Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Soothing Sounds of Encouragement

Grab a cup of tea and snuggle under a warm blanket and soak in the soothing sounds of Jen Stanbro. Enjoy the rest of your day!


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

FREE Fall Math and Literacy Pack

Educents has a great FREE Fall Math and Literacy Pack available for download. It contains 8 math centers, 8 literacy centers, and a total of 104 fun and colorful printables! It is recommended for children grades 1-3.

You can click HERE to get your free download.


Friday, October 25, 2013

Weekly Wrap-up ~ A Sling and a Stone

In our regular life this week…

Things were much calmer this week which was a true blessing! We were able to concentrate on some schoolwork, relax and get caught up on t.v. shows in the evenings, and intersperse some time with friends along the way.

We realized that our central furnace is not going to be operational this winter. And, since we don't have the money to replace our entire HVAC system, we have been experimenting with electric heaters to see what will work for us this winter. Thankfully we only have a small area to heat during the day as the kids and I are pretty confined to the living and dining rooms which are combined. That allows us to shut off the rest of the house and only heat those rooms. Then at night we can switch it around and just heat the bedrooms. So far what we have going on is working great.

In our homeschool this week…

This was a good week of school. We got quite a bit accomplished and progressed at a nice pace. It was the perfect mix of book work and interest-led learning.

Bible - We are learning about David in his early years as king. Our stories this week centered around his defeat of Goliath with only a sling and a stone. As life feels a little like this these days, it was a GREAT Bible story for us to focus on this week. The kids weren't the only ones who took something from these lessons. I have carried those scriptures around in my heart all week.

Grammar - Not much formal grammar happened this week as we had a larger writing assignment that took up more of our time.

Spelling - This week's words were words ending in -aw and -all. The kids each got 100% on their pre-tests so were only required to do the daily lessons and skip the final test.

Reading - We continue to read Poppy and Rye by Avi. Eli finished the last Captain Underpants book and Brynne finished Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story (you can read our review HERE). Eli moved onto Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw and Brynne is now reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules. They love those books!

Math - The kids completed Lesson 12 in Math U See. They were working on multiplying 3's and 9's and converting teaspoons to tablespoons and feet to yards. And the word problems are starting to really require them to think, so they are enjoying them!

Handwriting - We continued with the initial lessons of Handwriting Without Tears Cursive Success

Writing - This week I had the kids work on a book report. So, there was quite a bit of writing: Major Character Descriptions, Setting, Sequence of Events and Recommendations.

Geography - We didn't move on to any additional states this week. I knew we would be pressed for time on Monday because my aunt was coming over for lunch. On Wednesday I had to be out of town from noon to the end of the day. On Thursday we started late because I babysat my niece for an hour in the morning. And then on Friday we had to spend the day completing Week 1's lessons in our new Minecraft class. We'll get back to it next week, I promise.

However, we did watch several episodes of Liberty's Kids (I finally broke down and bought the dvd set ... it is really cheap on Amazon right now) and an episode of How the States Got Their Shapes. Then since we have been learning about the Revolutionary period and the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the Liberty Bell, we watched National Treasure on Thursday afternoon.

Extra - The kids wanted to make biblical slings. So, we bought some faux leather and suede leather laces to make them. Then we made aluminum foil stones so as not to break out any neighbors' windows. They spent an hour outside playing on Thursday afternoon, perfecting their throws.

As I mentioned above, the kids also started their new Minecraft class called "Castles and Cannons". They watched a video about the Middle Ages, read an article, took a quiz, and constructed their first building and contraption. This class is SO fun and educational! Brynne just might be a tad bit obsessed.

Homeschool Tricks and Tips ...

Sometimes put away the drudgery work and do something your kids enjoy! Be flexible! Let their interests guide you where you should go, and then be okay if what you had "planned" doesn't get done. Making the slings, watching the videos and movie, and joining the Minecraft class totally enriched our week of learning!! Everybody was happy and I felt accomplished in what we completed.

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…

Brynne had her last volleyball game on Monday night. Then on Thursday night the junior varsity and high school team honored them before the game. We stayed and watched Taylar play after that.

I also had my ladies church group over on Tuesday night for our regular meeting. We were asked, and agreed, to take over the W_ Children's Christmas event where needy children in our town are "adopted" for Christmas gifts ... much like an angel tree program. The event was not going to happen this year, but we decided to take it over. It's going to be TONS of work, but I am glad we are doing it for the children in our town.

