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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Wordless Wednesday



If there's one thing that is nice about living in the desert, it's the beautiful sunsets.  God surely uses one amazing pallet to paint the sky here.



Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Home School in the Woods (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)


History can be a pretty boring subject for most kids. I dreaded history in school because it mainly consisted of reading extremely dry material from a textbook, memorizing names and dates, and occasionally a really boring documentary. My kids prefer a "hands on" approach when they are learning a subject but there aren't many curriculum out there that offer a more "hands on" learning experience when it comes to history.

However, over the last several weeks, we've had the opportunity to review HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study: Ancient Greece from Home School in the Woods.  For this review, we were given the Digital Download version of this unit study.  This was a company that we were already familiar with, having reviewed their Middle Ages unit in 2015 (review can be found here).  



What Is It?

Stop Guide
The Ancient Greece unit study is designed to be like a fully immersive trip to Ancient Greece, covering material in what is known as a "Stop". Each stop focuses on one aspect of Greek history, such as the Government systems, major cities, everyday life, major battles, culture, and mythology of the era.  The Greece unit study contains 25 of these stops.  At each stop, students read a bit about the topic and then work on activities that coincide with the text.  Some stops even have Audio Tours where they listen to a field guide describing the topic as if an actual visit was taking place. 

Each stop contains a link for both the Guide Book Text as well as the Travel Itinerary.  The Guide Book Text is roughly 2-3 pages of reading material for the information covered in the Stop.  The Travel Itinerary contains the instructions for completing the projects that accompany the text.  Also, all printable files used for the projects are listed, as well as any Audio Tour links needed.  Clickable links for photos of completed projects are also included.

When using the digital downloadable version of the Project Passport, the entire curriculum is downloaded directly into a file on our computer.  A file entitled "Start.html" allows the user to click on the link and have the entire curriculum load up as a webpage in your default browser. While entirely browser based - once the files are downloaded you do not have to have an internet connection as all files are located on your computer.   Photos are included to show finished projects along with links for each of the reading texts and Stop information in the form of a "Travel Itinerary" which gives step by step instructions for that Stop.  Each of these files are saved as PDF's on your computer and are extremely easy to access and print out for binders.  The entire file for the unit study only took up 328 MB of hard drive space.  However, for those who prefer a physical copy of the unit study is preferred, Home School in the Woods does provide the option of ordering a physical CD. 

One of the major highlights of using this particular study unit is that your student will end up with a binder of projects that resembled a scrapbook project more than the typical lapbook often seen with a more hands on project, making it something that students will cherish more than other projects. (There is a lapbook component for those who really enjoy doing them). The drawback to this is this also means that your printer will get a workout as there are many components that have to be printed for each stop, using various different paper if one wishes to really make this a unique project.  It should also be taken into account that the volume of printing is doubled when using this unit study with multiple students, as each one is going to want to make their own projects.  Some projects also use specialty materials, such as sheets of clear acetate or Dura-lar.  Scissors and glue (or glue sticks) are an absolute necessity.
Just a few of the many projects the kids have worked on

One of the great thing about this curriculum is that while it can definitely be used as a stand alone

curriculum to study a particular time period, it's very easy to add supplemental materials to the lessons to expand even further and reinforce what is being learned.  Since Garrett loves Minecraft, we found a really neat homeschool class about Ancient Greece where he was able to convert what he learned to building projects on the game, such as using the different type of columns the Greeks used in their architecture.  Books and videos such as episodes of Drive Thru History can easily be added in with the lessons with each "Stop" and Home School in the Woods also provides a list of resources that offer suggestions on materials that can help to supplement the unit study. 

How Did We Use It

Being that we had already used a previous unit study from Home School in the Woods, we already had our binders and Travel Logs already made so we just recycled those items. We had lost Garrett's previous passport, so we did make new ones for each kid and we were ready to go. 


Because the kids are lower elementary, and there is a plethora of information to cover with this unit, we opted to move at a slower pace than older students would probably work at.  This allowed us to complete 1-2 stops per week, depending on the information covered.  I came to appreciate how each stop had it's own Travel Itinerary which helped me to keep track of what printouts we would need each day and gave me a way to check off each component as we completed it. 

