Monday, April 22, 2013

Becoming Bendable

I seldom have a day that anything goes as planned. My life has been so unpredictable and I learned a long time ago that I had to become a bit more bendable. It was more important to end the day with a smile than lay my head on the pillow filled with regrets.

Please forgive me if you have heard this particular story before. I am not afraid to share my fruity moments and this is one I've shared on more than one occasion.

As my regular readers and friends know, when I was 24 I had a massive car accident. It left me with a lifetime of injuries and "adjustments." I had to learn to walk again. The first few years after my accident were a trip. And occasionally I did just that..."trip!" Hah! Couldn't help myself.

Anyhoo. I was also in college at the time. I had to take a semester off (obviously) and but I got back to school as soon as I physically could. And honestly, the challenge of school was just what I needed to recover from some of that emotional stuff that one goes through after a traumatic event. But, that's not the point of my story. Moving on!

One day before class I parked my car in front of one of the buildings of my small college, opened the door, grabbed my backpack and stepped out. Well. I actually scooted out. My hip was crushed in the car wreck and put back together with a a bunch of pins and screws My range of motion has never been the same. And in those early years of learning to move again were fraught with danger and uncertainty. 

That day when I "scooted" out of the car my pants fell down.

Yep. They didn't just fall down a little. They pooled down around my ankles, leaving the rest of me exposed to the elements and the general public. 

It would happen that I was on a busy college campus. Which was in front of a busy road.

I had to fall back in the car so I could pull my pants back up. My injuries didn't allow me to bend down. I was laughing so hard I thought I might lose control of my bladder. After I gathered my self (and my pants) together, I realized the elastic in the pants had snapped. I bunched my pants up around my waist and waddled (very carefully) into the building.

From office to office I trotted. Trying in vain to find someone with a safety pin. By the time I got to the other end of the building all that I could manage to come with was a big paperclip. But I sure entertained a lot of folks that day. And I'm sure I contributed to some nightmares of small children who might have been driving with their parents by the campus that day.

I should have just gathered myself together and drove home.But why do things the easy way? I needed to make a complete fool of myself.

Have you ever times in your life when things didn't go expected? When something happened that caught you off guard? It would have been easier for me to become hysterical in that moment. But, at that time in my life I had learned that exposing my granny panties to most of town wasn't worst thing that could happen. I had experienced some of the "worst." It became another event in a long line of things that just happen.

I have a few other stories of things that happened during this tender transition in my life. It's not easy to figure out all of the moving parts when all of your moving parts have had to be put back together. Unfortunately, most of these stories I can only share with ladies groups :<)

Over the past 16 1/2 years (!) I have least I can bend down and touch my toes...but I will never be the same. I have had to learn to do things just a little bit differently.

How does translate that into my everyday life? 

I can't sweat the small stuff. I have to keep perspective on what truly is important. Not that it's easy all the time. Occasionally, I still fall apart over that spilled glass of apple juice, that unexpected visit to the repair man or that bill that comes in the mail (that we weren't expecting...yikes!) Or how about bad report from the doctor (been there...done that) or a child who has some learning challenges (mmm).

 I have had to learn to become bendable. I still haven't learned to keep safety pins in my purse. Maybe I can take the next 16 1/2 years to learn that one.

I'm linking up to the Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog Cruise..."When Things Don't Go As Planned."

Thursday, April 18, 2013

TOS Review: Progeny Press

 (Just a little note: I have had computer crash problems lately and I am unable to share with you some of the great pictures I took to go along with this review. You will just have to imagine all of the awesomeness). 

Can you remember reading a great old book that just stuck with you? I love great old books. I think they address the human condition in such an honest and poetic way. I have mentioned before that as a child those great old books were some of my dearest friends. I learned about the ills of society from Oliver Twist, the joy of adventure and taking chances from The Hobbit and the sure heartbreak of revenge from The Count of Monte Cristo. I have enjoyed introducing them to my son.

Recently, I had the chance to review two literature Study Guides by Progeny Press. We got to review the both the Beowulf Study Guide and the Treasure Island Study Guide. What a combination! These weren't just any Literature Study Guides. These were Interactive PDFs. Very handy...I must say.

Progeny Press is a company started by a homeschooling family who desired to create products for their own family's use. They produce quality classic literature guides with a Christian Worldview.

Beowulf Study Guide (10-12)

$21.99 Printed Booklet
$18.99 CD
$18.99 Instant Download (this is what we received)

I am currently teaching a writing course to my nephew, Christopher. He's 15. And to be honest I think the last book he read was when I made him read Hatchet last year. And in case you were wondering....yes, Beowulf is quite a far piece from Hatchet. But, he was familiar with the story and is always up for an adventure story, especially when it involves mayhem and general destruction.

In my download I received a Read Me file containing all the tips and tricks for using an interactive PDF file. In addition to the Interactive Guide there is a Beowulf Answer Key file as well. This was tremendously helpful. I don't know about you, but just because it's been translated into modern English doesn't mean I really understand all the finer points. This was helpful to me as a teacher as well as Christopher as the student.

The study guide begins with a brief note about the study guide author, a synopsis of the story as and lots of introductory material. The suggested time period to use the Study Guide is 8-10 weeks. A few of the additional items recommended to have around are a Bible, a dictionary, thesaurus and Internet access.  It is also recommended that you use Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf. I had another translation downloaded on my Kindle, so I immediately put Mr. Heaney's version on hold at my library. Progeny Press does have this book available to buy on their website.

