Friday, March 23, 2018

Dear Homeschool Mom...You Are Not Alone

Dear Homeschool Mom,

You are not alone.  I have been there.  You are questioning everything you are doing with your kids.  You lay awake at night fearful you are not getting it right, doing enough, doing too much, they aren't learning enough, you aren't covering this subject....oh how the list goes on.  I know I've been there.  I've laid awake long into the night wondering if I was doing the right thing, thinking I had failed, trying to figure out why it wasn't working right, and just praying I wasn't wrong.  I don't know how many times I've thrown my hands up and said I don't know if I can do this anymore.  You know what?  That is okay because we are human, we are moms, we feel like we fail, we feel like we aren't getting through, and we just have bad days.  I'm right there with you fellow homeschool mom.  Let me encourage you because we can sit here and beat ourselves up all day long.  Let me tell you the truth...
Dear Homeschool Mom  You are not alone.   {Homeschool Link UP}l
They are getting it.  They are learning.  They are watching.  They are seeing all you do.  It doesn't have to be perfect for them to learn.  That math concept may not click today during the math lesson, but it will at some point.  You don't have to stress yourself out wondering all the "what ifs" today.  You are teaching your child/children to the best of your ability.  You are figuring it out day by day.  You are hanging in there and trying again.  Don't let yourself doubt what you are doing.  It took me a long time to learn that...way too long in fact...but once I let go of all the pressure and concern of what I thought everyone else wanted me to teach and how I thought everyone else wanted me to teach and I claimed our school as OURS, it got easier.  We still have our days where they don't catch on to a specific concept right that moment, but they get it eventually.  We still have our days where we have bad days and everything seems to fall apart, but they are fewer and farther apart.  Our school is ours and I teach my children how they learn best.  That is all you can do.  You know your child and what they need better than anyone else.  You love them, you teach them, you nurture them, and you help them succeed....that's what matters.  So ditch the doubt, do what you know, and love them to pieces.

Prayers, Hugs, and Lots of Coffee from this Homeschool Mom who is in the trenches with you,
P.S. - If you click the picture above it will take you to more encouragment!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

A Review of the Mega Pack of Super Beads from Zirrly

Little Miss loves crafts and I absolutely love that she does.  What I don't love are messy crafts that take as long to clean up as they do to make.  Those kind of crafts are not fun for me because I know that there will be a mess every where.  This is why I was very excited to find out what the Mega Pack of Super Beads from Zirrly was all about when we recently got a chance to do a review for them.
Super Beads Mega Pack, zirrly, super beads, fuse beads, water beads, arts & crafts
Zirrly has been in business since 1956.  They strive to make creative crafts kits that help children with their fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and imagination.  They offer many, many products for children of all ages which is fitting for their motto, " Design Your World."
Super Beads are fun little fusion beads like the kind you have to iron together with one exception....NO more hot iron.  This is a product that for children ages 5 and up that they can work on fairly independently because you use WATER to fuse the beads together.  They are still a small bead so you want to make sure that very small children and pets don't get a hold of them, but they are non-toxic.  These beads come in several fun colors and after you fuse your design together with water, it is flexible and it won't crack.
The Mega Pack that we received contained over 4500 beads, 20 assorted design templates, 2 spray  bottles, 4 design boards, 1 design tool, and instructions on how to complete the projects.  The design templates included 5 of each of the following designs: cupcake, apple, elephant, and turtle.  The design boards are specifically designed to fit over the templates so your child can place the template underneath the board and it stays put so they can place the correct bead in place.  The templates are fun and colorful, but your child could easily use whatever color bead they wanted for the pattern.  This kit also leaves lots of room for your child's creativity because they could create their own design without a template or they could create a small graph template on their own to make.  After your child creates a design, they spray it with water (not too much) and then let it sit for 60 minutes.  Once the surface of their creation is dry to the touch, they can carefully peal it off the design board.  If it happens to break when take it off the board, you put it back on the board and spray it again, wait for it to dry, and take it up again.  The design tool helps a lot getting it off the board carefully as well as helping getting the bead far enough down on the board.

