Friday, February 26, 2010
Instead of gold, I won green. Unfortunately, no, not the kind of green that I could put in my savings account or use to buy something nice. My green victory is better than that and has been nine years in the making....
Imagine if you will, a young, twenty-something Homeschool Dawn seated near her darling Wilbur. He is a little-bitty baby, seated in his high chair, completely unaware of the new experience coming his way... his first taste of baby food.
Because HSD is a good mommy and loves her little boy, she is starting him out with peas- a green vegetable, of course, so he will not develop a taste for the sweeter fruits and veggies of other colors. She took this route with Orville only one year earlier, and it worked. As soon as the spoon of green mush touched his tongue, he said, "Mmmm... doh". Which was his way of saying, "Thanks, Mom, that was great. I appreciate that you are instilling healthy eating habits in me. Could I have some more, please?"
Strong in her conviction that introducing greens first produces a healthy eater, HSD scoops up a bite of peas, sings a little song about eating, and flies the spoon to Wilbur's mouth.
Thwwwwpppp! (Which was his way of saying, "Thanks, Mom, for looking out for my nutritional needs, but yuck!")
Determined not to give in, HSD sings another eating song and "feeds" her little darling another bite.
This went on until the jar was empty, HSD was covered in green spittle, and the kitchen was colored green from floor to ceiling. Yes, it was even on the ceiling. It was like a St. Patrick's Day celebration gone bad.
Well, I am a determined woman and have not given up the battle for the green. Tonight, I brought out my secret weapon.
And what, pray tell, is my secret weapon?
I should have thought of this sooner. I never got Baby Wilbur to eat peas, green beans, or anything else green. But when I whipped open I jar of ham dinner... let's just say it was a good thing for me that he didn't have teeth yet. I might be missing a finger or two.
But back to my weapon....
I mixed together cubes of ham, swiss cheese, a little light mayo, carrots, onion, lemon juice, ground mustard, and CELERY! I poured it into a pie crust and baked it up. When I served it, Wilbur heard the words "ham", "cheese" and "pie" and inhaled it so quickly that our community tornado sirens sounded.
It wasn't until his tenth bite that he noticed the little green slivers within his slice of the yummy pie. He thought they were pickles, and I was not inclined to say differently.
Until dinner was over, that is.
Once his plate was clean, I told him exactly what he had eaten. His eyes widened and he exclaimed, "Hey! Celery is pretty good!"
He has promised that tomorrow night he will try....
Are you sitting down?
Now, how can get him to turn off a light when he leaves a room?
You only need to read a few of my posts to know that I am a
Recently, friends of mine, both bloggy and irl, have caught the bird watching bug. One of those friends is Kellie @ Blue House Academy. BHA was one of my favorite blogs before Kellie caught the bug, but now, she has the most beautiful photographs of our feathered friends on display.
Her most recent post, A little bird told me..., is filled with great ideas and resources for teaching your young bird watchers. If you are wanting a good unit study on birds or nature, I encourage you to check out the ideas and resources she has suggested.
Also check out my Birding 101 series. I have links to each article in the series in my sidebar. Lord willing, I will be adding to the series soon since my pain has subsided and we are getting some nice sunny days here in Georgia, perfect for filming a tutorial or two.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
A teeny dink in my windshield, which was patched about five years ago, turned into a series of large cracks last week. I had an appointment to take it to the "shop" for replacement this morning and was supposed to go when called by the repairman.
The call was scheduled to come "sometime between 9 and noon", so I decided to have the boys do some independent work while I waited for "the call". I cancelled any direct instruction or group work for the day, thinking I wouldn't get much accomplished knowing that a call could come at any time.
While I waited, I worked on the blog. I changed the layout and color scheme, as I am sure you have noticed, and added a picture I purchased from istockphoto.com. I am planning to move to wordpress this summer and am thinking about what I will want the new Olive Plants to look like.
