Monday, January 31, 2011

New Years Day!

Ahem, only a month behind in posting this. :)

For several years now, on New Years Day, we've been creating concrete stepping stones with the kids hand prints and letting them decorate their stone. The kids love doing this and I love stepping out into my garden and seeing how my beautiful, personal garden has grown. We started with 4 stones a year and we now have 6 a year, that's a lot of stepping stones!. The size of the stones has grown as well. The smaller size didn't leave room for a hand print and date, plus decorating. So we bumped up to the bigger molds which gave them a lot more room to create their design and still give me what I want, the hand print and date. :) Such a tangible way to measure the time with my precious blooms.

  S and J waiting for the concrete to be mixed

J. was the first to go!

 Then R.

Next was E.

Then A.

S's turn

Last but not least, K got to take a turn. 
Nice technique, doncha think? ;)  We smoothed this out and redid her print. 

A and E being creative

J. is showing his artistic side

  Finished and all lined up in a row to dry

The finished products close up, minus the names which have been wiped out to protect the innocent. :) 





(you see those purple plastic things in there? Those are the letter stamps we used for names and dates. K's concrete was so soupy I left those stamps in, meaning to go back and get them out. Yeah, you're right, I left them in too long and they are stuck for good! I tried chiseling one out but it only broke up the concrete. SO, I bought her a new mold and we made a new handprint for her a few weeks later. :))


I love how this year they all could pretty much do this on their own. Yet another bittersweet sign that my garden is growing up. *sigh*

  We bought a little fire pit and sat out by the fire

 Later in the evening, they all had hot chocolate with...

lots of whipping cream!

I can't think of a better way to eat homemade whipping cream than w/ a spoon, right out of the bowl, can you?

And that is how we spent our New Years Day. A quiet day with the people I love the most in all the world. :)

Our month in pictures!

Our first month of the year has flown by! Our biggest highlight is K turning 2! Such a big girl now. We're still active in soccer, choir, art and of course, school!

Hope you enjoy the slide show. Turn off the player on the right before the slide show begins.


 We had a rough and tumble 24 hours yesterday. First, there was a collision on the trampoline between J's head and S's face. J's head won and S is now sporting a bit of a black eye.  This picture, taken shortly after the incident, doesn't show the swelling very well, but it got pretty big. The next day it was a pretty black/blue color. I was glad that the blow occurred more on his cheek bone instead of a few cm's up, or else his eye really would have been black and blue.

Then, my little gal took a tumble yesterday, followed with a trip to the ER. She has a buckle fracture on her left tibia, just below the knee.

She is such a trooper, waving and saying "hi" and "bye" to people passing by. She was pretty friendly to everyone accept the medical staff! She definitely didn't share her love with them. Instead, she was pretty vocal about them not touching her. Fortunately, we were at Children's Hospital and I would imagine they're pretty used to upset toddlers. ;)

My other kids were so amazing while we were gone. My oldest got everyone dinner and then everyone worked together to create a welcome home event for K. They made signs welcoming her home and pointing us to her room for a surprise. They set up a puppet show for her and performed it while she ate the yummy dessert made by R.  They may fight from time to time but I am so blessed to know they love each other and really are each others best friends.

TOS Review - Times Alive!

Do you remember how you learned your times table? Probably with a lot of straight out rote memorization? Maybe with some black and white, no frills flash cards for some variety?  For some kids, that method works really well. I have a daughter who seems to have been born knowing her math facts.  If you don't learn best by those methods, memorizing math facts can be an incredibly daunting challenge.  I have another daughter who would fall into the latter category. So when I was chosen to review Times Alive! from City Creek Press as part of the TOS Crew, I was giddy with anticipation. 

Times Alive is a computer based program that makes learning your multiplication facts fun. Through a mixture of songs, stories and fun cartoon type graphics, kids painlessly learn their tables.  Times Alive is available as a download for PC or MAC for $44.95 or on CD-ROM for PC or MAC for $48.95. 

To see some samples of what I'm talking about, check out Times Alive's You Tube page!

Our take on the product for our homeschool?  While I really wanted this program to work, and it might just need more time for my daughter in particular, it didn't help the child that I used for this review. For her, the program was overly distracting. The things that I liked about it, catchy songs and lively graphics, overloaded her and I could see her eyes glaze over.  I know there are others out there with students like my daughter, over stimulation makes them shut down, and are searching for something that will help, which is why I mentioned that for her, this wasn't it.

However, her younger sister, who I did not officially use this program with, loved all that action and I think for her, this would be a really good fit. I think this product has such a great potential for my kids and I will be continuing  this program for my 9 year old and have my targeted child keep viewing the videos on her own time frame. 

City Creek offers many programs to help make math fun. It's a company that is definitely worth checking out!

 To see what others on the Crew thought of Times Alive!, click here.

I received this product free for the purpose of reviewing it.  I received no other compensation for this review.  The opinions expressed in this review are my personal, honest opinions.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Weird Bubbles

As the girls were cleaning up the other day, they looked into a pitcher of soapy water and saw this

Pretty cool looking pattern. It looks like a microphone cover. 

Anyone know how/why this happened? There was nothing in the pitcher, just soap and water with the scrub brush off to the right.

And they didn't think cleaning up was going to be fun. :)

Friday, January 28, 2011

TOS Review - Ten Marks

As part of the TOS Crew we recently had the opportunity to review TenMarks

TenMarks is an online math program for grades 3rd - highschool.  From TenMarks website:

TenMarks is the only online math program that helps students refresh, learn, and master math concepts - in their own time, at their own pace. Each child receives a personalized curriculum to help them master the concepts quickly.

Watch this one minute video below to see how TenMarks works (pause player on the right first!)

TenMarks offers lessons and specialized programs to cover the breadth of the core math skills your child will cover in school.
  • Grades 3-High School
  • Over 300 core math skills
  • Hints and video lessons for every topic
  • Mapped to state standards 
Check out the courses offered here.

How TenMarks worked in our home...

I registered my 13 and 9 year old daughters for this review. Both really enjoyed the online aspect of TenMarks. I've mentioned before on my blog that we don't do a lot of video based learning so any time we do, the kids seem to really enjoy it. I think they feel like they are playing instead of doing work. Which is not necessarily a bad thing! I don't know if that's due to the novelty of it all or if it's due to them actually learning better through video lessons. Hard to really know the difference. But I digress. ;)

Each week four new worksheets are automatically generated. An email is sent to me letting me know that the girls have new work to complete and the due date, which is one week later.  Each worksheet has 10 problems and each problem has three hints allowed and a video lesson they can watch. Watching the videos does not change their score, however, if they use the hints their overall concept strength drops.   

As worksheets are completed, games and rewards are unlocked. The parents can set up the rewards but the games are automatically opened as they progress through the program.  My girls loved the games aspect and I suspect worked harder at completing the worksheets to open the next game.  ;)

The website is nicely done and you can easily track your child's progress. You can see each area that they worked on, how many hints they used, whether they used the video lesson and what their score was on the worksheet. Tests are automatically generated, something that we didn't realize were there until quite a few were sitting there waiting to be done.  Oops! Tests are under a separate tab and you don't get any notification you have one. You need to actually go and take a look every so often to see if you've generated another test. Once we knew about the tests, we stayed on top of them! 

My take on TenMarks...
There were things I liked and disliked about this program. These are my pros and cons for my family. Other families experiences may be totally different. :)

  • I liked that the girls could work fairly independently through their worksheets. 
  • The program was easy to follow and laid out nicely. 
  • I liked that there was one problem per page and the student was able to go back through the pages to rework a problem before submitting the page for correction. 
  • I also liked that the worksheet was graded on submission and the student is able to go back and correct their answers.
  • It's affordable
  • The program uses multiple choice questions. Instead of requiring the student to type in their answer, they click on a,b,c or d. Much easier to guess at the answer with this format.
  • The video lessons didn't always correspond with the problem the student was working on. There would be one video lesson per worksheet but not all of the problems on the sheet could be solved using that one video. There were no other ways to understand what was being asked for that particular problem. This happened with my oldest a few times, which was rather frustrating.
  • There were a few incorrect answers (which happens with any math curriculum, so this isn't a huge con to me about this program specifically :) ).
  • Some questions were ambiguous in their wording.
Overall, I think TenMarks is a great supplemental program to utilize alongside our current math program. I didn't feel that the lessons gave enough information to say it's a full curriculum on it's own. My girls really enjoyed math with TenMarks and asked if they could go do their math, which isn't something I hear too often. ;)

TenMarks is a subscription based program. There are a few ways you can "purchase" the program:

 $49 for 6 months
 $89 for 1 year

To give TenMarks a try, they offer a free trial. I love the try before you buy options, don't you? :)

To see what others on the Crew thought of TenMarks, click here.

