Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Hewitt Homeschooling - My First Report (Schoolhouse Review)

Hewitt Homeschooling Review

We recently had the opportunity to review My First Report: Middle United States from Hewitt Homeschooling. There were 10 different topics from which to choose and we chose Middle United States because we live in Missouri and this school year we will be studying the Little House on the Prairie books so we wanted to learn and write reports on Minnesota, Wisconsin and Kansas. My First Reports are intended for grades 1-4.

Hewitt Homeschooling Review

What We Received

We received the product in a paperback format, without hard cover, that is designed to be punched and placed into a binder. In order to do the research on the states, we were required to obtain our own books and/or videos from the library and to have internet access. We own a video series on all of the states, a former curriculum based on all of the states of the United States, and we checked out various books from the library.

How We Used the Product

We followed the same process on all four state reports we wrote. I will take you through how we wrote our report on Missouri.

At the beginning of the instructions for Missouri, there were several questions for the kids to answer about Missouri. They pulled out the books we checked out from the library and tried to answer as many questions as possible. Then we watched our video and reviewed our formerly used curriculum. Finally, if we did not have all of the questions answered, we sat together and searched for each of the answers on the internet.

As we have written reports before, we followed our usual format. I had each of the kids write an introductory sentence about Missouri. Then they wrote three factual sentences from what they learned in their research. Finally, they wrote a concluding sentence. They did this in rough draft, or in what we call the "sloppy copy". We edited their work together, enhancing their work with adjectives and adding proper punctuation. I let each of the kids choose which report form they wanted to use (from the materials provided by Hewitt Homeschooling). The kids then wrote a final revision in cursive handwriting.

Our Opinion

I had high hopes for this product in that I was hoping it would teach us an alternate and simple way to write a reports, in such a way that interested the kids because reports tend to be kind of boring to write. However, I felt that it was lacking in actually teaching how to write reports. It did a good job in providing questions to research, but there wasn't any good step-by-step instructions about how to write the report.

My First Report did help to guide us along in learning more about the states we were researching. The kids would have felt a little overwhelmed if I would have just said, "Here are some books and videos and the internet. Research this state and write a report on it." So, from a research-aid perspective, I think it was very useful.

Product Details

My First Report: Middle United States can be purchased at Hewitt Homeschooling for $8.95. The other topics available are Eastern United States, Wild Animals: Small Mammals, Southern United States, Bugs and Worms, Reptiles and Amphibians, Western United States, Sports, Outdoor Activities, and My State.

You can read other reviews on My First Report: Middle United States or on the other topics listed above, as well as various other Hewitt Homeschooling products by going to the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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Friday, July 25, 2014

Random 5

Joining Miranda at Random 5 on Friday again this week.

1. We are all packed for our 10 day trip to California, and we are soooo excited! We have a lot planned, but I am most looking forward to just seeing the kids experience places they have dreamed about for so long. Must-sees are Hoover Dam, Legoland, San Diego Zoo, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Pink Ladies, and the real house that was used as the house front for Full House.

2. The little kids and I went for our eye appointments yesterday. Thankfully neither kid needs glasses! Eli does have the same lazy eye that I have that will require him to wear glasses for reading when he is older, but nothing now. Brynne had perfect vision. I was pleased to learn that I can put off bifocals for another few years! Dawson went for his exam on Tuesday and he has astigmatism and needed a new prescription for his glasses.

3. Project Runway started again last night! Yay! It's my absolute favorite show. Speaking of favorite shows .... my beloved Shemar Moore will be back on The Young and the Restless on September 10th and 11th. Set your DVR!! Oh, Malcolm, I have missed you! But, I still prefer you as Derek Morgan on Criminal Minds. Yowzer! (Do you follow Shemar on Instagram? It's a great way to get a daily dose of him. He is awesome with his fans and a super great guy!)

4. Tonight we are having Christmas in July at our house. We are a movie quoting family and one of our favorites is Christmas Vacation. Taylar has not experienced the movies we quote as much as we have and she is wanting to watch all of our favorites so she can, at least, follow along when we get started. We are going to have a minimalized Christmas turkey dinner and watch the movie together as a family. We are goofy and I love us!