A few things of the things I really enjoyed about this unit was that it covers much more than just history.  In the course of completing 7 stops, the kids have worked on various skills such as writing, art, geography and even cooking as they had to fill out articles in their weekly "newsletter", decorate post cards, create maps and learn about Greek foods.   

For Week 7, the kids had the opportunity to prepare a few different recipes provided which turned out really good.  The menu consisted of Spiced "Wine" (which was grape juice) with a meal of Avgolemeno (Chicken Soup with Egg-Lemon Sauce) and Gyro meat and tzatziki over a Greek Salad, rounded out with Yiaourti me Meli and Baklava for desert.  

Overall, we have really enjoyed using the Ancient Greece study from Home School in the Woods.  While the kids did enjoy the Middle Ages study when we used it 2 years ago, I do feel it was a bit overwhelming for them at times.  Now that they are 3rd Graders, I think it was a much more enjoyable experience for them.  As it is so "hands on", it really was a perfect fit for my kids who can not stand just being read to.  And the fact that it includes so many different learning subjects is a huge plus.

There are so many projects involved in this study and the kids and I have only scratched the surface.  Other projects we have not yet reached include making pottery, mosaics, theater masks and a diorama of the Parthenon. 


I would highly recommend this for 3rd Grade through Middle School.  

Home School in the Woods also offers unit studies for Ancient EgyptThe Middle Ages and the Renaissance & Reformation.  A unit study for Ancient Rome is currently in the works and should be released sometime next year. 


#hsreviews #history #unitstudies #AncientCivilizations #lapbooking


For more information about Home School in the Woods and their HISTORY Through the Ages
Project Passport World History Studies be sure to visit their website or one of their social media sites:
HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study Reviews


Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Weekly Wrapup (Week of Feb 13th)


Well, another week of school in the books..  We had such a great week this week and accomplished quite a bit while having quite a bit of fun in the process.

Homeschool Coffee Break
Linking up with...

As always, we start our day out with a daily drill that reviews both language and math skills.  I typically purchase these from the website Teacherspayteacher.com because I can pick up an entire month of drills for relatively cheap.  Yeah, I could probably make my own drill sheets, but honestly, I have enough on my plate.  LOL   Here's what our typical drill sheets look like.

These sheets are from the February Morning Work for 3rd Grade 

Garrett's writing on top, Ashleigh's on the bottom
For general subjects like English, we're still working through our Daily Grammar from SchoolhouseTeachers.com.  This week, we worked on use of contractions and the kids ended the week taking a quiz to make sure they understood, which they both aced.  We've also added Eclectic Foundations Level B to our grammar lessons which have worked out really well for us (I will be posting a review with lots of information about Eclectic Foundations early next month so be on the look out for it if you'd like to learn more).  One of the components of the Level B is learning cursive writing and while we've used other cursive curriculums in the past, I've got to say that I have seen such an improvement in both Ashleigh and Garrett's writing - to the point that Ashleigh's writing has superseded my 17 year old.

With math, we completed week 6 from our 3rd Grade Master Books.. This week was a review of Word Problems which the kids have no issues with.

We're still working through Where The Sidewalk Ends for our daily poetry. I know some people will find this type of book as "Twaddle" but the kids are enjoying it.  I figure there's plenty of time for the more serious poets, right now this allows for a very simple way to bring a bit of a silly break into our routine between grammar and math.  This week, the favorite poem for the kids was "Boa Constrictor".. It probably helped that Mom acted out the poem on each kid as we read through it. Lots of giggles ensued.

For history, we're still working on our Ancient Greece unit from Homeschool in the Woods as well as America's Story Vol 1 from Masterbooks. We also added Walking with the Waodani which is a new review item that we will be working on.  We're REALLY liking this particular study about the native people of Ecuador.  This week, we discussed the five missionaries who lost their lives trying to spread God's word to the Aucu (now called the Waodani) people.  We also talked about some of foods that the Waodani eat, how they hunt and some of the animals that can be found in the jungles of Ecuador. This led to some really fun moments, as the kids went on a "hunt" with blowgun (straws) and poisoned darts (spit balls) to take down a vicious jaguar (their 17 year old sister).  We also talked about whether or not we would eat Palm Weavil Grubs (we all said we might eat them if they were cooked - as the study says they taste like pork rinds.. yum).  I think I might purchase the biography about Nate Saint (one of the original missionaries) from YWAM publishing for after this study so we can continue to learn more about his life and mission.

