Thursday, February 27, 2014

Some Good Music

There are some great singers our there! Here are just a couple I thought you might enjoy …


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Iditarod 2014

Last year I read a post by Heidi at HomeSchoolroom about their unit study on the Iditarod. I knew this was something we would enjoy so calendared it for this year. As the 2014 Iditarod race begins this Saturday, March 1st, we started our studies this week. I thought I would share what we are doing in case you would like to jump in. There's still time!


As we always have to incorporate a read aloud, we are reading Winterdance by Gary Paulson. Did you know that the famed youth author has actually raced in the Iditarod? I can't think of a better living book on this topic!


We wanted to watch "Toughest Race on Earth" produced by The Discovery Channel in 2008. The only place we could find it for free was on Youtube broken down into six episodes. The quality is not first-rate, but it's good enough for us and well worth the time to watch! We have already learned so much and can't wait to watch the rest. (And we may get that chance to finish them all today as Brynne is sick and running a fever.)

Picture Books

We always throw in as many picture books as our little library has to offer. We were able to get our hands on Mush by Patricia Seibert, Painter and Ugly by Robert J. Blake, and Akiak: a Tale from the Iditarod by Robert J. Blake.

Field Trip

Dawson's friend at school breeds and raises Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes. We are planning to go out to his house one afternoon so that he can talk with us about his dogs and let us see them. I hear there is a fairly new litter of puppies!

Other Activities

We are going to make puppy chow for us to snack on while watching our videos and homemade dog treats for our doggies.

The origin of the Iditarod got us talking about Eskimoes and we realized that the kids know very little about them. So, we are going to read some picture books about Eskimoes next week. Who knows where that rabbit trail will take us!

We will be following the race all next week. The official Iditarod website has lots of resources. We learned from the website that four of the mushers from the "Toughest Race on Earth" video are racing this year. That makes it really cool as we will feel like we actually know somebody racing. We will follow Jennifer Reiter, the Teacher on the Trail. And we hope to do an art project with Iditarod poster artist Jon Van Zyle.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014 {Schoolhouse Review}

Science has been an area where we have struggled over the years. We tend to fit it in when it corresponds with another unit we are doing, but have not been able to stick with any formal science curriculum. This has worried me because I do not really have a way to assess if my kids are up to par on what they should know about science. is a web based science program that is recommended for Grades K-2, but it is also recommended for grades 3-5 as a refresher course. That is what caught my eye and what made me realize that this was a product I really wanted us to review.

Science4Us Review

We received a six-month subscription to Online Subscription for both Eli and Brynne. I was able to register both kids separately in my class. We do grade level work for 3rd and 4th grade, so we jumped right into the program. We decided that we would complete one module per week and that turned out to be completely doable.

Both of the kids were registered onto the program as my students. But, we have found that we most enjoy the program doing all of the activities together. So we always log in under the same child. The kids sit side-by-side on the couch and work on the modules together. The information contained within and the presentation are a little juvenile for their levels of ability, but they talk about what they are hearing and doing which I find to be very valuable. It has worked great for us as a peer review of science! (That being said, the presentation would be PERFECT for a K-2 aged student. I even enjoy listening to the lessons.)

How We Use the Product

On Friday afternoons the kids pull up their current module and complete the Engage, Explore, and Explain activity videos.

Then on Monday through Thursday of the following week they complete the remaining additional activities. THESE are fun and very educational! What we all found that we love about these activities is how it brings in language arts and math and so many other subject areas to reinforce the science concepts. Some of the regular activities involve syllables, alphabetizing, and matching.

Teacher Resources

There are separate logins for the Teacher and Students. The Teacher resources are extensive! Not only can you manage your students, but there are many Teaching Tools, including Lesson Plans, Teaching Strategies, Student Reports, Assignments, and Notebook.

Science4Us Review

In our case, my students have propelled through the program independently. But there are full Lessons Plans for a teacher who wants or needs a more hands-on approach to the program. For each Daily Session there is general information about the subject matter, Teacher Guide, and Offline Materials. The teacher has the option of doing much or little, depending on his or her particular student. I was extremely impressed with the Lesson Plan possibilities.

The teacher can add particular assignments for the student to complete and then review the work done. A neat feature was being able to review all of the saved work of the students. I loved being able to pull up their saved work to see how they have done.

And the Student Reports feature is fabulous!

Student Login

When the student logs into the program, this is the first screen they see.

For the purposes of this demonstration, I added an "Assignment" to Brynne's lab. When she logged on she would see that she had a particular assignment to complete. The teacher can pick and choose which assignments to assign for which module.

