Friday, October 30, 2009

ABC Teach -- A Review

As part of the The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew, I was given the opportunity to use and review a membership level access for free to the website abcteach.

Let me tell you some fun facts about having a membership with abcteach:

  • the membership fee is only $40/year (approximately $3.35/month), which realistically you might be spending on workbooks anyway
  • you will have 35,000 pintables at your fingertips, with more documents added weekly to reflect current events and seasons
  • educational clip art (a bonus if you make Bible memory verse cards!)
  • a weekly newsletter that alerts you to updates on the website
  • the ability to create custom documents
  • no advertising

I found myself frequently using the abcteach website during our trial period through The Old Schoolhouse Crew, as I am known to fly by the seat of my pants pajamas, when I teach. It isn’t uncommon for me to change my teaching focus during morning Tot School or Afternoon Kindergarten.

For example, I use Five In a Row as my guide to study quality literature with the boys. Last week, we were reading The Ugly Duckling, but I hadn’t planned any supplemental manipulatives to further help the boys understand and remember the elements of the story.

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Enter abcteach! With their convenient search bar, I typed in The Ugly Duckling and VOILA! I found a great download of a black and white printable storyline that the boys could place in sequential order and then color. It was great . . . . and it took a matter of seconds to find it.

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Another time, as I introduced the Letter D . . . I realized that we had already consumed the D practice page in our Handwriting Without Tears (HWT) workbook. No problem! I downloaded and printed letters A-D in less than a minute that were formatted according to HWT.

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The problem I suffer from is that if it is out of my sight, then it is out of my mind. I may already have the perfect workbook to supplement our core curriculum, but if it is hidden on the back of the shelf, it might as well be at 1/2 Price Books! That is why abcteach worked so well for me. Neo--The Mini, is often in the school room with us. So I just hop on the Internet, hit the tab for abcteach and find what I am looking for.

I honestly think that when you average out $40 over the course of the school year, or even year, that abcteach is a great value and tool. I recommend this website.

If you don’t purchase a membership, abcteach offers a free website with 6,000+ free pintables!

Click on the Homeschool Crew banner to read other reviews on this product

As a member of the Homeschool Crew, I was given this product to review, and I do not have to return the product to the vendor (that would have been kind of hard). I was not paid for this post. All opinions expressed in this post are mine .

Much Ado About Halloween

Halloween is tomorrow.

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Growing up my main goal was to acquire the most candy and I eagerly anticipated decorating our front porch for our many guests. (I have since been informed by my high school sweetheart who lived in our neighborhood (now husband), that the repetitious scary music box from Hallmark wasn’t so much scary as annoying.)

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I have happy memories of bringing out the traditional ceramic pumpkin that my mom would have lit on the hutch (which now stores the overflow of our school supplies). Roasted pumpkin seeds would provide a delicious scent that filled our house. Dinner was a healthy WW (Weight Watcher) chili with salad, and excitement simmered as the time drew closer for cute visitors to appear at our doorstep. I remember dreading the hidden faces of the high-schoolers who would stop by, like my husband, who only wanted to fill his bucket pillowcase, and I delighted in the picture-worthy princesses, fairies, Rubik Cubes and potatoes that danced to our front step.

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So when I became a parent, I was faced with a hard decision regarding Halloween. I had fun celebrating Halloween as a kid. And typically the things that you have fond childhood memories of, you want to impart to your offspring.

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And so the argument begins. This is a hotly debated holiday in the Christian community. Traditionally, October 31st is considered a dark holiday.

In writing this post, I decided to visit a source that I value and respect, Focus on the Family. In response to the question, What about Halloween?, here is their answer:

Halloween is a rather different story. (See previous question and answer.) Whereas it can be argued that Christmas is a Christian holiday with Christian origins that has suffered the effects of growing secularism, Halloween can be traced to distinctly pagan sources. It is reasonable, then, that many believers would find some aspects of its celebration disturbing. I agree with them in that regard.

The traditional emphasis upon the occult, witches, devils, death, and evil sends messages to our kids that godly parents can only regard with alarm. There is clearly no place in the Christian community for this "darker side" of Halloween.

Even here, however, there is a place for some harmless fun. Kids love to dress up and pretend. If the Halloween experience is focused on fantasy rather than the occult, I see no harm in it. Make costumes for your children that represent fun characters, such as Mickey Mouse or an elderly grandmother, and then let them go door-to-door asking for treats. This side of Halloween can be thoroughly enjoyable for the little ones.

Let me add, again, that I've given you my personal opinion. I realize that the topic is controversial among committed Christians, and I'm sensitive to the reasons for their misgivings. My final word to parents on the subject would be "Stay true to your own convictions."

The above email response from Focus on the Family (displayed for all viewers to read), lacks a visible and documented research of Scripture, of that I am aware. But it offers a moderate option that parents can prayerfully consider. There are countless websites that attempt to persuade the reader to avoid this holiday with almost the same scare tactics as their counterparts.

Since becoming a parent, each year, I compare notes with my friend, Nickle, and others. Some years we participate to the same extent and some years we become like hibernating bears preparing for an early winter.

The past couple of years our church has begun hosting a Harvest Party. To some extent, this has been slightly unsettling to me because the children are still dressing up, getting candy, and celebrating on the same night or near Halloween. Admittedly, we have participated each year. It seems like we are dressing the day with a different name, though, much like when we don a costume. 1 John 1:11 states, “Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good.”

The difference lies in the spirit of the celebration, a lack of scary costumes, and no tricking. By going to a party that is essentially the same, perhaps hosted on a different day, but with the Gospel shared at the end of the evening, am I imitating evil? Yes and no. Though out of context, 1 Corinthians 10: 31 says, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

And this is how I have sewn my actions this year. I think that we are displaying fruit that is for the the glory of God. I think that we are taking a stand against the devil's schemes (Ephesians 6: 11-18). I think that we are training up our children in the way that they should go (Proverbs 22:6).

I have been challenged in the extent that we are to be involved in this over-celebrated day. My children are becoming more aware of their surroundings and have been asking questions about the various scary creatures with orange signs they see dancing alongside the road. Adults innocently have inquired what they will be for Halloween. I am quick to answer for them out of fear they will reply with, “We don’t celebrate Halloween. That’s Satan’s holiday.”


In big ways we are participating in the day tomorrow. In preparation, more out of tradition, we bought candy at Costco, made our way to the pumpkin patch, carved the orange balls last night, saved the seeds to be roasted, and ceremoniously lit the pumpkins last night. We will be home tomorrow night to pass out candy (sorry, no organic candy for our guests).

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But here is what we are doing differently this year.

This week we began by reading several books about Halloween, specifically The Pumpkin Patch Parable and Halloween, Are You For Real?

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One of my jobs as a parent is to teach my child how to live in this world but not be of this world. I have to train my child how to think, make decisions after researching a topic, and how to live counter -culturally.

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In addition to reading these books, Carisa at 1+1+1=1 provided a great craft accompanied by a cute poem that we created during Tot School.

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Last night, we had a special dinner, take out pizza (and folks this is a unhealthy treat in our family) and carved our pumpkins together.

View pumpkin carving

As we did this task, we talked about how we were a lot like a pumpkin. First we washed the pumpkin, removing all of the dirt—much like what Jesus does for us. Choosing to be baptized shows the world that we believe that Jesus died for us and washed us clean of our sins.

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We cut open the pumpkin, which can be those tough times that God allows us to experience to make us more like Him. The slimy flesh we worked at to scoop out reminds us of the icky sin we commit and the work that Jesus did for us on the cross.

The boys gave us detailed descriptions of what face they wanted on their pumpkins, and we complied as much as our artistic talent would allow.

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Then, we carried our pumpkins out to the front porch and as Hottie Hubby lit the pumpkins we prayed for the day that people would be coming to our house for candy. We prayed that we would be able to converse with our visitors, give them candy, and share the Gospel with them through a Memory Cross Halloween card.

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And so . . . that leads me to now. I’ve told you everything. We just have to wait and see what happens.

What do you do with Halloween?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Time Travel -- Pioneers!

I introduced a new discipline into the school room today: history.

Our first attempt at discovering history began with a discussion of pioneers at the breakfast table. I think I tried to oversimplify what a pioneer was to Mr. Smackdown.

Me: Mr. Smackdown, do you know what a pioneer is?

Smackdown: No.

Me: They are people that lived a long time ago—before there were cars and electricity.

Smackdown: Before houses?

Me: No, they had houses. These people just lived before there were lights and electricity and cars.

Smackdown: I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t understand how they had houses, then.

Me: OK. Let’s go visit the pioneers.

We stepped into a Time Machine called the Loser Cruiser and arrived at a little pioneer village called Conner Prairie. I think I may be setting myself up for disappointment from here on out. I won’t be able to make history come alive quite like this.

Umm . . . . God, can you reenact the parting of the Red Sea, please. I want the boys to really visualize this enormous undertaking that you accomplished for the Israelites.

We met Nickle and her children at stated location early late, which is to be expected with anyone with three children. But I knew that my two future daughters-in-law wouldn’t mind.

And so begins our field trip . . .

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The sheep was oblivious to our attempts to arouse it from its midmorning rest time. However, other animals roamed freely for the children to terrorize pet gently aggressively.

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Did you know that a cow isn’t a cow until she has hadConner Prairie 005 a calf?

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Mr. Smackdown’s future wife is making a candle for their cabin. It takes something like 45 dunks to make a candle thick enough to be considered useful to bring light to a dark place.

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I am thankful that we don’t have to make our own nails. The anvil reminded me of how God can sometimes heat things up a bit in our lives, molds us, and makes us more like Him.

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Mr. Smiley just took it all in. From his vantage point he could see much. Next year he will be able to walk Conner Prairie.

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I sometimes find myself moaning at the amount of time I spend in the kitchen attempting to make wholesome and nutrient dense foods. It takes a lot of time and work. However, after walking into a typical pioneer’s kitchen, my complaining has stopped for this week. Not only to they lack a VitaMix and running water, but they would have to work at keeping the baby out of the fire!

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I love this table. Simple. You should see what my kitchen table looks like presently.

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Seeing these kids play together is so much fun. There is never a dull or quiet moment. Expect giggles, climbing, pushing, exploring and enjoying each other.

Also note that Mr. Me-Too is sitting beside his future wife in the pink, they just don’t know it yet.

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I love how Mr. Me-Too is drawn to animals. He is longingly looking at the heifer (or steer or cow . . . but I didn’t look underneath the animal, nor did I ask the animal on 4 legs if he/she had had a calf) who is lazily ignoring him. If there is an animal around, you can bet that Mr. Me-Too will be stroking the beast, chasing it, or snuggled up next to it.

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Sometimes I really think that animals have it made. It appears that domesticated animals get to sit and relax a lot. Granted I really wouldn’t want my udders manhandled by someone other than my offspring, or my hair shaved without my written consent, or visit the man with the large knife . . . .

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This was the boys first time to play tug-o-war. It brought out a bit of fierceness in them. Hottie Hubby will be proud.

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At this point, Mr. Smiley started signing “Night-Night.”

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Good job, God. Thanks for a beautiful day, fun with friends, and electricity. Thanks for flexibility, forgiveness, and grace.

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Night night, Mr. Smiley!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Making Poop Fun

Yes, I may have gone over the edge. But I am having fun so much fun with Mr. Smiley’s new diapers.

I love cloth diapering. Not only is it cheaper, but it makes me feel good to know that I’m not contributing to the landfills. (Well, I did for about one two months. I really don’t even want to think about how much money we spent on disposable diapers and how heavy our trash was as a result.) If I were pregnant, which I am not, the stench of Mr. Smiley’s disposable diapers would have kept me close to the porcelain god potty, a helper in times of sickness.

Julie, from Earth Angels Diaper Company, rescued me a few weeks back. Because she spent so much time responding to all my questions and offering really helpful solutions, I became a bit loyal. Maybe this is why I like dogs so much.

I just bought more diapers from her and they arrived today.

I am going to talk about her a lot.

Because when I like something, I have a tendency to let EVERYONE know and I try and persuade you to be like me. Not to mention, truth be told, that when you buy something from Julie, I also can earn some cloth diapering money. Yet, without this incentive, I still was going to make you look at my new cloth diapers.

I have cloth diapered for 5+ years. In those 5+ years, so much has changed. I mainly have used Chinese prefolds with a wool or Bummis Whisper Wrap cover. I even sold Fuzzi Bunz cloth diapers for a few years, but the company has changed their business model and the old version, at least, doesn't work on my heavy wetter (like you wanted to know that).

Thanks to Julie at Earth Angels Diaper Company, I am entering a whole new glorious era of cloth diapering.

Julie has this cool deal where you actually get to “try” diapers out. If you don’t like them, you can send them back in a month.

Crazy, I know.

Here are my diapers . . . minus Mr. Smiley’s XL Green Acre Design Diaper. He wore it today. You really don’t want to see a picture of it right now.

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How's it work?
You pay one fee ($54.95), essentially buying three diapers, and you keep them to try for 1 month (30 days). You add them to your diaper rotation for 4 weeks and let your babe test drive them! After 4 weeks you send them back or if you like them you keep them.

What if I want to keep one or all of them?
For each diaper you like and keep you will be issued a refund of $5.00, plus you will receive a $5.00 Voucher to use towards your next order!

The diapers I bought are the GAD, like I said, and a DryBee’s Fleece Nighttime diaper, which he has on right now as he sleeps, with a SuperDo Insert for (you guessed it) HeavyWetters and Overnight, and a Thirsties Pocket AIO (all in one).

I’m glad that I don’t have to wear diapers. Should Jesus tarry, I may one day find my bum cloaked in a diaper. But you better bet that it won’t be a Depends disposable diaper. It will probably be a Green Acre Design diaper for grownups.

Have I gone too far? I am sure that when Hottie Husband reads this post he is going to ROLL his eyes and slap the side of his head.

Visit Julie and tell her that I sent you. Ask her a question. It’s not like she is busy . . . she only has twins!

Wordless Wednesday

One morning as we were doing school, the boys and I noticed how amazing the colors were on the tree in front of our house. 

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And once Willow was out taking pictures, my ears directed her towards the wind chimes, which make me happy.

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Just remember to look at raking leaves as getting exercise!

For other Wordless Wednesday posts, visit 5 Minutes for Mom.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Amazing Bible Timeline – Review

The Amazing Bible Timeline arrived in the mail packaged in a US Postal Service tube. But, unbeknownst to me, it was also wrapped with no small amount of controversy. I didn’t know this for the first month it sat tucked away in my coat closet. It was just a quiet "little" map with colorful features and an impressively large format (37” by 46”).

The words and graphics provide a visual timeline that documents 6,000+ years of concurrent biblical and secular history. Instead of displaying this history on a traditional linear (straight) timeline, the poster provides an innovative and compact circular format. It allows you to see an overview of both world and Bible history in one place.

When I write a review, I typically don’t read what my fellow Homeschool Crew members have written. I earnestly try to develop original content with my own unique thoughts. As a rule, I do not even gather the opinions of the brilliant Hottie Hubby, as he can sometimes sway me with his persuasiveness. In this case however, I broke both of these rules because of a peculiar, and seemingly defensive, email that I received from the vendor of the Amazing Bible Timeline.

I figure that you read my blog because you have come to either trust my free thoughts and feelings or are entertained by my attempts to resemble a successful blog. So I will state for a fact before I go any further: I know that when I am exposed to another person's thoughts, it INFLUENCES my thinking. It may not define my thinking, but it will influence it. To some extent, this is true for everyone. And so I admit that I have been influenced in writing this blog post, just as the publishers of the Amazing Bible Timeline may have been influenced in creating their timeline.

I applaud all of the people who worked on creating the original version of this timeline in 1931. Oddly enough, I could not find any information about who these original creators were as they are never sited on the map or on the vendor's website.

The current vendors of the Amazing Bible Timeline, Bill and Margaret Agard, claimed to have begun working with the original version of the informative timeline in 1975. The vendor's website states that "1975 was a time when Christians were committed to building greater unity or cooperation among Christian faiths, very different from today's time of Bible bashing and rejection of any Christian whose faith does not exactly match our own."

To some extent, I have no problem promoting a document that many people of various cultures and beliefs can use. I do support offering grace instead of legalism. I prefer not to argue over semantics, or issues that don’t effect eternal salvation.

But I do believe that doctrine matters because I believe there is absolute truth. If a person's doctrine on salvation is contrary to my understanding of Scripture, I don't reject that person. But my love for them compels me to tell them, in love, why I believe their doctrine is flawed. In many cases, flawed salvation doctrine is related in some way to a belief that man has to earn their salvation through their own works. I believe that "it is by grace that you are saved through faith." So when I confront someone over this difference in salvation doctrine, I do so because I want to free them from the bondage of having to earn their salvation and God's love.

I don’t necessarily believe there is a salvation issue at stake by using this map, but I do believe that there are suspicious sources that were used to populate the timeline. I also noticed how their is a disproportionate amount of "real estate" on the timeline to describe both events and cultural beliefs that appear to have a common agenda. The agenda that is seemingly promoted by these items is closely linked to a system of doctrine that I do not support. My concern, should I consider using this timeline, is that I would have to scrutinize every detail printed on the Amazing Bible Timeline. For brevity sake, I am going to avoid listing each of these details. If you would like specific examples of what I am referring to with "suspicious sources" or "a common agenda" please email me and we can dialogue about that. There are also plenty of other blogs out there that list the details.

For me personally, I'm not sure that I would really use the timeline even if there weren't questions about the influences involved in creating it. First of all, my kids are too young to benefit from it (we are only on the Letter E in Tot School). Additionally, the Hottie Hubby has some great Bible software that pretty much supplies a lot of the historical details and extra research sources that he needs when teaching a Bible lesson. Thus we would opt for the search button rather than getting down on our hands and knees to look at the map spread out on the floor, as we don’t have any wall space for this work.

Because of the issues mentioned above I cannot, in good conscience, endorse using the Amazing Bible Timeline in your schoolroom. However, you can purchase the Amazing Bible Timeline for $29.97. In addition, you will receive a downloadable bonus Digital Amazing Bible Timeline and Interactive Maps of the Holy Land, both of which are a $14.97 value. The Amazing Bible Timeline comes with a 100% satisfaction guarantee.

I would encourage you to check into the Amazing Bible Timeline for yourself and develop your own opinion about it. Though this review has presented some challenges, it has been refreshing for my brain to research, dialogue, and draw my own conclusions. I have enjoyed the process of thinking this through.

Click on the Homeschool Crew banner to read other reviews on this product

As a member of the Homeschool Crew, I was given this product to review,
and I do not have to return the product to the vendor. I was not paid for this post.
All opinions expressed in this post are mine .

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Tot School 10/25/09

I just realized that I am not ready for Monday to start. Our colorful trays are not filled with activities and Lego's are all over the school tables. Returned maternity clothes (no, I'm not pregnant) lay in heaps on the school floor. And I still have yet to decide if tomorrow we will take Mussie to the Dog Bakery to celebrate her 8th birthday.

Will I get up early in the morning? That depends on how late I stay up tonight. I really do so love

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so I may pull myself out of a hard slumber to delight the boys with new trays, resembling unopened packages under the Christmas tree to these Tot School boys.

Though I delight in sharing about Mr. Me-Too's Tot School I have come to realize that I have been grossly negligent in documenting Mr. Smackdown's education! I shall have to ponder adding an additional post and linking up with

Life moments happened first . . .

Last weekend Mr. Smackdown went on his 2nd backpacking trip with Hottie Hubby. When the boys turn 4, they begin learning how to survive in the wilderness.

Because the absence of his brother and father left Mr. Me-Too rather sad, we journeyed to my parent's house for some love from Nana and local flavor from Traders Point Creamery. I view trips to a working farm as educational due to the fact that it is important to learn where your food comes from!

I didn't mention to Mr. Me-Too that a few of these cows might end up on our dinner table in a few weeks.

My mom loved this distinguished fowl.

Thanks for the future milk that will make our cheese and yogurt!

Isn't that precious?

Back in the classroom . . .

We began with stringing alphabet letters.

I was surprised that this was the first activity that Mr. Me-Too chose. They interacted with these letters for a long time. I think that is why there are so many pictures of plastic letters--I was entertaining myself.

Notice the peanut butter still on his hand from snack time!

I decided that we would study the Letter D another week. I still have a few more activities I would like to accomplish this coming week regarding the Letter D, but have yet to decide if I will abort this letter and move on to the Letter E.

Using FIAR as our guide we read The Ugly Duckling. I printed some story cards from ABC Teach about The Ugly Duckling and the boys put them in sequential order as I read the story. Later they colored the cards.

Continuing with our feelings lapbook, Mr. Me-Too colored the face orange and looked for orange objects around the house.

It isn't uncommon to find Mr. Me-Too showing off his yoga moves. It is no wonder, the boys often do The Biggest Loser Weight Loss Yoga with me. I love yoga because it develops the core muscles, teaches balance, encourages controlled strength, and stretches my aging muscles!

This is my attempt to create a game. The boys were given dice in a bottle. They shook the bottle up and dropped the dice on the tray. Whatever number was face up on the die, that is how many counters they put on the 100's chart. The idea was to keep throwing the dice until their charts were completed.

Mr. Smackdown was totally in love with this activity. However, it was a bit time consuming and tedious for my little tot!

I found him simply placing his counters in the squares. It works!

With the addition of our new Mini Dell (thanks for all of the good suggestions of names), I have been allowing the boys some free play on the computer. They have done really well with Starfall. I like Starfall because it is pretty self-explanatory and the particular area they are playing in is all about the letters of the alphabet. The boys have really enjoyed the freedom they have had to use an adult toy!

The D worksheet is a Handwriting Without Tears line structure from ABC Teach. This was a bit challenging. I ended up guiding his hand. But I tried to make a big deal out of holding his pencil correctly. He did a great job!

Counting Bears are always a big hit. It can be hard to distinguish the red from the orange in our set! The cards we used work on following patterns and completing the pattern.

In AWANA Mr. Me-Too has been learning about creation. So, I just drew a moon on a black piece of paper and he placed star stickers on the page. This was a great fine motor activity.

Another Life Event . . .

We journeyed to Ohio to see our good friends and their new house.

Mr. Me-Too has missed his buddy!

Our friends have lots of ladybugs and toads! This poor toad got abused and carried all afternoon!

Snack time came with local entertainment . . .

A street sweeper!

Back at the ranch . . . the week finished up with a Discovery Toy insect counting game.

Valerie (you know, the Lapbook lady!) at Christian Preschool Printables (I just gave you three different links for her stuff) provided the conclusion to our week with some Dog Bone counting.

Cutting . . . I was so excited because Mr. Me-Too began to use his left hand to better support the paper as his scissors moved up with his right hand! Coordination here we come!

Remember the colorful foam pieces from last week? Hottie Hubby enlarged the pieces on the scanner and voila . . . we turned the foam pieces into a sorting game.

That ended in dog bone crackers.