I love the ladies in my group. There are just five of us right now, and we are all so different! But, it's so nice to connect and grow with these women. I think Kyndal may even start joining us because we are going to be doing a book study on Lysa TerKeurst's book What Happens When Women Say Yes to God. I hope that she does. It's a great book, a study I have already completed, and is so personal to each individual woman that I think she would really enjoy it.

A favorite thing this week was…

Coming home on Wednesday night from my LONG afternoon, all of us getting in our jammies, eating some yummy chicken and noodles, and lounging on the couch watching t.v.

What's in the kitchen this week ...

I made a big pot of easy chicken and noodles on Wednesday. This is one of our favorite cold weather meals and it only takes a few minutes to put together. Boil a bag of egg noodles then drain most of the water and replace it with a large container of chicken broth. Add a large can of chicken breast, salt and pepper to taste, and voila! Served with some Hawaiian rolls and it's a hit!

What we're reading ...

Mom:  Nothing .. absolutely nothing. I am too busy during the day and too tired at night. I read a review for I, Saul by Jerry B. Jenkins and I am waiting for it to be available at my library.

Eli: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw by Jeff Kinney. This was a book I found on the side of the road in a box of free books while we were in Florida. Last night, while at the high school, Eli saw the newest Diary of a Wimpy Kid book at the book fair, so we bought it. We are only missing two in the series, I believe.

Brynne: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules by Jeff Kinney. At the book fair, Brynne found a book she wanted called Dog Days for Charlotte Hayes. She says it's next on her list of books to read.

Read-aloud: Poppy and Rye by Avi.

Things we're working on…

Getting out our fall decorations and getting our costumes finished up. I got all the pieces for Eli's costume this week, so I'll be putting it together. Brynne's costume is already complete because she wore it to a costume birthday party last week.

I’m grateful for …

difficult times so I can see God's Hand at work. In the good times, I have a way of leaving God out of it. But when things are tough, I can see Him working. I guess I'm just looking for it more. It happened twice just today. Once was at the grocery store when I was tight on the end-of-the-month grocery budget. God made that money stretch in some pretty cool ways. And the other … I posted about how I have been approaching an extremely difficult situation with just a sling and a stone … well, God made that stone just a little bit larger today. It was all God, and it was neat.

What's coming up this week ...

Bowling league, church, scouts, handbell choir practice, and Halloween fun!!

A photo, video, link, or quote to share (silly, serious or both!)…

We got to babysit my niece, Ashtyn, on Thursday morning for an hour. She is a wild child and so adorable! She loves Eli's cars! My other baby niece, Bell, will be one year old tomorrow. I had originally planned to be in Oregon for her first birthday, but just couldn't make it work. Can't wait to see her in December before her mama and daddy take her to Nicaragua for 6 months! My oldest niece, Rylee, is bunking at our house tonight. I love my nieces!

We are happily linking up this week at the following sites:

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Counting HIDDEN Blessings

I am joining Aurie at Our Good Life this week in her Counting HIDDEN Blessings linkup because I have really been meditating on the blessings in my life lately. I have many.

For the past year or so I have been involved in a financial dispute. It's bitter and unfortunate. It is an ongoing situation that is likely to continue for quite some time. I could certainly get bogged down with the stress of it. And, I'll be honest, at times I let it get the best of me. But through the clouds of the situation my blessings always come shining through ... always.

The kids and I have the undying support of my husband and family. It doesn't matter to me what the opposing side thinks about us because my family knows the truth and they support us in it every day. And for that I am grateful. I know that the kids will never do without, even if I am personally unable to provide at times, because Rick and my parents would never let that happen. We all do everything we can for them all the time, putting them first.

My relationships with the kids have never been stronger. We have gone through some difficult times, but we have come through the dark valley and are now on the other side. I am blessed to have all of the kids here under one roof every night. It is chaotic at times, and it is impossible to have a house full of so many different personalities without some occasional conflict, but I wouldn't trade this season of my life for anything. It will be over all too soon. They will be adults and on their own with their own lives and families. But, for now, they are still my children who still need their mama and I am happy to oblige.

