Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Snowball Fight!

We've finally got some. Snow.

I take that back. We finally got some of the good snow. You know. The kind that  inspires the impromptu snowball fight.

 It only starts with one.


 Snowballs were flying! Fast and Furious!


Josiah wandered around with a snowball in his hand...looking for his next target. 

 Watch out!



Ooo. The man has 3 snowballs. This is serious business.

 Run, Forest, Run!

Hey! Don't point that thing at me!


Turn about is fair play.

 Cornered!

 And yup. That one down the shirt.



Ya'll better run!


Battle worn. A little colder and a little wiser.


I had to make him leave the snowball. He was wired and ready for another battle.


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Lentil Love

Lentils may be one of the most frugal foods on the planet. We've been eating them for a long time. The lentil has been part of our diet since Bible Times. But I betcha that my lentils are even tastier than the ones Esau sold his birthright for in the book of Genesis.

Actually, this recipe for Lentils is my momma's. If I am the princess of the frugal food she is the Queen.

So lentils are probably not as exciting as let's say....cheesy fries from Steak and Shake. But in this season of my life (poor and losing weight) I have found that sometimes just the right preparation can make all the difference.

You might want to grab a pen and paper and take a few notes. I didn't write out my recipe, but have included the steps with my pictures. I know! I make things waaayy too hard!

Here we go!

The type of lentil doesn't matter to me. I get cheap. And for this recipe we are making 2 lbs so that there will be plenty of leftovers for lunches later in the week.


First off. You have to look at this. This is my mother's spice cabinet. It is a cooking girl's dream. And she just recently cleaned it out. She had a few spices that had been around since before my first pair of parachute pants.


On this day we chose cumin, curry, coarse ground pepper, dried chamomile,bay leaves, celery seed and smoked paprika. And some chicken broth seasoning.  Probably about 1 tsp. of everything. I didn't measure. You don't have to use all of these. But I wouldn't miss out on the cumin, paprika and curry. They make the dish.


Just a little aside: While I was cooking my mom made me one of her famous smoothies. A little Greek yogurt and frozen berries from my dad's orchard. And some flax meal.

The glass if fancy! She bought it from a silent auction at work. You could practically take a bath in the thing!


Back to the lentils. Chop up garlic and onions. As much as you like. I think I used 1 large onion and 2 large cloves of garlic.


Now this is where the magic happens. This is different from most every lentil recipe you will ever find. You mix the lentils and dry herbs and spices and toast them in a large pot. In a little olive oil.  I am going to start soaking my lentils (to help with some of that phytic acid), I will just need to let them dry out a little.


Add the onions and garlic and cook them up a little too. Notice how the lentils look nice and toasty? They smell heavenly. Just a little warning. Don't step out to put a load of laundry in.  You need to constantly stir...otherwise you are going to wind up with burnt bits and pieces.


After they are toasted to your satisfaction, add a can of tomatoes, a couple of bay leaves and water enough to cover the lentils by a few inches.


 Let them simmer on the stove for 20-30 minutes or until they are tender.


And that's it! You now have a pot of wonderfully fragrant, delicious and cheap lentils! Just add a little more salt if needed. The chicken broth seasoning I use is plenty salty. This pot didn't need anything extra.



On this night the lentils were served with some rice and a dab of Greek yogurt.

Enjoy!

I am linking this recipe up to The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew's Recipe Share Blog Cruise. It's going live 2/26/2013!


Friday, February 22, 2013

Still Lovely (After all these years)

Just a few days ago my sweet in-laws celebrated their 53rd wedding Anniversary. Pretty amazing in this day and time.

Aren't they lovely? They both look like movie stars.

Since 1991 I have been one of their own. I married one of their sons. And from that day, when I traipsed down the aisle in my lacy dress, they have shown me nothing but love, loyalty and unwavering generosity. When I have been at my worst they have done what they do best. Just simply love me. 

I am blessed to have been taken into such a family. I needed them.

Words cannot express how much I love them.

They are even more lovely today.



Happy Anniversary to two of the most beautiful people I know.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Review: A+TutorSoft Math



I try and pretend that I don’t have somewhat of a math phobia. I am not going to go into any details right here and now, but let’s just say that the A I received in College Algebra should probably be considered a miracle. 

I’ve  always felt as if my early math instruction was hit and miss. If I missed something in class (most likely because I was imagining that the kid in front of me was in all actuality a pirate) I never had much of the opportunity to catch up. I was a dreamer and least likely to draw attention to myself by admitting that I hadn’t quite gotten the concept being taught. My math experiences as a teacher and then as a homeschool parent have improved, but it is always a daunting task for me teach math. 


A+TutorSoft,Inc. to the rescue! The company recently gave several of us the opportunity to review the Homeschool line of their A+Interactive Math software.

What I received



How it Works

The program itself requires that your computer has Microsoft Windows (XP, Vista, Windows 2000, or Windows 7). Internet connection is not required every time you use it, except initially during registration. 

You are given opportunity to add more than one child to your account.

This is a complete curriculum. Lesson plans are provided every step of the way. You are even given the option of printing the whole thing off.

