Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Our Christmas Tree 2017

A couple of weeks ago I came to you and asked for your opinion on where we should set up our Christmas tree this year.  The overwhelming majority came back with option B which was by our staircase, but we ended up choosing a different place this year.  So here is what our finished tree looks like:
A Glimpse of Normal Blog, Christmas Tree

We chose to put it in location A which is at the end of our couch.  This way we can see the lights and enjoy the tree from our couch rather than have it behind us.  We also chose not to completely re-arrange our living room at this time to put the tree by the stairs which is what we would have had to do.  I am sure once we finish out our living room, we will put the tree some place different, but that will not be until next year.  We also went with a little bit smaller tree.  It is the same height as our old Christmas tree, but this one is skinnier and I love it.  It doesn't take up as much room and you can finally see our Christmas tree skirt.
What do you think?  Have you decorated for Christmas yet at your house?

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Our 2017 Blue Ribbon Award Picks

2017 has been a great year on the Homeschool Review Crew.  We have had the opportunity to work with many, many great companies and products.  Our Crew year has just finished up for 2017 and that means we had to vote for our favorite products that we reviewed this year.  The kids and I were blessed to work on over 50 reviews this year and that means we got to try out a lot of great products.  Once our year finishes up we, as reviewers, get to wrap up our year by voting for our favorite products of the year.  Then our amazing Crew leaders tally the votes and the Homeschool Review Crew gives out Blue Ribbon Awards.  I always love and dread voting for these awards.  We get the chance to work with so many great products and sometimes it is really, really, REALLY hard to pick our very favorite.  Ultimately we do have to pick and we sat down to vote.  This is how our voting turned out for our family.
Favorite Reading Curriculum: Reading Eggs
Favorite Writing Curriculum: Writing with Sharon Watson: Illuminating Literature
Favorite Penmanship Program: Super Teachers Worksheets
Favorite Literature Curriculum/Resource: Progeny Press
Favorite History/Social Studies Curriculum: Drive Thru History
Favorite History/Social Studies Supplement: Rush Revere
Favorite Science Curriculum/Supplement: Novare Science
Favorite Math Curriculum: CTC Math
Favorite Math Supplement: Super Teachers Worksheets
Favorite Foreign Language Curriculum: Greek 'n' Stuff
Favorite Fine Arts Curriculum or Product: Creating a Masterpiece
Favorite Elective Curriculum: Abby Ludvigson
Favorite Christian Education Curriculum: Drive Thru History
Favorite Christian Education Supplement: Brinkman Adventures
Favorite Elementary Product: Kregel: Susan K. Marlow
Favorite High School Product: Drive Thru History
Favorite College or College Prep Product: Writing with Sharon Watson: Illuminating Literature
Favorite Parent Product: Everyday Homemaking
Best Resource I Didn't Know I Needed: Only Passionate Curiosity
Favorite Planning Product: Homeschool Buyers Co-op
Best Online Resource: Reading Eggs
Best e-product: Home School in the Woods
Favorite Book or Novel: Strong Learning: Bessie's Pillow
Favorite Audiobook or Audio Drama: Heirloom Audio
Just for Fun!: Mapelle Films: Trust Fund
Kids' Choice (ages 0-12): Kregel: Susan K. Marlow
Teens' Choice: Innovators Tribe
All Around Crew Favorite: Drive Thru History

That is it!  This is how we voted in the Blue Ribbon Awards this year.  There were some categories we didn't vote in because we didn't review a product in that category.  I want to thank each and every company that we got a chance to work with this year for making great homeschool products.  There are so many that we worked with that we also really enjoyed, but we couldn't vote for every single company.

You can find out what companies won the Blue Ribbon Awards for 2017 from the Homeschool Review Crew by clicking on the picture below.  This is where you can also read how my friends on the Crew voted by checking out their posts.
Homeschool Review Crew Favorite Products for 2017
I am blessed to say I will be returning to the Homeschool Review Crew in 2018 and I am looking forward to working with many more great products and companies.

Monday, November 20, 2017

My Favorite Things Giveaway

I am so excited for today's post.  It is a fun one and I get to spoil one of my lucky readers.  My Facebook Blog Page has finally hit 100 likes.  That is super exciting for me because it means this blog is getting out there and reaching people.  I am so thankful for all of my readers and you truly have no idea how much your support and comments mean to me.  I write this blog to clear my head, but I also hope to help others, inspire readers, and maybe give you a great laugh every once in awhile.  Whatever you read this blog for, I am happy you are reading it.  If this is your first time here, WELCOME!  I hope you stick around.
A Glimpse of Normal Blog, My Favorite Things Giveaway
Since I finally hit 100 likes on my Facebook Blog Page (I am actually over that now...woo hoo), I wanted to do a giveaway.  I thought about all the things I could giveaway and decided that I couldn't giveaway just one thing.   So I decided to giveaway an assortment of my favorite things.  Let me quickly show and tell you about the prizes and then tell you how you can win.  One lucky winner will win this:
This prize pack features some of my favorite products from my favorite companies, a favorite way to unwind, a favorite product from my favorite hobby, and my current favorite lip gloss.  Is that enough favorites for you?  Let me tell you about each item in detail.
I have always loved to color and it is one of my favorite ways to unwind.  I can let my brain relax and not think about the worries of the world when I color.  
I have been a fan of Thirty-One for a very long time.  I can't tell you exactly how much of it I own because my hubby does read my blog, but let's just say I own my fair share.  I love their totes and purses, but I also love their nail files.  They don't bend up in my purse and they seem to last a very long time so I am including this cute little owl nail file.
Cooking is a passion for me and I was first introduced to Tastefully Simple about 15 years ago.  I have been a fan of this company ever since.  My very favorite product from them is Nana's Apple Cake, but my family would have revolted if I would have given one of those away.  I am giving away a Malt Vinegar French Fry Seasoning.  Don't let the name of this one fool you.  It is fantastic on potatoes, but it is also great on burgers, chicken, and beef.  I experiment all the time.  That's just how I roll.
I had a hard time parting with the next gift because I absolutely love my Perfectly Posh, but I thought you should try it out too.  Perfectly Posh is all natural skin and body care items and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE their products.  I have not found one of their products that I don't love.  It has transformed my skin and when I first started using it I had extremely sensitive skin, but I don't have that issue anymore.  I chose a Chunk to giveaway.  This is one of their bath soaps.  It leaves your skin clean, but refreshed with no residue.  They last a super long time and this mint is one of my favorite scents.  
The next item in the giveaway is a set of bobby pins from Lilla Rose.  Lilla Rose is all about gorgeous hair products.  I have several sets of their bobby pins.  I love them!!!  My hair stays put all day with these bobby pins.  They don't slide out of my hair, the don't stretch out, they are versatile, and did I mention they are pretty.  I wear Lilla Rose bobby pins about 3 times a week.  
I like lip gloss, but I am pretty cheap about it because I like to switch up the colors.  That is what makes this lip gloss from Wet 'n Wild perfect.   It is a pretty color, stays on a long time, and doesn't break my wallet so I feel like I can try colors without worrying about throwing money away.  
The last item in the giveaway is a handmade item from me.  I am completely enjoying crochet right now.  It is my current craft obsession.  I made this cowl last month and I thought it would be perfect for this giveaway.  It is lightweight and perfect for this time of year.

