Nov 20, 2017

Thankful Post 1/2


On Facebook I am doing a Thankfulness Challenge for the entire month of November. It's really simple. I just post every day a short bit about something I am thankful for. I'm going to post them here in two posts.

November Challenge:

Day 1:

I am so thankful for my family's amazing friends. In our time of crisis they say, "If you need something let us know..." and they mean it!

They have brought cookies, offered prayers, listened to our tragic tale, expressed love and concern, given us rides, answered every, "could you?" with a swift and resounding "yes".

And they don't even know how much I have prayed for friends like these.

Day 2:

I am thankful for God's provision. And for His omniscience. He is never surprised by our crisis or our needs.

Day 3:

I am thankful for Autumn. I am thankful for this beautiful weather! It was a gorgeous morning! I love fog! And a beautiful afternoon! I am so loving all the stunning colors in the trees all over the place. I love the crisp air and the deep blue sky. I love pumpkins and apples and scarecrows. And best of all is the anticipation of the holiday season coming up. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's and BIRTHDAYS GALORE!!!!

Day 4:

 I am thankful for these four beautiful faces! I am thankful that they are happy and healthy and safe. I'm thankful that it is so easy to be a super proud mama. They keep life exciting and interesting and make sure there is always something to laugh about. They are my greatest achievement. I always wanted to be a mommy but being a mom to these kids is amazing beyond my wildest dreams.


Day 5:

I am thankful for Grace and Mercy and second chances. I'm thankful that mistakes are opportunities for learning and are forgiven by God every day.

Day 6:

I am thankful for laughter. It's not only good medicine but I strongly believe their ability to make me laugh is what has kept my kids alive all these years.

Day 7:

I'm thankful for beauty. I'm thankful that if you really look for it, you can find it in the most unexpected of places.

Day 8:

I'm thankful for popcorn and chocolate and fried chicken and all the yummy foods!

Day 9:

I'm thankful for technology and smart phones. Because, quite frankly, without that handy map on my phone I would be sooooo lost all the time! I usually get lost even with its help. But without it, my poor husband would have to come track me down every single time I left the house! Or I would just have to sleep on the street wherever darkness found me every night.

Day 10:

I'm thankful for hope. We live in the Fridays, but Sunday is coming!

Day 11:

I'm thankful for holidays. I love special days full of traditions and festivities. I love making memories with my family!

Day 12:

I am thankful for Jesus. It hardly needs to be said. It's hard not to be grateful to Someone like Him who gave up everything to give you something you could never deserve, much less earn.

Day 13:

I am thankful for books and the amazing authors who write them.

Day 14:

I'm thankful for my kids' friends. They have a knack for picking good ones. I love that their friends are great people that life my kids up. They are alive with encouragement, inspiration, passionate ideas, and laughter.

Day 15:

I'm thankful for music. I can't play an instrument and I can't sing, but I can enjoy music anyway! I especially love the old hymns. They are so full of good, solid, theology and praise for God.

Nov 15, 2017

Homeschool Review Crew: Illuminating Literature

Literature was always my very favorite subject. I love reading books and I love talking/ thinking/ writing about them. My Lit. classes in college were so much fun! Since my oldest two kids are book-lovers just like me, I knew I wanted their high-school lit courses to be just as enjoyable. So I looked high and low for a really great curriculum. But I couldn't find one. So I gave up and cobbled together my own program. And it was working well enough until...


We were asked to review Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis from Writing with Sharon Watson. I handed it over to Kaytie, my fourteen year old 9th grader to work on for a few weeks.

Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis

This is a high school literature course that will earn your child a full lit. credit. Your child will read five classic books, a Shakespearean play, and an assortment of short stories throughout the course. The books are sold separately but all the short stories are either in the textbook or a link is provided to an ebook. 

The materials consist of:
  • Teacher's Manual
  • Student Textbook
  • Quiz and Answer Manual
  • Online Quizzes 
  •  Novel Notebook

The Teacher's Guide answers to the questions in the Student Textbook. But it also has grading guides, course objectives, a schedule and suggestions for teaching the course to a class or more informally as a Book Club. 

The Student Textbook is the heart of the curriculum. It is a thick paperback book and is intended to be consumable. My daughter did not write in it, however, she hated struggling with the book and simultaneously trying to fit her answers into the too-small spaces. I think it would be a lot more conducive to writing directly in the book if it were spiral bound and she could open it and lay it flat. She preferred, however, to type her answers into the computer and send them to my email for grading. 

The Textbook has nine chapters that are divided up into bite-sized lessons. Each chapter covers a book except for the chapter on the short stories, and the first chapter on one short story. There are a couple of lessons to be done before the book is read, assignments to do while reading the book, and activities to complete after reading the book. There is a suggested schedule based on a week's worth of work, not by days. 

The work required is not comprehension questions, but short answer questions such as "How do the following characters respond to conflict? What does it reveal about their character?"; discussion questions such as,  "Do you feel sorry for anyone in this novel?" and questions to consider in real life such as, "How can you tell if you are being deceived?" In short, questions that make your student think and write. 

Literary terms and devices are taught as they appear in the novels. You can see the complete list of what they learn as well as other free samples of the materials on the website. 

The Quiz and Answer Manual has quizzes and answers. :) 

There are three quizzes for the books and two quizzes for the short stories. These are "Yes, I Read It", "Literary Terms", and the third one for the books is "Opinion Survey". These have short answers or multiple choice questions. 

All of the answers are in the back of the book. 

The Online Quizzes are the same quizzes that are in the book. Some people just find it easier for their student to take them online. I loved it because I didn't have to grade it! A report of the quiz was emailed to her and she would then forward it on to me. So I could easily see how she did on each quiz and quickly record it.

There are links and passwords to the quizzes in the Textbook. Kaytie found it easy to access the quizzes and she enjoyed taking them.  

The Novel Notebook is a PDF download that comes with the course. It adds pizzazz to the material. The work is assigned in the Textbook and consists of fun assignments like those in the picture below. I snapped this picture before she did her work to keep her privacy. 


When we started Characters in Crisis, we fully intended to use it for the review period and then set it back on the shelf for later. We were not unhappy with the course I had written and it was working well for us. So this was just going to be a short break to fulfill Crew obligations and maybe enjoy doing something different for short time. Therefore, I did not have her start at the beginning. She had just finished reading Silas Marner so I handed her the Student Textbook and said, "Do the section on Silas."

So she did. And she loved it. She was able to work mostly independently. She followed the instructions in the textbook, took the online quizzes, wrote a fun short story, and learned so much. She told me that she didn't really like or understand Silas Marner until after she had worked her way through the chapter in Characters in Crisis. The questions and quizzes, activities and information opened her mind to what the book was about and what it was trying to say. That, in my opinion, is the highest praise anyone could give a Literature course. If it helps my kid love an otherwise dull book and helps them dig interesting ideas out of a yawning brain, then it's a course I can thoroughly recommend!

The more she worked in Characters in Crisis, the more we realized this was exactly the lit course that I looked for for years. It taught Literary Terms and Devices. It taught from whole books and not excerpts. It expected deep thinking and full answers, not just comprehension and vocabulary. It engaged her, fired her imagination and helped her grasp and enjoy the themes and concepts in the books she read. 

I thought this was an awesome program. Sharon Watson is funny and serious at the same time. She has a gift for writing and that's part of why I enjoyed reading this so much. The work is split up into easy to handle portions. The questions that were asked made me really think about this book, and I feel like I got way more out of the book than I would have if I had just read it and written a book report on it. I especially liked the options she gave us at the end of the chapter for immersion. There were several easy, simple ones, and several harder, more challenging ones. She took multiple learning types into account: there were hands-on options, writing options, and watching/listening options. Reading each chapter was simple and fun, and I enjoyed doing the work as well. I recommend this program to anyone who wants to get more out of literature or simply likes reading.

So not only are we going to set aside what I had originally planned and do Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis instead, we will more than likely do her other course when we are finished with this one!

Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis {Writing with Sharon Watson Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Nov 12, 2017

Our Week in Pictures

Kaytie will be fifteen in January, which means she will officially start Driver's Ed. So this weekend, she unofficially started parking lot driving. She did amazingly well! She didn't freak me out even once. There was one time I said, in an anxious sort of voice, "You do have a break, you know, you might want to consider using it now."

But mostly she was serene and confident.


One day Jeeves, the life sized plastic penguin came to school. Langston was amazed by him. 



The girls had a birthday party/ sleepover, and Dad was working out of town, so I took the boys out for supper. Daniel got car sick on the less-than-ten-minute drive. What was up with that??? As you can see, he quickly recovered as soon as he was out of the car.


The waitress totally underestimated how old they are and gave them kid menus. But they took it in stride. They ordered off my menu, then they made these cars and took them home. Later, when the girls asked where they came from, Daniel told them he had ordered it off Amazon. hahaha.


And I finally figured out why the kids can never find their shoes when I found Abbie's in the act of walking off down the hall. hahaha!


Nov 8, 2017

Homeschool Review Crew: Innovators Tribe

Our latest review product was a big hit! Innovators Tribe sent us Thinking Like an Architect. My nearly twelve year old son has been working his way through it.

Innovators Tribe currently consists of two online courses with a third course coming soon! These courses:

  • Thinking Like an Architect
  • Thinking Like an Engineer
  • Thinking Like a Carpenter (coming soon)

are designed to offer Technology and Engineering Education for homeschool kids. The courses are aimed at kids 6th grade and up. Your high school student can earn 1/4 a credit by going through the course and you could easily add some projects or research or real life experiences to add the other 1/4 a credit. The course should take 30 hours to complete, including the activities and projects.

Thinking Like an Architect

As I mentioned before, the course is entirely online. It consists of instructional videos and hands on assignments. There is a printable activity guide with instructions for the projects and worksheets to fill out as they go through the course.

I took a picture of one that he had filled out.
And another page...


An important component of Thinking Like an Architect is a free (with the course) 3D design software. This was Daniel's favorite part of the course. He hasn't had a lot of time to work with it yet because the student does not start off using it, but it is a real CAD program with walkthroughs of your designs and various views: Doll House, Forming, Full Overview, ect. There is a "library" you can browse and choose furniture and fixtures to put in your designs. You can even include wallpaper and paint on the walls. Eventually, he will be able to print out parts of scale models of his designs that he can put together! He has had so much fun with this program!



There is a supply list provided so you can gather everything you need. So far he has used: the printer; poster board; pencils and paper; a T-square; an architect's ruler; tape measure and stencils. We "just happened" to have these things on hand (his dad almost was an Architect) but there are instructions on how to make what you need in the course. In fact, here is the architect's ruler he made before he found his dad's. 


This program was easy for us to use! I showed Daniel how to log in and let him have at it. He worked at his own pace every day, watching the videos, following the instructions, measuring the house, drawing, learning. 

There was never a day where I had to insist on him working on Thinking Like an Architect. I did have to insist that he get his other schoolwork done first, and then he could spend as much time as he liked learning how to read, draw, and sketch blueprints, how to use Architect tools, and how to design his own dream-house. He had two enormous places to watch/ play on the tv, and a spiral staircase, but no kitchen. :)

Pay no attention to his suit and top hat, he was enjoying his brother's Halloween costume a little too much...  


I asked Daniel to tell you his thoughts and he said:

I learned how to use a T square. My favorite part was making the blue prints of my house. I like the Home Designer thing because you can go into Doll House mode and see how your house would look in real life. I love this program because it has taught me so much. I want to be an architect when I grow up! 

And I think he is well on his way!

Thinking Like an Architect or Engineer {Innovators Tribe Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Nov 7, 2017

Homeschool Review Crew: Thin Stix

One of our favorite reviews is when we get products from The Pencil Grip, Inc. . This time they sent us the Thin Stix Creativity Pack
We have used Kwik Stix before, and we love them. We were delighted to receive this set! 
Thin Stix Creativity Pack

Thin Stix are the perfect solution to the problem of messy art projects. They work like a marker... you need no water and no brush. They glide on like a glue stick and like a glue stick they have the twist at the bottom to give you more when you need it. And yet, the final result looks just like a painting! So kids are happy to be able to create and moms are happy with the quick clean up. 

