Happy Easter

I am so thankful for the hope we have in Jesus for many reasons. If he hadn't died on the cross for our sins, I wouldn't be able to see my precious son Noah again.

Holidays are bittersweet and the hole in our family from missing Noah is so prevalent. As I watch my other children, I can only imagine how much excitement our 2 1/2 year old would've added to the mix this year. . . his laughter, his smiles, his hugs. Oh my sweet boy, the tears still come as my arms ache for you! I wonder what the celebration in Heaven was like today. How amazing you are apart of it! I love & miss you more than words could express!!!

Apple Snickerdoodle Cobbler

I don't know about you but my girls and I love Pinterest and all the ideas we come across. I also like Pinterest for organizing things I come across myself as I surf the net so I can be sure to find them again when I need them. Believe it or not, I've actually made a lot of the recipes I pin. What can I say, I am a recipe junkie & love it!!

A few days ago, Sarah wanted to make one of the recipes we've seen floating around. She's actually made it before but this time we were able to snap some pictures as she wanted to post this & share it with you. Without ado, here's Sarah!

Today i'm going to tell you guys about an awesome dessert,that my family & I love.It's a very simple dessert to make and also tasty. I enjoy to cook & bake anything, you name it.

I made a double batch as it doesn't last around here for long. I cored, peeled then sliced up apples into thin pieces.

In the picture above of me, I am mixing up the dough for the snickerdoodles. I rolled them into big balls so they would spread all over then rolled them in cinnamon sugar.

apple snickerdoodle cobbler, recipe, dessert

 This is what it looked like after it came out of the oven, it smelled SO good! It's hard to tell in this picture but the cookie topping is so very soft. This would taste good with homemade vanilla ice cream but we didn't have everything on hand to make it.

Thanks everyone for reading & let my mom or I know if you try this out!!

Apple Snickerdoodle Cobbler

Cookie Ingredients:
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/8 tsp of salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
2/3 c of flour
1/4 c of unsalted butter, softened
1/3 c of sugar, plus 1/2 cup
1 egg
3/4 tsp cinnamon

Apple Ingredients:
8 c of apples (about 6-8 or so)
1/4c brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350. In a small bowl, combine the 1st 4 dry ingredients for the cookies.In a separate bowl, cream butter, sugar then add the egg. Combine with dry ingredients & mix well. 

In a small bowl, combine the 1/2c sugar & 3/4 tsp cinnamon.

Core, peel & slice the apples. Put them in an 8x8 dish and mix well with the 1/4c brown sugar & 1/2tsp cinnamon.

Form 1" balls of cookie dough, then roll in the cinn/sugar mix. Place the coated balls on top of apples. Bake for 40-50 minutes until apples are tender & the cookies are lightly golden.

*the above pictures show a double batch of this recipe in a 9x13 pan.

Adventus- Piano Program Review

When you have a large family, music lessons can get expensive not to mention it can involve a lot of extra running around taking kids to lessons. We were recently given Adventus to review & prior to this, I hadn't heard about it but soon fell in love as you'll see why. It's a perfect, affordable fit for a large family. This is a multi-level piano program for beginners to intermediate students, ages 4-adult, containing 7 years worth of lessons. We were given the homeschool version and for my kids, we focused on levels Childrens Music Journey 1 & 2 (CMJ1 & 2).

I  myself have been playing piano since I was 10 years old. While I've been able to teach my kids how to read music and some basic music skills, I haven't had time to really get into the nitty gritty of music lessons despite owning a full size piano. But the beauty of this program is, even if you as a parent have never learned any instruments or lack music skills, you can still use this in your homeschooling!!

I'm sure your wondering how in the world does this work? The basics are you need a midi compatible keyboard that you can hook up to your computer (and if you don't own one, Adventus sells them). From there, you can decide if you'd like the full software that you can buy as a bundle or individual levels that come as a CD or if you'd prefer the monthly subscription which is only $10.95 a month for ALL your kids to take lessons. Seriously, you can't even get 30 minutes of lessons for one child for that let alone unlimited monthly access for numerous children!

