Monday, January 31, 2011

Sketch Tuesday---Science Time


For Sketch Tuesday's challenge to draw "something you study in science," Tex decided to sketch the space shuttle.

He thinks astronomy is absolutely fascinating, and wanted me to pose the question that if you think the space shuttle is an amazing thing to have been designed, what do you think about the incredible human body God created?

Blessings,

Heather

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sermon Sunday---Singing in the Rain

This song popped into my head today, and cheered me up.

I'm singing in the rain, just singing in the rain
What a glorious feelin' I'm happy again.
I'm laughing at clouds,so dark up above
The sun's in my heart and I'm ready for love.
Let the stormy clouds chase everyone from the place.
Come on with the rain, I've a smile on my face
I walk down the lane with a happy refrain
Just singin', singin' in the rain.

Dancin' in the rain
Dee-ah dee-ah dee-ah
Dee-ah dee-ah dee-ah
I'm happy again!
I'm singin' and dancin' in the rain!
I'm dancin' and singin' in the rain...

Why am I smiling, and why do I sing?
Why does September seem sunny as spring?
Why do I get up each morning and start
Happy and head up with joy in my heart?
Why is each new task a trifle to do?
Because I am living a life full of you.

Have you ever seen the scene where Gene Kelly sings this song in the classic movie "Singing in the Rain?" It is a young man dancing in the rain, not worried about getting wet or cold because he is so happy to be "in love." The scene is one that always makes me smile any time I see it. My husband says he fell in love with me the time an outdoor concert we were attending got rained out and I made the best of it by singing and dancing in the rain, too.

But my reason for smiling over this song today is not so simple as an actual rainstorm or being "in love." Today the storm we are experiencing is a symbolic storm with very dark rain clouds, persistent thunder, and sharp flashes of lightning.

About two weeks ago, I found out I was expecting a baby. We were so overjoyed that I wanted to call everyone I knew immediately. However, the wisdom of experience led us to choose to hold off telling family and friends until after our first OB appointment at six weeks. I had a missed miscarriage after my second child that absolutely devastated us, as I walked around for a month not knowing the precious baby had already died, and went into the joyful occassion of the first ultrasound alone (hubby was out to sea at the time), only to have them tell me there was no heartbeat and that the baby was way too small to be twelve weeks along (our dates were certain). Hubby came home from his deployment (during which the sub had maintained silence) expecting to find a contentedly pregnant wife to dote upon, instead finding a despondent and weary wife who had miscarried the baby just a few days before.

This time, circumstances were a bit different, but the outcome is the same. The precious new life we were so excited to meet, even only having known about the potential of it for just over a week, is not to be. Last week, I had an issue which prompted me to call my OB, and he sent me in for bloodwork. The bloodwork confirmed that my progesterone was very low, though my HcG was fine for five and a half weeks along, so there might yet be hope. However, low progesterone is often an indicator of either an ectopic pregnancy or of chromosomal abnormalities in the baby which are leading up to a miscarriage, so follow up testing was definitely needed. We treated the low progesterone just in case (I always try to be hopeful), prayed continuously, and went back in for more testing two days later. The results were not good. Even though I had not had conclusive evidence that I would miscarry, the tests showed the hormone levels were not rising appropriately and that a miscarriage was imminent. Thankfully, God's mercy allowed that after a few more tests they believe we are not dealing with an ectopic pregnancy, which would require surgery, though we are devastated over the loss of our baby.

It's amazing how attached you can get to someone you haven't even met yet, isn't it?

And what does this sad story have to do with "Singing in the Rain?" Well, it's because our family has the assurance of God's love through all of this. We know that God had a plan, and that He knit our baby together and knew every part of our baby and numbered every day he/she had been given long before we even knew about that baby. The merciful Lord knew what was best for our baby, and apparently, our baby is so special, he/she was blessed to have been born into heaven into the arms of the Lord, instead of mine. I count it as one of God's mercies, that if there was something so wrong with our baby that life here would have been a dire hardship for him/her, that the Lord's kindness allowed our baby to be born into a body made perfectly for heaven instead of an imperfect one here.

I may not have the priviledge of meeting my baby this side of heaven, but someday I will. I will meet this baby and our other one in Glory, and we will rejoice at finally getting to see each other face to face. I am singing through our rainstorm because I have Christ in my life, and with Christ, we can bear all things, even this sad event, and we can find joy in knowing there is more than just HERE.

Praise God for that with singing and prayers of thanksgiving! Hallelujiah! I can't imagine the grief of someone who does not have that assurance. Some moments, my tears well up unexpectedly and the song is gone from my heart for a moment...but thankfully, by focusing on the Lord and his merciful plan, I can find it again...

I lift up my eyes to the hills- Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip -
He who watches over you will not slumber;
Indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD watches over you
The LORD is your shade at your right hand;
The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all harm -
He will watch over your life;
The LORD will watch over your coming and going
Both now and forevermore.
Psalm 121
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This is not much of a Sermon Sunday post (since there is no sermon), but it is what is on my heart today. I deeply appreciate your prayers as we travel along this stormy road. I thank all of our family and friends who have reached out to us already...you are true blessings to us and just one more reason to find that song in our hearts again.

A sweet friend visited and brought by a card suggesting we listen to the song "Praise You in the Storm" by Casting Crowns. Here it is, if you would like to listen, too.





Are you in the mood to join me for some more praising today? Check out my previous posts of our favorite worship songs HERE and our favorite hymns HERE. They are sure to raise your eyes above your earthly troubles to the promises of God above.

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There is one last story to share with you and I will be done. When I told the children our sad news, they were obviously upset, but thankfully, the innocence of childhood protects them from the worst of the grief. When I told Cowboy, who is always full of questions, that those among our family who accept Jesus as their personal savior can meet our baby someday in heaven, he asked, "But will the baby just say goo-goo and ga-ga? How will we talk to the baby?" LOL...kids. Aren't they so amazing and surprising and adorable at just the right times? I didn't really know what to say except that since God's desire is for all to worship Him and praise Him and to know Him, that I believe the baby will be able to communicate, and that his/her form will be perfect, whatever it is. I hope I answered that right. It was an interesting question and it made me smile.

I thank the Lord every day for all of my precious children here on earth and up in heaven. Take some extra time today to sit with yours and cuddle them tightly. That's what I am going to be doing.

Blessings,

Heather 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Good Marks for Ten Marks



Guest Reviewers: Tex and Hubby

Ten Marks is an online math program ideally suited to use by homeschoolers and public or private-schooled students in grades 3-10.

The name Ten Marks comes from the company's concept that math does not have to be an endless stream of practice problems that bury you under the weight of their monotony and repetition. Instead, they offer problems in bite-sized chunks (ten problems for each worksheet), with each problem set building upon the previous one.

According to their website, the TenMarks approach to effective math learning is based on 3 simple principles:


  1. Personalized Learning Makes All the Difference.
  2. On-Demand Instruction Provides Help When You Need it.
  3. Practice Builds Confidence and Improves Achievement.
Ten Marks offers its problem sets in small portions, with four ten multiple-choice problem interactive worksheets expected to be completed online each week, along with one twenty problem test. Parents and/or children can adjust this expectation to slow it down, or to "fast track" through areas in which the student is already excelling. When a student encounters difficulty on a problem, the student can click on "hints" up to three times to receive help. Students can also choose to view a short marker board style video lecture on each topic.

According Ten Marks: "Interactive worksheets make the curriculum dynamic, adjusting automatically to the needs of the student, and accommodating different learning styles and aptitudes. With a personalized program, students become engaged and the learning is more relevant."

Upon completing of certain levels of work, the student can unlock games or "earn" parent-set, customized rewards (such as the purchase of a long-awaited book or more game time over the weekend). Each week the parent is reminded of the worksheets' availability with an email, and parents can monitor student progress by accessing the parent portion of the site. Students monitor their own progress as outlines of people (representing areas of knowledge) fill in according to their mastery of each area. Certificates of completion can also be printed from the site once the required worksheets are finished.
 
What Tex and Hubby liked about the program:
  • It allows students to control pace and content
  • It adjusts to the students level of knoweldge in each area
  • The worksheets are brief, not overbearing
  • The content is progressive, and builds one topic on another
  • The site is easily navigated
  • The simplicity of the structure makes it ideal for tutoring, or supplementing an already existing curriculum
  • There are a wide variety of topics and levels covered here (over 100 core topics per grade), all aligned to your particular state's math standards (view your state's customized curriculum HERE).
  • The designers of this program acknowldge that life (and holidays) happen and offer an option to pause your subscription to account for those holidays, family travel, and emergencies, so you never have to feel you are wasting your money
  • The price is very reasonable
What Tex (mostly) and Hubby did not like about the program:
  • Tex did not prefer just seeing a markerboard to seeing an actual person teach the topics. He likes people. Seeing a friendly face makes him feel more connected to the topic and the teaching.
  • Tex felt that sometimes a particular teacher was difficult to understand (had an accent) and this threw his ability to understand the information off.
  • Hubby felt that the multiple choice format gave students an opportunity to guess when they are uncertain, instead of having to really know the answer. Plus, the program allows you to try-try again, which is fine when you are going for mastery, but if you are guessing with multiple choice answers, it just gives you more opportunities to guess wildly.
TenMarks is affordable and offers a money back guarantee. Pricing options (per student) are:
  • $10 a month
  • $49 for 6 months
  • $89 for 12 months (the most economical pricing)
Here is a video from the site which explains how the program works:


View a few other videos about the program HERE.

Who would this program work best for?
  • A homeschooled student who already has a book curriculum, but needs a bit of help to get through some trouble spots
  • A public or private schooled student who needs some after-school practice/tutoring (definitely cheaper than a tutor!)
  • Any math student who wants to brush up in general on many areas and desires a quick and easy daily exercise to help with that goal
  • We are not unschoolers, but feel that unschoolers might find this a good way to get math in without being too heavy on the written exercises and time committment
Do you want more information about Ten Marks than you see here? You can contact the company HERE and ask away!

Would you like to see other reviews by TOS Crew members who reviewed this program at the same time we did? Then click HERE.

Blessings,

Heather

We received a complimentary subscription to Ten Marks for the purposes of giving it a fair trial and an honest review here on our blog. What you read here are our experiences and we do not expect or guarantee that your experiences with this product will be the same. If you have questions regarding our experiences with this program, please feel free to contact me.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A YoYo Quilt Story


This is what I've been working on lately. It's a yoyo quilt top I rescued from the local antique mall (yes, the same one with that wonderful Tea Room in it!). I have been sewing all of the disconnected yoyos back together, and making new ones to fill in the spots where some are missing. I've never done yoyos before, but I am finding that they are very simple and right up my alley...They are quick to make, and you can do as many as you have time for (or as few, as is usually my case!)

I think I am going to add to this old quilt top until it is large enough to cover my dining room table, then I will ask Hubby for a piece of edged glass to cover it for my birthday. What do you think?

I LOVE fixing up old things. It makes me so happy to restore something to usefulness. I like to look at the different fabrics and wonder whose feed sacks or old dresses and shirts the pieces came from. Whose were the hands that wielded the needle that constructed this quilt the first time? Who stitched these few yoyos together with yarn instead of thread, and why? What was this piece used for? A table? A small bed? Or was it hung or a wall because it was intended as a quilt but never got finished? Old things are so interesting and if they could talk, I am certain they would have fascinating stories to tell. I feel very blessed to have found this sweet piece of handiwork and priviledged to be the one to restore it.

Let me know if you have any experiences with yoyo-ing (is that even a word? lol!) and PLEASE share a link if you have a post showing you working on a yoyo quilts (or any other kind of quilt).

To be continued...

Blessings,

Heather

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Picture This

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Picture this:

You and your hubby sit down to have Bible time with the kids and they climb all over each other to be able to sit in Daddy’s lap. One winds up on the chair arm, another draped across the back of it over Daddy’s shoulders, and a third in his lap. They all can’t wait to be a part of Bible Study Time,

After all, they love to sing a Bible song each day, and they enjoy the stories and the Bible verses they are learning. They also love the new Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary you received from Lifeway Publishers, and find reasons to have to look up something new in it each time you study together, jockeying for key positions so they can see the vibrant pictures and excellent maps inside.
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This time the discussion is about promises and how God always keeps His promises…”Do you always keep your promises?” asks Daddy. One of the children sadly admits to not keeping a promise to not eat during prayer time before a meal the night before, and is very sorry about it.,

P1252322

You look up prayers together in the illustrated dictionary (which lists reasons to pray and Biblical examples of prayer) and talk about the importance of being respectful and serious during prayer time. The children all agree that they will try harder to quietly pray before meals from now on…without sneaking bites before the “amen.” How special!

P1252317

It’s a nice word picture, don’t you think? The kids are enthusiastic about learning about God’s word, they are enjoying you and each other’s company, they are each eagerly participating, and they seem just plain happy?

This experience did happen in our house a just a few days ago. I am not saying that this product is the only reason for the pretty image I just painted, but I will honestly tell you that the book added to, rather than took away from, our Bible-learning experiences.

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Here is what we liked about the book, and about receiving this order from Lifeway.
  • We received our package almost immediately and it was in good condition. We were thrilled when we opened the package and found such a lovely book inside.
  • The book is a large, colorful, hardcover book with very sturdy pages.
  • The book defines 750 important Biblical terms with family-friendly definitions written in easy-to-read print.
  • There are 500 colorful illustrations, maps, reconstructions, and photos included to make the definitions of some terms even more clear, such as a reconstruction of Rome and a photo of a Jewish man wearing frontlets (have your kids ever asked what a frontlet it? Mine have and while I could tell them what it was, showing them was even better…for all of us!).
P1252333
  • The book includes numerous different charts explaining/showing things such as the Names of God, the Twelve Apostles, the plants and animals of the Bible, and the Armor of a Roman soldier.
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  • Each definition makes references to appropriate passages of scripture where the term is used. Tex was randomly flipping through the book and saw that "Ostrich" was mentioned as an animal in the Bible so he HAD to look that up…sure enough, the ostrich is spoken of in Job as being a VERY bad parent, but fast to ride!
  • There is a pronunciation guide for the words that are hard to say, as well as clarification of terms that might be different in the KJV of the Bible (such as self-control vs. temperance).
  • At $14.95 for such a large, well-made, useful book, it is a good price.
P1252325

Here’s what we especially loved about this book:
  • I REALLY liked the vibrant pictures, in the style of old-fashioned Bible story books, rather than the cartoon-y illustrations you often find in children’s Bible books today.
  • I appreciated the mix of realistic illustrations and actual photographs and maps. It was meaningful to me to see photos of some of the actual places where certain Biblical events occurred. It helped the kids picture the stories in their Bible Study better, especially when there were maps or reconstructions of places we were reading about.
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  • I enjoyed the opportunity to introduce the children to using a Bible Dictionary, one of the tools we make use of as adults. This company also offers the Holman Bible Concordance for Children, which while not illustrated, looks like it would be a good introduction to using a concordance, and a useful companion to their Illustrated Bible Dictionary for Kids.
  • It is quite durable. I did not have to worry when the younger ones used it, as the pages are extra-thick, and we did not have any tears or crinkles the entire time we have been using it.
  • The older kids found the information and pictures contained inside to be so interesting, they would just pick up the dictionary and start reading to see what they could find out that they did not know. I liked that.
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Was there anything we did not like about this book?         

Not really. There were one or two “typos” involving pictures (in one case, a dove is shown when a sparrow is indicated…oops!), but they are not HUGE ones, and overall, I would rate the quality of content and production for this book as excellent. The service we received in getting the product to us was good, and when checking out the Lifeway site itself, I found it easy to navigate (though I did not actually have to order anything).

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If you are interested in seeing an Inside the Book preview of the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary for Kids you can click HERE.

If  you are interested in ordering this book from Lifeway Bookstores for $14.95 plus shipping and handling, click HERE.

To see what other reviewers on the TOS Crew thought about this book, click HERE.

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**I highly recommend this book. My family will enjoy using it for years to come.

Blessings,
Heather
I received this book free of charge from Lifeway Christian Stores in return for my honest review of this product on my blog. If you have questions regarding this product that I did not answer here, please feel free to contact me.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Two Blog Awards for ME??

stylish
 versatile blogger award

A very kind fellow blogger, The Adventurer over at Life’s Adventures, awarded me the Stylish Blogger award on my Blessings Pour Out blog. Wow!! Needless to say, I am thrilled by it, and want to say a HUGE “Thank You!” to her. Here it is: “Thank you!!” Smile

I like to visit her blog because she travels, and I am currently doing a geography project with the kids called Where in the World? Wednesday. I just love the IDEA of travel, but other than an if-you-are-lucky trip to see relatives about once a year, I haven’t done much of it (though we did better on our trip planning this year and had quite an adventure!). Thus, I will live vicariously through others, and take “virtual trips” on the internet...at least until the kids get a bit older.

More recently, Lisa at the McClanahan Seven blessed me with the same award for my childrens’ blog, The Three Amigos Weekly Work. The Three Amigos are three of my kids: Ladybug, Cowboy, and Firefly. I guess we will have to change it to the Four Amigos in a few years when Baby Boo gets a bit older, but for now, the Three Amigos LOVE their blog and they use it each day to complete their schoolwork. Thank you very much to Lisa for the award! Please visit her and check out her cool scrapbooking room…I want one. Can your hubby come over and help my hubby install one next week?

Lastly, Phyllis over at All Things Beautiful blessed me with the Versatile Blogger Award also over at the Three Amigos site. Now, I never even expected anyone to go to that site, let alone to award it, so I was quite surprised…wow, and thank you!! I am going to display this award here since I AM the “versatile blogger”…I hope that is okay with her. I don’t really want to confuse the kids with a post about the awards on their school blog…but they are tickled pink that THEIR blog is so admired. Winking smile Thank you to all of you kind ladies. I feel very blessed.

I am honored to be one of the bloggers The Adventurer, The McClanahan Seven, and All Things Beautiful chose to bless when they passed on their awards, and now I get the opportunity to do the same.

