Friday, November 29, 2013

Black Friday

I saw this on Facebook one day and thought how truly accurate that is.  How my heart grieves that we can so quickly put away our feelings of thankfulness for greed and envy.  I went Black Friday shopping once and it broke my heart.  As we waited in line for the object of our choice, seeing grown ups fight over things like a Buzz Light Year doll was too much.  Really, do you think that is what is going to bring your child happiness?  Oh man, do we have a lot to learn.

So today, instead of a Free Friday post, I decided to help share something that will not only save you some money but maybe it will help free you from the consumerism nightmare that is upon us today.

I shared this video before and will probably share it every year.  Before we start spending all that money, let us take a moment to consider what else we could do with all that money.  This video has a bit of a different spin. Instead of comparing the cost of Christmas to bringing clean water, it talks about how we could bring freedom to those in slavery.  The International Justice Mission is an excellent organization that helps free slaves all over the world.  There are many other causes we could also give to, that is up to you.  No matter what group you would like to support the point is to spend a little less money on stuff and invest our time and resources in things that really matter.  Things that actually do bring joy.

[AC] Promo - International Justice Mission from Advent Conspiracy on Vimeo.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Cooking Lessons 1

Now that we are on our official winter break I have decided to keep Gess busy by focusing on cooking skills.  I try to do that through the year but too often its just easier to do it myself.  Trying to fit everything in our day is hard enough as it is.  So instead of just helping on occasion we are going to try to cook every day!  She enjoys it, it keeps her busy, she will learn a few skills, and it gives us some quality time together.

This weekend she fried her first fried egg.  Well, I she didn't do a great job at flipping it and had help from me to keep her from burning herself.  (I held the pan as she flipped and put it on the plate, etc.)  I cooked a few myself first to show her how.  Hers ended up more scrambled but I managed to help her save one with yolk as she likes that.  I think we will try scrambled next weekend, she does that much better!

Right now we are working on the basics, not so much the technique.  I am just trying to get her familiar and comfortable using the stove while teaching safety so she doesn't get burned.  I might share some recipes as we cook as well.  I haven't shared my recipes before because this is a school blog, but you know, if Gess is learning it I suppose you can too!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Free Friday: Ebook Aborthion The Ulitmate Exploitation of Women

Online for Life is offering a FREE ebook Abortion - The Ultimate Exploitation of Women.  I haven't read the book yet, but I have downloaded my copy.  It will hopefully be a good resource to dispel the myth that abortion helps women. 

Abortion is the murder of an unborn child and the procedure is also harmful to the women who have it, both physically and emotionally.

“This important book exposes two of the best-kept and dirtiest little secrets of our day: that selfish men often bully women into abortions and that countless women are profoundly hurt by this ‘choice’ in which they feel they had no real choice. The truth is finally getting out. It’s about time.”
—Eric Metaxas, New York Times bestselling author

Click on the book to sign up to get your FREE copy today!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Blue Ribbon Awards

The Schoolhouse Review Crew has announced the winners of their Blue Ribbon Awards!  From all of the companies we review they let those of us on the crew vote for our favorites.  Out of 83 companies there are 38 Blue Ribbons going to 28 different companies!! 

I have to say there have been some amazing products that have truly changed our lives and I was glad to see most of them win something.

You go to the Schoolhouse Review Crew Blue Ribbon Award post to see the list of  ALL the winners.  Below I am going to highlight ones I have either used or reviewed.

Favorite Reading Instruction Curriculum: Logic of English

Logic of English had the most impact on our educational journey.  I love it because it helped Gess to get some of the things she was missing in other programs, the games make reviewing fun, and the way they emphasize the phonograms has helped Gess in her speech. It was just an all around wonderful product and I am so thrilled that they won this award!

Favorite Handwriting Curriculum: Handwriting Without Tears
I did not review this product this year because I was already in the middle of using it.  We have used this product since Gess started learning to write and it is truly incredible.  It's hands on emphasis with the blocks, chalkboard, and other activities is super helpful for children with special needs.

Favorite Writing Curriculum: Institute for Excellence in Writing
Gess has actually excelled in writing since we used this.  Now that she knows how to write a personal letter, she writes them all the time, even if she doesn't send them.  We just found one she wrote to a friend last night!  She is much better at paragraphs as well.  I highly recommend these videos.  Note that it also won Favorite Middle School Resource and Favorite High School Resource

Favorite Language Arts Curriculum: Moving Beyond the Page. This was a really fun unit study curriculum and we had a lot of fun with it.

