Friday, May 31, 2013

Free Friday: A Free Book from Barnes and Nobel


Barnes and Nobel is hosting a reading program titled 2013 Summer Reading Imagination's Destination where any elementary student who reads 8 books over the summer will get a FREE book.  There is also a FREE reading kit with fun activities and teaching tips.  Hop on over the Barnes & Nobel Summer Reading Page to start your summer reading now!  Forms must be turned in by September 3, 2013 to qualify.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Summer Reading Kick Off


Today we signed up for the summer reading program at our local library.  Now we are ready to Dig into Reading.  This will be the second year that Gess must follow the Program B reading requirements.  She mastered it last year so this should be easy.  The rules are listed below. 


 I actually don't let Gess choose only 3 of the categories.  I make Gess read one from each of those categories.  I want her to get a good feel for all types of reading. 

We are also going to join Governor Brownback's Read Kansas Read challenge.  I love that it only requires them to log the amount of minutes they spend reading.  That means that children with special needs will have an equal opportunity to participate.  You don't have to read well or fast, just read!  I like that!  If you live in Kansas you can learn more about that by clicking on the image below. 


Gess is always excited to sign up for the summer reading program.  The reward for completing it is admission into a private swim party at the local pool. They also get other prizes as they reach milestones along the way.  Today was special for me because this was the first time we signed up with my grandkids!  As you can see, all three of them already love reading!







Monday, May 27, 2013

Geographical Homeschool Blogger Listing

So You Call Yourself a Homeschooler is hosting a Homeschoolers Around the World linky to sign up homeschoolers by geographical are to "promote more friendship, unity and resources for our families."  Click the link below if you want to add your blog or find other homeschoolers in your near you.  Enjoy!


Friday, May 24, 2013

Free Friday: Answers In Genesis - Dinosaurs, Genesis and The Gospel

I do not know if you have heard but atheists have been attacking a small Christian school in South Carolina because of a quiz that was given to the students based off of the Answers in Genesis curriculum Dinosaurs, Genesis, and the Gospel.  That is right, atheists seem to be outraged over the fact that a Christian school would teach a Christian world view about the creation of the world.  You can read the whole story at their blog Intolerant Atheists Viciously Attack Christian School.

To battle this attack Answers in Genesis has decided to challenge us all to take the quiz!  Families: Let's Use the Recent Atheist Attack to Teach More Kids the Truth explains a bit more about the story and offers the challenge of taking the quiz.  However, instead of just giving us the quiz to take they are offering some of their resources FREE for a limited time so we can actually teach what is on the test!  You can get the following for no charge:
  1. View the children’s video Dinosaurs, Genesis, and the Gospel for free via video stream on the web.
  2. Download the high-resolution digital video to your computer hard drive—free until July 31
  3. Download a free PDF of the booklet on dinosaurs.
  4. Download the actual science quiz, also at no charge.
You can access this by clicking the link on the image below.  The information is in that blog.  Read it, learn about it, and then take the challenge and let's get out there and teach it so that even more kids can learn the truth about creation!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Schoolhouse Review: Simplified Pantry

I am just super excited to tell you about the latest product I reviewed for the Schoolhouse Review Crew - Simplified Pantry.  It is not actually a homeschooling product, but rather something that every family can benefit from.  I grew up in a home where both parents worked and we ate a lot of fast food for dinner. I never really learned many cooking skills and so I always had to cook by following recipes.  Every week I planned my shopping list by the menu I prepared for that week and I would buy only the ingredients for those meals.  That of course always had me running back to the store several times because I would either forget something or have a change of plans.  Many times it meant eating out because if one of the meals didn't work out I had nothing ready to fall back on.  To help put an end to all this needless planning and preparation, not to mention the waste for all those "special" ingredients you buy that are only used once, Mystie Winkler came up with her Simplified Pantry concept and shares it with us in her ebook Simplified Dinners.   I have to tell you this product has literally changed my life!

Simplified Dinners  is an ebook that "enables anyone to transition toward home-prepared, real, whole foods cooking—even those less confident in the kitchen. Simplified Dinners helps keep dinner streamlined while allowing flexibility."