Rules for accepting these award are:
  1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you the award (I did this!)
  2. Share 7 things about yourself (see below).
  3. Pass this on to 15 other great bloggers you recently discovered (see below).
  4. Contact the selected bloggers and tell them about their awards.
Here are seven things about myself:
  1. I like the tradition of tea time. I prefer Earl Grey, though Lady Grey is a close second. I adore scones, or anything baked, and actually like to bake myself, though it seems there is not enough time or energy for me to do much baking these days. The kids would like to change that, for sure, and I am positive Hubby wouldn’t mind if I did more.
  2. I love old movies, especially musicals and Fred Astaire films. Something about Fred’s twinkling smile and tapping feet makes me happy, and who can feel grim after singing along with the songs on the Sound of Music?
  3. I try to read at least five “good” books a month. Usually those “good” books are non-fiction books about some topic I am interested in. You can see many of my previous months’ reading lists on the right sidebar.
  4. When I graduated from high school, I was sure I was going to become a veterinarian. I even got accepted early to Virginia Tech with a (albeit small) scholarship and hoped to go to the vet school there. However, somewhere along the line, I realized I am too much of a softie to do the hard things that are included in the life of a vet (putting animals down…sometimes perfectly salvageable ones). So, I eventually got my teaching degree (both of my parents are teachers), and I am glad it worked out that way. I live out my love for animals by collecting them on our hobby farm. LOL.
  5. I have to take two graduate courses this semester to maintain my teaching certification. I am NOT looking forward to all of the extra work, but the content looks interesting. Hubby and I have decided that the investment is worth it, since we have at least five children to graduate still (and you never know what else may come…>smiles!<) and keeping my certification current makes homeschooling easier in our state.
  6. I like to rescue old quilts. I haven’t found the time to make one from scratch yet (or the motivation), but I do find time to sew up rips on bargain old ones I find at the flea markets. I got a yoyo quilt top from an antique store about a year ago, and I have recently learned to make yoyos in order to repair and restore it. I’d like to use it as a tablecloth under glass on my dining room table, but the glass is too expensive. Until I can afford the glass, I may hang it on a wall…if I can find room!
  7. I may have said this before, but I LOVE BOOKS! I like old books and new books, red books and blue books, short ones and fat ones, dog ones and cat (in the hat) ones…Books are fun, books are great, books are something I appreciate. Go books! Get the picture?
Now, for the bloggers I would like to bless with these awards. Since both the Stylish Blogger Award and the Versatile Blogger Award called for blessing fifteen other bloggers, I combined the awards and am passing them both on to the same fifteen people. I am already delayed with posting this due to my health difficulties and limits on my time recently, so please forgive me if this seems a bit like cheating…(but I couldn’t find any rules that said I couldn’t do this anywhere online). I hope you understand.

Please visit some of these stylish and versatile blogs and leave a comment for their bloggers. I know they’d love to meet you!
  1. Adventures in Unsell Land
  2. Marine Corps Nomad
  3. Mindful Ramblings
  4. Household Ways
  5. A Teaching Heart
  6. Joy in Our Journey
  7. Orange Marmalade Mama
  8. Crazy Homeschool Mama
  9. A Full Heart
  10. A Mommy’s Adventures
  11. Deanna’s Corner
  12. Petra School
  13. No Idle Bread
  14. Mom Loves Books
  15. To Be Busy at Home
Blessings,

Heather

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sermon Sunday---Creation Science

This week's Sermon Sunday is by request of my mom.

Here are two pages with links to sermons by Ken Ham, as well as those of MANY other Creation Science lecturers, such as Gary Parker, Duane Gish, and Henry Morris. We were talking about how great it was to attend a Worldview Weekend (sign up for their free magazine HERE) and wishing there would be one held locally this year so we could go again for a refresher course.




Have you ever been to a Worldview Weekend, or at least heard Ken Ham speak? I've been to two in the last ten years, plus Ken Ham spoke at the homeschooling convention last year that I attended. It's a real treat that you do not want to miss. You will learn A LOT. I've been thinking of signing up Tex for their online Bible and Worldview Training once he is done with his current book study. You can check out more about it HERE. It's now only $49 each ($39 if you sign up two or more). If anyone has completed it, I'd appreciate a comment about how well you liked it (or not). Thanks!

I hope this blesses you this week and beyond.


Blessings,

Heather

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Time4Learning is Time4Fun



Kids these days are very techno-savvy. I think they come out with more knowledge about how to use computers and electronic devices than I have gained  after forty-ahem-never-mind years of living. Even though by the world's standards of "a TV in every room, a gaming system for every child, an iPod for every ear, and a phone for all who can speak" our family's attitudes toward media are fairly conservative (one TV for dvds and videos, no cable, only parents have cell phones, gaming with the one game system only as a rare priviledge, etc.), we do LOVE our computers and all the fun and interesting stuff we find to do with them. 


 One of the fun things we like to do with our computers is learning. Yes, I mean it, learning is FUN! There are hundreds (probably thousands, but I haven't seen them all...I can only attest to hundreds) of sites out there with loads of interesting content, games, and activities. Of course, one site might offer math activities, and another focuses on reading, but only features content for the young. Very few sites cover all areas of learning for many levels, so to utilize the myriad of FREE resources I have told you about in the past, you have to have some sort of organizational method so your kids don't waste time (or endanger their safety) surfing the 'net. Some folks do like I do and set up a blog or website for their kids with links to the sites that they approve of, but that is time consuming, to say the least. Other folks find a useful site like Time4Learning that's already done all the hard work, then they pay a modest membership fee for their children to have access to all the well-organized, thoughtfully designed lessons in many content areas.

 

I heard about Time4Learning just after Thanksgiving, and was curious about it, so I requested a thirty day trial (available to established bloggers). I signed up Tex (grade 7), Ladybug (age 7), and Cowboy (age 5) so I could see how the program works with various age and grade groups. Each child was given an account with a password (of my choice...for the little ones we made them very simple so they could sign in on their own), and one at a time I turned them loose to see how they liked the program. Overall, the kids gave the program a resounding two thumbs (or in our case, six thumbs up, or eight if including Firefly). While I thought it would be Ladybug and Cowboy who liked the program the most, surprise, surprise, it was actually Tex who got the most out of it!

During the time period of the review, he had his schooling set up so that all of his classes were online. He really liked that. He had one thing for his math (another review item), listened to online sermons for his daily Bible time (mostly Andy Stanley), and used T4L for his history, science, art, and to brush up on his grammar.

Here is what Tex says about Time4Learning:


  • I LOVED the history. It was very well-organized. I liked how they would explore a topic, then flow easily from one thing to another. It just made sense. The animations were good, and the information was interesting. I enjoyed talking about what I learned with my Mom and Dad, then I learned even more. I did history up to World War I, which is fascinating. I am hoping Mom will subscribe so I can finish the history all the way to present day.
  • My mom and I thought the art lessons were great. She says the information is similar to what she learned in her college art class, but simplified, and explained in a way that is easy to understand. I like how you get into a lesson, and get to click on even more things to investigate about each painting and artist along the way. It's very detailed. I know more now than I did when I started [Mom says she is looking at paintings differently now, too. She can't wait to do the rest of the lessons with me].
  • The science was fine. I kind of like my Christian science studies better [AiG materials], but the T4L materials were not bad. Some of the animations were a bit basic for me, but I am sure younger kids think they are great.
  • I did not use T4L for math. I am using something else.
  • English grammar was fine on the computer, and was a good review. It's not my favorite subject, though I do like to write.
  • The games were not important to me (on the Playground). I only played Asteroids a few times. Most of the games are pretty basic, but Asteroids was retro, so it was cool.
Ladybug and Cowboy say:

  • We liked Time4Learning. It makes you do a lesson before it will let you have Playground time [ Mom really liked this feature]. We didn't mind doing the lessons. They were not too hard or too easy for us.
  • The reading lessons were good. They challenged us to read more.
  • The math lessons were good. We got better with money, adding, and subtracting.
  • We liked the games in the Playground. It was nice to take a break after a while and to get to play instead of work.
  • I like knowing what I did well and what I need to work on, then I want to work more. I don't mind school at all when I am using the computer [Mom says that they don't mind school at all PERIOD...they think it is fun because it IS!!]
  • Note from Mom: Mostly, Cowboy just watched Ladybug do lessons, and offered advice over her shoulder (as did Firefly). His mouse skills are not as good and so he was happy to let her take the lead. If I were to subscribe, I would set up our other OLD (very old) computer so they could both do their own work at the same time. But even just watching, he learned something.
Mom says:



PROS
  • I can see how this program would be very useful to a mom who has many kids, or even just one child, and needs to have time to get something done around the house...ie. you just can't sit and do school ALL day. It is available for Preschool through Eighth grade, so it would work for many students for many years.
  • Because there are loads of lesson plans available on the site (to tell you how to use the lessons), and also some great evaluation and reporting systems, this site would be useful for a newbie, or for someone who is required to provide regular reports on their kids' progress to their state board or an umbrella school. If you were uncertain if you were doing enough, or doing it right, using this site would probably help you feel more comfortable, even if you wound up supplementing it with other materials (which I would definitely recommend...computer lessons can't replace real books, but I don't think the T4L folks would dispute that).
  • Another positive side to this program is that Time4 Learning will charge you on a per month basis, so it would make a great temporary measure for a parent/teacher who is temporarily ill, or otherwise indisposed, has to care for an elderly parent, work from home for a season, etc. as it would allow you to keep homeschooling without worrying that you are unable to do the job you need to do.
  • Parents have control "behind the scenes" and can adjust their student's level or lesson progression as needed. That's great.
  • There are forums which provide additional support if you need it. I checked out one of them once and there were a lot of parents using this curriculum and really enjoying it (and I believe there is a specifically Christian forum, as well).
  • My favorite thing about T4L: I LOVED the timer feature that forced my kids to work first, play later. Work more, play more. Awesome! I wish I could come up with something like that for my website/kids' blogs.
  • Students can be placed at different levels for different subjects. That's neat because what kid is exactly the same level for every subject?
  • The question style varies throughout the lessons, so your child stays engaged instead of falling into a rut.
  • Kids practice using keyboarding skills, which to me, is a plus in this technology-driven world.
  • Older kids (especially) can be in charge of pacing and completing their own work. Parents can monitor using the progress reports. Quizzes are available at the end of many lessons. Progress is shown with checked boxes on a chart that shows the student what has been completed. My kids liked this.
  • Most kids like using the computer. How cool to be able to use it as a learning tool.
  • I found out that T4L correlates to state standards, so it can be used by homeschoolers and public schooled children alike. It would be useful as an after-school supplement, a summer enrichment course, or even as extra help (tutoring) for a child who is struggling in an area.
  • The site updates and adds new content regularly.
  • I had good experiences with their Customer Service department (we wound up not using T4L at all during the week or so around Christmas, and they kindly extended my trial so we could get a better idea of how the program worked. I also asked a question about posting this review and they actually called me at home to answer it!)
CONS
  • This is not a Christian program (which is why Tex was perfering his Science curriculum to what T4L had to offer). If you use T4L, you will have to deal with all this entails by monitoring what your children choose to study, supplementing when necessary, editing when required. This was not a big deal for Tex, as he is a mature 7th grader, but for younger ones whom you might just want to "turn loose" with the program (like 3-6th graders, maybe?) this issue might prevent you from being as easy going as you'd like. I thought it was interesting that Tex came to me today and said, "I don't know why people don't like math more since it is so black and white, so absolute. I like it better than history because with history everybody has an opinion and you have to filter out what is fact and what is not." How astute. We felt the history portion of T4L was great, though (it was the science and the evolution we did not agree with).
  • The cost is a bit steep for poor little me. The monthly membership fee is $19.95 for the first child, and an additional $14.95 for each child after that (that adds up if you have four school-aged children!). Payments are set up as a recurring monthly fee using Paypal or credit card. You may cancel at any time, and there is a money-back guarantee if you are not satisfied with the product. If you pay for 12 months in advance, you get a discount and pay only$169.95 per child. I plan to continue for a month or two so Tex can finish the history, but will not be able to do so after that. 
  • I personally thought that some of the games were a bit silly, but the kids did not mind them. Maybe I just have high expectations because of all the fantastic, high-quality free stuff I see when researching for my homeschool-for-free site, but even though I might be able to find you a more exciting game on the internet somewhere, I can't guarantee you won't click and go somewhere you don't want to go, and I certainly can't offer the great timer feature.
If you are interested in learning more about Time4Learning, check out their website HERE. You can try the free demos HERE, or find out more about how to use Time4Learning HERE.

Blessings,

Heather

**I received a free month's subscription to Time4Learning for the purposes of offering my honest opinion here on my blog. All of the opinions you see expressed in this review are based on our experiences with this product and do not necessarily reflect or predict your experiences. If you have questions about this product, please feel free to contact me.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Funnix Freebie in January



I couldn't let the month go by without telling you about a freebie my lovely friend, Lady D. in Florida gave me the heads up about. During the month of January, Funnix is giving away downloads to their first 120 reading lessons HERE. These lessons are structured, detailed, computer-animated, interactive teaching sessions and could effectively teach your child to read up to a first grade level. All you need to do is sit next to your child and reinforce the correct answers, then monitor their completion of a few simple and fun worksheets.

I just finished "doing" the first lesson after completing my download and it was very clear, easy to follow, and it seemed like it really could do the trick. It took about a half an hour, and had a good mix of listening, following directions, repeating, and identifying exercises that would easily keep a 4-7 year old early reader involved. As both Cowboy and Ladybug already read, I won't be using it for them, but I thought that its simplicity might work for Firefly (age 3 1/2) who is chomping at the bit to read like her big sister and brother do. I figure the two older ones can sit with her if I need them to, as long as I can keep them from shouting out all the correct responses! 


If you have children anywhere near the target reading age, or will in the future, you should think about downloading this program. It could save you a ton of money and worry. As the above ad states, it's kind of like having "a tutor on your computer!" The program also comes with a downloadable teacher's manual and printable workbook, which you receive access to when you get your confirmation email. If you are uncertain if your child can use this program, visit THIS page for other useful downloads that help assess and prepare your child for the lessons.

You know my favorite price is FREE!! and this looks like a winner, so spread the word!

Blessings,

Heather

Sermon Sunday---Time of Your Life

We have a guest poster this week...Tex. He has been listening to Andy Stanley's sermon series on Time this week during his Bible time and highly recommended it to me. Here are his comments:


"I think this series said several things to me. First of all, it told me to stop wishing time would go by so fast and to appreciate every moment instead of hurrying through it. Secondly, it encouraged me to be more deliberate about what I do and to plan my time wisely. More importantly, for me anyway, was the picture Pastor Stanley made that while time may seem like a huge, vast thing to us, it is not so huge to an infinite God. Even though our time here is so short in relation to God's infinite being, He still loves us and cares for us. That was very important to me and special. You should really listen to this amazing series that Andy Stanley put together. It is great."   Tex

HERE is a link to Andy Stanley's site where they keep the archived sermons. Scroll through until you see the series called Time of Your Life.

These sermons will not necessarily stay in the archive forever, so make the time to listen to them soon.

Blessings,

Heather

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Gingerbread Men, Kids, and Candy

Lady L. brought over some Gingerbread Men kits from Trader Joe's when they visited yesterday. I know, you are thinking "Christmas is over already" and "The last thing ten kids thrown together in a small house need is SUGAR!" and I agree with both of those statements, BUT since we are fun mommies who occasionally throw caution and our good sense out the window for the sake of making memories, our kids were able to have a MARVELOUS time decorating and eating those Gingerbread Men.

More candy, please!
Miss S. helps Ladybug apply icing...
They pause for a photo, then apply MORE icing...

I can't smile now, Mom. I am focusing on developing my decorating skills...


The mostly finished products look SCRUMPTIOUS (and happy)!

Beautiful job, guys and gals (and yes, these two did have a little help with the icing from Mommy;-).

Absolutely gorgeous, ladies! And they did it with NO help from the mommies.

Time to dig, er, bite in!! 
Here's a riddle: How many kids does it take to eat a gingerbread man? In this case, TEN.
(Sometimes all at once!)

Definitely worth the work and the waiting.


Even Baby Boo snitches an M&M or two.
 "Do you want some, Mommy?" they ask.  I love how willing our kids are to share.

I can't speak for Lady L., but I know I had a delightful time watching the children work together. Even the big kids had to pop in now and then to add (or eat) a candy or two. It was definitely a blessing to have this opportunity to let the kids have fun working on a project together, and to extend the holiday season just a little bit longer. Maybe I can convince them it would be just as much fun to fix the fences together, or clean my garage...What do you think?

Thanks for bringing the Gingerbread Men for us to enjoy, Lady L.. You are all the best of friends to all of us!

Blessings,

Heather


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Soap Making

I love Bookmobile Wednesdays. Not just because I LOVE books, and because Mr. Mike, the Bookmobile librarian is a super nice guy, but also because my good friend, Lady L., and her five kids come to visit. We always find something interesting to do, and the time flies by so quickly.

This week was no exception. While Tex was outside showing the boys his COOL new practice swords and daggers from Vision Forum (sorry, no pictures...I'll have to remedy that one), and they were blissfully bashing each other senseless, inside, the ladies were watching the Homestead Blessings dvd about Soapmaking, and being inspired to try their hand at making soap.

Just as the dvd finished, I remembered picking up a soapmaking kit at my mom's old school on her last day before retiring last June (can you believe someone was actually throwing it away, so it was FREE!!), and hunted it down. Inside of it, we found enough unscented base soap to make four remilled bars, some lavender fragrance, and a soap mold. Yay!

I also remembered that I had some lavender from one of Hubby's trips overseas on his old sub (Italy, I think), and ran upstairs to drag that out of the drawer. Then we grabbed a sturdy pot, two graters, the girls, and got to work.


First, we let the girls help grate the soap into the pot (wasn't that nice of us?). According to the video, remilling the soap means it will cure harder the second time, and it also gives you a chance to make many different types of soap out of one batch of plain soap.


We decided we wanted to try for a Lavender-Oatmeal soap, so we ground up a bit of oatmeal, crushed some lavender, and once the soap shavings were heated into liquid, we added the dry ingredients and the lavender essential oil.



Lastly, I poured the soap into the four-bar mold and sprinkled a bit more of the lavender on top for fun.


We let it cool, and within about an hour, we popped it out of the mold and decided that for a first try, it smelled pretty good and didn't look half bad! We each had two bars of soap and a sense of satisfaction over an adventure successfully completed when we were finished. (The next day, Bubba came over and liked the soap so much he asked to take one of my two bars home with him...I think soapmaking is going to be a popular pasttime, or at least the products that come from it will be!).


I am fairly inspired now to try the whole thing from scratch. The West Ladies describe making some pretty neat looking coffee soap (it's supposed to get funky odors off of your hands) and some cute cupcake-type soaps that would make adorable gifts. I will need a few more ingredients to do that, and a cooking thermometer, but the dvd was very clear about the process and so now it doesn't intimidate me the way it used to.

I highly recommend that you borrow these dvds from your church library (or purchase them. if you can), if you have any interest (but little knowledge) of some of the more homesteady arts. Invite a friend over, watch a dvd together, and have fun trying something new. We sure did!

I'd love to hear about any of your adventures into soapmaking...good and bad! And I am always open to hearing useful tips. Thanks!

Blessings,

Heather

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