The lessons begin with an animated step-by-step instruction video. After the video the student is given the opportunity for interaction with a Q&A. 

As you can see the screen is easy to see and it's uncluttered with busy graphics. 


 The Interactive Q&A helps reinforce what was just learned.



And some positive feedback!


Within each Chapter there are several separate lessons. In addition, worksheets are available for printing, along with reviews and exams.


The CD version requires the teacher to keep track of the student’s progress manually. There is even a section to print off certificates of completion after each unit. 

 The Online version takes care of the tracking for you.

Here are the Chapters covered.



      1. Number Sense - Counting and Identifying Numbers
2. Number Sense - Place Value, Writing Numbers and Number Combinations
3. Number Sense - Naming, Comparing and Arranging Numbers
4. Addition
5. Subtraction
6. Multiplication
7. Division
8. Rounding and Estimating
9. Fractions
10. Tables, Charts and Graphs
11. Algebra
12. Geometry
13. Time
14. Money
15. Measurements
 

How We Used It

Josiah would begin with the multimedia lesson, followed by the Q&A. During his "homework" time (yes, my homeschooler has homework) he would complete the worksheet portion of his lesson. I could tell fairly quickly if the concept covered was something we needed to cover again. There was a few time I would make him go back and review the lesson that day!

The lessons aren't so outrageously long that we couldn't do that when necessary. Also, a nice part about having easily accessible worksheets is that I could print some for review for the next day.

 My Thoughts
This program was extremely user friendly.  I enjoyed being able to leave Josiah to watch the lesson and then interact with the Q&A. I could control how many, if all, worksheets we printed out for review.
I think the best part is that I could move easily within the program. If I felt a concept needed a bit more review we simply repeated it. And because Josiah’s math skills are a bit all over the place, some things he zipped right on through while others he needed a bit extra attention. I liked having that control.

Josiah enjoyed the program overall. He never gets too excited about math in general, but he felt that the lessons weren't so long that he missed important things... like lunch. And video games. He also liked being able to print off worksheets if I asked him to. 
The CD version (while it doesn’t keep track of scores and progress automatically) could be installed on both of our computers and we were able to pack our math with us (laptop) without lots of books, etc. when going out of town. Once it’s installed there is no need to reinsert the CD (unless you need to reinstall it for some reason).
This is the perfect curriculum for those who long for an easy answer to their math woes. It would work best for those who have kiddos who learn auditory or visually. I prefer to have a few more “hands on” experiences, but Josiah learns well kinesthetically. I love being able to have that extra reinforcement.  I will continue to use it in that regard. 

And the best news! You don't have to have gotten an A in College Algebra (or High School Algebra) for that matter to use it!

Here are a few more particulars:
Right now, through the end of March, you can get in on a GREAT deal. A+TutorSoft is offering 50% off.  Coupon Code: SPOFFER50.

This is a fantastic offer! 

There are also additional helps on the A+TutorSoft, Inc. website. Including a placement tests and free downloads. You can even take the Online Edition out for a test drive free for a month.

You can read more reviews about this product and others from The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew.




Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.


Rejoice! Even though it's Wednesday



It's Wednesday. And the forecasters are saying that we having a winter weather mess approaching.

Snow we can handle here. Mention two little words. Ice. Storm. And you've got all of us heading to the nearest Walmart stocking up on candles, batteries and chips. Nothing like an Ozarks Ice Storm. Most of us would barter out our first born for a generator. And I'm not kidding.

In the meantime, (although I don't think they are calling for an Ice Storm of the ages) I am doing my best to make sure we're ready. I'm charging up the Kindle and heading to the library today to make sure we have what we need to get by. After all, I've got my priorities right.

I woke up cold this morning. I don't know if I'm actually cold or if it's because there is ice in the forecast. I also woke up a bit overwhelmed. I'm considering petitioning for a national holiday.

It would be the "All the Mommas Take the Week Off Just To Catch Up" Holiday. Catch up on what? Well that would be up to the Momma. I personally need to catch up on more than I'm willing to disclose. Let's just say that I keep washing the same 3 pairs of underwear. And the same few spoons.

It probably wasn't a coincidence that when I downloaded pics from my camera this morning that I found the treasure above. Josiah never sings in public. Hearing him sing 10,000 Reasons at the top of his lungs made my heart glad.

He also took a few videos of himself playing Lego Star Wars, but that's neither here or there.

I have so many reasons to sing. To rejoice.

Today I'm starting over with a little rejoicing of my own. Bless the Lord, O My Soul!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Handwriting Without Tears



“But I don’t want to do handwriting today!”

Intense Sobbing.

“I just can’t do it anymore!”

Weeping Uncontrollably. A little stomping for good measure.

"I want my mommy!"

And this is just my typical reaction during our Handwriting lessons. 

Here's the challenge. One bright guy who is dyslexic and dysgraphic. He is desperate to learn to write in cursive. My hesitation has always been this. I can hardly read his ball and stick print. Would learning to write in cursive frustrate him to the point of despair?

Josiah is also at an age (11) where he notices more the gaps between where he should be and where he really is. The research that I have done has suggested that kids who have poor fine motor skills and struggle with their “ball and stick” handwriting often find better results learning cursive.  He is also a leftie. Which adds another hurdle for him to jump. 

I was anxious to discover if Handwriting Without Tears would make a difference.  

What I received

3rd Grade Cursive Teacher's Guide  
 This is the New Edition - $9.25



 Cursive Handwriting (workbook)
Also a New Edition - $8.25
It is intended for 3rd Graders or students who are working at that level.



How it Works

The claim of Handwriting Without Tears is that only 15 minutes of Handwriting practice is needed with their method. I'm all for that!


The Teacher’s Guide begins with an introduction. They lay out their Principles of Effective Curriculum Design.  Here are some points that stuck out to me.

/    HWOT’s cursive style is more similar to print than the traditional slanted cursive. It is easier to learn and easier to read.
/    The workbook only has on it what is needed. They are also “lefty friendly” Yay! The models are on both sides of the page so that the lefties can see them.
/    They have included Cross-Curricular activities.
/    They use double lines. I have found that the traditional handwriting instruction lines confuse Josiah. Having only 2 lines made it simpler for him to remember the steps.
/    HWOT employs multisensory teaching. Which I love! All the learning styles are covered.
/    A Click Away is a feature that allows the teacher to find more resources online.
/    There is an assessment tool available. 
/    There are video lessons available to watch teachers and occupational therapists putting the curriculum into practice.
/    A+ Worksheet Maker Lite is available for free (you can pay for an ungrade). This tool perfect for spelling or vocabulary lists.

The sequence of study begins with Foundation Skills. These were so helpful.  There is a whole section on “Grasping Grip.” 

 One thing that really stuck out to me was that children are imitators. It made me more conscience about how I was holding my pencil. My fingers are double jointed. I also realized that I need to change my years long habit of combining my print and cursive writing. At least for the time being ;<)

Lowercase letters are taught next. Josiah was so proud of his “Magic c.” Capitals are next. There are also a good amount of writing activities; poems, paragraphs and even a friendly letter to use after letter formation has been learned.

Some of my favorite resources are found in the back of the book. There is a section of remediation tips. The Teaching Guidelines are also found in the back. Those are also available to print from the A Click Away feature.



How We Used It

I want to share just a little bit of how we used it and how I think this program is going to change Josiah's life. 

The first weeks of the program are spent in preparation. It is like having your own Occupational Therapist. Josiah learned proper posture and paper arrangement. He practiced certain  movements in the air and on paper to get his muscles used to the whole idea.


The worksheets are located in the Workbook, but with the purchase of the Teacher's Guide you receive a code to download as many helps as you need using the A Click Away feature. I made copies of all my favorite activities....and a few more of the Cursive Writing Warm-ups.

Do you notice how his right hand is holding the paper down? There is even a strategy provided to help with that! No more wiggly paper!


Another favorite activity was the Pencil Pick-Ups. These provide all sorts of fine motor exercises using the pencil. It was obvious where he struggled. But because of the nature of the activities he didn't become frustrated. It was just fun.


He wanted to take a picture of the page. I didn't argue.


Every Monday you are encouraged to implement a Favorite Multisensory Activity. One of the main teaching strategies in HWOT is the Wet-Dry-Try Application. It involves a chalkboard, a little piece of chalk, a small piece of paper towel and a bit of wet hair roller sponge. I got a lot of mileage out of some old sponge hair rollers. All of these items can be also purchased on the HWOT website. Except for my hair rollers. 


Josiah loved this!

 

Each letter group is taught in sections. We did spend more time on each letter than recommended. We still did only 15 minutes a day, but I reviewed more than most probably would need to. This is a picture from his workbook.


We were also encouraged to employ the whiteboard. Which was also a hit. I loved that the lessons simply weren't copying or tracing.


He was very proud of that "d." And as well he should be. I have a few of these chalkboards I got at the Thrift store for pennies. There are HWOT chalkboards (along with other aids) available for purchase. The lines used in the HWOT are different than the standard handwriting lines used on our chalkboard. I used this particular one on this day because our HWOT chalkboard is being used for a coffee table vignette. Don't tell. It's multi-faceted. Josiah was still offended by the middle line.


 The Remediation Guides are wonderful. It certainly made this Momma happy. I went to the Click-a-way feature and printed off the section on teaching Lefties so I could have easy access to it. 

My Thoughts


I think with any curriculum or program that promises results the user must bear some of the responsibility. This is a curriculum that is not best left for self-study. The parent/teacher must model and then instruct. 

Consistency is the name of the game, my friends.

I loved that HWOT doesn’t require an enormous amount of time to implement.Yet every activity assisted in furthering Josiah’s confidence and proficiency. I can see such a difference now than from when we first begun.


HWOT is truly a multisensory program. And such a great deal! It is something that we can continue to use past this level without feeling a strain in the wallet. 

It is a wonderful fit for us and we will certainly continue to use it.

But don't just take my word for it! Check More Reviews for other Handwriting Without Tears products.






Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.
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