5. My printer broke. Boo. We use it every single day in schooling so I have to replace it asap. Happy Birthday to me! (That's what I'm spending my birthday money on from my parents.) Anyone have a recommendation for the best monochrome (black and white only) printer/scanner that has cheap replacement cartridges? I don't need anything fancy ... just something that prints.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wednesday Hodgepodge

In my effort to blog more, I thought this week I would join in on Wednesday Hodgepodge at From This Side of the Pond. Seems kind of fun! Here are the questions and my answers for this week.

When I look at the sky I feel ....

peaceful. I am immediately taken to the back patio at my parents' house in Florida, sitting and reading  a book, looking up and hearing the birds sing with the sun's warmth on my face. Ahhhh.....

If you had to run for political office, which one would you run for? Do you have any real desire to do this?

Go big or go home, right .. I'd just go ahead and run for President. I mean surely I could do a better job than Obama. Any real desire? Absolutely not! I wouldn't even consider running for mayor of our little town or city council or the school board. I would not do well dealing with the arguments of ignorant people. (I didn't say stupid, I said ignorant.)

What scent makes you think of home?

The smell of fresh tar. As a kid the city was always spreading tar and gravel on our streets to "fix" them. Of course they did it in the heat of the summer so it wouldn't solidify. Then it would get on the tires of your car and you could hear it spraying all up in the undercarriage when you drove. One time I had a bike wreck on a tar and graveled street and it was bad! Recently the city spread some tar over a bad spot in the road in front of our house. When Brynne and I ride our bikes over it our tires pop tar bubbles.

How often do you take a step back to think about where you're headed in life? Do you need more or less self-reflection?

I have imaginings of our family in the future, but I don't really reflect on where I will be personally. I am very happy and content in my life and would be more than happy to be doing what I am doing right now, except maybe with more traveling. My dream is for Rick and I get to get a nice camper and just travel throughout the United States, coming home to our family for special events and holidays. But then again I would be happy ending up in my parents' little house in Florida someday, too. Maybe I could use more self-reflection about who I really am and who I should really aspire to become. But, honestly, I just don't feel the necessity. Esse Quam Videri.

July is National Ice Cream month .... besides a cone, what is your favorite food item to top with ice cream?

I am not a big ice cream eater. But, I do love a scoop of vanilla ice cream in a lime Mister Misty at Dairy Queen. It's my favorite summer sweet treat.

What might your autobiography be called?

Contentment in White Trashville.

Your least favorite mode of transportation? Why?

Probably a bus. I've been on a group tour travel bus a couple of times for some trips and they are very uncomfortable. I cannot sleep and my knees and back always hurt.

Insert your own random thought here.

Blogging Through the Alphabet (Favorites Edition) - M is for My Fitness Pal

We all need an accountability partner when it comes to eating healthier, exercising, and/or trying to lose weight. I have my mom, daughters, husband. But all they can do is encourage me and, occasionally, get in on some exercise with me.

Enter My Fitness Pal.

I love this program! Before I got a smart phone I just had it on my computer. I logged each meal I ate, with the quantities, and it pulled from its database of thousands of foods to tell me exactly how many calories I was consuming. Not only that but it registered all of the nutritional values, as well.

I have lost about 10 pounds in the past using My Fitness Pal. It's so easy to use!

Now that I have an iPhone, it's even easier! The phone app has a barcode feature that allows me to just scan the barcode of what I am eating and it pulls it up. The searching has been eliminated! You can't get any easier than that!

When you first sign up with My Fitness Pal it has you enter your current weight and goals. It computes for you how many calories you should eat each day and the recommended nutritional values of the foods you eat. Then you are all set.

For instance, this time around I want to lose about 8 pounds. I put in my current weight (don't you want to know) and how many pounds I want to lose at approximately 1 pound per week. It calculated my daily calorie intake of 1200 calories and told me exactly how much fat, fiber, sodium, carbohydrates, sugar, protein, etc., I should try to consume each day.

At the end of the day I can look at the nutritional values to see where I succeeded and where there is room for improvement.