Little Miss, who is 9, was pretty excited to receive the Mega Pack of Super Beads to review.  She has a bunch of the beads that you have to iron to fuse, but she gets so frustrated with them because by the time she gets them all on the board the way she wants them and tries to get them some place we can iron them, the board gets bumped and all of her hard work falls apart.  So she was pretty excited when I told her that she could put the Super Beads together and get them to stay by using water.  Once we opened her kit, I had her pour the beads in a container that we could put a lid on when she was done so that all the beads were in one spot.  Then I gave her a smaller container so she could put a small amount of beads in it to make it easier to pick the right beads while she was creating her designs.  She quickly caught on that each bead has a right end and wrong end to press on to the designing board.  She also was excited that her beads stuck on pegs on the designing board and she had to use the design tool to get it off if it was the wrong bead.  She was excited about this because it meant her beads weren't going to fall off the board if she moved it or bumped it.  That was a huge plus for her.  After she finished her design, we moved it to the kitchen counter and I let her spray it with water (I just made sure she didn't get too much and I helped her get excess water off the board like the instructions say).  The hardest part of this project for her was the 60 minute wait.  Then she pealed her design off the board and it was ready to go.  She is using many of the items in her play kitchen.  There was one of the designs that came apart when she tried to take it off the board, so we just followed the instructions and put it back on the board and re-sprayed it.  So easy!

We definitely recommend the Mega Pack of Super Beads from Zirrly.  They were fun, creative, and no mess which makes this Mama happy.  There were only two downsides to the beads.  One was if the dog happens to lick your hand while you are creating, it makes the bead unusable because it gets wet before it is supposed.  I reminded Little Miss that the instructions said dry hands are important.  The second downside is that they are hard to use with bigger hands.  Buddy, my 14 year old boy, came over to see what his sister was doing and I asked him to see if he could place a bead or two to just try them out and he struggled because he is very tall and already has "man hands" so they didn't work too well for him.  Little Miss has already been eye balling the Super Beads Jewelry Set and thinking it might be a good activity for her birthday party later this fall.  We will definitely turn to Zirrly again for our crafting needs.  You can learn more about Zirrly on their website, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube accounts.  You can learn more about the Mega Pack of Super Beads we received here.   You can read the reviews of my friends on the Homeschool Review Crew by clicking on the banner below and you definitely want to do that because we got to review many different packs and they all look pretty cool.
Super Beads {Zirrly Reviews}