I really loved all of the background information. I felt it was so important to set the stage. It is never a good idea to study a work of literature in isolation...I think the student needs to have know some history about the era.  This information was so important to have. Christopher and I worked on this as a "group" study. It gave us opportunity to sit and ponder the finer points of Beowulf

It is also suggested that the student reads the book before starting the bulk of the Study Guide. Because we were using this to review (and it's Beowulf for crying out loud!) We wound up reading it in chunks and working through the study guide that way.

Included in the Study Guide is an interesting list of prereading activities. We listened to Beowulf read in the Original English, listened to the symphony "Lament of Beowulf" and discussed other folk heroes in literature.

The study guide itself is broken up by the lines within Beowulf. Vocabulary, story analysis, literary techniques and more are covered. There is a "Dig Deeper" section. These questions challenge the student to take certain aspects of the story and compare them to Bible Truths. This is not a light weight study.

I have to say that I found the analysis to be very thought provoking. Christopher had some insightful answers. I had studied Beowulf in college, but you don't to be familiar with the work at all. The Study Guide does all the work for you.

Of course, I would be remiss in not mentioning the type and fill feature of the Study Guide. The student simply types in the answer within the Study Guide document and saves it. This is perfect for students who struggle with handwriting. I think it would also save on ink and space. Now I did print a copy off for myself (old dog/new tricks). It made it easier for me to assist in the discussion.

At the end of the Study Guide there is an Overview Section (you can use for final exams if you wish) and a list of things to do as final projects. We haven't gotten that far yet. And while I am tempted to make Christopher write a character analysis paper on one of the "supporting cast," I have a feeling he is going to cast his vote to either make some chain mail or a replica of the Heorot

As I mentioned that we received the the Treasure Island Study Guide Instant Download as well.

Treasure Island Study Guide (5-8)
$18.99 Printed Booklet
$16.99 CD
$16.99 Instant Download

 This was a book we have read before and Josiah remembered many things about it. Because Josiah is dyslexic we read aloud all of our literature studies. Many times I can also find the book on CD as well at the Library. I did use a digital copy of Treasure Island I got for free on my Kindle, but you can purchase it from Progeny Press. And who can resist pirates!

It, too, started with introductory notes. Information about the author, Robert Louis Stevenson.
The introductory notes also gives a synopsis, author information and before tackling the prereading activities. Josiah studied the variety of currency terms, different kinds of ships and created his own Treasure Map.

The setup for this guide is similar to the one for Beowulf. It is, however, markedly simpler (and rightfully so). Don't despair, it is plenty challenging for the age range. There is vocabulary, some general questions, a "Thinking About the Story" section and finally a challenge to "Dig Deeper."

Josiah is a fairly dramatic kid. All that analysis and drama works for him. I did have to redirect the conversation from time to time.

This is an example from one of the questions from Chapter 10.

....with the voyage underway and the true character of the crew still unknown, how does Stevenson use the sea shanty, "Fifteen men on the dead man's chest" as a type of foreshadowing?

After we established that foreshadowing as nothing to do with the forehead, his answer was this:

It sure doesn't sound good for them! I think I'd stay home.

At the end of the Study Guide are suggestions for Essays that your student can tackle. Obviously, he will need a little assistance from me. There is also a some recommended resources to help you along with your study.

We love using literature in our schooling. I generally don't use already prepared Study Guides, but what Progeny Press was a revelation! I found both to be so helpful and a great time saver for me! There were a few things I did to adapt it to our particular needs, which remains the beauty of homeschooling. I loved that both the Beowulf Study Guide and the Treasure Island Guide challenged my students to really think.

I already have my eye on this Holes Study Guide. We have a copy of Holes we recently found at the Thrift Store just waiting for us to dig into.

You can read more reviews of  these titles and many more.


Hot Tub Conversations

Josiah is our swimmer. But one of his favorite  locations at the Y pool has to be the hot tub. He was thrilled when going to the pool today to discover the hot tub (after being out of commission) for a few weeks was back in action.

I picked him up from his Homeschool Interaction day at the Y this afternoon. This was our conversation home.

Me: Did you have fun today?

Josiah: Yeah. The hot tub is fixed.

Me: Good. Did you work on your fly (his butterfly stroke)?

Josiah: Mmm. A little. I mostly sat in the hot tub. I had a talk with Sarah.

Me: Sarah? Who is Sarah?

Josiah: One of Hannah's sisters.

Me: Is she older or younger than Hannah. What did you talk about?

Josiah: She's younger. She just asked me who I liked.

Me: Oh (I can see where this is going!). What did you tell her?

Josiah: I told her I liked everybody. She asked me who I thought was cute.

Me: Did you answer her?

Josiah: Well, I told her that I thought Elise was cute.

Me: How old is Elise?

Josiah: I think she's 4.

Me: Oh! You do know that Sarah was asking you who might like as a girlfriend

Josiah: What! Nobody can have a 4-year-old as a girlfriend! I just think she's a cute little girl.

Me: That's why you've got to watch those girls! And, by-the-way, no girlfriends for a very long time.

Josiah: I'm good with that!