It is also a social media tool where you can accept "friends" to follow you in your journey. It's great to receive notes of encouragement when they see that you were under your calorie goal, when you exercised, and, hopefully, when you have lost pounds!

It really helps with portion control because you are entering how many servings of each of the foods you eat and it helps you realize what a true portion is.

My favorite feature, however, is the tracking of exercise. I think we get in a mindset of trying to figure out how many calories we need to BURN. But My Fitness Pal calculates the number of calories you have EARNED with your chosen exercise. What is really great about it is that if my calorie goal is 1200, but I have ridden my bike for 30 minutes, I might earn about 200 more calories for the day. Here is where it really comes in handy .... it's late evening and I am starving, but I am out of calories for the day. I can strap on my shoes and go for a run or a bike ride and earn some more calories so I can have a snack before I go to bed. It actually gives me incentive to exercise more!

And the added bonus is that because you are tracking your calories and nutritional values, you soon realize that healthier eating just starts to take the place of junky eating. And then you don't crave it nearly as much.

For the past month I have been tracking Brynne on my My Fitness Pal account. We knew that she was overweight. But, when I plugged in her height and weight numbers on some health websites, I saw that she was classified as overweight and her BMI was much higher than it should be. At about the same time she mentioned how she would like to wear a two-piece swimming suit (a tankini .. she is 9). But I sit at the pool and watch extremely overweight girls wearing swimming suits they should not be wearing showing very big bellies. Overweight children is an epidemic! Although we want Brynne to have a healthy body image, we are not being very good parents if we just throw up our hands and say, "this is the way God made her" and not do our best to educate her in healthy eating and taking care of our bodies through exercise.

She and I have been on a journey and she is doing fantastic! Using My Fitness Pal has actually changed her taste buds! She craves healthier food (even vegetables, folks) and doesn't enjoy the taste of her junky foods nearly as much as she used to. We don't deprive her of her favorite foods. She just makes sure to eat one serving and only eats those less-than-good-for-her foods occasionally. For instance, she rewards herself with her absolute favorite Easy Mac on Saturdays instead of eating it every day for lunch. She also gets special treats, I'm not cruel. But her regular daily eating habits have changed tremendously. And she is exercising every sing day in some way ... riding her bike, walking, running, swimming, whatever we can fit into our day. We are being intentional about earning calories and getting our bodies in shape.

And at the end of each day we review her nutritional values together. That is probably the most important part of it.

As of yesterday, she has lost 3 1/2 pounds and very noticeable inches! She will be in that tankini before you know it!

And in joining her in her journey, I have lost 3 1/2 pounds, too, and I feel more in shape than I have in a long time.

We are both looking and feeling good!

My Fitness Pal has been a very important part of our journey. And I highly recommend it!

Ben and Me

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Random 5 on Friday (except it's Saturday)

Rick confronted me this week about my quiet blog, and my Uncle John (who is an avid follower) also expressed a desire that I get back to posting more. As with many other bloggers I have found myself doing much more reading, unplugging from the computer, and just living life instead of blogging about it. But blogging is my place to record our lives and our schooling .... our Journey, so to speak. So, I will try to put in a little more effort.

Which leads me to Miranda's Random 5 on Friday. Many times during the week I have random thoughts that just don't qualify as a full post. Here I can share some of those thoughts.

1. I find that I spend as much time worrying and thinking about Kyndal and Dawson's significant others (Collin and Taylar) as I do my own kids. This week they have both been challenged on the job front and I find myself thinking a lot about it and praying for them several times a day.

2. I love my dogs to pieces but they are driving me crazy with their shedding, barking, and allergies.

3. I find myself just smiling at Brynne several times a day because of how proud I am of her for excitedly taking on a full lifestyle change in her eating habits and exercise. She has noticeably lost weight and inches, is kicking my rear when we run and ride our bikes, and is so enthusiastic about making good food choices. She has even started trying AND LIKING lots of different vegetables ... celery, yellow peppers, cooked cabbage. The transformation in mind and body is astonishing.

