Monday, February 28, 2011

Like Starfall? Try MORE Starfall.


If your little ones are like mine, they LOVE Starfall. Starfall is a FREE! reading site with TONS of activities which encourage your pre-readers and emerging readers to try out new skills. Based on phonics, but with plenty of sight words thrown in, a child who is able to point and click can spend hours (not all necessarily on the same day!) learning and having fun with the colorful and engaging activities available for FREE on Starfall.

More Starfall is a new subscription site which offers, well, MORE. For $35 dollars a year, members gain access to many new activities, songs, learning games, books, and resources, as well as all the familiar and proven content from classic Starfall. The new activities include things such as math learning activities, color activities, songs and rhymes, stories (read-alouds), lesson plans, and many customizable printables. Specifically, some of the activities include: Colors, Backpack Bear's Books, The Word Machine, Vowel Pals, More Phonics, Math Songs, Nursery Rhyme Videos, a Talking Library, Folk Songs, Addition and Subtraction, and much more.

More Starfall has a mascot, Backpack Bear, who is the star character of many of the stories. He will lead your child through many adventures at More Starfall. In fact, if you find your child really likes the Backpack Bear, you can order a stuffed one from the Starfall Teachers Store. Stuffed animals are not the only items in this store. It also offers resources to compliment and enrich the teaching materials and lesson plans available on More Starfall, as well as resources to support Starfall's complete homeschool Kindergarten curriculum. I particularly liked the VERY INEXPENSIVE writing journals and ordered two, as well as print copies of the books my kids so enjoy from the original Starfall site. Did you know you can also order a cd-rom of all of the content from Starfall (not including the More Starfall content) in case you want your child to be able to use the wonderful Starfall materials, but do not want to have to link up to an internet connection? What a great idea! It's only $19.95.

Aside from the additional kids' content, which your 3-8 year olds will love, part of the appeal of More Starfall is that you can access The Teacher's Lounge. The Teacher's Lounge is stocked with customizable worksheet generators, resources, and projects. For example, they have a story page which can be printed with or without space for a picture to be drawn by your child AND you can type in a story starter to also be printed out on the sheet. Awesome! The Year-long Kindergarten lesson plans and supplementary materials are available for download when you purchase a More Starfull subscription for just $35 a year. Additional materials, such as print books and games, flash cards, and stuffed animals are available for an extra fee. You can read more about that option HERE (pricing) and HERE (content). Click the link to view the entire Starfall Kindergarten Catalog.

The Kindergarten lesson plans incorporate Backpack Bear and other characters from both Starfall sites and will appeal to a wide range of kids. They encompass reading, math, and handwriting, as well as history, holidays, art, and more. The year-long subscription allows for up to three simultaneous users in one family...perfect for homeschoolers of young "stair-step" children like us. Click HERE to see a short video demonstration about how special features available only with More Starfall can help you organize your children's daily work.

Our family was able to try the site for a month and found that the little ones quite liked what it had to offer (ages 3-8 mostly...though even our 20 month old enjoyed watching). The site seemed to best fit Firefly and Cowboy (pre-K and K students), who especially enjoyed the songs (such as The Wheels on the Bus and Yankee Doodle) and the math activities (which classic Starfall does not offer). One reason it was particularly good for Firefly was because since both Cowboy and Ladybug have memberships on more advanced sites (for reading and math), the More Starfall site gave her something simple she could do, so felt like she was a "big kid" and had "school" to do, too. It also helped develop her mouse skills in a fun, non-threatening way. 

While we did print activities from The Teacher's Lounge for the kids to try, we never tried out the curriculum, but what I saw looks like it would be a good option for Kindergarten...especially for those parents who prefer to incorporate the computer, are looking for support, and appreciate the idea of customizing their own worksheets (for example, the math printing practice sheets allow you to choose which object will be displayed to demonstrate the number...ants, flowers, hearts, turtles, etc. Nice.).

More Starfall is a safe, ad-free, easy to navigate, friendly, colorful, enriching and interesting site for ages 3-4 and up (how high depends on your own child). 

Can you find content like this anywhere else on the internet for FREE (our favorite price)? Maybe some of it...BUT you will have to spend a lot of time finding it and organizing it into a usable form for your family...AND it won't be connected to the fun Starfall characters, it might not be as cute, it probably won't be ad-free, and it likely won't be customizable (the worksheets). This is a good deal.

If you have a child who LOVES Starfall and wants MORE... consider giving More Starfall a try. I think you will like it.



I received a free month's trial of More Starfall from the company in exchange for sharing my opinions on the site here on my blog. The opinions you read here are an honest reflection of our experiences. I cannot guarantee and do not expect that yours will be exactly the same. If you have questions about More Starfall that I did not answer here, feel free to contact me and ask. Thanks!