I'm not sure if I'm ready for this stuff! :<)

Baby Steps

Anybody else up to their elbows in "Spring Cleaning?" I'm trying. My big problem is that last year's Spring Cleaning marathon didn't happen.

And the fact that we are stuffed into a small apartment is causing its own share of issues. I'm considering moving one of us in with the neighbor. I'm thinking about volunteering to go myself. Beke needs a break.

I did get one big project done yesterday. I found a spot for the mountain of fabric buckets. Of course, I might never get them out from where they are all wedged...

Have you ever looked at something in your life and thought, "Where do I even start?"

Maybe you have a big project coming up. Maybe you are overwhelmed with weight loss or adapting a healthy lifestyle. Or maybe you are walking through a difficult patch right now.

Last week I told you to find 3 little things to do that would add a little beauty to your life. I did all of mine except for the trip to the park. But, hey! 2 out of 3 ain't bad. (my apologies to Mrs. Carter. My 6th grade English teacher who used to make us write sentences if we used "ain't").

This week I added to my "little things" list by purchasing a small bouquet of flowers at the grocery store to set on my coffee table. I've enjoyed staring at them.

This week I am overwhelmed with the disorganization of my home. It doesn't take much for it to become something from "Hoarders." I am overwhelmed with what to do. How do I just start?

I'm going to share another strategy that seems to help me get through those tough projects or mountains in life.

Baby Steps.

It is so easy to look at a situation in your life and become overwhelmed with the enormity of it all. I have done this with weight loss. When I started I had well over 100 pounds to lose. I would look at pictures taken of me at our wedding and just cry. How did that young, size 6 girl ever let herself become so disgusting? And how to lose 120 pounds? How was that even possible? Nothing I had tried worked. It became a mountain I just couldn't climb.

Baby Steps.

Some of us have trouble with moderation. We throw ourselves into a new project, a weight loss program, etc, etc. with wild abandon. And because it is impossible to maintain that kind of energy indefinitely we wind up crashing and burning. And that in turn pushes us even further over the edge.

Sweet friends. I've been there.

Baby Steps

Here is your assignment for the week. In keeping with last week's assignment, write down something you can do to add a little beauty to your life. And then write down a goal for yourself. Next, list one thing you can do to help you achieve that goal. If it is weight loss you can try and replace something in your diet, add more fruits and veggies or start walking. But...only do one thing. Don't try them all at once. In fact, only do one thing this week. I've found with weight loss that changing a lifestyle is key...and you can't do that all at once. Trust me...this 70 pounds I've lost didn't come off easily.

Because my mountain to climb right now is taking control of some of clutter, I started this week by finding a more permanent place for that fabric mountain.  Today I am setting our box for Goodwill by the door and another box of books to take for trade at the used bookstore. The Studly Muffin already told me he would take them for me. Tomorrow I am going to go through one of Josiah's drawers to prepare him for Spring/Summer.

Baby Steps.

Take some big deep breathes. And just take one step at a time. You'll get there.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


A girl can't go too far in life without realizing that there are a few things she just can't live without.

1. Good sturdy underwear (my apologies to any of my uncles reading this...TMI?)

2. An occasional soak in a hot bath.

3. A rich indulging treat now and again. Chocolate anyone?

4. Some "One" who provides daily Grace.

5. And (most recently discovered) a reliable flash drive. 'Cause you never know when your computer is going to go crazy and you lose everything you have stored on said computer.

This has happened to me twice in the past 2 months. I'm beginning to get a complex. Not only have I lost beloved pictures, but this happened in the middle of doing many, many reviews. And (Yay!) I have discovered I needed to replace the battery pack in my camera.

My camera battery and its replacement are no longer charging. And to add to the fun we have discovered we need to replace our Wii remotes. How am I going to get my Just Dance fix? This is serious!

But. Considering the events of the week...mainly the horrific bombing that happened in Boston....we must always put things in perspective.

Remember that reliable flash drive? (Full disclosure: It does happen to be my mama's reliable flash drive, but I borrow it like I borrow her jewelry...often)

This was what was on it.

We just had these pictures taken Saturday. And despite the fact that I look like I could use a little more sun we were really pleased with them. It could be the subject matter.

So (big sigh) despite all of this technology drama...I'm a pretty blessed gal.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

TOS Review: Knowledge Quest

I love Historical Fiction. But, more than that I love historical novels that are based on real life events and people. In my opinion, it doesn't get any better than a real life adventure story. I was recently given the opportunity to review the interactive biography Sacagewea: Brave Explorers Every Child Should Know from Knowledge Quest.

So obviously, the title gives the subject matter away. Most of  us remember this figure in history from our school days. We all know about the remarkable journey of Lewis and Clark.  Josiah and I had studied about Sacagawea before, but the most he remembers (prior to reading this book) was that she was a character in the Night at the Museum movie and that Teddy Roosevelt thought she was pretty. How confusing is that! 

I am a history buff, myself, so it's hard for me to completely understand why some people find history so dry and dull. You must excuse me if I gush effusively...though I certainly wouldn't gush unless I liked it! This ebook was anything but dry and dull.

We read the book on my Kindle. Throughout the book are interactive links that allow the reader to research a particular term, location or item of interest just a little further. For example, in the first chapter alone we got to see what Pompey might have worn, learn a little more about the Corps of Discovery and watch a video about earth lodges.

I'm considering requesting interactive links to all of our Kindle books :<) What fun!
Josiah and I used this as a read aloud. He is 11 (and dyslexic).  I don't believe the book will be a challenge for the average reader and actually Josiah could have managed with my assistance. We do enjoy our read-alouds together, however, and every night we read he would beg me to read a little more.

The story begins with Sacagawea speaking to her son (who she has nicknamed Pompey) about the Man-With-Red-Hair (William Clark). It is apparent that Sacagawea has a special relationship with this Man-With-Red-Hair. He is like a member of her family and has offered to take young Pompey to educate. Pompey begs his mother to tell him again about the special journey she took with Man-With-Red-Hair and Captain Lewis.

Sacagawea was a Shoshone girl captured along with her sister as a slave. She was sold into marriage to an abusive man. How could she have played such an intricial role in our nation's history?

I was captivated by this book. Not only was it an easy read, but it was a good read. The author, Karla Akins, kept the character of the era and the culture going throughout the book. I have to admit that I snuck ahead in our reading a little bit. One day I had taken it to Josiah's swim team practice with me. I sat sobbing.

Pompey was to weak to cry. For five days I prayed. I prayed to the Good Baby Jesus. I prayed to my parents. I prayed to Otter Woman. I prayed to the spirits to let my son live. 
I begged Man-With-Red-Hair.
"Heal Pompey."
Six days I prayed and Pompey looked at me with eyes that were empty no more. I felt his forehead. It was cool. 
His neck and jaw were not as swollen.
Pompey said, "Mama" in Shoshone.
Man-With-Red-Hair had tears on his cheeks. He did not think I saw them. They matched the ones that slid down mine. 

Are you kidding me? I doubt that anyone in that pool would have guessed I was crying over Sacagawea. Just plain pitiful. 

Sacagawea doesn't shy away from the more controversial aspects of this time in history or the more heartbreaking aspects of Sacagawea's life. But the author does treat the subject matter with respect. It allowed Josiah and I to discuss some of the ills and evils of this world. It made for some great interaction. 

As you can see I'm a fan. This will be one book we use again in our more formal history studies. 

You can purchase Sacagawea for 3.99. What a great deal! It's also recommended for ages 10+. Josiah and I certainly fall into that age range. 

While your puttering around the Knowledge Quest site (they have some great products) I would also suggest that you go take a long at their blog.  This article, 10 Steps to a Great Start in Homeschooling, is a must read for any homeschooling newbies. In fact, it inspired me to take a step back from our day and try and simplify things a bit more. I always need a little motivation this time of year! And a girl can only ingest so much chocolate. 

You can read more reviews on this ebook and a very interesting Timeline Builder from my fellow Schoolhouse Review Crew members. 


Sunday, April 14, 2013

TOS Review: Supercharged Science

Josiah and I recently got to review the e-Science program from Supercharged Science.

My favorite science class might or might not have been in 7th grade. And it might or might not have been because I sat right behind Eddie Maxwell. And he might or might not have been the cutest guy in my school.

I was never a very good science student. My interests lie more with history, literature and creative arts and music. I was far more interested in stories and people than the ”how and why” of things. I realize now that the manner in which science was presented to me had something to do with that. Dry lectures and worksheets were a sure way to send me into day dream land in which I could imagine I was a swimming with mermaids (generally not found in North Central Arkansas) or a suffering governess trapped in a castle by a maniacal Baron with only hair pins and my wits to save me.

When I got to college it wasn’t much better (though I had moved on to daydreaming about my hefty “to-do” lists). My favorite science class wound up being Science For Teachers. We spent the semester creating hands on projects that we could later use in the classroom. The criteria was that they needed to be engaging, informative and inspiring. I knew realized when I presented my ocean in the bottle project to my fellow future teachers that I didn’t have to teach science the way I had always been taught.

 I knew I would love Supercharged Science the first time I watched this video of Aurora Lipper explaining the e-Science program. Aurora is engaging, passionate…in that brief video she motivated me to just be a better teacher. So when we had a chance to review the program I jumped at it. I think I have had as much fun (or more) than Josiah.

How It Works and How I Used It

The Supercharged Science site is massive and there is so much information I would like to share with you. However, I do need to keep this post at a reasonable length, so I will share the basics of the program and tell you a little about my favorite parts.

The beauty of the e-Science program is that it can be used as a stand-alone program or as a supplement. It is structured enough for systematic study or you can freestyle it all the way. It can be used for self-study or parents can guide their kiddos through the wonders of science.

I first wanted to find a few easy experiments to help ‘whet’ Josiah’s science whistle. While I would have loved to browse through the 900 experiments (!), it’s  helpful that there is a whole list of easy experiments to let your student jump right in.  

What you need to know first is that there are many levels to Supercharged Science. They have created it to be appealing and beneficial to all kinds of learners. Sure. There is textbook reading and writing assignments available. But my very favorite part are Aurora’s teaching videos (no boring or dry lectures found here) and then the lists and lists of experiments. Most come with an explanatory video.

We first began with the Microwave Soap experiment. And man! Wouldn't you know it didn't do exactly what it was supposed to! Something happened, that's for sure, but not the "wow" factor we were hoping for. But what was so great was that we were able to talk about why are experiment might not have worked as well as it could have. The soap was old? And possibly had an additive in it (maybe aloe?) so that it effected the results.