4. A big struggle for me these days is not bowing to the god of money. I know that God is my provider and I trust Him to provide all of our needs for us. However with an upcoming wedding and a new senior in high school, not to mention homeschooling curriculum costs, much-needed wellness appointments, birthdays, and Christmas being here before you know it, I find myself having to snap myself out of my worry pretty often.

5. I had breakfast for all three meals yesterday. For breakfast I had a whole wheat english muffin and two eggs. For lunch I had a bowl of bran cereal with blueberries and almonds. And for dinner we had french toast and bacon.

This was pretty fun! I think I will try to start posting my Randoms on Thursdays so I have something designated to write about on that day of the week. Check back next week for more randomness! I am sure there will be some.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Weekly Wrap-up ~ An Epiphany About Curriculum Choices

I have been doing a lot of reflecting about our past couple of years of schooling ... the goods and the bads. Although we have accomplished so much in the past two years, I have noticed that we haven't had the fun that I desire for us to have. We spend the majority of our day on language arts and math and when we get to our unit study, we are rushed for time so just cram in what's easiest. We haven't put our full hearts into our unit studies which we desire to be the core of our studies. Somewhere along the way we have drifted away from it. I think it's probably because unit studies take a lot of work and planning, and regular ol' workbooks, dvd and online lessons are "easier". But I am bored. I haven't had my usual excitement to start school, and it's coming up in just a short month. And that has kind of worried me.

I have had a full-year unit study planned for us for this upcoming school year. But I realized that with everything else we have planned that we will only be able to half-heartedly accomplish all that the unit study offers.

And then I had an epiphany moment. The first year I homeschooled Dawson, we used a full-year unit study called A World of Adventure by Dorian Holt. It contained everything we needed except for math. It was a great year! So why not take that approach this year with Eli and Brynne? Why not use our unit study FULLY, doing everything it offers, add in some daily math, grammar and more intensive writing, and call it good?

And it will be good!

So here is our curriculum ...

It will cover Bible concepts and building character, Bible memory, crafts, health, history, government, social studies, geography, history through biographies, literature and language arts, living, general science, animal science, and the human body.

For math we will stick with what is working for us ....

For grammar we will pick up where we left off with Logic of English (and it also has us keeping up with our cursive handwriting) ...

And for writing we will be using WriteShop Junior Book D.

Additionally we will be doing lots of reading, attending programs at the library, and WE WILL GO ON FIELD TRIPS! We did not go on even one last year. Shameful!

And that's it. All of a sudden I am excited about school again. My goal is to make this year as fun and enriching as possible. Learning something is optional. (But we all know how that goes, huh?)

(And next year I think we will pull back out our A World of Adventure and learn all about the ancients in the same way.)

I am linking up with Kris at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers for her Curriculum Weekly-Wrap up.

Blogging Through the Alphabet (Favorites Edition) - L is for Living in a Small Town

I didn't realize how much I missed living in a small town until we moved back to Missouri. There are certainly disadvantages, but the advantages far outweigh them. Plus, it's just easy, peaceful, and relaxing.

There are things like deciding we need some Red Diamond Sweet Tea at 8:30 p.m. and walking with Dawson and Crusoe to the grocery store to get it.

Speaking of the grocery store .... it may not have a lot of variety and the prices might be higher at times, but the lack of variety actually causes me to spend less in the end. Plus they have advertised specials that the box stores just don't have.

And there's something kind of sweet about bumping into my dad while I'm in there.

There are very few restaurants in town, but who needs them when you've got the Dairy Queen? Hamburgers, foot long hot dogs, ice cream cones and Mister Misty's (that's what we called them in the day ... now they are the Arctic Rush??) are all we need for lunch or dinner if we are wanting to eat out.

And see the green house beyond the Dairy Queen? That's my parents' house. We can walk right there and eat on their front porch.

Walking. We do a lot of that as a family.

And bike riding. In fact, the kids and I very rarely go anywhere anymore that we don't ride our bikes.