Ashleigh's drawing of a Vampire Bat that lives in the jungles of Ecuador.

With America's Story, we discussed both Leif Ericson and Christopher Columbus this week, as well as some of the other early explorers of the Americas.

This week in our Ancient Greek study, we discussed the city of Sparta and then began discussing the Everyday life of the Ancient Greeks, such as what they wore and what they ate. To help reinforce this lesson, the kids and I moved the classroom to the kitchen and we prepared a Greek meal of Spiced "Wine" (grape juice),  Avgolemeno (Chicken Soup with Egg-Lemon Sauce) and Gyro meat with a Greek Salad, rounded out with Yiaourti me Meli (greek yogurt with honey and almonds) and Baklava for desert. All of which were a hit and turned out very good.  The kids always enjoy when they get to cook a meal for the family and while the soup originally didn't sound appetizing, I'm glad we took the risk with it as it was probably the 2nd favorite part of the menu (the "wine" being the first). 




To help reinforce our Greek Lessons with Garrett (and include something that he is really passionate about), I decided to enroll him in one of the classes through Skrafty Minecraft Education.  If you're not familiar with Skrafty, it is a family friendly Minecraft server that caters mostly to homeschool kids.  They also offer many different courses for various subjects like Math, Language Arts, Science and History.  It's something I've been interested in trying with Garrett, since he likes Minecraft so much, so I went ahead and enrolled him in the Greek Culture and Architecture class. This is a 4 week, self paced class that discusses a few of the things we've been covering in our Homeschool in the Woods course, such as Greek columns for example. At less than 5 dollars for the class, I felt it was a perfect opportunity to see how he would do with classes in this format.  For week one, for his build assignment is to build the Greek flag and to design a Greek restaurant. He just started the class on Friday, so I'll give him all of next week to complete the restaurant but he did the Greek flag pretty quick.  Looking ahead at the class, I would highly recommend it along with the Ancient Greek course we are doing as they cover many of the same things.
Garrett's Greek flag

Science has become the highlight of our homeschool day.  Since the program we are using is so hands on, it really has sparked their interest more than any basic textbook would have done.  This week, we discussed protists and viruses.  Then we broke out the microscope to view both prepared slides of various protists such as paramecium, volvox and amoeba. Two weeks ago, I went to the very small late that is on base and filled a 2 liter with some water in the hopes of getting some live protist to view but when I looked at a sample, was disappointed that nothing could be found. However, over the last two weeks, I have "fed" the sample with a plant based frog food.  The work paid off as when we pulled a sample this week to view, we found a very hearty group of paramecium as well as Halteria grandinella swimming around. It's one thing to look at a prepared slide - it's a completely different experience to see a live sample swimming around. 



We also took a sample of some algae water from our dripping faucet outside in the hopes of maybe finding some other protist (since orginally I didn't think my pond water had anything it it).. We found a really cool Rotifer in that sample.


While we're not yet in discussions about bacteria, we needed to prepare ahead of time for the upcoming lesson, which meant we needed to make some agar and prep our petri dishes.  So we made a batch of "beef jello" as Ashleigh called it and poured some small and large dishes.  After our dishes were ready, the kids then placed their fingers on the agar - first with unwashed hands and then with washed hands - and we put the dishes up inside a cabinet to allow them to grow.  We will see the results next week. 


Making Agar

Dishes poured and cooling
 We also had an activity where the kids learned how easily germs are spread and how handwashing helps to eliminate germs.  I had bought some glow lotion that represented germs and a small blacklight that illuminates the powder in the lotion.  While the kids rubbed the lotion on their hands, I paid attention to where they touched, such as Garrett rubbing his hands on the door frame of the bathroom. The blacklight showed where our "germs" ended up, such as on the washrag, on the door frame, on their papers and pencil, and on the faucet and sink.