It didn't matter that our soap didn't expand into a glacier.(looked more like the the nasty snow that piles up after the snow plows have been by...only it was green). Josiah was so intrigued by this particular experiment that I knew I needed to follow that trail. In fact, I had listened to a “talk” Aurora gave on how to teach homeschool science. One of her recommendations was that you start first with your child’s interests and passions. You are then able to teach the science behind it.

I wasn’t surprised that Josiah enjoyed the soap experiment (for one, who wouldn’t?) He has had a fascination with different kinds of matter ever since he found he could freeze army and Lego men in water when he was a tiny guy.

So I found the Unit on Matter (which happened to be Unit 3).

The Units for Supercharged Science can be found in one location. While I was allowed access to all of the units (20+), a regular subscriber receives access to several Units initially and then 1-2 units a month after that. Don’t fret. They also make it pretty clear to drop them a line if your kiddo is dying to try a unit you don’t have access to. There is even a unit on fabulous science projects.

I am giving you a screen shot of what how a unit is set up. The layout of each unit is simple. The sidebar contains all the links you will need to complete the lesson. You can see that Unit 3: Matter has 2 lessons. The first is on Atoms and Density. The second covers Solids. Each lesson is divided up between reading, experiments, As recommended we dove straight into the experiment portion. There is also a teleclass (mp3) that we downloaded. Sounds like good car listening to me!

This was our Lava Lamp experiment. So much fun! Josiah had such a good time with this on he wanted to repeat it so he could show his daddy.

This experiment is called Pile It On. Josiah chose a number of small items to weigh. He was ready to weigh everything after this on. There is a terrific section on creating a Scientific Journal. I found a few pre-made graphic organizers and Josiah recorded his data, observations, etc. He was pretty proud of his finished product. I have mentioned that Josiah is dyslexic and also struggles with his handwriting. I have shied away from Science Journaling for this very reason. I discovered, however, that creating a science notebook has actually helped him keep track of his own thoughts and observations. I look forward to continuing this practice. 

We are in the process of growing crystals. Our crystals are a little slow growing. I'll share Josiah's finished product another time.

So let’s say you are going through a season in life that to immerse your child into a whole unit is downright overwhelming. Or maybe there are specific principles that are just not getting through. There is this section. Need Help Teaching the Basics? Yes, Please! These are quick and easy lessons intended to demonstrate the basics of physical science. So, on those days that I can’t find my keys, my library books or most of my brain I can use these. Which is more often than I would like to admit.

This was my favorite. Even I got this one!

“Objects at rest stay at rest unless acted upon by an external force: Place an object on the floor and wait very carefully for it to move on its own. Ready for more action? Kick it… and there’s your external force. (This is the first law of physical motion.)”

Josiah had a little help from the cat. 

Three states of matter: solid, liquid, and gas: Grab a can of soda. The tin can is the solid, the drink is the liquid, and the bubbles are the gas.
We never have pop in our house. I bought this can specifically for this demonstration. He was so excited he spent a few minutes smelling it. Poor kid.

I know that these particular experiments are included in all of the more structured lesson material, but there was a day or two this section saved Science!

I hate to admit this, but this section also put science in a whole new light for me. Instead of SCIENCE (all stuffy and unattainable) it became “science” (aw! Now I see that!).

And Then There is This!

One of the big differences between this program and traditional science curriculums is that there are so many resources available for the homeschool parent. It is like having your own homeschool convention/consultant right at your fingertips.

The Getting Started section not only contained easy experiments and lessons for your student, it also had resources for you as the homeschool teacher. I read this one right away.  Seven Biggest Mistakes Made in Teaching Science. Well, yeah! I don’t want to give away all Aurora’s secrets, but here are 2 of my favorite.

Mistake #2. Give away the ending.
“For real learning that lasts, your child needs to focus on
activities that allow the natural process of discovery,
wonder, and exploration.

Mistake #5. Fear of making mistakes.
“When your young chemist is outside and
accidentally spills the entire jug of vinegar into
your full box of baking soda, just take a breath
and say, “Gosh – I’ll bet you didn’t expect that to
happen. Now what are you going to do?” Make
sure you really feel empathy and interest for
them, or they’ll feel that, too.”

The other topics in the Getting Started section include: What exactly IS science? ,Common Misconceptions and Myths in Science Textbooks Revealed, What does my child really need to learn in science? The Six Keys to Teaching Homeschool Science, Secrets from Successful Teachers ,Easy Steps to Award-Winning Science Fair Projects, How to Motivate Your Child to Learn Science, Keeping a Scientific Journal.

I spent quite a bit of time in the Getting Started Section.

There is also quite an extensive Resource Section. You know you are in good hands when one of the topics found in the Resource section is How to Fix Anything. The student learns Universal Troubleshooting Process, step-by-step. I am going to copy this out for myself! There are favorite book lists, how to pick out good science equipment and even Aurora’s phone number. She takes calls to answer your questions every Wednesday. 

In A Nutshell

I am going to break it down for you. Shew! (I know you are thinking I should have just done this to begin with)

Here are my favorite features of Supercharged Science

  • Fun and engaging

  • Easy to navigate

  • Kiddos can use as a self-guided if need be

  • A lot of the experiments are easy to do and done with easy to find (most everything we had lying around the house) items

  • The resources available for parents are amazing

  • The content is top notch!
To use this program you (obviously) need access to the internet. I used it from a variety of locations (my husband’s desktop, my laptop, my Kindle and Papa and Ama’s computer at their farm). All I needed was my username and password.
 The cost of the e-Science program subscription is $37 a month (K-8) and if you have an older student you can purchase the premium level for $57 a month (K-12). 

And, if this is something you can do, I can’t recommend it enough.

 But don't take my word for it (anybody else love Reading Rainbow?). You can get this Science Activity Video Series and Guidebook For FREE. I believe there are 30 science experiments to get you started. Have fun! 

You can read more reviews here (or click below).

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


So I was downloading some pics from my camera tonight (I'm in the middle of writing a review on some pretty cool Science curriculum) and I found this!

Yep. Assuming this is not an accidental photo of my own upper lip before maintenance (I'm just being honest here) my baby is sprouting a few facial hairs.

I don't think I can take this my friends. Wasn't only yesterday I was diapering his chubby bottom?


TOS Review: The Magic Runes

Any day I can sit and read something is pretty much a good day. So imagine how I felt when my Schoolhouse Crew peeps sent me a whole list of books to choose one from and then read and review. Are you kidding me? I have the best job in the whole wide world.

I was unfamiliar with Salem Ridge Press. My book finds generally are what I can score at the Thrift Store or free book downloads on the Kindle.  The folks Salem Ridge Press are dedicated to republish books of the 19th and early 20th century. I personally love literature of that era and was excited to find a company that desires to share such treasures with us.

The book I chose to review is The Magic Runes: A Tale of the Times of Charlemagne written by Emma Leslie. This is just one book in a series called The Emma Leslie Junior History Series.

The story opens in the year 782 AD. Charlemagne was the king of northern France. During his lifetime he conquered most of Western Europe. While there were many reforms he brought to this part of the world, Charlemagne made it his life’s mission to convert all of his subjects to Christianity. Unfortunately, as we see in this story, he used many tactics that most of us will find disturbing.

Ironically, however, a good portion of my ancestry can be traced to France. I have to wonder about my own French ancestors and their personal conversion experiences. As a child of Missionaries and pastors, (not to mention that I’m a pastor’s wife) I can’t even imagine trying to spread the love of Christ by the end of the sword. It reaffirms to me that we as humans are all fallible and flawed. Despite the fact that we often take God’s matters into our own hands, He still eventually uses our messes for His good. Did those tactics contribute to my ancestors coming to Christianity?  Don’t you love it when a book makes you think about something beyond the story it is trying to tell?

As we begin to read, a tribe of Saxon prisoners have been captured by Charlemagne’s soldiers and brought to France. During the long and arduous journey a family is forced to stay behind along the trail in the dark woods. Obviously, their feelings towards Christians weren’t particularly happy and fluffy. So imagine how suspicious they might have felt when a little girl (who happens to be a Christian) finds them and subsequently take them home to care for them along with her father.

Drama and Intrigue eventually follow and everyone’s mettle is put to the test. We are introduced to some of the practices and superstitions of the times.  What struck me was that popular culture has romanticized some of these superstitions…neglecting to dwell on any dark and truly disturbing practices involved. The Magic Runes took time portray this time in history in real pictures. The truth of medieval war. The separations of families. How truly fragile life was during this time.

I also appreciated that all conflicts weren't resolved in a matter of days. That’s the way real life works. The author showed us a real portrayal of a man grappling between what he had been born to and the truth unfolding before his eyes. And remember my earlier comment about Charlemagne’s tactics? Adalinda, the little girl in the story, initially struggles with feelings of jealously and some resentment. But those feelings give way to true kindness and gentleness. Showing the love of Christ isn’t always easy for us, is it?

The language of the book is not simple. It is beautiful and challenging. My dyslexic 11-year-old would struggle to read it on his own. However, I look forward to reading it to him. I am not afraid of beautiful or challenging. I think that children need to be exposed to well-written works. Reading it together will allow for much discussion and will allow him to truly appreciate the book without worrying about the mechanics of reading.


Salem Ridge Press has taken great care with The Magic Runes and they have added helps for us modern day learners. I loved the vocabulary words at the bottom of the page. No vocabulary index! I think that will be handy for many families. There were a few words or terms I didn’t know. Shocking, I realize. My favorite was palisading. It means fencing. It just sounds so pretty. Another favorite was harry, which means attack. I’m planning on using it at random. “Josiah, you better harry that mess in your room!” 

The publishers also included a map, a list of historical references used to write the book and a very helpful index of Historical notes. I was fascinated. It inspired me to do some more research.

I plan to purchase more of these great books. The Magic Runes is intended for ages 10-adult. The softcover is available for $10.95 at Salem Ridge Press. You can take a peek at the first chapter here.

Click below to read the reviews of other books by Salem Ridge Press.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

It's the Little Things

Many years ago I sat before a group of ladies and spoke of what had happened in my life. Just a few years before I had been in a terrible car accident. I talked about what it felt like to have traction pins screwed into both of your legs…while still awake. I talked about hearing the cries of a mother whose child was unresponsive and passing away before her eyes in a bed near mine in the trauma intensive care unit. I spoke about the kindness of those entrusted with my care and what it was like to rely on someone else for simple things like brushing your teeth or more humbling things like wiping your bottom. I spoke of the months spent in a wheelchair and bed….unsure of my future. I talked of the humiliation of the weight gain. My bloated face, puffy body…my small frame was not meant to carry the over 100 pounds I had gained. I cried when I spoke of infertility and how helpless and betrayed by own body I felt. And I talked about my current struggle with congestive heart failure. At this time I was still learning to walk again…my cane propped up beside me. I was still having panic attacks while driving down the road. I was still angry that my womb was as empty and barren as a desert.

But, within my story I weaved those stories Of God’s faithfulness and protection. I talked about those small and big miracles I had seen and those I still needed in my life. Those who know me well know I am just a bit irreverent. Through my tears I relayed the time my (pretty stinkin’ cute) male nurse in the trauma intensive care unit told me not to fret over some of the more delicate parts of my care. He had seen thousands of hinnies and mine wasn’t any different.

I promised the ladies that I was going to share my secrets of How To Live a Beautiful Life….even if the life around you doesn’t feel so beautiful. I could tell they were ripe with anticipation. They sat on the edges of their seats..pens in hand. You can imagine that a few of them had the wind out of their sails when I gave them instructions to host a tea party, display a bowl of lemons and then get a pedicure. What? Where was that magical pill? That special bit of courage and determination that only came when you needed it the most? They were anticipating my formula. How I quoted 62 passages of scripture every morning to myself with a smile.  Sang Victory in Jesus to 3 people I would meet in the street and read the story of Job every day at 2:00pm. Please. There were days I spent in bed, staring at the wall trying to image the pain in my body was happening to someone else. Sure those passages of scripture went through my head, the song “I know Who Holds Tomorrow” wouldn’t leave it and I was feeling pretty sorry for myself and Job.

There is no formula for getting through the tough times. Sometimes you just have to let God carry you. And then Trust and Obey. God told me that there were things I just didn’t have any control of. And I couldn’t spend my life wishing my body morphed back into what I had known it to be. I needed to live now. I needed to live despite the pain. And I needed fill it with beautiful things. Small things…Cause the big things were things only He could take care of.

We are wired differently. To me beautiful things meant small moments that appealed to my very senses.  God created us to appreciate beauty. And even if it is the site of a single fresh flower in a bud vase beside our bed. By the way…I’m allergic to fresh cut flowers. They make my chest seize up. But I decided a long time ago that I couldn’t be mad at nature. I just make sure to enjoy my fresh cut flowers in small doses and on spell occasions…and to have the antihistamine ready if needed.

My car accident happened in 1996. Even after the particular talk I gave there were more trials to come. Little did I know that the philosophy that God had placed in my heart was something I was going to need again and again ….despite how I felt or my circumstances.

I still sometimes wait for that magic formula. I’ve done it with weight loss. I’ve done it within our homeschool. Surely. There is something that is going to work exactly how I need it to work. Smoothly. Effortlessly. I spend so much time waiting for that special set of “instructions” or that magic little pill to show up I fail to really live a life worth living. I don’t take time to enjoy the tea parties, lemons and the like.

So here is your assignment. This is helpful for those of you who are waiting for your miracle to come in the form of some sort of magical formula. Get out a pen and paper. If you are like me you have a favorite pen that you can never find. But I adore pretty pens and pretty journals. I have a beautiful one right now I’m working through that a sweet friend gave me. I was using it to write scripture in. Now I’m also including some other bits and baubles. But don’t worry about how cute it is. Just write it down. First write down a scripture of encouragement or the words to a song or hymn that speaks to your heart. Now. Write down 3 things that you would like to do this week. They have to be “fluffy” things. They can’t be industrious or profitable other in the fact that they make your spirit sing.

This is the important part. Take time to do at least one of them. You might have time to do more. I don’t want to overwhelm you. Just start.

What’s on my list this week?

I am going to give myself a manicure. I am going to get out my cuticle oil, soak my hands and put some pretty pale pink polish.

I am going to make some pretty lemon water and put it in my cut glass pitcher. I am going to pour it into a beautiful glass and sip it while reading Anne’s House of Dreams.

I am going to take Josiah to the park on a sunny day. I am going to let the sunshine bathe my face and the wind blow through my hair. We will share a peanut butter and jelly and talk about nonsense things like why Darth Vader turned out to be such a meanie and why some cats are so peculiar.


And here is some last closing advice. Just don’t forget Breathe more. Laugh more. Sing more. You’ll be fine.

Monday, April 8, 2013

On My Bookshelf

I am an unapologetic bookworm. If you know me at all you know that I can't go too long without sticking my nose in a book. And I'm an equal opportunity reader. Fiction...Non-fiction. Doesn't matter.

So when given the assignment to talk about a Good Read I couldn't just narrow it down to a favorite. Instead, I am going to give a little glimpse of my current "bookshelf."

Not literally, of course. For one, I would have to move 2 bikes from in front of one and my sewing stuff from in front of the other. And I don't even want to talk about the boxes and boxes and boxes of books in our storage unit. But I'm not bitter. Maybe I should read less?

Moving on.

With no rhyme or reason...Here is what I am currently reading, what I want to read and what I think you might enjoy reading.