They have a tightly fitting cap that is still super easy for the little ones to pull off and put back on. 

Even though they greatly reduce the mess, kids will still have those "whoops" moments when the paint goes places it should not go. So you will be happy to hear that we had no trouble getting "whoops" out of clothing or off the table and chairs. 

And that is really good news because it dries super quickly. This helps reduce the mess because as the child creates, nothing smears or wipes off on little hands. 

We have used the basic set. We have used the Thin Stix 6 pack. We were excited to see that this set also included metalix and neon colors. After the kids had used them for awhile, I asked them what they thought about the new options, and they said:

The metalix are sparkly.
The neons are brighter (and in my daughter's exact words), "way cooler than all the others".

These markers are used frequently by all my kids, from the 14 year old artistic kid to the busy 3 year old who just likes to scribble. My daughters love to pull them out when they babysit. They are always a hit. The kids are pleased with their easy masterpieces and the girls like that the mess is negligible. 

Here are a couple of pictures that the kids made with the Thin Stix. As you can see, fine details can be harder to pull off, but the younger your artist the less this is going to bother them.

A picture of Daniel's beta fish, George.


Abbie experimented with the metalix colors and created this copy of Starry Night. It is hard to tell in the picture, but in real life it shimmers, sparkles and glistens a little bit. The effect was lots of fun.


Thin Stix are not just for paper, either. The kids brainstormed ways to branch out a little and use the paints in different ways. Since we never got around to carving Abbie's pumpkin, she used Thin Stix to paint on it instead. She said it was so much easier than regular markers. It showed up more clearly with a lot less work. 


Daniel used Thin Stix to paint this model of George. He used air dry clay to make the model and then painted after it had thoroughly dried. Compared to regular paints, using Thin Stix was a quicker, easier process. He liked that he only had to put on one layer. And, of course, way less mess!

While there fine details in your art is difficult with Thin Stix, we have been delighted with the versatility of the Thin Stix Creativity Pack. The kids have had a blast playing around with them. We all highly recommend any and all Kwik Stix products!

If you would like to win your own set of Kwik Stix, please comment on this post to enter our GIVEAWAY! Please include an email or a method of contacting you. The winner of the Giveaway will be chosen and emailed on Nov. 14th, 2017. Your physical address will be sent to The Pencil so that your set of Kwik Stix can be mailed to you directly from them. 
Thin Stix Creativity Pack {The Pencil Grip, Inc. Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Nov 3, 2017


Halloween costumes at our house are always unique and original. My kids have enormous imaginations and they kind of live in their own little world. 

Kaytie, who writes stories about her own super heroes, went as one of her own characters... Ni'ara, an alien warrior. She created her own costume with items from her closet. Those boots are perfect for the role, but they were killer on her feet when it came to walking the neighborhood, though!


Daniel was gifted this squid hat by a friend recently, so he matched it with an old cape, a decorated Nerf gun and black clothing to be Super Squid. I think he is dangerous.


Abbie was a soccer player. I was a little shocked that she was not Captain America again, but... well, there are still the socks, I guess. 


And then there was Nate. For weeks I had been asking him what he was going to be and he would reply with something that included the word "Pokemon". He said he had what he needed, so I let it go, just enjoying the fact that I did not have to add Halloween shopping to my list of duties. I heard some chatter about Kaytie making him a top hat. But I was letting it go...

Then, the day of, I got really personal and asked him just exactly what he was going to be. He said, "A tonic salesman." And I said, "A WHAT now?!?" 

He explained, I Googled, and we called Dad to have him pick up a top hat on his way home from work. He wore clothes left over from a wedding two years ago (he's outgrown the jacket but not the shirt... how does that work, exactly?) and found an old bottle of cleaner to use for his tonic. I wrote up a label for him and he had the funniest costume of the family!


The misspellings are intentional. 



Here they are all together.


And, of course, the token silly shot.


They came home with bags of candy. Another successful holiday in the books!


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