Having Fun with the blacklight


Finally, the kids had a test covering the first 5 weeks of their science course.  After seeing the questions, I was a bit hesitant on giving this test - the kids proved to me that I shouldn't underestimate them.  Garrett scored a 90 (he missed 2 out of 20 questions) and Ashleigh scored a 100%.

A sample of the questions from their Science Test

Overall, we had a GREAT week of school..

So, what's on our schedule for next week?

Science: Discussing bacteria, fungus and yeast (and we will be making homemade ginger ale)
Math:  Introducing Column Addition and Adding Large Numbers (which will be a review for them)
History: America's Story: Settlements, Mosquitos and an Indian Princess
                 Continuing Walking with the Waodani
                 Continuing Everyday Living in Ancient Greece
Grammar:  Continuing with Eclectic Foundations Lvl B
                 Daily Grammar: Parts of Speech: Verbs
New Additions: Masterbooks Elementary Bible and English Grammar
                        Picture Smart Bible - Old Testament

Friday, February 10, 2017

D is for Dinner (Blogging Through the Alphabet)



A Net In Time Schooling

For week 4 of Blogging the Alphabet, we're blogging the letter D.  Since I'm blogging things about our family, I figured the best D word I could come up with is D is for dinner.  If your not familiar with the Blogging through the alphabet, it's a fun, weekly blog hop sponsored by the blogs A Net in Time and Hopkins Homeschool.  Each week, participants are invited to blog about any family friendly subject using a weekly letter.

Dinners are typically homecooked, although yeah, we occasionally have frozen pizzas. I love trying out new recipes, especially recipes from other countries.  Some nights, the kids even get to come into the kitchen and help prepare the meals.  This is important to me because when I was growing up, I was never allowed into the kitchen and my step mother never taught me how to cook.  I had a "crash course" in cooking when I got married, burning my way though many meals, and I don't want to see the kids, including Garrett, to be clueless in the kitchen.   Thankfully Pinterest makes it so easy to find recipes that are easy for the kids to make.

Dinner is such an important time for our family because it allows all of us to sit together, without any electronics and spend uninterrupted time chatting and laughing.  We're one of the few families that we know that actually cook dinner almost every night and then sit together at the table with no telephones or tv going.  After Alyssa has been at school all day and the kids have been doing their own school work, eating dinner together is a great way to unwind, touch base with each other and found out how everyone's day went.

Our only wish is that dad could join us more often.  Since he works mid-shift, he is often at work during dinner time and so he isn't able to sit at the table with us and has to eat his meals when he comes home that night. But on weekends, it's nice to have the entire family together.



Thursday, February 2, 2017

C is for Cats (Blogging Through the Alphabet)


C seems to be a simple enough letter for us to blog this week because without a doubt, our cats are pretty important to our family.  As long as I can remember, I've always had a cat as a pet and we've been very fortunate that our cats have lived long lives and have been with us for a long time. (Before Newton joined our family, our previous male cat lived to see 20 years of age).

Currently, we have three cats in our house..

Kiera (Aka Ki-ki) is the oldest of the bunch.  When Alyssa turned 4, I promised her that I would take her down to the shelter in Houston and pick out a kitten.  The shelter we picked out was called Citizens for Animal Protection as a few weeks prior to our driving down, a friend of ours had gotten two kittens from here and had a great experience with them.  So just prior to her birthday, we drove to C.A.P and Alyssa picked out a kitten which she named Nala.  However, I completely fell in love with a small tortoiseshelled ball of fluff.  Because of the overcrowding at the shelter, C.A.P. was offering a 2 for 1 deal on kittens which allowed us to get both kittens, both fixed and up to date on shots, for $60.  Ki-ki is now 14 years old and still enjoying the good life.  Until recently, Keira was super affectionate and loved attention, however, as she has gotten older she tends to just want to relax and be alone and tends to hang out under the kitchen table. LOL  If I was as old as she is (in cat years), I would want to be left alone too ;)  She also can't see very well anymore, so I'm sure that's much of why she doesn't venture out much anymore.



Our second cat is Kitten.  Kitten is also a tortishell calico but much different from Ki-ki.  Where Ki-ki is large and fluffy, Kitten is small, short haired and skinny.  Kitten came to us when my ex husband was having a ferral cat problem and one of the mama cats had two kittens.  Right before we were to pick up Alyssa for a visit (at that time, my ex had custody), one of the kittens had been hit by a car and we didn't want to see the second kitten meet the same demise, so we brought her home.


Unfortunately, Kitten was a feral cat and even 8 years later, she still has feral tendencies. She's not very friendly at all, to be honest, as is quick to lash out and scratch without warning.  She is, however, affectionate with Alyssa and so she is Alyssa's cat.

Newton is our third kitty and our only boy cat. He falls between Kiera and Kitten as far as affection goes -he is not a lap cat and doesn't like alot of affection but he does like being around people and getting the occasional chin scratch.  He's the smallest of the three cats, maybe weighing about 3 lbs.



Newton was a birthday present for my husband, who always complained that he didn't have a cat of his own and so I found him via an advertisement on the internet.  Newt was about 8 weeks old when we brought home this tiny ball of black and white fluff.  5 years later and he's everyone's favorite kitty.  The only problem with Newt is that almost every morning, I'm woken up with him climbing on my chest wanting a few of his treats that I keep beside the bed.. LOL

We love having cats as part of our family and I think they are the perfect pet for the kids as they don't require a lot of care..

Monday, January 30, 2017

34 Weeks of Clean: Week 3


Wow!!!  We're on week 3 of the 34 Weeks of Clean hosted by Family, Faith and Fridays and let me tell you, this week kicked my butt!!!  It didn't help things that I am currently recovering from the flu and was already pretty worthless to start with but I tell you, after this week, my body HURTS!! LOL  But flu or not, I was determined to participate and I will without any guilt consider this project my workout for the week.. haha

 photo cleanbutton_zpsnlzebjbs.png


For Week 3, we were asked to completely clean out our kitchen cabinets and drawers.  This means taking everything out, wiping down the surfaces, and sort through and put everything back.  I took this a step further.  First, let me state that in my kitchen, I have 7 drawers and 17 cabinets. Three of these cabinets (and 1 drawer) I cleaned last week with the pantry challenge so that left me 14 cabinets and 6 drawers.   So I had some work ahead of me to begin with. But I should also mention that of those 14 cabinets, 8 of them are soooooo high up that they are not functional (even on a step stool I cannot reach the top shelves) and one of them designed in such a way that it's hard to use. Since I spent much of this challenge standing on top of my counters trying to clean them out, I decided that I would just eliminate the use of them all together and consolidate everything into cabinets that are much more easily accessible.  That way, when we move in a few months, I won't have to climb back up on the counters to clean them again, they will already be done.  LOL

Starting with the drawers, I pulled everything out and was completely grossed out by what was hiding at the bottom of them.  YUCK!!!   The kids tend to pour (and spill) drinks on the counter and the spills drip into the drawers along with crumbs and Lord knows what else.. But all this was hidden by other stuff and as my teenager who unloads the dishwasher is blind to stuff like this, it never got cleaned up. So, the drawers got a really good wipe down with LA Awesome and Clorox wipes.


The utensil drawer was just as nasty..

So it got a nice washing with soap and water and then a follow up with Clorox wipes as well. 


Everything nice and clean once again.


 If you've been following my blog for a while, you might remember the last time I did the 34 Weeks of Clean that I procured one of my "junk" drawers to keep my spices in.  Two years later, I still keep my spices in the drawer but unfortunately the spice drawer was a mess.. Now, I knew this one was going to be dirty because the other day I left the pepper flip top slightly opened and it spilled inside the drawer..

 It appears that some of the dreaded kool-aid also spilled in my drawer. As these are the spices I don't use on a regular basis, I just don't ever bother pulling everything out of here and cleaning it..  Seeing this, I guess I will change that lol


Garrett decided he wanted to help out and clean the drawer out for me..


Now it was time to start sorting through the spices.  I had several spices that were expired so it was time to toss them.  


Here's what I kept


And here's what I ended up tossing.


I HATED throwing away this canister of Old Bay Blacking seasoning - I'll have to mail order some more as I can't find it anywhere around here, but it's been expired since April 2011. LOL


But, that's better than this bottle of poultry seasoning that was expired since May 2008 LOL  Can you tell I do NOT use poultry seasoning much? I'm not even sure if I bought this to be honest or if someone didn't give it to me.