In our case, since the kids did all of the assignments for each module instead of me adding assignments, this is the screen they get when they open the program.

The items under Recent Activity that have stars are the ones that are complete. When they opened it on this particular day they were just getting ready to start a brand new module.

On this screen, they can look at their Notes, read Assignment Details, listen to a Mini-Explain, look at Reports of work completed, or look up words in the Glossary.

Or they can jump right into their lessons under Recent Activity. (This is what my kids do.)

When they have completed a module, they choose a new module out of the different Books of Science. So far they have completed all of the modules under Inquiry and are currently working on the modules under Earth/Space Science. We will then move onto Physical Science and Life Science.

Another fun feature are the songs on the S4U Music Player! There are songs on Scientific Senses, Animal Groups and Life Cycle Lullaby, just to name a few.

Pros/Cons of

If you adhere strictly to a Christian Worldview in your homeschool, you will want to understand that the History of the Earth module does not follow that worldview. It discusses the millions of years the earth has been in existence, etc., that I know might bother some people. I just made sure I sat close to my kids during this part of the lesson and explained the differing opinions about the conception of earth and what we believe as Christians.

At one point one of the lessons stated that summer was from July to September. My kids were, like, "What? That's not right! Summer starts in June and fall starts in September!"

We also had a little trouble with the measurements portions because, as we have not done a lot of true science in our schooling, my kids were not used to the metric system. That caused us some confusion, but did show us an area where we need to expand our learning.

Overall the kids have absolutely loved this program, more than any other science program we have used. It is hands on, entertaining, and interesting. It is very rare that either of my kids purposefully remind me not to forget a subject. But almost every day at least one of the kids says, "Don't forget Science4Us!" They really enjoy it, and they are learning a lot!

My overall opinion is that Online Subscription is an excellent program and I would highly recommend it for anyone who would like a comprehensive online science program. This is a product that we will continue to use after the review period is complete. In fact, we will complete the entire program.

Product Details is a web based full science program for grades kindergarten through second grade. It is also a valuable refresher course or assessment tool for third through fifth grades. The cost of the online subscription is an affordable $7.95 per month per child. The program can be purchased at

To read other reviews of, please visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

Click to read Crew Reviews

Friday, February 21, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ 100 * Gold * Presidents

I saw over at Managing Your Blessings that Carlie has eliminated the prompts for the Homeschool Mother's Journal. Sometimes I think that I don't like using them, but then I go back and read my posts and realize how it helps me to center on what we really accomplished in the past week. So I have decided to continue using them, for the most part, but change it up just a tad.

The Past Week in our Regular Life

Where was that warm weather we were supposed to get last weekend? Not in Missouri, that's for sure! We froze all weekend! But by Tuesday it was in the 50's. Brynne and I rode our bikes to and from her basketball practice that night. That was a nice change! And instead of unit study on Wednesday afternoon, I told the kids they could get outside and ride their bikes for 30 minutes, but it was windy! By Wednesday night it was raining, and rained all day. Today it was so nice I actually got out and cleaned up the yard. And it's supposed to get cold again by Sunday with frigid temperatures for the next week or so … with possibilities of more snow! Boo hoo!! I know that in a few months I will be complaining about the miserable heat, but for now … GEEZ, I am sick of the cold!

The Schooling Basics

Bible - We studied about the Division of God's Kingdom with Israel being split into Judah and Israel.

Grammar - We did some review, learned about quotations, and vowel and constant suffixes.

Spelling - We did more vowel chunking, copy work and dictation in Spelling U See and memorized "I'm a Little Teapot". We also learned -ind and -ink words in Soaring with Spelling.

Handwriting - We completed three lessons in Handwriting without Tears - Cursive Success.

Math - In Math U See we completed Lesson 23 and learned multiple digit multiplication. We decided we do not like to learn multiplication with 'factoring'. All it did was confuse us. So we continued learning the old fashioned way of just doing it. In Mastering 5th Grade Math - Fractions, we learned how to write fractions with words and translate words back to fractions.

Writing - We continued to work on our problem/solution stories with character and setting descriptions. Today they took what they pieced together last week and wrote a 'sloppy copy'. I am seeing such progress in writing, especially out of Eli. Instead of just putting his notes into a paragraph, he actually added things to his story as he went along to make it "more interesting".

Science - The kids learned about The History of the Earth from Science4Us. We completed that module. This program is not based on a Christian Worldview, so I had to intervene on several occasions to interject what we believe as Christians.

The Schooling Fun Stuff

Our unit studies were all over the place with Presidents Day, the Olympics and our 100th Day of School all happening in the same week. But, it was a fun week!

President's Day

Unit study from School Express

Scholastic Storybook Treasures: Amazing America, Episode 4: "So You Want to Be President" (watched on Netflix)

Trailer for the book (we have read the book also, but the video is much more entertaining!)

The Olympics

Eli and I spent some time watching the men's giant slalom, the women's bobsled and the women's figure skating short program. We were super excited Ted Ligety won the gold in the giant slalom, and that Lauryn Williams grabbed the distinction as the 5th female Olympian to win a medal at both the summer and winter Olympic games (that was a cool story). It's so fun to watch history being made. Bummer for Gracie Gold that she just missed being on the podium in figure skating. Eli is my Olympics buddy. Brynne isn't really into it.

We did watch ski jumping together on Friday and made this fun art.

The 100th Day of School

We had "100" waffles for breakfast.

This is what time we "officially" started school for the day.

For lunch ….

We read Jake's 100th Day of School by Lester L. Laminack and illustrated by Judy Love.

We flipped coins 100 times to see whether they landed on heads or tails the most. It was a tie!

We rolled two die 100 times to see which number was most popular. The number "1" won followed closely by "6". And we did 100 jumping jacks.

The kids wrote a paragraph: "If I had $100 I would …."

buy a swimming pool and a giant screen t.v., tomorrow. I'm going to Walmart to buy them (in my dream). With my dream $100 I would buy them. I hope I have that dream again! ~ Brynne

spend some on Legos. I want this set called Batwing Battle over Gotham City, because I love the batwing. Next is the Joker Steam Roller set. I loved Legos since 2012. ~ Eli

We computed how many $1, $2, $5, $10, and $20 we would need to make $100.

We worked together to figure out the following problem: How much money would I need if I wanted to buy 100 gallons of root beer in 2-liter bottles and each 2-liter bottle cost $1.10. After they watched all of the computations they said, "We'll never learn how to do all that!" I assured them they would.

The Kitchen

Kyndal woke up with some sinus junk on Tuesday, so I promptly made some homemade chicken noodle soup with good vegetable and garlic broth for when she got home. For myself, I made a big pot of vegetable chicken and lentil soup to eat for lunch the rest of the week. Yum! The rest of the week? Our easy kid food! Our new way of eating dinner is going great!

Tonight we had pulled bbq chicken in the crockpot on kaiser rolls with chips and pickles. Then Kyndal made a s'more dip. And then we were all stuffed and miserable.

The Days Ahead

Tomorrow Brynne has a basketball game and the kids have their bowling league. Then Brynne has a basketball tournament on Sunday afternoon. The bitter temperatures are coming back on Sunday, so I am sure we will be staying in the house as much as possible again over the next week or so.

We also did some hour calculations and realized that we might potentially be done with our school year at the end of April! That would allow us to take off the whole month of May before we start summer school for June and July. The kids were really excited but realize that they have to put in some serious hard work over the next several weeks for that to happen.

The Books We are Reading

Mom: And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini.

Brynne: A Big Year for Lily by Mary Ann Kinsinger and Suzanne Woods Fisher.

Eli: George Brown Class Clown: Super Burp by Nancy Krulik (finished) and George Brown Class Clown: What's Black and White and Stinks All Over? by Nancy Krulik.

Read Aloud: Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary (finished).

The People and the Places

Brynne had basketball practice on Tuesday night and we had church on Wednesday night. Then I babysat my niece on Thursday. Other than that, we didn't go anywhere or see anybody!

The Savings Jar(s)

I was so excited at the beginning of the week because I thought I was actually going to be able to successfully save $100 out of our grocery budget this pay period to put in the jar. But after learning that softball signups were on Sunday at a cost of $60 and that our dogs all needed rabies shots to get our city licenses (so we don't get tickets) all at a cost of $120, I quickly realized that wasn't going to happen. Sigh. I try. Oh, I try.

$1.30 went to my change jar.

The Bible in a Year

I am currently in the middle of Leviticus with all of the rituals, offerings, and rules. Wow. And we think we have it rough. All we have to do is obey God when He tells us to do something. I have read through Leviticus 21.

The Favorite Things

On Monday we studied about President's Day and then declared the rest of the day a "Life Skills" Day … aka Get this House Cleaned! I put everybody to work and we got it done in no time! We also had to take the dogs to the vet for their rabies shots.

Riding bikes on Tuesday evening felt oh. so. good. And watching the kids ride their bikes in the parking lot across the street brought back such fond memories of riding bikes as a kid.