So... what do you think of the new look? Please feel free to give me feedback.
p.s. I also started a new blog, not the new and improved Olive Plants but a totally new blog, on wordpress this morning. I hope to launch it soon. I have a very interesting purpose for this new blog. Anybody curious? Any guesses?
p.p.s. The repairman called at noon. The new windshield arrived with a crack in it. Lord willing, it will be repaired tomorrow. So I guess I will have another morning to work on the new blog.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
In times of difficult circumstances, choices have to be made that are not always easy. I had to make one of those decisions this week and step down from the TOS Homeschool Crew.
Our homeschool has faced many disruptions in the past few weeks. There have been multiple doctor's appointments. I have had to adjust to a slower pace and allow myself time to take meds and rest. It has been a season of learning to let go and to do according to my ability and not according to my hopes, dreams, and good intentions.
With that said, I have had to face the fact that the Crew assignments have become too taxing. I have been assigned five to seven vendors per month, with some vendors sending me multiple products. That averages out to more than one review assignment per week, a pace that my aching body will not allow me to keep any longer.
For you, my readers, this will mean fewer product reviews to read, perhaps even none. I have seven reviews in process that I will complete, but after that I am doubtful that I will accept any offers to do product reviews until this season of pain passes. I am saddened that I can no longer serve the homeschool community in this capacity. I know from your comments how many of you read and appreciate my reviews. I have appreciated all of your good feedback, too.
I hope you will also enjoy a review-free Olive Plants and will continue to visit me. This change should free me up to write more about our lives as homeschoolers, my original intent for this blog.
Let me end by providing a list of my 10 favorite items received while on the TOS Homeschool Crew, a rite of passage for retiring Crew members.
- Nature Friend Magazine
- Quarter Mile Math
- GrapeVine Studies
- Bright Ideas Press
- Zeezok Publishing
- Math Score
- A Journey Through Learning
- Artistic Pursuits (in process, but loving it)
- All About Spelling and the Beehive Reader (in process)
Thank you to the TOS Homeschool Crew for allowing me to be a part of this year's voyage. I have enjoyed the journey. I am sorry to have to row back to shore prematurely and appreciate everyone's understanding.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Two weeks ago, an MRI was taken of my spine. I received the results yesterday. My spine is healthy. My doctor was shocked by this. He was certain there was a bulging disc; all the symptoms pointed to it. I would like to claim healing; however, the pain is still present.
So he ordered another round of tests, most of which were completed yesterday. I am scheduled to undergo an EMG on Friday, the 19th, to determine if I have neurological problems.
Please ask the Lord to reveal the root of my pain and grant the doctors involved much wisdom. I have experienced this pain off and on for 18 years and I have seen about a dozen doctors and undergone a number of tests before, including 3 MRI's, all to no avail. The EMG is a new step. Though I am concerned about what exactly "neurological problems" might mean, I am thankful to have a doctor who is not giving up on this.
I trust the Lord and know that He knows exactly what is wrong with me. My faith is in Him to reveal these things to us, to heal me with or without modern medicine, and to grant me the grace needed to live for His glory whatever the outcome.
Please pray for my physical strength, particularly during the EMG. I am not exactly thrilled with the idea of being stuck with needles and exposed to electrical stimuli. If you read Olive Plants regularly, you know about my active imagination. I am having to bring some over-the-top thoughts captive (think mad scientist with an electric chair) and trust the Lord to be my help during a somewhat painful test.
Thank you for your continued prayers and kind emails and comments.
May God be glorified by my weakness.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
I make steak and popcorn shrimp with twice baked potatoes, green beans with almonds, salad, homemade rolls, and cheesecake.
We are frugal and would rarely splurge for steak and cheesecake.
I am allergic to shrimp and do not make it often out of fear that just touching it will cause a reaction, even though it is Orville's favorite food.
On Valentine's day, however, I throw caution to the wind. I spend a little extra and handle the food with care. I fix a lovely table, serve up the feast with love and sparkling juice, and all three of my valentines lap up the surf and turf in record time.
They always buy me something nice, too, and hand it over with hugs and kisses and big thank you's. Valentine's Day is a special time for us.
But none of that happened this year.