Monday, March 19, 2018

A Review of the Á La Carte Products from Home School in the Woods

We love using creative hands-on projects, unit studies, and lap books in our school.  They are a chance to break up our traditional routine and work creatively.  This is why we were excited to get a chance to review three hands-on history projects in the Á La Carte products from Home School in the Woods.
Home School in the Woods  Á La Carte products, U.S. history, world history, hands-on, timelines, maps
Home School in the Woods is a family run company that was created when the Pak family began their homeschooling journey.  Amy saw a need to make history come alive for her own children, so she dove in and started pulling together resources.  She used the resources she pulled together and others she created to start the website.  Now her whole family is involved and they each have their own unique role at Home School in the Woods.  We appreciate their quality materials, clear directions, multiple options within each product, and the wide variety of products they offer.
Home School in the Woods  Á La Carte products, U.S. history, world history, hands-on, timelines, maps
For this review we got to pick projects from the Á La Carte products that Home School in the Woods offers.  These Á La Carte products are different from the normal unit studies and lap books in that they are a specific and focused study on a subject.  These products are not typically an entire unit study, but they are still great hands-on, active learning.  These products include history file folder games for students to create, timelines, lap book and notebook projects, replicas, newspapers, and more that the students follow the instructions to make.  These projects come as a digital download.  Once you download the project, you can print off the instructions and all the project pages your family needs to complete it.   Each project has easy to follow step by step instructions on how to complete it and if it is a game, how to play the game.
Home School in the Woods  Á La Carte products, U.S. history, world history, hands-on, timelines, maps
The first product we chose was the American Beginnings Newspaper Collection.  It was originally found in the Time Travelers: New World Explorer and Time Travelers: Colonial Life unit studies.  This newspaper collection has 2 newspapers in it, "The Explorer Weekly" and "The Town Crier."  "The Explorer Weekly" is all about explorers discovering new worlds.  It features several pages with headlines so that your student has to do the research to find out what the article should be about before they write it.  There are also several spots in the newspaper for advertisements.  The last few pages of this paper are lined pages that are ready for articles that you have your student research that relate to exploration.  I printed off this newspaper for Little Miss.  I had the option of printing it on thicker cardstock or the instructions give you details of how to "age" regular paper.  I printed it on regular paper and after she finishes it we can age it some.  She chose to work on the headline pages first.  She has not done much history on the explorers yet, but she knows a little bit.  So I showed her how to look up the headline by looking up the person associated with the headline and then reading their story.  Then she had to write about what she read in her own words and in a way that was interesting and people would want to read about just like a real newspaper.  She enjoyed researching explorers like Columbus, Coronado, and the Vikings.  She had even more fun using her creativity to create the advertisements for this newspaper.  I really wanted this product for the other newspaper "The Town Crier" because it is perfect to go along with the book series she has been reading this year.  This paper has been easier for her to work on since she has been reading about colonial life in her school.  She got to research the crack in the Liberty Bell, the Pilgrims, and places like Jamestown.  She is still working on this newspaper because she is researching the topics as she reads about them for school.  The instructions show you how to put the newspapers together to make them look like a real newspaper, but we will do that when she finishes them.  She thinks it is easier to have all the pages separate until they are finished.  So after I printed them I put the instructions for each newspaper and the pages that went with each one together with a binder clip.

The second product we chose is Pirate Panoply.  It is originally found in the Time Travelers: New World Explorers study and I chose it because it is  a fun game that teaches you how and why a pirate dressed the way he did.  I thought my little fashionista would have a lot of fun with this one and it would be a game that would be a nice break from our normal history work.  After I printed the necessary pages (you need one copy of the game board and pieces per player),  Little Miss was excited to color her pirate.  While she was coloring the pirate, I got a chance to talk to her about what panoply was and how it applied to a pirate.  This information was right at the top of the instructions so that was nice to have so we could discuss it.  Little Miss then colored the pieces of clothing for the pirate.  I also let her color mine because she was having fun coloring.  Once she got everything colored for us and cut out, we found a six-sided die and we were ready to play.  Playing the game is easy.  You roll the die and then you put the right piece of clothing on the pirate.  The first one to dress their pirate wins.  The game was a fun little break from our normal school routine and now Little Miss knows why pirated wore so many clothes and why they liked such colorful clothes.  You are going to have to get this game for yourself if you want to know why pirates dress the way they do.

