Sunday, July 28, 2013

A New Homeschool Year!

August 5th starts out our new year! Today I spent the day coming up with tentative school days and breaks. We pretty much do a year around schedule so I planned in our fall vacation, Thanksgiving, Christmas, early spring break, and an Easter break. Even with all of those breaks I ended up scheduling in 38 weeks of school. Our state requires nine months so I figure there will be plenty of time for sick days and mental health days. ;)

Here is what I have planned so far for A~man

Pennsylvania Lapbook - I thought we would study about the state we will be traveling to!
Me On The Map download. He is pretty familiar with this, but I thought it might solidify it for him.

Math- Xtra math, I really want to see if I can make him more confident with his addition and subtraction. In the past he has been able to add and subtract with several columns but this needs refreshing.
Telling time- He has had this off and on but I am making these practice eggs for a workbox. Plus I found a really cool telling time clock that I bought awhile back that helps with telling time by 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes etc. From looking at the website I now wonder if I do not have a workbook around the house too. 
Measurements-Also from digging through some of my forgotten previous purchases (PLEASE tell me I am not the only one!) I found a ruler made by the same company. 

Handwriting? Well this one is top secret now as I will be doing a review on a handwriting curriculum next month that I am very excited about. Make sure and check back!

History- Liberty Kids, Read American Pioneers and Patriots. I'm pretty loose about him learning history and just want to make it fun.

Reading -
Reading Kingdom
Happy Hearts (Reading to Learn Series)

Art- Complete-A-Sketch Drawing which looks like it will be good for fine motor, focus, and a whole slew of other things. This version is specifically for children with special needs but they have other ones too.

Spelling/Language arts- which I love because I can make my own word lists based on books we are reading.

Science is what I'm most excited about as we are going to use! It seems to be right at his reading level so we will get to learn about life science, space and lessons on force.


Here is what I have in store so far for Z~girl

Her main curriculum will still be Time4Learning. I love how independent it has made her! This is what she normally does first thing in the morning.
She also will be doing- 

Spanish- I'm still working out the specifics on this but I have found a lot of free material online plus I have taken a couple years eons ago so I will be relearning it right along with her!

Pennsylvania Lapbook- Still trying to decide whether to do the same one as her brother or a more detailed one like these. 
Math- For the couple of months before our trip I am going to use Xtra math as she needs to be able to multiply and divide...without always trying to do it in her head. She gets the concepts but she needs to memorize the facts. When we get back from vacation I'm hoping to have a tutor and start in with a more formal math curriculum, maybe a text book...not sure yet. 

Writing- She will do a middle school course at

History- Liberty Kids videos with her brother but mainly this will come from her online curriculum.


Science? We will do some hands on activities to supplement her online material. I'm sure I will share some of that in months to come.  

Reading? I give her full control of this as she constantly reads. I am very thankful that she comes to me often for suggestions on what to read. Without a doubt at this point I am certain she has read more books in her life than I have. And I AM A READER! 

Still deciding on Bible for both...although we have always just tried to work that throughout our lives in general...if that makes sense. I am looking for something to use though. 

So that is the plan in a nutshell. That is how we will start the ball rolling.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Preserve Those Homeschool Memories! (Picaboo Yearbooks Review)

 photo 67706_520522131306078_514079593_n_zps2983de7c.jpgThis summer I was given the opportunity to do a review for Picaboo Yearbooks which is a company that helps you, or an organization, create a yearbook for your school, club, church, or homeschool group. Growing up I remember that a highlight of the school year was seeing our annual yearbook. We would have an end of year picnic for our class and you would get your friends to sign your yearbook. Despite the fact that my school yearbooks are buried, (or are they hidden...can you say big 80's hair?) in our garage, they still hold lots of memories about the sports I participated in, the clubs I was involved in, and the friends that I enjoyed hanging out with as a student.

Should not attending a regular school prevent a child from not experiencing this fun aspect? NO!

