Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Smoky Mountains--Here We Come! by Joy Budensiek -- My REVIEW

My first four years of college were spent in Tennessee, where the glory of the Smoky Mountains is well-known; my family now lives in New England and although my children have experienced mountains of the northeast, they have never had the opportunity to visit the Appalachians of the south. I was happy to get the chance to review and share with my daughter this book, Smoky Mountains--Here We Come! by Joy Budensiak, which is one of the episodes in the By the Way Book Series.

Nature Books With A Biblical Worldview {By the Way Book Series Reviews}

The book I received to review is a lovely hardcover children's book filled with pictures -- both photographs and drawings. There is a story that runs throughout the pages, and facts about the history, geography, and nature of the area are highlighted as well.

The story follows two animated children, Alex and Lexi, who are visiting their Uncle Ted, who is a forest ranger in the Smoky Mountains. As they are visiting, they get to learn about and experience many of the wonders of the Smokies.

As they learn about these special places and things, there are insets within the story pages that go deeper in (non-fiction) explanations about the topics, for instance when they saw white-tailed deer, this information accompanied their story. 

Their travels with Uncle Ted take them through all sorts of learning opportunities, such as many different species of animals and plants, historic sites of interest within the park, the Appalachian Trail, waterfalls, the Cherokee, and even geo-caching!  Throughout it all, Uncle Ted returns their focus to God, the creator and sustainer of all.

The story is interspersed with little segments of nature facts, photographs of animals and other natural points of interest, historic photos, hymns, drawings, and "did you know's."

So...now that I've introduced you to the book, let me share with you how we used it!  My 12-year old daughter was excited to get to read this book, not only since she is studying geography this year, but also because she has a brand new pen-pal who lives near the Smoky Mountains.  Since she is twelve, and was excited about the book, I let her read it on her own.  She is pretty verbal and enjoyed sharing little tidbits that she was learning as she was reading the book.

As she was reading the book, I had her write down some of the interesting facts that she was learning in the book; we also talked about different parts of it, including what we thought was the author's purpose in writing the book (to bring glory to God and to show people how to notice God throughout nature were our thoughts.)

So what did we think?  Was it a valuable addition to our homeschool?  Well...here I need to say that 12 years old is the upper limit of this book...perhaps beyond the upper limit.  I know that my daughter enjoyed reading the book to learn about the Smoky Mountains and surrounding area, but the little story that carried throughout the book (Lexi, Alex, and Uncle Ted) was definitely written for a younger audience.  As a parent I was very glad for the hymns, Scripture, and references to God throughout the book.  I know that this book is meant for parents to read with their children, but even a child reading this by himself or herself will have these important principles brought out to them.

My daughter and I both did find the layout of the book a little distracting and hard to follow -- jumping around a lot-- but I believe that this would be easily overcome/overlooked if the book were used in a different way, such as perhaps taken in smaller chunks.

I think that this book would be WONDERFUL to use with your younger children -- reading a page or two a day and discussing and journaling about the topics on that page of the day.  There are so many topics covered that you could use this book for weeks!  It is written for parents to share with their child/children, but honestly I think it would be great used in a Christian school also -- with an entire classroom -- in the same way.

If you do not currently talk with your family about God and His role in nature and life, this book would serve as a great illustration and easy-to-follow pattern to begin that habit for your family.  This is a very valuable aspect of this book to me.

The book itself is a very nice quality hardcover book with engaging pictures that will grab your child's interest and hold it.  The author has also written books in this series for several other locations (including Florida's Treasure Coast, Pennsylvania, Washington State, Ohio, and Colorado), with plans to write more and more in the future!

Check them out at http://bythewayseries.com/ to find this book about the Smoky Mountains or one of the others listed!  On the website you can also find activity books, poster packs, and card packs that go along with the books also!

Nature Books With A Biblical Worldview {By the Way Book Series Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

F is for Feeding the Family!