I received this product free for the purpose of reviewing it.  I received no other compensation for this review.  The opinions expressed in this review are my personal, honest opinions.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

TOS Review - Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary for Kids

Have you ever come across a word in the Bible that you wished you could find a clear, easy to understand definition? One that your kids could easily grasp. One with pictures would be even better. How about clear, easy to understand definitions that included colored pictures?  Wouldn't that be cool?

Well, if you've ever desired such a thing, let me tell you about our recent review for TOS. :)   Lifeway Christian Stores, sent us our very own copy of the  Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary for Kids .

This hardback book is a beautiful resource that my kids have enjoyed looking at ever since we received it. The illustrations are beautiful and the lay out of the book makes it easy to use.

There are 211 pages, including credit pages, with beautiful illustrations helping define over 750 Bible terms as well as charts and maps. I don't know about you but I love Biblical map. :)  To take a sneak peak, the publisher has a PDF giving you a glimpse of this beautiful resource book.

The details:
Retails at Lifeway Christian Stores for $14.99
Age Range: ages 5-10 (but as I said, I love the maps and I'm well over the upper end of their suggested range. ;) )
Pubisher: B&H Publishing Group
Pub. Date:  August 2010
ISBN: 0805495312

If you're not familiar with Lifeway Christian Stores, they sell all sorts of merchandise from books to DVD's to gifts to music to, just about anything you can imagine. :)  They have brick and mortar stores around the country as well as an on-line store, where you can purchase your items from the comfort of your own home.  Make sure to check out all they have to offer while looking at the Dictionary.

To see what others on the Crew thought of this beautiful dictionary, click here.

I received this product free for the purpose of reviewing it.  I received no other compensation for this review.  The opinions expressed in this review are my personal, honest opinions.

Friday, January 21, 2011

TOS Review - Speekee Lingua 4 Ltd

Hola, soy Linda!

My family recently had the opportunity to review Speekee, as part of the TOS Crew.

Speekee is an immersion approach to learning Spanish. Filmed in Spain with Spanish speaking children, Speekee is geared to ages 2-10 using puppets, songs and lots of repetition. There are English/Spanish subtitles available (and we used them ;) ) but the point is total immersion in the language. Each lesson takes you on a real world exposure to life in Spain. We visited the park, school, the market, the beach, etc. While there, vocabulary is introduced specific to the place we are visiting. Along with the location specific vocabulary there is a lot of built in repetition of common phrases and sayings. This is done through the characters speaking to each other or through catchy songs.

The ten episodes are available either through DVDs  (check compatibility as they are made in the UK and most US households don't have players that are compatible), or through their on-line version of the program, which is the program we received.  For $7.50 a month (which includes a free 2 week trial, so you can try it before you buy it) you have access to the ten episodes of Speekee along with numerous worksheets to reenforce the vocabulary covered in each lesson.

Our take on the program? My first impression, Speekee was a bit freaky.

We don't use a lot of puppets in our education here in the US like other countries do, so the whole concept of puppets teaching Spanish was a bit foreign (excuse the pun) to me. However, even though I'm not fond of puppets, guess what? It works!  My kids, all of them, ages 2, 4, 7, 9, 11 and even the 13 year old really liked Speekee and I will admit, Speekee grew on me as well. :)

I have a video of my 2 year old asking, quite emphatically for "Speekee" "Please Mama, Speekee?" over and over and over. While watching each episode, she is completely engrossed and at the end will wave and attempt an "Adios" as Speekee says goodbye.  The rest of my family can be found throughout the day singing the songs we've learned on Speekee. The tunes are catchy and simplistic enough (and repeated in each episode) that you can't help but learn them. I can honestly say that we have all learned more usable, everyday Spanish, in the few weeks of using Speekee than we have with any other program. It's fun so while you are entertained, you are learning without realizing that you are learning. Which, in my opinion, is the best way to learn. :)

The customer service is exceptional. The company was extremely responsive to any of the Crews questions and suggestions, answering any issues people had within 24 hours. This included checking into and creating Wii compatibility so you can view the on-line version of Speekee through your Wii system. (we just used our computer as I'm not technically savy enough to figure out how to use our Wii that way!). I was extremely impressed with how willing they were to work with us and to make sure their product provided exactly what individual families here in the US might need.

For a basic, introductory course to Spanish my family loved Speekee and they are not looking forward to when our subscription ends. They are hoping we'll subscribe so they can continue to learn more Spanish with Speekee!

To see what others on the Crew thought of Speekee, click here.

I received this product free for the purpose of reviewing it.  I received no other compensation for this review.  The opinions expressed in this review are my personal, honest opinions.

Monday, January 10, 2011

TOS Review - Easy Classical Early Modern History Schedule

As part of the TOS Crew, we were given a copy of Easy Classical's history schedule for review.  As the name implies, Easy Classical follows a classical approach to education and was designed  with The Well Trained Minds history schedule in mind.

Easy Classical's Early Modern History Schedule is not just an excel spreadsheet with a list of books and when to read them. Although it does have all that it also has a lot more.  The schedule is 106 pages long and contains 36 weeks of scheduling along with 45+ pages of charts, drawing lessons (very cool, by the way) and discussion questions for the week, all to enhance your child's learning experience.

Geared for grades K-6, the schedule covers the time periods from Explorers and How America Got her Name through Slavery and the Missouri Compromise. Each week is broken down in 5 daily schedules which includes assignments in, History, Geography, Writing, Projects and Read alouds. The questions and quizzes for each week immediately follow the weeks schedule. As a bonus for the teacher, answers are also included. ;)  How to implement this schedule is given in great detail as well as letting you know to fit this to your own families needs! Use the schedule to suit your family, don't make your family suit the schedule.

My Thoughts:  I thought the schedule is very well thought out and  doable. There is a lot of information given to help families succeed at implementing this schedule and it's always nice to have a plan to follow, especially if you are new to homeschooling or the Classical Method.  There is a lot of work scheduled and I do see where, for a few in my family, we'd need to tweak the schedule just a bit.   They give great curriculum choices and having it all laid out in one spot is very handy. 

Where to buy:  The Early Modern History Schedule is available in a notebook version for $35.95 or a digital version for $29.95.  You can purchase either and learn more about them HERE.  You can also check out sample pages to see what you are getting before you buy at the link provided above.

To see what others on the TOS crew thought of this schedule,  click here.

 I received this product free for the purpose of reviewing it.  I received no other compensation for this review.  The opinions expressed in this review are my personal, honest opinions.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


On Christmas, w/ S. feeling better, we decided to head on with our journey and take an hour drive north of Williams.  For those who don't know the geography of Arizona well, I'll give you a hint.

We woke up, had breakfast and then packed up our car to head out. We stopped to get gas and water and snacks. The kids didn't know where we were going but they were all looking forward to continuing on our journey. :)

 hanging out in the lobby before we leave

Route 66 goes right through Williams. Everything was closed, because it was Christmas Day, but it looks like a fun place to come back and visit.

Excited kiddo's, going to the Grand Canyon!
We entered the Park, paid our fees and traveled a few more miles to the edge of the world.

The Canyon is such a beautiful place. I was here with A. 6 months prior and the canyon had a completely different look then. The way the sun shines in created shadows and highlights, changes with the seasons as well as the time of day. Truly a spectacular site to behold.

 That's a long way down!

J and S liked to pretend these view finders were machine guns. I don't know who they were fighting but they were having a very heated battle whenever we would happen upon one of these "guns".

Start of the Bright Angel Trail. Just a couple of steps further and it was thick, oozy mud. (we stopped here ;) )

Cold but bright! That sun was coming in at a wicked angle. 
Powell Memorial

It was really cold when we first got there. As the day wore on, it warmed up a little bit, or we just hit another part of the Rim Trail where the wind wasn't quite providing quite the same bite!  In winter, the entire Rim Trail is accessible (as long as the roads are open :) ) to private vehicles. During peak season travel, these roads are closed and you have to take the very crowded tram to get to the furthest part of the rim trail (anything past the lodges). It was so neat to be able to drive along the trail and stop to look out at various spots all the way to the end at Hermit's Rest.

 Do you notice the light changing in the Canyon? The sun is definitely on the way down.

Mohave Point, the best view of the Colorado River from the Rim

 Finally, Hermit's Rest

Once we got to Hermit's Rest, the sun was beginning to set. Even though it's supposed to be the most spectacular place to watch the sunset on the South Rim, we wanted to get out before the sun set. We still had all those hours to drive home. *yawn* We took some pictures, got the kids some hot chocolate and then piled back in the van for our non-stop ride back home!

Me and the Kids by the fireplace

 Me and the kids by the Christmas Tree (just to prove I was there, since I'm the one always taking the photos ;) )

Fun photo of the day, drinking hot cocoa on the edge of the Canyon! This bench had ICE all over it. It was cold and slippery, which is why some of the kids are sitting rather gingerly. LOL  They had wet pants for the ride home, but it was worth it. :)

 San Francisco Peaks, glowing in the sunset

After 5 hours, we pulled into our driveway tired but happy to be home after a wonderful adventure away.