Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Yesterday's Classics - TOS Product Review

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be—
I had a mother who read to me.
Strickland Gillilan

Reading to my children has been one of the greatest joys in my life. To watch their faces as they listen intently, to hear the words, "just one more chapter!", to sharing tears of happiness and even sometimes tears of sadness, to know life lessons have been learned and remembered, these are just some of the wonders of reading books together.

From Yesterday's Classics website:

Yesterday's Classics republishes classic books for children in high-quality paperback editions. These books, first published in the golden age of children's literature from 1880 and 1920 and long out of print, are reprinted in modern easy-to-read type for today's readers. The illustrations from the original volumes have been included except in those few cases where the quality of the original images was too low to make their reproduction feasible. Color illustrations in the original volumes are rendered in black and white in these editions.

Anyone who knows me knows I am a book fanatic. Walk in our front door and you will immediately see our huge library span the width of two rooms. There's just something about having a good book nearby. With the exception of curriculum for math and science, every book I have bought for our homeschool over the past ten years can be found in our library. Yes, yes, I know.

Our paper books are handled with great care. You don't write in them (I know, Andrew Pudewa is yelling, "Don't listen to her!"), you don't write on them, you don't crack the spine, and you never ever bend a page as a bookmark. Never. I have kept all of these beautiful books because I just don't know if they will still be available for my children should they decide to homeschool their children some day in the future. When it comes to classic literature, well, I'm hooked.

So imagine me having the opportunity to review 225 books in a Kindle format. Wow! is right! Honestly, I wasn't sure how I would feel about reading a book without holding it in my hands, without turning a paper page, or without being able to feel the weight of a massive classic. Well, I got over any hesitations on my part in about three seconds flat! We love reading books on our Kindles (yes, we have two now). Having 225 Yesterday's Classics titles available at our fingertips anytime...anywhere is amazing. I took every single book with me when we were traveling last month. And the weight of lugging all those books around? 10 ounces.

After receiving an e-mail with a link to the download, I was able to download a number of ZIP files in a matter of minutes. We have a very high-speed Internet connection and so I experienced no delays or difficulties in this process. If you have a slower speed service, you might want to get it started and then find something else to do for a little while. After the ZIP files were downloaded, I was able to unZIP each one in seconds and then moved them onto my Kindle. And just like that, I had 225 classic books available to browse and read through. While I didn't read all 225 books, it was easy for me to see how broad was the selection and how great it would be to incorporate many of them into our homeschool.

Here's a little peek at a few titles that really grabbed my attention:

American History Stories, Volumes I, II, III and IV by Mara L. Pratt

Alexander the Great by Jacob Abbott

The Early Church, from Ignatius to Augustine by George Hodges

English Literature for Boys and Girls by H. E. Marshall

Four Great Americans by James Baldwin

Grammar-Land by M. L. Nesbitt

The Growth of the British Empire by M. B. Synge

Hannibal by Jacob Abbott

...I could keep going, but you'd be better off looking through the list of titles along with a photo of the book cover, a detailed description of each book, and the recommended age of the reader. Please, take a few minutes and look at this incredible list.

Now it just so happens my students were writing a report on Charlemagne shortly after receiving all 225 Yesterday's Classics titles. Out of curiosity I opened up my Kindle and searched all of my books for the word "Charlemagne." Within a couple of seconds, I had a list of 27 books pop-up, sorted by the most hits to the least. The first book, The Story of Roland, contains the word Charlemagne 348 times. The second book, Stories of Roland Told to the Children, contains the word Charlemagne 124 times. I was able to point my students to these two classic works for additional information on their subject matter. Without an intimate knowledge of every book in my paper book library, this task could never be accomplished. On the other hand, I learned that Charlemagne appears twice in Moby Dick, but this was not the Charlemagne we were looking for! We performed this same exercise to find books about the Civil War.

Another great feature of having Kindle-based books from Yesterday's Classics is the ability to read multiple books at the same time and having bookmarks automatically created for you. Books can be sorted by title, author, and collections. It even keeps the most recently read book at the top.

Check this out...

Take advantage of this special offer being made by Yesterday's Classics to receive 225 classic titles in Kindle or EPub format for less than $100. That's about forty-four cents a book! If you were to buy each of these printed books individually, the cost would be almost $2500.

Yesterday's Classics book titles cover collections which include World History, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, Middle Ages, American History, Early Civilizations, Nature, Fables, Fairy Tales, Biographies, Poetry and many others.

In case you missed it earlier, to see this vast collection of classic titles and detailed descriptions, click here. Please know that this special offer ends on May 31st. After this date, this collection will cost $149.95.

While Kindle has a separate format, the EPub format can be used on a Nook, a Kobo, a Sony Reader, an iPad, an iPhone, or any other type of smart phone. If you're not sure which one you might need, Yesterday's Classics has great customer support. I found the question I had was answered quickly and very much to my satisfaction. Should you decide to add a new format later (you have a Kindle, but end up purchasing an iPad), Yesterday's Classics will provide a link which allows a second format to be received free of charge. Honestly, how can you go wrong with that? Well, just to make sure, they offer a 100% Risk Free Guarantee. If you're not satisfied, they will refund the purchase price.

If that's not enough, without Digital Rights Management (DRM) and other restrictions, you can put these 225 titles on as many devices as you own. In addition, each of the 225 titles has the ability to be printed whenever you choose.

Yesterday's Classics titles include illustrations (in color where they were originally in color, and in black and white where they were originally in black and white), correct page formatting and a table of contents which is very much needed for easy navigation between chapters. While some of these titles can be found for free on-line, these important features are not usually included. I tried one of these non-formatted versions and, let's just say, it makes reading frustrating and much less enjoyable.

Yesterday's Classics titles have been adopted by top curriculum developers such as Ambleside Online, Heart of Dakota, Living Books Curriculum and Tapestry of Grace.

If you love to incorporate classic literature into your homeschool or just want to have quality reading materials for your family, I highly HIGHLY recommend Yesterday's Classics. It was my privilege to review this incredible product.

Thank you, Yesterday's Classics!

Here's some additional company information you might find helpful:

Recommended for ages 4 through 18 although these book titles are appropriate for anyone who loves to read.