That's it!  These are my favorite things right now.  Now I bet you are wondering how you enter right?  Just follow the directions in the giveaway box below.  If you are not a fan of my Facebook Blog page, I would love for you to become a fan there.  Thank you for being a reader and supporter of this blog!  I sincerely appreciate each person that reads this little blog.
*This giveaway is provided by A Glimpse of Normal Blog.  All prizes have been purchased by Cassandra Holdeman and are being given away as a thank you for being a reader.  There is only one prize and the winner will have 48 hours to provide shipping information or a new winner will be drawn.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Christmas Tree Poll

This year will be our first Christmas in our new house.  I have a huge dilemma.  I am trying to figure out where to put our Christmas tree.  I know where the people who lived her before us put their tree up at as we were looking at the house around Christmas last year and I am not telling you where they did so I don't influence your vote.  I am having issues deciding where to put it because our furniture is different and no matter where we set it up, we will have to move the furniture around.  I should also tell you that I haven't decided if we will have a real tree or an artificial tree yet.  I am personally leaning towards artificial because with the wood burner going our house is a little dry and I don't want to dry out a real tree long before Christmas.  There are so many options.  So today I am asking for your opinion.
A Glimpse of Normal Blog, Christmas Tree Poll
We put the tree up the day after Thanksgiving and that day is approaching fast!!!  Please vote on where I should put my Christmas tree up at this year.   Option A, B, or C.
Option A:  We would move this chair and put the tree here.  It would be beside the couch.

Option B:  We put the tree in the crook of the stairs.  There is more room than the picture shows between the crook and the couch.

Option C:  We move the computer desk and tuck the tree in the back corner of the living room.

Where should we set up our Christmas tree this year?

Thanks for you help in voting.  I will let you know where we decided to put it up at and what kind of tree we got in the next couple of weeks.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A Review of Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis from Writing with Sharon Watson

Literature is one of the subjects that is dreaded by my high school student. He knows he has to take it, but he doesn't look forward to reading or discussing books.  This is why I was intrigued to receive Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis from Writing with Sharon Watson to review with Buddy recently.  I wanted to see what this literature program was all about and if it would work for him.
Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis, Sharon Watson, Writing with Sharon Watson, The Power in Your Hands, composition, high school writing, homeschool writing program
Sharon Watson understands that reading and writing isn't every student's first love.  This is why she creates the programs that she does.  She wants to help students learn to love literature and become a better writers.  Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis was created as a year long high school literature class and it is worth 1 high school credit if your student completes it.  This course does not have a specific grade associated with it, rather it is just suggested for high school use.  It was created to help students become familiar with the terms and devices used in literature while they gain an appreciation for fine literature.  It is also designed to develop better readers and to increase their writing skills.  It features 38 lessons, a suggested weekly schedule, and focuses on reading complete novels or short stories.  This course has your student read:
  • "A Jury of Her Peers'" by Susan Glaspell
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • Silas Marner by George Eliot
  • Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
  • "A White Heron" by Sarah Orne Jewett
  • "The Garden of Forking Paths'" by Jorge Luis Borges
  • "Haircut" by Ring Lardner
  • "The Lady or the Tiger?" by Frank Stockton
  • "Of the Passing of the First Born" by W. E. B. DuBois
  • "A Child's Christmas in Wales" by Dylan Thomas
  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  • Biography or Autobiography of student's choice
  • The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien
The Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis set that we received included the Textbook, Teacher's Guide, and the Quiz and Answer Manual.  We were also able to download the Novel Notebook from the website for free and print it off.  When this arrived, I read through the teacher's guide to see what we needed to do.  I really like that this course is designed so that Buddy can work through it all on his own and I only need to provide guidance and discuss questions with him.  I read through the first chapter of the student textbook so I could see what he would be working on and everything is very detailed and clearly explained.  I knew that I could let him loose on it and he would be able to work away.  It starts off with explaining the philosophy of the course and why the student should read literature.  It then goes on to explain the different kinds of characters that are found in books.  The textbook then gives the student a chance to use their favorite movie or book to explore the characters and see what kind of characters they are.  The textbook clearly presents concepts and then builds on them.

