Sunday, July 28, 2013

Homemade Birthday

So who says you can't plan a birthday party in an hour?

After fostering a sibling group of 3 for 11.5 months we had about a two week break before they were back in our care again.  They've been back for one week, the week of one of the kid's birthdays.  I'm a big believer in celebrating birthdays so we had to do something.

NuNu made two posters, a homemade game, and blew up balloons.  Pumpkin made cupcakes while I surveyed the pantry to see what I could throw together for a birthday party.  I made hotdogs, tuna sandwiches, angel eggs, and put out a bowl of grapes and sweet peppers

No kids party is a party without cheese puffs so I ran out to Walmart.  I got cheese puffs and party hats.  Viola!  It's a party complete with the music channel and dancing.

Who knew I was such a party planner on a dime and no time?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


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Picaboo Yearbooks is a fun product to review.  I received an opportunity to use their online web-based program to create a 20 page softcover yearbook for review.  I worked on my yearbook for 2-3 hours the first time I logged into their program.  There is a 3 minute tutorial to show you how to get started.  Additionally, other tutorials are available to walk you through other aspects of creating a yearbook.

I used what I learned  in the 3 minute tutorial to get started.  Thereafter, I opted for the trial and error method to create my yearbook pages.  Initially 20 pages didn’t seem like a lot but it was a challenge for me to find pictures to cover one academic year.  Instead, I created a book that covered our entire homeschooling journey from the beginning of 2010 until the present.  I was quite pleased with the outcome.  My favorite part was choosing backgrounds for my pages.

The product included page layout suggestions or you could create your own.  I primarily created my own custom pages but used one or two of their designs.  All of my changes were saved with ease.  I could log in and out of the program at my leisure to complete my project.   I just started off where I left off from my last log in.  Once I was sure I was finished with a page I could "lock it" and when all pages were reviewed and locked my yearbook was ready to submit for printing.  It really is that easy. 

Picaboo Yearbooks asks for a three week turnaround for the product to be delivered but I received my product in a few days after submitting it.  I received a great quality product.  The kids and I were all pleased with the finished product.

Picaboo Yearbooks are sold in hard cover starting at $18.49 for 20 pages; softcover starting at $8.99 for 20 pages; and eYearbooks which are free to schools.  Shipping on your order is $8.99.  There are many additional features that are beneficial to schools when creating yearbooks like having multiple people working on the yearbook at the same time for collaboration within one yearbook project.

If you take quality photos (which I do not) and have a good sense of spacing (with words and texts) you can really create a high quality project.  Even though I was pleased with what I created, with a little more time I could have improved my project more.

Picaboo Yearbooks also has many other products to include photo books, cards, and calendars. 

The challenges I faced while working on my yearbook included the following:

  • I would like to flip between pages without going back to the Home page that list each page of the book.
  • I would like to move photos around between pages.  I felt locked into my choices because I had to identify section names before I could work within the yearbook.   Ideally, I would like to put all of my photos into one central location then drag and drop them where I want them in the yearbook. In this way, I can decide the theme of my particular page and name the section after I’ve decided on the layout of the page.
  • I would like a preview button for each page of the yearbook.  I didn’t like to go back to the home page to preview and look through the whole book instead of one page at a time. 
Making the changes I suggest above would render the product more user friendly.  I could definitely see myself using this product again in the future perhaps creating a senior yearbook for my graduating student.   

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew. 
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Monday, July 22, 2013

Ad Camp

So Princess had one week's rest between her Art Intensive at Sweet Briar College and AdCamp at Howard University.  I drove her everyday to Ad Camp in traffic and back home again every evening in rush hour traffic.  It was grueling but it was a small sacrifice for what she gained.

Unless we are intentional, homeschoolers don't get the same experience with group projects and oral presentations as that of public/private school students.  Ad Camp allowed Princess to have a valuable experience working with a group of her peers to solve a real world problem for Papermate's pen line InkJoy.  The usual group dynamic was at play - the dominator, the passivist, and the do nothing guy.  But she persevered and her team delivered an outstanding oral presentation to the InkJoy representative present at the final presentation.

I was so impressed with each group's work.  These are high schoolers working under the supervision of a Howard University professor.  Many of these kids had no experience or exposure to the advertising industry.  They visited local advertising agencies and really got a feel for the profession.

I was so fortunate that Princess received a full scholarship to this Camp and was able to gain a wealth of information and experiences.