If you broke your vacuum cleaner belt, chances are you would run to Walmart for a replacement, right? And you would stand there for about 30 minutes trying to figure out which one you needed for your particular vacuum, right? And you would probably buy the wrong one that you would have to take back and get a different one, right? Yeah ... been there, done that. But our local hardware store is a woman's dream. On Tuesday afternoon I walked in, handed Tim (the salesperson who is always there who immediately asked me if I needed some help) my broken vacuum cleaner belt, and waited all of 10 seconds for him to come back with the one I needed. They are always so helpful and have exactly what I need. Sure beats the hassle of Walmart.

Our library is small, and I cannot homeschool exclusively from it like I used to be able to do with the Tulsa Public Library system. However, they know us by name, hold books back for us that they think we will like, and call me to make sure my kids are on time to sign up for whatever class they are having next.

Just a short drive out of town, in any direction, you will find an Amish store of some kind. We live in the thick of Amish country. I buy all of my plants, flowers, and gardening seeds and such at the Amish greenhouses for a fraction of the cost of larger nurseries and home improvement chains. A fraction. You can also get the most amazing local products there ... like honey, peaches, and homemade washcloths. I won't hardly use anything but these crocheted washcloths anymore. Amazing! The visit there is always so pleasant and the kids are so cute!

Our dog groomer texted me the day after she groomed Crusoe to make sure Dawson liked it; my mom stopped by to sit and talk on the porch swing while she was on a walk with her dog; people stop when driving by to yell to us that the painting and stuff we are doing to our house looks nice; and my neighbors keep me supplied with zucchini and squash, homemade salsa, freshly caught and filleted crappie, and homemade jellies and applesauce.

Life in a small town is so rich and rewarding and I recommend it to anyone who is tired of the hustle and bustle of big city or suburban life. I know we have never been happier.

If you want to see more reflections of my small town living, you can follow me on Instagram at @nikki_taulman.

Ben and Me

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Past Several Days

We have had a very busy week! I feel like I have been saying that a lot lately. But I guess that is to be expected with summer activities.

We crammed in as much time with Tim, Shawna and Bell before they headed back to their home in Portland, Oregon.

Brynne participated in a volleyball camp at a nearby university last week. I loved sitting and watching her play (and sneaking in several hours of reading time!).

She finished her softball season on Thursday night. She and I agreed that we are glad that we have a break from sports for a few weeks. We are exhausted!

On Saturday the little kids and I headed back to Oklahoma to attend the wedding of our only nephew. Tommy and Jenn had a beautiful, albeit hot, outdoor wedding.

Afterward we went back to my brother and sister in law's house, where Rick lives during the week, to spend time with Rick's whole family. This was the first time all of his siblings and spouses were together in many, many years. We had such a good time hanging out and talking. On Sunday we went to lunch with Rick's family before the kids and I came back to Missouri.

We went straight to my sister's for my niece's birthday party and the reveal party for her baby. She is having a girl.

This week things are MUCH quieter. We are enjoying the beginning of a few days of unseasonably cooler weather. I love it!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Blogging Through the Alphabet (Favorites Edition) - K is for Keeping my Nose in a Book

I love to read and find myself not making it enough of a priority. I recently wrote about my Florida state of mind and how when I am there for a week I usually read about three books. I come back home after that week vowing to continue reading as much as possible to find myself just getting right back into a routine that involves anything but reading.

A few weeks ago I made a goal for myself to read one book per week for the rest of the summer. I have done well and read some great books so far this summer. I have starred each of the books I would recommend.

A Woman's Place by Lynn Austin

*Every Secret Thing by Laura Lippman

*The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

If I Stay by Gayle Foreman

*Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

Now reading:

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Reading Next:

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

Join Beth at Thinking of Teaching for her It's the Summer ... and I'll Read if I Want to! linky.

I am also linking up with Marcy at Ben and Me.

Ben and Me

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Moving Beyond the Page - Unit Study Full Packages (Schoolhouse Review)

Moving Beyond the Page Review

Moving Beyond the Page has the best unit studies, in my opinion. Period.

We reviewed two of their products last summer and I was waiting (not so) patiently for this summer's chance to review more of their products. I knew exactly what I wanted to review, made the request, and was chosen. Yes! The kids and I reviewed the Language Arts Package - Sarah, Plain and Tall and the Science Package - The Land.