Once you have your keyboard & access to whichever subscription you prefer, it's only a matter of hooking up your keyboard to your computer, which we did via USB.

All 4 of my older kids have been using this program. The program allows you to set up a profile for each child, which consists of a name & password on whichever levels you are using. Erik used CMJ1 and the 3 girls CMJ2.

When they log in, they are introduced to one of the famous composers who is their "teacher" for several lessons (then it moves on to a new composer). They listen to a short piece of their music and learn about some of the history behind the song or the composer. I love how this program incorporates many aspects of music, not just actual teaching.

From there, they go onto the lesson. As they are instructed to practice, the teacher gives them immediate feedback (which is why it's hooked up to the computer, brilliant!) If they hit a wrong key, they are told to "be careful" and they try it again. They are also given positive feedback for doing well. There is a woodpecker that acts as a metronome to help them learn to keep time. 

adventus, curriculum, music, review

The notes also light up as they play them. My kids have learned correct hand positioning from the beginning based off of middle C (and creating an "ant tunnel").

The lesson lasts about 10 minutes. From there, they can go into another area of the program to practice what they just learned by visiting "Miss Melody". Here they get the chance to spend more time reviewing what they learned in the lesson. There is also a game section, library as well as an improvisation room (where they can make & play their own music) but honestly, my kids have just loved doing the lessons & practicing that they have spent most of their time in those 2 places the most out of all 5 rooms.

I have been seriously impressed with this curriculum and how much my kids have learned in a short time. They enjoy practicing and not once have I had to remind them it's time for a lesson as the lessons are so engaging & keep their attention. They've been doing more of the lessons then I had required of them to. In fact, after practicing awhile on the keyboard, I've noticed them going over to the piano to try out there what they've learned. We plan to continue using this until they master all the levels. 

If this in any way interest you, I'd encourage you to peruse the website as there is so much info there it's impossible for me to cover it all. There are also lesson plans you can buy to go along with the lessons. These are awesome as well. They include worksheets you can print out for the students to fill in to go along with what they are learning as well as other suggestions of things to teach & review (even coloring pages for the younger students). I was able to download these to our iPad for easy reference. 

 photo DisclaimerGraphic1_zpsf612f371.gif

Take a peek in our window

In our pjs, on the floor, on the couch, in a store.....we don't always use our books, oh how different each day looks!

Did I catch your attention?? Ha! I think I've had a bit too much of Dr Suess invading life lately, hence my goofy intro. You are probably scratching your head wondering what in the world is this post about? Today I am participating in a blog hop entitled "Show us your homeschool day in pictures".

As I sat down to brainstorm, I realized each day here in our house looks different. We don't have a set schedule for each day. Meaning, I don't say ok, at 8:30 we are going to do xyz for 30 minutes, at 10, we'll do this, etc. I like to allow as much time as each subject may take (or not take in some cases) as well as allowing for delight-directed learning. But we do have certain subjects that get covered every day and some that are a couple times a week. Outside of that, we are constantly learning no matter what we are doing.

 Mondays we are at our homeschool co-op for the full day so that really is our only day that is consistent. From there, the rest of our week could be super busy with appointments, swim & gym class at the rec, get togethers or pretty quiet and just hanging around home. We alter our schooling around what is going on each week. I print out a homework schedule for the kids of the work that needs accomplished that week and from there, they are good about spreading it out over the week once they know how busy or slow our schedule outside of the house is.

For the sake of this post, we'll just say this is sort of what a day at home with no outside plans looks like.

I have 2 kiddos that are early risers, we are talking between 6-6:45 at the latest. They get up and do their math lesson on the computer before even eating breakfast. All 4 kids do math on the computer and have to share 2 laptops so they like getting their math done & out of the way so they don't have to share a computer later on.

Once the others are awake, they do their math then as well.  Since the math curriculum we use allows them to do this on their own, it gives me time to get Olivia fed, tidy up around the house, etc.

From there, they look at their schedule of what needs done and they dive in. This could mean I go from the living room to the kitchen to the school room (since everyone often spreads out to different areas) answering questions about science, english, or music in the course of a few minutes.

