zucchini, diced
3 small carrots, diced
1 T broth powder (I make mine with some spices and nutritional yeast using the recipe for Traci Seller’s broth powder from a 2010 article from Herbal Legacy. One copy of the recipe is here.)
6 fingerling potatoes sliced in 1/4 slices
Fines Herbes

Blend 4 c corn, water, broth powder, and almonds in a blender until smooth. (I used a vitamix) Sautee onions in a little olive oil in the bottom of the 7L thermal cooker pot. Add in the rest of the veggies for a few minutes. Add the corn and milk mixture and bring to a boil. Boil 2 minutes.

June 2044While waiting for the chowder to boil, I made some crisp for the top pot.

June 20403 stalks rhubarb diced
1/2 c chopped apples (I used freeze dried)
1/2 c raspberries (I used freeze dried)
4 T rapidura
3/4 c coconut milk
1 3/4 c water
1 c steel cut oats
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1/4-1/3 c maple syrup

Stir together everything except the vanilla and maple syrup. Bring to a boil and boil 2 minutes. Turn off heat, stir in vanilla and cover. June 2043

Place the small pot in the large pot and seal in cooker. Stir in maple syrup before serving.

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If it hadn’t have been a super busy night, I would have served a green salad too.

To Feed an Army or The Magic Rice Pot

I love the rice from my thermal cooker- light and fluffy! It doesn’t stick together like boiled rice but fluffs like steamed white rice from a restaurant. photo

On Sunday I planned to serve taco salad for dinner right after church. I didn’t want to have to come home and make rice, so I did it in the thermal cooker. I figured if I made a large batch, I could  portion some out for lunches for my husband. Another reason for cooking a large batch is air is the enemy of the thermal cooker- the more air the cooker has in the pot, the less efficient it is.

Saratoga Jacks recommends 5 cups of rice and 8 cups of water for the bottom and then something in the top pot or 2.5 cups rice and 4 cups water in the top pot and something else in the bottom. Because I didn’t have anything in the top, I added another portion of rice to the bottom pot. I cooked 7.5 c rice and 12 c water. It was enough to feed my family of 7 for dinner and only 1/4 of the pot was used!… then B scooped out enough for 3 lunches. The pot was still half full! After that, I scooped a bunch out on 2 large cutting boards (think cookie sheets) and froze it in an thin layer. This rice I broke into pieces into Ziploc bags for future quick meals. Leftover was still another quart of rice!

Ordinarily my family could eat 3 cups of dry rice in a meal but by steaming it in the thermal cooker it went much further. As I scooped out more and more and more rice, I kept thinking about the Magic Porridge pot story… In this case it was time to tell the cooker to “Stop little pot stop!”

I wish I had a picture after the dinner was served and 3 lunch portions scooped out- I took one but it got deleted :(

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Christianity Cove 100 Simple Service Projects- Schoolhouse Review

Christianity Cove is a publisher of Christian materials generally marketed to children’s ministry programs. They offer ideas on everything from Sunday School lessons to crafts and activities. As part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I was offered the opportunity to review 100 Simple Service Projects.
 photo simpleserviceprojects_zps18d19d09.jpg 100 Simple Service Projects was written by Mary-Kate Warner and is available for $19.95. She has taught in the children’s ministry for over 11 years and believes in helping children turn towards the Lord through charity. 100 Simple Service Projects is her compilation of projects she has done over the years with her ministry to teach sacrifice, love, and service to children of all ages. Teach Kids to Serve is a manual for adults to use with children K-6 but some of the projects could easily be done with older children too.
The book is broken into four types of directed service starting with the closest to home or service to family and ending with service furthest from home or service to America and the World. The fifth type of service, service designed by the child, is also covered. It is recommended to use closer service projects with younger children and gradually reaching further afield with older children.  In the section covering the US and World, there is a very thorough evaluating world charitable giving organization as well as suggestions on evaluating those not found in the book.
I read this book not as a children’s ministry leader but as a homeschooling parent and Frontier Girls leader. In Frontier Girls the girls need to complete several service projects each year. I also desire for my children to learn to serve others because it is such an important skill. I find that, at times, it is difficult to come up with service ideas though. As I read it, I found that many of the ideas would work best with a group or were not really in line with my family’s culture. For example, for me to make my kids create chore coupons, it would be an utter waste of time since the connection between the coupons and service would be lost. If they had been in a class and the teacher had helped them create coupons, then they would get more out of it. I also found many of the suggestions in the beginning chapters were not very creative and I had already thought of them.
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As the book progressed it became more relevant to my needs. The chapter on serving the community had many ideas for different types of service from elderly and children and to wildlife and the environment to various shelters. The chapter had some good ideas. Again, many ideas were definitely geared towards a group setting though, like starting a teddy bear collection for homeless shelters. Feb 2013 002 Pumpkin Pie is making cards for the elderly at a nursing home.
I think my favorite part of the book was the section on helping the US and World through partnering with larger organizations. This chapter thoroughly vetted some of the more popular national charities as well as introduced me to several I had not heard of. It did give me some ideas of activities I could do with my children. It also gave some links to websites to vet out other charities that were not chosen by the author. I also liked the chapter on helping children do their own charity. It includes several charities which were started by children.
While I wasn’t able to implement any new charitable giving ideas, it did give me some more ideas about larger scale charities and service we might do with our co-op in the future. In the end though, I don’t think I would have bought it for my personal use. There just weren’t enough new ideas for me personally. My family serves every time we see a need from judging a karate test to holding doors for others, watering a neighbor’s garden when they are out of town, and donating to our church’s humanitarian aid programs. We are also working on designing our own act of service for a family with a 10 year old who will be in the hospital receiving a bone marrow transplant. The thing that this book did was give me inspiration to think big. 

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