Sunday, March 25, 2018

Science Fair -- homeschoolers' ideas?

So our first science fair was a success :) My daughter did a great job, did not get any of the "big" awards, but she DID get the top prize from the local Society of Women Engineers (yay!!) Her project was very appropriate for an 8th grader--she studied how she could write on wet paper--by coating it with different substances and then testing them under water and with writing on them in pencil.

Looking ahead to next year...what kinds of ideas do you all have for homeschooled youth getting to work in a lab or with a mentor to perhaps do more in-depth projects? At this point she is interested in materials science and chemical engineering. We DO live in a rather rural area, which maybe complicates things, but do any of you have advice for how to get hooked up with someone who could give her ideas or perhaps how she could connect with someone with a "real" lab (not just our kitchen haha!)

Her use of the scientific method was correct and her presentations were awesome, she did a great job and the judges thought she did a great job.

I feel like the science that we provide through homeschooling is very sufficient, thorough, and in-depth enough for a general education. However, in competing with kids from high schools in something like science fair, it is obvious to me that she will need to be on another level for her research projects.

I'm looking forward to hearing what others suggest! Thank you in advance for your ideas.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

In Places Hidden by Tracie Peterson -- my REVIEW

In Places Hidden by Tracie Peterson is a light historical fiction romance set in San Francisco in 1905. The story begins with Camri, a highly-educated young lady from Chicago taking a train trip to San Francisco to search for her missing brother Caleb, a lawyer in the city, who has mysteriously disappeared. On the train out west, she meets two young women around her age, Judith and Kenzie, and invites them to stay with her in her brother's house while she searches for him.

Upon arrival in San Francisco, the girls stay at Caleb's house and Camri begins her search. Kenzie's cousin owns a chocolate factory, so the girls get jobs there to support themselves.

Camri meets several people who know Caleb and cannot figure out what possibly has happened to him. She gets an inkling of political corruption and maybe some other kinds of illegal activity that her brother may have been investigating. She meets a fellow that he defended from a murder charge, Patrick, and his sister (Ophelia) who is dying. He has also set out to search for the truth regarding her brother. Camri and Patrick fall in love, despite their social inequalities of the day (she is highly educated, he is an uneducated Irishman). More excitement ensues as they search for Caleb and seek to bring about justice, but I cannot tell you any more, I don't want to give too much away!

Basically it is just a romance, set in San Francisco, at the turn of the century. The other parts are peripheral, but that is the main theme, I think. I don't dislike romances, but I do like them to have a little more depth to them, usually. This one is a little fluffy for me. I know, however, that people who like romances will probably like this one! It's a clean romance with a little bit of Christian values thrown in. SO I wouldn't not recommend this book, but it isn't a favorite of mine! :)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. 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.”

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Science Fair!

My youngest child, who is in 8th grade, has decided that she wants to participate in a science fair this year.   As a homeschooling family, not associated with a school, we had to find one that she could participate in. After researching online, we found that there is a state science fair that she can join. Thankfully we live in a small state so she didn't have to qualify at the school level, but could just register.

She came up with a project, completed it, wrote a paper, and made a trifold display board! Phew! Now to come up with a short presentation for the judges.

She's really excited :) Hopefully it'll all go well...I've been a judge at many science fairs, but have never done a science fair project, and none of my kids have until I don't have all the tips/hints/requirements to give her that a regular classroom teacher knows... hopefully that won't be a detriment to her! :/  Well, it's been a good experience for her, she did a neat project, and hopefully will enjoy herself at the fair!

Homeschool Review Crew Weekly Link Up

Friday, March 16, 2018

My stapler. . . !! :) :)

I was watching a tv show this week (NCIS) and a portion of it revolved around one of the characters and their frustrations with their non-working stapler...and their discovery of an old stapler that worked great (though it needed special-order staples!)

I seriously had that same problem!  For years I had staplers that jammed and didn't staple nicely.  I even got a swingline one--they've got a great reputation, right?  But invariably they jammed or stopped stapling through more than two or three papers.




I found this awesome stapler at a rummage sale a couple of years ago! :) It is obviously old, but it takes standard sized staples and it NEVER (yet!) jams!  And it is WONDERFUL!!!!!

Haha!  Some of you are probably thinking who is this crazy lady, oohing and aahing over a stapler!  Shallow life, huh?  :) Well, yes, it is probably not the most important thing in the world, but let me tell you!  It definitely decreases stressful situations!  I don't know why staplers cause such frustration, but with this one I don't have to worry about it!

How about you?  Do you have a favorite old piece of office equipment that you love?  :)

Homeschool Review Crew Weekly Link Up

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

MathArt Online 4-Class Bundle -- my REVIEW

Have you ever heard anyone say that math is just not useful in the real world or doesn't apply to anything, unless you are an engineer or something (or have you been guilty of saying it yourself? yikes!) I am not one of those people--as a matter of fact, I really enjoy math, especially algebra, and when I hear statements such as that, it is bothersome :) I try to emphasize to my children a variety of applications of math in everyday life.

This program that I had the opportunity to review, the MathArt Online 4-Class Bundle by NatureGlo's eScience is created and taught by an individual who is probably horrified when she hears statements devaluing math.  She has created four courses which seek to teach students about the math-art connection through courses entitled, "Math Connections with the Real World," MathArt in Ancient Cultures," "MathArt in the Arts & Sciences," and "MathArt--Patterns in Nature."  

MathArt Online

There are many things you can download and print
The course that we had the opportunity to use for the past several weeks is Math Connections with the Real World.  My 13-year old daughter was interested to jump in and learn!  When you log in, you are brought to a page which you click on your chosen course and then you have the opportunity to download a set of paperwork for the first lesson.  Some of the parts of this download are a study guide,
guided note-taking helps keep the student
focused on the lesson
which is a kind of guided note-taking which the student can fill in as the teacher goes through her powerpoint slides.
a checklist in the download to help
students fully embrace the course
There are also many activities that the student may complete which accompany each lesson. Some of these are in the "Student Assignments and Project Workbook" and more of them are on a web link that is listed in the lesson as well as in the download.  Some of the additional activities are links to ideas on other websites, other youtube videos, things such as TedTalks, and more.
An example of  a resource page from which students
may do additional activities/view additional videos, etc.

The course that my daughter used, Math Connections with the Real World, focuses on the golden ratio and Fibonacci Numbers--a very interesting topic for those interested in patterns, different symmetries, perspectives, and more.  

The instructor teaches via a series of slides which she has made and reads to the students. Some of the classes, as they have been taped from live classes, feature children who were taking the class doing some of the slide reading as well. 
Students catch an occasional glimpse of the teacher as she reads the slides to them.

One neat thing that is included with these lessons is a Quizlet application to quiz and then test students on the content in the lessons. This is a great way for them to review and reinforce ideas they have heard/learned.

Topics that were covered in the class that we used ranged from what are Fibonacci numbers and what is the golden ratio to instances of these concepts in nature as well as in different art, architecture, and music forms. There was also a lesson on quasicrystals. 

SO what did we think?  My daughter and I both found the lectures to be quite unprofessional. I felt like the teacher had put a great deal of thought into making the slides, but then the majority of her "lectures" were simply her reading the slides to the students without much more teaching on the topics.   Some of the taped live-interactions distracted and had lots of unnecessary fumbling.  It was not easy for us to listen to and learn.  I felt like the explanations were of varied levels, some things were easily understood by my daughter, other things were completely over her head; I had trouble following many of the lectures as well. I didn't feel like the concepts were really taught by the instructor as thoroughly or as easily-understandably as I had wished.

 Also--my daughter had a hard time figuring out what she was supposed to do when, and we had a bit of difficulty navigating around the site to find the resources that we needed at different times.  There is a very large collection of other projects/videos/websites linked to from the lessons; while some homeschoolers will appreciate that the instructor has done the work of compiling these resources and it is convenient to have them already gathered, most were something that we could have possibly found ourselves through a google search.

 Many of the additional videos (such as the TedTalks) were very helpful in explaining or expanding on topics, so I am glad that those were included.   I always enjoy having guided note-taking (fill in the blank style notes) to assist the student, so I liked that part.

I wondered how the other three courses compared to the one we experienced, so I went through and viewed several of the lessons in other courses.  I really felt similarly to how I did from the first one.

Lots of additional resources for more learning

And TedTalks, Khan Academy videos, and more!

SO for us, it is not what we would use in our homeschool lives. It is definitely not our style. 

To read what other homeschooling familes thought about this resource, please click on the link below!

MathArt Online 4-Class Bundle {NatureGlo's eScience Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Monday, March 12, 2018

Trade Your Cares for Calm by Max Lucado -- my REVIEW

The beautiful cover of this book by Max Lucado, Trade Your Cares for Calm, draws you in and makes you want to look inside!  The title too, who wouldn't like more calm in their lives? 

This little hardback book (with its own bookmark!) is more than just pretty, it is filled with words of encouragement to rely on God, stop focusing on ourselves, and give our anxieties to Him.

There are 10 short chapters, each dealing with some aspect of worry or peace.  There are Scripture verses to remind us of what God says, little story illustrations of some topics, beautiful photographs, reminders to trust God, places for thoughtful journaling (answering some questions), and some hard-hitting truths.

One of the things that struck me was a little checklist called "Weigh Your Worries"  To see if your heart is weighed down with worry.  Some of the items on the list include: "Are you laughing less than you once did? Do you see problems in every promise? Do you assume that something bad is going to happen? If given the chance, would you avoid any interaction with humanity for the rest of  your life?" and more.  Oh boy, that alone was convicting (though I usually don't think of myself as a worrier!) BUT you know what follows that list?  This lovely statement, "If you answered yes to more than a few of these questions, the Prince of Peace stands ready to help trade your cares for calm."

It's not a long book, just a few small pages on each chapter, but it's right to the point and the author wants to help us re-focus on how to truly be calm, through the help of God alone.  It's a nice book that would make a nice little study to accompany your mornings--it would also make a nice gift.  Who wouldn't enjoy or be helped by the topic, right?

I would recommend this book.  It's a good help to remind us to rely on God rather than on ourselves.  He is willing and waiting for us.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. 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.”

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Trigeminal Neuralgia -- and a miracle (surgical miracle :) )

Have you ever heard of trigeminal neuralgia? It's a disease that most people have probably never heard of, but those who have heard of it know its seriousness.

My husband first was diagnosed with this ailment about 10 years ago, at the age of 35 or so.  He experienced excessive explosive pain in the side of his face over and over again, many times a day.  He was eventually diagnosed with this awful thing called trigeminal neuralgia.

So what is it? If you do a google search you'll see lots of diagrams, explanations, and support groups.  We all have a nerve called the trigeminal nerve that branches into 3 segments per side of our face, one down by the lower jaw, one midway, and one up by the eye level.  For people with TN (trigeminal neuralgia), often there is a blood vessel that rubs on the nerve, causing intermittent spasms of intense pain.

Ten years ago, he was put on an epilepsy medicine that controlled the shocking pains, holding them down to a minimum of a few per year. Yes, there were side effects with the medicine (tegretol), but the relief was worth it.  Fast-forward to this past summer when the effectiveness of the medicine for some reason stopped, and he was feeling the shocks several times per week, escalating to several times a day...even on the medicine.

He had an MRI and met with a neurosurgeon who mapped out a surgical plan called microvascular decompression, which is a brain surgery.  We are blessed to live within 5 hours of Boston, where there are surgeons experienced in this type of surgery.  Long story short, he had the surgery (now 6-weeks post-op) and IT WORKED!!!!!!!  He has not had the horrendous pain since the surgery!  Yes, he has a few side-effects (numbness, etc which might dissipate over the next year) but the pain relief is miraculous.  We are thanking the LORD for this healing!  He is still healing from surgery, hopefully to go back to work in a week or so.  It is such a huge blessing!

Another blessing we are experiencing centers on the medicine he's been on for 10 years. He has weaned off it (yikes! didn't expect those withdrawals, such as insomnia and etc!) and the kids and I are noticing that he is so much happier.  He laughs.  He is positive.  And smiling.  I think we forgot (or the kids just were so young they didn't remember) what he had lost being on that medicine.  And now we are blessed with his recovery.

I just want to thank God for this journey, for this healing, for this amazing transformation.  It is a huge blessing from Him and we are so thankful!

Homeschool Review Crew Weekly Link Up

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Sesame Chicken

Just wanted to share one of our family's favorite meals -- Sesame Chicken!  We love this stuff!  I make a big pot of rice and another pot of frozen broccoli/cauliflower/etc. and we mix the veggies in with the chicken and sauce--and serve over rice.  It's so yummy and easy--here's the recipe that we like to use--give it a try!!!

So if you're looking for a new recipe to slip into your weekly or monthly rotation, give it a try!