Often times though, the older girls work pretty independently so I don't have to help them as much.

Of course, once in awhile I'll hear a "moooom" only to find one of our cats trying to lend a paw! Ha our animals like to get involved with school at times too. (we have 3 cats & a dog, all great animals & good with the kids).

To change things up, they like to check out the history channel as there are some pretty neat shows & documentaries on there. Though in the above picture, they are catching up on "The Bible" series.

Of course, Olivia isn't exempt from doing some learning activities geared for her age. I have a curriculum I loosely follow with her that gives me some neat teaching ideas for her. Wish I had had it when my others were little. 

She loves doing "school" like her siblings and often wants to be included in what they are doing. Sometimes this is cute and works out great like when sitting down with Hannah to do Spanish, she's picked up on a few words already, and sometimes she falls asleep. Other times, her wanting to imitate her siblings isn't such a great idea. . .

. . . like when she gets a hold of sisters math book & starts doodling her own answers! The older ones have learned if they leave pencils or books laying around, there is no telling what they might find after she does her thing!

My girls enjoy cooking, so sometimes knowing they get to tear up my kitchen is the motivation they need to get all the other stuff done. It's great the things they can learn while being in the kitchen. In the above picture, Sarah had to double the recipe which meant adding fractions together.

The kids are also big into games. We have a large game closet for this very reason. Once the weather warms up though, they usually don't play games as much as they do in winter time (you can often find some or all of them outside doing their school work when it's warmer). It's easy to turn many games into learning. Clue has been a favorite lately for working on critical thinking skills.

Granted, I didn't get pictures of everything we do in a days time but this gives just a sampling of what you might find if you were to drop by unexpectedly during the day. The kids said they wanted to get pictures of me teaching them, HA, I said my readers would rather see their adorable faces! *wink*

A Day in Our Homeschool

The Cat Wrestler

Ever since Olivia could sit up, she began interacting with our animals. We have an AKC golden retriever and 3 cats (yes, they are all indoors). Olivia was about 6 months old when we adopted 2 of our cats as kittens from the humane league.

Anytime she would pet the animals, we always showed her how to be gentle and would remind her to give them "aye-aye". Of course, not long after, she started pointing to all the pets & petting them as she said "aye-aye".

Our one kitty, Domino, really took to Olivia, though all the animals are great with her. He has been her special buddy from early on.

In fact, she started not just cuddling with him but full on wrestling him!

And the crazy thing is he LIKES it and will seek her out, nudging her so she'll tackle him!

Domino could be walking around and she'll go running and pounce on him while he just lays there letting her climb all over. In fact, if these pictures had sound, you would hear him purring loudly in each of these as she sits on him. 

He really loves her and lets her do anything to him. He is definitely not your typical cat and truly one of a special kind whom we all adore.....

......And she loves her sweet "aye-aye" wrestling buddy!!!!

Essentials in Writing

What do your kids say when it's time to pull out their writing curriculum? A few of my children haven't been entirely thrilled at times with theirs and I admittedly find myself wanting to hide their books to save on the headache of trying to teach some of the concepts to them. BUT that has all changed my friends after we were recently introduced to Essentials in Writing and asked to review the 7th grade level.

Since my oldest 3 girls are only a grade apart (6th & 7th grade), they all do the same level of writing so they had the privilege of being the ones to review this curriculum. We aren't strangers to the world of writing & have tried a few things over the years. When we were asked to try out this program, we were immediately intrigued from what we saw on the sample video.

We received 3 DVD's that contained 53 video lessons with 15 optional grammar lessons. The course covers 120-130 days of lessons (or more if you included the grammar). Also included with this program is a PDF file download of all the workbook pages that accompany the videos. If you didn't want to print them out yourself, you also have the option of buying a pre-printed workbook of all the pages for $20.

A few of the topics that are covered & listed in the 7th grade syllabus are:
-compound sentences
-prepositions & prepositionl phrases
-formal paragraph structure
-using imagery in writing
-writing a personal narrative
-persuasive business letter
-compare/contrast essay

And SO much more!!!

Each lesson is taught by the founder of this program, Matthew Stephens, who has taught English in public middle school before developing this program. The videos were short, lasting about 5-10 minutes each. In each video, he gave a brief lesson that made it easy to grasp each concept and wasn't overwhelming to understand. After each video, there was at least 1 page, sometimes more than one, of workbook pages to complete. Each workbook page was clearly marked with what lesson it corresponded with, making it easy to know what to print out. The pages were also broken down with not only the lesson number, but an "a,b, or c" to further break up the pages to spread them out over several days of work.

Before each lesson, I printed out the corresponding worksheets to look over with my girls. Then they sat down together either by the laptop or tv to watch the lessons. My girls have thoroughly enjoyed this program which says a lot after the several different ones they've tried over the years. They said that watching Mr. Stephens explain & demonstrate concepts on the white board help them to better understand what he was teaching.

They have actually asked to do more than the required work at times because they are finally enjoying the writing process. The grammar portions of the DVD were straight-forward and not confusing in the least. Once we reached the personal narrative writing, the first big writing assignment, we were all impressed at how simple everything was broken down into small steps to complete. They didn't feel overwhelmed having to do it all at one time and could focus on each step thus better understanding what was involved & required of them to complete.

And the other great thing with this program, if they had any difficulty in completing their workbook pages, especially the ones where they'd watch a video then spend several days completing the paperwork, they could easily pop the video back in and re-watch it again.

I also liked the fact that once you purchased the DVD, you could easily pass it down to younger siblings, thus saving money. In fact, we liked this program so much, this is what we are switching everyone to next year for writing.

As a side note, my girls recently spent the night at their friends house who is also homeschooled.  After they chatted about curriculum with their friends mom and mentioning EIW, she is now looking to switch her girls to it as well, partly from their rave reviews and partly from what she has seen on the website. This program truly is that great (and makes it easy on mom to implement as there isn't much work required from us!)

The 7th grade curriculum is only $40 for the full year of DVD's. They also have grades 1-12 as well.


And the winner is. . .

Sorry everyone, it's been a busy week and I didn't get a chance to share who the winner is from The Bible Companion book giveaway. Without further ado. . .


I sent you an email Angela with further details. 

Thank you again to everyone who participated! If you aren't a regular follower, feel free to use any of the ways on the right hand side ----> so you don't miss any updates here at TLB and stay tuned for future giveaways!

Don't forget to check out the other giveaway I am part of right now, it ends Sunday!!!

Homeschooling in a Crisis

I'm joining in with the Schoolhouse Review 5 days of teach creatively blog hop. Today's topic is homeschooling in a crisis.

We've been homeschooling since the very beginning. Sure, we had had off days when things came up and we had to adjust our schooling. We also fostered for a number of years and had some challenging times as well but we learned ways to still get our schooling accomplished.

Learning how to ride the ups and downs of life when it came to homeschooling hadn't prepared me for what we faced in July of 2010, the death of my son Noah.

We were only a few weeks away from starting school when he died (we typically start beginning of August). Honestly, a lot of that time is a blur to me now.

I know we started our school year off in just keeping with the basics as I couldn't handle more than that for awhile. Our co-op started back up that September which helped take some of the burden off me. I learned to let go of the expectations of "typical" school as I realized what we were going through as a family was teaching my children far more than they could ever learn from a book.

No one ever wants to go through a major life crisis that brings them to their knees but I can see now how God was able to use one of the worse things we've gone through to help shape my children's character.

A year ago we were faced with yet another semi-crisis when my husband sustained a severe head injury and was off work for over 2 months. Again, we paired things back a bit as I didn't have help with the running of the house in addition to caring for my husband. While we kept to the basics for a bit until we got into a routine, my children made up for that in other areas like learning about their daddys injury, why he had to see certain doctors and the reason he needed to take it easy & heal (health lessons anyone?) They also helped me more around the house (home ec) and a whole host of other lessons they learned along they way.

Ultimately I had to keep in mind when we were in crisis mode, what is really going to matter & make a lasting difference in my children's lives? Those extra worksheets they did for history & learning how to diagram a sentence. . .or will the life lessons they learned in losing their brother that taught them compassion for others who are grieving, how to run a house when either parent becomes unable to and to realize life is out of our hands but in God's no matter what we do. . . will make a difference in their lives long after the book knowledge fades.

Some things to keep in mind if faced with a crisis in your home:

-Do what you need to do to survive- This will look different in each family. It's ok if you need to set aside your formal curriculum for awhile. Trust me, your children are still learning despite not having the math book open. Use this time to stay close as a family; read books together, play games, find something educational to watch either on tv or online. If your kids are older, let them do some things independently. I still have days where my grief hits me unexpectedly and my kids know on those days we only do what we need to.

-Let go of expectations & guilt- I can't stress this enough! It's so easy as a mom to fall into the guilt trap when things happen and we can't function 100%. Maybe God is using this time to rework things in  your life and is wanting you to just focus on the basics for awhile.

-Focus on one day at a time- Some days, it's all you can do just to put one foot in front of the other. The big picture of what you are going through may look scary and overwhelming. Remember, God is already in your tomorrow & knows what will happen. Let go of the worry and just focus on today and rejoice in what you got accomplished.

-Rely on others- I know not everyone has a support system (we really didn't outside of our co-op) but if you have those around who can help out, let them. Giving yourself a break even just for a few hours can give you a boost of strength to continue tackling whatever situation you are facing.

God uses these valley experiences for His glory, He is after all, the ultimate teacher!

Don't forget to check out the Huge Giveaway going on right now!!

Powered by Linky Tools
Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list...

ARTistic Pursuits

Art can be an intimidating subject to teach when your kids start getting out of elementary school and past the easier projects, especially if it's not one of your gifts. It can also be expensive to receive art lessons outside of the home as well. While all my children enjoy art & projects, I have one child especially who has taken up a love of sketching the last few years. I had never heard of ARTistic Pursuits until we were recently asked to review them, but from what I could tell by initially perusing their website, this was going to be something Susan was really going to enjoy.

We were given Middle School 6-8 Book 1 to review. Our first impression was that we liked that the book was spiral bound as it would lay flat on the table while she had it open to read or work on sketching. I also loved that the first page listed not only the table of contents but the list of art supplies that were needed as well. We found it very easy to get the needed supplies and if you don't have an art supply store near you, ARTistic pursuits has supply kits you can purchase. Susan was excited to learn how to use some of the new art supplies she had never seen before such as the different range of pencil grades and sandpaper block.

This book has 16 units with 4 lessons in each unit. The recommend schedule for the curriculum is 2 lessons per week, each taking about an hour, making this a full year class. The middle school book 1 focuses on the element of art and composition. Each of the 4 lessons in each unit covers specific topics:
-Building a visual vocabulary
-Art appreciation and history

An elephant paints with leaves falling all around from the trees.  This is from unit 1 where she had to draw an elephant and focus on placement as well as where she placed the other objects.

What I loved about this book is that it isn't a "how to draw" book but really delved deep in getting the student to focus on their world around them & to dig deeper into observation while reading about other art projects and history then applying them to her own project.  This book got Susan looking past an actual object and focusing on shapes and lines and how to use those when it came to sketching.
artistic pursuits, art, sketching, homeschool

I liked the fact that this was an all-in-one art course that had everything laid out where I didn't have to do anything except make sure she had the needed supplies and answer questions she might have had. It is also a non-consumable book so I have no doubt my other children will use this as soon as Susan puts it down long enough for them to read & use it. This curriculum would be great for any student who enjoys art and has a desire to learn more beyond the basics. 

I was lucky to snap the few pictures I did as she was often off on her own somewhere working on her sketches and lessons alone.

 ARTistic Pursuits has a full range of curriculum for preschool all the way up to high school. The cost of the Middle School 6-8 Book 1 is $47.95, a bargain for a full years worth of art lessons.