Thursday, May 30, 2013

Menu Math

When I was in 6th grade I was put in a Remedial Math class.

There were many possible reasons.

1. My 6th grade teacher had sleep apnea (or some sort of sleep disorder) and would frequently doze off during his lecture). I would take the opportunity to write out long rambling love notes to Ricky Schroeder.

2. I missed a few key concepts in early grades because I spent too much time daydreaming about unicorns, Ricky Schroeder and my twin sister who was secreted away to live in California with my Grandpa. By the Way...I don't have a twin sister...but my Grandpa did live in California.

3. I was not good at math. Though I seemed to just fine in college. I am still proud of that A in College Algebra. It could be that I had outgrown daydreaming about Ricky Schroeder.

Anyhoo. I was extremely embarrassed about being placed in Remedial Math, but it wound up being a really positive experience.

Primarily because of my teacher. She was somewhat of a celebrity in our little Ozark Mountain town. She had won big on The Price is Right. And surely anybody who had won big on The Price is Right had to know what she was talking about.

She made math real to us. We were required to pour over grocery lists and Piggly Wiggly ads. We had to set up household budgets and figure in percentages for sales and taxes.

My favorite, however, was when she would bring her huge collection of real life menus into class. She had been a little bit of everywhere and had gathered a variety of restaurant menus. To me it all finally made sense. No more abstract problems and formulas. I could actually see how it all worked.  

Of course, I had a few hiccups when learning algebra later on. The Piggly Wiggly ads didn't help with any of that. But I eventually did fine. I had a terrific Russian Nuclear Physicist in college as a teacher, but that's another story.

My experience with math has made me a bit twitchy. I remember introducing long division to some second graders and feeling faint. And some of Josiah's math issues have pert near driven me to a nervous breakdown.

So. I started my own little collection. Menus! Why not use what worked with me?

One of Josiah's favorite places to eat is Steak and Shake. We don't get there as often as he would like.

I've had him "order lunch." Figure in the tax and tip....all of it can be done with menus.

I've even given him a budget.

Andy's Frozen Custard is a Springfield, MO staple.

We've used the Take Out menu for all manner of math lessons.

My favorites are the seasonal Strawberry Shortcake Sundae (real shortcake, people)and the Ozark Turtle. Josiah has so much fun "ordering" and I can pretend I am indulging in something I can't have.

I can guarantee it's not the same.

I'm always looking for more real life math applications...Anybody else have one?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Stella the Cat


This past weekend Josiah lost a friend.

Stella the cat was part of my mom and dad's farm. My mom had brought her home for my nephew, but she lived full time at the farm. She was one of Josiah's best buddies. She died on Sunday.  We got to see her. We knew she was sick. We loved on her and tried to make her comfortable.

Shortly after we got home from church on Sunday my mom called and told us Stella was gone. Josiah cried and cried. I opened up this picture on my computer and we stared at it and shared all the things we loved about Stella. He blew her picture a few kisses. Yesterday he wrote her a note.

Dear Stella, I love you. I'll miss you. Love, Josiah.

He hunt it on the refrigerator.

Last night my mom called. She brought home another kitten. Josiah said, "It will be good to have another cat at the farm. But nobody can replace Stella. She was a good cat. It's never going to be the same at the farm without her."


TOS Crew: Paperless Home Organization

Admittedly, I have a bit of an organizational problem. It wasn’t always the case. There was a time in my life when I was extremely efficient. I had to be. I taught in a private Christian school and took a full load of college classes at the same time and my husband and I were in full-time ministry. Yes. I was that person. I lived by my daily planner. Granted there were a few early morning trips to the Super Walmart to buy clean underwear (yikes!), but I made it work. 

How things have changed. I have taken to scribbling my “to-do” lists in a variety of random notebooks. I am a terrific planner…if ever I can find all of my brainstorming notes. And I can’t tell you how many times an important date has snuck up on me and caught me unprepared. I’ve tried my fair share of organizational binders. But here’s the deal. I spend far too much time making sure it’s “pretty” than actually following the planner. An undecorated binder to me is akin to walking outside without my pants on! It just isn’t done (at least in certain parts of my neighborhood). Considering my many “issues,” I was curious to see if Paperless Home Organization by Mystie Winckler could help me get my act together. 

I was sent the Paperless Home Organization from the Simplified Pantry to review. This 75 page downloadable e-book is also available for the Kindle. I also received 2 additional books, but more on that in a minute. 