Favorite History Resource: YWAM Publishing This is a really great company and their books are enjoyable ways to learn about history and Heroes of the Faith.  We loved our book on George Washington and have read others as well.

Best Online Resource: Supercharged Science - This was another great resource and also a great company to deal with.  They truly care about their customers and work to make it a great site for all, including those with special needs!

Teens' Choice: The Presidential Game We had a lot of fun playing this game and it was a neat way to teach how our electoral system works.

Favorite Science Curriculum: Apologia Elementary Science
Favorite Elementary Resource: Apologia Elementary Science
Best Hands-On Resource: Apologia Elementary Science
Most Adaptable Resource: Apologia Elementary Science
Most Family-Oriented Resource: Apologia Elementary Science
All Around Crew Favorite: Apologia Elementary Science
Wow! I am obviously not the only one on the crew that LOVES Apologia Elementary Science!  If you check out my reviews you will see why.  This is one incredibly well done, well thought out, well researched, high quality, biblically based, family oriented curriculum!  I absolutely love it and it has made science fun for both Gess and myself! 

If you want to see all the winners in all of the categories head on over to the Schoolhouse Review Crew Blue Ribbon Award post.  There are some other great products out there, we just didn't get a chance to use them all!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Free Music: Seeds of Praise

We have the Seeds of Faith CD and it is really great. Its a fun way to learn and memorize Scripture as well as just enjoy to sing along with and praise the Lord. Gess really loves it! So when I saw they were giving away the Seeds of Praise for FREE between now and Thanksgiving, I just had to let you know now. I am not waiting until Friday!  Click the link below and download.  They make it super easy!

We want to get God’s Word to every family through music. One way we’re doing this is by offering the entire Seeds of Praise record as a free download.
Not only do we want you to enjoy the music, but we encourage you to join our mission by being a Seed Planter.  Feel free to share the link with your family and as many friends as you would like to. It will be available through Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Making Pottery

My middle child Tim is still off at college studying theatre and last month we went to see him in another one of his plays. Tim's girlfriend Chelsie also attends college there and has a part time job at a really neat place called Pottery Works.  This is not a place to go and buy complete works of pottery but a place where you can go to make your own.  They have a large variety of pottery pieces to choose from along with tons of paints and stencils to decorate them with.

The day we arrived, while Tim was at the theatre preparing for the show, Chelsie treated us to a Pottery Works experience and paid for us each to make a piece of art.  The huge selection was a bit overwhelming for Gess.  She wasn't sure what to make, but eventually she decided on a trinket box.  She also chose a rose to go on top of it.  At first I wasn't going to do anything but after watching Gess have so much fun, I decided to go ahead and give it a try too.  I made my husband a coffee mug.

Chelsie is great at her job and helped us choose our colors and was very patient as neither of us seemed to know what we wanted.  Finally it was time to start.  She helped Gess at first, simply to demonstrate the process.

But it wasn't long before Gess was doing it on her own.

She did want Chelsie's help with the Rose on top, those small parts are hard for anyone to get to.

After diligently painting three coats of paint on each section of her box, it was done. However, we needed to leave it so it could be fired in the kiln.

A few weeks later Chelsie's mom delivered the finished box right to our door and Gess started putting it to good use.

I am so grateful that Chelsie gave us such a wonderful gift.  It is a lovely reminder of the time we spent together.  We also enjoyed the show Crazy for You.  Tim did an excellent job, of course, playing Lank Hawkins.  Gess always enjoys her visits, but then again so do I.  I just wish campus was a lot closer so we could do things together more often!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Review: Christmas Comes To America

Gess is getting excited as it gets close to December.  She really loves Christmas and can't wait until it gets here.  She actually starts counting down the days as soon as her birthday is over, which is on October 25th.  While Thanksgiving is fun and family filled, its nothing like the joy of Christmas.  Because Gess has special needs I try to find fun, hands-on ways to teach her about the holidays.  I do not just want her to like what we do, I want her to know why we do it.  That is where Homeschool Legacy comes in.  They gave me the opportunity to review their Once-a-Week Unit Study - Christmas Comes to America and we have had tons of fun learning how all the wonderful traditions that we enjoy came to be.