NONE OF IT.
Because I just did not feel like it.
Which made me feel even worse.
I don't feel like doing much of anything lately because of the recent return of chronic pain. I have had a few rough weeks, and you have probably noticed. My blog has been like a ghost town, mostly because the pain has made it difficult to organize my thoughts and put them into writing.
I hurt up and down my back with stabbing pains in two spots. My neck is stiff, and I pretty much have kept a headache for six weeks. And I never know when the stabbing pain in my hip will start. When it comes, I cannot find relief. It hurts to sit, stand, walk, and lie down. Michael has to drag me to the bed, if I can stand to be touched, or I have to us my rolling chair walker to drag myself there.
Sometimes the pain episode lasts for a few minutes. Sometimes it lasts for a few days. I never know when it will hit or for how long it will stay. I cannot find a "trigger" either.
I guess you are wondering where the "happy" is in this Valentine's Day post.
It is that my family was not disappointed because I did not set a grand table this year.
They did not act like the sky would fall because they did not get their traditional feast.
They did not make me feel like a failure because I could not give them all that was in my heart to give.
Instead, my husband took the kids and me to Cracker Barrel. I know that is not a place of traditional romance, but for me, last night, it was the most romantic place in the world.
We spent the evening gathered around an old wooden table eating biscuits and jelly, hashbrown casserole, and dumplings. We jumped pegs in that little wooden triangle game. We drank sweet tea and talked about Webkinz.
And there was no place I would rather have been.
When we returned home we broke out our Apples to Apples game and laughed at whether a truck stop or the Midwest was more fragrant. My midwestern friends will be happy to know the truck stop won.
The night ended with a stomach virus for Orville and Michael. Not a dream ending, but that's when I got to show my love by rubbing achy bellies until 2 a.m.
I think sometimes we, or at least I, place unreasonable expectations on love. We give it its own holiday and commercialize it. We think we have to a have a romantic night out or a perfectly set table at home, complete with flowers and candy and maybe even jewelry.
But I know that my husband could have bought the most expensive piece of jewelry available and presented it with an elaborate bouquet of flowers and it would not have held as much value as the kindness he showed me last night. It would not have been as valuable to me as the fun we shared as a family. It would not have expressed his love for me as much as his lack of expectations.
He just wanted a night with me and the kids, and I love him for that.
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. 1 Pet 1:22
Friday, February 12, 2010
And southern bird baths almost never freeze over like this....
Speaking of birds (how's that for a segue?!)...
Today is also the start of the Great Backyard Bird Count. The snow interfered with our regular plans. Normally we would spend the first day of the GBBC searching for birds at a nearby lake. Two years ago we took the boys and their birding competition teammates there and spotted over 1,000 birds. We wore light-weight clothing and drank cold water.
Not even 10 feet from me.
Everyone was okay, but it just goes to show how it only takes a dusting to create dangerous conditions.
Think about it for a second.
Yes, we got a few funny looks.
Well, since this post has gone in fifty different directions, allow me to summarize...
- drive carefully
- if you see strange people scoping out your neighborhood, they are probably bird watchers
- you can
freak out your neighborsjoin in on the bird watching fun, too
You can also look at pictures of birds from around the country on the GBBC website. We took a little time to look at them today and saw familiar birds searching for food in the snow and western birds perched on cacti.
You don't have to brave the snow or scare your neighbors either. You can watch your feeders from the comfort of your own home.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
HSLB sells both new and gently used books and offers a number of additional services like a book search for out-of-stock titles and product marketing. This service, called the HSLB Marketplace, offers free advertising for its members' small businesses.
Members may also reap the rewards of a frequent buyers program in which points accumulated from purchases can be exchanged for discounts on future purchases. Members may also accumulate points through referrals and by linking HSLB to their own websites.
I searched HSLB for books on TOG's Y4 and Y1 lists and found a good number. I was able to search by title, subject, keyword and curriculum. I thought the prices were reasonable and will probably purchase some of our books for next year from them.
Now is a good time to start ordering for next year because HSLB is offering 20% off all purchases made during February.