The third product we chose is A Trip to Town.  This file folder game is originally found in the Time Travelers: Colonial Life study.  I picked this one for Little Miss because we have been reading through the Little House on the Prairie book series and I thought this game would be a perfect compliment to the book series.  I printed it off and started looking through it before having my daughter work on it.  There were a lot of different elements to this file folder game, but not so many that they were overwhelming.  The part that took Little Miss the longest was coloring the game board because she was being very detailed with her coloring.  Once she got that done, she worked on the characters and getting the all the other cards cut out these included vocabulary, supplies, questions, and special direction cards.  Once she got every thing ready and I helped her tape the game board to the file folder, we read through the directions of how to play.  We had to draw cards which became our shopping list and we had to collect our shopping list first in order to win.  You use the questions with correct answers and a die to move across the game board.  When we first played, we were not very good at getting the vocabulary answers right, but the more we played the more we learned.  We also figured out that being lucky with the dice helped us get to the stores and get our supplies.  Little Miss especially dreaded the penalty cards where she had to lose a turn because she seemed to be the one to draw them the most.  This game is a fun way to learn about early colonial life.  It has been challenging to learn the vocabulary.  I also like the extra sheets for vocabulary that we want to add so that we can add terms specific to the book series we are reading.
Overall we have been having a lot of fun with these educational Á La Carte products from Home School in the Woods and we definitely recommend them.  They are a nice little break from out regular school work, but we have learned a lot by completing them.  Little Miss said the games were her favorite because they didn't feel like work since you got to play a game when you were finished with them.  The newspaper collection was my favorite product for her because we got to learn how to research, work on writing skills, and she could be creative with the advertisements.  I definitely want to try out other Á La Carte products.  The Trip West in a Covered Wagon Lap Book/Notebook Project and the Westward, Ho! File Folder Game would tie in perfectly to our Little House books we are reading.  You can learn more about Home School in the Woods on their website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and YouTube.  You can learn about the Á La Carte products we received and all the others they offer here.  I hope you also take a moment to click the banner below and read the reviews from my friends on the Homeschool Review Crew since we tried so many of these products.
À La Carte Projects - Individual projects designed to enhance your studies! {Home School in the Woods Reviews}

Thursday, March 15, 2018

A Post About Gift Cards

It's Thrifty Thursday and I am chatting about gift cards today.  I love gift cards.  They are a fun gift to give and a fun gift to get.
In our house we save the gift cards we get to use for gatherings (if we have a grocery store gift card) or family outings (restaurant and entertainment cards).  This is a great way to keep out of pocket costs low for big gatherings because I can use the grocery store gift cards to buy the food and supplies for parties.   Using the gift cards when we are out and about for family outings is a great way to keep our costs low for food or activities so then we can have more fun.  Many of our gift cards are gifts that we received at Christmas time and we are so thankful to the people who give them to us.  They are a great blessing to our family.  The other way we get gift cards is by using programs like Swagbucks.  Swagbucks is a free program that you can sign up for.  Once you sign up for it they send you emails that you can click through.  They also have a search bar you can install to search for.  Just by clicking on their emails and using their toolbar to search, you earn points. You can also earn points by watching videos, taking surveys, and participating in events on their site.  Once you get enough points, called Swagbucks, you can redeem them for free gift cards.  It is super simple and you can participate as much as or as little as you want.  You can even get points for referring friends like I will get if you click the banner below.  I use my Swagbucks to get gift cards for going out to eat or to Amazon to use to buy gifts for birthdays or Christmas.  The gift cards they give you are totally free to you and a great way to treat yourself, your family or others.

*This post was in no way spoonsored by Swagbucks.  I just wanted to share one way our family earns free gift cards.  The links in this post are "Referral Links" which means if you click on them and sign up and use Swagbucks I get points for referring you which I can then use for gift cards.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Winter Fun

This past winter....okay it is technically still winter according to the calendar, but I am trying to move it out of here even though it keeps spitting snow here.  Anyway, this winter my kids were able to do something new and fun for them.  They were able to learn to ski this year thanks to our homeschool co-op and some awesome deals that the local ski area runs.  Buddy got to try skiing and snowboarding.  He definitely preferred skiing and said that was easier to get the hang of.  I was proud of him for trying out both activities.  Little Miss got to try skiing and thought it was pretty fun.  Today I thought I would share some pictures of their fun with you.