Menu Plan Monday

are serving this week!

This looks to be an interesting week weather-wise in our neck of the woods. From a sunny, high of eighty on Monday, to thuderstorms and a low of forty on Tuesday, then hopefully some sun with midline temperatures the rest of the week, I am thinking that the kids are going to be thinking "Spring!" and want to be outside a lot. That usually means they will be HUNGRY at dinner time, and so I am going to plan for super-filling suppers every night except for tonight. Tonight is the almost summer-like evening, so let's go for the hint of warmer weather fare by serving a long-missed summertime favorite.

Monday: Tuna Salad, Waldorf style (recipe below) and ranch-bacon pasta salad, served on a bed of lettuce with baby carrots on the side.
Tuesday: Pre-cooked chicken in the freezer means we can warm up tonight with Chicken Pot Pie and blackberry cobbler, with hardly any trouble at all!
Wednesday: Pre-made burgers on the grill sounds mighty nice, with a side of potato salad, curly fries, and a pickle.
Thursday: Breakfast for dinner. Turkey bacon, cheesy scrambled eggs (from our chickens), hash browns, and MAYBE pancakes (depending on how worn out I am!).
Friday: I just love pizza night! I'd better order up our next Netflix pronto so we can have pizza and a movie.
Saturday: Pot roast, potatoes & gravy, carrots, and biscuits. A bit more trouble to start, but easy to finish and wonderful to eat!
Sunday: I'll prep Tater Tot Casserole Saturday night so I can put it in early Sunday morning to take to church. It's the first Sunday of the month, and the family-integrated church we like to attend occasionally is having a fellowship meal after services.

I pray you have a delicious and fun-filled week. We plan to! ;-)




Our favorite Waldorf-style Tuna Salad

Two large cans of Albacore tuna packed in water, drained
two to three apples, peeled, cored, and diced
a cup of grapes diced
a cup of shredded cheddar
a cup of hard-boiled egg chopped
a half cup diced celery
a half cup chopped walnuts
Kraft mayo and Miracle Whip to taste...we prefer our tuna salad fairly moist. I use the Miracle Whip and Mayo in half and half proportions, so I get a little bit of seasoning, but it is not too strong. You can choose to use one or both, however your family prefers.

Combine all ingredients well. Serve on a bed of lettuce. I like pairing this up with pasta salad. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

He Paid the MOST

For this Sermon Sunday's post, my husband will be sharing with you his impressions of the extraordinary movie, MOST. I hope you enjoy his review and that it inspires you to obtain a copy of the movie when it is released this Tuesday, March 1st.


Guest poster: Hubby

I watched this movie tonight and it is one of the best I have seen in a long time. In my opinion, it is a must-see for every father. The movie MOST is an allegory of Christ. The beginning of the movie introduces you to a boy, his father, and several train passengers. It is a story about love and sacrifice. It will impact your way of thinking. It is definitely worth watching.

Because this movie makes such a deep impression, I do not recommend viewing by children under age 12 (parents should definitely view the movie first), anyone who has lost a child recently, or someone who would be particularly sensitive to the death of a child. There is nothing graphic shown in the movie, but the sense of impending doom and the father’s anguish would be too much for my wife’s compassionate heart, which is why I watched this movie instead of her. There is also one instance where drugs are shown to demonstrate one passenger’s struggles with sin, though the passenger ultimately chooses not to use them. Much of the movie does not include dialogue, but the images are very vivid and clearly frame the story. The cinematography is excellent. This movie is ideal for viewing WITH older children (teens), small groups, and youth groups. I believe this incredible evangelistic tool is custom-made to jump-start deep and moving discussions following its viewing.

The tender moments throughout the movie vividly illustrate the father’s and son’s love for each other. In one part, the father is tucking his son into bed. Their conversation is playful and loving. The little boy tells a joke to cheer his father up and convinces his dad to take him to work the next evening. The conversation ends, like many do, with the little boy asking his father to sleep next to him. It reminded me of moments spent with my own children. I enjoy those precious little moments with my kids. I inevitably fall asleep on their bedroom floor many evenings after prayers, conversations, and stories. God’s love far surpasses my understanding, yet I know how much I cherish those moments spent on the floor near their beds. We sometimes take these simple moments for granted, and time passes through our hands too quickly. Before you know it, our children start off on their own, and then we have to fight for little moments with them that were available every day while they lived in our home. Realizing this really makes you think and appreciate the time you have with them so much more.

The first two lessons I gleaned from this movie were: 
  1.  God’s love is real. He gave His most precious treasure, His Son, for our salvation.
  2.  Our relationships with our children are another gift from God, an extraordinary opportunity to understand His love for us. Don't let the time you are given with them slip away.
Next, is the lesson that salvation comes at a price I could not pay. Many of the passengers on board the train have no idea what is transpiring during the movie or how near death they come. The father screams in anguish, his heart torn from the horrible loss his decision brings. Only one passenger sees his pain, and her realization of the father’s anguish changes the path she is on. Later, the father sees the same passenger and instantly finds joy in the life that was saved that fateful day. Incredible. I think most of us would struggle to find that joy in our loss.

God is all-knowing and all-loving. He knew many would deny Christ, yet Christ died that all may live. He knew all have sinned against Him, but still He rose so that we would have eternal life. The final lesson I would like to share is that we should daily live a life honoring the sacrifice He made so that on our last day at judgment we bring Him joy.

You can find more information about purchasing this movie HERE.

To see my wife's previous post on this movie, as well as to view the movie trailer, click HERE.

HERE is an evangelism tract to use with the movie from Mission to America.
HERE is a Leader's Guide to use when showing the movie to a small group of friends in your home or with your family.
HERE is a guide to help you know how to invite people to view MOST with you.
HERE are some of the Writer's Notes to help you understand the symbolism in the movie.

Blessings to you and yours.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

Monday--Chicken Teriyaki Stir Fry served with chicken fried rice and pineapple rings.
Tuesday--Cheesy Pigs in a Blanket served with curly fries
Wednesday--Fish Sticks served with Macaroni and Cheese and applesauce
Thursday--Daddy's Choice (Mommy is going to a Ladies' Night Out dinner with Nanny!)
Friday--Chicken Enchiladas served with Spanish Rice and Refried Beans
Saturday--Attended a Creation Science Lecture all day and ate supper with Nanny and Poppy
Sunday--Homemade Chicken and Rice Soup served with salad and biscuits

Have a blessed week!


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sermon Sunday---How to Have a Great Love Life

I heard a marvelous sermon this morning while we were getting ready for church that just happened to be on this month's overarching topic of marriage and love. I looked the speaker up online and was pleased to discover that he has an entire sermon series on the topic. I couldn't wait to share these sermons with you, and I plan to listen to the other two sermons in the series sometime this week.

Dr. Bob Boyd, President of New Fire for Christ, answers some of life's toughest questions. This month's answers are about marriage. In the sermon I listened to, Dr. Boyd talks about how to have a successful marriage, you must rely on Jesus and live by following his example of selfless sacrifice. I think you will find them to be easy to listen to while still inspiring deeper thought and introspection. The series would be excellent listening for young adults, as well as married couples.

You can find links to the three-part series below:

You can find more Answers to Life's Toughest Questions HERE.

You can find my previous Sermon Sunday posts on marriage below:
Love and Marriage---Dr. David Jeremiah
Marriage and You---JR Vassar
The Art of Marriage---Dr. Erwin Lutzer and Jeff Pollard



Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Giveaway---"Most" movie

My family is previewing the movie "Most" and we have been given a second copy to give away to someone. This is my first "giveaway" and I am excited! I hope I will get enough entries to need to use one of those random-online-winner-pickers, but if I only get a few, I plan to use the tried and true write-the-names-on-bits-of-paper-and-pick-one-out-of-a-hat method.

Here is what I know about the movie, which we have yet to view. I will let you know more about the movie once we watch it, though I don't know exactly when that will instead of waiting to see what I think, you should go ahead and enter now!

The movie's title, "Most," is the Czech word for "The Bridge." This movie is a Czech production and has subtitles in English (and other languages). It is the story of a father and son who attempt to prevent a railway accident.

Here is part of the write up from the back of the dvd: 

MOST is a visually enthralling, 21st Century parable about a loving father, his young son, and the fateful day when they attempt to head off an impending railway disaster. Hundreds of passengers abourd an oncoming steam train are completely unaware of the danger that looms as they head toward an open drawbridge. A desperate young woman witnesses and act of mercy beyond imagination, changing her life forever--and the lives of all who see this story. Both heart-wrenching and glorious, MOST vividly portrays the greatest offering of love, sacrifice, hope, and forgiveness known to man.

One reviewer states that the movie is like watching "John 3:16 in 33 minutes!" 

Christianity Today called the movie "life changing."

Here is a trailer for the movie:

**SPOILER ALERT! I will tell you that I am a stickler for happy ending movies, and I have read the write up online and know that this movie is NOT one. Therefore, I have asked Hubby to watch it for me and to be a guest reviewer for this one. Dramatic, real-life, moving movies do not bother him. With me they linger. I watch movies mostly to escape from stress and laugh.

SO, that said, I believe this is going to be one incredible story, and if not having a happily-ever-after ending is NOT a problem for you, then please enter this giveaway and get your family or your church a copy of this acclaimed movie (I plan to donate my copy to my church library).