One of the cool features of Moving Beyond the Page is that you can purchase an entire curriculum or can choose individual unit studies. This allows you to do a little delight-directed learning. They have unit studies for literature, social studies, and science, and many of their unit studies have a recommended (but not required) corresponding social studies or science study. Last year we reviewed the book Poppy by Avi and the Life Cycles science study. The two studies could have been done separately, but together they complimented each other perfectly. Thus was the case this year between Sarah, Plain and Tall and The Land.

What We Received

We received online access to the study guide on Sarah, Plain and Tall, as well as the physical book by Patricia MacLachlan. Everything we needed to complete the language arts study was included in the online materials, with the exception of a few odds and ends for projects. All pdfs were accessible for printing. This included writing assignments, discussion questions, vocabulary, and more.

The Land was a full physical product. The unit study was paperback and spiral bound. We also received the book Maps and Mapping by Deborah Chancellor.

Both unit studies were recommended for ages 7-9.

How We Used the Product

As we did last summer, Moving Beyond the Page was our regular unit study for our summer schooling. All we added to it was Bible, math, and personal reading. We devoted about one hour a day to Moving Beyond the Page, which was plenty of time. We usually spent about two days per lesson. This had us reading about a chapter from Sarah, Plain and Tall every couple of days and reading a few pages out of our Maps and Mapping book. We did anywhere from two to four worksheets a day and/or a project, depending on time. With some breaks for sports camps that we had, it took us about 6 weeks to complete the studies with this schedule.

I took pictures throughout our use of the materials and then had a computer crash last week and lost all of my pictures. Unfortunately, all I have are some product photos, stock photos and screen shot examples to provide. This was a real bummer because we did so much with these units.

Our Opinion

Moving Beyond the Page is my favorite unit study product. We have used and reviewed several different types of products, but Moving Beyond the Page just fits with our teaching and learning philosophies. Not to mention that the lessons are just fun!

The product is so easy to use! The lessons are laid out specifically for you telling you what to read, what to say, what to ask, and which worksheets or projects to do. It really takes minimal time to prep for each day's lessons. And I absolutely love the cross-curricular learning that takes place!

The literature choices are excellent with both classics and newer titles. From what I can tell, the selections are all well-written and highly acclaimed. It is cool to me that a literature unit study can be chosen, based on interest or a topic of study that you know is upcoming in your schooling, and then a science or social studies unit is recommended to expand the study. We have had some trouble with our science studies, with finding a good fit. But the Moving Beyond the Page studies are so great that it eliminates my guilt over not sticking with one textbook styled science curriculum.

Moving Beyond the Page has recommended uses for their products. However, you could easily stretch out one unit over the entire summer or fit in the studies during the busier fall and winter schooling season by just doing what your time allows. It is easily modifiable to any homeschool environment.

Typically I do not care for online products. I like to be able to hold a book in my hand and flip pages back and forth. The physical products are only copyrighted for one child. But you can make as many copies of the online version as you want. For this reason, and the ease of using Moving Beyond the Page makes the online versions very attractive to me.

Even if we are not ever chosen again for another Moving Beyond the Page review, I will continue to purchase a language arts study and corresponding social studies or science unit study for all of our upcoming summer school lessons. It's the perfect fit, and the price is right, too.

If you want to get excited about all Moving Beyond the Page has to over, you just need to browse their website. It is beautifully laid out and informative. I have a list of studies I want us to do just by looking at them on the website.

Product Details

I cannot even begin to list all of the titles available by Moving Beyond the Page. Please go to the links for you child's age range to see what is available. They have products available for ages 4-14.

The Language Arts Package - Sarah, Plain and Tall is available as a physical product for $22.98 and as an online product (with physical product of the book Sarah, Plain and Tall) for $18.92.

The Science Package - The Land is available as a physical product for $24.98 and as an online product (with physical product of the book Maps and Mapping) for $20.92.

To read about many of the other products provided by Moving Beyond the Page that were reviewed by the Crew, go to the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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