The Homeschool Legacy Once-a-Week Unit Studies are a great way to learn about topical subjects such as Christmas, the Weather, Birds, Knights and Knobles and so on.  What you do is fill four days of school with your usual subjects but take one day, I usually pick Friday, to do something completely different.  You ditch all your normal stuff and instead become engrossed in one topic.  Whats even better is that all the preparation is done for you so even the teacher gets to sit back and just enjoy the lesson. 

The Once-a-Week Unit Study - Christmas Comes to America is a biblically centered study for the entire family.  It focuses on the history of American Christmas traditions, customs, and symbols.  While many of these customs do have pagan roots, the study shows how Christians often used those customs to teach the message of Christ.  There are 4 weeks in this unit.

Week 1: The Dutch
Week 2: The English
Week 3: The Germans
Week 4: An American Christmas

There are books you read to go along with the study.  They offer a suggested reading list that is fairly large and gives lots of options.  Coming from a small town I was worried that I might not have access to enough of the books that they suggested, but I found several of them at our local library.  There were, however, some that were not available but instead of purchasing them I substituted other selections on the same topic.  Each week you are to read one of the books independently, one together as a family read-aloud, and there is one on traditions that you read a little bit each day.

Next come the fun activities.  They always begin with a family devotional that includes Scripture reading.  In the first week the children had to illustrate what they heard as you read about John the Baptist.  I think Gess did such a great job on that one!

Then you delve into history, geography, language, culture, life skills, discussion, games, science, music, art,  crafts, and research.  There are also field trips and family movie nights!  Now you might not do all of them each week but there is certainly enough learning going on.  The best part is that most of it is interactive and hands-on fun.

Because we did our unit early we have not actually done the field trips which involve holiday specific activities like visiting a Christmas tree farm. However when we do finally go it will mean so much more now that we have studied them.  I also really love the emphasis on music education, something I find lacking in my homeschool.  Visiting holiday concerts will certainly be an extra special experience this year. 

There were still plenty of activities to do besides field trips.  They were great at bringing in crafts and activities that truly went hand-in-hand with the tradition that you were learning about.  Gess' favorite one was making a gingerbread house.  I chose to do it out of graham crackers for the sake of expense and convenience.  I think it is pretty good for her first try.

We also loved learning about the reasons for many of the traditions and symbols that we use.  Since we read about one each day there is lots to learn, even for myself.  While I knew about most of them, Gess did not so it was fun for her to learn why we do the things she enjoys so much.  Her Christmas wish list actually consisted of "set up the tree" and "decorate the tree" so it was especially nice to learn why we do those things!

You end with a fun family trivia game based upon all the things you learn throughout the study.  Gess loves playing games now so this is a great way to change them up for the holidays.

I think the Once-a-Week Unit Study - Christmas Comes to America is a great way to turn your usual traditions and celebrations into a time of learning while keeping the focus on Christ, who should be the center of it all.  It it nice to be reminded to put things into perspective.  As the holidays near it is really hard to keep up with all the book work so this is a nice alternative that allows you to both learn and get in the holiday spirit.  I am actually glad we did this one a bit early as I am ready to keep my mind focused on gift giving, sharing and expressing the love of Christ and the salvation He offers which is the greatest gift of all.

The Once-a-Week Unit Study - Christmas Comes to America can be purchased at the Homeschool Legacy website and sells for $17.95.  I would recommend starting this right at the beginning of December.  Even if you are like us and do not do a lot of school during the Christmas season, this is a really fun way to bring it to life.

Homeschool Legacy also has other Once-a-Week Unit Studies available like the one we used last year, Weather on the Move.  These are great additions to any homeschool so be sure to check them out as you plan your lessons for the new year. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

186 Days of School

Today marks our 186th day of school for this year which means we have met the legal obligation of the amount of days we must do school.  While I am not quite done for the year its nice to know that I have done what has been legally required of me and can end my year on time! 

This is the first year I have done school from January to December and so far I like it.  This is the most hectic time of year for me.  Due the holidays and constant winter illnesses, it is hard to stay on track.  Therefore I have prepared well.  With the classes we did over the summer, we are almost ready for a full holiday break!  I will stop the week of Thanksgiving and not do much until after New Years.  Gess will do some computer lessons to keep English and Math practiced and boredom down to a minimum.  We will also focus on some Christmas lessons and do lots of family activities. 