Suggested schedule for the short story.
Chapter 1 of the textbook is where Buddy really started digging into literature work.  This is where he learned he would be reading the short story "A Jury of Her Peers'."  Before he read this short story, the textbook had him exploring empathetic characters and the context of the story in-depth.  There were several things the textbook taught him to watch for and think about while he read so that he would understand the short story better.  After he read the short story, there were several questions and activities for him to complete.  These things taught him more literary terms and devices.  There were also a couple of quizzes for him to complete.  I could have had Buddy use the Quiz and Answer Manual, but the textbook also gives the option to take these quizzes online.  The thing I liked about him taking the quiz online was that it was automatically graded for me and sent me an email of how he did on the quiz.  He did well on the "Yes I read it" quiz, but not so well on the "Literary Terms Quiz" so I had him re-take the second quiz and then averaged the scores for that one.  Then there were questions about the short story he had read.  I had him write out his answers and then we picked a few to discuss.  The final activity I had him do for this story was to write a song based on the short story.  At first Buddy was not excited about this option, but when I told him he could be as creative as he wanted to, he didn't complain.  He also created a pretty good song.  The other part he liked was the Novel Notebook.  This helped him keep track of important thoughts while he read.  He also said the questions that were in the notebook about the story helped him know which parts were really important.  It was a good tool for him to use while he was reading.  I liked the Novel Notebook because I could look through it and quickly see what he should focus on for each book.
Buddy isn't a huge literature fan, but in this case he thought there could have been more details.
The second chapter of the textbook begins the work for the book Frankenstein.  I had Buddy begin this chapter while I did some research on this book.  I have never personally read or watched Frankenstein so I had no clue what it was about.  After I did some research on this book, I decided that as a freshman, Buddy is just not quite ready to read it yet.  It has some pretty in-depth and mature topics for this book.  I do appreciate that Sharon Watson uses it and why she uses it.  She picked it for the themes in the book, but there are a few ethical dilemmas in this book that I personally feel are best for older high school students.  I substituted a different book and we will pick up again with the next chapter and the next book which is Silas Marner.
Buddy liked the creative activities.
Themes of Frankenstein in the Teacher's Manual
 Overall, I feel like Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis is a good fit for us.  I like the way literature is broken down into understandable pieces.  I like that she tackles one part of literature at a time and digs into it so that students can understand it.  Buddy and I both liked that he could work through this course at his pace and we can easily adjust the weekly schedule it we need to.  Buddy is not a huge fan of literature or reading, but he did say that this course was easy for him to understand and he liked that he could be creative with the projects at the end of the chapters.  He liked that it encouraged him to tell the stories in different ways and think about how the story would be different if you changed bits and pieces.  Even though I didn't have Buddy read Frankenstein, I am using the work in the textbook as a guide to the book he is reading instead.  I feel like you can alter this course if needed.  We will continue working through this course for the rest of the school year.
I liked the graded online quizzes (I had Buddy use my name instead of his).
If you have a high school student and need a literature course, we do recommend you check out Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis and see if it is a good fit for your student.  You can learn more about the course we received by clicking here.  You can learn more about Writing with Sharon Watson from her website, Facebook, and Pinterest.  You can also check out what my friends on the Homeschool Review Crew have been using this course by clicking the banner below.
Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis {Writing with Sharon Watson Reviews}

Friday, November 10, 2017

Fall Around the Barn

It is finally feeling like fall around our house.  The leaves are falling, the weather is crisp, and our wood burning stove is keeping our house warm.  I LOVE it.  I took some pictures the other week to show you some of the my favorite fall views around our barn.  I hope you enjoy them!
A Glimpse of Normal Blog, Fall Around the Barn, Fall, Barn, Pictures

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What are your favorite things about fall?  Also come back next week as I will be doing a giveaway because my Blog Facebook page finally got up to 100 likes.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A Review of Thinking Like an Engineer from Innovators Tribe

Since Buddy has entered his high school years this year, I feel it is important to do some career exploration.  I want him to get an idea of the types of jobs and career path he might take after high school.  This is why I was excited to receive Thinking Like an Engineer from Innovators Tribe to review with him lately.
Thinking Like an Engineer, Engineering, STEM, Architect, Hands On
Innovators Tribe is a company that was completely new to us before this review.  I really like their mission and what they want to do for students.  Innovators Tribe has developed courses for students in 6th -12th grade.  These courses intentionally develop your student's innovation, creativity, and discovery.  These online courses are not just about sitting down and reading material, they are hands-on, exciting, and will challenge your student to think in new ways.  This company wants to build your student's problem solving skills and help them become innovators.  They currently offer 2 courses with a 3rd course coming out soon.  The current classes are Thinking Like an Engineer and Thinking Like an Architect.  The course that is coming soon is Thinking Like a Carpenter

We received the Thinking Like an Engineer course to review.  This online course is designed to help students learn all about the career of being an engineer including what engineers do, the different types of engineers, some of the science and math used in this career, the advancements in engineering that have been made through out the years, and how to start thinking like an engineer.  There is approximately 30 hours worth of self-paced interactive lessons hands-on activities, and design challenges.  The 3D CAD software you need for this course is included in the course fee of $149 per year.  You can count this course either towards 1/4 of an elective credit or you can count it as a component of science courses for your student and if you have more than one student at home you can use this for multiple students at the same time.  Innovators Tribe generously gave us a 2 year subscription to check out this program.
There are 6 units included in this course.  They include:
  • Introduction to Engineering
  • Introduction to 3D Design (tools of modern design)
  • Engineering Rollercoasters!
  • Engineering Bridges
  • Nano Engineering (Discovery of a New World)
  • Thinking Like an Engineer - Course Conclusion
Each unit is broken down into smaller lessons that include a video on a specific topic and challenge activities.  Some of these activities are completed online and some are offline and hands-on.  The hands-on activities are completed with materials you probably already have around like printer paper, books, and tape.  There is a unit journal that you can download for each unit to fill out as you watch the lessons.  There are even some research projects where you student researches the different types of engineers and learns more about their job. 

This course required very little of me other than setting it up for Buddy.  Other than that, Mr. Kroeplin taught the classes and for that I am very thankful because I do not know much about being an engineer.  After the initial setup of our account, Buddy took over.  He would work on this program at least 3 days a week and sometimes more.  He would watch the video, if the lesson had one, and then he would usually start working on the challenges in the same day.  He liked to work on these while it was fresh in his mind.  He did really cool projects like designing a piece of furniture in the 3D CAD software, building a tower that was as close to 5 foot as you could get it  out of 4 sheets of printer paper, making a book tower that didn't crush its paper base, and more.  This is one program that he didn't complain about me adding to his schoolwork.  He looked forward to working on it and often times kicked me off the computer so he could log into his course.  He is almost halfway done with this course so far and is looking forward to completing it so I can add it to his transcript.
Buddy's tower didn't get up to 5 foot but he did a good job building and then rebuilding to get it taller after he figured out where he went wrong.
I asked Buddy to tell me his thoughts on this program and this is what he came up with.  He liked this program because it let you use your hands.  It gives you background info on what you are building, who is building it, and what it takes to build one.  It teaches you about what engineers do and how much they make.  If teaches you to think like an engineer.  It teaches you some of the physics behind what you build.  It teaches you about energy and math.  His only complaint about this course was that he was not a huge fan of the paper modeling because it was very intricate and detailed and since he has larger hands he had a hard time getting accurate folds.  I will tell you that he stuck with that challenge until he got it right though which I really appreciated him doing.  I liked this course because it taught him a subject that I really don't know about.  I also like it because it gives him a chance to explore this field and see if it is something he would like to look into more.  I feel like the course has been very well-rounded and kept his attention well.  It is a great mix of online learning and hands-on learning.  I really like that he is getting a chance to learn and build in design software.

We definitely recommend checking out Thinking Like an Engineer if you want to do some career exploration, learn how things are built, and get design software experience.  We also recommend checking out the other courses that Innovators Tribe offers.  I know we will be looking into them to get extra career exploration for Buddy.  As always you can check out the courses my friends on the Homeschool Review Crew got to explore by clicking on the banner below.
Thinking Like an Architect or Engineer {Innovators Tribe Reviews}