We have been homeschooling for over 7 years and I believe we are only missing one year that we did not get a yearbook for. In fact, due to the fact that we have belonged to two wonderful groups, we have two yearbooks for several of those years. Both A and Z LOVE to go back through them and just like I used to do, remember the sports, clubs, and classes that they have taken over the years. With some friends moving away they are also able to remember the many friends they have made over the years.

But, I will admit. My participation in creating a yearbook has been minimal and virtually non existent. Even though I know that it is possible some local friends are reading this, (HI!) I will also admit that I have seen homeschool groups split apart and friendships destroyed due to the creation of the annual yearbook. (true story unfortunately) You would think that preserving your children's memories would be fun and bring people together, but it is seriously difficult to get pictures from all of the members, make sure everyone is in the pictures, and get it done by a reasonable deadline. Oh and did I mention getting the money together to send to the company? One other aspect that I have observed is that what one person likes, or appreciates the humor of, a whole group may not. It is just not a simple task. I am very grateful for the hard work of friends in the past that have worked diligently to create these keepsakes that my children and I will always treasure.

I discovered though that Picaboo Yearbooks tries to simplify these things and make it so a whole group can participate in creating a yearbook together. Everyone responsible for contributing to the yearbook is given a password so that they can add pictures and create layouts for each page. 

It reminds me a lot of scrapbooking but without the mess. There is a large variety of background pages to choose from along with various fonts. So many choices that a lot of my time spent on the project involved picking out the the background that went well with each page. There are templates that you can use depending on how many pictures you would like to fit on each individual page. It also instantly creates places to put titles and comments about the pictures. 

 There are also "stickers" you can add to embellish each page, like the apple and soccer ball in the pictures above. I do admit, it took me quite awhile to figure out how to do it all but once I did things went smoothly. If/when I do it again I will keep a better eye on the photos and words towards the inner seam of the books. On some pages it cuts it a bit tighter than I like. Oh, and I do have three "typos" in our family's book. When I was doing the typing it was sometimes hard to see the writing when I was editing it. It gives you many chances to edit it and points out possible mistakes...but for one example instead of a "1" it put a "!". (which is the same key) I wasn't able to see this when I edited it but this might have been user error or the fact I should be using my reading glasses. 

I received a 20 page, soft cover yearbook in matte finish. I was pleased with the quality of the cover and pages as they are very sturdy and the pictures were as crisp as they appeared when I created the book. If I was able I would get myself a hard cover and the children each their own soft cover. The soft cover starts at $8.49 for 20 pages but you can add pages for only 22 cents each. The shipping for this size of book would be 8.99. So ultimately you would get the yearbook for $20.00. I will say one of my favorite things about it is that when your groups yearbook is complete each family is able to order it directly from the site and decide whether they want soft or hard cover. You are also able to download an ebook version! That way no one is having to wait on payments to complete an order!

Make sure and check out what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about Picaboo Yearbooks


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Monday, July 22, 2013

Fun Times with Friends!

Yesterday afternoon was so much fun! A~man's new friend's family invited us over for lunch and for the kids to watch a movie. We have known this family for years as I used to take care of their older children who have special needs before I became a parent. Also, the mom did respite for A~man when he was a baby. But, due to busyness we rarely run into each other. I was completely tickled as we NEVER get invited to people's house to eat. Never. (well not in the last 7 or so years) I'm not sure if they are intimidated by the Prader-willi syndrome or what but that shouldn't be the case as A~man does very well eating out. He knows he only gets what either hubby or I give him.

We do on occasion go to other people's homes for homeschool specific activities and I do admit either hubby or I have to stick to him like glue. Thankfully he has stopped finding people's phones and calling 911 on them. But, he has sticky fingers, and not everyone with older kid has to lock up medicines and cleaning supplies like we do.

But yesterday? Well this family also has a son with PWS and many other children with various special needs so things were locked up plus they had a couple helper/workers there helping out with the kids. This meant we were able to actually chat with the adults without either being interrupted or making sure our son was safe. This is definitely something I bet typical parents take for granted. I do not remember the last time we were able to both be together and enjoy time with other adults. The other super thing is that they also homeschool and do special needs learning. I really hope we are able to hang out more often with them!

This week begins my homeschool planning for the next year. I pretty much know what I will be using. One particular area I know my daughter needs help with is writing. To keep things easy I am going to use an online writing curriculum for her and possible also for A~man. I am also going to get a math tutor for her although I probably won't start that until we get back from our early fall vacation. For now I found a free program to work on both kids getting their basic math facts down. Z~girl prides herself with doing mental math in her head but I think she needs to have her facts memorized as she does understand the concepts. I will share more of our homeschool plans very soon!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Review: Susan Marlow Books - Badge of Honor


It is no surprise to anyone that knows me that I love to read and that I have passed this down to my children. My daughter reads constantly and even with my son's learning challenges he loves a good story. So I was very pleased that I was able to do another book review for one of Susan K. Marlow's books. In the past it was the Circle C adventures through but this time I had the great pleasure of doing it for the Old Schoolhouse Review Crew. The book was Badge of Honor which is the first book in Susan Marlow and Kregel Publications, Goldtown Adventure 

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The story takes place in Goldtown California in 1864 right after the famous Gold Rush. Twelve-year-old Jem and his younger sister Ellie were being raised by their father after their mother had gotten sick and died. Jem, still hoping to find gold alongside an old prospector friend named "Strike", had skipped school to do so. Matt Coulter, their father, had given up striking it rich and had bought a ranch and was trying to provide for his children with the cattle he owned. Gem tries to help his dad out by doing odd jobs around town such as delivering sawdust and catching frogs for a restaurant. What he didn't like though, was attending school. 

The children's aunt Rose and cousin Nathan move to town to live with the Coulter family which turns out to be quite the culture shock for the two as they had been living in the city of Boston. Around that same time Matt Coulter has accepted the position of being Gold Rush's first sheriff, much to his son Jem's displeasure. This is when things start to get interesting. Cripple Creek dries up and their good friend Strike also disappears. 

This book is a good way to introduce the history surrounding the California Gold Rush to children. Susan Marlow makes this part easy as she supplies a free study guide to go along with each book in the series. The study guide contains learning activities, vocabulary, history,discussion questions and the opportunity to do some creative writing. 

The truly neat thing about this book is that the author homeschooled her own children that are now grown. Her first book series, Circle C Adventures, was targeted for a girl audience but this newest series Goldtown Adventures has a boy audience in mind. Honestly though, I think both of her book series could be enjoyed by a boy or girl. The book is recommended for age 8-12. There is no foul language in this book and the action packed adventure is very appropriate for this age group. Susan Marlow does an excellent job of drawing in a child's attention to want to learn more about the Old West. 

You can purchase Badge of Honor for $7.99 plus $2.50 for shipping. Some of the other members of the Review Crew also did a reviews for the next book in the series called, Tunnel of Gold be sure to check out what they have to say about that book. Oh, and you can save when you buy buying both books together for only $13.95 plus $2 for shipping. 


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Monday, July 15, 2013

Summer Fun Bucket List Part 2 (got rain?)

I wish I could tell you that we have been having the beautifully, sunshiny, bonding with nature type of summer I dreamed of. We are not. July has been full of RAIN. So my plans have been altered a bit even though whenever a ray of sun shines down, I dash outside to catch it! A positive aspect also is that it is so green here...and our flowers and veggie plants are thriving. Yet, what do you do with the kids (and yourself) when the weather causes you to stay indoors? Here are some fun indoor activities when it is too rainy to go outside!

1. Cheap and free movies. I know where we live there are theatres offering either free or cheap movies every summer. Regal and Carmike are two that offer reasonable movies but a google search of your state will show even more.

1. Z~girl and I did the bleach pen t-shirt that I mentioned before. To do 2 t-shirts cost under 5 dollars as we bought our shirts at Goodwill. I initially made the too frugal mistake of getting a bleach pen at the dollar store. It did NOT work. It has to be a name brand (I believe it was Clorox) bleach pen from the grocery store. We had to repeat the process as the first time the cheap pen did nothing. Both shirts turned out awesome!

2. Go to a museum! Here is a list of museums for each state.

3. Netflix. Need I say more? We do not get cable or watch TV except for Netflix and we have had a lot of fun introducing the kids to shows like Andy Griffith, Leave it to Beaver, and Little House.Some more modern ones we have enjoyed are Wild at Heart, Heartland, and most recently Good Luck Charlie. We do not watch videos and TV often beyond educational but have enjoyed these.

4. While the children are sitting down for a video and popcorn would be the perfect time for mom (or dad) to do some homeschool planning for the new year. Copy off some printable worksheets or get new a new spelling list made so they can do their spelling test online when summer break is finished.

5. Have a board game marathon! Here are a few of our favorites.
  • Lego Champion
  • Totally Gross
  • Go Fish Art cards (no I do not work for them hahah) We have a few of these games and my daughter LOVES them. Looking at their website I see a couple I need to get for her birthday next month.
  • Jungle Jive
  • Snipe
  • Hullabaloo- It's been awhile since we have played this one but when they were younger we would play this before school work. It really helps with listening skills and makes them move.

6. Teach your child how to make a paper airplane and then have a contest to see who's plane goes the farthest!

7. Go to the library! Most libraries in the summer have special programs scheduled for children.

8. Go outside and play in the rain! I have the most wonderful photos of my two when they were toddlers. Friends came over for a picnic and it stated to pour! Rather than trying to corral 4 toddlers to play in our little house...we let them play in the mud. They were COVERED! Oh and yippee I found a photo from that day!

9. Make a blanket fort. When I was little this was one of my favorite things to do. 

10. Make a puzzle out of a photo. A twist on this is to write a friend or relative a letter on the back and they have to put the puzzle together before they can read the letter.

11. Make art to stick on your windows. This is one I have been wanting to do for awhile.

12. Take all of those broken crayons from the year before and melt them!

13. Make a t-shirt scarf out of the old shirts that your child...or you cannot seem to part with! I didn't make this one I just found the picture online.

15. Last but not least, do some doodling with your child!


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Mayan Mysteries Online Game by Dig-It Games: A TOS Crew Review

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Over the years I have discovered that both of my children learn really well by doing their "school work" via the computer. Doing it this way makes it simpler to keep track of their progress and it also can make doing school while traveling very doable. Add in the fact that a lot of the online curricula is in game form and it makes it even more appealing to children. This summer we have been able to explore Mayan Mysteries through Dig-It Games to learn more about the Mayan culture.

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From their website- "Explore the mysterious world of the ancient Maya and learn about their remarkable civilization. Discover artifacts, decode glyphs, visit ancient Maya cities, explore the Maya calendar, and more in this exciting educational journey through history. " Specifically designed for grades 5-9
This online learning game was created by Suzi Wilczynski who is an actual archaeologist that also used to be a middle school teacher. Along with fellow archaeologist and professor of anthropology, Robert J. Sharer, they were able to combine their knowledge and experience to bring about the game Mayan Mysteries, in 2012.

This interactive game, Mayan Mysteries, is available for PC's and Macs for $21.99 for one year for each individual user. It is also available as an app for mobile devices like iPad for $9.99. We were given the choice on what we wanted to try out and chose the PC version as we do not have an iPad. There is also a classroom version available for schools for $299.00. The Classroom Edition provides licenses for up to 30 students and includes a Teacher Management System to keep track of how individuals and the class progress as they go through the game. This isn't available with the individual user but I think it would be beneficial if they eventually had a similar version of tracking it for an individual student.