Everything back in the drawer


I'll spare you the cleaning of the other three drawers, two were my junk drawers (and still are) and the third just has dish towels and large kitchen utensils. LOL

So with the drawers out of the way, it was time to start cleaning the cabinets.  See this pic, see that bottom shelf?? That's the ONLY shelf I can reach (and that holds true for all the cabinets that have three shelves - the ones with two shelves I can't reach at all lol).. So it was time to climb up on the counters to start cleaning.

My view from the top of the counter!!   Everything emptied out.


Here's some medicine that was put on the very top shelf of the cabinet along with some others to keep the kids out of it - which in retrospect kept ME out of it as well as I couldn't reach it... LOL  It's not any good now.


Tossing all sorts of stuff that are expired or just plain yucky.

Hey look, more spices!!


More expired medications that I will take to the pharmacy to dispose of. (Really wish the Alka-Seltzer wasn't expired, I could use it right now)

Bottles of Alcohol that I have NO idea where they came from!!  Someone must have given them to us, as we don't drink wine.. (I'm a Bloody Mary/Scotch drinker)

Everything consolidated to two shelves.. At least with my step stool I can reach the second shelf.. lol


Time to repeat the process with the twin cabinet.. Back on the countertop I go!!  This cabinet, now that it's cleaned out, will not be used anymore.


I had to laugh when I found these dip mixes.. These mixes are probably 12 years old. I remember buying them at some craft show (or maybe it was a gun show) back when I still lived in Texas, which was before Hurricane Rita.. WHY I still have these, I don't know, but they went in the trash.


Same with this packet of dirty rice seasoning.. I would think this packet is probably 10 years old as I bought it when we lived in Louisiana and that was before I got pregnant with Ashleigh.. It went in the trash as well. lol

Anyone who's a military family will recognize this LOL  I found a few of these.. They all went in the trash.

 Here's another absolutely evil, useless cabinet.. This one is about 5 foot deep and I could probably climb into it, except for this lazy susan thing that blocks the way. If anything falls off of the platforms, it take an Act of God to get it back.. I hate this cabinet.. I gave it a good wipe down, stuck a broom back there to try to sweep anything that was in it out and then closed it up - it won't be used anymore.  One of the things that I swept out of it - a copy of the marriage license from my first husband - I told you this cabinet is evil.


 Next to the worthless evil cabinet is the under sink cabinet. I pulled everything out of it, gave it all a good wipe down and put everything back.  It was at this point however, that I contimplated killing my husband as I found three empty bottles of vinegar that for whatever reason couldn't find their way to the recycle bin until now. LOL  I don't clean under here as there are spiders in the crevices of the sink basin. I hate spiders!!


 Time to climb back on top of the counters again.. There's two cabinets that I can't reach at all.. I can reach the bottom shelf with the help of a step stool but the top shelf is a No Go..


 All cleaned out.. This  cabinet will not be used anymore.

Hey look, MORE seasonings!!  These were from a friend who came over and made some baked beans for us and somehow the bag of seasoning got put in the top of the cabinet where it wasn't seen again.

All cabinet surfaces got a nice cleaning with LA Awesome and/or a scrubbing with Dawn and a tooth brush.  (Although, I'll be honest, this pic is Garrett holding the toothbrush so I could take the pic.. I couldn't hold both it and work the camera).

So, with the cabinets cleaned out, there was a pile of stuff I needed to sort through but that would have to wait til the next day, as I was ready for a hot soak after making a pitcher of cherry lemonade and having a cool drink. I think I deserved it.. LOL

All Clean and ready for move out!!



 I will admit, there are two cabinets that I did not attempt to clean - I will leave both of those to Charles to do. One is above our stove and I'm not about to stand on the stove to try to clean it. The other one is recessed behind the fridge and there's no way I can reach it.  But, everything I could reach was cleaned. And I managed to eliminate a TON of stuff and consolidate most of our stuff to minimal cabinet space.

So, Week Three is over and done.. Since I've done this before, I guess I should get ready for the Fridge and Freezer for Week 4.

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