They also offer the Simplified Dinners Gluten Free / Diary Free version.


The description on their website is 100% accurate.  It certainly helped me make the transition and I definitely have little confidence in the kitchen, even though I am 45 years old! It also really does help you streamline meals and it is very flexible!

Simplified Dinners is like a cookbook and a how to book all in one.  It starts by explaining how to pack your pantry with foods you will actually use and then gives you recipes which call for those exact ingredients.  The pantry list was incredible to me.  My biggest problem was that I never knew what to stock my kitchen with.  It's sad, I know, but no one ever taught me how to have a kitchen stocked without having ingredients get wasted and go unused.  I did not want to stock expensive items I would hardly ever use and eventually end up throwing away so I just didn't buy much at all.

If you follow the Simplified Dinners instructions you will know how to have a well stocked pantry without having lots of waste.  The book actually comes with a Master Pantry List.  That's right, they make your shopping list for you!  They do all the work, you just buy all the stuff.  To begin our Simplified Journey, Gess and I spent some time going down the list to see what we already had.  If I didn't have it I would have Gess type that ingredient on our grocery list.  My pantry was pretty bare because as I said, I never knew how to do this before.  Here is the list Gesserine typed though I took over typing near the end of the first column.  Do remember she has Down syndrome and is only 11 years old so be kind about the errors.  In fact I found them quite adorable.  I really loved carlik salt, dried cranbreeys, rolld oats, and bakeing pouder but rakeno (orgeno) was my absolute favorite and my new pronunciation of it now. 


What's great about the Simplified Pantry method is it lets you choose what meats are on sale and what produce is in season.  You work with what you find on sale or what you specifically like.  It certainly helps save you money.  While my first shopping trip did cost me a bit more than usual because I had a pitifully low pantry, I have seen quite a bit of savings in the weeks following. 

Now that we went shopping and our pantry was finally stocked I could not wait to start cooking!


The cookbook section is not like your average cookbook that tells you precisely how to make each individual meal and calls for fancy specialty ingredients.  Simplified Dinners tells you how to cook basic things and then gives you several different ways to prepare it.  For instance it will have a page titled Skillet Cutlets with Pan Sauces and gives basic instructions on how to prepare the cutlets followed by specific instructions for each type of meat: pork, chicken, beef and fish.  Below that you will find recipes for 6 different kinds of sauces. She does this with each category. There are basic instructions and then several different recipes to change it up.  I am the kind of person who always made a roast the same way each time I cooked it, month after month and year after year.  The same with pork chops, chicken, pasta dishes, etc.  There was very little variety.  Because of that it was very exciting for me to learn how to put a spin on a standard recipe without having to learn something entirely new.

The very first recipe I tried was Pork Skillet Cutlets with the Orange Mustard sauce.  Now to be honest, the Orange Mustard sauce did not really sound that delicious but  I chose it because I had an open bottle of orange juice I needed to finish off.  See the beauty of this concept?  It helped me use the stuff I already had on hand rather than buy stuff I will never use again!  Anyway, the sauce turned out to be incredibly delicious!  My husband in particular really enjoyed the sauce.  I learned very quickly to be willing to give anything a try, even if you are not a fan of certain ingredients and I am also learning to substitute ingredients as well.  I am learning to actually cook, not just follow recipes! Here was my very first Simplified Dinner!


Now it was time to get Gess involved since I have really been working at teaching her how to cook. Because of her special needs I have been focusing on teaching her independence and I can tell you now that the Simplified Pantry concept is something I will pass on to her when she leaves the house!  It is so important that she learn how to shop and plan as well as cook.  I really recommend this for persons with special needs who are living alone and able to do their own cooking.  There are great skill sets and information for them to learn from in this book.  If they use this method they will always know what to buy and how to use it though they may need to modify the recipes if only cooking for one.

Gess helped me make some Quesadillas.  This page had simple instructions along with recommendations for different cheeses, vegetables, meat, and seasonings.  I always season my meat with a taco seasoning packet.  That's it, nothing else.  While the seasoning packet was a suggestion they had other great ideas too. These turned out good just using salsa.  My salsa happened to be home made!  OK I guess I did have some cooking skills.  Anyway, here we are making our Quesadillas.  They were a bit messy which is why Gess was eating them so close to the plate. They were incredibly tasty too.