We hope to go skiing again next year as our ski area is already closed for the year.  Unfortunately the weather around here has been pretty up and down and we haven't had any consistent snow or accumulated snow since early February.  If you are wondering if I ski....the answer is NO, I tried once it was not good and a story for a different day.  I just go and walk the slopes with my kids its safer for me.  😀

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A Review of Taming the Lecture Bug and Getting Your Kids to Think from Parenting Made Practical

As a parent the last thing you want to do is to lecture your kids, but let's be real and honest, it is one way we try to deal with our kids' behavior.  I know I have used it and I feel terrible when I do. So I jumped at the chance to review Taming the Lecture Bug and Getting Your Kids to Think book and DVD from Parenting Made Practical.  I was hoping this book and DVD would give me some answers for how I could be a more effective parent and I was not disappointed.
Taming the Lecture Bug and Getting Your Kids to Think Book, parenting, dating, courting, thinking
Parenting Made Practical was created by Joey and Carla Link.  They are parenting educators who want to help your family.  They have over 20 years of family ministry experience.  Their backgrounds in youth and family ministries and social work along with raising their own family have helped them create many resources for parents and families. Along with all the books and DVDs they have created, they speak at conferences and churches around the country.

The Taming the Lecture Bug book features 12 chapters and 2 appendices along with a bibliography and recommended resources.  In total it has 160 pages.  Each chapter offers practical advise, example situations, scripture references, and solutions to use to stop lecturing your kids and get them to think for themselves.   Included in the appendices are a detailed method of "The Repentance, Forgiveness and Restoration Process" that is mentioned several times through out the book and the "Re-Training a Stubborn Heart" chart that was used in an earlier chapter.  The methods and solutions in this book are designed for children ages 8 and up.  The DVD is 53 minutes long and has a printable study guide that can be used along with it.
I will admit that I am a lecturer when it comes to correcting my kids.  This is why this book and DVD appealed to me so much.  I know my kids tune me out when I start lecturing, but what I didn't know was how to stop.  My kids are good kids and they are obedient in most areas, but like all kids they have their bad days where they push to the limits.  I know that them pushing and pleading and trying to do things their own way is what we refer to as a "heart" issue.  The book takes it a step further and says it is a sin issue and when I really started thinking about that, I realized it is true.  When my kids don't do things the way they are told to after they are told and showed how to do things they are being disobedient which is a form of sin.  The disobedience that starts with chores leads to disobedience in other areas of life if we don't correct it.  This made sense to me.  It is little occasions of disobedience that keep happening and keep building that would lead to my lectures before I read this book.  The main point of the book is that we have to stop the lectures and get our kids to take responsibility for their actions.  They can't do this when we are constantly reminding them, rescuing them when the forget things, or assuming we know their answers already.  This is why the book introduces the technique of asking "Why" questions to help your kids work through what they are doing, what is wrong with it, and how they can change it.  This method is best for when kids disobey and not every single thing they do.  The book also teaches you to use all of the methods it teaches in a calm and rational way as opposed to lectures that usually happen in the heat of the moment.
I have been slowly implementing parts of this book in our household with our 9 and 14 year old children.  I don't want to be overwhelmed trying to implement everything at once and I don't want to overwhelm my children by changing everything at once.  However, I do want to teach them to be responsible for their own actions and prepare them for when they are an adult.  This is another reason this book appealed to me.  I want to make sure they are responsible adults and I won't always be around to remind them to grab everything before heading out the door or to take care of chores.  We actually started focusing on this at the beginning of the year by dividing up chores for our kids to do and they paying them allowance.  This was working well at first, but as they got a couple of months into their chores they were starting to forget and I found myself nagging them to finish everything.  While reading the book I had a thought, I create a to-do list every day of things I need to get done so why don't I have my kids do this?  When they get up every day, they create their own to-do list of everything they need to get done before they go to bed at night.  Now I don't have to nag them and they actually both respond well to having their own list that they created.  I have also been using the technique from the book of having one of my 9 year old sit out when she is being defiant or having a bad attitude.  She is not a fan of this at all, but she is seeing that I am not going to argue back with her because it doesn't help either of us.  I am still working on implementing some of the other parts of this book and adapting some of them to fit better for us.  I think that is the beauty of this book I can make it work for us and our parenting beliefs.
Taming the Lecture Bug and Getting Your Kids to Think DVD
The Taming the Lecture Bug and Getting Your Kids to Think book and DVD can be used independently of each other, but in my opinion it is beneficial to have and use both resources.  Why?  It was beneficial to me to not only read the information for myself, but also to see Joey and Carla explain the information.  It helped cement the ideas of their teaching in my head.  Joey walked through a specific situation by role playing with his daughter on the DVD.  He pointed out where parents typically start acting from emotions rather than facts and how children will respond to that versus the right way to react to what your child has done and get them to take responsibility for their actions.  Seeing this specific visual representation made the concept stick in my mind and I can stop myself from acting from emotions the next time my child misbehaves and react properly to the situation.  Watching the DVD after reading the book like I did was a good way to refresh what I read and make sure that I understood their methods.  The DVD had a fantastic explanation of the temperaments of children and it really helped me to figure out which of these temperaments are strongest in each of my children.  Knowing this helps me handle the situations with each of them in a way best suited to their temperament.  There is even a printable study guide on the website that you can print and fill out while you watch the DVD.  I will definitely watch the DVD again in the future as a way to refresh my mind with how I should be responding to my kids in an effective manner.

If you are a parent that lectures your kids, then I would recommend reading through this book or watching the DVD or both.  I appreciate the wisdom that the Links shared and I definitely want to check out some of their other resources like Dating, Courting & Choosing a Mate...What Works? since we are approaching that age range in our home.  You can learn more about Parenting Made Practical and all they have to offer on their website, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.  You can learn more about the Taming the Lecture Bug and Getting Your Kids to Think book here and the DVD here.  You will definitely want to click the banner below to read the reviews from my friends on the Homeschool Review Crew because we got the chance to review many products for this review.  I know I definitely want to read the reviews so I know what other resources to add to my reading list.
Parenting Made Practical {Reviews}

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Spice It Up

Let's spice things up for this week's Thrifty Thursday and talk about buying spices.
I buy many items that our family uses regularly in bulk to save us money.  One of the items that I buy in bulk are spices.  I do this for two reasons.  1.) It saves us money in the long run.  2.) We use a lot of spices at our house.  When I buy spices in bulk, I pay for them by the pound rather than buying a small jar like you do at the normal grocery store.  They come in half pint and pint containers depending on how much of a spice I need and how the store I buy them at divides it up (some of their more popular spices they only sell in pint containers).  Since the spices are priced per pound and I am not buying a pound of spices, the cost is much cheaper.  I usually pay between $0.75-$1.75 for the half-pint containers and between $1.00 and $4.00 for the pint containers.  The spices that are closer to $4.00 are spices that are more expensive in general, but they are still a saving to me because if I bought them in the bottles from the grocery store, I would be paying more up front and using them up faster.  So I bet you are wondering what spices I use that I buy in bulk, right?  Here is a short list of just a few of the spices I buy in bulk:
  • Garlic Powder
  • Garlic Salt
  • Onion Powder
  • Black Pepper
  • Chili Powder
  • Italian Seasoning
  • Basil 
  • Parsley
  • Oregano
  • Lemon Pepper
  • Cinnamon
Every once in awhile I do have to buy spices from the regular grocery store because I didn't get to my bulk food store quick enough.  It pains me to do so because they cost anywhere from $1.00 - $3.00 per bottle and those bottles don't last long around our house.  I do splurge on some of our favorite spices and seasonings that I buy from Tastefully Simple, but I limit how often I do this and I usually end up doing a party so that I can get a discount on the spices and even get some of them for free.

Do you buy a lot of spices?  Do you have a place that you can buy them in bulk?  Is there a topic you would like me to post about for future Thrifty Thursday posts?  I would love to hear from you.