I see Kyndal maturing into the young woman I have prayed for years she would be. When you are in the midst of those stinky teenage years, it's difficult to imagine your children as fully functioning adults. Kyndal has proven to me that: "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it" ~ Proverbs 22:6. It's true. She had to be away for awhile. But, she is back and I see such a bright future for her. She is drawing closer to God, looking to Him for her needs, and seeking Him for her future. Sure, she still has a lot of growing up to do and lessons to learn, but she is on the right track and, for that, I am immensely grateful.

God is in complete control and He will provide for us at all times and in all ways. Regardless of the end result of this dispute, God's Will is what we want and He will rule supreme. I approach this battle with only a sling and a stone because God will, ultimately, win the battle. His strength in my weakness will allow me to give all glory to Him for whatever outcome. His Will be done, not mine. And He will be the One to take care of the kids, both physically and emotionally.

The kids are learning how to live under a budget. Because, let me tell you, we have a tight one. But that's not all bad. They are seeing that even though you desperately want something (like a new stove that has all burners that work), and sometimes even need it (like central heat and air that are both caput), you cannot have it unless you can pay for it. If you have a certain budget for food every two weeks, you eat within that budget. You don't grab a pizza because it sounds good. You don't eat out for lunch when all of your friends are doing it. When you are running out of gas and don't have any money to fill up, you stay home. You don't buy things you can't afford, you don't spend money you don't have. You think about your upcoming expenses and you plan for them. And you put the needs above the wants. I'm thankful that we are all in a situation where we have to abide by these rules. These are life lessons that will benefit us all forever and we will be better people because of it.

There are many blessings to be had in any difficult situation. Sometimes you just have to look for them. They are hiding and waiting to be found. Seek out your blessings. They are there. And they are wonderful!

Go visit Aurie to be encouraged!

Barbour Publishing - Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story {Schoolhouse Review}

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I had never heard of Barbour Publishing until recently. The company began as a bargain overstock seller and has grown into a major publisher and seller of Christian work, with it's first published work being Pilgrim's Progress in 1984. They now have thousands of titles from which to choose.

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We were given the opportunity to review a new book published by Barbour Publishing called Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story written by Annie Tipton. I decided to preview it before either of the kids started reading it and made it through two chapters before Brynne (age 8) swiped it away. She has read it every day since she started and finished it this week. The colorful and animated jacket cover drew her in. I read several chapters of the book, enough to get a good feel for the book. But Brynne was the real reviewer. As it's next-to-impossible for an 8 year old to write a proper review, I had her prepare a book report for me to use in this review.

The Diary of a Real Payne series is about Ellen Jean (E.J.) Payne. She is a 10 year old girl who is encouraged by her mom to start a diary as a way to channel her creative side that routinely has her phasing out in an adventurous daydream. She lives with her dad who is a pastor, her mom who is an elementary school teacher, her younger brother Isaac, and her dog Bert. Her best friend is Macy. She is dying to get out of Spooner, Wisconsin, to find real adventure.

Each chapter starts with E.J.'s diary entry. Then the story continues. Throughout each chapter, E.J. drifts into a daydream that gets her into some crazy predicaments.

There were several things I enjoyed about the parts of the story I read:
  • The diary entries are packed full of humor and realness. E.J. is a precocious little girl, but so honest and fun.
  • Although this is written with a Christian worldview (her father is a pastor, they go to family camp and have a Christmas play at church, they talk about God and they regularly talk about His plan for E.J.'s life), it's not all in-your-face. Brynne really didn't mention the Christian aspect of the story, except to tell me that they were talking about Esther from the Bible while being at their neighbor's house, so I liked that it was speaking to her from a Christian standpoint and she didn't even realize it.
  • I loved E.J.'s mother, Tabby. There was just something about the way she encouraged E.J. in her imagination, but helped to direct her toward the path that God had for her life. It was just beautifully done. Tabby is someone I would want as my friend.
What did Brynne think of the book? Here is her recommendation:

I think you should read it because it's really good. It's boring at the beginning but it's a hit when you get used to it, so read it. I liked where they go, liked the places. I didn't like E.J.'s daydreams because they were not very exciting to me. But I did like the people in the book. Dad was a fun dad, like when he was on the dunking booth. Mom let E.J. do a real circus. Isaac was annoying. And Macy was a good friend. I would recommend this book. I want to read the second book when it comes out because I liked the first book.

Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story is recommended for children ages 8-12 and is a paperback book with 188 pages. The purchase price of the book is $4.49 and can be purchased from Barbour Publishing. I see on the website that they are now offering 25% off all orders with $5 standard shipping.

Brynne just recently turned 8 and is a good reader. She easily read the book without any assistance. She enjoyed the illustrations and, I believe, any child up through age 12 would, too.

Bottom line: Brynne and I would both recommend Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story. The second book in the series, Diary of a Real Payne: Church Camp Chaos will be released in March of 2014. It will definitely be on our list to purchase.

Read other reviews on Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story by going to the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.



Monday, October 21, 2013

A Peek at Our Weekend ~ The One Where I Wonder How Things Got So Busy! (actually, I know why)

What was in the kitchen ...

On Saturday night we celebrated Dawson's 17th birthday with his friends and family and a taco bar. For dessert we had Angel Food Cake, at Dawson's request.

An activity we did away from home ...

Brynne's volleyball team played in a tournament on Friday night. They placed 2nd and did so well! There are only six girls on their team, so they played every second of every game. They have grown and improved so much this season. It's been really fun to watch!

Brynne as co-captain of the championship game.

Receiving her 2nd place medal.

Brynne's team and Coach Stone

On Saturday morning, Eli and Brynne started their new bowling league. This is the same league I bowled in when I was a little girl. I forgot how much fun small town sports were. I am loving it.

Then on Saturday evening Brynne went to a costume birthday party for a friend. She wanted to be a dog, so I made her costume for her. I can do just about anything with sweatsuits, hot glue and felt.

What we learned at church ...

In Children's Church, we are practicing a skit of The Parable of the Talents to perform during service in three weeks. I have taken over Children's Church for the 4th-6th graders and we are having a great time!

Things accomplished at home ...

Rick pulled out our air conditioners and we got our electric heaters out and ready for winter. That's how seasons change in Missouri. We typically go straight from hot to cold overnight.

My favorite moment ...

was having a FULL house all weekend! All of the people I love most were in this house at some point or another. Dawson's two best friends from Oklahoma were here all weekend visiting for his birthday. They brought their Xboxs and we set up t.v.s for each of them in Dawson's room and they hibernated all weekend. They basically slept where they dropped, even an extra friend from here slept on the landing of the stairs going up to Dawson's room.

Collin was here for the weekend because he had gotten his wisdom teeth extracted on Friday, so we were taking care of him (when he wasn't hunting ... yes, he went hunting with his dad the day after having his teeth removed).

My parents came over for dinner on Friday night.

And, of course, Rick was home for the weekend.

We just had a really great weekend as a (large) family.

Ways we relaxed ...

Let's just say that it's a great time to be a Missouri sports fan! Our Missouri Tigers are ranked 5th in the polls; the Kansas City Chiefs are 7-0; and the St. Louis Cardinals are going to the World Series. It has been so nice to be back to following Missouri sports, and actually being able to watch them on t.v. Nothing better than a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, cuddled up on the couch, watching football.

Preparations for the week ahead ...

I worked on my curriculum all afternoon and evening on Sunday. I am trying to get it done by the end of next week so that I can enjoy Halloween with the kids without the stress of it hanging over my head.

God's World News {Schoolhouse Review}

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My husband makes fun of me because I have NO CLUE what is going on in today's world. I don't read the newspaper. I don't watch the news. I don't watch talk shows. I don't read any news on the internet. I watch all shows after I have DVR'd them so that I don't have to watch commercials. So, unless a news story pops up on the Wii while my kids are playing a game or in the middle of a Criminal Minds or Chopped episode, I don't know about it. I'm clueless as to what a disaster our country is ... and so are my children. They have no idea what is going on in the world today, or any day. And, quite frankly, I don't really want them to know. But "God's World News" has provided us with a product to review that is allowing us to read up on current events with a biblical worldview. Now, that, I like!

