Monday, January 30, 2017

Kwik Stix Thin Stix Review

The Pencil Grip, Inc. has a new and exciting product called Thin Stix, 12 pack. I reviewed the original Kwik Stix last year and you can read my review here.

Thin Stix is a solid tempera paint stick in a plastic tube like a pen. There is no mess. You no longer need to worry about spilled paint. Thin Stix is thinner than the original Kwik Stix, which gives them even more options for arts and crafts projects. They apply smoothly to any type of paper. We even used them on paper bags.

We decided to use them for a charity project we were working on. The kids were making lunches for the homeless. They wanted to design lunch bags and include inspirational words. The Thin Stix made it easy to write words. These are thick enough for new writers or special needs people who may need a more stable writing tool, but they are still thin enough to create words and thin lines.

The colors are vibrant and cover all of the surface. They go on smoothly like a crayon, but they are darker and cover more surface. They dry instantly.

These can be bought from Amazon in a variety of colors, sets and types. 

Disclaimer ~ I was provided with this free product for my honest opinion. All comments and opinions are my own and not influenced by the company or affiliates.

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, January 26, 2017

A Homeschool Day with Teens

Our days have really changed over the last few years. The kids spend so much more time attending activities out of our home. I imagine this will only increase over the next few years. Sometimes it is a difficult balance to still get in what I feel is enough core lessons. However, we make it work. Since my children are faced with a host of special needs and challenges, they do not do their schooling as independently as many their age. Nonetheless, they are growing and stretching all of the time. These are my last two students. After 18+ years of homeschooling, most of the time I feel confident that I am crafting their days to prepare them for a successful adulthood.

There are very few days a month when we stay home for the whole day. Most days are filled with a few precious hours of schooling at home and then off into the world we go. Here is my snapshot of our day in the life with a 13 and 14 year old.

Morning ~ My husband and our disabled adult son are both home sick today. I felt a stomach virus/cold coming on earlier in the week, but fought it off. Now it has struck them. They do not seem to be fighting it off as quickly as I did. I spray the house down with Thieves oil and then start the diffuser going with a cocktail of essential oils called Germ Buster. Breakfast this morning consists of blueberry smoothies and toast or cereal and oranges. Everyone collects what they want and gets ready for the day.

Everyone does their morning chore. This school year, Dean rotates the dishwasher and wipes off counters while Anne gets all of the dirty laundry sorted and rotates the washer and dryer. I do different things each morning. This morning I make Cinnamon Butternut Squash and start it in the Crock-pot.

By 9:20 am we are on our way to a performance downtown. We meet up with friends and see the school matinee of Shadowland by Pilobolus. It is an amazing show. After the show, we eat lunch at a little sandwich shop and take our homeschool friend (S) home for English class. We homeschool with her two times a week.

Afternoon ~ We return home and get right to work on our English class. The kids are working their way through Cover Story. They complete lesson 11 over the next hour or so. Since it is 2:00 pm (our normal time to end school), I allow the kids to have free time. S, Anne, and Dean scurry off to draw, play guitar, get ready for dance and generally shriek and laugh. I busy myself preparing chicken and baked potatoes for my husband to put in the roaster oven at a later time. This will be a warm dinner with the added butternut squash that is in the Crock-pot.

Once everyone is assembled, we leave to pick up one more friend from the local high school and I drop off all four kids at dance. I decide to walk despite the biting wind. I manage 5,000 steps and retreat to the car to fill in today's lessons in my lesson planner and make a few phone calls.

The kids get out of dance after two hours and we head home to a warm dinner.

Night ~ Everyone is tired and has a two hour free time after dinner. After our break, we come back together to do chores, watch CNN Student News and listen to a chapter from The Twenty-One Balloons. We wrap the evening up with showers and a third dinner for Dean (ahem). Sweet dreams!

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Mid-Year Ramblings ...

This seems to be the year that I need to remind myself over and over again that slow and steady wins the race. We are "schooling" every day, but progress is slow. I just keep reminding myself that we are blessed to homeschool, and we can choose our own pace. It was my choice to let Dean work on two different grade levels this year, and I knew he would not complete every course for 9th grade. Also, Dean is struggling with depression and teenage hormones. All of these things have made our year slow. However, it has been filled with quality and progress. That is the truly important thing.