Paperless Home Organization is a guide to create a digital homemaking binder. It explains how to use 3 free online websites to help with organization. The sites are Google (calendar and email), Evernote and Remember the Milk. I had only heard of Google. The set-up was easy enough, though I chose to keep my existing email.  Mystie gives a step-by-step plan to help set up basic tasks, files and more using these free sites. I found the instructions to be easy-to-follow and extremely helpful. 

Beyond instructions for using these sites, I think what helped me was Mystie’s method of organization itself. She has a blog series entitled GTD (Getting it Done) for Homemakers… which is fantastic. Her post on the “Oughts” was something I needed to hear.  I love this principle she gives in Paperless Home Organization. “Keep everything outside your head. Write it down.” She must have an operative living in my brain.
Mystie also gives specific ideas for making management lists. These were so helpful for me. My life can get crazy; it’s hard to keep all my “hats” straight sometimes. 

Take, for example, my list of projects I have to consider every week.

Homeschool Schedule & Planning
Menu Planning
Children’s Church
Reviews for TOS I’m working on
Current Blog Posts and Future Blog Posts
Sewing Projects (for sale or otherwise)
That Crazy Book I Think I’m Writing
Cousin Camp Planning

In Paperless Home Organization, Mystie helps me take all of these things and manage them without relying on my odds and ends of notebooks. Instead, she shows me how to use paperless “notebooks” for much better results.  I have been able to “clip” articles and pictures from certain websites so I am not searching endlessly through my bookmarks to find. I can also save receipts digitally instead of stuffing them in my purse and hoping they don’t get eaten up by the purse monster. I look forward to really digging in some more.  The book also contains a terrific appendix with suggestions for a Sample Evernote Structure. I am incorporating quite a bit of it into my own organizational needs. 

Paperless Home Organization is a great deal at 3.99. Right now, you can get 30% when you enter the code TOS2013 at checkout. This discount is good until June 3, 2013. 

I also received 2 additional books for review. SimplifiedPantry and Simplified Pantry Gluten and Dairy Free. I have to say that I got a lot of great ideas from both. While our nutrition needs are a bit more specific I found a lot of ideas I could adapt. If you struggle with meal planning, I think you will find either beneficial (depending on your dietary concerns). 

You can read more reviews on this product and others at Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

TOS Review: Joyce Herzog's Scaredy Cat Reading System Express

I have always been a voracious reader. To discover that my only child was possibly dyslexic was overwhelming. What do I do now? I am trained teacher. I have taught countless children how to read. Trust me. The typical formula for reading wasn’t going to work this time around…it wasn’t working. Reading comes as an inherent ability  for some kids. Josiah wasn’t going to be one of those kids. In my research and studies, I discovered that this was going to be a lifelong process for Josiah. That what I needed to do was to equip him with all the tools necessary to carry him through this process. I needed to teach him how to learn.

I am always excited to add another tool to our learning toolbox and I think we’ve found a good one. Recently, I got to review Joyce Herzog’s Scaredy Cat Reading System Express. What is great about this particular product is that it has been written for multiple ages and giftings. If your child is a little bookworm (like I was when I was little) or has had a harder time finding his or her reading stride (like my Josiah) The Scaredy Cat Reading System Express is something you need to check out.

How It Works

Joyce Herzog is an educator with many years of experience, both in public education as well as with homeschoolers. She has firsthand experience in teaching kiddos with learning disabilities. I could tell we were in good hands.

The Scaredy Cat Reading System is a mastery based reading system based on logic. It simplifies all those confusing rules of phonics and teaches the student to apply those rules. The Scaredy Cat Reading System Express consists of teacher material with all manner of activities and suggestions, game boards, a CD of Scaredy Cat Reading System Rules Songs, The Story of LetterMaster Mini and Using LetterMaster as a Teaching Tool.  

The Teacher Training book contains the word and sentence lists from the previous levels (1,2 & 3) of the Scaredy Cat Reading System. It covers all the Scaredy cat concepts in 15 rules. You are given a variety of games and activities to choose from to introduce and review those rules. The student is not to proceed until a rule is mastered.

From Mrs. Herzog;
“ At each step, master is considered to be the ability to read thirty words per minute and spell nine out of ten randomly chosen words.”

The student is introduced to each rule through story and song. The student works with the word and sentence lists using a variety of games and activities. Then you evaluate and decide if your student can move on. This program is not scripted, but there is an easy suggested Daily Plan.

 How We Used It

I first was directed to a placement test. From this test, I found that Josiah was indeed ready for the Scaredy Cat Reading System Express. This meant that he has a good grasp on reading and spelling, but just needs to fill in a few gaps. This system will work with any kind of reader. I am a firm believer in hands on learning and being able to apply any kind of information into real life. I felt that The SCRS did that most effectively. As far  I can see there isn't an age or grade recommendation. This is why it's important for your child to take the placement test. I personally appreciate this. I would rather a learning tool be unique to the student rather than a set age or grade.