While school will be breaking my blogging will be to a minimum as well. I will try to post something once a week, probably holiday related.  But don't worry.  Come January I will be excited and ready to get back to school and eager to share what we are doing.

Thanks for being such faithful readers.  I just love it when I hear that someone was helped by a resource I shared.  I also love getting those resources from others so maybe during my down time I can do more blog reading of my own!  Feel free to share resources anytime you want and don't forget, we have a special group on Facebook for moms who homeschool children with Down syndrome.  I learn so much from the other moms there.  I would love for you to join us!

And of course feel free to follow me on Facebook.  It is a personal page where I share much of my personal life as well as my homeschooling special needs resources.  I do some times share my political point of view but am careful to respect all opinions and try not to spam any one topic too much.  I love spending time reading what my followers are up to as much I as I do posting about what is going on in my life. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool

This week at our monthly Homeschool Mom's Night Out, one of the moms shared this great resource.  It is Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool which is a FREE online Christian homeschool.  You can do your entire homeschool agenda from this one website or use it as a supplement. 

While I don't think this would work well for us for a total curriculum I certainly plan on using it for our history and to supplement some of our other subjects.  It will be nice to have one curriculum that is done for me at least part of the time.  I can't wait to try this out.

Easy Peasy

Monday, November 4, 2013

Schoolhouse Review: Exploring Creation With Chemistry & Physics

My daughter, who happens to have Down syndrome, absolutely loves science.  I think it is because she loves exploring the world around her through experimentation in a way in which she can visually see what she is learning.  With that in mind you can see why we were eager to review Apologia Educational Ministries curriculum Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics!

You may remember how thrilled we were with one of their other products, Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology that we used at the start of the year.  Well, Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics was definitely on that same level.  I love how they have a solid scientific foundation presented in a way that supports the Word of God.  In fact they begin by telling the student that chemistry and physics are "the sciences God created to make everything around you operate as it does"   The rest of the lessons help you explore the world God made through the scientific principles that He created and used!

That has to be my favorite part of this curriculum.  God is not an afterthought or something held distant.  He is referred to often throughout the book. The entire concept is to help us learn about God's creation so that terminology is used often.  We learn that "crystals are curious compounds in creation" and that while earth is not made of magnetite "God did make it with a lot of iron." In the book you constantly discover the handiwork of God using science.  They are in unison just as they should be, for as they say in the textbook science is how God made the world work!

The book is written in a conversational style that sounds as if the author is speaking right to you.  I think that makes it much more interesting.  Gess will even enjoy reading it on her own.  In fact I have found her doing that a time or two. 

Its not just how it is written that makes the book so incredible to me.  It is the amount of hands on and interactive learning they add that make it so memorable.  After all, what good is learning something if you can't remember it? 

As I mentioned, Gess has special needs so she sometimes struggles learning new things so using hands on activities is a major plus for us.  When Gess hears it is time for science she gets excited and is ready to get her hands dirty and her mind challenged, especially when we are using something from Apologia Educational Ministries.

Each chapter in the book has some Try This segments that are activities to do to help you better understand the concept you just read about.  Chapter 1 had 10 of them so that was thrilling!  These activities can be something as simple as finding rocks with geometric shapes or something more complex like an actual experiment.

Here was a fun one that Gess did to learn about buoyancy.  She made her ocean water blue by using food coloring and then made a boat out of foil.  Then she started adding her treasure to the boat noting that the coins would sink if they were not inside the boat.

Then we were challenged to make the boat sink.  It took quite a few coins to do that.

At the end of each chapter there is an experiment or project that is more involved than most of the Try This segments.  At the end of chapter 1 we made a lava lamp.  It was fun, but we had an accident or two making it so Gess says it was messy.

While you will find most of the items you need for these activities and experiments are things you have around the house they have made it easy to make sure you are fully prepared by providing a supply list for each chapter.  You will find this list at the end of the book.

The Notebooking Journals that they offer with these books are a great supplement.  I love that they offer them in both a Junior and Regular version.  We decided to take the Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics Junior Notebooking Journal.