Additionally, when you make a donation to Heartline Ministries for a Helping Hand to Haiti, you will receive a coupon code good for an additional 15% off any HSLB purchase made on Super Bowl Sunday (2-7-10).
Membership to HSLB is free.
I was not compensated for this review and have provided my unbiased opinion.
For more reviews of HSLB, please visit the TOS Homeschool Crew blog.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Facts First is a paid membership site that offers fun math drill practice. It comes to us from one of the most trusted names in homeschool math, Saxon.
Students begin by creating a personal avatar.
Then they select which set of facts to practice, addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division. The facts are taught in small segments. For instance, when learning addition, the first lessons will focus on 1 + 1 and 1 + 2 only. After a few rounds of drilling, the program quizzes the student and integrates previously mastered facts for upkeep.
Students see their progress on the chart below. It gives them almost immediate feedback on their speed and accuracy and serves as a motivator to work on both.
Each time they complete a round of practice, they are rewarded five minutes in the arcade which has the feel of a game room. However, the games are not just for fun. They are designed to continue the upkeep of mastered skills. You can read more about how Facts First works here.
What We Thought
Wilbur was the Facts First user in our house. He loved having an avatar. At first, I was not so happy about the avatar. He wanted to spend his entire first session getting just the right look, changing hair color, eye color, clothes, etc. After that, it became a non-issue though because he was not required to return to the avatar page.
He was highly motivated by the arcade. He wanted to master the lesson so he could have the "play" time, but he was not allowed to linger too long once there since he was required to leave the arcade page after five minutes. Once he had to leave, he could not wait to return and worked so hard to get the next arcade break.
The math practice was perfect for him. His computation speed and accuracy increased over a few weeks of practice. He enjoyed the drill work, too.
I give Facts First two thumbs up and recommend it. You can purchase a Facts First family membership for $49.99. This provides access for four users for one year.
I received a free membership to Facts First in order to complete this review. I have received no other compensation and have provided my honest opinion.
To read what my crewmates have to say, please visit the TOS Homeschool Crew page.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
The Eclectic Education Series from Dollar Homeschool has made the curricular resources of the 19th Century American classroom available to the 21st Century home educator.
Gathered together on five CDs, the EES "is a set of textbooks which from roughly 1865 to 1915 WAS education in the United States." * This collection provides a comprehensive K-12 curriculum which covers English grammar, history, science, math, and reading. The lessons are written to promote patriotism, traditional values, and the Bible… much of which have been lost in modern education.
The Eclectic Education Series includes the following:
- Ray's Arithmetic
- Thalheimer's Histories
- Progressive Course in Reading
- Andrews Constitution
- American Poems
- Rhetorical Reading
- Good Morals and Gentle Manners
- Norton's Elements of Chemistry, Physics, and Natural Philosophy
- Ray's Elements of Astronomy
- McGuffey Readers
- Pinneo's Grammar
- Harvey's Grammar
- And MORE (click here to see a complete list)
What We Thought
In a nutshell, the EES is just not for us.
There are certain books or reading selections that I am thankful to have and will add into the boys' studies in high school, but as an overall curriculum, it does not fit our style. We prefer living books to text books, learning by doing over rote memory, and authentic work over worksheets. The EES is a compilation of textbooks and relies heavily on isolated skill and drill exercises.
Also, it is not very "user-friendly". If you are looking for a curriculum that spells out what to teach, when to teach it, and how to teach it, the EES is probably not for you. I had to spend a lot of time looking through all of those documents deciding which materials to use.
However, the content and skills covered are excellent and thorough in their scope, particularly for the price. The EES lives up to its promise of promoting a Biblical worldview and patriotism as well as godly conduct. I cannot sing its praises highly enough in this regard. It is not what is taught that does not work for us. It is a matter of how it is taught.
For that reason, I will not assign this product any thumbs up or down. The Olive Plant family will not be switching to this curriculum; however, I believe homeschooling parents can provide their children a well-rounded, Christian education with the Eclectic Education Series.
The entire Eclectic Education Series is available on CD for $159, a tremendous value when you consider the amount of materials included, from Dollar Homeschool.
I was given the Eclectic Education Series for free in order to complete this review. I have not receive additional compensation and have provided my honest opinion.
Please visit the TOS Homeschool Blog for links to my crewmates' reviews of this product.
The title says it all.
This amazing book from Apologia Press is The ULTIMATE Guide to Homeschooling.
The author, Debra Bell, covers a wide range of homeschool-related topics and answers just about any question a potential or current homeschooler could have.
Here is what you will find inside:
- Homeschooling: Is it for you?
- Choosing a Curriculum
- Organization and Planning
- Preventing Burnout
- What to Teach- When and How
- Homeschooling Teens
- Computers in the Homeschool
- Creative Solutions
- Measuring Your Success
- Resource Guide
What I Thought
This is an all-inclusive book that I could ramble on about all day. So… to keep you from having to read a War-and-Peace-sized review, I chose the chapters that cover what I consider to be my strength as a homeschool teacher (Organization and Planning) and the section that covers what I consider my greatest weakness (Preventing Burnout).
The chapters on Organization and Planning contains step-by-step instructions on setting goals and writing objectives. It was like Ms. Bell took everything I learned in 3 years of teachers' college and condensed it into thirty fluff-free pages. This section is chocked full of valuable advice to help you set a good course for your school year. She also includes a number of additional resources to help you find the materials you need and a section on homeschool philosophies to help you find a way of "doing" school that works for your family.
For the section on burnout, let me just say Hello, my name is Dawn, and I'm an overachieving perfectionist. Ms. Bell offers valuable insight for homeschooling moms like me. She offers suggestions from her experience and seems to know us type A's pretty well. She writes about raising independent, responsible learners, field trips, sharing the load (something I don't do well), and getting plugged into a support group. I have made a few changes in my approach per her advice and will let you know how things go in later posts.
I also intend to delve into the section on Teens soon. I am not there yet, but the time is quickly approaching and am pleased to have such an invaluable resource to guide me. Michael and I are particularly interested in the section on college from home.
I give The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling two thumbs up and highly recommend it. You can purchase a copy of The Ultimate Guide from Apologia for $20.
I received one copy of The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling for free in order to complete this review. I have received no other compensation and have provided my honest opinion.
For more reviews of this book, please visit the TOS Homeschool Crew blog.
Zeezok Publishing sent me such a nice package of goodies to review.
I received the Chopin set which includes two soft-cover books (one on Chopin's early years and one on his later years), an enhanced CD, and a study guide.
The study guide includes comprehension questions and extra tidbits of information on the composer. It is neatly arranged, making it easy to line up the questions and extras with the reading.
The enhanced CD provides mp3 sound recordings of all the compositions mentioned in the books. It also contains printable sheet music of Chopin's works and coloring pages for each chapter.
What We Thought
This is one of the best products I have received as a member of the Crew. Zeezok will most likely make my top ten list at the end of the year.
We have enjoyed reading both books. The boys snuggled next to me and listened intently. We like the writing style and the illustrations. I think starting with Chopin's childhood helped to capture my boys' interest. In fact, Orville, who is learning to play piano, was most interested in the chapters that detailed Chopin's course of study and dedication to music as a child. He was inspired by these books.
I liked having the music right at my fingertips, too. After we read a chapter, I simply popped the enhanced CD into my computer and played the recording while I printed the coloring sheet. The boys colored while listening to the music of Chopin. These sheets are also perfect for coloring while the teacher reads aloud, if you like to keep little hands busy while listening.
I give Zeezok Publishing two big thumbs up and encourage you to visit their site. The set I received retails for $30.90. The individual pieces are sold separately as well.
I received the products mentioned in this review for free. I have received no other compensation and have offered my honest opinion.
To read more reviews on this and other books from Zeezok Publishing, please visit the TOS Homeschool Crew blog.