Please ignore my messy "spice basket." You will be pleased to know it is nice and tidy at this very moment. However, I can't promise what it will look like after that.

We started by making flash cards for Rule One – Scared Vowels.
“When a single vowel is surrounded by consonants, or when it comes first in a word (or a syllable). It is scared and will not say its name, but makes its scared sound instead…..”
Now Josiah has known about short vowels for years, but when he heard it in this context he said, “Oh!” He was also given a little memory jogger for this rule (Fit as a Fox in a Red Cup). Perfect! Within Rule One he was given “supplements” that affect just a few words. For example, “Q and U stand together to make the ‘kw’ sound because K and W were fighting on the day when the letter sounds were given out.”  

Josiah sees the world in stories. The idea that the K and the W couldn’t get along was fantastic to him. Over the past few years, Josiah’s reading has improved significantly. His spelling is a different matter. He spells phonetically. The Scaredy Cat rules are going to be a tremendous help.

Our favorite parts of the program are the activities. Too many words on a page overwhelm Josiah. Often he will get a glazed look in his eyes, start making inferences to medieval torture, waterboarding and just guess (anybody else have a reader like that?). One of the activities suggested is for the teacher to read a sentence from one of the sentence lists. The student then finds the sentence on the page. Josiah and I took turns. He would read a sentence and I would find it. I would then read a sentence and He would find it. He was ruthless! He wasn’t going to make it easy on mom! Just that activity alone proved to both of us that he is capable of far more than he gives himself credit for.

Another activity he liked was the dictionary activities. He was able to get a lot of use out of his dictionary and thesaurus. I think he filled out a few cards with words that weren't on the list..they jut looked interesting to him.

I encourage parents of all kinds of readers to check this program out, but especially if you are parenting a brilliant and busy guy who happens to be a “unique” learner. You can download a sample here. The whole program is available for $30. 

You can read more reviews on this product and other Joyce Herzog products.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Schoolhouse Library

I don't know about you, but summer is the perfect time for me to reflect on the what is working in our homeschool and what I need to fix. We "school" all year around, but summer school for us is much more laid back and exploratory. I love gathering all resources that I can have at the ready...not to mention those I can use to start planning for next year.

I think we all need a little encouragement and quality "helps." Whether you are a seasoned homeschooler or a newbie having a great library of resources can make a world of difference.

 This offer from is pretty great.  You will have access to 175 e-books and audio resources for only $25! Not to mention that I won't have to displace any family members to find a home for them in my house. I already have more books than most folks consider decent (though among homeschoolers I'm perfectly normal).

From Geography to Home Planning there are over 25 topics available. I'm looking forward to getting my hands on the A Glimpse at Carnivorous Plants Lapbook from In the Hands of a Child or From Frazzled to Focused: 7 Planning Tools for Busy Moms from Mary Jo Tate (I need to read that one right now!)

Go check it out!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Even So...

Yesterday a monster tornado devastated the town of Moore, Oklahoma.

We aren't strangers to tornadoes in this part of the country. In fact, I shared with you a few thoughts about the Joplin tornado just after it happened. It is incredible to think that 2 years have passed.

My heart is breaking for Moore. I've seen first hand the complete devastation of what lies behind one of these storms. But. I've also seen the resilience that comes when some are faced with adversity and often, their worst nightmares.

 Not a week after the Joplin tornado we headed west on I-44 towards Joplin. Sharing the road with us were folks. Not just the traveling kind of folks, but the helping kind of folks. Pick-ups with shovels, wheelbarrows and jugs of water. Church vans. Business trucks heading that way to do their part. It was wall to wall traffic of folks just going to help out.

While my heart is heavy, I am also encouraged to know that once again pick-ups and church vans will be pointing their way towards Moore.

One of our favorite organizations, Convoy of Hope, is on the scene now. They have an easy way to help if you can't pick up your chain saw and go.

Also, consider this. After all the news crews go away and the national spotlight has drifted away there will be families who forever will be affected by this tragedy.  Whenever I am burdened and in a low place I like to recall the words to this beautiful hymn written by  Horatio G. Spafford, in 1873. He wrote the words aboard a ship while crossing at the very place all 4 of his daughters were lost at sea. (This story has always touched me. You can read additional information about Horatio Spafford here.)

It Is Well With My Soul

When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul

It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come
Let this blest assurance control
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate
And has shed His own blood for my soul

My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought
My sin, not in part, but the whole
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend
Even so, it is well with my soul
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