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We have been receiving print copies of News Flash from "God's World News" for the past couple of months as part of this review. God's World News is a world news magazine, written for kids (and in the case of News Flash, for kids in the 3rd and 4th grade). There are also magazines available for all other ages, like:
  • God's Big World, Pre-K and Kindergarten
  • Early Edition, Grades 1 and 2
  • News Flash, Grades 3 and 4 (we received this one)
  • News Current, Grades 5 and 6
  • Top Story, Middle School
  • Trak, High School
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The news stories are short and very interesting. A lot of the stories are inspiring, also, like about the Aymara Indian man who is the oldest recorded living person in the world at 123 years of age. The article provided pictures of him and his words of wisdom for how to live a long life (lots of walking, no pasta or rice, eating lots of barley). He has no health problems. He was quite an inspiration! The kids said, "Uh oh, we eat too much pasta." I've been saying that forever. It took a 123 year old man from a tiny village in South America for them to decide that I might be right.

Or the article about the little 9 year old girl who is the youngest person to ever reach Master Level at Chess! This was something that really peaked the kids' interest since they have been learning how to play chess. The story focused on how hard work can produce good results and extraordinary things can happen to ordinary people!

We always start our morning with our Bible study. We have been using the same product for the past two years, and we really enjoy it. But, now we have been adding "God's World News" to our morning Bible time. After our regular Bible study, we grab a hot beverage and each of the kids choose a story to read aloud. Then we discuss it. It's been a nice addition to our morning!

It's great for me to be able to share with the kids that things do happen outside our little vacuum of a life in small town Missouri. There are good things that happen and bad things that happen. But, through it all, God is there. He is right smack dab in the middle of every single thing happening in every single story. It has broadened our view of God's world just a bit.

Let's take a look at the magazine.

The first article in each monthly magazine is the "A Way of Life" article, which focuses on a story in another country and then includes a Country Profile section for that country.

The "Map-it!" feature shows you a small map of the country about which you are reading, and it provides you with the location of that country on your wall map, that is included in the subscription. This gives you the opportunity to have your child easily locate the country on the map.

The "Bible2Life" feature, found throughout the magazine in various articles, brings scripture right into the story.

There are also history articles included, like about Alexis de Tocqueville and Hank Aaron, just to name a couple.

The "InToon" articles are really fun and give the kids more of a comic strip type story to read.

And, you can't beat fun puzzles!

A feature I especially appreciated was the Quiz sections found throughout the magazine. They include some 5- to 7-question quizzes that relate to articles found in the magazine. This helps with reading comprehension.

As part of the review, "God's World News" also graciously supplied a couple of issues of World Magazine, just for me. So I have had the pleasure of reading about current events at a level a tad older than for 9 and 10 year olds, which has been a blessing to me. Although I don't follow much of the world's events, that doesn't mean I don't need to be informed.

We also received access to all of God's World News digital format with our subscription. And a new feature allows me and the kids to log onto companion websites, theirs being There are additional articles and activities under sections called MySci, Creation, Time Machine, People/Places, Know Me?, and Fun Stuff. The kids loved that website!

The cost for a one-year subscription to one of "God's World News" magazines is $28. All you have to do is pick the appropriate age range for you children and order that magazine at the God's World News website. There are magazines for children of all ages, and recommended for ages Pre-K through High School. You will receive 10 issues for your one-year subscription (there are no magazines published in the months of December and May). You will also receive a weekly e-mail newsletter. (There are also school and group subscriptions available.)

You can see a sample issue, answer key, lesson, and biography from the Gods World News website. A really cool feature of the website, once you are a subscriber, is their Lesson Plans! The website has plans available for various articles in the magazines dating all the way back to 2010!!

This is a magazine that we will definitely look forward to receiving in our mailbox!

You can read more reviews about News Flash from "God's World News", as well as about the other available magazines, by visiting the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.



Sunday, October 20, 2013

Weekly Wrap-up ~ Busy, Busy, Busy

In our regular life this week…

the days were BUSY! I am working on my curriculum every chance I can squeeze it in, which means that a paragraph gets typed here and there in between laundry, fixing meals, teaching the kids, running errands, taking the dogs potty, and cleaning house. I am 3/5 of the way finished with it and it's due by the end of the month. I am wanting to have it done by the end of next week so that we can enjoy Halloween without extra work!

DAWSON TURNED 17 YEARS OLD ON FRIDAY! It just seems impossible that so many years have gone by since I was being rushed to the hospital because of hemorrhaging getting ready to meet my ornery boy after an emergency c-section. The first thing he did, before he even cried, was to pee all over the doctors and nurses. That's my Dawson! He has been such a blessing to my life that I can't even talk about it without tearing up.