Trim Healthy Mama

I have a million diet and health books. This one makes so much sense to me. And it speaks to my soul. I am hoping that this might be what gets me past my 3 month weight loss plateau...not to mention make life (and my health) just a little more fabulous.


When Children Love to Learn

If you're a homeschool mama you know what I'm talking about. I need motivation and a little kick in the pants. Our annual homeschool convention is still a few weeks away and this little book has provided some much needed inspiration.


Midnight at Marble Arch

I love a good mystery. Anne Perry is one of my favorite authors. She writes historical period mysteries that are dark, yet not filled with filth. Her new book is almost ready to come out.


The Original Adventures of Hank the Cowdog

Hank the  Cowdog books are hysterical. But we have never read the first one. We've also been up to our eyeballs in Beowulf, Treasure Island and a variety of historical literature. I think Josiah and I are both ready for some serious fluff.


Shabby Chic

I've had this book for years. It still makes me happy. I can't really go on the full Shabby Chic style...the Studly Muffin likes things a bit more modern. But I certainly can create a few happy places in my house.


Through Gates of Splendor

I adore stories of Missionaries. Which is not surprising considering I was born on the mission field in Nicaragua. This one is one of my favorites. And greatly impacted me as a young person. Haven't read it yet? Grab it up. You won't regret it.

Hopefully, I've give you a few ideas for your bookshelf. Do you have any favorites you are reading?

I am linking up to the Good Read Blog Hop at the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

Friday, April 5, 2013

TOS Review: Computer Science For Kids!

I will admit to having a few Computer Geeks in the family. My Computer Geekness is entirely by accident. I enjoy using my computer to do a variety of tasks, but I have never really been interested in Computer Programming. My best friend from High School made that her career. I am in awe. My talents tend to run just a tad bit little fluffier.

Despite my own fanciful notion that a little fella by the name of Norbert lives in my computer, pushing buttons and lighting things up with his magic powers,  I realize that I need to expose Josiah to Computer Science. He, like most kids his age, is into gadgets. He knew what a computer mouse was before he had ever seen an actually mouse. Me telling him that Norbert has indeed updated his favorite game is just not cutting it anymore.

The beauty of this program is that it is designed for teachers, homeschool parents and kiddos that have just minimal or no experience. It is a tutorial that is simple with step-by-step instructions. It basically teaches us how to use the Microsoft Small Basic Program. The goal is that at the end of the course the student should be able to develop computer games on his or her own.


Computer BibleGames for Microsoft Small Basic is intended for ages 10+.  It contains 13 lessons with the expectation that the student covers one per week. It is recommended that the student will need 3-6 hours of time to complete each lesson.

Here are a list of some of the games that we can expect to be programming towards the end of the program.

Noah’s Ark

Daniel and the Lions

Elijah and the Ravens and more…

You can see the Table of Contents here or a sample chapter here.

The Minimum Software Requirement for this Tutorial is Microsoft Small Basic v0.9+ (a download is provided for you).

What I appreciated about this particular tutorial is that it is written in easy to understand language. However, because Josiah is dyslexic I felt that the reading material to be a bit beyond him. That is where I come in. Instead of a self-study (which it can certainly be) we used it as a Mom/Son elective. We both learned and are continuing to learn.

I found that it helped tremendously if I went through the material ahead of time and played with the program myself. I was then able to demonstrate to Josiah and allow him to work through it himself.

I have to say that I enjoyed this class far more than I did the Computer Science course I took in college. I certainly found out I know more than I thought I knew. Some basic computer knowledge is needed. So if your computer basics are not so basic you might need have someone around who will show you how to do things like download, copy and paste, etc. Just give yourself some time, mama. You can do it!
It's amazing how many things a kid can do with his iPod in his ears...and his favorite orange tank top.

Please remember that all of us have different experiences and expectations. My laptop also crashed in the midst of our study (Yay!) and I had to download everything again. The program had nothing to do with my computer crash. But I was thrilled that I didn’t have any issues starting over. It just took a bit more time.  The recommended lesson plan times are just that. Recommended. The beauty of homeschooling is that we don’t have to push or rush. Or we can push or rush when necessary.

The lessons are downloaded in Word (97). My new computer has Office13. The downloaded files were different in the new Office and I found it far easier to use. I have no idea why that is...I’m just coming to terms with the fact that Norbert really doesn’t live in my computer.

I found the program to be very well organized. I loved the fact that we were taught in small steps. That was helpful for me as well as Josiah.  I do have a recommendation. If your child is not an advanced reader, younger or not as familiar with a computer you do really need to work through it with them. I think it will lessen the frustration level for everyone.

Josiah is not all the way through it as of yet. But, I have a confession. I did skip to one of the tutorials at the end. I copied and pasted (love that auto fill feature!) one of the games in so he could see what he was going to be creating. That helped him to be able to keep a visual in his head of what was coming.

We are going to use it again this summer.  He is excited to be able to show his cousins and friends what he has created!

I highly recommend this product. It’s just plain fun!

Computer Bible Games for Microsoft Small Basic is available at Computer Science for Kids. The paperback edition (plus E-Tutorial Digital Download) is $59.95. The digital e-download is on sale right now for only $34.95(thru July 4, 2013). That is a terrific deal.
You can check out more Reviews here.

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