There are many activities that you can do in your journal.  Some of the content is left up to you.  They provide pages that are not exactly blank but allow you to fill it in with your own findings.  Gess often uses those to define words.  After all, vocabulary words are in bold print so that is obviously something she knows she is supposed to remember!

Then some of the activities have specific instructions.  There are puzzles, coloring pages, copy work, and places to write about your projects listing what you did and what you learned from them.  There are also some hands on activities there as well.  Here is Gess working on vocabulary words.  Instead of writing them out she glued them together leaving flaps so she could test herself when done.

They also have some small mini books you can make for each chapter but we didn't do those because you have to write really small in them and that is a struggle for Gess.  Besides there is so much to do in both the book and journal that we hardly get all of them done anyway.  One thing is for sure, there is never a dull moment and Gess absolutely loves Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics!  I know I love it too!

Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics is for children ages 6 to 13.
The Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics Textbook is $39.00
You may choose which Notebooking Journal to use depending on the age and ability of the child.
The Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics Junior Notebooking Journal is $24.00
The Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics Notebooking Journal is $24.00

To learn more about Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics from Apologia Educational Ministries visit their website or see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about it by clicking on the banner below.


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Who We Belong To

As we enter into November the month we focus on Thanksgiving I am reminded of what I am most thankful for in life.  It is the God whom I serve.  The God of the universe, who loved me enough to die for me, while I was yet a sinner.  It is so hard to put into mere words and there is no other source better than the Word itself.  However, there is a clip of something Priscilla Shirer said in one of her teachings.  I think it may be something she says often.  Either way, it moved me then and still does every time I hear it.  Who is this God I belong to?  This God I love and serve?  Here is a glimpse of what He is to me.

"He is the first and the last, the beginning and the end. He’s the keeper of creation and the creator of all. He’s the architect of the universe and the manager of all time. He always was, always is, always will be unmoved, unchanged, undefeated and never undone.

He was bruised but brought healing, He was pierced but eased pain, He was persecuted but brought freedom, He was dead and brings life. He is risen to bring power and He reigns to bring peace.

The world can’t understand Him, armies can’t defeat Him, schools can’t explain Him and leaders - they can’t ignore Him. Herrod couldn’t kill Him, Nero couldn’t crush Him, the new age cannot replace Him and Oprah cannot explain Him away.

You remind yourself, that He is light, He is love, He is longevity and He is the Lord. He is goodness and kindness and faithfulness and He is God. He is holy and righteousness and powerful and pure.

His ways are right, His word eternal, His will unchanging and His mind is on us. He’s our Savior, our guide, our peace, our joy, our comfort, our Lord and He rules our lives.

I serve Him because….His bond is love, His yoke is easy, His burden is light and His goal for us is abundant life. I follow Him because He’s the wisdom of the wise, the power of the powerful, the ancient of days, the ruler of rulers, the leader of all leaders. His goal is a relationship with me.

He’ll never leave you, never forsake you, never mislead you, never forget you, never overlook you, and never cancel your appointment in his appointment book.

When you fall He’ll lift you up. When you fail, he’ll forgive you. When you’re weak, He’s strong. When you’re lost, He’s your way. When you’re afraid, He’s your courage.

When you stumble, he will steady you. When you’re hurt He’s gonna heal you. When you’re broken, He will mend you. When you’re blind, He will lead you. When you’re hungry, He will feed you. When you face trials, He’s with you. When I face persecution, He shields me. When I face problems, He will comfort me. When I face loss, He will provide for me. And when we face death, He will carry us all home to meet Him.

He is everything, for everybody, everywhere, every time and in everyway. He is your God. And that sisters, is who you belong to."

Friday, November 1, 2013

Join the Schoolhouse Review Crew!

I started this blog to share homeschooling resources with families, especially those who homeschool children with special needs.  In my blogging I stumbled upon an opportunity to be on the Schoolhouse Review Crew.  That has become one of the biggest blessings in our homeschool journey.  Being on the crew has exposed me to many homeschool products that I might not have found on my own and it has given me an opportunity to share those resources with all of you in my reviews!

Are you a homeschool blogger with an active blog?  Want to try some new homeschool resources and tell your readers about them?  Want to be part of an incredible homeschool community?  Then consider joining the Schoolhouse Review Crew!  Visit their website for more details and requirements.  The deadline for applications is November 8.

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