Saturday, April 30, 2016

May's Menu Plan

May will be here tomorrow and I am super excited for this month.  May is when we finish school for the year, plant the garden, celebrate Moms, and we go camping.  I am also looking forward to warmer weather, opening the windows, and plenty of sunshine...let's hope the weather cooperates with this.  I have been trying to plan ahead for May's menu so it didn't take so long to sit down and plan, but I only planned a few meals ahead.  Hopefully I will do a little better with that for June.  Here is our dinner menu plan for the month of May:

  1. Dutch Oven Mountain Men Breakfast (yes, we do breakfast for dinner sometimes)
  2. Sausage and Peppers Pasta
  3. BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad
  4. Haystacks
  5. Crock Pot Cafe Rio Chicken Tacos
  6. Dutch Oven Pizza
  7. One Pan Mexican Quinoa
  8. Out to Eat - It's Mother's Day - I don't cook :)
  9. Copycat In-n-Out Burgers
  10. Lemon Butter Chicken
  11. Enchirritos
  12. Lemony Chicken Soup with Greens
  13. Copycat Mexican Pizza
  14. Burrito Bowls
  15. Tamale Pie
  16. BBQ Pulled Pork
  17. Super Easy One Pot Lasagna
  18. Green Beans, Potatoes,and Kielbasa
  19. Black Bean Tostadas with Cilantro Sauce
  20. Pizza
  21. Out to Eat (we have an all day event this day)
  22. Quinoa Bowls with Hummus Vinaigrette
  23. Walking Taco Casserole
  24. Skillet Chicken Parmesan
  25. Parmesan Meatloaf
  26. Hobo Dinners (foil dinners)
  27. Chicken Fajitas
  28. Dutch Oven Pizza
  29. Out to Eat - End of the school year celebration (our school year ends at the beginning of the month, but we always have our celebratory dinner on Memorial Day Weekend)
  30. Crackslaw - I have to try this recipe just because the name makes me laugh
  31. One Sheet Cilantro Parmesan Broccoli Baked Salmon
As always you can find my May Menu Plan on Pinterest.  Do you menu plan?  If planning a whole month of meals is too much for you, try planning for just one week.  Which of these meals are you planning on trying?  

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

GREEMU by Devonian Review

I have always had very sensitive skin so I am very picky about what I products I use.  I am always on the look out for natural products and that is exactly what I found when I was sent GREEMU by Devonian to review.  GREEMU is a natural plant based oil alternative to Emu Oil.  There are many great skin and hair care benefits from using Emu Oil, but the oil can only be extracted from the fatty tissue of the bird.  Devonian has worked very hard for the last few years to create their natural, plant based GREEMU oil which provides the same great skin and hair benefits.  GREEMU oil conforms to the standards for Grade A Emu Oil but instead of being extracted from birds, it is created using macadamia seed oil, palm oil, Shea butter,  sunflower seed oil, and rice bran oil.  GREEMU is designed to protect and nourish your skin.  It can help to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.  You can also use GREEMU as a hair treatment to make your hair more manageable, reduce split ends, and make your hair shiny. 
Greemu Devonian Review
I was very excited to receive my bottle of GREEMU from Devonian because my sensitive skin gets terribly dried out in the winter.  I truly struggle to find products that don’t irritate my skin or leave it feeling greasy and because of this I am very picky about what I will use on my skin.  I started using my bottle of GREEMU the day it came.  I started by testing it on my arms and it did not irritate my skin in any way.  It only left it feeling soft and moisturized.  I also like the very faint scent of the GREEMU.  I think it has a very, very light nutty scent, but my family says I am crazy and they can’t smell it all (maybe they are the crazy ones).  I feel like I really put GREEMU to the test when I put it on my legs directly after shaving them.  In the past if I put lotion on my legs right after shaving I get razor burn on them something fierce, it stings and is just uncomfortable.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I applied GREEMU right after shaving my legs, but I was pleasantly surprised.  I didn’t suffer from any razor burn, no stinging, and instead of being uncomfortable, my legs just felt moisturized.  I started using the GREEMU on my legs every time I shaved them and my legs feel so much more moisturized now.  In the past my legs would get so dry and itchy that I would scratch them until they had sores, but since I have been using the GREEMU I don’t have that problem any more.  The other way I tested out GREEMU was by using it in my hair.  I have been trying to grow my hair out and I have been straightening it a lot just because it is at a weird in between stage.  The directions on the GREEMU say you can use it to help restore your hair.  I thought I would try it out because my hair was starting to feel dry from all the straightening.  I put the GREEMU on my hair from the roots to the tips and left it in overnight.  I truly expected to have a hard time washing it out, but much to my surprise it washed right out in one shampooing.  After I washed out the GREEMU, my hair was nice, soft, and manageable again.  One of the things I am most impressed with about this product is how little of the GREEMU I have actually used.  I have not been sparing with it.  I have used it on myself and a couple of times on my daughter and I still have about 3/4 of the bottle left.  If you are looking for a great natural product to help with skin or hair issues, I would definitely recommend GREEMU by Devonian. 
Look how much GREEMU I still have left after weeks of use.
You can get more information about GREEMU by Devonian at their website.  You can buy it over at Koru Naturals.  You can also check out their Facebook page and their Pinterest page.

Check out what my blogging friends at the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about GREEMU by Devonian by clicking on the banner below:
Greemu Devonian Review

Monday, April 25, 2016

Christian Heroes: Then & Now Jacob DeShazer: Forgive Your Enemies – YWAM Publishing Review

Like every mom out there, I want my kids to be reading quality books that I know are filled with wholesome, safe content.  When the review came up for YWAM Publishing, I was excited to see what they had to offer.  As I started looking at who YWAM Publishing was, I realized we had already read many of the books they publish and we love them.  The hardest part for us was trying to pick which book we would like to read.   We finally picked the book Christian Heroes: Then & Now Jacob DeShazer: Forgive Your Enemies from YWAM Publishing along with the Digital Unit Study to review.  I knew when I picked this book to review from their many options, that we would be getting a great book about a real person with a lesson that we could learn. 