Giveaway rules...there are five ways to enter!

  • The giveaway will run from today through February 27th. I will choose a winner on the day the movie is released, March 1st. I will notify the winner sometime during that week.
  • You must make sure that your email address is plainly displayed somewhere that is easy for me to find. I am not a super-savvy internet maven, so please make sure it is clear for me. I'd hate to draw your name, but be unable to contact you.
  1. You can enter by leaving a comment on this post. Please tell me the name of the Christian movie (or other movie, if you can't think of a Christian one) that has most impacted your life.
  2. You can enter again by following me and leaving an additional comment telling me you followed me (or by leaving an additional comment to tell me that you are already following me.)
  3. You may enter a third time by following me with Networked Blogs and leaving me an additional comment to tell me you did so (or by leaving an additional comment telling me that you are already a follower using Networked Blogs.)
  4. If you tell a friend about this giveaway and they mention you in their entry (they may mention you in once for an entry), I will give YOU an extra entry (but obviously, you have to already have made your own entry).
  5. Post about this giveaway on Facebook and leave an additional comment telling me you did this and I will give you another entry.
Tell your friends, please. Thanks!



Be Like the Moon...Reflect the Son

Guest Poster: Tex

Taken last night from our deck...

This is what I saw last night when I went outside to look at the stars. Isn't it amazing? I went in and got my mom and she came out to look at it, too, and I used her camera to take this picture.

At a Christian convention I went to earlier this year I saw someone wearing a tee-shirt that said, "Be Like the Moon, Reflect the Son." I thought of that saying when I saw the moon last night.

Mom and I were thinking that the ring around the moon looks like a halo. That is actually what the scientists call this phenomenon, which occurs when there are ice crystals high up in the atmosphere. The crystals reflect the light and give the appearance of a halo around the moon.

This made me think that the moon is a picture of how we are supposed to try to reflect God's love to others through our words and actions. The moon shines because its surface is reflecting the light of the sun. Even though the sun is not visible on our side of the world all the time, you can still see its light. That is how we are supposed to be. We are supposed to reflect God's light to others even though they don't visibly see Him.

I am going to try hard this year to do what that shirt said, to "Be like the moon and reflect the Son" in everything I do. I will think about the moon halo that I saw whenever I need a reminder of how I need to act.



Random Scientific Fact: Halos always occur exactly 22 degrees away from the sun or moon. For more information on moon halos see Curious About Astronomy and Moon Light Effects (more pictures).

YoYo Quilt Update

I finished mending the piece of yoyo quilt that I found at the antique mall.

Here is what it looks like now:

It is laying on our bed, which is a queen-sized bed, if that gives you an idea of the quilt's size.

Isn't it pretty? I had to fill in some places where yoyos were missing, so I tried to choose fabrics that were old-fashioned. My mom helped me out by providing material from her well-stocked scrap bin (she is a quilter). Thank you, Mom!! She even gave me some scraps which were cut from old shirts and dresses of my great-grandmothers. That makes the fabric extra-special to me. Not only is the history of the person who made this quilt sewn up in it, but now mine is as well! I also had to reconnect quite a few of the yoyos, but that is a very quick process. I found it both relaxing and rewarding to repair this piece of the past. I have been so blessed by the opportunity to do this.

YoYo quilts are so interesting...this one has a colorful variety of fabrics from many periods in it.

Ladybug showed an avid interest in sewing while I was working on some yoyos one night, so I gave her two of the yoyos I removed from the piece (I took out two that were orange because it is not a color I use in my decorating) and she stitched them together to make a tiny coin purse for her daddy. What fun! He took it with him on his recent trip out of town and I'll bet it makes him smile whenever he pulls it out of his coat pocket...

These are mostly newer fabrics, but they look old.

I am working on making more yoyos out of old-looking fabrics so I can add to the section of quilt I have. I have decided that I am going to add to it until it is an oval shape large enough to cover my dining room table. Once it is done, I am going to ask Hubby to buy me a piece of glass with finished edges to fit over the table to protect the yoyos...I imagine it will be a bit pricey, but it can be my Mother's Day/birthday gift, if he likes. It will be very special to be able to see the fruits of my labor (and whoever else worked on this lovely piece) displayed in an area we use multiple times every day. I do so dislike having nice things packed away where you never see them and can't really use and appreciate them. I am much more of the philosphy that if you can't enjoy it and use it, then why not pass it on to someone who least, I am trying to get there (just don't ask to see inisde my I've said before, I am a work in progress!)