What is working for us ~

Art ~ Art has been a blessing on several levels this year. It is a wonderful release for Dean as he struggles with his feelings. He is going to Miss Laura's home two times a week now to work on his art. He also does art several times a week at home. Anne has decided to drop out of art classes with Miss Laura for now. She would prefer to spend that time working on math and spelling (the two areas in which she lacks confidence).

Science with our homeschool friend ~ Science has been a blast this year with our friend S. I teach all three students for several hours one time a week and then assign homework or a project to work on during the week. We have concentrated on chemistry during the first half of our physical science course this year. This will count for Dean's ninth grade science credit and seventh grade science for the girls. We are moving on to geology, which will be part two of our physical science course in February.
Testing food for starches
English ~ English has evolved this year into a place we are comfortable. We are doing less literature than many years and more writing. The children, including our homeschool friend S, are slowly sloshing through the Cover Story program. I like the program. They think it is hard, but they admit they are learning. Each of them will have a magazine of their very own at the end of the course, which is really cool. They are also writing 500 word papers every month. We have read several books this year together, and most of them have been Newberry winners. We are currently reading The Twenty-One Balloons.

Field Trips ~ I thought we would be doing many more field trips this year. However, life hasn't taken that turn. However, we have done some decent ones and are planning several more for science and history. This week, all three students and I explored the Urban Trail that winds through our city. We only made it through half the trail, but it was a great history lesson. We plan on combining a tour of the home of Thomas Wolfe with a remainder of the Urban Trail in the next few weeks.
Dean, S, and Anne

Music ~ Music has been a blessing across the board this year. Anne has been learning a new song on the piano almost every week. She is still working her way through a Christmas carol book. Good thing we like Christmas music all year around here! Dean is starting guitar lessons again next week. He had about six months of group lessons last school year. This time he will be taking private lessons. He is also making tons of progress with the ukulele and his electric ukulele by watching lessons on YouTube.

Dance ~ Dance is a struggle every week for Dean. He loves it but is very disappointed in his lack of flexibility. The teachers are really encouraging and feel that he is doing well. He is caught in the teen cycle of comparing himself to everyone else, and then he often isn't pleased with his progress. Anne, on the other hand, is flying high and loving all things to with all kinds of dance. She is pushing her boundaries at every turn and pleased with where she is.

Life skills and home economics ~ This area is going well this year. The kids have learned skills for painting walls and furniture. They have improved their yard work skills and can both handle a lawn mower (although Anne needs it turned on for her). Dean can handle a small chainsaw with supervision. They can both do all tasks involving the laundry. I plan to get them back into cooking more in the second half of the year.

Subjects that are moving very slowly and need improvement ~  The below subjects are areas we are experiencing some difficulty in this year. We are plodding along, but I would like to see more accomplished.
  • Math
  • U.S. History I (Dean)
  • 7th grade History (Anne)
  • World History (Dean)
So, we are making slow and steady progress. I really can't complain.

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, January 19, 2017

As a member of the Homeschool Review Crew, I was offered a yearly membership to Last year was my first year on the Homeschool Review Crew, and I wrote a detailed review that you can read here. It is even better with their new upgrades and additional classes.

High-quality, Self-paced, Online Homeschool Resources {}
I wanted to remind folks to check out this incredible website. It is simply chock-full of amazing lessons from kindergarten thru 12th grade. They even have classes for homeschool moms. My daughter is in 7th grade and there are over hundreds of courses that are geared toward 7th graders alone! The website is simple to use. You can find your way around very easily. I am so glad I have this resource to use for the middle school and high school years. Go check it out!
High-quality, Self-paced, Online Homeschool Resources {}

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, January 13, 2017

A Week of Adjustments

We started the week off with tons of ice left over from a snowstorm. My kids are very aware of public school snow days now, because so many of their friends attend public school and are texting them, wanting to hang out or communicate online. As they get older, I am finding it harder to follow my own schedule for their schooling. Monday, I persevered and followed our normal schedule. Tuesday, our first year homeschool friend who we are teaching two days a week, canceled because of the public school snow day. Then she promptly got sick and our Thursday cooperative homeschool day was canceled as well. A game day event with another friend had to be postponed because of the weather. Dance continued as usual. You can always count on dance to be a stable force in our lives. All of these and more led to a lot of adjustments this week.