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I picked the book Christian Heroes: Then & Now Jacob DeShazer: Forgive Your Enemies from YWAM Publishing along with the Digital Unit Study to review because we had never heard of Jacob DeShazer before.  We knew nothing about his story, but it sounded like something that would really capture my son’s attention.  Jacob DeShazer was one of the famous Doolittle Raiders who first attacked Japan after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  The mission of the Doolittle Raiders was to bomb aircraft factories and oil storage tanks in Japan to stop their military, but their mission didn’t go as planned.  Jacob DeShazer knew that his mission was extremely dangerous, but he never thought he would become a prisoner of war.  It was during his time as a prisoner of war that Jacob was given a Bible and he became a Christian.  God showed Jacob that he needed to forgive his captors and that he should be a missionary to the Japanese, which he did obediently for 30 years.

When we got the book, my son was happy to receive it since we have liked the other books we have read from YWAM Publishing in the past.  He began reading aloud through the book.  My plan was for him to read through a chapter each day and then we would use the Digital Unit Study to discuss the book and to dig deeper into the book.  As he began reading, he kept asking me if he had to stop reading at the end of a chapter because it was getting really good.  So I let him keep reading.  I can’t think of any time I have told my kids they had to stop reading when they are really interested in something.  My son was captivated by Jacob DeShazer’s story and there were several times when he was reading aloud that he would stop and ask me, “Did you hear that mom?  That was amazing!”  He truly enjoyed reading this book and learning more about Jacob DeShazer and his amazing life.  I feel like I can’t share the parts of the book that he really liked without telling you too much of the story and this is really a book that is well worth the time spent reading. 

Along with the book, YWAM Publishing sent us their Digital Unit Study to review as well.  This unit study is a very valuable resource to download to go along with the book.  The unit study has instructions for using the book and the study for classrooms and for homeschooling.  It is very detailed and gives several ideas and options of how you can use the unit study with the book.  It explained how you could use the unit study devoting maximum class time to it and how to use it using minimal class time.  We opted to use the digital unit study for a moderate amount of time.  We focused on the Key Bible Verses, some Social Studies, and the Chapter Questions.  There were 4 Key Bible Verses for the Jacob DeShazer book and I thought it would be really good for my son to learn these and see how they related to the book and Jacob’s life.  I gave him the verses to study so we could discuss them.  We discussed them before he began reading the book so that he could see scripturally where the book was going.  We discussed them again mid-way through the book to see if he had seen any of these verses in action through the book and then again now that he has finished the book.  He said he could see how they fit with the book.  We used some of the Social Studies work from the unit study, but we did not use all of it.  We looked up the places the booked talked about on maps to see where we were reading about, but we did not go into as much detail as the study guide suggests.  I definitely appreciated the amount of Social Studies the unit study had in it and felt like it could definitely be a unit that counted for Social Studies and I would have used it this way had we not already been studying WWII for our current History curriculum.  We did focus on answering the Chapter Questions from the unit study as I felt it gave us many topics to discuss from the book.  I had my son answer the questions and then we would discuss his answers.  Sometimes he wrote out his answers and then we had a discussion and sometimes we just discussed them verbally.  This gave me a chance to really see if he was understanding what he was reading, if he was learning the vocabulary used in the book, and how he felt about what was happening in the book.  We truly enjoyed this book and my son wants to read more about the Doolittle Raiders this summer, which is awesome because the unit study even lists more resources that you can read that are related to this book so we will definitely be checking out this area of the study guide.  I also truly enjoyed all of the options in the unit study guide.  It gives you so many more ways to use the book.  I do plan to also use this book with our Sunday School class too (we teach 4-6th grade boys) because I think they will really enjoy the story and we can show them how God used Jacob’s life to reach others.  When we read this book with our Sunday School, I plan to use the unit study guide as well. 
YWAM  Publishing published not only this Jacob DeShazer book in their Christian Heroes series, but they have several other great books in this series.  We love the Christian Heroes series in our house because they tell true stories of missionaries and how God uses them to reach others.  YWAM Publishing also has a Heroes of History series of biographies that tell the stories of the men and women who have changed the course of history.  We have not read any of the books in the Heroes of History series, but will definitely be checking them out as we do enjoy reading about real people.  You can find YWAM Publishing on their website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and they have a blog.  You can find the Christian Heroes: Then & Now Jacob DeShazer: Forgive Your Enemies book that we read here and you can find the accompanying downloadable unit study guide here.  You should definitely check out YWAM Publishing and the amazing books they have to offer and in our house we definitely recommend you read Christian Heroes: Then & Now Jacob DeShazer: Forgive Your Enemies.

Please take a moment to go and check out my friends on the Schoolhouse Review Crew by clicking on the banner below.  The Crew reviewed many different books from YWAM Publishing.  I can’t wait to check out the reviews and see which books we will add to our reading list.
Christian Heroes {YWAM Publishing Review}