It felt so good to actually open the door today and let in some fresh air!

Linking up

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Does Anybody Else Need a Good Laugh?

Life can be so serious sometimes and for me, lately, it really has been! So, when I saw a set of photos produced by a haunted house in Canada and literally laughed out loud, almost to the point of tears, I decided that maybe someone else needed a sadistic laugh today, too.

Photo Credit

Go to this link to see more of these photos. And be ready to laugh!

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Day in the Life of Homeschooling Two Fourth Graders (Ages 8 and 10)

I am joining up with Simple Homeschool to share in their "A Homeschool Day in the Life" Series. You have seen how we handle our days on multiple occasions (if you are a regular follower). But, I thought I would share one of our days from the past week. And these types of days are what are most typical.

So how does a mom and two 4th graders get from here ...

to here ...

in just a few hours?

We start out with our Bible lessons. That's always a good place to start.

Then we throw in a little laughter when one of us shakes the Stick Jar too hard and the sticks all go flying everywhere.

And then just a few minutes later a couple of tears fall when composing grammatically correct sentences proves to be too difficult.

We always work through our core subjects in the morning while our minds are fresh and ready (grammar, spelling, reading, handwriting and math).

We aren't "dum dums", sometimes we have a piece of candy to help get our creative juices flowing.

And when that doesn't work we grab some toys to act out some stories before we write them in our creative writing lessons.

We always take a break from the table area to our Sitting Room for our favorite subject of the day …. Read aloud time! And we always have a lap full of dogs! It's their favorite subject of the day, too.

After some personal reading time and a lunch break, we gather back for our unit study, literature study and science and to finish up anything we didn't get finished in the morning.

This is when things really start to get messy!

We slow back down for some more personal reading at the end of the day, and mom heads to the table to clean it up.

And that's a typical day.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Weekly Wrap-up ~ Stressed and Strained

In our regular life this week…

I like to think that I am generally good at handling stress. But this week I struggled. It's difficult to have so many things out of your control and to watch so much injustice happen. I caved to the pressure and had a couple of rough days emotionally.  But, I am finding my way back out of the darkness and putting my trust back where it should be. I am sure the cold temperatures and constant snow and ice have not helped matters either. It is so hard to feel motivated to do anything in these temps. And when I feel sluggish physically I feel sluggish emotionally. The greatest news is that the temps will be in the 50's and 60's starting tomorrow. It's already been 30 degrees warmer which has made a huge difference! Hallelujah!!!

In our homeschool this week…

We had a great week of school. I am grateful for the pleasure of teaching my children and getting to watch them grow and enjoy learning.

Bible - We learned all about the major and minor prophets this week. It was fun to draw them all a different way with our Stick Figuring Through the Bible with Grapevine. It's a great curriculum!

Grammar - In Logic of English we learned all about Irregular Verbs, Possessive Noun Adjectives and the -un prefix. I have said it before and I will say it again .. I love Logic of English!! I have always been a grammar nerd and it feeds my soul.

Handwriting - We completed another 5 lessons in Handwriting Without Tears Cursive Success. Eli and Brynne have developed beautiful cursive handwriting and I am so glad that we made the decision to teach it to them even though it is no longer a requirement in public school. (An elderly gentleman in our community was telling a story at the post office the other day about how he recently tried to pay for a movie admission with some half-dollar coins and the boy working at the ticket booth kept giving them back to him because he didn't know what they were. This is how today's kids are going to act as adults when they see a piece of cursive handwriting.)

Spelling - We have decided to cut out our pre and final test in Soaring with Spelling. Brynne aces them every week and all they do is cause Eli stress because he is so worried about her doing better than him. I would rather them learn the words than to stress about testing over them. We are still doing the four days of worksheets because the kids really like doing them and they definitely have educational quality. But I have often thought about cutting out formal spelling lessons altogether and going to strict copy work and dictation. And then the creators of Math U See came out with a new program called Spelling U See that we are reviewing. It follows that premise. So, we have added it to our daily Spelling lessons. So far, AWESOME! And, without even meaning to, they memorized a nursery rhyme this week.

Math - We completed Lesson 22 of Math U See and are working on rounding and estimation. We are also reviewing a new 5th grade math program on fractions. It's going well and the kids are pumped about doing 5th grade work! We will complete the whole program by the end of the year and they will be a step ahead for next year.

Writing - We continued working on stories with problems and solutions, this time adding character and setting descriptions. We grabbed some toys to act out our stories to help us come up with some ideas.

Reading - We finished reading Henry and Beezus by Beverly Cleary and moved onto Ramona the Pest.