I actually tried this interactive game out myself and found it very easy to play and explore many different aspects of the Mayan culture. I was able to go to a virtual dig site to uncover artifacts. It took me a bit to figure out how to use the tools but there was a help button available to assist me. It gives you several possible tools and you have to pick the appropriate one based on the size of the artifact. (they told you the size of what you were digging for) If you used a tool that was too large it destroyed the artifact....I found out. LOL There is a lot of reading required in this game which wouldn't be a problem with my daughter but I really like the fact that they also have the option for it to be read to you which would be especially nice for students with reading challenges like my son. 

Here is what my husband and Z~girl thought about the game:

Z~girl and I had fun as we kept one step ahead of the looters and found clues about the different places we would be digging at. I chose to read the sections out loud that told us about each Mayan area but the reading would have been no problem for Z~girl to do on her own had I not been there. It was fun for us both and I learned many things myself since the Mayan culture was never part of my school studies when I was a child. I like how interactive Mayan Mysteries is. We were able to choose which character we learned from by clicking on the question mark above the character’s head. This made it so much more exciting than if someone had handed a book to us and told us to read it. I would recommend this to anyone interested in learning more about the Mayan culture. 

I encourage you to check out what other members of the Schoolhouse Review had to say about Mayan Mysteries! 


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Testing is done....finally!

After having to reschedule our end of year testing back in June I can finally say it it now over. It was a new tester as the woman that had done it in years past was no longer doing testing. The new lady was very nice! I'm not sure what the former tester had told her but I believe she had done a lot of praying before coming over. (not that bad of an idea LOL) I'm guessing that she had heard that it can be hard to keep A~man's attention focused and on task.

So how did it go? I'm not sure if A~man was nervous or what but he was unusually quiet with no extra chatter. This is highly unusual of him. He was compliant though and tested for about an hour and a half. The results? On a majority he had either regressed or had made no gains. He did make a couple of really big gains (for him) on a couple of reading tasks. Honestly I do not know how to feel. I will say I highly praised him as he was very compliant. I told him he did just fine. I am trying REALLY hard not to blame myself as I think last year went well. With how subdued he was acting I'm not 100% sure his testing was completely accurate.

The big gain I try to keep reminding myself is how far he has come behaviorally, socially and cognitively since that first time he was tested 7 or so years ago. I do not think she could get in a half hour and it wasn't a pleasant one. He has really grown up, gained new skills, with baby steps his reading improves each year. He is a polite, (most of the time ;) sweet and very kind young man. I am going to switch things up a bit next year, maybe add some fun with learning about food chains and do a lot more activities using manipulatives for his leaning.

How did Z~girl do? Her results were on the other extreme. She tested years ahead of her grade level...she made a HUGE jump this year. The only challenging areas for her was math (no surprise there) and writing. I will admit...up until now I have used an almost unschool approach with writing with Z~girl. She writes daily but I think I am going to get her some more formal online tutoring in writing. I have no doubt that she will pick it up quick as she likes to write. Math? I am hoping a friend will be able to tutor her in it this fall as that is the one subject that she and I butt heads. 

Such totally different kids but so totally wonderful they are. This new tester "C" gave me so much helpful information after the testing. This next week maybe I will be more able to absorb it better (I had her write it down) and come up with a plan for the new year.  Which I am thinking about starting soon as A~man is bored without having things planned. Z~girl is completely happy reading her books and taking care of her rabbits, dog and chickens. We are hoping to take a trip to PA in Sept as we have never been and we have a niece working there. So....maybe I'll try and get 4 weeks of schooling in before our vacation. 

Oh, I forgot! The tester "C" did go out of her way to say how nice my kids are. They TRULY are nice kids and I adore them and I am proud of them!

Saturday, July 6, 2013


I just saw this on Pinterest. Have I ever mentioned how much I LOVE Pinerest? hahaha. Anyway, this fits me on all accounts. (I do enjoy meeting up with friends on occasion though!)