I have decided that I do find a simple pleasure in sewing, though I don't have as much time to do it as I'd like. The idea of making a WHOLE quilt from scratch still intimidates me, but the idea of fixing up old ones is nice and is a good fit for me right now. I think I might post a yoyo tutorial sometime in the future because making yoyos is SO simple, if you like sewing and have never done it before, you will likely find you LOVE it, too. There are so many ways to use can add them to potholders to dress them up, you can make table runners out of them, you can use four of them and some fabric underneath to make coasters, and I imagine the other possiblities are endless. I wonder what I might find if I Googled it? I will have to do that sometime. Check back in a week or two for that yoyo tutorial and maybe some links to ideas for using yoyos to make all sorts of crafty items!

Here is a link to my previous post on the yoyo quilt: A YoYo Quilt Story.

If you have any posts about quilts you have worked on, please leave me a note and a link!



Monday, February 14, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

This week Hubby is out of town, so I am keeping it simple and letting the kids decide what they want to eat for dinner. Each child gets to choose the menu for one day. Yay!

Monday: Happy Valentine's Day! We are going to the drive-in at Sonic for supper and using coupons from Daddy. It's going to be fun (and cheap!). Maybe there will be ice cream for dessert...

Tuesday: Ladybug requests tomato soup and grilled cheese for supper tonight. One of my favorites. I bought oatmeal bread on sale from the bread store and also have some Havarti cheese to add to the usual American cheese to fancy-up the sandwiches. Yum.

Wednesday: Firefly requests spaghetti with meatballs and cheesy bread for supper. We will use our favorite Ragu Robusto Parmesean and Romano sauce, add frozen meatballs, and use a box of Cheesy Texas Toast I got on sale last week to keep it simple.

Thursday: Cowboy's day to choose...he chooses Velveeta Shells and Cheese with fish sticks. It doesn't get a whole lot simpler than that. We will have applesauce on the side.

Friday: Pizza Night. We will be ordering the Big Dipper pizza with ham and watching a Debbie Reynold's movie called My Six Loves (she takes in six orphans and meets a compassionate pastor, played by Cliff Robertson) on Netflix.

Saturday: Tex chooses something a bit more labor intensive, but he is worth it. He would like chicken enchilladas and Spanish rice for supper, please...with plenty of salsa and sour cream on the side.

Sunday: Daddy gets home late tonight. Yay!! I am thinking that after a week of not-so-healthy (but easy) foods, I will fix Cobb salads for dinner. The kids love their veggies...just don't forget to add lots of Kraft Three Cheese Ranch!

Have a delicious week.



Happy Valentine's Day!

The water froze in Ladybug's pony's, huh?!

Happy Valentine's Day to our family and friends from our family here at Blessing Farm!

We all want to thank you all for the blessing you are to us.
We thank you for your prayers, your encouragement, your help, and your love.

He has a BIG heart...he's not cold at all!

May God bless you abundantly and may you spend the day basking in the love your Heavenly Father has for you...He sent us all the ultimate valentine...Jesus, His son, who died for our sins so that we could live.

"For God so loved the world, He gave his only Son, that whoseoever believeth in him should not perish, but would have everlasting life." John 3:16

Thank you, Jesus!!


Heather and the rest of the Blessing Farm family

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sermon Sunday---Love and Marriage

In honor of Valentine's Day, the day which celebrates LOVE, I am offering to you a link to Dr. David Jeremiah's February sermon series on What the Bible Says About Love, Marriage, and S**.  

Maybe you can listen to a few of the sermons with your honey, or have your older teens who are thinking about someday having a honey listen with you. I have not listened to them yet, but I trust Dr. Jeremiah and I plan to listen to them later this week, probably with Tex, who is enjoying listening to sermons online as his Bible study each day.

Dr. David Jeremiah of Turning Point Ministries

(the links are in the February archive)

I pray you will have a blessed Valentine's day!


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Every Day is Sacred

I have a "coffee table book" someone gave me that I enjoy looking at from time to time. I came across it yesterday and flipped through it as I was sitting, waiting for the kids to finish brushing their teeth so I could read them their bedtime story and put them to bed. The page I flipped to happened to be so perfect, I wanted to share it with you. I hope you enjoy this and that it touches your heart as it touched mine.

The book is called Seasons of the Heart and it is by Paul C. Brownlow. It features the art of Charles Wysocki, so not only are the quotes, tidbits, and thoughts gathered in it special, the art is just plain fun, because it is so pleasingly folksy and quaint. Since I can't include the art here, I chose some pictures I took by our house back when it was warmer outside, to remind me that warmer days with more sunshine are on the way...Blessings to you.


Every Day is Sacred by Paul C. Brownlow

"Every morning God quietly and routinely pours another twenty-four hours of existence into our small cupped hands. We, so dazed and benumbed by its everlasting regularily, are careless--letting slip some of the precious moments He has given. Most often, we take the day for granted without realizing it was never promised, never put into a contract, never guaranteed.