Image may contain: sky, cloud, snow, outdoor and nature
Our road Monday morning which is on a hill

Since our Tuesday lessons were messed up, I decided to throw in the towel and have a fun homeschool day. Tuesday happens to be the discount day at the movie theater, so we went to see Hidden Figures. It was AWESOME! We got two hours of American history and had a fun time as well. I highly recommend this film. Homeschool scientist has a unit study, if you want to make it extra educational. 😄

I mentioned last week that my wall oven died. I still have a working stove top, so all is not lost. I decided that spending $1,000 or more for a new wall oven right now was a very uncomfortable thought. I really do not want to use that much of our savings, so I started researching alternatives. I have decided to purchase a new 4.5 quart crock pot and a roaster oven that can bake cakes and brownies as well as roast up to a 24 pound turkey. Thanks to some great sales, I paid $72 total for both units!! Now that is a savings. I will be able to do everything I could have done with a wall oven. Thank you, Mother, for teaching me to live frugally when I was young. I cannot wait to get my new setup going. 

I am also doing a lot of adjustments with Dean's math. He is working in the Kumon Pre-Algebra Workbook I. He was getting frustrated with the way the problems were set up and started to get several wrong answers each day. I decided to reduce the amount of problems and just write a few onto a separate piece of paper. He immediately began getting all of the problems correct. He also started using the book, Are You a Math Genius?, this week. He is doing one lesson a day and is enjoying it. I hope this plan continues to work. 

I am also reading Smart But Scattered Teens. This is an interesting book that guides parents on how to help their teens build executive skills. This can be a real area of struggle for Dean at times. It comes with the territory of his particular special needs. The more I read it, the more I think it is a great tool for any struggling teen, regardless of their diagnosis. 

Overall, it was a good week. We didn't get everything done that I had hoped for and the house still feels out of whack. However, we did have productive and mostly peaceful days.

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Open-Ended Week

I sit here trying to think what to write as my wrap-up for the week and I don't know what to say. This week feels like it was filled with loose ends. From very small things to rather large ones, nothing feels completed.
  • The Christmas tree is down and on the curb, but the ornaments are all over the floor in the process of being packed up. 
  • Dean had a major 5 hour diagnostic medical appointment this week, but no confirmed results yet. 
  • Math, what am I going to do about math for Dean? He needs a hands-on, real world math curriculum for junior high/high school. Any one ever heard of that?!
  • My wonky wall oven died in flames of glory in the middle of a snowstorm yesterday. I had just turned it on to preheat it. I guess it really was ready to be retired. Too bad I am not ready to replace it. Where is the money going to come for that?!
  • We only partially reopened school this week due to many appointments, Dean having an earache and the aftereffects of Christmas and visitors disaster to the home.
  • One of our chromatography chemistry experiments failed and spilled all over the counter and floor overnight. I was left with a stained counter and floor. So far, I have partially removed the stain.
Lots of loose ends. As I look out on a morning of fresh, untouched snow, I am reminded of fresh starts. That is where I am at the end of this week. I am looking for a fresh start next week. 

One happy success we had this week was playing lots of math games. Thank goodness for games! They bring us together and help us learn when we are too tired or distracted to learn in more traditional ways. 

52 New Things ~ I am going to try something new. I want to keep a list of at least 52 new things that we do within our family this year. It could be a new game, going to a new place or learning a new skill. I will probably post this separately in the future, but since I am writing my Friday wrap-up post on Saturday, I will just include it here. This is the most I can manage this week.

Number One New Thing ~ This week, we played a brand new board game. We received Harry Potter Clue for Christmas. It is similar to the original board game, Clue, but with some extra twists and turns. We are liking it better now that we are getting the hang of the new rules. We love anything Harry Potter around here. 

Blessings, Dawn