Do you feel like you spend a lot of hours of each day feeding your family? No, I don't mean actually spooning food into their mouths of course, but figuring out what you're going to make for meals, grocery shopping, preparing the meals, actually eating, and cleaning up. Sometimes it's frustrating the amount of time that this all takes!

Yes, I know, some of you will say, well, just have your kids do the cooking...or the cleanup... I do, often, especially for the clean-up part. But it's still on my radar. As far as having them do the cooking -- they do breakfasts, but honestly I feel like for dinner it's just easier for me to usually make it (or have them help).  And if you're going to tell me something like have your husband do some of the cooking or the cleanup...JUST DON'T please.  I'm happy for you that your husband helps out in this manner, but just don't go there with me.  Thanks :)

One of the ways I have found to make this whole production a little bit easier is to make a monthly meal plan schedule (for dinners). It does take work to figure this all out the month before, but I have found that making a plan and grocery shopping for the whole month (mostly) saves a lot of time and hassle. The biggest "hassle" is remembering to thaw out the meat for the next day's dinner.

As probably everyone experiences (whether you plan your month's meals ahead or not!) it is easy to fall into a rut and make the same things over and over and over and over and over and over. . . :) One way I try to get away from this is to use different cookbooks (my recent favorite is this 1959 gem!

A great find!
So I'll read right through the cookbook and insert the meals that sound like something we'd like to try on the calendar days, along with the book and page # so I don't frustrate myself :)

Yes, it takes time...all in one chunk...but once the plan is made, it certainly makes each day a little easier! Especially if you have already done your grocery shopping for all those meals already (and I find it saves money to do this rather than planning meals day by day and zipping to the store for last-minute necessities--especially because we live in an Island community and our local "grocery stores" are just convenience stores attached to gas stations!) :)

Here's an example of our menu plan for this month:

We've found some delicious favorites working our way through different cookbooks! Some of our favorites from the Farm Journal cookbook are Onion Pie (see here) and another is Eggs in Spanish Sauce (see here).

How about you? Do you make a monthly plan? Or weekly? Or do you just come up with meals day to day?

Eggs in Spanish Sauce
Onion pie!!  yummmm!

For more "F" posts, check out here!
A Net In Time Schooling

Monday, February 20, 2017

HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study: Ancient Greece my REVIEW of this Homeschool Curriculum

When I was in school, I don't remember learning much ancient history--American history, yes, but ancient history? not so much. This means as I am teaching my kids ancient history, I'm always on the lookout for good curriculum to help me out; I was happy to get the chance to REVIEW this product by Home School in the Woods entitled HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study: Ancient Greece.

HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study

The "passport" in the title gives you a clue as to the theme of this study. It is as if you are a passenger traveling into ancient Greece. Different lessons are your different "stops" along the way. Each stop features different learning opportunities such as maps, timeline/timeline figures, readings, listening, lapbooks, and more!

Each day has an itinerary which lays out that day's fun adventures:

The student can do all or some of the events listed on the itinerary, all of which play into/reinforce the topic of the stop. (to give you an example of what I mean by the topics of the stops, for instance: Stop 3: The Archaic Movement, Stop 4: Greek Government, Stop 5: Athens, and so on).

Some of the activities for the stops are things such as:

Adding to snapshot moments (timeline): 

Audio Tour :  (8 great "audio tour" mp3's are included)

"Wish you were here" postcard greetings:  with a greeting on one side for them to read and a blank other side for them to illustrate said greeting:
The postcards actually have a cute border but I messed up in printing them :) 

Filling in locations on maps: 

Add to the newspaper Greek Weekly:

And many other activities, including lapbook projects, modeling projects, and more! 

In our family, this product was used with my 12 year old daughter.  She is quite creative and enjoyed the variety of projects that accompanied each stop.  She is old enough that she worked quite independently with the materials, doing the work and finding the information as well as keeping her materials organized.

This Home School in the Woods Ancient History curriculum  comes as a .pdf download or on a CD.  You will find what you need in these files.  The text, the itineraries, the instructions, all the masters for the activities:  pictures (timeline, etc), newspaper templates, maps, models, and more. There are instructions and parts to make lapbooks of this information as well.   You can also view photos of finished works of some of these projects.

The timeline figures are nice -- just color and glue onto their identified spots!

SO...now that my daughter has used the materials, what do we think of them? Okay, I have to first of all qualify my remarks by explaining off the bat that we are not lapbook homeschoolers.  I have never made a lapbook, I actually had to look up and see what exactly a lapbook is.  It seems there are a great number of homeschoolers who do enjoy this way of teaching/learning.  We did not use this aspect of this Ancient Greece study--I just am not familiar with that so we didn't use it.  Suffice it to say that it appears that there is an opportunity for doing some pretty cool-looking lapbooking (from the pictures given with the lessons)
Don't be too impressed with me -- this is just a sample from the curriculum, we didn't make it :) 

I will also say that our "style" of homeschooling, and the materials we usually use are books and notebooks with the occasional print-out thrown in.  This curriculum is quite different than what I'm used to.  I was quite intimidated by all the printing that needed to occur and with all the papers and projects that were to be generated.

I also had a difficult time figuring out the directions at first -- how to even use the materials.

My daughter enjoyed the lessons.  She got a little frustrated with the maps, trying to find the places on the ancient maps, but we were able to google most of them (and later on I learned that in the image files on the .pdfs there were answer sheets!)  Some of her favorite parts were the postcards and the newspapers, and she loved the audio mp3's!

I felt like the information taught through this study was great, complex in parts, fun and engaging. There are such a variety of ways that information is learned that it can appeal to a large swathe of different learning styles as well.  I think it will hold a child's interest and help them to really think about what they are learning as well.  It is not just learning the facts, but interpreting them in ways (for instance, for the newspaper ads -- they have to use their creativity to express the information in terms of an advertisement).

So as far as a recommendation:  it's definitely not for me--give me a textbook any day!  I will bet a lot of you are cringing at that -- YOU are the people that this curriculum is written for!  I do like the material covered, and if you are not like me (self-admittedly basic me!) then I think you will enjoy teaching your students using HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study: Ancient Greece brought to you by

HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study

AND guess what?  They not only have this great Ancient Greece study, they also have Passport studies for Ancient Egypt, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance--and there is an Ancient Rome study coming soon!

Crew Disclaimer

HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study Reviews

Sunday, February 19, 2017

With Love, Wherever You Are by Dandi Daley Mackall -- my REVIEW

I just finished reading With Love, Wherever You Are by Dandi Daley Mackall (and by that I mean that I stayed up till midnight last night reading!!) :) I wasn't sure I'd love this book, as it is a war book (World War 2) and I don't generally like war stories, but I gave it a try, and I'm definitely glad I did!

I'm going to start this off by saying that the end notes/chapter "The Story Behind the Story" made this book all the more meaningful! It tells the **after** and reminds the reader that this is based on a true story. For some reason that made it even sweeter for me. My grandparents kept stacks of letters written back and forth in wartime and I always wished I could read them. For some reason they gave them to my cousin and I probably won't ever see them. I say this to point out that letter-writing was A THING then -- love letters, sometimes several written in the same day, back and forth. In this day and age it's hard to imagine that sort of life, that sort of communication, and that dedication to share lives across continents.

So -- the book! This book starts with the lives of a nurse who enters the army, Helen, and a doctor who enlists after a med-school deferment. They meet, fall in love, and marry quickly. Following their marriage they are separated again and again for long scary stretches of time. There are occasional meet-ups, but few and far between. The letters they sent to each other are what connected them and bore testament to their love for each other. The book is written through their letters as well as occasional narrative. Some of the horrors of war that were endured or witnessed by the nurses and doctors are described, as are their troop movements and other day-to-day happenings. One thread that runs throughout the book is will their marriage last? Can a love begun in wartime carry through?

I will suggest you read this book to find out what happens!

I liked this book -- it was not a fluffy book, but definitely an enjoyable one. I would recommend it!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Tyndale Blog Network Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

E is for Eggs! :) and a new/old egg recipe!