"But must we continue ignoring our blessings because they be so abundant? We can choose to live life as a sacred gift, but to do so we mist live with intentionality and purpose. We must remember that peace of mind is from within and has nothing to do with surface surroundings. We must remember the philosopher's words that "living requres practice, like playing the violin," and that we will get better at living life as we go on. We mist remember that life is really found between the two great everlasting eternities of Yesterday and Tomorrow. While both are important, we must be slaves to neither. It is the Present Moment, the Divine Today that we serve, and that in turn serves us. We must daily seek out kindred spirits, those dear souls who share and relish our need to discover all the sweet richness each day brings.

"When every day is sacred, we will find contentment in the midst of turmoil, depth in the pools of shallowness, quietness among the clamor of the crowd. Life will then be truly a gift from God--a gift we receive with expectancy and treasure with gratitude."


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Nothing But Net--Internet That Is

Seeds Of Faith For The Christian Mom

I discovered a new blog I like today. It's called Seeds of Faith: Planting God's Love in the Hearts of Women. It's a group blog, kind of  like a Blog Carnival or an online magazine of sorts, where there are many different contributors, and is full of wonderful wisdom. I called today a "blogging day" since I had a review due and a few online things to catch up on, plus it was rainy and everything aches, so the little kids spent lots of time playing, they wrote words or drew pictures that I told them to on their small Magna-doodles, and they helped do chores and played with the baby (who spent the rest of his time in my lap since he is cranky and sick). Tex, of course, is self-directed, and completed his work online as usual, helping out when needed. He even made dinner and did the dishes. What a treasure!

Anyhow, once the kids headed to bed (after the last three chapters of their read aloud chapter book were finished!), I took the time to check out a few links I had discovered over the course of the day, and Seeds of Faith was one of them. I don't often find the time to "surf the net" without strict intention, but tonight I did, and I figured I might as well share what I found with you and see if you had any thoughts and comments.

Here are a few of the very interesing and thought-provoking links and articles I found:

 Hallee the Homemaker: Loving a Life of Biblical Womanhood has an excellent post on What the Culture is NOT Telling Your Daughter About Sex. My daughters are too young to have discussions on more than modesty and the basics of Biblical womanhood at this point, but the truths in this post are good for all of us women to read. I love the part where Hallee points out the fact that while the Bible tells us to put on the full armor of God and confront many things without fear, when it comes to sexual sin, it instructs us to FLEE. Heavy stuff.

Chocolate on my Cranium tells about Large Family Homeschooling. She has some fabulous ideas on developing a solid structure for your homeschooling. She shares Stephen Covey's ideas about filling the jar with the largest stones (the really important things like Bible study and your family) first, then adding the smaller pebbles (the less important things that often steal our time) and the sand (entertainment and trivial things), instead of the other way around. I am definitely going to follow her ten days of posts to see what other ideas she has to share (they are an LDS family, so be aware of potential theological differences on other areas of the site). I am sure they will be good ones (she has eight children, so she does have some experience with large families!). I am reading Large Family Logisitics by Kim Brenneman and finding that there is a lot to be learned in it, not only for me (since I have six kids), but for anyone with ANY number of kids. This blog is part of the Heart of the Matter's Blog Hop called 10 Days of Homeschooling. You can see other contributors listed at the bottom of Chocolate on my Cranium's post.

Join Confessions of a Homeschooler for 10 Days of Homeschooling Enrichment. The articles are designed to help you firm up your conviction to homeschool. Today's post is on defining your vision (there is even a printable's that for helpful?!). Why do you homeschool? Figure that out and you will never have to question your decision. You know what reason I have for homeschooling? Because years ago, God made it clear that was what He wanted our family to do. I resisted it. I had second thoughts. But now I am certain that homeschooling is God's decision for MY family, and I will never do anything else unless and until GOD tells me He has changed His mind and wants us to do something different (and tells me that with a neon sign or something like it in the sky!!). I can't tell you how much easier it is to homeschool just admitting that fact. I don't have to worry every year if homeschooling is the best decision...God has already seen what is to come, and for us He has decided that it is what we are to do. Thank you, Lord. I LOVE homeschooling. Can you tell?

My friend, D. posted this article by the Say Anything blog on her facebook page. I like to read what D. posts because she has a lot of values in common with me. This article is about a Harvard Report on how We May Be Pushing Too Many Kids into College. I have been thinking along these lines for years, ever since we needed to start thinking about Bubba and college. It was a hard realization to come to (diverging from the expected after high school), but thankfully, the Lord put several excellent seminars in my path about apprenticeships and alternatives to college, and also thankfully, Hubby and I listened. Bubba is a farrier now and VERY happy with his work. He has always loved working with his hands and doing things outside...from gardening in costume with the Master Gardeners at Colonial Williamsburg, to training animals, to running his own lawn maintenance service, to shoeing horses. He enjoys utilizing his strength and common sense, and he is good at almost anything physical he tries.

This doesn't mean he isn't brilliant. Our neighbors and many of his clients often would ask (and still sometimes do), "When is he going to go to college to get his degree?" as if by his NOT getting a degree he is doing something wrong. But he is not. He is doing what is right for him, right now. Yes, someday he may wind up getting a degree. He knows more about history than I do by a longshot and LOVES anything historic, especially American History. He is also good at accounting and has a clear thinking head on his shoulders with good busines sense. Those qualities helped him start a successful lawncare (and housesitting) business by age 15, and have helped him develop his own current farrier business. He can do anything he wants to do, and right now he wants to be a farrier. Getting a degree is NOT necessary for shoeing horses (though an apprenticeship and post-high school farrier training was). Yet some would say that almost every high school graduate should go to college, rack up debt, and practically waste four years just to graduate, have no idea what they want to do, and wind up making less money than Bubba will be making after a just a year on his own, with no degree and NO debt, and they will likely be doing something they only marginally enjoy. Hmmm. Makes you think, doesn't it? I hope so.

Our Journey Westward talks about the Charlotte Mason style of homeschooling in the post Why Charlotte Mason? I consider our style to be eclectic, but if I had to choose just ONE style to typify our days, I would choose Charlotte Mason. I think it is an excellent beginning (and ending) point, and it is perfect for those who have younger children and children with special needs. It is a gentle style that stresses not only education, but a love of learning (and books) and encourages proper behavior as a necessity for proper learning. "Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life" is a Charlotte Mason precept. "I can, I ought, I will" is another well-loved saying of hers. If only we all applied those teachings to all we do...along with all of the good ones in our Bibles that come straight from God.

Lastly, here is a link to the Heart of the Matter 10 Days of Homeschooling Blog Hop so you can explore the other interesting articles about homeschooling, if you like. Enjoy!



Monday, February 7, 2011

Getting Ahead with Vocab Ahead

Vocabulary development is essential to success in the college setting. Even before college, the extent of your vocabulary can determine your placement in classes and on standardized tests, such as the SAT and ACT. However, by the time you hit the hallowed halls of whichever university you choose and get accepted to, no matter where you were on the spectrum in high school, you need to have reached a certain level, or your performance in your college classes, even those as basic as English 101, is sure to be affected. Knowing what is to come can allow a student to be prepared instead of being caught wanting and furiously struggling to keep up or be left behind. VocabAhead offers two products that can help your students develop their vocabulary and get ahead of the game.

VocabAhead is a company which provides useful vocabulary-building audios and videos. Each track is under a minute long and includes the following features:
  • a pronunciation of the word
  • a definition of the word
  • at least one example sentence or paragraph including the word as it would be used in conversation
  • a drawing of that example sentence that helps illustrate the definition, and remind the student of the definition, if it is the video track (of course the audio tracks are only audio)
  • repetition of the pronunciation and definition of the word

You know how I love FREE stuff, right? Well, VocabAhead is one of those great companies which provides quite a bit of their content for FREE right on their website. If you are interested in checking out what they have to offer, look HERE for many examples of their simple vocabulary cartoons and definitions. In fact, there is so much free stuff HERE (you can do flashcards or develop study lists), that you can do quite a lot of SAT preparation without ever spending a dime (unless your prefered method of study involves some sort of protable device, in which case you should buy the dvd-rom so you can load everything onto your player).

You can also sign up HERE for a Word of the Day to be sent straight into you or your student's e-mailbox (look down on the left for a place to enter your e-mail address). This would be a great way to ease younger students into the world of SAT vocabulary study or to develop your own vocabulary (and influence your childrens' vocabulary by expanding yours!). Pretty great freebie, huh?

If you prefer to have access to the whole shebang, and you own devices such as an iPod, other MP3 player, iPad, or iPhone, you can purchase the dvd-rom from which you can download all 1000 of the videos and definitions HERE for $24.95. This dvd-rom will also play on your desktop computer or laptop, or with a dvd-rom compatible dvd player. We were also able to listen to the MP3 tracks with our car dvd player (my cd player does not play MP3s), which was somewhat interesting, though it was way above the level for my younger kids, and not all definitions were appropriate for their little ears (for example, the word abominable is defined by saying a guy's body odor was abonimable because he chose not to bathe for a week and thus he smelled like a bag of garbage and his odor made people feel like throwing up...this isn't BAD, I guess, but it's not particularly polite either. It's probably memorable to a teenager,

**Speaking of appropriateness, today I randomly reviewed some more of the words, and I have to admit that the overall tone of some of the definitions and pictures left me a bit uncomfortable. It was kind of like watching one of the popular comedy shows of today where the parents are put down and the kids are so smart and doing wrong (as long as they get away with it, which they usually do) is funny. I can't pin it down, but I am not really sure that the worldview of the authors of this product lines up with mine. For example, this is mild, but for "abduct," they showed an alien spaceship beaming a BABY right out of its terrified mother's arms. Creepy, and as a mom, it made me think I didn't want my younger kids seeing that! A more serious example was the word "Bacchanalian," which was defined by describing drunken college students partying. The word "bias" had a negative attitude towards step-parents, and was defined by a sentence describing a step-mother who neglected and malnourished her step-child. Yikes! I really did NOT like this aspect of this product. I just think there were probably better example sentences that could have been used for those words and others. However, if the methodology of this product really lines up with what your student thrives on, you could preview the words, create lists from the ones you approve of, and it would likely be a help to you and your student(s).

If your kids are more into learning through books, or your level of technology does not include the use of devices such as those mentioned above, you can purchase the print version of the VocabAhead program for $12.95. This paperback book includes 300 pictures and definitions, as well as online access to the complete set of audios and videos. It is available HERE. I was not able to preview this item, so I cannot say how I feel about the words, drawings, and definitions in this book.

We received the dvd-rom. Here is what we thought about it:

Tex says:
  • I think the best way to use this product would be for a teacher to send a student five (or so) definitions a day (or a certain number per week) via email. Then the student would check their email and learn the new definitions, and be quizzed at the end of the week. This would be great for a teacher of a group class or of many high school-aged kids.
  • Another way to use this would be to load the audios on an MP3 player and set them to play randomly (by making a playlist). You could quiz yourself by pausing the player after the word is pronounced and then listening to the definition, which would reinforce it.
  • You could also just use the MP3 player to listen to your lists of words for each week, if you made a separate playlist for each week.
  • Or what if you loaded them and set the player on completely random, so the definitions were mixed in with the songs? Then it might not seems as much like you were studying...
  • I think you could load the picture definitions on an iPhone or iPad, but we don't have one, so we didn't try it. I think this would be an interesting way to study while you are traveling or waiting for an appointment or something.
  • I'd be willing to use this product to expand my vocabulary before I take the SATs. I think I might check and see which words I know just from reading first, and not load those words onto my MP3 player. I would just add the words I don't know and learn them, then probably take them off once I've memorized them to get the space back.
Mom says:
  • I believe the best way to develop vocabulary is from listening to stories read aloud (or audio books) over the course of many years, reading many genres of stories written by talented authors (especially classical ones), and by writing (and editing your own writing) extensively. However, you won't necessarily encounter every potential SAT word in this manner, so bolstering your vocabulary and thus your chances at a higher score by studying a variety or words is a good thing. This product is one tool that can help you accomplish that. That said, I do believe that studying the Latin and Greek roots of words is also a very valuable method for increasing your vocabulary, as you can figure out a greater number of words with fewer "words" (roots) to memorize. It wouldn't hurt to do all of these things, though...imagine what your scores could be then!!
  • The cartoons were well-drawn, but I guess I was hoping for something a bit more flashy (they were simple, unmoving drawings and some of the reading was a bit monotoned at times). I think it is a nice idea, though, for kids who are audio-visual learners, and Tex thought the concept was interesting.
  • I am AMAZED and impressed by the amount of free content HERE in the VocabAhead Study Room. You can not only view and lsiten to many of the videos, you can also do "flashcards" online, as well as develop study lists (by signing in, which is free).
  • I had some difficulty getting the MP3s to work on my computer (I am not a techie, just a writer), and when I contacted the company they were VERY helpful. They explained the download process and how I could access the MP3 files in various ways that would work for my family. Their customer service was excellent.
  • As I said previously, I did not like the tone of some of the definitions. I could definitely not use this product without strictly controlling the content of the words chosen. It's not that an older student shouldn't know the definitions of each of the words given, but that I would chose different sentences to illustrate the definitions.
  • The price of  $ 24.95 for the dvd-rom seems reasonable for a thousand audio tracks and videos (check out the word list HERE), though there is a lot of free content HERE in the Study Room. Be sure to try before you buy, and then once you are sure it works for your family, support the company by buying either the book or the dvd-rom.

To read what other members of the TOS Crew had to say about this product, click HERE.



**As part of the TOS Crew, I received a complimentary copy of the VocabAhead dvd-rom for the purposes of offering an objective review here on my blog. What you read here are our personal impressions of the product. I hope you find them helpful. If you have any questions about the product that I did not answer here, please feel free to contact me.

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