Sunday, November 24, 2019
The weather has finally turned to a pretty consistent cold here, the leaves seemed to brown and fall of the trees almost overnight and Thanksgiving is only a few days away. It feels like the holidays barreled in like a freight train - not sure I'm exactly ready. LOL For the time being, I get to sit around biting my nails while I wait to find out if I'm invited back for a 6th year of the Review Crew - fingers crossed.
Usually, for Thanksgiving, my husband makes a turkey and homemade cranberry sauce and I make most of the sides and we have a big family dinner. However, early in the year our fridge stopped working and the housing office replaced it with a fridge that would be more than sufficient for a small family, but for a family of 5, it is way too small. There's no way I could fit the leftovers in there (as it is, two dozen eggs and a gallon of milk takes up the bulk of it). So we decided to skip the big dinner this year and go out to eat. (I'm going to be keeping an eye on Black Friday deals for a cheap fridge to put in the garage to give myself extra room. ) So who knows what we'll eat that day - Buffalo Wild Wings? Outback? Indian food? We shall see.
Sunday: Smoky sweet potato and black bean soup with salad and bread
Monday: Black Pepper Chicken with Rice
Tuesday: Chicken Fajita Pasta with Salad
Wednesday: Beef and Broccoli with rice and Asian slaw
Thursday: Thanksgiving dinner out
Friday: Turkey Breast with Gravy, smothered green beans, Parmesan zucchini casserole
Saturday: Buffalo Baked Ziti with salad and steamed asparagus
Wednesday, November 20, 2019
I love reading. My kids, not so much. However, they enjoy books so much more with fun activities that really help to engage them into the story and bring it from the pages of the book. Members of the crew have been using LitWits Kits from LitWits with their families for the last few weeks.
A Wrinkle in Time, The Hobbit, The Phantom Tollbooth, and The Secret Garden.
For this review, however, when I show the actual product to demonstrate the layout of the LitWits, I will be showing the LitWits kit for Little House in the Big Woods, which is absolutely free on the LitWits website for you to try in your own home.
What are LitWits?
Designed for students ages ranging from 6-14 (targeted age 8-12), LitWits Kits are written by Becky Clendenen Kimbal and Jenny Clendenen Walicek and are designed to help parents teach great books and instill a love of reading using a fun, hands on approach. Each Litwits Kit includes:
Once purchased, LitWits can either be accessed online on the website or they can be downloaded to use offline and printed out. Each LitWit offers advice for including various physical props to the classroom that tie into the story, hands on activities, food related ideas, handouts about literary elements, as well many other activities.
|A Hands on Art Project for Little House in the Big Woods|
|Food related activity for Little House in the Big Woods|
How We Used LitWits
For this review period, we decided to read "A Wrinkle In Time" and include the projects found in the LitWit to go along with it. Right at the start with the first chapter, we had a cute activity to include with our reading - a visit from Mrs Whatsit. Ashleigh and I found tons of scarves and bed sheets, as well as a huge floppy hat and dressed her up at the beloved wacky character. If only we would have had some rainboots to go along with it :)
Here's Garrett playing with one of the props we used during the book. We used this while reading about the Happy Medium as she was gazing into her crystal ball. We really had hoped we would be able to find a brain jello mold as also recommended but they were sold out (close to Halloween). That would have been so much fun.
Another activity we did was the folding a two dimensional piece of paper into a 3D object. The kids love doing anything origami so this was a really fun project for them. With a simple piece of paper, a bit of decorating and a bit of folding and the kids had a 3D scene from the book.
Inside hers Ashleigh decided to draw a scene of Meg, Calvin and Charles Wallace looking upon Uriel.
In addition to the activities, we also worked on the handout worksheets that are with the kit. For this kit, there was an activity to write their own mnemonic to learn the order of the planets. Afterwards they filled out the order from memory. There was also an activity where they could create their own character using a character building sheet, as well as an activity where the kids had to put events that happened in the book in order as they appeared in the narrative arc.
We tried to complete as many of the activities as we could, but unfortunately, were unable to do the BookBites section. This particular activity asked for me to make melon balls out of a watermelon ahead of time and then having the kids close their eyes as I feed it to them, as Aunt Beast fed Meg. At the time of this review, watermelon isn't exactly plentiful at the moment, so we skipped that portion.
We really enjoyed using the LitWits Kit and felt it really did add to our reading experience. The kids really got into the activities. I'm looking forward to using the other kits this year and will be beginning the next one soon, but we are having such a hard time of deciding which one we want to do. They each are son wonderful in different ways. We will probably wait to use The Secret Garden come springtime as much of the activities revolve around plants and having a nice tea with marmalade, which will be so nice to do outdoors once the temperatures warm up again. The Phantom Tollbooth has fun props like Synonym buns and Rigamaroles (cinnamon buns and rolls), making a chromagraph (which would be fun as the kids are currently learning music theory), and another paper folding project to make a dodecahedron. The Hobbit LitWits kit has the kids creating the Elfish sword Sting (don't know if it glows around orcs or goblins), race Bilbo’s journey across the narrative arc, dine with Beorn, write using Tolkien’s characterization techniques, decode ancient runes, guess what’s in Gollum’s pocketses for meaningful insights, solve riddles, find out why Gandalf “abandoned” Bilbo, and so much more! How do you decide??? I do know that LitWits will be a regular purchase for our reading.
For more information about LitWits Kits, be sure to check out their website. You can also find LitWits on the following social media sites:
Members of the crew were allowed their choice of any four of the available LitWits Kids to use with their families. Be sure to click the banner below to read which ones they picked and how they used them with their homeschool.
Sunday, November 17, 2019
Happy Sunday everyone. It's time for another weekend meal planning, where you get to find out what the heck I'm feeding my family this week.. LOL
This time around, I'm actually cooking for two families. A friend of mine had a baby last week and I've been trying to help reduce the stress on them by organizing a meal train and cooking several meals for them as well. On top of that, I'm going to be attending a Friendsgiving on Monday, so in addition to the regular meals, I'll be making homemade rolls as well as apple and sausage dressing to bring to that. I'm expecting to be spending a bit of time in the kitchen this week. lol
Sunday - Rosamary Chicken with pears and leeks
Monday - Buffalo Chicken Bites with Celery and Carrots
Tuesday - Tacos (Taco salad for mom and dad)
Wednesday - Philly Cheesesteak Casserole with salad and zucchini fries
Thursday - Black Pepper Chicken with Rice
Friday - Lasagna with steamed broccoli and salad
Saturday - Meatloaf with Potato cakes, steamed asparagus and salad.
Thursday, November 14, 2019
I'm always looking for uplifting, inspirational or motivational reads - those types of books that I can just relax with for a few moments, read a few pages of them feel a bit better about my day after doing so.
For the last few weeks, I have been reviewing the digital edition of God's Mail Volume 3, the third book in the God's Mail series. Written by Ronald Hardin, God's Mail is a collection of poetry based on Scriptures that address the challenges that both believers and non believes face in their lives.
Mr Hardin states that these poems were given to him by God in a prophetic sense and the book begins with a forward from Mr Hardin's pastor, followed by several pages of testimony from those who know Mr Hardin and claim to his ability to prophesied for God. I don't really buy into this myself - I do believe that the ideas and the scriptures were probably impressed upon his heart from God and I do believe that God gives us the gifts of communication and spreading his word to others but I'm not going to go so far as the poems themselves are directly from God. However, I kept an open mind while reading and reviewing this book and decided to judge the book on that.
This book contains 95 individual poems, each preceded by several scriptures that provide Biblical support to the topic of the poem.
The poems themselves cover a wide array of topics. There was one that talks about the fact that angels are not these winged people that we see in paintings, another about abortion and adoption, teen pregnancy, no taking your partner for granted, infidelity, mid life crisis, and more.
I really tried to like this book, after all, I enjoy scripture and I like quality poetry. Sadly this isn't what I was looking for.. I found the sing songy rhyming pattern to be more like something an small child might write for Sunday school more so than a learned man of God. The pattern just got too repetitive for me, to the point I knew what the last word on the next line would be. Every poem was a series of couplets with no variation whatsoever. And I definitely didn't find any of the poems prophetic in any way.
Because he claims that these are words directly from God to him, I did get rather irritated by his use of things such as "these words from the Lord are to give you encouragement" in a poem about guilt following an abortion - but then doesn't use scriptures but instead writes as if God is using him and his words to talk directly to them targeted women. I guess it irritated me because we have a cult church here in this area that the pastor claims that Jesus himself taught him how to lead people to Heaven and anyone who goes to any church other than HIS church will burn in hell. I'm always leery when anyone says God himself spoke directly to him - as I said, I believe messages can be impressed on one's heart but I don't buy into people selling books claiming God actually speak to them.
Overall, I wasn't impressed and the book just made me overall uncomfortable. It's not something I would recommend to others, especially when there are other resources out there that are Biblical sound and much more encouraging than this particular book.
Wednesday, November 13, 2019
Members of the Homeschool Review Crew have been reviewing a 12 Month Subscription to Elephant Learning Math Academy with their families for several weeks. .
Elephant Learning Math Academy from is a online browser based math program from Elephant Learning Math Academy that boosts that your child can learn a year of math with just three months of usage. Designed for students 2-16, the company says that results are achievable by using the program for 10 minutes daily. The program is $35/month for up to three children with zero registration fee and the company offers merit scholarships to help with tuition costs.
Upon registering, the student will take a placement test in which the program establishes their starting "math age" based on their math knowledge. The program then uses this to present the student with activities that are designed to improve the student's "math age".
Students are given an option of several graphic packages that appeal to their liking. The activities do not change based on this selection but simply use graphics that correlate with the student's preference.
Activities focus on those math skills that the student did not display knowledge of during their assessment.
I'm going to be completely honest, this program just was not a fit for our family. We really tried to like it but my kids absolutely hated it. The heavy Indian accents were hard for them to understand and when the activities weren't absolutely clear, it made it hard for them to know what was expected. The program glitched many times when they used it, which was also frustrating for them.
Probably the main thing the kids disliked about the program was that it was just too repetitive. The activities were the same, day after day. They quickly got bored with it and after a few while, they absolutely refused to do the program. The graphics just weren't exciting, the activities were the same over and over and it just didn't appeal to them.
That's not to say they weren't learning. It did show improvement from their assessment. But if they won't use it, it does us absolutely little good. However, I couldn't really do anything to figure out where they needed improvement or what they were working on. The program claims to provide great feedback for the parent with detailed reports - these reported never worked for me. For example, when I look at the reports for "Estimated Decimals Between 0 and 2", it said Garrett had already completed almost 77% of the curriculum. However, the report says 0 minutes in playtime and didn't give me nay information whatsoever. The only report that I could get to work for me was the average overall time they used the program each week.
This program just wasn't a fit for us. It was frustrating for the kids, frustrating for me. I can see where it could be helpful to other families but it's not something my family will every use again, to be honest.
For more information about Elephant Learning, visit their website. You can also find them on the following social media sites:
While Elephant Learning was not a fit for our family, that doesn't mean it won't work for your family. Click the banner below and see how other families on the Crew used the program and what they thought.
Tuesday, November 12, 2019
For the last month, members of the Crew have been sharing the four books from the Mattie Richardson's Horses in History Series with their families. Written and published by Author Mattie Richardson/Appaloosy Books, these books immerse readers in American history through the eyes of the horses who lived through it.
Each of the four stand alone books focuses on a historical period in American history as told from the viewpoint of a horse as they observe the events unfold from an unbiased point of view. These are paperback books ranging from between 77 pages (Dusty's Trail) to 149 pages (Day and Night). The books are intended for ages 8-14 or anyone who loves horses and history. The books are researched extensively for accuracy.
About the Books
This book tells the story of the Nez Perce Indian War and the roots of the Appaloosa Horse. It is told from the point of view of Storm, a brown Appaloosa stallion longing to run free. (125pp)
Dusty's owner Levi wants to answer an advertisement to join the Pony Express. Dusty, however, doesn't agree with Levi. Dusty enjoys his quiet life on the family farm and the idea of risking death daily just doesn't appeal to him. Readers will learn about the time period of the Pony Express, the trails that were used and more in this high action story. (77pp)
Cheyenne has a very special bond with her owner, Jared and will follow him anywhere, including the battles for Texas independence. Cheyenne witnesses the Battle of Gonzales, the Battle of the Alamo and eventually joins with Sam Houston's forces to defeat Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto. (99pp)
Day and Night
This book tells the story of two horses brothers, Tucker and Shiloh, who find
themselves on opposing sides of the Civil War. Tucker is sold to the US Army while Shiloh ends up with Confederate army. Will either live long enough to see the end of the war and will they ever see each other again? (149pp)
Day and Night Enrichment Guide
This supplement is to be used with students while reading Day and Night. Broken into 8 Parts which each covers a set number of pages of of the book, each part covers reading comprehension questions, vocabulary, geography, horses in history, biography about historical figures, and more. We were given the digital version of this resource but a physical project is available. (99pp)
About the Author
Formally known as "North Dakota's Teen Author", Mattie Richardson began writing at the age of 13 , , , , and . Currently a full time journalist, she also enjoys being a part time musician, playing the fiddle and guitar and performing bluegrass music. An avid horse lover, she currently owns two horses and has a passion for riding.
For this review period, we decided to read Golden Sunrise together. This particular book is about the Battle of the Alamo and being both a Texan as well as a descendant of one of Texas First Families, the Alamo will always be very special to me.
We opted to read this book as one of the selections for our morning read aloud. We read this book together as a family twice a week. The book itself is 8 chapters in length so it took us a month to read it at our page. However, this worked in our favor as we added other enrichment such as watching videos about the Battles, looking at a tour of the Alamo, and discussing other aspects of Texas history written about in the book.
As mentioned before, the Battle of the Alamo is something special to me - basically to anyone from Texas. The Alamo is scared land that I have visited on many occasions. The Battle of the Alamo is one of those things you better get right or you're going to really upset a Texan. With that said, I can say that I had no issues from reading this book with my kids. I did wish that there had been a bit more details, but overall, I found the book true to historical fact. I loved that Mattie Richardson mentions about Davy Crockett playing the fiddle as history tells that Crockett would play his fiddle along with John McGregor playing the bagpipes (Richardson mentions someone with bagpipes but did not mention McGregor's name). When we got to that portion of the book, I couldn't help but to show the kids the famous scene from the movie "The Alamo" with Billy Bob Thornton as Crockett standing on the walls of the Alamo and playing his fiddle along with the Mexican Army's Deguello.
The kids enjoyed the book very much, especially the hand drawn illustrations included throughout the story. The kids explored various rabbit holes throughout the story, such as why the cannon at the Battle of Gonzales was referred to as a 6-pounder.
I liked the inclusion of the Spanish to English phrase page so that readers would know what the Spanish phrases meant. One suggestion I would give is a pronunciation guide though. Especially for the name of San Antonio de Bexar - as I'm sure many readers will pronounce Bexar (Bear) wrong.. LOL
After we finished Golden Sunrise, Ashleigh said she wanted to read Day and Night for our next read aloud. This book is about the Civil War and follows the story of two horses who separated and put into service on the opposite side of the war. We were also using the Enrichment guide that goes along with this book and I'm finding the activities well thought out. I can easily print out each part as we are reading that section of the book without having to print out the entire guide at once.
Overall, we're really pleased with adding these books to our reading library and are enjoying learning about history from a unique viewpoint.
For more information about the Mattie Richardson's Horses in History book series, visit the authors website. You can also find the author on the following social media sites:
Be sure to click the banner below to read the reviews from other Crew members.
Saturday, November 9, 2019
Three weeks ago, on October 20th, we lost a very important member of our family. It's taken me these three weeks to be able to blog that sadly, Picket passed away.
It's hard for anyone to understand how losing Picket has affected our family, especially myself and my husband. We found this completely helpless bundle of fur and somehow, we managed to hand raise her from a few days old to 18 months old. Her loss affected us deeply, almost like losing a child. I've only seen my husband cry on two other occasions and he cried more in these last three weeks than any other time previous.
|Picket the night before she passed|
We knew that even at the beginning, she only had a 30% chance of survival when we found her - even in the best of care and we were idiots scouring Google as to how to feed her. We knew that hares do not do well in captivity and most don't make it beyond the first year. We hoped that we would beat the odds, and while we did make it beyond the year, it still wasn't enough. Picket will forever be a part of this family and it broke our hearts to say goodbye. But right up until the end, she lived a spoiled life and well beyond the life she would have had in the wild, being chased by coyotes and bobcats or dodging cars.
My husband asked why did she have to go - were we being punished for something? I struggled for an answer but I told him that I think we weren't punished, I think we were blessed with a very special experience and whatever purpose Picket was to play in our lives, she fulfilled it and it was time to go.
This week, we did something we never thought we would do. We drove to a local animal shelter and we adopted two rabbits - rabbits who were living on borrowed time. We had a rabbit once, it was a horrible creature with a bad temperament who would hide under the table and ambush you as you walked by, biting the back of your feet. We swore we would never own another rabbit. However, Picket left a huge hare sized hole in our hearts.
When she first passed, we said we wouldn't get another rabbit - after all, they cannot replace the special creature she was. After two weeks, my husband said he wanted to being looking at rabbits.. We expected not to adopt - not to even like any of the ones we looked at but there was a pull to at least look.
I was extremely shocked to find a very tiny little rabbit as the photo made him look like a pretty standard sized rabbit. Instead, I found a 3lb Mini Rex rabbit in the cage.
I felt an almost instant connection with him. We arranged to have a meet and greet with him. We sat on the floor of a cat room and they brought him in. He was a bit shy at first, but after a few minutes he laid next to me and let me pet him. I told Charles I was pretty sure he was coming home with us to which the lil bunny began to do the "binkies" and I knew it was the right decision.
Want to know how much a bit of warm furry healing costs?? 15 bucks to save a life.
I decided to keep the name Caramel for him. It seemed fitting, he is golden brown, he is small, he is sweet. We brought him home and set up the kennel for him. We bought a new bedding for it for him on the way home because we couldn't bring it to ourselves to allow him to sleep on the same pad that Picket slept on. We picked him up a litter box which he used almost immediately. Then we allowed him to explore the house.
I had very mixed feelings to see him do two things - he laid down in the exact spot where Picket always laid down in front of the entertainment center and he would "binkie" in the exact spot where Picket always made her jumps.
|Caramel sitting in Picket's spot|
So, Caramel has quickly become my little buddy. He chases me through the house, hops on he bed with me and just lays beside me to be with me.
|Kenny and Caramel together|
I have to watch my feet while I walk because he has a bad habit of running under or circling my feet when I walk. He loves everyone and everything and is just a general happy go lucky lil dude.
|My Little Buddy|
I told Charles since I had the instant bond with Caramel, I thought he should see how he felt about this rabbit. He walked over to see her in the cage and he came back to where I was and all he said was "She's beautiful. and her face reminds me of Picket".. I admit, I knew we were coming home with that rabbit but we still set up for a meet and greet to visit with her to know for sure.
I wish I had taken pictures of the meet and greet. My husband sat on the floor, they put her on the floor and she instantly went over to him and laid down next to him and for the next ten minutes, she stayed beside him and let him love all over her.
|Yeah, she came home with us that day.|
For the first two days, she's been confided to our bedroom to keep her and Caramel apart. She had just had surgery and was still recovering, just getting her appetite back and just starting to move around so we wanted her to have as little stress as possible. She spent a ton of time under my bed, coming out for affection and to eat.
Today, we introduced the two together to give us an idea of how they would do for the bonding process. We were expecting to have a bit of trouble but instead, they quickly seemed to bond. They have been following each other around the house, laying together and playing. It seems as if again, we made the right choice.
|The Bunnies spending time together (Licorice is checking Caramel's Kennel)|
|Enjoying Dinner together|
I mentioned what possible had been Picket's purpose in our lives. I think one of her purposes was for us to learn that if we could trust a wild hare enough to share our home and enjoy the love of that creature , that we could learn to love and trust a regular rabbit. And in that lesson, we rescued two rabbits who were on borrowed time (Caramel probably had a day left - Licorice had maybe three or four)..
They will never be Picket, and she will NEVER be forgotten, but we didn't get them to replace her - after all, it took two bunnies to even begin to heal the hole her death has left in our hearts.
So, while we won't have anymore Picket updates - I hope that you'll be just as happy to have the Adventures of Caramel and Licorice, hopefully for a long long time.
I miss you every day.
|Never Forgotten - We Love You Picket|