Lisa M. Ripperton
Yesterday's Classics
PO Box 3418
Chapel Hill, NC 27515

9 AM to 5 PM EST Monday through Friday

Happy reading my friends!

I am a member of The Old Schoolhouse 2010-2011 Crew and receive free products and services in exchange for a thorough and honest review. Though I am compensated with free products, I am not compensated in the form of cash for my reviews. My reviews will always reflect my honest opinions, findings, beliefs and experiences on the products and services that I receive.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Epic Fail

My life has been a little bit crazy of late. Did you happen to notice that? We have a little more than four weeks of school left and I'm all about finishing well. Trust me, it would be so easy to announce tomorrow morning, "We are done with school until September!" But that aint gonna happen. While we have had a great school year, I will be the first to confess that it has probably been the most difficult...for me. Not for my students, but for me. I have felt unsettled most of the time. There's always something else I need to do. That's why I haven't touched my blog (something I really truly enjoy doing) for almost a month. I just don't know how to do it all.

How do you like that math paper? Let me tell you that it always breaks my heart to see either of my children struggling, for whatever reason. I'm sure most mamas are that way. But when it comes to being the teacher who has to put a big fat F on a math paper, it's even more heart breaking. Actually, I'm the teacher who will do anything to avoid a sprawling D. My students will tell you that I'm the kind of teacher who writes a big D at the top of the paper and then follows it with "elightful!" I know it doesn't make them feel better, but it always helps me. And we all know how important that is, right?

On this particular day, my student, who usually does quite well in math, seemed to be having quite a struggle. Actually, as you can see from my little note on problem one (oh so close!) I started off feeling badly for a problem that was missed by the tiniest little mishap. But math is math and if it's wrong, it's wrong. So, imagine my itty bitty heart and how it felt as I continued on down the paper, marking one problem after another, after another. I was already trying to think of a way I could present this epic fail to my student who I was certain would be crying in two seconds flat. Every single problem was almost correct, but not, thereby making it completely wrong. That is until I got down to the very bottom of the paper. Suddenly I can see ink showing through from the next page.

Did you happen to notice the date on the math paper? Mmmm hmmm. Yep.

So, I flip the page and found this (less the grade and smiley faces, of course):

Why, that little stinker of a student actually skipped a page, did the math homework, and then went back and re-wrote the entire paper, carefully altering 11 of the problems, just to GET ME...again! You see, this same student had already played a terrible April Fool's joke on me earlier. I get up pretty early and enjoy a cup of coffee in a quiet house. Afterwards, I head upstairs, open the blinds and then make our bed. On this particular morning, I noticed Mr. Wonderful's pillow was tucked under the blanket so I figured I'd pull it out while I was on that side of the bed. Except it wasn't Mr. Wonderful's was Rachel. Let me just tell you that I wasn't expecting anything to jump out from under the covers. Not only did I scream, I had goosebumps on top of goosebumps. She scared the living day lights out of me! Well, as you can imagine, she just laughed and laughed and laughed. I grabbed her and gave her the biggest hug ever, laughing right along with her. No one ever gets Mama!

So, did I even consider that she'd get me again a couple of hours later? Never. But boy, did she ever. What a fun day and what wonderful memories...memories I will always cherish in my heart. I often thank God that our home knows more laughter than tears. Rachel knows a pay back is headed her way sometime. She'll never know until it's too late.

Did I mention that it's Rachel's birthday tomorrow? My little baby girl is turning thirteen. Thirteen. I can't quite believe it myself. We will be celebrating with a couple of special events which will take place between tomorrow and before the end of summer. How's that for a party? I love making birthdays special. And if you know anything about our family, you know 13 is a very special number in the lives of my children.

We're all hanging in there. Spring has finally arrived. Instead of snow storm after snow storm, we have had constant rain. Actually, last week I heard that out of 22 days in April, 15 of them had rain. And it's still raining. Such is life on the Great North Coast.

The cherry trees are in bloom. All of my perennials are popping up everywhere. Oh, I love that! I'm certain the ferns in back have grown 3 inches since yesterday. What a miracle to see an empty patch of dirt suddenly fill with wonderful growing things of beauty. As I look out the window, the huge trillium patch in the woods is about to bloom. And I can't wait to see my peony garden in all its glory.

Happy April! Happy spring! Happy Wednesday! And happy belated Easter!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Monday's Maybe

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
John 8:12

Let your light shine today,

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Classic Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

Photo Credit or should I say, Discredit

How to Make a Classic Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

Please ignore the photo of this peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Apparently, whoever made it didn't know what they were doing.

What you will need:

Two slices of stale white bread
1/2 cup of creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon strawberry preserves
1 wooden toothpick

Place the two pieces of stale white bread on the counter making sure the top and bottom crusts of the bread are rotated so they do not match.

Without using any utensils, move the 1/2 cup of creamy peanut butter from the measuring cup onto one slice of the stale white bread. Spread so the peanut butter is about 1 inch thick across the stale white piece of bread. If you chose to use your fingers to spread the peanut butter, it's OK to lick off whatever didn't stick to the bread.

Next, using a wooden toothpick, move the strawberry preserves from the teaspoon onto the other slice of stale white bread. Without puncturing the bread, carefully use the toothpick to spread the preserves, making sure to cover the bread all the way to the edges.

Lastly, without using your hands, place the two pieces of bread together, being sure the peanut butter side and the strawberry preserves side are placed on the outside of the sandwich. This is important.

Take two bites at a time, starting in the middle of the sandwich. If peanut butter gets on your nose, it's OK, no one will mind.

Be sure to have a glass filled with orange juice nearby. Should the peanut butter get stuck to the roof of your mouth, pour the orange juice on your hands.

That's it!


P.S. Happy April Fool's Day!

P.S.S. Do not try this recipe at home.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Latin Alive! TOS Product Review

Classical Academic Press
Latin Alive! Book 1

Written by Karen Moore and Gaylan Dubose

Karen Moore – Karen is the head of the Latin department at Grace Academy in Georgetown, TX. She began her Latin studies in seventh grade and went on to receive a B. A. in classics from the University of Texas. She is the author of the Libellus de Historia series, also published by Classical Academic Press.