In our homeschool this week…

We finally had a pretty regular week of schoolwork, including all of our regular studies.

Bible - We continued to read God's World News with a cup of coffee (in our pjs and robes) each morning. Then in our Stick Figuring through the Bible Lessons with Grapevine, we learned about the anointing of Saul and then David as Kings of Israel.

Grammar - We completed Lesson 8 this week.

Spelling - This week's words were plural words, including those words that end in y so that the y is dropped and -ies is added. It was another fun and excellent week in Spelling! I am so glad we found Soaring with Spelling. We will continue to use it for years to come!

Reading - We continue to read Poppy and Rye by Avi. Eli is only a few pages away from finishing the last of the published Captain Underpants books. He is anxiously awaiting NEXT August when Book 11 comes out. Brynne is finishing up a review book called Diary of a Real Payne. She has zipped through it and is really enjoying it!

Math - We picked back up with Math U See Gamma and did two workbook pages a day out of Lesson 11. We also did multiplication lessons on IXL (review coming soon) and Multiplication Wrap-ups. Gotta get those multiplication facts down!

Handwriting - We started Handwriting Without Tears Cursive Success. The kids are annoyed that it has them starting over writing their letters again. I explained to them that this time around they are working to correct any bad habits they have formed. I really like this program.

Writing - We have been reading and writing nursery rhymes this week. On Thursday we took the nursery rhyme "Little Boy Blue" and made changes to it, by changing the rhyming words. Then I erased other words and had the kids give me nouns, verbs, adjectives (like in Mad Libs) to replace words in the original rhyme. What we came up with was hilarious! They loved it!

Geography - We visited Pennsylvania and Rhode Island this week. I will be posting about this in Study America Saturday NEXT week (hopefully I will get to it ... I have some catching up to do!) We did make yummy philly cheesesteak sandwiches and peanut butter kiss cookies. We have a vacation planned for next summer, but the summer after that the kids want to go to Pennsylvania! Eastern Pennsylvania would be an amazing trip!

Extra - Daddy and the kids put together a genius light by using a product by EEME. I will have a review about that soon.

They also played Daddy in some Chess.

Homeschool Tricks and Tips ...

Make sure your kids understand that making mistakes is still learning! Eli gets so hung up on getting answers right, but I don't make a big deal about it wanting him and Brynne to work through their mistakes instead.

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…

Dawson and Brynne went to two of Taylar's out-of-town volleyball games this week. Brynne loved spending time with her brother, and I think Dawson actually enjoyed it, too. While they were gone, Eli and I had some quiet time at home together. We watched Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days one of the nights. That's a funny movie!

Kyndal and her love, Collin, celebrated their two year dating anniversary this week. He sent her flowers to work and they went out to dinner. Then they continued the celebration the next morning with a medication cocktail for Collin when he had his wisdom teeth extracted. He was home with us recuperating this weekend.

And THE BOYS WERE BACK IN TOWN! Dawson's two best friends from Oklahoma, Tonio and Wesley, rode home with Rick this weekend to spend Dawson's birthday with him. I cannot even begin to express how much we have missed these boys. They are, and forever will be, "The Triplets".

A favorite thing this week was…

Watching Brynne play some awesome volleyball on Friday night and watching the kids on the first day of their bowling league on Saturday. Small town sports are so fun!

What's in the kitchen this week ...

We had some smothered round steak with mashed potatoes one night and philly cheesesteak sandwiches another. I am finding that my grocery budget is MUCH LESS when I decide what we are going to have for dinner each day, trying to use what we have available, and then running to our local grocery store for the ingredients I need to supplement. Our grocery prices are more expensive, as opposed to Walmart or Aldi, but the variety is MUCH LESS and there is certainly no impulse shopping going on. I like only buying what we need instead of filling our fridge and pantry to overflowing every couple of weeks. This is one area of simplifying I have been working on.

What we're reading ...

Mom:  Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and At Home in Dogwood Mudhole by Franklin Sanders. (Sadly, my reading has come to a screeching halt since coming back from Florida .. BOOOOO!!!)

Eli: Captain Underpants and the Revolting Revenge of the Radioactive Robo-Boxers by Dav Pilkey.

Brynne: Diary of a Real Payne by Annie Tipton.