Friday, April 22, 2016

Friday Faves: 5 of Our Favorite Dinners

I haven’t done a Friday Favorites post in quite awhile.  Ever since I started menu planning and actually trying the meals that I pin on Pinterest we have had some really delicious dinners.  I thought I would take a few minutes today and share 5 of our favorite dinners with you.  I even linked directly to the recipes for those of you who don’t have Pinterest.
  • Lemon Butter Chicken – I can’t remember when I found this recipe from Damn Delicious (sorry for the language, I did not name that blog), but it is truly a fantastic main dish.  Our family fights over the leftovers, thankfully the first time we had this meal I claimed all future leftovers any time we have this meal.  Yes it is really that good, REALLY!!!  We love the sauce for the chicken and the bright flavor it gives the meal.  My kids save the extra sauce and put it on baked potatoes for lunch the next day.  I fix this recipe with chicken breasts cut in half so they don’t take as long to cook and because I have a weird thing about bone-in chicken.  I serve this with a simple salad and a veggie.
  • Slow Cooker Chicken and Quinoa Chili – This recipe from Darcie’s Dishes is so tasty, relatively cheap, and family approved.  My son loves it so much he ate the leftovers for breakfast one time when I made it.  You can also make it on your stove top if you forget to throw everything in the crock pot (like me).  Every time I make this meal, my family asks when it will be on the menu again.  You could serve this with bread if you would like (I do not so that I stay on my eating plan).
  • Meatball Parmesan – Meatballs and gooey cheese, do I even need to say more?  There are never any of these leftover in our house.  I serve them with a simple salad and a veggie. 
  • Skillet Chicken with Creamy Cilantro Lime Sauce – We just tried this recipe this week and the family wanted it again every day this week.  They said schedule it twice next month.  It is very similar to the lemon butter chicken and we love it.  Again I used thin cut chicken breasts and it was DELICIOUS!!!  I served it with a salad and baked potatoes.
  • One Pan Mexican Quinoa – We have been doing a few more meatless meals lately just to stretch our grocery budget a little, never hurts right?  This recipe is from the same site as the lemon butter chicken.  I want to go to dinner at her house because every night must be great.  Anyway, my family loves this dish.  We are huge Mexican food fans and my family does not even miss meat in the meal.  I have added in some browned ground turkey on nights I have made it and we won’t be at home just to keep us full a little longer and it is good that way too.  It is a very versatile dish because you can add meat, more heat to it, or top it with your favorite toppings.  Sometimes we have salad with this, sometimes we don’t.  It is very filling just as it is.
Do you have any favorite meals that your family requests over and over?  Which of these meals will you put on your menu?  I would love to hear which ones of these you try or if you have a meal you think I should try let me know.  If you are looking for my April Menu Plan you can find it by clicking HERE and you can find me and all my menu plans so far on my Pinterest page.  Soon I will be planning my meals for May.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Apologia Educational Ministries – Writers in Residence Review

Language arts has never been a favorite subject for my son and this year the curriculum we were using was really frustrating for him.  Both he and I were excited to receive Writers in Residence from Apologia Educational Ministries to review because it focuses on learning language arts in a completely different way than our current curriculum did.  Writers in Residence has ended the language arts frustration for my 7th grader and I couldn’t be happier!
homeschool writing curriculum Debra Bell language arts curriculum
Writers in Residence from Apologia Educational Ministries  is a complete language arts curriculum written by Debra Bell.  The set we received is Volume 1 and it included the All in One Student Text & Workbook along with the Answer Key.  This language arts curriculum is writing focused, but it teaches your student how to find their own writing voice through completing the assignments.  The writing assignments are interesting and they help students learn more about sentence structure, parts of speech, punctuation, capitalization, and grammar.  This curriculum teaches students to write assignments that are clear, lively, and captivating.  Writers in Residence also includes a detailed lesson plan outline for 32 weeks of use, evaluation rubrics, and checklists for completing each unit.  One of my favorite features of this curriculum are the interviews with real Christian authors (I must admit that I skipped ahead in the curriculum to read all the interviews).  It is designed for students in grades 4 through 8. 

My son is very good at creative writing, but getting the mechanics of writing correct all the time has been a struggle from the early years.  It has lead to a lot of frustration and he eventually began to dread writing.  The curriculum we have been using before this review does an okay job with language arts and teaching grammar concepts, but I feel like it leaves too many gaps and it has lead to confusion.  Every year I try to find material to help with these gaps, but I have never found anything that covered both language arts and grammar that I felt fit for us.  We have tried a lot of individual products for these subjects that have been just okay.  I have always been on the lookout for a complete language arts curriculum that included grammar so that we didn’t feel like we were working on two completely different subjects.  Writers in Residence is the language arts curriculum that I have been looking for and since we started using it, my son has not complained about writing, language arts, or grammar at all.  He completely understands the concepts he has been working through and I have been seeing improvements in the mechanics of his writing in each lesson that he works on.

The workbook is very thorough and has a section of how to use the curriculum at the beginning of it.  This section gives very detailed information of how and why Writers in Residence is different from other curriculum and how to use it effectively for your student.  It also includes a welcome section for the students that explains what they will be learning, why they should be writing, a quick look at the Christian authors they will find out about later on, traits of the writing model, an introduction to the writing process, and a suggested daily schedule.  Both my son and I loved these parts of the workbook that we read through before we ever got to the first lesson.  My son loved knowing that he would be learning how to write about things that were important to him – his ideas, his memories, and his stories.  He really was excited that he wouldn’t be writing papers that seemed pointless to him.  I was excited that he could see from the very beginning what he would learn, what was expected of him, and that he had a direction for his writing.
Then we got into the real work of the textbook and workbook.  We really enjoyed reading about Bill Myers, a real life Christian author, who has written a lot of books.  The workbook is broken down into six units and each unit is broken down into modules.  Unit 1 focuses on “When I Was Young” and writing from the student’s favorite childhood memories.  My son chose to focus on the memories he made playing at his cars table when he was little.  The unit introduced the rubric that would be used to evaluate his writing and also introduced a model to follow while he was developing the story from his memories.  The unit also taught him more about verbs, vocabulary, nouns, being specific, capitalization, and sentence order among other things.  Each section that my son worked through had him reflecting on and improving his memory sentences which he is using to create his writing on “When I Was Young.”  This has opened the door for us to talking about descriptive writing, choosing specific nouns, and verbs that draw the readers in and make them feel like they are right in the memory with you.  I have seen my son’s writing improve and his confidence about writing has returned.  He is judging his work as he goes and making necessary improvements based on the lessons he has learned from Writers in Residence.  While language arts still is not his favorite subject, he no longer dreads it or complains about it.

I am extremely happy with Writers in Residence from Apologia Educational Ministries.  I really like the approach this curriculum uses to make writing real to the students by using their own memories and experiences to write from.  I really love the way it teaches students to evaluate their own work and to go back and make it stronger by adding in specific nouns, vigorous verbs, and descriptions that the reader can picture.  My favorite thing about this curriculum is that it is complete and I don’t have find separate grammar and language arts any more.  I am also thankful that language arts is no longer frustrating in our house.  We will definitely continue to work through the rest of this language arts curriculum as we finish up our school year and then we will pick up where we leave off with it next school year.  I truly hope that Apologia Educational Ministries, Writers in Residence, and Debra Bell with come out with volume 2 of this because I would certainly purchase that curriculum to follow up this one.

You can check out Apologia Educational Ministries at their website or on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.  You can find the Writers in Residence curriculum here.  Please go and check them out for yourself and see if they would be a good fit for your students.  We definitely recommend them!

You can also check out what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about Writers in Residence by clicking on the banner below this. 

Apologia: Writers in Residence Review
Crew Disclaimer

Monday, April 18, 2016

A+ Interactive Math - Math Mini-Courses Review

Math is not always the easiest subject to teach kids.  There are always some concepts that are quick to teach because your student catches on right away and there are others that your student will struggle with.  Fractions can be one of those subjects - one that students either get or they don’t get.  When we had the opportunity to review Math Mini-Courses from A+ Interactive Math, I looked at the mini-courses they offered and I was very excited to find courses on fractions.  We received two different mini-courses to review.  I picked Early Elementary Fractions for my 2nd grader and  Advanced Fractions for my 7th grader. 

Math Mini-Courses {A+ Interactive Math Review}

Math Mini-Courses {A+ Interactive Math Review}

The Online Math Mini-Courses from A+ Interactive Math are designed to help close the learning gaps in areas of math that students commonly struggle or have weaknesses with.  They offer 20 different math mini courses covering a wide range of topics.  Some of the courses are for early elementary school children (1st - 3rd grade), some course can be used for all elementary school children (1st - 6th grade), and some courses are designed for upper elementary and middle school (4th - 8th grade).  The number of lessons in each mini-course depends varies.  The mini-courses offered are:
  • Counting and Identifying Numbers
  • Place Value and Number Combinations
  • Naming, Comparing, and Arranging Numbers
  • Early Elementary Fractions
  • Early Elementary Addition
  • Early Elementary Subtraction
  • Elementary & Middle School Multiplication
  • Elementary & Middle School Division, 
  • Tables, Charts and Graphs
  • Elementary Geometry
  • Elementary Algebra
  • Advanced Geometry
  • Advanced Fractions 
  • Decimal Numbers
  • Percentages
  • Time
  • Money
  • Number Types and Conversions
  • Ratio, Proportions, Probability & Statistics
  • Measurements and Conversions
You can see that these Math Mini-Courses from A+ Interactive Math cover a wide range of topics.  Each course covers a group of specific math concepts from several grade levels.  The courses are completed online (you can print off worksheets and enter the answers in after your student completes the worksheet) and the student can see their progress as well as you can in the teacher tracking area.  The courses feature automatic grading, animated lessons, audio, and tracking so you can know how far along your student is.  The Mini-Courses are affordable too.  They range in price from $9.99 to $19.99 and include access for a full year even though each course can be completed in just a couple of months.
A screenshot of one of the lessons
So how did we use our Math Mini-Courses?  I chose to receive the Early Elementary Fractions for my 2nd grader and the Advanced Fractions for my 7th grader.  My second grader is just now starting to learn the beginning of fractions in her regular math book so I thought this mini-course would be perfect to help supplement what she was learning.  The Early Elementary Fractions course covered several topics including an introduction to fractions, equivalent fractions, and adding fractions.  As she started working on it, we realized that this program was ahead of her math book which was okay.  It just meant that I had to help make sure that she paid close attention to the explanation videos and then she wanted me near when she was answering the questions since she was covering new material.   She was unsure of the new concepts she learned at first, but as she worked her way through the interactive review questions she gained confidence and really knew what she was doing.  Her favorite part of the program, besides learning new fraction concepts was clicking the frog's belly to submit her answers.  I heard cheerful "I clicked his belly" calls repeated as she worked through the lessons.  In just a short amount of time with the program, we got about halfway through completing the whole mini-course.  She will continue to work her way through the Early Elementary Fractions until she finishes the course.
Here is the frog and his belly that you click (this was from my son's course)
I also had my son working on the Advanced Fractions Math Mini-Course.  He is currently working through Pre-Algebra for school and did some fraction work this year as part of that.  I figured it couldn't hurt to have him work on this mini-course as well to just reinforce what he has learned and worked on.  This course covered several topics including the greatest common factor, mixed fractions, and several methods of converting fractions.  These were all concepts he has learned before, but I felt like this program did teach him some new ways to look at the fractions and it was a great reinforcement of what he has already learned.  He didn't mind working through this program as he knows that fractions can be tricky for him.  He did comment that he wished you didn't have to wait for the program to read all the answers to you before you select the answer.  I however though this was a good thing even though it made the lesson take a little longer because it made him stop and think through all the answers before choosing which saved him a couple of times from choosing wrong.  He really did enjoy the fact that the program graded his answers as he went and when he finished the questions, he knew his total score.  He is also about halfway through his mini-course after just a few weeks of work.  He will also continue to work his way through Advanced Fractions until he finishes the course.
They both loved seeing when they got answers right.
Overall the Math Mini-Courses we received from A+ Interactive Math have been really great.  I think they did fill in some gaps of understanding for my son in the Advanced Fractions and it has been a great starting point for my daughter with the Early Elementary Fractions since her regular math has just been introducing fractions.  I feel like it will set her up to work through fractions better in next year's math and she will have an understanding of them already.  I also liked having a teacher's login so that I could check on their progress and see what they had been working on.  I will tell you that at first it was a little confusing to figure out how to get the courses started for each child.  I didn't have any problems setting up each student, but once they logged in figuring out where they should start was a little confusing.  When they start a lesson a box pops up that has you mark the lesson as "In Progress" and if you don't mark that it will not record their work and progress.  Once we got the hang of doing that we were fine.  The other thing that you have to make sure you do is click the frog's belly to submit your answers instead of the "next" arrow.  Until we got used to the program, I had to remind them to click the belly instead of hitting next.  Other than these 2 things, I think it is a great program and it really helped my kids with fractions.  I look forward to checking their knowledge after they completely finish the program.  I am also very interested in checking out their other mini-courses to help fill in gaps in our current math program.  If your students have any weaknesses with math or you just want to reinforce what they have learned this year, you should definitely check out A+ Interactive Math.  It would be a great summer program so they don't lose what they learned over the last year.
This is a sample of what you can see in the teacher's area.  I could see what my daughter had completed.
You can check out the Math Mini-Course information here.  You can find A+ Interactive Math on their website as they have other programs to offer too.  You can also find them on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.  Please go and check them out.

Also be sure that you click the banner to check out more reviews of A+ Interactive Math from the Schoolhouse Review Crew because different crew members checked out different Mini-Courses.  I will definitely be looking through the reviews to check out the other courses that I did not try.

Math Mini-Courses {A+ Interactive Math Review}

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Talking Fingers Inc. - Read, Write & Type Review

Little Miss is always mesmerized when I am typing on the computer and she is always asking when she will get to learn to type.  She was super excited when we got the chance recently to review Read, Write & Type from Talking Fingers Inc. because it was finally her turn to learn to type.  This program was not only fun for her to use, it was also very educational which is a win-win in my book.  I didn't have any issues getting her to use the program, I only had issues getting her to stop working on it each day.

Talking Fingers Inc. Review phonics phoneme awareness early writing and spelling keyboarding vocabulary reading

Read, Write & Type from Talking Fingers Inc. is an online program that integrates phonics, reading, writing, and keyboarding.  This program has 40 lessons in it and is designed for ages 6 through 9.  It pairs speech sounds with a letter and finger stroke on the keyboard while it teaches students to pronounce, segment, type, and spell words as they play games and try to defeat the virus named Vexor who keeps stealing letters.  There are also several other characters in this program such as the Talking Hands that give the basic instructions and the story takes place in a city where you can visit many different places in the city and complete different activities.  This program also has special features for students with learning disabilities, reading difficulties, or ESL but we did not use these aspects of the program.
Little Miss getting started on Day 1 of the program.
Like I said earlier, Little Miss was super excited when she found out that we had received a One Year Subscription to Read, Write & Type from Talking Fingers Inc. to review.  She didn't have to be asked twice to get on the computer and start working with the program.  Once I got her logged in, she jumped right in and began working on the program.  She was completely mesmerized by the characters and the stories that went with them.  She absolutely loved learning the keyboarding from the program and she would re-cap the stories to me that she had read while learning the letters.  She loved the days that she got to send an "email" to other kids (don't worry she wasn't sending real emails, this is just a part of the program that simulates email to other kids).  Little Miss liked that she got instant feedback of how she was doing on the program and when she would complete 4 letters, she got a certificate of completion.  Even though the program is designed to take only about 15 minutes each day, Little Miss wanted to work each day until she got her certificate.  It was her self-imposed daily goal.
One of the Certificates of Merit (it does include her name, but I erased that part for this picture).
Another certificate Little Miss earned.
The program put the completed characters in the appropriate windows. (This was about a week or so into the program)
As a parent and her teacher, I was also really impressed with the program.  I really thought that it would just be teaching her keyboarding, but as I was listening and watching her work I saw that Read, Write & Type from Talking Fingers Inc. was also reinforcing her letter sounds, helping her with her reading skills, and working on her hand-eye coordination as she was learning where her fingers went on the keyboard.  I really appreciated that the program has a built in "Bonus Blimp" that kept track of her performance and would send her back to activities that she needed to practice on.  I also liked being able to log in under my level (the instructor's level) and get a complete report of how she was doing.  The detailed reports tracked each level and how she did in Phonics, Reading, Spelling, and an overall Average of the lesson.  There was also an area of settings for my student where I could set which days she was allowed to log in (I left it so she could log in every day, even on the weekends), the passing grade (she had to get at least 70% to pass, but she was always well above that), and the difficulty level of the program.  I set the difficulty level at easy for this time since she had no experience with this program.  Little Miss definitely wants to continue working on this program even though she has it almost completed (she has finished 8 out of the 10 levels in just a few weeks) and after she completes all 10 levels, I plan to change the difficulty of the program so she continues learning from it and building her typing skills.  I also really appreciated that once I got her logged into the site, she could work on her own.  She usually worked while I was finishing school with her brother, it kept her occupied, learning, and not interrupting his work.  I definitely recommend that you check out this program for yourself.

Here are the settings I could edit in the instructor area.
Read, Write & Type from Talking Fingers Inc. has been a great program for us to work through.  We definitely give it two thumbs up and think it is a great value for the price of it.  You can try it for yourself on their website because they do offer a free trial of this program.  Talking Fingers Inc. has several pricing plans for Read, Write & Type based on how many students you are using this program for and where you are using it (homeschool setting or a school setting).  They also offer other products for other ages that you can try out on their website too.  Please go and check them out.  You can find Talking Fingers Inc. on their website, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.  You can find the Read, Write & Type program that we used by clicking this link.  Please go and check them out today!

You can also find out what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought of Read, Write & Type from Talking Fingers Inc. by clicking the picture below:

Talking Fingers Inc. Review

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

I'm Getting Antsy...

The countdown is on and I couldn't be more excited!  We have only 20 days of school left for this year and then we will be on summer break.  SUMMER BREAK!!!  I am totally geeked.  I love the routine of doing our school, learning something every day, and teaching, but I am also looking forward to reading for fun, lazy mornings, picking blueberries, baking, crafting, and playing in the sunshine.  I have been putting together a mental list of things we will work on this summer, but I thought I would get it down here on my blog so that you guys can check in on me and make sure I am getting fun stuff done this summer.  Don't worry you will still see many educational things on my blog this summer as we still have reviews to work on and I am sure there will be a curriculum post or two coming as it is a natural part of the homeschooling process, but I am hoping to post about crafts, recipes, baking, and reading this summer too.  I plan to actually try many of the things I pin on Pinterest and spend some serious time hanging out with the kiddos hopefully in the warmth and sunshine (last summer was not so warm or sunny here).

I am getting pretty antsy to start working on projects, but I know we have to finish school first and I have to get the grades in the computer.  I try not to let myself dive into any big summer projects until I have everything wrapped up for the year.  It's like a reward for me.  :)  Here is my summer to do list so far:
  • Finish cross stitch of wolves for my son
  • Transform an old dresser into a desk with storage
  • Start remodeling our master bedroom
  • Scrapbook 50 layouts
  • Bake 15 new cupcakes from my Pinterest board
  • De-clutter my office/scraproom
  • Teach my daughter to sew
  • Sew my own skirt
  • Sew a dress for my daughter
  • Go blueberry picking more than once
  • Make blueberry desserts
  • Cut out and hang the Bible verse in our living room
  • Finish hanging decorations in my kitchen
  • Make decorative fence for our strawberry patch
  • Make 15 crafts off of Pinterest
  • Read 10 books for fun
This list is just the beginning of my summer plans.  I am sure I will be adding to it and updating you on projects as we go through the summer, once we get there of course.  For now I will just keep focusing on finishing up school and let the list of things I want to work on this summer grow.  What are your summer plans?

Friday, April 8, 2016

Beach in a Jar Craft

I love the sand, the sun, and the water.  I can't begin to tell you how much.  Some of my favorite memories are from vacations past sitting on the beach just watching the water and soaking in the sun and warmth.  I just love the thought of how small I am compared to how big the oceans are and how God loves all of His creation, especially little ol' me.  That is what I ponder when I am sitting on the beach.  God's creation is AMAZING.  I tell you all of this so that I can explain my love of the beach has inspired the decorations in my bedroom and many of the colors in my house.  My bedroom is not decorated in a beach theme yet as we have not redone our bedroom yet (if you ever really considered it done in the first place as we painted it 11 years ago and haven't done anything to it since), but I do know that I want to decorate it with a beach theme in mind.  Knowing I want to do a beach theme in my bedroom, I got an idea for a beach jar when I was on a recent trip to Ikea.  This is a SUPER easy craft.  I picked up all the items for this craft at Ikea, but you can easily find them at a local craft store.

A jar that shuts
Decorating Sand (I used 2 colors)

1.  Place the desired amount of decorating sand in the bottom of the jar.  For my jar, I alternated between colors to create a layered effect.

2.  Add in the desired amount of shells.

Beach Craft

3.  Close the jar.  See I told you it was SUPER simple.

I display this jar on my bookshelf in my bedroom.  I love seeing it every day and it just reminds me of the beach and God's AWESOME creation.  It is a reminder to me of the gorgeous sunrises and sunsets I have seen on the beach and the warmth of the sun on my face.  Can you tell how much I love the beach?  What is your favorite spot?

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Spring Gifts for You!!!

This past December I was chosen for a spot on the Schoolhouse Review Crew.  I am completely humbled and honored to be a part of the Review Crew and through it we get the opportunity to review a lot of great homeschool products for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.  The Old Schoolhouse is an amazing company that offers tons of resources, support, encouragement, and information to homeschool families.  One of their amazing products they produce is The Old Schoolhouse Magazine which is jam packed with information, resources, encouragement, products, and support for parents. You can find out more about their magazine and even get access to some of the back issues for free at their website.  The Old Schoolhouse would like to get information about their website out to more of you, so they have given me some gifts to pass along to you my readers.  What do you have to do to claim these free gifts?  Nothing really, but I would really love it if you would go over and "Like" the TOS Review Crew Page and The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Facebook pages.  Now let me tell you about the freebies I picked for you.

The calendar says that Spring is here and I desperately want the weather to say Spring is here, but right now they are just not agreeing.  I guess they will have to agree to disagree for another week or so, but after that I hope they get it figured out because I am really looking forward to some warmer weather and flip flops.  I am also really looking forward to getting our garden planned and planted.  I can't begin to tell you how much I love fresh fruits and veggies.  I long for fresh, garden tomatoes and all things tomatoes.  Yes I can get tomatoes from the store in the winter, but they just don't taste the same, if they taste like anything at all.  So since we do plan and plant a garden, I thought that maybe this Keeping the Garden book from Molly Green Magazine would be just the thing for you.  It is for experienced and wannabe gardeners.  So I hope you enjoy it.

I also picked another garden related product.  This one is the Molly Green Magazine: Canning, Pantry, and Food Preservation Planner.  I started canning and freezing produce years ago to preserve our garden food.  This planner has instructions, plans, and checklists to help you preserve your own food.

The last free gift I have for you this month is to encourage you.  Many of us are close to finishing our homeschool year and the days are long and can easily be overwhelming with the end of the school year events, tests, and just life in general.  So I choose the Hey Mama! 31 Day Devotional.  I pray it will give you encouragement for those times when you are weary or feeling down.

The free gifts that I have picked for you are all located in The Old Schoolhouse Store.  You will have to create an account for the store, but it is easy to do.  After you created your account, all you have to do is add these 3 products to your cart and then checkout.  At checkout enter the code: CHCREW16 and these 3 items will be free.  While you are there feel free to check out some of their other resources.  These items are only free until April 30, 2016, so don't miss out on them.  

Thank you again to The Old Schoolhouse Store for giving away these items to my readers.  I really appreciate it and I appreciate being a part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew.  You can find their Facebook page here and you can find the Review Crew page here.  Be sure to check us out!  Let me know if you get the items I have picked for you and what you think of them.  

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Trigger Memory Co. - Times Tales Review

My daughter had just started learning her multiplication facts after Christmas and she was doing pretty good at the lower multiplication facts - the 0, 1, and 2 fact families, but anything above those numbers and she would get frustrated with her math.  When we were given the chance to review Times Tales from The Trigger Memory Co. I was pretty excited because I thought this program could really help her.  These DVDs and accompanying worksheets are designed to make it fun and easy for students to memorize the upper multiplication facts by using stories and mnemonics.  I can tell you that it actually works and my daughter is no longer struggling with her upper multiplication facts.
The Trigger Memory Co REVIEW

We received Times Tales from The Trigger Memory Co. as a digital download to review.  The digital download includes 2 mp3 files for parts one and two of the Times Tales movies which are about 30 minutes each.  It also included 3 PDF files which contained worksheets for each part of the movie and an answer key.  The files did take awhile to download, but keep in mind you are downloading movies.  The Trigger Memory Co. also has Times Tales available as DVDs if you prefer that format.  Times Tales is designed to teach the following multiplication facts:  3x6, 3x7, 3x8, 3x9, 4x6, 4x7, 4x8, 4x9, 6x6, 6x7, 6x8, 6x9, 7x7, 7x8, 7x9, 8x8, 8x9, and 9x9.

When we got this product to review my second grade daughter had just really started learning multiplication in her math book.  She had the lower multiplication facts down.  The ones that were easy - 0, 1, and 2.  Her math book had just started introducing the middle and upper facts, but they were really frustrating her because they were not easy for her to remember like the low facts are.  You know the rules 0 x anything is 0 and 1 x a number is that number.  That was easy for her, but I couldn't teach her an easy way to memorize the middle and upper facts besides just practicing them over and over.  Little Miss sat down to watch part one of the Times Tales video and she was completely engrossed.  The beginning of part one introduces the characters and the format of the program.  It also suggested watching Part Two of Times Tales about a week after Part One while reviewing the information learned in Part One.

Watching Part One of Times Tales
The Times Tales videos are filled with number characters who each have a story.  These little stories that the number characters have are mnemonic stories that teach the students the facts so that they can recall the stories and the multiplication facts.  After watching Part One of the video, my daughter came out talking about Mrs. Week, Mrs. Snowman, and Chair.  These are some of the number characters in the video.  She then told me what the characters were doing.  An example of one of the stories that she learned is: Mrs. Week (who is number 7 because there are 7 days in a week) went butterfly hunting.  She caught 20 in her net and 1 landed on her head.  From this you get the fact 7x3=21.  The following day I printed off the worksheets for Part One and my daughter started working through them.  She didn't want my help, she said she could do it by herself and she was right.  She sat working on the multiplication facts worksheets and she got all the answers right on it about 2 minutes.  This is the same girl that was taking at least 30 minutes to answer 12 multiplication facts on her math worksheets.  I was blown away!  After she finished the worksheets, I had her review the facts the rest of the week.

Watching Part 2 of Times Tales
The second week, I had my daughter watch Part 2 of Times Tales and again she came out telling all about what the characters were doing.  She of course loved the story about the monkeys getting fed since she loves monkeys.  The following day I gave her the worksheets for Part 2 and again she flew through them and got all the answers right.  Again I was blown away!  Now when she is doing her regular math workbook and she gets stuck on a multiplication fact, all I have to say is what are the numbers doing and she will get the fact right away.  I have had her watch both videos a couple more times since the first two weeks just for reinforcement of the facts she learned, but I know without a doubt that she knows her upper multiplication facts from using Times Tales by The Trigger Memory Co.  Even last night I was asking Little Miss some multiplication problems to see if she still remembered the stories and she rattled off the answers with no problem.  Then she told her dad the story about the numbers and that is how she knew the answers.  She told us about apples, tree houses, and speed limits because that is how she knows the facts.  I truly wish I would have know about this program when my son was younger so he could have picked up his multiplication facts so quickly too.

We are extremely impressed with Times Tales from The Trigger Memory Co. and the HUGE progress my daughter made on her multiplication facts just by watching these videos and practicing the worksheets.  I strongly urge you to purchase this program to use if you have students just learning their multiplication facts, students struggling to learn their multiplication facts, or you just want to reinforce the facts that they have learned.  This program has been a HUGE blessing to our school and my daughter's math.  You can find The Trigger Memory Co. on their website and on Facebook.  You can also find their product Times Tales in their online store by clicking here.  I hope you will check it out for yourself and if you do, let me know how it works for you.

You can also find out what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought of Times Tales by clicking the picture below:

Times Tales by the The Trigger Memory Co REVIEW

Friday, April 1, 2016

April's Menu Plan

My goodness the year is flying by already.  This could be due to our kitchen remodel that took up most of March.  We have a few little things left to do, but the majority of the work is done.  I can tell you that it is really my dream kitchen and I can't wait to have some time to do some serious baking in it.  Anyway it is April Fool's Day and the only joke going on around here is the weather.  Earlier this week it was almost 60 degrees, today the high is 41 degrees and the heat is running again.  The weatherman has even mentioned the S word in the forecast tomorrow...ick.  I have to tell you that a lot of the menu plan I have put together this month is the same as last month because with the kitchen torn up, we didn't get to have the meals I planned.  Many times last month I had to make items that could be cooked in the microwave, crock pot, or we ended up eating out.  So I have just re-planned some of the meals I intended for last month and added them to this month's menu plan.  You can find most of the meals for my April Menu Plan on Pinterest.  If they are not on there, they are recipes from my head that I already know.

  1. Fooled Ya Pizza (Cauliflower Crust Pizza)
  2. Teen event at church
  3. Stir Fry
  4. BLT Chicken Wraps
  5. Slow Cooker Chicken Quinoa Chili
  6. Beef Stroganoff
  7. Tilapia with Cheesy Rice
  8. Pizza Soup
  9. Greek Marinated Chicken
  10. Vegetarian Taco Salad
  11. Buffalo Chicken Bowls
  12. French Onion Soup Au Gratin Stuffed Meatballs
  13. Grilled Ginger Sesame Chicken Salad
  14. Philly Cheesesteak Sloppy Joes
  15. Stromboli Pizza
  16. Skillet Chicken with Creamy Cilantro Lime Sauce
  17. Easy Quinoa Fried Rice
  18. Tex Mex Bacon Cheesebugrers
  19. Reuben Rolls
  20. Seriously Delicious Taco Salad
  21. Crock Pot Broccoli Cheese Soup
  22. Pizza
  23. Chicken Fajitas
  24. Quinoa Black Bean Burrito Bowls
  25. Poor Man's "Beef" and Broccoli (I use ground turkey for the beef)
  26. Philly Cheesesteak Stuffed Peppers
  27. Broccoli Chicken Mac and Cheese
  28. Beef and Sweet Potato Chowder
  29. Pizza Casserole
  30. Jambalaya
Again if you missed the link before, you can find my April Menu Plan on Pinterest.  While you are there checking out and saving the pins for these meals, will you take a moment and follow me?  Which of these meals are making your menu this month?

5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents: Relax

We have chatted a lot this week.  I, along with my other blogging friends on the Schoolhouse Review Crew have been giving you all kinds of tips to help you out in your homeschool.  So far on this blog we have discussed being flexible, not comparing, scheduling, and  support, but today I want to discuss something different.  I want to discuss you, the homeschooling parent.  I don't know if you are a mom or a dad, but let me encourage you today.

Dear Homeschool Moms and Dads,
You work hard every day.  Not only are you a mom or a dad, you are a teacher, a cook, a chauffeur, a nurse, a maid, a tutor, a personal assistant, and so much more.  You are with your kids almost all the time and you are tired.  You don't get to go home when your teaching job is done for the day, you just get to switch roles to being a parent.  It can be exhausting.  Don't give up, you are doing great!  No today probably didn't go as planned, but tomorrow is a new day, a day to try again.  RELAX!!!  I know, I know you are thinking there is no time to relax.  There are laundry mountains and those dishes aren't going to wash themselves, but take a minute to take a breath and see the beauty in the moment.  That mountain of laundry means there are many that are loved in your home.  Those dishes mean you had food to eat today.  I know you look around and see only messes, trust me I look around my house and see the messes too, but I know those will be gone one day and my children will be grown all too soon.  So RELAX!!!  Take the time to enjoy playing dolls or building with Legos, those offers won't be extended for forever.  When you hear "Will you read this to me?" say yes even though your hands are filled with soap suds.  Sit down and color a picture together, it will be okay if dinner is 10 minutes late.  RELAX!!!  I know it feels like your child is never going to get that math concept.  I know you have researched teaching it 10 different ways and they are still struggling with it.  It might not make sense to your child today, but it will click eventually.  Slow down and read an extra chapter of that book your child really likes from their curriculum even if it isn't on the schedule because it encourages their love of reading.  Go ahead and close the science book early so that you can go outside and find a real flower to teach them the parts of.  This is your school to run how it best fits your family and it is okay if it doesn't look like my school because my school is what fits us.  RELAX!!!  Take a few moments to collect your thoughts, this might mean you get up 10 minutes earlier or go to bed 10 minutes later or assign the kids 10 minutes of quiet time, but you need a break to let your mind rest.  Try to do something you love every day, read a chapter of a book, work on a craft, bake something, or go for a run, whatever helps you feel refreshed and relaxed.  You might only get a few minutes to do this so grab a cup of coffee, tea, or water and enjoy those few minutes.  A burnout parent is not an effective parent or teacher.  We all get burnout and need to recharge so take a few minutes and relax.  The world is chaotic enough, we don't need to be chaotic too.  We don't do any good when we are stressed out and ready to jump off the dining room table, I know I've been ready to jump off my dining room table too.  Do your family a favor and spend a few minutes each day loving you, they love you and they want you to be able to relax.  RELAX!!!  The world is busy enough and tries to get us to race through every day.  Slow down, take it all in, and look for the little "aha" moments of each day.  They are there, I promise.  Sometimes we just get too busy to see them.  So take a moment, breathe, and soak it all in because all too soon this season of your life will be behind you.  Just relax and know that if you are trying, you are doing an AWESOME job.  Not every day will be perfect and if today is absolutely falling apart and you find yourself wanting to pull your hair out,  it will be okay, tomorrow is a new day and a chance to try again.  Be kind to you, love you, and relax because you deserve it.
Cassandra - A Homeschool Mom who has survived 7 years of homeschooling.

This week I am participating in a blog hop with my Schoolhouse Review Crew friends.  We are all sharing all kinds of tips for you on all kinds of different subjects.  Each day I will be leaving you links to different Schoolhouse Review Crew blogs.  Please go and check them out.  The Crew is AMAZING and they have great tips to share with you this week.  Today you should check out the following blogs:
Annette @ A Net In Time
Brandy @ Kingdom Academy Homeschool
Brenda @ Counting Pinecones
Carol @ Home Sweet Life
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses
Cristi @ Through the Calm and Through the Storm
Crystal @ Crystal Starr
DaLynn @ Biblical Womanhood
Danielle @ Sensible Whimsy

Also you can check out more tips at our Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog by clicking on this picture:
5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents