Thursday, October 1, 2015

Middlebury Interactive Languages

When it comes to teaching my children a foreign language, I appreciate getting added help. Especially when it's interactive, online language help! We recently had the chance to review High School Spanish from Middlebury Interactive Languages.

Middlebury Interactive Languages has a special section for homeschoolers. They offer French, Spanish, Chinese and German. Many of these languages are offered from Kindergarten all the way to 12th grade.

The self paced course teaches the languages by using total immersion through text, audio, video and images. This is put into practice by listening to the language, practice speaking the language, as well as reading & writing the language. The immersion approach not only teaches the student language skills but also teaches them cultural awareness which we found quite interesting learning those added facts!

The program also offers an addition of having a teacher work with the student (for an added fee).Though we didn't try this portion of the program out, it is a nice to know it's there. I took several years of Spanish in high school and lived in Peru for awhile so I felt pretty confident in helping my daughter out when she needed it.

Each course is set up to be 1 semester long. This equals out to 18 weeks doing 5 lessons a week. The program is set up for the student to work independently though there is a gradebook for the parent to check in on completed lessons and grades.

 To start using the program is quite easy. It's just a matter of signing in and going to the main menu. From there you could choose to view the course in a calendar layout or by the table of contents. My daughter (and I) preferred the table of contents layout as when she did her lessons didn't always correspond to the same day of the month that the lesson was listed under.

With the table of content view, you could see exactly where she left off at as it automatically put a check-mark beside each part of the lesson she completed. There are 18 units with 5 lessons in each unit, a midterm test at week 9 and a final test at the end. There were also some quizzes throughout different lessons. The first lesson in each unit goes over the objectives and what the student will learn in the next 5 lessons.

(click on photos to enlarge)

Frequently used conversational language was taught right from the start. They used a variety of methods to help instill the words into the student through having them match up phrases (Spanish to English translation) and even pictures to words.

At times, the student also practices spelling the Spanish word (as in the above print screen). There is an audio button they can click on to hear the phrase being read. The student can also practice speaking the language themselves in the sections called "speaking labs". This is where you hear the teacher say a word or phrase using a microphone, you can record yourself saying the same thing then play them back to see how closely you matched the teacher's word.

Another way the student practices the language is by listening to the teacher read a paragraph in Spanish. While listening, they have to check off the words or phrases they heard being read to them. This connects the auditory to the visual aspect of learning the language.

We found this program easy to use yet very engaging. The photos they used are ones that show kids of the same age as the student who is using the program so it feels more relatable. The voices (both male & female) that spoke Spanish were clear and easy to understand. The lessons weren't boring as each section of a lesson was short and to the point. It took my 10th grade daughter approximately 20 minutes to complete each lesson. 

Connect with Middlebury Interactive Languages:

 Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Capture Your Grief 2015

Once again, CarlyMarie is hosting Capture Your Grief in honor of October's Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. This month is so significant to many of us moms who have lost a child. We both participate in and cherish those of you who also join us and acknowledge this month and our children we are missing.

Click on Photo to Enlarge

This is the daily prompt of ideas for taking a photo. Feel free to share this on your own Facebook page, Instagram or you are welcome to even post it on my Facebook Page. I will be trying to participate as I can.

More info on Capture Your Grief

Join the Facebook Event

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Game Review from USAopoly-Tapple and Wonky

Ever since my kids were young, I knew I wanted to have a game closet, filled with all sorts of games! Every Christmas we add to our growing selection of games which include both fun & energetic games as well as educational & strategy thinking games. We recently had the opportunity to review 2 games from the company USAopoly. The games are Wonky: The Crazy Cube Card Game and Tapple: Fast Word Fun for Everyone.

USAopoly is licensed under Hasbro and has been producing board games and puzzles for over 20 years. Their goal is to bring friends and family together through their games to create memories.

As soon as our games arrived, my kids wanted to dive right into them. We opened Tapple first. This game is an exciting, quick moving word game to play with 2 or more players, ages 8 and above. After a quick glance at the directions, we realized this was a super easy game to play. We needed to put 2 AA batteries in the back for the timer and mix up the stack of cards that came with it. The cards have 2 sides to them with each side having 2 categories. The red side of the cards has more challenging topics while the blue side has easier topics.

Everyone sits in a circle or around a table. The player that goes first chooses a card then decides which topic they want. Some of the topics include words such as: "In this room" (where you'd name things you see in the room), "Candy" (name different kinds of candy or maybe even candy companies). "Leaders & Politicians" and "Computer Terms" are some of the more difficult topics.

To start, the first player hits the big red button in the middle of the board which starts the 10 second timer. The goal is for each player is to push down an available letter button, naming a word that starts with that letter that is relevant to the category on the card. Once the word is said the player then hits the red button that restarts the timer for the next player. Each player keeps going around doing the same thing. If a player doesn't name a word before the timer goes off, they are out that round. You keep playing until there is only 1 person left who then wins that round and collects the card. Once a player has collected 3 cards, the game is over and they are the winner.

We loved how fast paced this game was and how creative yet quick thinking you had to come up with a word. The less letters that remained, the harder it became to think of a word. I am impressed with the card storing feature on this game. On the underside of the plastic game board is a compartment that the cards fit in perfectly to store. No worries about cards getting bent or lost!

Wonky is a completely opposite game in that it is a slower paced, strategy game that uses fine motor skills. There are 9 blocks in 3 different sizes and colors that come in a nice storing pouch. There is also a deck of cards that accompany the blocks. This game is played with 2 or more players, ages 8 and up.

 To start, the blocks are laid in the middle of the table and each player receives 7 cards with the remaining stack of cards turned upside down in the center of the table. Each card has directions of what color and size cube to add to form a stack of cubes. What makes this game "Wonky" is that each cube has curvy sides to it so it takes some strategizing and careful placement to put one cube on top of another without making the tower fall. There are also some "fun" cards placed in the mix such as skipping a turn or reversing the order of players. If the tower falls over while you place a cube, you have to pick up 3 extra cards. To win, you need to be the first person to get rid of all the cards in your hand. 

Both of these games were not only a huge hit in our family but also with the kids friends as well. During this review, we took the games camping with us as well as to our co-op where the kids got to play with their friends. Everyone gave both games rave reviews and will be ones we will continue to play!

 USAopoly Review
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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Throwback Thursday-Anniversary & Birthday Style!

I know, you are scratching your head at the title of this post huh?

Well, today, exactly 17 years ago, literally on a Thursday evening, my husband and I got married. Now, I'm sure you are asking WHY a Thursday evening? Well, my husband and I have the same birthday (though he is 5 years old than I am) so we decided to make it one big day and get married on our birthdays. (I'm thinking it was an excuse for him to not forget the date! lol) We joke that we were each others birthday gift (and hey, not many people can say they had their guests sing Happy Birthday to them before cutting the wedding cake, HA!)

Excuse the quality of the photos as this was before digital cameras (ha!) and this is also a photo of the pictures. Hard to believe we've been married 17 years!!! Almost half my life! LOL

In these 17 years, we've been through more than most couples ever experience in a life time and by the grace of God, here we are!

Our biggest accomplishment as a couple has been our amazing children!!

This photo is from our cruise last year.

Happy Birthday & Happy Anniversary Dear!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

YWAM Publishing- A Book About Milton Hershey

So often during the course of our history lessons, we just briefly get a glimpse of those who have shaped our past without really getting to know much in depth about them. YWAM Publishing has 2 neat series though that allows students to really get to know people from history. We recently had the chance to review the book Milton Hershey:More Than Chocolate from the Heroes of History series as well as the accompanying downloadable Unit Study Curriculum Guide.

YWAM Publishing is a Christian company that seeks to provide quality literature, study guides, audiobooks and even books in Spanish and other languages. The Schoolhouse Review Crew recently had the chance to choose from over 40 books in 2 series, Heroes of History and Christian Heroes:Then and Now. The biographies are all written by Janet and Geoff Benge, a wife and husband team who have a desire to bring history to life in interesting and engaging books with study guides to accompany the biographies.

The book about Milton Hershey is 192 pages long and contains 18 chapters.The first chapter talks about the failure of Milton's first business and lures you in to learning more about his life and experiences. Then the second chapter takes you back to when he was a child and moves forward from there.

I'll admit, we only live 45 minutes from Hershey, Pa and are quite familiar with Milton's general history but this book gave a more in depth look into his life and how the town came to be all because of one man and his chocolate creations! Did you know Hershey chocolate was making 1 million dollars by 1906 and that Milton Hershey came from a Mennonite family? Also, Milton and his wife were never able to have children and because they were so blessed with money, they felt they need to use it to bless others and wanted to establish a school for orphaned boys. Today the Milton Hershey School still exists to house boys in need.

Not only was the book interesting, the accompanying study guide provides even more in depth learning. 
A screen shot of the Unit Study Curriculum Guide main page (click on photos to enlarge)
  • The curriculum unit study provides a guide to be able to use for either a classroom, in the homeschool or a group like a co-op.
  • Provides ideas on how to tie in social studies, language arts, projects and even field trip suggestions.
  • Videos that allow you to "meet" the authors.
  • Worksheets for students to fill in such as a map, timeline, fact sheet, etc
  • Short biography on Milton Hershey.
  • Chapter Review Questions.
Before my daughter started the book, I printed out all the chapter study guide questions for her, hole punched them and placed them in a 3 ring binder along with lined notebook paper. The printed study questions did not provide enough room to write the answers on it, hence me adding the extra paper. As she completed each chapter, she answered the 6 questions.

One of the suggested field trips was to take a tour of Chocolate World at Hershey. It had been a number of years since I had last taken the kids here so we stopped by here one afternoon after our co-op to round out the book experience.

This book is ideal for a child around age 10 or older or read by a parent for a group unit study. Any of these biographies from the series can be stand alone readers to supplement your schooling or you could do the series for a whole history curriculum! We enjoy how engaging the book was and the variety of activities that were included in the Unit Study Curriculum Guide.

Connect with YWAM:

YWAM Publishing Review
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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Good Ole Southern Seafood Boil!

Some of you may remember several months ago when I shared about my trip to Alabama to visit my best friend. While there, I got to experience my first crawfish boil! Let me tell ya, you couldn't get seafood any fresher than what we did. Both the crawfish and shrimp were caught the same day we ate it (& the shrimp there come with the heads still on!) When I got home, I told the kids I would do a seafood boil for them sometime over summer when we could get corn on the cob and little red potatoes fresh from the farm (to make up for not being able to get fresh seafood lol).

One of my many servings I had in Alabama!

I went to Amazon to purchase my seafood boil seasoning, Slap Ya Mama Cajun Seafood Seasoning since it's hard to find this sort of thing around here.

Prepping the food, I cut the earns of corn in half and soaked the clams in salt water (it makes them spit out debris) 

The neat thing about making this meal is that everything gets cooked in one large pot together (though I forgot to take a photo of this part). You start out with the potatoes since they take the longest to cook, then you add things in one by one according to the length of time it takes to cook (smoked sausage or kielbasa is next, followed by the corn, clams then shrimp). I wasn't able to get crawfish so since my kids love clams, I used those in place of the crawfish.

Seafood boil
The finished product on the table! If we were eating outside, I could've just put some butcher paper down and laid it all out. I had melted butter to dip the clams into.

A close up of the food, yum!!

To give you a rough idea how much I made, we had 2lbs of shrimp, 50 clams, 2lbs of sausage, 1 dozen ear of corn and about 2-3lbs of little red potatoes. 

We all absolutely LOVED this meal and I'd like to start a tradition of making this once a summer for a special treat! 

Have you ever had a crawfish or seafood boil?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Philly Cheesesteak Stuffed Peppers

As the gardening season is winding down, I feel like a squirrel frantically gathering nuts to store for winter time! I've been in freezing & canning mode again lately. I had a ton of peppers, zucchini, broccoli & cabbage to do up. While I've been freezing a lot of the veggies plain to use over winter time, I also wanted to try some new recipes.

I happen to have gotten some roast beef lunch meat in the marked down area of the deli. I love this section as I can often find the more expensive lunch meats that are either sliced too thin or are the chunked up ends for only $1.99lb (otherwise, roast beef is NOT a staple in our house! lol)

As I looked at the roast beef & peppers, I thought that a Philly Cheesesteak Stuffed Pepper sounded like a good idea. It wasn't until I started cooking that I realized this was going to turn into an awesome recipe so I quickly dug out my camera to snap some photos so I could share the recipe with y'all! Let me just say the photos don't do this recipe justice! The kids and I absolutely LOVED these and the next time I get some cheap roast beef, we will be making this again!! A bonus is that this is gluten free and low-carb!

I started off sauteing chopped up mushrooms, onions & garlic. Once they were nice and ccaramelized I added in the sliced roast beef.

I sliced 2 whole peppers in half and took out the seeds. You can use any kind of cheese you prefer but I used a slice of pepper jack and laid it in the bottom of the pepper half.

I divided up the meat mixture evenly between all 4 peppers then laid a piece of cheddar cheese on top.

I popped the peppers in the oven and baked them for about 15-20 minutes.


If you are looking for another stuffed pepper recipe, check out my Mexican Stuffed Peppers with Quinoa & Black Beans!

Philly Cheesesteak Stuffed Peppers
about 1/2lb of roast beef lunch meat sliced into strips
8 slices of cheese
2 whole peppers cut in half
2 Tbsp butter
1 medium onion sliced
6oz of mushrooms sliced
2 cloves of garlic minced
salt & pepper to taste

In a saute pan, saute the mushrooms,onions & garlic until caramelized. Add the strips of roast beef & toss with the veggies. Cook for about 5-10 minutes. Lay a piece of cheese inside each pepper then evenly divide up the meat between them. Cover the meat with another piece of cheese. Bake in the oven at 400 for 15-20 minutes.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Yet Another School Year

So I am a week late posting this, what else is new! Even though we started our homeschooling year earlier in August, last Tuesday was the kids first day back to co-op. The kids were excited to go back, mainly to see their friends!

This year is a bittersweet year for me. If Noah were still here, he would be starting kindergarten. I admit I really broke down before co-op started. The realization that this is yet another major milestone we are missing out on really brought me to my knees. When your child dies, you not only miss them every day for the rest of your life, you are also left to face all the missed milestones, unfulfilled dreams and plans you had for that child. And this is NOT easy!

I am thankful for the friends that acknowledged this painful missed milestone with their notes, texts and prayers.

Of course, a first day back to co-op isn't complete without a 1st day photo. Since we homeschool, this is the closest we get to "first day photos" that everyone else posts and shares on social media.

Without further ado, we have:

2- 10th graders (say WHAT!)
a 9th grader
a 7th grader
a would-be Kindergartner who is already full of knowledge in Heaven
a pre-K4
and a goofy toddler full of life!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Gluten Free Peach Cobbler Dessert

Ahh 'tis the season of peaches right now! I was lucky to stumble across a deal of 1/2 a bushel of peaches for just $2.70 yesterday. Of course I knew I had to make a warm dessert using them and since some in our family are gluten free, I set out to make the entire dessert gluten free. Of course a warm cobbler is not complete without vanilla ice cream so I dug out our ice cream maker and made a batch of vanilla ice cream to serve alongside the warm cobbler.

This recipe was a hit in our family and one I am sure we will make many times over!

Using a glass 9x9 pan, fill with enough peaches (approximately 10-14)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 brown sugar
3/4 tsp cinnamon
sprinkle with xanthan gum (about 1/2 tsp, I didn't measure) or use 1 tsp cornstarch

3/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1 large egg
1 cup gluten free baking flour
1/2 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350. For the filling, slice up the peaches and mix the other ingredients with the peaches in the baking dish.

For the topping, in a separate dish, mix together the sugar, cinnamon, egg & GF baking flour until it forms crumbs. If it seems extra dry, add a smidgen of water to help form clumps. Sprinkle this over the peaches. Take the melted butter and evenly drizzle over the topping. Bake for about 40 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling.

I actually made double this amount in a 9x13 pan but I didn't quite double the sugar in both the filling & topping. I honestly didn't measure most of my seasonings as I rarely do but this is a good estimate. Feel free to adjust to your tastes!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Horizons Preschool Curriculum

It's hard to believe my precious Olivia is of preschool age already and really itching to "do school" like her older siblings. I never did a formal preschool program with my other children but I recently had the chance to review Horizons Preschool Curriculum Set from Alpha Omega Publications (AOP).

I have used early elementary math curriculum in the past from AOP and we enjoyed it so we were excited to see just what their Preschool Curriculum entailed. When first opening the package, I was overwhelmed at the amount of curriculum that we received! What all was included was:

-2 student books (over 300 pages each!)
-2 teacher manuals (again, over 300 pages each!)
-large loose leaf packet of resource materials and lesson resources (286 pages)
-an audio CD of 17 songs

click on photos to enlarge

The 2 student notebooks contain 180 lessons worth of workbooks pages that are on perforated pages that can be torn out. Many of the pages are printed in bright, full color and involve activities such as tracing, coloring and cutting just to name a few.

The 2 teachers manuals spell out a ton of activities that can be completed each day. I will state that it was obviously from the beginning as I looked over the curriculum, that this set seems to be geared towards a Christian preschool moreso than a single child homeschool. That doesn't mean it can't be used in a homeschool setting, it's just that there are a few things you would need to adapt and do a little differently.

An excerpt from the teachers manual (click on to enlarge)

The teachers manual lists a schedule for each day based on whether you do a full day of preschool or a half day. Either way, there are SO many activities to complete there was just no way we could do them all  but this gave us variety and plenty to choose from and the ability to switch it up. Each day varied the generic types of topics covered. Some of these involved:

  • Bible Lesson
  • Social Studies
  • Language Arts
  • Phonics
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Math
  • Colors
  • Story Time
  • Arts & Crafts
  • Gym
  • Homework
  • Music
  • Memory Verse
  • Health & Safety
The neat thing is within each lesson, the different topics all connected and flowed between each other. The curriculum is broken down into 5 days of lessons each week. On days 1, 3 & 5, new concepts are presented with days 2 & 4 being review days. This worked out well for us to just do 3 lessons a week as I didn't want to overwhelm my daughter. Each day detailed what workbooks pages to have the student complete as well as what lesson resource pages to have ready to accompany the lesson. 

During the review period, my daughter worked on learning her letters and tracing them (though this was a review for her as she is already writing most of her alphabet) as well as counting, learning shapes & numbers, matching objects, etc.

The resource packet came in loose pages. Many of these cards would be great to laminate to use as flash cards for the student. I wanted to keep them all organized so I 3 hole punched the pages and put them in a binder. I would've liked a tab to separate the resource material and lesson resources so I stuck a sticky tab between the 2 to make it easier to find. Sometimes when lessons called for a certain page, it was hard to find and would've been made easier if the teacher manual had included a page number to locate the page faster.

A few pages from the lesson resource pages

How we used it:

Because there is just SO much material to cover, I picked things out each day that I knew my daughter would enjoy. We read the Bible lesson and then worked on a few activities, making sure we did each lesson student workbook pages as that was important to her. Sometimes we referenced the extra resource pages but it all depended on what it was covering as some of the lessons were more review for her.

Olivia working on a lesson (notice she already knows how to write her name!)

I really did appreciate how the teachers manual had SO much laid out for you in the beginning. It stated which songs you would use with each lesson, several pages worth of reading book suggestions as well as a list of supplies needed for each week. Also listed at a glance was the memory verse for each week and the lyrics to all the songs on the CD.

This preschool program is well thought out and has exceptionally detailed lesson plans as well as prep plans. It more than enough for a homeschool preschooler and would be full of plans for a traditional brick and mortar preschool program!

Connect with Alpha Omega Publications:
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Alpha Omega Review
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Monday, August 10, 2015

Back to Homeschool- Preparing for the New School Year

Whether you are new to homeschooling or have been at it for several years, you will have to take time to plan for your upcoming school year. Usually as I am winding down our school year, I already have an idea of what I plan to do for the following year.

I start out making a list of subjects I want to cover with each child. (Your state may have guidelines as to what each grade needs to cover so that is a good place to start if you are unsure). Once I know what subjects we want to work on, I then list the specific curriculum I want to use for each subject. If I am unsure of what curriculum I want to use, I ask others homeschooling moms who have kids older than mine what they have used or would recommend. I also check out the Schoolhouse Review Crew for curriculum ideas.

Once I have figured out what curricula I want to use for all my children, I then start scouring the web for the best prices. Granted, some of the curriculum I already own and just pass it down from one child to another but other things (like consumable workbooks) I have to buy. It's a good idea to do this process earlier in the summer so you have time to look around for deals. I first reference an online curriculum store so I know what the books cost brand new as I obviously don't want to pay more for a used book than it would cost brand new. Then I typically check out Amazon's used books, ebay & Homeschool Classifieds to see what deals I can find. I admit it feels like Christmas morning as all the curriculum starts rolling in!

Once I have the curriculum in my hands, I take a look to see if there is already a schedule laid out for the year (my most favorite curriculums do this which in my opinion, saves me a TON of work!) If there isn't a schedule included, I try to figure out how much to cover each week to complete it all by the end of the year. Some homeschoolers plan out in detail their entire year but I don't. I plan in detail week by week that way it allows wiggle room when life happens and we need to make schedule adjustments.

In addition to preparing curriculum, I also get school supplies for each child. Usually by mid-summer, most stores have all their back-to-school products out. I highly recommend stocking up at this time because if you run out of something later in the school year, you end up paying a higher price for it. Some things we typically purchase each year are:
  • 1 subject notebooks (they usually average $.17-$.25 each so I get a big stack) 
  • glue sticks and some liquid glue
  • pencils
  • crayons/colored pencils
  • scissors (as some seem to go missing from our previous year)
  • staples
  • tape
What are some ways YOU prepare for your new school year?

Back to Homeschool Blog Hop

Don't forget to stop by and check out the the many posts other homeschool moms are sharing this week!

This weeks blog hop is being sponsored by the Schoolhouse Review Crew & Homeschool Blogging Connection.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Back to Homeschool Upcoming Blog Hop!

Where in the WORLD has summer gone? I can't believe we are well into August already. For me, August means that we are almost to the end of warm weather and that it's time to start school. It also means that it's our annual Back to Homeschool Blog Hop that I've participated in the last few years. So stop back and check out all the great posts everyone will be sharing this coming week!

Back to Homeschool Blog Hop

Mark your calendars - 10 to 14 August - it's time for this years Homeschool Blog Hop. The Schoolhouse Review Crew will be joining forces with Homeschool Connections to bring you a week full of back to school encouragement.

We have 55 homeschool Mom's sharing their combined wisdom and insights covering everything Homeschool related. That's 275 posts of encouragement and information just for you!

Meet Your Back to Homeschool Blog Hop Hosts

Marcy @ Ben and Me

Rebecca @ Raventhreads
Annette @ In All You Do

Aurie @ Our Good Life
Jennifer @ A Peace of Mind
Katie @ DailyLife
Melissa @ Mom's Plans
Annette @ A Net In Time

Crystal @ Crystal Starr
Shawna @ Tenacity Divine
Jacquelin @ A Stable Beginning 
Leah Courtney @ As We Walk Along the Road
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