Gaylan DuBose – Gaylan has been teaching Latin in the classroom for over forty years. He holds a Master’s degree in classics and was the Academic Contest Chair of the National Junior Classical League from 1996 to 2005. He is the author of Farrago Latina: A Teacher Resource Book, and co-author of the well regarded Excelability in Advanced Latin. He currently loves teaching Latin to fifth and sixth graders at St. Andrews Episcopal School in Austin, TX.

Latin Alive! Book One ($24.95)
Latin Alive! Book One: Teacher’s Edition ($29.95)
Latin Alive! 1 DVD and CD Set ($114.95)

Latin study recommended for students in junior high or high school

As stated by Classical Academic Press… Latin is an elegant and ancient language that has been studied for many generations. It is also quite alive in our culture, and in the languages we speak today. Latin Alive! is a series of Latin texts for junior high or high school Latin study. Written by experienced and enthusiastic Latin teachers, Latin Alive! is an excellent introduction to the classical language. With an emphasis on grammar and solid understanding of the language, it goes on to frame the study of Latin in Roman culture and mythology, and also to remind us of the many ways Latin is present in our culture today.

Let me start this product review by telling a story.

Two years ago we began our first year of a classical Christian education curriculum that encompasses history, theology, and literature. I am not embarrassed to admit that some of the books we studied that first year were books I had never heard of, let alone read. I’m not embarrassed because, quite frankly, most I knew had never read them either. These were books of antiquity. But I quickly realized I had a little problem. I didn’t know how to pronounce the names. I figured I would solve my problem by contacting the publisher and asking for some help. I mean, couldn’t someone please tell me how to say Herodotus? Or how about Eusebius, or Aeschylus or Oresteia? What about Aeneid or Hammurabi? At the time, the answer I received satisfied me. “No one knows for sure. These are languages no one has ever heard spoken.” Oh. OK. And off I went saying Herodotus as Hair-ro-dote-us. I’ll spare you from the massacre that occurred with all the other names.

Then one day Latin Alive! arrived in our home. I’m sure the color ran out of my face when I realized the answer I was given, “No one knows for sure” was really to keep me from embarrassment or, perhaps from feeling, um, stupid. You see, had I known anything at all about Latin, I would have realized that, while these are languages no one has ever heard spoken, there is a way to know. So, the complete answer should have been, “Learn to speak Latin.”

Amazingly, the very first lesson in Latin Alive! revealed to us how to say each of these names. Were these names in the first lesson? No. But the introduction to the Latin alphabet, the pronunciation of each letter (c is always hard as in cat, never soft as in cent), the consonant blends (ch is pronounced individually like chorus, not like bachelor), and that Latin vowels are either long or short and have only two sounds helped us immensely. There are only six diphthongs in Latin. So, when we see the diphthong ae we know it sounds like the ai in aisle. We now know how to say Aeschylus.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to attempt to teach a Latin course here on my blog! But I thought it important to say that in one lesson in Latin Alive!, taken slowly over a few days, our eyes and hearts were opened to a whole new world.

So, why Latin? Read Karen Moore’s detailed answer here. Let me also quote Amy Barr, a homeschool mom with a M.A. in Latin, from a recent article that appeared in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.

“Mastery of a Classical language promotes excellent English grammar, vocabulary, and analytical skills, Classics students tend to be self-directed learners who shine at anything requiring language, logic, or analysis. Advanced students go on to read texts foundational to Western religion, philosophy, and society becomes the next generation of well-rounded scholars in law, history, medicine, science, and literature.”

From the Classical Academic Press website…

Students will be delighted by what they learn in each new chapter of Latin Alive!, Book One, and they will learn to see that Latin is everywhere around them. As the first text in a three-year series, it is a rigorous and thorough introduction to this great language, and is designed to engage the upper school (middle and high school) student. Brimming with relevant facts and stories this text offers something for everyone.

• Thirty six weekly chapters including twenty nine new content chapters and seven review, “reading” chapters.

• Pronunciation Guides

• Weekly introduction of vocabulary

• Thorough grammar explanations including all five noun declensions and cases, all verb conjugations, irregular verbs, various pronouns, adjectives and adverbs

• United States state seals and their Latin mottos

• Extensive study of the Latin derivatives of English words

• Substantial Latin readings and translation exercises

• Lessons and stories of Roman culture, myths and history

• Exercises and questions to prepare students for the National Latin Exam and the Advanced Placement Exam

• Includes historical contributions from Christopher Schlect, historian and Academic Dean at New Saint Andrews College, Moscow, ID

• Teacher’s Materials including answer keys, teacher’s helps and additional activities available separately

As we watched Latin Alive! lessons on DVD each day, we found Karen Moore to be engaging and easy to listen to. We love her southern y’alls and her rolling r’s! Lessons are broken down into sections and exercises making it easy to stop and practice what you’ve learned. The student textbook is non-consumable (exercises are completed on separate sheets of paper). We enjoyed listening to the audio CD of the Unit Review Latin Readings provided to help students practice proper pronunciation and accent.

To see pages of the student textbook, click here. To see pages of the teacher’s edition, click here. To find out what Karen Moore is up to, check out her Latin Alive! blog here. Why there's even a Yahoo! Group for Latin Alive!

If there was one thing I could add to Latin Alive! it would be a speaking Latin dictionary at the website. This is a tool I would pay to use. For those Latin words we are struggling to memorize and that need more practice, it would be an invaluable tool.

Make no bones about it--learning Latin is rigorous and takes practice, practice, practice. Latin Alive! is designed to serve students new to Latin, while a the same time providing further insight and challenges for “veterans” of any grammar school series.

Let me just say, Ama-mus Latin!

If you use Latin Alive! Ama-bi-tis Latin too!

I highly recommend Latin Alive! and am so thankful to have had the opportunity to review and use this product.