We have chickens, so we usually have a lot of eggs :)  I'm always on the lookout for new egg recipes.  Tonight we tried one that is DELICIOUS!  It is from my favorite 1959 Farm Journal's Country Cookbook.

The recipe is called Eggs in Spanish Sauce and it's DELICIOUS!!  Even my daughter who claims to not like eggs very much loved it!

I doubled the recipe and used 14 eggs with it.

Here's the basic recipe ( I tweaked it a bit, here's what I did):

Make some rice, enough that there'll be about 5 cups cooked rice.

While the rice is cooking, in a saucepan mix up 2 cans of diced tomatoes, one large onion (sliced thin), 1 bay leaf, 2 tsp sugar, 2 tsp salt, some pepper  -- and COOK on medium for awhile till the onion is soft (I just cooked it till the rice was done)

When the rice is done, put it into a cake pan or casserole dish (I used 1 9x13 and 1 smaller cake pan).  Make divots in the rice and crack an egg into each of the divots.

Pour the tomato mixture over the rice and eggs.

Sprinkle with cheese (I was pretty liberal with my sprinking--we like cheese :) :)  )

Cover the top with buttered bread crumbs (basically melt some butter in a frying pan and mix in bread crumbs, mix and cook till toasted)

Bake in 375* oven for 20 minutes.

It is DELICIOUS and everyone gobbled it up!!  We will definitely be making this again!

(**oh, my husband likes meat with EVERY SINGLE MEAL so I made some sausage to go along with it -- but he liked this so much I doubt he'd have missed the meat had I not made it.  Haha, just kidding...he would have. :) )

See more "E" themed posts here!
A Net In Time Schooling

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Drop-Dead Easy Knits by Gale Zucker, Mary Lou Eagan, and Kirsten Kapur -- my REVIEW

I received this book, Drop-Dead Easy Knits, as a part of a book-review program that I participate in and was happy to get started reading through it! 

This book was written by three friends who like to knit.  They are accomplished knitters and wanted to share the joy that they experience through knitting with a larger audience.  The introduction gives you a feel for their knitting-ness as well as how they began the book and how they envision the patterns being used! 

I knit, but I will say that my knitting is very limited :) I knit hats and wrist-warmers and the occasional mitten or scarf.  Nothing like what these women talk about!  They talk about knitting while waiting at the doctor's office, while on a plane, while visiting, while waiting on hold, etc.  As a matter of fact this book came from an idea that they hatched while they were all knitting around a campfire in Maine!!  Wow!  I usually knit while watching TV and have knitted in the car, but that's the extent of it.

Their goal through this book is to make available beautiful projects for knitters to make when they don't want their full attention on knitting -- for example -- while chatting -- and as such they have fashioned their patterns to allow the knitter to know when they can knit on autopilot and when they need to give more close attention to the pattern.  They label certain sections of patterns "cruise control" and "concentration zone".

Each pattern begins with a little discussion about the finished project (items such as "Star Eyed Julep Throw,"  "Sharline Boot Toppers," "Bambino Blanket," "Turoa Mitts," and more) ; followed by a chart with difficulty level, sizes, measurements, materials, gauge, and an explanation of special stitches, and the stitch pattern.  The following pages expand on the pattern directions as well as give beautiful photographs of the finished products.

I enjoyed reading through this book.  The pictures are gorgeous and the directions appear well-written.  I think the "drop-dead easy" part of the title might be aimed at those who are fully-experienced knitters, as some of the patterns appeared a little more complicated than those I usually use.  It is not really a beginners' book and definitely not a learn-to-knit book.  The patterns also call for certain types of yarns which I think are more difficult to find locally and might be a bit more pricey.  I'd probably substitute what I can find and hope it turns out as nicely!

I think I would recommend this book--especially for experienced knitters who like to knit while doing anything :) 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Blogging for Books Program.   I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Breakfast tip!

It seems like everyone wants a quick and easy breakfast. Breakfast cereal is expensive and maybe not prime body fueling material ;)

In our house I try to keep 3 half-gallon jars filled up on the counter...

One holds pancake mix(homemade mix with the other wet ingredients listed on a piece of masking tape on the jar), one holds instant oatmeal (homemade again...quick and easy!) and the third cocoa mix (ummm...that one looks empty! I'd better get on that!)

There are tons of recipes online for make your own mixes -- we have found that these are the most-utilized for us. Easy mixes which can be easily made by the kids or my husband for a quick filling breakfast for themselves (and their siblings, if it's pancakes!)

The oatmeal one is basically just regular oatmeal run through the blender to chop into smallish pieces, mixed with a little dry milk, cinnamon, brown sugar, and whatever I feel like throwing in (this mix has craisins and walnuts). To make, they just spoon some into a bowl and mix with as much boiling water that they need to make it the consistency that they wish!


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Another Year of Robotics Completed!

Well, another season of  FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) robotics  has come to an end for our team, culminating with a great showing at our state tournament (2nd place going into the finals!!)  It was a great year of learning, building, programming, etc.

I've mentioned it before, but honestly, this is a great organization.  There are teams throughout all the states and internationally as well.  If you don't find a team in your close area you can even form one!  Look into it!  It might be just what your teenagers enjoy!

Engineers in the making!!

Any other robotics folks out there?  Link up your blog post to this one so we can hear about your build, programming, season, or whatever! :)  Not just FTC but FRC, FLL, VEX, NXT, ev3, whatever robotics stuff your kids are involved in!  Thanks!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

D is for dinner

I think my blog is becoming a true confessions narrative ;)  Well, maybe not that bad, but...

So...dinner (or supper, if that's what you call it where you live!)  I've always been one to believe that it is important for the family to eat dinner together, around the table, practicing nice manners and chatting together about their day :) However, true picture of our lives...we often eat dinner watching a tv show on Netflix together as a family.

We're eating good, healthy, usually homemade-from-scratch meals, but often not at the dinner table, but while watching something together.

I kind of feel guilty about this, because I "know" the "right" way that dinner is supposed to be eaten.  But when I think about it more I also see that as a homeschooling family, we spend SO much of our days/lives together, chatting about our day (and co-living it)...  maybe I oughtn't feel so guilty about it.  I don't know.

So...what do you think?  What does your family do?  Are you scandalized to read this?


See more "D" themed posts here!

A Net In Time Schooling

Saturday, February 4, 2017

C is for Comparisons :/

We've all heard that saying "Comparisons are odious" right? Well, it's a tough thing to keep yourself from comparing, and often feeling that you're falling short of some goal.

One of the worst for me is reading homeschool blogs! :) That sounds horrible, doesn't it? I love reading what others are doing and how they are doing it...but it always seems to be so better than I imagine our life/school days to be.

There are times that I feel like we have it kind of together, but other times (a lot!) that we're just barely hanging on by a thread of sanity...between schoolwork and music lessons and robotics and animals and laundry and driver's ed and sibling bickering and etc etc... And then those moments of quiet, late at night when the kids are all in bed and I get a chance to look online and read about others' ideas

...and see their wonderful schoolroom redesigns and then look over to view our schoolroom aka kitchen table looking something like this:

and read about how much healthier you will be if your bedroom is peaceful, free of clutter, and a little refuge for you...knowing full well that mine looks something like this:
hey, it's clean laundry...

ALSO -- hearing what wonderful things people are doing in their school worlds...then looking back on  our day of seeming chaos and rushing ...

:/ A DEFINITE temptation to compare erupts!!!  Am I not as good a mom as these others are?  Not as good a wife?  Not as good an organizer?  Not as good a homeschooler?  Not as good anything?

Here's a place where the head has to win over the heart :) I know I'm doing the best I can...I'm where God wants me...doing what He wants me to...experiencing His peace.  I can compare all day and find others who are better at pretty much every thing, but I don't think God wants me to spend my time that way. 

Let your head remind your heart that...

 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well. (Psalm 139:14)