Literature - We have put aside Paddle to the Sea for a few weeks while we concentrate on the Olympics.

Geography - We are doing some studies about Russia as our unit study is on the Olympics.

Science - We completed another module in Science4Us.

Physical Education - We did our usual bowling and basketball. I cannot wait until next week when we can add in bike riding!

Unit Study - I outlined what all we would be doing in our Olympics study in a recent post. This week we completed some coordinate graphing worksheets, reviewed the Russian Alphabet, alphabetized Olympic events, did a word search of Olympic events, mapped the torch relay, and watched several events (Sage Kotsenburg in the slope style, the amazing 15 year old Russian skater in the team event, and Shaun White who did not win a medal this year! What??)

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

We have started to venture back out! On Saturday, after haircuts (finally) we went to see The Lego Movie. Dawson and Taylar took Eli on a special "date", so I didn't get any pictures of him. But, at home he gave it a "two thumbs up"! While they were at the movie Brynne went to a skating birthday party. Rick and I took Brynne to see the movie after the party. She loved it. Rick and I enjoyed it, too. I especially enjoying listening to all the dads cracking up in the movie.

A favorite thing this week was…

Wednesday. I got a good night's sleep (without heartburn) for the first time in about two weeks. The sun was shining in the morning. Brynne's hand and wrist were much better from her fall at basketball practice on Tuesday night when we thought she might have fractured her wrist. The kids were in excellent moods during our school time. Spring temps were just a day or so away. The birds were chirping outside. My heart just felt hopeful.

What's in the kitchen this week ...

I made some soothing potato soup this past weekend and we had some baked chicken and pasta. My weekly plan of cooking easy, kid-friendly foods during the week is working out famously! Brynne had basketball practice at 5:00 two nights this week and I was easily able to get her fed before, and the meals were there for the rest of the kids when they were ready to eat … Pigs in a Blanket, soup and grilled cheese, chicken sandwiches and fries, and special Valentine pizza for tonight.

Dawson made a homemade coconut creme pie for Taylar for Valentine's Day.

And I made TWO pans of my party potatoes for Kyndal to take to her potluck at school today. These are now a regular request and one pan is not enough.

What we're reading ...

Mom:  And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini. 

Eli: George Brown, Class Clown: Trouble Magnet by Nancy Krulik (finished) and George Brown, Class Clown: Super Burp by Nancy Krulik.

Brynne: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck by Jeff Kinney (finished) and A Big Year for Lily (Book 3, Lily Lapp series) by Mary Ann Kinsinger and Susanne Woods Fisher.

Read Aloud: Henry and Beezus by Beverly Cleary (finished) and Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary. (We planned to read Junie B. Jones and the Mushy Gushy Valentine this week but our library didn't get it in.)

Things we're working on…

cupcakes and valentines for the residents at my Grandma's nursing home. We delivered them during lunchtime today, along with Valentines and stickers. The kids were absolutely amazing with the residents! Eli showed each one how to use the little stick to scratch off the black on their Valentine and reveal the colors underneath. Brynne placed a sticker on each resident's shirt. They gave hugs and said "Happy Valentine's Day!" They made lots of people very happy, especially my grandma. I was so proud of them!

I’m grateful for …

the fact that Brynne did not break her arm on Tuesday night at practice when she fell on it, but instead just strained her thumb down into her wrist. That was a scary couple of hours as I anticipated an emergency room trip and a cast, not to mention the cost of all of it. Some acetaminophen, ibuprofen and ice seemed to do the trick.

My progress on reading through the Bible in 2014 …

I have read through Exodus 40. I got a little behind at the beginning of the week, but caught back up easily.

Money saved this week …

No money saved into the cash jar, but I do think I am going to successfully save $75 out of my gas budget this month to go toward our trip to Florida. That will be $130 toward the $250, or so, that I need to save for gas. There are some positives to the cold and snow.

And I added $2.80 to my change jar.

I exercised ...

None, nada, not at all … but the kids and I are getting on our bikes this weekend if the temps are what they say they will be!

What's coming up this week ...

Rick is not coming home this weekend as he has another volleyball tournament to attend for his 13 year old daughter, Amanda. Brynne has a basketball game tomorrow, and we are hoping her thumb will be completely healed and she'll be able to play. She was able to practice tonight, so she should be fine. The kids have bowling league tomorrow morning … again, hoping Brynne can handle a bowling ball. And then we have church on Sunday. Otherwise, we don't have anything going on except, hopefully, enjoying warmer temps and melting snow!!

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

Linking up at the following ...