Read-aloud: Poppy and Rye by Avi.

Things we're working on…

I completed Brynne's puppy dog Halloween costume late in the week so that she could wear it to a costume birthday party on Saturday. Now I just have to make Eli's Luigi costume. He was Mario a couple of years ago so all I have to do is make the same costume, but with green instead of red.

I’m grateful for ...

my sister. She is an amazing cosmetologist and she does all of our hair for free, squeezing us in whenever she can. I know that we stress her out sometimes with it, but I appreciate her so much. When I was figuring an Income and Expense Statement this week, I realized that she saves us a TON of money by doing our hair for us. She probably saves us a good $500 every three months or so.

Then, she has always been my supplier of GOOD jeans. You know how they say that a good pair of jeans is worth the cost? That is completely and totally true. The problem is that I am a cheapskate. She is not. She buys expensive, good quality jeans, and several pair of them, keeping up with the latest trends and styles. And then she passes the ones she no longer wants onto me. Without her I'd probably just be wearing my old Walmart jeans all the time. (In all fairness, I do have a really cute and comfortable pair of jeans I got at Walmart several years ago.) Again, without her I would spend so much money on jeans, or look freakishly out of style.

I doubt I tell her enough, if ever, how much I appreciate her. If you are reading this, Kristen, I do!

What's coming up this week ...

Brynne's last volleyball for the season is tomorrow. I have been so darned proud of her this year! She  has improved a little every game. Way to go, Brynne!

We'll have handbell practice at church Wednesday night and then the kids will have their bowling league next Saturday. Other than that it will just be regular school and nighttime family time.

And, my mom is leaving for Florida in the morning for FIVE WEEKS! Boooo .. Hisssss!!!! I hate it that she is going to be gone that long! And I especially hate it that I will not be there with her!

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Chess House {Schoolhouse Review}

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If I have learned anything while being a home educator, it's that education sometimes happens outside regular classroom hours and does not always look like a textbook assignment. This month the kids were given a priceless opportunity to review the Starter Chess Learning Kit from Chess House and learn to play chess. They have wanted to learn to play chess for a really long time, but I certainly didn't know how to play it.

Thanks to our new friend National Master Elliott Neff, our entire family knows how to play chess now.

What We Received

As part of the review, we received a dvd entitled Elliott's Chess School #1 PAWN Level DVD, a bonus booklet with practice positions and challenges, a vinyl mat chessboard, black and cream plastic chess pieces, and a handy carrying case (ours was green, but black is also available).

How We Used the Product

The dvd contains 10 lessons on the beginning Pawn Level. Each video is just a few minutes long and covers the rules and strategies of each of the chess pieces, as well as a couple of beginning game strategies.

The kids would watch the video and then practice the activities for that level that are contained in the activity booklet. They did this for several days in a row until they learned how to use all of the chess pieces in a game. Then they could actually play a full game against each other.

I watched all of the videos with them and discussed the content with them to make sure they understood everything they were hearing. I facilitated the activities, and then just watched them play. Have I played a game with either of them? Heck no! I'm not going to voluntarily subject myself to a situation where they can beat me! And beat me they would! They are good!

They did spend a couple of hours playing against their daddy this week. Although he showed no mercy and beat them in each game, he said they played really well. Then he watched them play a couple of games and helped them move through some strategies.

Our Opinion

This is kind of a hard review to write because, seriously, you watch the videos and then play chess. It's that easy. This is an awesome product! The instruction is so simple that any beginner can learn from it! Eli and Brynne are 9 and 8 years old and they easily learned how to play chess in about a week of lessons. There was never any confusion about how to play.

We were going to be leaving for our annual vacation to Florida in the middle of the lessons. The kids insisted on taking the chess set with us so that they could continue the final lessons and play while on vacation. What kids headed to the beach are thinking about playing chess? Kids who love Chess House, that's who.

I have only one suggestion, and it is minor. It would be nice if the zippered compartments that contain the plastic chess pieces had velcro and attached to the traveling case so they could be pulled out and placed on the table next to the chess mat for easy collection of the pieces.

Product Details

The Starter Chess Learning Kit can be purchased at Chess House for $39.95. It is recommended for ages 6-12, however any beginning chess learner would benefit.

More reviews of the Starter Chess Learning Kit by Chess House can be read at the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.