I am a member of The Old Schoolhouse 2010-2011 Crew and receive free products and services in exchange for a thorough and honest review. Though I am compensated with free products, I am not compensated in the form of cash for my reviews. My reviews will always reflect my honest opinions, findings, beliefs and experiences on the products and services that I receive.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Wrinkle in Time

The first time I noticed it was when I saw Caleb for the first time after we arrived at camp. He had been gone for fifteen days. If you have been reading my blog for a while, then you will remember when he went wilderness camping in the mountains last August. Maybe it was because I hadn't seen him for so long. After all, it was the longest we had ever been apart from one another.

As a mother, I was checking him out to make sure everything was OK. And then I saw it. I looked again and started searching my memory. Had I forgotten? No. I didn't remember seeing it there before. There it was plain as day. And I just couldn't take my eyes off it.

A wrinkle.

When my son smiled, there was a small wrinkle under the corner of his right eye. No, not crows feet. Not that kind of a wrinkle.

I didn't say anything to anyone. Actually, for quite a while I kept it to myself. I kept staring and wondered why Caleb hadn't noticed. I guess he didn't realize I was actually staring. Until that day when the tears came. My tears.

You see, as my son has turned into a man right before my eyes, this little wrinkle came with some of the changes he has gone through. That little wrinkle? Well, it belonged to my brother. My brother has been gone for six years now. Even still, I remember my brother's wrinkle as if he were sitting here in front of me. When he smiled, that little wrinkle would show itself.

Somehow through the amazing transfer of genes in our DNA, my son received that little smile wrinkle from my brother. It's his wrinkle in time.

And I'm happy it's I can remember.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Spring Rains Water the Earth

Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth. Hosea 6:3

In spite of the fact that I sometimes feel like I'm walking around in big circles, life manages to move at a steady pace and in a forward direction whether I am or not. I've often thought that if the world would just stop and let me jump off just a few minutes, I could get my act together and be ready to move forward too. But, it never seems to work out that way.

Just yesterday morning, I was up very early and snuggled on the sofa with my cup of coffee and Bible. As I was turning to the book of Romans, a little folded up piece of paper fell from the back pages of my Bible. There's a little pocket back there that holds a special stash of love letters from my Rachel. She often writes me a little note, you know, just because. I carefully unfolded this little letter to reveal a message she had written when she was only six years old.

On the outside is a little stick figure drawn in orange marker with a talking bubble that says, "a Kiss for Mama"

The inside reads, with carefully formed letters written in thick pencil:

God made me speshel so you and Daddy cood love and caer for me.
I love God is much as you do.
I love you.

this is a Bible vers.
Sumit yourselfs then to God, resist the devel and he will flee from you.
James 4:7

As I sat there in the quiet of an early Sunday morning, tears chasing one another down my cheeks, I realized once again how fleeting is time. It waits for no one.

You know, I was certain I had lingered over what my children did and said and accomplished from the moment they were born. After all, I was with them twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Did I miss something somehow? I found myself wanting to go back in time. To stay there. All wrapped up in that little hand written love letter, things seemed simpler. Life was innocent. Stick figures were works of art and words spelled phonetically were exciting milestones.

And so I find myself with another Monday nearly over. What do I do? I remind myself to acknowledge the on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Apologia--Who Is God? TOS Product Review

"If Jesus Christ came to this planet as a model of how we ought to live, then our goal should be to act like Jesus. Sadly, few people consistently demonstrate the love, obedience and priorities of Jesus. The primary reason that people do not act like Jesus is because they do not think like Jesus. Behavior stems from what we think - our attitudes, beliefs, values and opinions. Although most people own a Bible and know some of its content, our research found that most Americans have little idea how to integrate core biblical principles to form a unified and meaningful response to the challenges and opportunities of life. We're often more concerned with survival amidst chaos than with experiencing truth and significance."

George Barna describing the outcome of a national survey of 2033 adults that showed only 4% of adults have a biblical worldview as the basis of their decision-making.

The word Apologia appears eight times in the New Testament, in the context of people defending their faith or actions by reason and logic.

"But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you..." 1 Peter 3:15

Apologia Press

Who Is GOD? And Can I really Know Him?
Biblical Worldview of God and Truth
Volume 1 in the What We Believe Series

Written by John Hay and David Webb

Cost: $39.00 (252 pages hardbound book)

Recommended for children ages 6 to 14

When Who Is GOD? arrived, I was immediately struck by the quality and beauty of the actual book. We have used textbooks published by Apologia for years and this book falls right in line with the high-quality products for which they are known.

Let me just start by saying that by God's grace we have been raising our children under the influence of a biblical worldview since they were old enough to understand language. We have always tried to filter what we read, what we see, what we hear, and what we do through God's Word, the Bible. I can remember when my children were very young (even as teenagers today) and asking difficult questions. I have great comfort in saying the words, "Well, God says..." or "Well, when God created..." The biblical lens through which we look at the world allows us to see with eyes focused on the Creator God. Otherwise, chaos oftentimes rules our lives.

And so Who is God and Can I Really Know Him?, introduces the concept of worldview while laying the foundational truths upon which the evangelical Christian worldview is built: God is truth and He reveals His truth to people; He is the one true and almighty God; He is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; He created everything; we are God’s children and are made to love and to praise Him; God meets all our needs; sin keeps us from God; and Jesus is the only way to God.

View a sample lesson here. See the Table of Contents here.

We have been using this curriculum for the past six weeks and have found it to be very well presented, easy to read, and easy to use each day. Like every Apologia book we have read in the past, this text reads like a story, is engaging and thought provoking. With the purchase of the book, a link and password are provided to allow users extensive resources. These resources include optional teacher helps, student notebooking pages, and House of Truth inserts, along with links to on-line Bibles, Bible study tools, Christian Apologetics, Movie, TV and Video Game Reviews, and book reviews. Apologia thought of everything you might need or want to have access to while using this book!

The introduction includes a lesson plan, designed to be flexible and adaptable to each family's needs. While their schedule recommends one lesson every two weeks, three days per week, we adjusted our schedule slightly so we could use the curriculum five days a week. Each lesson is divided into a very specific and consistent structure:

The Big Idea: Main topic of the lesson and a brief overview of what has been learned up to this point.

What You Will Do: Lesson objectives.

Short Story: A story featuring characters with different worldviews. The characters work thorough their differences by seeking council through the bible and their parents.