25 Truths

I had the opportunity to read for review 25 Truths by EdDouglas Publications.  It was a quick read – 149 pages.  I spent a few hours at my hair salon and read the book in one sitting. 
Ed Douglas spent 32 years working as a successful banker in Chillicothe, Missouri.   During this time, he also spent time on community boards, was a tennis coach and a Sunday school teacher.  But it was during his coaching that he began to share truths he learned throughout his career to help his students become successful in life.

These truths are very practical and in most cases rooted in biblical truth.  As a Christian, I am careful to glean truths and take advice that line up with the bible.  No matter how successful a person is, if their methods are contrary to the bible I am generally not interested.

Here are some of my favorite lines from the following truths:

Truth #4:  Be Slow to Judge – “It is important to remember that until you have walked in the other person’s shoes, you cannot presume to know what happened or why.” 

Truth #6:  Don’t Talk Negatively About Others – “Staying away from subjectivity and judgment preserves relationships and keeps you from bringing yourself down by hurting others.” #7: Don’t Hate-Instead, Forgive – “Forgiveness is first for you, the forgiver, to release you from something that will eat you alive that will destroy your joy and your ability to love fully and openly.”

Truth #8:  Be Quick to Apologize – “It takes maturity and humility to apologize, but nothing goes further to mend relationships, diffuse conflicts, and make life easier for everyone involved.”

Truth #18:  Set Goals and Write Them Down – “People who write down their goals, share them with a friend, and send weekly updates of their progress to their friend are 33% more successful at completing their goals…”

Out of all 25 truths, Truth #18 had the most effect on me.  I immediately jotted down some goals on the back inside cover of the book.  These goals have been on my mind but I committed them to writing after reading this chapter.  Mr. Douglas suggests that many people don’t write down their goals because they fear failure.  I must agree I do feel a bit committed to what I wrote so there is a little intimidation.  However, I am willing to put this truth to the test.  If nothing else I should make some progress on my goals which is a win for me. 

Undoubtedly, this book is great for young people.  This is especially true of the chapter that deals with money.  There are a lot of golden nuggets in this chapter which kids who are just starting out could benefit from.  I am fortunate to have a great money manager in my husband who also gets great advice from his brother who is a Certified Financial Planner.  A lot of the advice my brother-n-law gives sounds like this chapter.     

I highly recommend this book and at $12.50 it is an affordable read for many.   See what other crew mates though of 25 Truths here.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Science for High School

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I had the opportunity to use and review Bridget Ardoin’s Science For High School Biology course.  I received a physical copy of the student text and the parent manual.  The text and manual retail for $79.99.  Everything is included to complete one year of high school biology.  However, if doing labs at home you will need to purchase or rent a microscope, a dissecting kit and other related items.  The author lists resources for obtaining this material at the website. 

This biology course is a researched based curriculum unlike many of the popular science choices available for homeschool high school students.  Princess has been using a textbook based curriculum for Biology this year.  The drill includes: read the chapter, outline the text while taking note of bolded words, study, and take test.  Repeat.  Princess is my artsy child so science is just a “get it done” subject in our home but I am always open to a new approach.  Our current Biology text and Science For High School pretty much cover the same material give or take a few topics but it is organized very differently. 
High School Biology In Your Home 
Science For High School is organized around two semesters.  Each semester covers different topics broken down into weekly research assignments.  It is the student’s responsibility to do the research using whatever resources he/she chooses – textbooks, living books, internet, etc.   The topics covered in each semester are listed here along with sample pages for you to view. 

Princess actually studied science this way 2 years ago as part of a classical education community.  She had to research a different living organism each week using 2 different sources, prepare a report, illustrate the organism, then orally present her organism to the class discussing 5 different points.  She learned a great deal that year.  Science For High School is very similar to this format but unlike what Princess did before, Science For High School covers a lot of ground as outlined in the syllabus.   It covers all the topics one would expect to cover in a high school course – it is both broad and deep.

I started with the Week 1 research sheet and handed it to my student.  It was my plan to have her spend all day at the library completing a week’s worth of work.  The material is meant to be completed in one week with the student working one hour daily.  Because my high schooler’s schedule is jammed pack this summer, I opted to have her complete a week’s lesson in one day.  I wouldn’t do it this way during a “normal” academic year but for summer it is what works.   
I remembered that I had this book on my shelf so I was able to attach worksheets to the back of the week’s assignment sheet to assist my student in completing the work.  I believe the extra sheets worked as reinforcement and yes in some cases it gave my student the answers to some of the questions.  The extra sheets are also a break from the seriousness of research.  The sheets include crossword puzzles, matching exercises, and fill in the blank.  I believe this book is a great add-on to this research based curriculum.

Science For High School includes quizzes that can be given to your student after they’ve completed the week’s work.  A semester 1 exam and a semester 2 exam are provided as
20130716_194618.jpgwell.   The answers to all quizzes, tests, and each week’s research are included in the parent manual.  As your student discusses with you what they’ve learned, you can follow along in the parent manual to see what type of information they should have found at a minimum.  A dissecting manual is included as a tabbed section in the text and parent manual.  It explains what the student needs to observe from his prepared slides under the microscope and what drawings should be done each week after the student has completed his research.  There isn’t any instruction for actually preparing a formal lab report.  This is a skill I believe is important in a science lab and should be included.

I really like this curriculum.  My 10th grader is pretty much done with her Biology studies but I would like to put this curriculum on the shelf for my rising 9th grader.  She will do Biology as a 10th grader.  I won’t abandon the textbook approach but add in the research based approach to supplement her textbook studies.  I will have to sit down and figure out exactly how to do that but I think it will be worth it for overall retention of the material.  

 Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Art Enthusiasm pt 2 So my Princess is back from her 3 week summer art intensive.  I missed her so much.  Last year she was away for 2 weeks, this year 3 weeks, next year maybe 6 weeks.  Perhaps by the time she goes off to college I will be a pro.  Honestly, the 3 weeks was hard on me.  She learned a great deal during her experience and we listened to every word of her experience for 2 hours straight during the drive back home.

I am so very proud of her.  The work she produced while she was there was quite different from her art studies thus far with her current art teacher but it really showed just how creative she is.  The collaboration with her peers gave her an opportunity to shine and I could tell from the feedback she received she has gained in confidence.  Did I already say how proud I am of her?

The following excerpt came directly from the syllabus of the program and nicely sums up the goal of the program:

For many high school students, making and thinking about art is limited by the time constraints of a very loaded school and social schedule. At the busy pace of your lives, it can be very tough to try on the shoes of a college or career artist. When you make the choice to study or pursue art beyond high school, time frames are extended (3 hour or even 6 hour studios are common at the college level) and so is the level of depth at which you are expected to pursue your work. How can you know whether that pacing and level of expectation suits you unless you try it? Allowing you to try on the shoes of a studio artist for fit is an important goal of this summer.

Her schedule was jammed packed - she visited a artist colony, saw a Shakespeare play, and stayed up for long hours working on her projects.  She seemed inspired and enthusiastic.  I would say she is just as determined as ever to pursue her interest in the visual arts.   Here is my favorite piece of work she completed in the 3 weeks.  To me, it looks like an ad for juicy fruit candies.

If you didn't read pt 1 of Art Enthusiasm check it our here.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Teaching the Classics

Teaching the Classics, by Adam and Missy Andrews, is a publication of the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW).  It is a complete curriculum for teaching literary analysis to all students grades K-12.  How can one curriculum for literature be applicable to all grade levels?  It is a method for teaching using classic literature appropriate for the student’s grade level. 

I received a physical copy of the curriculum for review which included 4 teaching DVD’s and a course workbook.  The DVD seminar & course workbook set retails for $89.00 or you can just purchase the workbook for $29.00.  All materials can be purchased from 

Teaching the Classics examines the 5 elements of literature using classic children’s literature.  There are 5 lessons in all.  Each lesson is devoted to one element of literature following an introductory lesson on literary analysis.  The lessons are organized around three important ideas:

1.  All works of fiction possess common elements:  Context, Structure, and Style.

2.      Because of their clarity, children’s stories are the best tools for teaching the recognition and evaluation of these elements.

3.      The best classroom technique for presenting and analyzing literature is the Socratic Method.
After watching the DVDs the teacher can use what she has learned to teach literary analysis to her students.  The teacher can go through the DVDs at her own pace as the DVDs follow the scope & sequence of the lesson plans. 

I must admit I am not a fan of teaching to the teacher DVDs.  The same information Adam Andrews covers in the DVD is in the workbook.  I’d rather read the material in the workbook and implement the plan after I’ve studied it.   I get distracted when watching teach the teacher DVDs.  There are audience distractions.  I stare at the background.  My brain drifts.  I want the speaker to get to the point and let me go off and do it.  I know for other teachers they may need the careful detailed instruction a DVD provides along with the instructor modeling concepts before venturing off on their own.  It really just depends on the teacher.  Either way you can learn the material in the best way that suits you.

The meat of this curriculum is the Socratic Method list.  Simply put, the Socratic Method is a series of thinking questions that aids the teacher and student in discussion of the literature being studied.  The author states that the Socratic Method encourages good reading by developing a student’s ability to observe, deduce, and evaluate. 

The Socratic List is included in the appendix of the workbook.  The list of questions is arranged in order of complexity and therefore can be used for students of all grade levels. The appendix also includes reading lists and a glossary of literary terms.

The author has included a scope and sequence suggesting how the elements should be introduced and a sample lesson plan for 10 weeks of study.  Once the techniques are learned the same process can be applied over and over again to different works of literature.  The reading list comes in handy for choosing good literature to read and study.

As a loose structure for studying works of literature students:

1.  read the assigned literature
2.  teacher discusses literature with student using the Socratic method
3.  student completes story chart based on discussion
4.  student completes writing assignment

The author has included what the writing assignments should look like based on the writing level of students.

I like this loose structure.  I can see using the reading list in the appendix to choose which books we want to study for the year and just go for it using the loose structure and perhaps adding the movie versions of the classics for viewing when finished with our study. 

The author states that every piece of literature read doesn’t have to include a formal study.  Students should be able to read some books for pleasure without being burned out on formal study.  I know this is true of my students.

I used Teaching the Classics a year ago after searching for a resource for good literature study.  I completed two of the five lessons with the kids covering the literary style of “Paul Revere’s Ride,” by H. W. Longfellow and setting using Rudyard Kipling’s “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi.”  The kids and I loved Kipling’s story.  The lesson included discussion questions which I used and based on our discussion the kids used the story chart (included in the workbook) to complete our study of the lesson. 

The author states that through the continuous repetition of using the story chart for every story read, the student gets into the habit of interpreting any work of fiction in terms of these categories. 

This time around with Teaching the Classics I as the teacher, brushed up on the skills I needed to be an effective teacher of literature.  I must admit with three different students reading different books I can’t always read every single book myself.  It is ideal for the teacher to do so in able to know the answers to the questions being asked but not realistic for me.  At the very least with the Socratic Method list, I can help my student discuss the works in an effort to get them thinking about the material they’ve read. 

Final thoughts:  For any teacher desiring an in depth formal study of literature, Teaching the Classics fits the bill.  It is economical and in line with the homeschool teacher who want to cover the classics in her homeschool.  The techniques and methods once learned applies to any piece of literature a teacher wants to cover.

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Hobby Lobby...oh my!

How come no one told me what I was missing?  This place is a decorator's dream.  If you read my blog often you know we recently took family photos so I visited the normal spots looking for photo frames - Target (not enough variety), Kohl's (too expensive), Michael's (didn't have the large frame sizes on the shelves), etc. so I took a 15 minute drive south to visit Kirkland's.   A few blocks over from the Kirkland's was the Hobby Lobby so I thought I would check it out.  An hour and a half later I'm stuffing my car with photo frames from the 80% off aisle!  What??  I have never been so excited about a place in a long time and how come no one ever told me?  This was last week.

I went back again this week to re-check the 80% off aisles.  They've added more stuff! Oh hour and a half later....well you know.  So I finally get some of my daughter's art work into frames to do a wall outside of her door with just her work.  I'm sure hoping I can get this wall finished before she gets back home next week.  I'm all over Pinterest looking at photo galleries to figure out how to do the new family photos.  That gets me thinking about all the other photos I have in the basement that I should make photo galleries for.  I can't even sleep thinking about all the home projects I suddenly want to start and/or finish and when I can make a trip back down to Hobby Lobby.  I have nothing on the walls in my master bedroom, the dining room has a bare wall I suddenly have ideas for.  I'm thinking of re-doing what I have going on in the foyer and the basement.  One room, one wall at a time.  Hobby Lobby & Pinterest....I am in trouble.

Here is the beginning rough draft of my photo gallery for the new family photos.

Wish me well.  I'll post pics if I ever get finished with this project.


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