Now that I have all the ingredients on my Master Pantry List, each time I cook I write down anything I use up.  If it's a meat I write down one meat.  It doesn't matter what kind of meat, because I am going to buy whats on sale or what looks good. The same goes with the fruits and vegetables. If it's a can of something, a frozen pack of something, whatever it is, I write it down. By the time my shopping day comes around my list is all ready for me to take to the store!  There are no hours of figuring out menus first and then creating the list.  All you do is keep your pantry stocked.

You will find there are things you like to make that are not part of the list, such as ingredients for my green bean casserole which includes Durkee onions.  If you know there are items your family likes just add those to your pantry list too. Once it has been purchased if you replace it when it's used you will always have it in the future.  They also tell you to keep a couple of quick fix or frozen meals on hand for days when you don't have time to cook and I sure use those too. Of course whenever I do I replace them by putting them on my list but I try to get something different every time.

The moment that proved this was truly Simplifying my life was the week we had our ladies retreat.  It was the day before and I panicked because I was supposed to bring a covered dish!  Oh no!  I didn't buy anything to make at the store!  See, that is the way I have always lived.  You have to buy something before you can make it. Then I remembered about the purpose of this concept and ran to my Simplified Dinners recipe book. Wouldn't you know it, they had me stocked with emergency recipes.  I knew I bought canned chicken for a reason.  The best part was how great the dish tasted.  My husband was actually disappointed that he wasn't getting any when I left.


Using the Simplified Pantry method has saved me lots of time and money and has truly helped me cook more freely in my kitchen.  I no longer have to measure every little thing, though I still tend to most of the time.  I also am more free about changing recipes myself.  I now look at a recipe and wonder what else might be good in it.  So far we have absolutely loved each recipe we have tried. 

The only thing I did not like about the book is that is not searchable by key word.  It is in a PDF format and while that has a search option the book is made in a way where it won't work.  I had a bag of potatoes that really needed to get used up and I was trying to search for the word potato to find recipes that called for them other than the actual potato categories they had .  However it would say that no matches found even if I was staring at the word on the page.  It sure would have saved me some time, but the book is not all that large so manually looking was not terribly difficult.

Mystie Winkler is not only organized in the kitchen she is also great at household management and has an ebook for Paperless Home Organization.  She had tried making physical household management binders several times but had trouble following through.  Once she started to go digital she got rid of the paper mess but soon found her computer was becoming cluttered and things on there were now becoming hard to find.  Her Paperless Home Organization book shares her solution to this dilemma.


I haven't personally used the Paperless Home Organization book because I have a system in place that works for me but if you are looking for something to help you organize your life and home this might be the prefect tool for you.

These books would benefit any mother out there trying to run a household.  The Simplified Dinners and the Simplified Dinners-Gluten Free / Dairy Free ebooks sell for $12.99 each.  The Paperless Home Organization is only $3.99 but right now Mystie is offering 30% off of any or all of her books if you use the code TOS2013 at the checkout.  Hurry though, this offer expires June 3rd! 

Enter code TOS2013 to get 30% off 
offer expires June 3, 2013

If you want to learn more about these incredibly helpful tools you can visit the website for each product or see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about them by clicking on the banner below.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Schoolhouse Library

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine has just announced a new and really handy resource, The Schoolhouse Library.  This library for homeschoolers lets you have access to all of it's listings right from your home!  The library consists of over 175 e-books or audio books in 25 categories from many different publishers.  You get access to all of these for a one time payment of $25!

Be sure to hop on over to the The Schoolhouse Library website to see some of the listings that are available and find how you can sign up.  For a one time payment, that's a fabulous deal!

Lessons During A Storm

I am sure you heard about the devastating tornado in Moore Oklahoma on Monday.  Our hearts are saddened and our prayers go out to the families who suffered loss during that tragedy.  As a resident of another part of "tornado alley" in Kansas I can certainly sympathize.  We live only four hours from Moore and less than two hours from Joplin which had the most deadly tornado in modern history two years ago today.  Our community has been quick to rise to action to help in both of these tragedies and I am thankful to have been a part of that.

While we didn't suffer any damage or get a major hit by the storm we did go through it and there was some wind damage in our town.  We were under a tornado watch the entire day and for us it never went to a warning.  We did power down our technical equipment, such as computers and game systems when the storm became severe so we were down to the radio for our weather updates for awhile.  Around 3:30 in the afternoon a tornado warning came over the radio for some counties that were next to ours.  Gesserine started freaking out.  She knows what to do in a storm but it sure is scary when you hear the actual warnings and the noises that go along with them.  It was then that I realized that Gess had no idea what county we live in.

My son actually went to the county community college which has our county name in it but she never really made the connection.  She knows her continent, state, city, street and address, but we never really spent much time on the county, until that day.  We have a magnet on our fridge that breaks the Kansas map down into counties.  It has come in handy when I hear warnings for counties I may not be as familiar with, especially when I first moved here.  I quickly grabbed that map and showed Gess where were on it.  I then showed her the county that was getting the brunt of the storm which was two counties away, however the storm was moving in our direction. 

We then started talking about the other counties and I started making some mock warnings listing various counties and would ask Gess if that warning was for us or not while sometimes mentioning our county and sometimes not.  Once she knew the name of our county she was great at the game. We then went to the school room and wrote the name down so she could see and it and I had her find it on our map magnet herself.


While I am grateful that we were spared I feel so badly about it because I know that not everyone was.  I am thankful that we didn't have to take cover and go through an F5 tornado.  We have no downstairs or shelter other than our bathtub with a mattress over us for protection.  Of course I know that God is ultimately in control and will trust in Him if we ever have to use it.

I have posted this video about weather safety twice now, but it is an excellent tool for kids.  Gess still watches it and because of it, she knows what to do when a tornado comes.  Make sure your kids do too.


You will also find a link to a tornado coloring books and other tools on my blog from last year Tornadoes - Being Prepared.  Oh and don't forget to make sure your kids know what county they live in so they will know what warnings actually apply to them when you are going through a storm!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Piano Recital

Gess began taking piano lessons last fall and had her very first piano recital on Saturday.  I am so proud of how well she is doing.  What amazes her instructor is how well she reads the notes already.  Below are a few photos and the videos of her two songs. 






Friday, May 17, 2013

Schoolhouse Review: Stepping Stones to Bigger Faith

Last year my Gesserine made a profession of faith and was baptized in October.  We really do feel she understands what she did and was sincere in her prayer.  We have truly seen repentance and some fruit in her life.  Since then I have been trying to help her learn how to have some independent devotion and bible study time which is something important for every Christian.  When I saw that I had the opportunity to review Stepping Stones to Bigger Faith for Little People Book and Audio Cassettes by Joyce Herzog I thought it might be the perfect tool for that, and boy was I right.

Stepping Stones to Bigger Faith for Little People is a family devotional that is written on a 2nd grade level but has applications for all ages.


There are 37 devotionals in all that are based upon Scripture.  These are solid, essential, and doctrinally sound devotions.  I love how it starts with basic doctrinal passages such as Romans 5:8 that tells us we are sinners.  There are Scriptures for God's Provision, Guide, Answer, Peace, Helps, as well as Sanctification, Depression, Giving and so much more. These really are passages that are relevant to any age.

Because the devotions are written on a 2nd grade level I had Gess, who has special needs, use this as more of an independent, rather than family devotional.  The print inside the book was large and there were full page beautiful illustrations for each one.  The devotion for Psalm 119:105 which used a flashlight as an example as to how God's Word acts our spiritual light really impacted Gess.  I think that it helped her to see it visually.  Just as the flashlight doesn't help you when it's on the shelf at home, God's Word doesn't help you if you don't use it either.  Gess was playing with the flashlight later that day and it certainly opened up conversations about how God's Word is a light to us.  We have enjoyed each devotional so far.

The passages themselves are quoted from the King James Version of the Bible and the songs seem to be sung in that version as well though at times they may vary just a tad.  The devotions are still compatible if you use another version, you would just want to read it out of the Bible instead of on the page which I like better anyway. I want Gess in her Bible so she will know and realize she is learning about what God's Word says when we are having a devotion.

We found the audio cassettes to be a great addition as it was nice to have the devotional read aloud to you. At the end of it they include a song of the Scripture you study that day.  This really helped Gess in memorizing them. The songs were sung by a young child or children and were catchy and fairly short.  The only words were the Scripture itself so it was a good way to learn the verses.


I had Gess do her devotional each morning as the first activity of school.  She would start by following along in the book as the devotional was narrated on the tape. Most of the time they read the page word for word but there are times they would skip a word or sentence and that really tripped Gess up so do be aware the audio doesn't always match up.  Then she would listen to and sing the song.  I would often rewind it so she could repeat the song again.  The next day I would have Gess read the devotion herself.  Then I would have her find the Scripture in the Bible and copy it onto paper. Sometimes we would do the song again as well.  She began to work more independently after she knew what to do and she would always end her time in private prayer.


We are loving this devotional book and I feel Gess is getting a lot out of it.  I even plan on using the Joyce Herzog Stepping Stones to Praise and Worship book when we are done.  I believe it is similar but written more on a fourth grade level.

I would highly recommend this product for any Christian home with children.  While it is working well for Gess' personal devotional time I think it would also be great as a family devotional as it is intended. There were some that we did together in that way.  The only reason we used it differently was because of Gess' special needs I really felt that she needed something to help her learn how to have some "quiet time" alone with God and this really fit that need perfectly.

The only thing we didn't like about it was the fact that the audio was on cassette.  While I do have a cassette player I know that many families today do not and so they would not be able to benefit from it. I would have loved having it on CD myself so that we could more easily find the songs when we wanted them.  While I love that the song is immediately following the lesson, I would love to just review the songs of past devotions which is difficult to do on a cassette.  As it is we have to play, rewind, play, rewind, etc.  It is a bit of a distraction and we use the tape less because of it.

Joyce Herzog not only has devotionals like this she also has many educational materials.  She has taught in both private and public schools and specializes in teaching those with learning disabilities so many of her materials are great for our special learners!  Many members of our Schoolhouse Review Crew were able to review some of her other products so be sure to check those out.  I know I am interested in seeing what else she has to offer.

You can purchase the Stepping Stones to Bigger Faith for Little People Book and Audio Cassette by visiting her website.  The Book sells for $12 and the pack of 2 Audio Cassettes sells for $14.  You can learn more by visiting the website or see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about this and some of the other Joyce Herzog products by clicking on the banner below.

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Free Friday: eBooks About Horses

Gess will begin her horseback riding lessons again this summer.  She absolutely loves riding, can you tell from these photos her instructor took?




Today I decided to check out Amazon and look for some FREE ebooks about horses.  Remember they might not be FREE for long.







Thursday, May 16, 2013

Special Olympics 2013

Gess was supposed to attend 2 Special Olympic competitions this year but she was sick when they had the first one.  The second one was set for last week but rained out.  They rescheduled it for yesterday and it couldn't have been a more beautiful day for it. 

This was the first time this city hosted an event and with the cancellation I think some teams ended up not being able to make it so the attendance was down and in most events Gess competed against only one other girl.  There were plenty of boys in their heats but there seemed to be a shortage of girls.  Well, that meant that Gess would either get the gold or the silver and she managed to get the gold in each one!  She had four events and got four gold medals! She was so ecstatic!   Here are a few pictures of her joyous day.

The Tennis Ball Throw - Gold



Making waiting more fun with a game of Duck-Duck Goose.



10 Meter Dash - Gold
As you can see she was not a fan of the sound of the gun.



25 Meter Dash - Gold



50 Meter Dash - Gold


She was super excited here because she thought was going to get the silver.  Actually so did I.  I felt bad for the other girl because I think the judges got it wrong.  It certainly was a close race!


It was nice to see these girls stay friends, even when competing against each other.




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