Think About It: Thought-provoking questions to check for understanding and comprehension.

What You Need To Know: Important vocabulary words and definitions that students can write in their notebooks.

Hide It In Your Heart: Two specific Bible verses to be written in the student notebook for memorization. The first verse has to do with the main theme of the lesson while the second verse pertains to a character trait.

Integrated Learning: Articles related to the main text across the fields of art, math, science, history and more.

What Should I do?: Highlights a specific character trait that should be demonstrated bu the student in response to what he or she has just learned about God.

Prayer: Each lesson concludes with a prayer.

Worldview Study: Introduces the student to the concept of worldview.

House of Truth: Intended to be a hands-on memory aid, the House of Truth is a visual model constructed one step at a time. In this book, the student will complete the foundation and the first wall of the house. A new wall will be added in the second, third, and fourth volumes of the series.

Scripture is used and referenced throughout each lesson. If there is one thing I would change, it would be the use of different versions of the Bible. I wish scripture references were consistently NIV or ESV. Although I understand the desire to want to please its variety of readers, I found verses on the same page citing NIV and NLT a little bothersome. But you can't please everyone!

While the short stories helped develop the main theme of the lesson, we found them to be more in line for younger-aged students. My teenagers were a little, um, tortured by the simplicity of the stories. On the other hand, I can see how they would appeal to younger readers.

We enjoy the notebooking aspect of the curriculum since we use notebooking in other areas of our school day. Not only does notebooking reinforce each lesson, it provides a great vehicle for future portfolio reviews, if needed.

Overall, I think Who is GOD? is a great way to introduce a biblical worldview to parents and students desiring to know more about God and His truths and highly recommend Apologia's What We Believe series of books.

Additional products in this series What We Believe include Who Am I?, Who Is My Brother?, and What on Earth Can I Do?

Truth is eternal, knowledge is changeable. It is disastrous to confuse them.
Madeleine L'Engle

I am a member of The Old Schoolhouse 2010-2011 Crew and receive free products and services in exchange for a thorough and honest review. Though I am compensated with free products, I am not compensated in the form of cash for my reviews. My reviews will always reflect my honest opinions, findings, beliefs and experiences on the products and services that I receive.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Monday's Maybe

I'm on the run (what else is new, right?), but wanted to get something posted today. Here's a little photo of Mr. Wonderful's fleece blanket. He selected the fabric. We thought it was adorable. What's not to love about chubby-faced zoo animals smiling back at you?

It wasn't until everything was cut out and I was well on my way getting this blanket put together that Rachel discovered a tiny little typo. Do you see it?

I don't suppose the people in China (who manufactured the fabric) know how we spell the word funny. I mean, a "u" and an "n" look exactly alike depending upon which side of the fabric you're on, right?

We thought it was funny, er, funuy.

I hope this finds you smiling today!

Happy Monday to you,

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Little Girl, A Big Train, and Cookies

Rachel, our resident engineer

It was her goal to use every single train track, every single train and car, and bridge and tree and building and stop sign and, well, you get the picture. I would have had to take a panoramic view photo to capture the entire layout. The track actually ran under the chair behind her and swirled around in front of the fire place before heading back into town!

I just love this girl! She's amazing. Last night she made homemade chocolate chip cookies (which, I might add, were sent to work with Daddy who notified us this morning that they are almost gone and were receiving rave reviews!). I happened to be walking by when she placed a cookie-filled baking sheet into the oven and then set two timers. The one on the stove was for 12 minutes (for how long the cookies needed to bake). The one on the microwave was for two minutes. Now the timer wasn't actually turned on, it was just set for two minutes and blinking, ready for someone to press the Start button. Needless to say, this threw me for a loop. "What's that for?" I inquired. "Oh, after I take the cookies out of the oven, I need to wait two minutes before moving them to the cooling racks. This is my timer for the two minutes." Really? Really!

She's a machine! Did you know that 1/8 cup is equal to two tablespoons? She had to cut this cookie recipe in half (it makes 80 cookies) and discovered several instances where the recipe called for 1/4 cup. Well, I don't think they make a 1/8 measuring cup, so she went on-line and found a conversion tool. She also discovered that one-half an egg is equal to 2 tablespoons as well. I probably would have just eye-balled the 1/8 cup, added a whole egg and hoped for the best. This usually doesn't work out too well in the world of baking.

But Rachel is all about the details. And that, my friends, is why her cookies were absolutely amazing. Honestly, they were the best chocolate chip cookies ever. Ever.

This little girl wants her own blog. I'm thinking she's ready! Details to follow soon.

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Happy One Year Blogging Me!

It's easier to handle all this snow when there's blue skies and sunshine

There's so many things on my mind as I sit here to reflect on my one year blogging anniversary. You can read my original post here. After reading the original post again, I think I have stayed true to what I imagined about having a least for the most part.

I have noticed a pattern of late, however. My days seem to be so full that I just don't have the time I'd like to journal my thoughts. I'll be honest to say that it bugs me. There's not too many nights that I don't find myself getting into bed and thinking, "I didn't blog...again." By the time I finished today's To Do List, it was already past 6:30 this evening. And I get up at 6 a.m. most mornings. I'll attribute it to a very busy school year and a very busy home-life schedule. I guess I'll just have to roll with it for now and hope things will slow down a little in the very near future. I hope so anyway.

So, here are some rambling thoughts...

Nineteen days until spring. Yes, I am counting down the days. This has been one of the longest and coldest and snowiest and drabbest gray and white winters I can remember in a very long time. Mr. Wonderful would tell you that this has been the worst winter driving weather he can ever remember...ever. I believe last week ended with our fourth blizzard in eight days. A week ago tonight it took him over three hours to drive home. We were all a little distraught about this until we learned that most people were stuck on the highway from 8 to 10 hours due to several jack-knifed tractor trailers just a few miles from our home.

We have discovered a baby squirrel in our backyard that has a strange anomaly. He has no fur on his tail. It's just a little stick-like looking thing that points straight up. Let me just tell you that squirrels look funny with rat tails! I don't know how long he'll survive soaring on tree tops without his tail to guide him.

For the past few days I've noticed the lovely scent of a skunk whenever I walk outside our garage. Yesterday we discovered that a skunk has chosen to make his path across our backyard and through the side woods, following the deer trail. We watched him marking his territory as he waddled through the trees. Great. Just great.

Caleb attended his very first Celtic Ball a little over a week ago. We walked in with him hoping to see some of the ladies in their beautiful gowns, but didn't want to be lingering parents so we quickly headed out. As we were driving away Mr. Wonderful asked me if I was OK. Me? Yes! I am so excited for him! I look over to find my husband with tears rolling down his cheeks. He cannot believe I'm handling this so well! He said that when we walked in with him, he quickly realized that Caleb was in his element. He's a people-person. He's confident. He's never met a stranger. He was comfortable. He didn't need us. And so my husband (who didn't cry when we dumped Caleb off in the middle of a mountain) found this event to be his heart-wrenching moment. Caleb is growing-up. Yes, yes he is.

I trust this finds you all doing well and having enjoyed this first day of March. Thank you for checking in on me from time to time. I am still here.

Much love,

Monday, February 21, 2011

Koch Snowflake (Base-Motif Fractal)

It warmed up late last week. It was wonderful! Virtually all of the old ugly snow melted over the weekend. It was great to look out the windows and see something other than white. The skies were blue, the sun was shining, and the birds were singing. It was great...while it lasted.

As I sit here this Monday afternoon in February, there is yet again another winter weather advisory. It looks like a blizzard, and from what I hear, the snow isn't supposed to let up until after midnight. Great.

Speaking of snow, here's a little diversion we took last week. Instead of getting out the Algebra books, we decided to try our hands at creating fractals. We each chose one and spent a couple of hours being creative. I have to say, it was a lot of fun!

This is a Koch Snowflake...

We neglected to take a photo of the first nine inch equilateral triangle, but I think it's easy to see it. During the first iteration, every side of the triangle has been substituted with a base-motif. The line you see running down the middle is where two pieces of construction paper have been joined. That line ended up helping keep everything plumb.

Because there's a lot of drawing and erasing required for this fractal, it's best to start out with light pencil lines. Light lines make erasing easy, but viewing photos more difficult. Sorry about that!

The first triangle is the first iteration. The photo below is the second iteration.

In the third iteration, each of the 12 line segments have been replaced with the base-motif again.

And again... (fourth iteration)

fourth iteration finalized...notice the inside corners?

and yet again... (fifth and final iteration)

Isn't that cool?! This is but a speck in the world of fractals! We could keep going except it's virtually impossible to erase any lines after this point. Be sure to look at this link to get a much better idea of base-motif fractals.

photo credit

Hey, have a happy fractals Monday!

P.S. I just noticed this is my 200th blog post. Wow Wee!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Homemade Deep Dish Pan Pizza

Homemade Deep Dish Pan Pizza

When I think about some of the new things I've learned to do over the past year or so, I'm surprising even myself! Besides learning how to bake a pie, quilting and sewing, I tried my hand at homemade pizza dough back in November. It turned out pretty good the first time. I tweaked it a couple of times and ended-up with this recipe. It's really good, if I do say so myself!

Keep in mind that you can put any assortment of toppings on this pizza. I have found that no matter if it's plain cheese or loaded with lots of goodies, it always turns out fabulous. The crust is golden brown and crispy. Yum!

What you will need:

Medium-size stainless steel bowl coated with 2 tablespoons of olive oil;
plastic wrap

2 nine-inch cake pans
4 tablespoons olive oil

Ingredients for dough:

3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons of milk (or 7 oz.), heated in microwave for 30 seconds
2 teaspoons sugar
1 packet of instant yeast
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/3 cups flour, divided into 1 1/3 cups and 1 cup
Extra flour for rolling out dough


3.5 ounces pepperoni
1 1/3 cups tomato sauce
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 200 degrees.

Coat the bottom of each of the 9-inch cake pans with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

In a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix together warmed 3/4 cup and 2 tablespoons of milk, sugar, yeast; add 1 1/3 cups of flour and salt. Mix on low until dough comes together, scrape down sides if needed. Turn off mixer and let set for 10 minutes. Turn on mixer to low and slowly add remaining 1 cup of flour. I have found that this sometimes needs adjusting (adding a little more milk or having to add a little more flour, if necessary). Increase speed to medium-low and mix until dough is shiny and smooth, about 5 minutes. The dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl. Turn dough onto a lightly floured counter, gently shape into a ball, and place in greased bowl, turning dough to coat with olive oil; cover with plastic wrap. Turn off oven. Place bowl on the bottom rack of the turned off oven until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

While the dough is rising in the oven, place the pepperoni in a single layer on a microwave-safe plate lined with 2 or 3 paper towels. Cover with an additional 2 paper towels and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Remove from microwave and use your hands to press down on the paper towels (being careful as the pepperoni may be a little hot) to absorb the oil. Discard paper towels and set pepperoni aside.

Once the dough has risen, remove plastic wrap and transfer dough to a lightly floured counter, divide in half, and lightly roll each half into a ball. Working with one dough ball at a time, roll and shape dough into 9 1/2 to 10 inch round; gently place rolled dough into oiled cake pan. The dough will come up the side of the pan by a half an inch or so. Repeat process for other dough ball. Cover cake pans with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until slightly risen, about 20 minutes.

Note: When I start rolling out the dough, I again turn on the oven to 200 degrees. When I'm finished rolling out the dough, I turn off the oven, cover each cake pan with plastic wrap, and place pans with dough back in the warmed oven for about 20 minutes or so.

Remove plastic wrap from cake pans and ladle 2/3 cup of sauce on each round (if your dough is slightly up the sides of the pan, take the sauce to the edge. If the dough only covers the bottom of the pan, leave a 1/2 inch border around the edges). Sprinkle each with 1 1/2 cups of cheese and top with pepperoni. Bake on the bottom rack of a 400 degree oven until the cheese is melted and bubbling, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven; let pizzas rest in pans for 1 minute. Using a spatula, transfer pizzas to cutting board and cut each into 8 wedges. Enjoy!

Another note: Use your favorite bottled or canned pizza sauce. I use Dei Fratelli Italian Sauce right out of the can. If you want to add sausage to the pizza, be sure to brown and cook thoroughly before placing on top of the pizza. I use Bob Evans Maple Sausage by pinching off small quarter-size pieces into a medium hot skillet. I don't turn the sausage until it's caramelized.


P.S. Yes, this is what we're having for dinner tonight. After all, it's Friday! Did I mention that it hit a whopping 60 degrees today? And that the sun is shining? And that the skies are blue? And almost all of the dirty ugly snow is gone? Yes!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

This is one card Hallmark won't ever sell...

I'm one of those people who choke a little on spending $5 or $6 on a card that will eventually end up in the trash. And it usually doesn't matter if it's Valentine's Day or birthdays or special holidays. I'm a cheapskate. Over the years I've tried to be creative and will actually make something special. But sometimes it's easier to pick one off the shelf. That's what I did this year.

The card above is one I found from Mr. Wonderful a couple of years ago on Valentine's Day. It was right there for everyone to see. Right smack dab in the middle of the kitchen table! I left it there all day long until eventually I had to scoop it up and well, you know. There was a little love note left beside this card on the table, but the truth is, I've never forgotten this creative I Love You from my husband.

I hope your Valentine's Day is filled with love and many wonderful things that hold lasting memories. Long after the roses have faded and the chocolate box contains only crumpled papers, it's all the little things, all wrapped-up together, that make life special. Those things remain.

Hugs and kisses,

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Princess and the Pot

Look who got caught with her hand in the flower pot!

This is my precious little niece, Allison. She's 13 months old. This was her second incident in less than twelve hours. The first incident found her standing in the toilet. Yep!

I don't know about you, but I just love her little velour princess outfit.

I remember finding my son, Caleb, a little older than Allison, swinging from the dining room chandelier. I remember finding him hanging from the outside of the upstairs banister. He was smiling. I had nightmares for weeks. I remember finding him drinking from a bottle of rubbing alcohol. I was standing right next to him. This was my first call to Poison Control. I remember him sucking on the nozzle of Round Up. Again, I was standing right next to him. This was my second call to Poison Control. This little boy could scale the kitchen cabinets in 2 seconds flat...and there were no handles. I have a photo of him standing upright on a 3 foot ball. Yes, standing on it. My son lived a constant adventure. As you can see, I lived to tell about it.

If you're thinking, "Well, hey! Don't you think you should have kept a closer eye on him?" If that crossed your mind then you have never had the privilege of being the mother of a child who only stops moving when they are asleep. Even then, their little feet are still moving as they dream about their next adventure.

I think my sister-in-love, who is the greatest mama in the world, is in for some wonderfully memorable adventures! I survived. And she will too.

Then God knew I needed a break and gave me sweet little Rachel. It was a good thing or else I might have ended up on a funny farm.

P.S. If you are still wondering about the rubbing alcohol incident, I had poured a little into the bottle cap to use on Rachel's newborn belly button (I guess you don't do that these days). Caleb reached up, grabbed the bottle, and started drinking it. Poison Control told me not to worry. If he became drowsy, he would sleep off his drunken stupor. Thankfully, it was a new bottle and I don't think he got much more than a sip. Ewww!

The Round Up story? Well, the big bottle of Round Up was sitting on a shelf about 5 feet off the ground. The long-hosed nozzle had fallen off the container and was hanging behind the shelf. Caleb found it there and just couldn't help himself. He started sucking on it. Did you know that Round Up is soap? Poison Control told me he'd be fine.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Standing In Line

Photo Credit

This article grabbed my attention this morning. This positive article on homeschooling is interesting, but it was the comments that really got me going. Many of the comments are from homeschooling families. Some comments are not. Of course, it's the "some comments are not" that tend to make my blood boil just a little.

Honestly, the socialization claims in this day and age make me yawn. Move on, people! This just proves that anyone who still thinks like this hasn't spent much time, if any, with anyone who homeschools their children.

One of the comments made me think back to a situation that happened years ago when my children were still fairly young. I took them ice skating at an indoor ice skating rink. Once the kids are on the ice, parents who are not skating can wait in a heated, glassed-in room. Basically, you are sitting on the ice with the ability to see everything that's going on, except you get to stay warm!

Along with several other parents, I was sitting there minding my own business when a woman and her husband walked in. She sees another woman seated by herself, we'll just call her Sue, and says, "Hi Sue! Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. How's homeschooling going?" Sue responds, "Well, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, I put little Susie back in school this year." The other woman starts blabbering about homeschooling and then gives this stunning reason as to why little Susie is better off in public school anyway...

She has to learn how to stand in line and you can't learn to do that at home.

I kid you not.

It was all I could do to sit there and keep my mouth shut. I'm certain there was smoke coming out of my ears!

Hello? Ever been to the grocery store? Ever been to a gas station? Ever been to a restaurant? Ever been, dear me, to the doctor's office? Well, at least you get to sit in a line and not stand in line, right?

This past weekend our family had the privilege of being involved in a regional speech and debate tournament. Families from several states gathered to watch almost 100 children each participate in five debate rounds (each round lasts an hour and 15 minutes) over two days with a final debate round for the top two teams. In addition, many more students participated in individual speech events which included prose, humorous interpretation, impromptu, impromptu apologetics, informative, rhetorical criticism, extemporaneous commentary, persuasive, and sweeps, which is an event where one student participates in three separate speech categories. The tournament lasts 12 hours the first day and 13 hours the second day. It is a whirlwind of organized chaos. Beautiful organized choas!

Shortly after we arrived on Friday morning, I said I had never seen so many young men dressed in suits all in one place. It was an amazing sight! The girls were all so nicely dressed, many in skirts and suit jackets. What an encouragement to see so many young people being equipped to effectively communicate to the world.

Each family is required to recruit guest judges to judge for debate rounds and/or speech events. Like all of the other families involved, we had several people help judge. One young lady we recruited just happens to be our niece. She's a high school science teacher at a local public school. We had a chance to talk during lunch and this is what I found out...

This was her first time at an event like this and her first time around a group of homeschool students. I was told there was no comparison to the students she deals with daily at her high school to the group of kids she was around for the weekend. She said every student was polite and respectful. She told me the one thing that made the biggest impact on her was judging her first debate round and seeing kids that don't even know one another hug and then stand in a circle to pray. She said it was amazing sight to see!

But our niece also made quite an impact. Here's what our club's debate coach had to say about her...

I just wanted to let you know she was so encouraging to the novice debaters. When I heard her praise for the kids, I was so blessed. I'd never before heard a judge so generous and enthusiastic.

As the Bible says, A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. Proverbs 25:11. We were blessed! Kids were blessed! She was blessed!

Caleb joined a homeschool debate club back in October. The meetings are weekly and usually last for three hours. In addition, he has spent at least two hours every school day (Monday through Friday and oftentimes on Saturday), working on his case as well as preparing for his individual speech event. My son has been transformed from sweating at the thought of standing-up to speak in front of people to absolutely loving the idea. He loves debate! At one point over the weekend, I remember saying to myself, "Is that my son?"

I have been around homeschooling families for 14 years. I will admit that even I was amazed at what I witnessed this past weekend. What an encouragement! What a blessing! And we get to do it all again in March, April, and May!

If you've never had the opportunity to see an event involving homeschooled kids, it might very well be worth standing in line.

Thanking God for the freedom to homeschool in America,

P.S. After I posted this I thought I needed to clarify something. As much as I do not like the public school system for a variety of reasons, I am not dissing public school kids nor their families. The article I referenced gave me reason to reflect and pause on our choice to homeschool and I am thankful. By God's amazing grace, we have experienced great success homeschooling our children. Homeschooling, however, is not for every family. I am thankful that when we seek guidance from our Heavenly Father, He gives wisdom and direction for what's best for our children.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

How to Make a Fleece Blanket

Today was a major snow day around here. Everything is closed. It was a perfect day to snuggle in and make Mr. Wonderful's blanket. I started it late this morning and finished it late afternoon. I think he'll be surprised to come home from work and find it waiting for him!

These pictures are of the blanket I made for Caleb around Christmastime. I took pictures so I wouldn't forget what I did, but thought it would make for a fun blog post too. Let me just say this. If I can make a fleece blanket, anyone can!

Here's what you'll need:

Two contrasting fabrics:

Two yards for the top (which is the print), and three yards for the bottom. Have it cut in two pieces, measuring one yard and two yards respectively. The fringe uses about a yard of fabric and I have found it easier to have the store cut the fabric for me.

Embroidery floss in a coordinating color and a large eyed needle

Sharp scissors

Rotary Cutter

Cutting mat

Crochet hook

Sewing machine

The first thing to do is lay the two yards of contrasting fabric on top of one another and trim off the manufacturer's edge. I use a rotary cutter and a cutting mat for this. These are a little pricey unless, of course, you cut out the 50% off coupon for any item at the local fabric store! Actually, I bought all of the fleece on sale when it was 50% off too.

After trimming and lining up all of the edges, pin both pieces together and then, using a zigzag stitch or a stitch that's stretchy (my machine's zigzag doesn't work so I found this other one that works great) and stitch both pieces of fabric together. I use the cut edge of the fabric as my guide for the foot of the sewing machine. It sews about a quarter of an inch from the cut edge of the fabric.

I usually look at the fabric to see if I need to make any adjustments. Caleb's pattern was pretty random and so I didn't need to do anything special to it. Mr. Wonderful's fabric, however, was a grid of squares, so I ended up cutting off about two inches on one side so the blanket looked symmetrical (otherwise I would have had half a square running down the right side of the blanket). His blanket actually matches on both sides and along the top and bottom. I know this isn't necessary, but I just thought it made it look nicer.

The next thing I did was use a strand of embroidery floss to create ties across the blanket. This probably isn't necessary either, however, if you take this added step, it helps keep both the top and bottom of the blanket together and virtually eliminates sagging. I look for a pattern in the fabric and create the ties every few inches or so. Mr. Wonderful's blanket was very easy since I just followed the squares and created a tie at every other one.

In Caleb's blanket, each guitar was tied.

Notice my stretchy stitch!

Creating the base for the fringe is a little tricky if you don't have sharp scissors. Practice first on a couple of pieces of discarded fabric (when you cut off the manufacturer's edge) to get the hang of it. Don't make the slits too big. If your scissors aren't sharp, well, get them sharpened. Otherwise, you will become very frustrated. I know from experience!

Basically, fold over the fabric so there's about a quarter of an inch from the stitch to the fold. Carefully snip through both the top and bottom fabrics at half inch intervals. When finished, you will end up with quarter inch slits along the entire length of the top and bottom of the blanket.

This is the base for the fringe and it runs along the top and bottom of the blanket.

Now, take that extra yard of fabric and cut off the manufacturer's edge. You will want to pull on the fabric in order to determine which way it stretches. Fold the fabric in half so the stretch runs from top to bottom on the cutting mat. Next, using a straight edge, cut the fabric in 8 inch lengths. Then, using a ruler, cut each of the 8 inch lengths into one inch strips.

Are you following me so far? I think it's easier to do than to try and write here!

This is to show you what happens when you stretch the fleece. The top piece is 8 inches in length and an inch wide. When pulled, it stretches to 10 inches. If you cut the fabric 8 inches in length and a half inch wide, you can see it stretches to almost 15 inches! I have done this for fun, but have never actually created fringe this way. More so because it would take so long to make (you'd have to cut slits every quarter inch instead of every half an inch).

Using a crochet hook (this is a plastic hook that came with a pot holder kit that belonged to one of the kids) with the bottom fabric facing up, pull a stretched strip through the hole.

Just like this...

Next, pull the two ends through the loop and pull tightly creating a knot.

They line up very nicely and create a solid fringe all along the top and bottom of the blanket.

And there you have it! A fleece blanket that's very heavy and very warm.

Guaranteed to become the favorite snuggle blanket, especially on cold winter nights while watching Pride and Prejudice. Of course, you can do what I've done and make everyone their very own blanket or just make one really, really big one!

Stay warm wherever you are...