What We Thought
Because the intended audience is preschoolers, this DVD was not age-appropriate for any member of our household. However, I thought it was beautifully done and enjoyed watching it. This is a DVD that I would have watched over and over again with my boys when they were little, particularly during those times that we needed a quiet, sit-down moment. I give Young Minds two thumbs up.
What We Thought
Okay, you need to know that the Olive Plants family loves math. Solving word problems is something we would do for fun. So… unfortunately I cannot say that this DVD "worked for us". There were no a-ha moments.
However, the methods the tutor uses are excellent. He breaks everything down into manageable chunks and gives his students an effective way to approach each problem. If you and yours are not math geeks like us, this DVD could be very helpful. I give it two perpendicular bisectors and a piece of pi!
The Young Minds DVD sells for $24.99, and The Basic Math Word Problems Tutor sells for $26.99. You can purchase them here.
I received both DVDs mentioned in this review for free. I have received no other compensation and have provided my honest opinion.
You can read more MathTutor reviews at the TOS Homeschool Crew blog.
Additionally, Kinderbach offers an assortment of activity books and printables for children to complete while not online.
I also liked that my son was able to set his piano keyboard up next to our computer with Internet and receive lessons from a highly-qualified instructor. No rushing to get to lessons on time! The price is amazing, too, a huge savings over private lessons.
Orville completed the lessons for this review, and he enjoyed them. He recognized that it was geared for a younger audience, but because he is new to playing piano, he still learned from Kinderbach. In particular, the lessons helped him learn to keep a steady beat and not rush through his pieces.
If you would like to know more about KinderBach, I recommend this introductory video.
I give Kinderbach two enthusiastic thumbs up and invite you to give it a try. You can start your free session here. After that membership is as low as $7.99 per month.
I received a free membership to KinderBach in order to complete this review. I have received no other compensation and have offered my honest opinion.
For more great reviews, please visit the TOS Homeschool Crew blog.
Monday, February 1, 2010
Created by MIT graduates for students in first grade through Algebra I, Math Score is a paid membership site that offers ample math practice on a large variety of topics. It can be used as a complete math curriculum or as a supplemental program. We opted to use it as a supplement.
From a teacher's perspective, the site is excellent. Students log into their personal accounts and compete problems on a specific topic within a specific grade level. Students attempt to complete the assigned work within a set time limit. If they make errors, they are shown their mistakes and then allowed to complete another set of problems on the same level of difficulty. They progress to the next level as they demonstrate mastery.
What I appreciated most was the balance between computation skills and critical thinking. So many math programs emphasize one at the expense of the other. Math Score recognizes that successful mathematicians need both. Likewise, math is the star of Math Score, not gaming or extrinsic motivators. It is not a bells and whistles program (more about that in a minute) which, in my opinion, is less distracting and keeps students focused on what is important. For more on how Math Score works, watch this short introductory video.
Orville completed the Math Score work for this review and LOVES the site. He says the math work is challenging, compared to other math practice software/websites we have used. He also says that trying to beat the timer is VERY challenging and has kept him highly motivated. However, teachers can adjust the timer if needed. Orville wanted to return to the site as often as possible to try to meet the challenge the Math Score creators set before him.
As I said earlier, Math Score is not a bells and whistles program. It has a worksheet-like format and does not have the typical kid-friendly look you may have come to expect from math practice programs. Points are awarded and students progress through a series of rankings. Fireworks go off when a score of 100 is reached, but there are not bright colors, sound effects, avatars, or a game-like format. If you are looking for a program that includes tons of extrinsic motivators to get your kids excited about math, Math Score is probably not it. If you are looking for something to increase your child's computation time and hone his mental math abilities, Math Score is sure to please.
Overall, I give Math Score two thumbs up and recommend it. You can find more information about the site here. Membership costs $9.95 per month for the first student, $5.00 for the second student, and $3.95 for each additional student. You can start your free half-month trial here.
I was given a free subscription to Math Score in order to complete this review. I have received no other compensation and have provided my honest opinion.
Please visit the TOS Homeschool Crew blog to read my crewmates' reviews.