Monday, April 30, 2012

Special Olympics

On Wednesday Gess participated in her 3rd Special Olympics. (This was the regional one, not the state wide competition.)  Gess was supposed to be in the tennis ball throw, the standing long jump and the 50 meter dash.  I had asked that she not be in the relay this year because we will have to miss that event during the state wide competition and may not even be able to go at all.  Anyway, there was also some other mix up which meant that Gess didn't make it into the standing long jump.  So Gess only had two competitions the tennis ball throw and her favorite, the 50 meter dash.

I wish I had more pictures but for the last two years I was constantly taking them and this year I wanted to simply enjoy the event.  We started off early in the morning and Gess was excited to get to ride on the big bus.

Once we got there she got her number and was set up for the events.

We had a little time before everything began so we hung out in the bleachers with the team.  Then it was time for the tennis ball throw.  Gess was one of the first groups to go and I was so proud of how far she threw the ball.  See, the weekend before my son and his girlfriend took her to the park, played some basketball with her, and then ended up on a baseball diamond where they began teaching her how to properly throw the ball.  She used to throw it underhanded or would just pitch it at the ground.  After much coaching she learned to throw it pretty far.  We were super excited when they announced that Gess had won the gold medal in that event!  (No, she was not the only one in the competition but I try not to post pictures of other kids on the internet without permission.) 

Gess wanted a gold medal so bad. In fact we have had to get on to her about being a good sport because one time she threw her silver medal on the ground because it wasn't the gold.  I don't know where she gets the competitiveness but she has it bad.  She actually did win a gold one other time but they ran out of them and had to mail it later so this was the first time she actually got to "receive" the gold medal.  I was so glad because now I knew she would be happy the rest of the day! 

Her next event was not until after lunch.  We enjoyed some hot dogs with the team and then decided to go for a walk.  Gess saw some steps at the stadium and started to walk up them.  She kept going up and up and up, even though she is somewhat afraid of heights.  I had her stop and look down a couple of times which she did though you could tell she was nervous about it.  She is really working on overcoming some of her fears.  I am so proud of her.  When we finally made it to the top she sat down and enjoyed the view.  Hopefully this will give her some more positive memories of being up high!

After lunch she had the 50 meter dash.  She was so ready for this. She always says that she is going to "run like the wind."  I think that is because one of the mom's of a friend of hers on the team told her to do that last year.  Now that's the only way she runs, like the wind!  Anyway, it was cute to watch her begin.  She was lined up and ready to run but she had her hands on her ears because she didn't want to hear the gun fire off.  Thankfully the man starting the race realized young ladies were probably sensitive to that and used his hand to start the race rather than a gun.   Then they were off!  I was so happy when Gess finished first!  She certainly did run like wind and because of that she won another gold medal!

Then we hung out and cheered on her team-mates as they ran the relay.  One division got the gold and I believe the other got the silver.  Our team had a really good year.  I think everyone got at least one gold though several got more than one.  Gess has loved telling everyone about her success.  It really is good seeing her compete in an area where she at least has a chance.  She gets so frustrated at times when she runs against kids her age and never seems to win.  That's one thing I love about Special Olympics.  They make it so that everyone gets some recognition and sometimes, they even get the gold. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

GLOW Retreat

This was our second year to attend the annual GLOW retreat.  GLOW is a christian mother-daughter overnight retreat for girls in the 1-6 grade to encourage them to be involved in missions.  Each year the theme revolves around a different mission field (they alternate each year between home missions and foreign missions).  Last year we went to Hawaii, this year it was Ecuador.  They also have the children participate in a mission project by bringing something to provide for a mission focus.

The first night began with a mixer.  Everyone met in one place and they had different activities going on. The first thing Gess jumped into was learning some dances from Ecuador.  They had music going and showed the girls how to dance. They offered them shawls to use.  Here is Gess sporting hers.

They had to move and sway the shawl to the music as they moved together in a circle and sometimes in rows opposite each other.  Then they would form a circle and every other girl would kneel while the rest danced around them.  Here is Gess kneeling.

Another activity was preparing their mission project.  Each child was supposed to bring a new stuffed animal to be donated to police stations and hospitals for them to distribute to children.  Since Gess has been on the receiving end of stuffed animals in a stressful hospital situation, we know what a blessing that simple gift can be to a child going through a stressful illness or event.  So, the kids brought in their animals and made cards to attach to them.  They were encouraged to put a bible verse or short message of God's love on them.  Gess wrote Jesus Loves You on hers.

After the mixer it was off to the bunkhouse for evening devotionals and bed.  The next morning started with a morning devotional in the room followed by breakfast in the cafeteria.  Gess loves eating in cafeterias!  After that the day began.  We started with worship.  We were one of the first ones there (yep, I am always early).

The worship band was really good and no member of the band was over the age of 16!  After the worship service we broke up into workshops. The Bible study was based upon our theme verse.  We talked about what treasures were and which treasures we should be storing up.

We also went to a craft session where they made treasure boxes to put their treasures in.  This helped them focus on the theme verse and think about what kinds of treasures are important to keep.  Gess has chosen to keep pictures she draws and colors in her box.

Then we had a session where we heard from a missionary who had actually served in Ecuador.  We learned a lot about the country and the area.  One fun fact was that it is literally on the equator.  Because of that they can go and see water swirling down a drain in two different directions a few feet from each other and water poured down a drain right on the equator didn't swirl at all, it went straight down. They could also make an egg stand up on it's end and not walk a straight line because they were being pulled from each side.  Another fun, but rather disgusting fact was what they ate their.  One of their delicacies is fried guinea pig!! I think this looks gross but my husband thinks it looks delicious!  Here is a pic I grabbed off of Wikipedia, you check it out and judge for yourself!

Then we went to lunch in the cafeteria before our final worship session and dismissal.  On the way to the cafeteria and dorm room there are a couple of tree stumps that are carved into animal shapes. Gess cracked me up because every time she passed one she said, "That's an idol! I don't worship idols I only worship God!"  Well, I guess we taught her something right, though I don't recall really drilling that into her head! Oh well at least she didn't mind having her picture taken with an "idol."

We were really blessed by the event and had a great time.  I appreciate the ladies who take so much time and effort into putting this on every year.  We certainly will be making plans to attend next year (Lord willing that we can of course)! 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Making Home-Made Laundry Soap

I do an awful lot of laundry in my house so when some of my fellow TOS Crew mates started talking about making home-made laundry soap I became very interested.  Of course my main interest was saving money since I buy a lot of laundry soap, but I also liked the idea that one batch could last for several months.  So I decided to give making laundry soap a try and I thought it might be a fun project to include Gess in.

I waited to post about it until I confirmed whether or not I saved money and could tell you how long a batch lasted me.  I heard that it could save you anywhere from $10-$30 and could last from 6-9months.  I decided to make a smaller batch in case I found that I didn't like it or something.  Well, the batch I made lasted me just a little over 3 months, washed about 90 loads of laundry and cost me a mere $8.92 to make.  So yes, it lasts quite awhile, gets your laundry nice and clean and saves you lots of money!  I think I saved about $20 by making my own soap and it was really nice not to have to worry about running out and picking it up at the store.  Dryer sheets were my only laundry concern while shopping for 3 months!

Another great thing about making your own soap is that it is actually pretty simple to make.  I was afraid it would be quite the chore but it was not.  Including Gess in the en-devour actually made it fun and we enjoyed the time together.  So, for anyone interested in saving some money while making their own laundry soap, here's how it works. 

I found quite a few recipes to try but settled on this one.

1/2 Box Mule Team Borax (4lb 12oz)
1/2 Box Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda(3lb 7oz)
1 Box Arm & Hammer Pure Baking Soda (2 lb box)
2 bars Ivory Soap

The Mule Team Borax and the Arm and Hammer Washing Soda can be found on the laundry soap aisle of the grocery storeMost recipes called for Fels Naptha Soap for the bar soap but I read that you could substitute for other kinds of soap if you wanted to and chose to use Ivory because we have sensitive skin.  Some recipes also included Oxy Clean but we did not add that in ours and still felt our clothes came out clean.

This time I will make a full batch which will last twice as long.  Here is the recipe for that:

1 Box Mule Team Borax (4lb 12oz)
1 Box Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda(3lb 7oz)
2 Boxes Arm & Hammer Pure Baking Soda (2 lb box or 1 4lb box)
3 bars Ivory Soap
Now all you have to do is measure the Mule Team Borax, washing soda and baking soda and mix them together.  Of course if you are using the full box recipes then just dump them in!  (You will need a tub, bucket or jar of some sort to store it in.)

The next thing you have to do is grate the bars of soap.  Now if you have a food processor (which we do) this step is super easy.  We just put the soap in the food processor and grated it up, it only took a few minutes and since it was soap, it cleaned up super easy!  (You can grate them by hand.  It will just take a bit more work but it should not be too hard.)

Now you simply mix that in with your other ingredients.  (Note how nice the soap grated up.)

Once it's mixed you have a nice large batch of laundry soap.

The great part is that you only need to use 2 Tablespoons or about 1/8 cup per large load of laundry!  To me it certainly was worth the small amount of time and effort it took to save the amount of money it did. 

I made this batch on January 27th and now that we are almost out I will have to make a new batch this next week or so.  However, since I am doubling it this time it will cost me twice as much but it should last me until the end of October!  I think I can handle that!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

TOS Review: Amazing Science says their goal is to bring the "very best Science and Math videos to tickle your curiousity and entice you to want to learn more about the world around you" and this month I was given a sample of what they have to offer. We recently received the Amazing Science Volume 1 DVD set for review which is a 2 DVD set that demonstrates how to do 23 different science experiments.

This certainly is right up Gesserine's alley. There are few things she likes to watch more than science videos, especially ones where they do neat experiments. Well, being able to do the experiments right along with them makes this just about perfect!

When the DVD arrived we were currently studying a unit on the weather and had just finished a lesson on clouds so the experiment titled Cloud in a Bottle (which seems to have been skipped on the list online but is included on the DVD) caught both of our eyes. We watched the demonstration which was very thorough. He not only explains "how" to do the experiment but he spends a great deal of time explaining what you are learning along the way.

We watched this video as part of our school day and having seen how fun and actually simple it looked we couldn't wait to do this experiment. Usually, I leave the experiments to daddy and he generally does them on the weekend, but we were eager to try this particular experiment so we had daddy help us one night right before bed time (which is why Gess is in her PJ's).

Every segment starts off with a list of ingredients you will need (and there is usually a reminder to get parental permission first). After pausing the video to gather the items we were ready to begin. First we had to put some rubbing alcohol in an empty 2 liter bottle. Again, the video explains why you are doing this and what element this plays in the making of the cloud.

Once you have let this coat the bottle you seal it. Gess is watching daddy intently seal the bottle super tight.

Once you have your bottle prepared correctly you then need pump air into it. Gess tried to help daddy with this part but daddy had to actually do it for it to work properly.

Next you quickly release the air and then you are done! You have made a cloud!

I will have to say that the cloud didn't look very impressive to us with the naked eye, but it really showed up well on the camera. He did mention in the video that it was important to have a colored cloth under neath so you could see it, which we did not do. Still, this was fun and we did see a little fog in our bottle and with the picture we could tell that we REALLY did make a cloud!

There was another experiment on Exploring Air Pressure that was also fun and went well with our current studies in Science. Gess just enjoys watching the video even when she can't do the experiments and I particularly like that this video does an extensive job explaining the science behind each one. Gess is really looking forward to the experiment Build a Lemon Battery because she has a video game where they made a battery out of a potato.

We found Amazing Science Volume 1 DVD set very informative and fun and think you may too. In fact Gess will often watch it on her own. She seems to enjoy it very much and it is certainly keeping her interested in science. Here is a trailer to give you a glimpse of what is on the DVD set.

You can purchase the Amazing Science Volume 1 DVD set at the website for $19.95 which is a pretty good value since you actually get 2 DVDs with 23 different experiments and instructions. If you would like to learn more visit their website or you can see what other members of the TOS Crew thought about it.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I received the Amazing Science Volume 1 DVD set for giving my honest opinion and assessment of this product in my review.
Note: All pricing is current at the time of posting and is subject to change

Monday, April 16, 2012

TOS Review: God's Great Covenant

Classical Academic Press has a wonderful Bible Course titled God's Great Covenant that we had the opportunity to review this past month. We reviewed God's Great Covenant, NT 1: A Bible Course for Children which "teaches the Gospels to students in fourth grade and up, using stories, worksheets, memory verses, devotional guides, quizzes, and a little boy named Simon."

Now you know that my Gess has Down Syndrome and is only in what I consider the third grade, but she is an excellent reader and very knowledgeable in her bible lessons so I felt that this would be easily adaptable to her needs even though she is not yet in the fourth grade. For our review purposes we received the God’s Great Covenant New Testament One Bundle which included the student text, teachers' book and audio files.

Before you get into the gospels there are a few sections that help set the stage. There is a Historical and Political Introduction, Chronological Introduction, Geographical Introduction, Religious Introduction and a Daily Life Introduction. Then the first chapter explains who Jesus really is and how he is the eternal God who became a man. It also introduces you to each gospel by comparing them and explaining some of their distinctions such as which audience each author was writing to and what specific purpose and key points each author was emphasizing.

At first I was overwhelmed with how much the children were supposed to know and then I reminded myself that this was for fourth grade and up and that my daughter does have special needs so it was OK if Gess did not have the time to memorize all those facts. So then we went on to chapter two which was the lesson about the birth of Christ and Gess followed along just great and was able to successfully answer the review questions. I was quickly put at ease and began to enjoy just how easily adaptable this material was for Gesserine's special needs.

After we were introduced to the lesson structure I decided to jump ahead so I could both get a broader scope of the material in the month I had for review as well as hit the lessons that we were on. This was Easter season, so we jumped ahead and read about The Triumphal Ride Into Jerusalem, The Last Supper and Gethsemane, Jesus' Arrest and Trial, The Crucifixion, and of course The Resurrection and The Ascension. I have to say I was impressed with the quality of the text and how true to Scripture it remained. In fact as you read along there are footnotes all through it so you can look up the exact Scripture that it comes from. The Teacher's Book also adds in much more detail so if you are not as familiar with the text or it's background or want to explore further with older students all the information you need is right at your fingertips.

I absolutely loved how appealing and easy to read the text was. That's a personal thing for me, because material for children at this age is usually so small that Gess has trouble reading it, even though she has the skill to do so. This text is large, appealing and reads easily. It has a child friendly tone without losing any important theology and facts. The review worksheets are also made to be fun as well as informational and vary from multiple choice, fill in the blanks, true or false, matching and often have some sort of puzzle, game or maze you work through to come up with the answer. Here is a sample page.

Here is Gess doing a word search to find the answer to the question. They would ask a question and the answer would be in the word search box. They even had the first letter highlighted to make it easier for you to find.

I also loved the maps. They were large and marked so that you could easily find all the appropriate places and just had a "fun" feel to them. Gess loves maps and she particularly loved these since they were much easier for to read and follow than the maps in her own bible.

I also found the audio portion particularly helpful, especially for Gess since she has special needs. I usually do most story style lessons at least twice with her before asking her to do any review questions. With her special needs she sometimes needs a few times to get all the aspects of the lesson. Well, having the audio files made it real handy for her to review on her own. We would read the lesson together first (sometimes she read it independently) and then the next day she would listen the lesson, often while coloring a picture. Then she would do her review worksheet and she was usually able to get most of the answers correct.

If you are looking for a solid bible study for children in the fourth grade and up I believe this course is a great place to begin. It will not only introduce your children to the New Testament gospels, but it will introduce them to the one about whom it is all written, our Lord Jesus Christ. I think that is what I love the most about this study. It takes all the lessons your children has probably learned both at home and at church and then begins to make it more personal, encouraging them to "Think About It." It also comes with Devotional Guides and Memory Work for each unit.

You can get the God’s Great Covenant New Testament One Bundle at the Classical Academic Press website for $56.95 or purchase the materials independently. The God's Great Covenant, NT 1: A Bible Course for Children student text is $26.95, the God's Great Covenant, NT 1: Teacher's Edition is $29.95 and the God's Great Covenant, NT 1: Audio Files are $9.95. You can check out sample pages of the student text, teacher's book, and even listen to a sample of the audio file. To learn more visit their website or see what other members of the TOS Crew thought about it.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I received the God's Great Covenant New Testament 1 Bundle for giving my honest opinion and assessment of this product in my review.
Note: All pricing is current at the time of posting and is subject to change

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

TOS Review: Christian Kids Explore Science - Earth and Space

I have had the pleasure of reviewing a product from Bright Ideas Press this month and I can certainly understand why they say they are a curriculum that mom's love! As most of you know, Gess absolutely loves Science and so I was thrilled to get to choose one of their Christian Kids Explore Science Books. Because Gess has a fascination with the weather and it's a subject we choose to do each spring I chose to review Christian Kids Explore Earth & Space which consisted of the text book and the Student Activity Book Download.

The curriculum is made so that you can use it with several different age groups at once and my special needs daughter was certainly able to read and comprehend the material rather well. I particularly loved the way the author wrote directly to the students and shared her own personal stories and experiences in the study. (Like how she used to be afraid of tornadoes.) She also integrated Scripture into each study and since it was written from such a personal standpoint it really seemed sincere and thoughtful. It also made the study seem more like a conversation rather than a lesson although there is definitely a great deal of information in it.

As I mentioned earlier, every spring we study the weather. Gess has a fascination with storms and tornadoes and since spring is when we "experience" that weather, that is when we study it. So instead of starting at the beginning of the book, we jumped to Unit Five - Earth's Weather.

Each unit is divided into several different lessons. Unit 5 had 5 lessons and a wrap up. There was a little information that was referred to from previous chapters but nothing that kept us from learning this topic without having that particular knowledge. At the end of each lesson there is a Hands On Time activity which made the lessons even more fun. Doing experiments and hands on science activities has to be Gesserine's absolute favorite thing to do and this book certainly provided that! We actually did go back to a previous chapter and do one Hands On Time activity to help us with our weather lessons which was Making a Barometer. The activities are simple and the instructions are easy to follow and so far we have been able to make each one do what we wanted it to do!

First we took a glass jar, added a ruler, a straw and some colored water and were able to gauge if the air pressure had risen or fallen.

We added to that a rain gauge we made from our current unit study and we were then able to do an activity from the Christian Kids Explore Earth & Space Activity Book we had downloaded which was record the weather every day for one week. We noted the temperature, the sky, the barometric pressure, and the precipitation level. Gess loved doing that!

Another thing we did that she loved was making a cloud in a jar. First we learned about clouds and how to classify them. She learned to recognize and label each of the 4 basic cloud formations; Cumulus, Stratus, Cirrus and Nimbus. After learning all the facts about these clouds she had to label them on this chart.

Of course labeling them was not enough fun so Gess used her pencil and colored them too which maybe changed the definition of some of the clouds, which I do not believe was her intention!

Then came the fun part. We got to make a cloud in a jar! First we gathered all the materials from the list provided.

Then we followed the instructions and before you know it we had a foggy looking cloud that made rain! (You can see the precipitation on the inside of the jar.)

Gess was thrilled with it!

We absolutely loved this curriculum and I can't wait to get back to the beginning of the book which starts with the beginning of God's creation of the earth. I think Gess is more anxious to get to the end of the book which sets our eyes on Outer Space. Either way, I think the book will be a fun learning experience for both of us.

Along with Christian Kids Explore Earth & Space the Christian Kids Explore Science series also covers Biology, Chemistry and Physics. (You can check out the TOS Crew Blog to see reviews about some of these other areas of study.) Bright Ideas Press also has curriculum for several other subjects as well.

The Christian Kids Explore Earth & Space Textbook is $34.95 and the Student Activity Book is currently on sale for $7.95 (which regularly sells for $12.95). I think this is a very reasonable price for a years worth of study and hands on experiments and activities. I know it is something we will continue to use. To learn more about this product visit the Bright Ideas Press website or see what other members of the TOS Crew had to say about it.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I received a copy of the "Christian Kids Explore Earth & Space" textbook and a digital download of the Student Activity Book for giving my honest opinion and assessment of this product in my review.
Note: All pricing is current at the time of posting and is subject to change

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Laundry and Chores

Every child has to do chores so we actually make doing chores part of our school day. Lifeskills are especially important for children with special needs and since Gess tends to love routine it has been easier getting her to do the chores if they are part of our regular daily activities. As I teach Gess her household responsibilities it is always in the back of my mind that one day she will be living on her own. Therefore, I want to make sure she knows how to take proper care of her herself and her home so fostering independence is always high on my priority list.

The first chore we introduced to Gess when she was very young was folding the laundry. Her only job was folding the wash cloths which led to folding the towels which led to folding just about everything. Now she also helps me sort and wash the clothes and has even helped me make our own laundry soap (which I will be blogging about soon).

Gess has become quite the helper doing laundry, but one thing she could never quite get was matching socks. The problem is not finding the match, she's good at that. Her problem is folding the socks together. So recently I have been trying to help her with that and the other day she finally did it! Now it's still a struggle and takes a long time so I don't have her match them all, but she gets to try a couple of pairs each time we fold laundry.

As you can see, she is quite proud of the task she has accomplished! Of course laundry is not the only chore Gess does these days. She is really good at picking up around the house, washing the table, sweeping the floor, taking out the trash, cleaning her room, and making her bed. I still shy away from having her do the dishes. It's not that I am afraid she will do a poor job, it's that I am afraid of her breaking the glass and possibly cutting herself. (Maybe if I wasn't such a klutz and broke so many dishes my self it wouldn't worry me too much!) I do however, let her wash her toy dishes from time to time. That way she can still work on the skill.

Again, I think the key is making all of these important life skills a part of their every day routine as young as possible. No matter what challenges your child has try introducing them to chores early in life. Even before they are able to help just having them follow you, watch you and talk to you while you are doing them will give them a great introduction to doing chores. Training these habits when they are young will make their adult life much easier, happier and well, cleaner!


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