Homeschool Review Crew Weekly Link Up

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Faithful Finance by Emily G Stroud -- my REVIEW

I sometimes like reading books about finances, I sometimes don't :) These books can all tend to sound alike, and some sound like they're written for someone who is not me.  This book, Faithful Finance, by Emily Stroud, is one that sounds like it is written for me. 

In this book, Emily shares principles that she has learned in her life as a chartered financial analyst (she goes through what letters after names mean for financial professionals, while encouraging the reader to seek advice from someone worthy of listening to).  In the beginning of the book, Emily shares her goal for this book, "to give an overview of what a successful financial plan looks like in real, everyday life." 

The book is written in an easy-to-read format and sounds like you're being spoken to by someone you want to listen to.  The author addresses topics such as savings, mortgages, college plans, giving/tithing, debt, retirement, and more.  She writes from the vantage point of trusting God to take care of you, and using your money and resources to honor Him.  If you are not a Bible-believing Christian, this theme of the book might annoy you.  For me, however, it reflected my beliefs and gave me good guidance. The whole last chapter, as a matter of fact, deals with how God takes care of us and that His plan is enough.  It is our duty to trust Him.

The concepts covered in this book are not new, or original, but seriously--it's good to hear them again.  These are things that affect us at any stage of our lives and we need to intentionally deal with money in a way that will honor God as well as in a way that will be responsible for ourselves and our family.  I think that reading this book is definitely valuable.

I would recommend this book, to folks just starting out adulthood, to those in the middle years, and even to those nearing retirement.  There are good concrete suggestions as well as theories and philosophies to help guide our use of our resources.  Emily Stroud has done a good job in sharing her expertise and passion with her readers.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. 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.”

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

CursiveLogic Quick-Start Pack and The Art of Cursive -- my REVIEW

I have always thought that cursive writing is important, but somehow we have let that slide after the younger years of penmanship. When the kids were younger, I had them learn to write in cursive using various curricula, but as the years have gone by I have allowed them to print (or type) more and more, and I've noticed especially my (15 year old) son's handwriting devolving. Whenever I thought about working on it, other subjects seemed to take predominance, and we just have kind of let it slide.

Now that he's fifteen, he is needing to use cursive to sign his name--and has realized that he can't write well in cursive--and wants to learn!  (Yay, self-motivated learning!)  I was SO happy to learn about this program called CursiveLogic and to throw him right into the CursiveLogic Quick-Start Pack!  This program is ideal for an older learner, it is not childish, and it really uses patterns and muscle memory to help your child learn to write in cursive very quickly!  There is also another resource called The Art of Cursive which I'll tell you about in a bit.

Cursive Logic New Edition

The CursiveLogic Quick-Start Pack comes with a book which is spiral-bound at the top (usable for right handed writers and left handed writers!) and there is also a webinar (vimeo video which teaches you how to use this resource--it's very helpful!).  The student begins with a review of proper body position, proper hand position, and proper paper position.  

The webinar is very helpful to get
you started

And then they're off!  The theory of this method of teaching cursive is that the lower case alphabet of cursive letters is based on four different shapes--the oval, the loop, the swing, and the mound.  Through tracing/outlining/saying a key phrase--the student sees the pattern, traces it with fingers, with pencils, and finally draws that letter--and not just that letter, but the letter string of the letters with that base pattern.  

There is a lot of finger tracing and pencil tracing to reinforce that proper shape, building muscle memory.  The student progresses quickly from shape to shape, catching a lot of letters along the way, until--voila!  They have covered the lower case alphabet!

There are guide lines and the opportunity to keep the letters at the proper size by using the guide lines, and a lot of tracing.  The letters are not kept solo, they are combined into letter strings and quickly into words.


That tricky "o" connection is addressed and practiced, with a nice connection with the "midline 'Dip' connection" explanation...

My son has been using this book, even doing the finger tracing exercises as well as the pencil-tracing exercises without complaint--especially after he saw the results and that learning to write neatly in cursive is actually not that difficult!  

 So while you usually wouldn't probably expect to see a "learn to write in cursive" book side by side with Algebra 2, that's what is happening in our house...and it's working very effectively!  I know that this book is being used by many younger students as well, but how about you?  Are you an adult who never really learned to write nicely past, say, third grade? Does your handwriting and signature reflect that?  I would HIGHLY recommend this easy little system, the CursiveLogic Quick-Start Pack for you as well.

My son's goal is to have a signature that doesn't look like a 5-year old
signed his paper--look at the success he's experiencing so far! And
he's not even half-way through the program! He's definitely seeing results.
Oh, and the program doesn't only cover lower case--soon he will be into the upper case section, where, once again, letters are grouped with similar shapes and will be learned together.

The Art of Cursive Logic

I'd like to mention another resource by CursiveLogic-- The Art of Cursive -- which is an adult coloring book which teaches cursive as well.    This book goes over the proper shapes and formation of letters and extra practice is done in a coloring-book format, with the letters filling in the color shapes.  My daughter who is already a bit more proficient in cursive writing has been using this book and it is helping to create muscle memory of properly-formed letters, plus she finds it fun to work on :)

This is a good way to tune your cursive in, get your hand used to the proper letter formation, and relax and have fun as well.

SO--I just want to reiterate that I really like this CursiveLogic program--my teen is greatly benefitting from it, it is quick to learn, and he is happy to be making such progress!  Thank you CursiveLogic!

There's even a discount code, which is active through the end of March 2018--here's the info!

Cursive Logic New Edition March 2018 Discount

To hear what other homeschooling families think about this program, please click on the link below!

The Art of Cursive & Quick Start Cursive {Cursive Logic Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Monday, March 5, 2018

Magic Stix Washable Markers -- my REVIEW

Markers! Everyone loves markers, right? :) These markers that we got to try out for review are called Magic Stix Washable Markers by The Pencil Grip, Inc.  and we were glad to get to experiment with them.

Magic Stix Washable Markers

The first thing we noticed about the markers is that they come in a nice sturdy heavy plastic case with a handle. Awesome!!  

The next thing is that there is a very wide array of colors, some traditional colors like red, green, blue, purple, black, and brown and other less-traditional colors like turquoise, moss green, gold, and various shades of pinks and purples and others.  These are fun colors!

The girls (17 year old and 13 year old) enjoyed using these markers and their variety of colors :) Here are some of their pictures:

Oh, and I had to give them a try (like my grasshopper diagram?! haha!)  Yes, I like them too :) They are nice and smooth to write with...and I love the name -- my kids always laugh at me because I call markers "magic markers" -- and these have the name "magic" in the title :) So funny!

Alright, so what do these markers have that is different from any other marker on the market?  Well, according to the label they have no odor (yes, that's true!), bright bold colors (as already mentioned!), and a vented safety cap (just in case, I suppose!).  The other claim on the label is that they "Won't dry out for 7 days with the cap off. Guaranteed."  Well, we didn't test this claim by keeping the cap off for a week, but basically the logic of having a vented cap would tell you that yes it doesn't dry out.  The other claim on the label is that they are washable.  We DID try this :)

My kids are older than the age of acidentally getting marker on their skin or the table (well, usually!) so my older daughter did a little experiment, marking on her skin and washing it.  Check out the pictures below:

First drew on her wrist

After one washing with soap and water

After first washing

scrubbing a second time

coming off better the second round

Some markings were still a teeny bit visible the next day after several washes.

So...for washability...ahhhh, kind of, not perfect, but you can definitely remove the marks from skin with soap and water.  My other daughter did an accidental test on the kitchen table, and it took quite a bit of scrubbing before it would come off most of the way (we have a formica table). Even weeks later, if you look close enough you can still see some of the marks on the table.  Not a big deal to me, but if you are concerned about that type of thing you might want to put something down before your child accidentally colors on the table.

SO what did I think overall?  We loved these markers.  There are great colors and they are nice and smooth.  I think the non-drying-out characteristics are probably one of my favorite traits of these markers. I think that they will be great for our family to use, and I think I actually might want to buy a few more sets to use these as gifts for some of my younger nieces, as well as for my daughter who's going to college next year! :)  Ooh, they'd be great for church too--so many different sets of people who would enjoy these high quality Magic Stix Washable Markers!

The Pencil Grip, Inc. is also allowing me to host a giveaway for a 24-pack of Magic Stix Washable Markers, just like I got to review!  If you'd like to enter this giveaway, please click on this ENTRY FORM 

To read more about how other homeschool families enjoyed these markers, please click on the link below:

Magic Stix Washable Markers {The Pencil Grip, Inc. Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer