Friday, September 29, 2017

Week 6 ~ Hitting the Mark

It is usually around week six that I look around our little homeschool and see where we are. It is a period that sometimes involves a bit of despair if things are going awry and then I spend hours searching homeschool catalogs and Amazon for what will fix my little homeschool. This year is different. Everything is flowing along well. The house is afloat, the kids are learning and enjoying their studies, there are few arguments, the schedule is working and doesn't feel hectic (even though it kinda is), and we are eating home cooked meals most days. What's more, the eBay and consignment business that helps finance dance classes is hitting the financial goal almost every month. So what is different this year? I would like to say it is that I have been homeschooling for 18 years and I got this! Ha! But that would be a lie. Things are constantly evolving, and what my homeschool needed 18 years ago or six years ago or three years ago isn't what it needs now. However, I am doing one major thing differently this year. If a program, book, or technique doesn't work, it is out the door immediately. I am not giving more than a week trial of tweaking. If it is causing stress, we are not using it. Enough said! In the past, I have hung in there with programs for six weeks to a whole semester before giving up on them. One of the blessings of homeschooling is being your own boss and crafting your own little homeschool, so I do not have to do that. That said, I do not advocate throwing out all that you are using, just because you are having a rough week. You know your family. But for us, this technique is working. Also, after 18 years of homeschooling, my home is filled with alternative programs. It is not like I am breaking the bank making changes.

This is a list of what we are doing this year to keep our homeschool running smoothly ~
  • Keep it simple, sister. ~ If my crew can learn the same information from a workbook, textbook or graphic novel instead of a full curriculum with lots of fluff, we pick the workbook.
  • Learn how to get the information you need. ~ Instead of having my kids memorize everything about every subject they are learning this year, we are focusing on knowing the basics of each subject and how to delve more deeply when they need to know more. 
  • Consider priorities and how to accomplish them in the simplest fashion. ~ We are really concentrating on getting the most important things out of the way each week before any projects or fluff. The fluff is great, but it comes second.
  • Just say NO! in a nice way. ~ For us, this means saying no to things that might become commitments that are hard to break should it become necessary. For example, three families asked me to homeschool their children one to two days a week this year in addition to Rose, who I already homeschool one day a week. All of these were kids that had never been homeschooled until recently, and all these students really need to "de-school" and fill in the gaps in their education. Every day counts for my crew, so I can't slow down and fill in gaps for others. However, I am doing  all I can to help these families from a consulting point of view. 
  • Rely on services that help your home life. ~ I don't mean a maid. That would be nice but I do not have the budget for such things. However, I am relying heavily on Walmart groceries this year. Their service is free. I order online and pick up the food when it is ready without ever entering the store. Love it. I need to see what other stores have this service. We are spending less, too, because there are't many distractions. I am also buying things from online more and more. I really like to keep my local shops afloat, but this year buying local just isn't what I need to keep us afloat. 
  • Get rid of excess. ~ We started this summer really getting rid of stuff in our home. We started this partly because of thoughts of moving (who wants to haul all of that stuff?), but mostly because everything that we see in our home needs to be maintained and I don't have the time to maintain it. So we are working on reducing. I am really starting to see a difference. There is tons more to go and I think we will really be in good shape by the end of this school year. 
  • Take care of yourself. ~ We have a cut-off time at night where there is no more work to be done -- no matter what! We are focusing on getting sleep, nutrition and laughter into our days.
Well, that is enough talking for this week. Here are a few pictures of our week.

Home Economics ~ 

Science (Biology and Earth) ~ 
Making red onion slides

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Review ~ Captain Bayley's Heir

Captain Bayley's Heir

Heirloom Audio Productions has done it again with the release of Captain Bayley's Heir. We were so excited to receive this latest audio production and study guide for review. There are many ways to learn history, and one of the most exciting ways is through story telling. Heirloom Audio Productions certainly knows how to capture the imagination of everyone who listens to one of their Extraordinary Adventures of G. A. Henty.  Did you know that G. A. Henty was a real Englishman who lived from 1832 to 1902 and wrote more than 100 books?

Heirloom Audio Productions
This is an audio book that is 2.5 hours long and comes on two CDs. With the purchase of the audio production, you are granted access to the study guide and Heirloom Audio's Live the Adventure Club. All of these features make for a complete educational package.

Captain Bayley's Heir is a very exciting story about Frank, who is falsely accused of a crime while at university in his homeland of England. He feels like he can't return home, so he flees to America and quickly finds himself traveling on a wagon train. He makes a few really decent friends and they decide to seek their fortunes in California during the Gold Rush. He experiences many trials and comes very close to death. The story is filled with twists and turns and some really big surprises. Our favorite part was finding out who Captain Bayley's true heir was and how he came into the family.  Frank is a wonderful role model. He is strong, brave, caring and looks out for his fellow man. While he struggles with his faith, he learns throughout all of his trials that God is there for him and what God's grace truly means. I don't want to give too much away, but it is a great motivational story that teaches God's grace, honoring parents or guardians, finding your way in the world and being an honest person during adversity. It also teaches about the journey of becoming a Christian. All these moral lessons are delivered through an action packed story.

My children have already studied the Gold Rush, wagon trains and American Indians. This was still a fresh approach for them, because they got to "live" all of these experiences through Frank's eyes. They were right there with him through his ups and downs. I like how they got to experience Frank being accepted by other miners and how they made a "family". We so often learn about how rough and unlawful the gold fields were, but there was civility laced through the fields as well. They experienced the intensity of an American Indian attack and the sorrow and survival of taking someone's life in self defense. They were reminded of the reasons American Indians would feel pushed to attack. The story is very intense at times, but isn't real life?

We enjoyed the study guide as we always do. The study guide is 38 pages long and can be read on the website or printed off. I read it off the website this time.  My kids' only disappointment was that there was no recipe included in the study guide this time. They love cooking. We may make some cowboy baked beans on our own. The study guide did include in each chapter the following:
  • Listening Well ~ Questions to ask your children to help them with comprehension and listening skills
  • Thinking Further ~ Helps children pick parts from the story and think about them or research them
  • Defining Words ~ Vocabulary that will help them build their knowledge of the story
Many of the chapters also have a section called Expand Your Learning. This section delves more deeply into things that make the story richer, such as understanding Victorian Money. Understanding the value of money and how much things were worth during Victorian times makes this story come to life even more.

This is radio theater at its best. To see what other review crew members had to say, click on the banner below.
Captain Bayley's Heir {Heirloom Audio Productions Reviews}
Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Vacation in Rochester, New York!

We spent the week in Rochester, New York. We have only been back for a matter of hours, but I really want to get my weekend post up. My brain is still swimming with all that we did. It was a very big adventure for our family. We are strongly considering moving to Rochester in the next year, if my husband can get a federal government job there. This trip was part vacation, part research and part visiting family that lives in the area. It was a tremendous undertaking for us to travel 11+ hours from our home, while managing a family filled with special needs, including taking the 75+ pound dog, Grandma and one teen boy who is relatively devastated by the idea of moving. However, we made it and there was lots of fun along the way. So this is going to just be a snapshot post of our adventure.

Hamlin Beach ~ Lake Ontario

We were not able to see Canada, but it is on the other side of Lake Ontario. What a gorgeous place!

Lake Ontario (Hamlin Beach)

Running like the wind...

Garbage Plate with White Hots (a Rochester Food Tradition)

It was actually good. There was enough food in one serving to feed an army (lol). The kids weren't brave enough to try it. 

Niagara Falls and the Cave of the Winds

Amazing, stunning, humbling! Niagara Falls is not to be missed and is only a little over an hour from Rochester. We went on the walking trail called the Cave of the Winds that winds through the falls. Anne, Dean and I braved the hurricane deck and were pelted by 60 mile an hour winds and droplets of water that hurt a bit. We got drenched and it was awesome!

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing, sky and outdoor

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing, mountain, sky, outdoor and nature

George Eastman's Home

Since we are a family of photographers, we had to see George Eastman's home and photography museum. He is the Father of Amateur Photography, bringing cameras and photography to the common person. Some members of our family have worked their whole lives at Kodak. My uncle is still an engineer with what is left of Kodak. I hope Kodak survives and rises again to glory. It was a lovely combination of photography galleries and how his home looked at the time of his death in 1932. 

High Falls 

Did you know there are falls right in the center of downtown Rochester? We were a little worried about losing the beauty of the mountains if we move to Rochester. It looks like the beauty we will lose of the mountains will be replaced by so many water features. 

Genesse Country Village and Museum

Wow! This is where I want to work when the kids grow up! This living museum has 68 historic buildings to investigate. There are costumed interpreters all throughout the village. This was fantastic!


One of our missions was to check out the many varying neighborhoods in Rochester. We wanted to see the difference between city living and village living. We will have to research more and digest all that we saw. It made the possibility of moving much more real in our minds. Would we prefer  the heart of the city or a village on the Erie canal with in 20 minutes? Choices...choices. 

Only God knows what the future holds...

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Week 5 ~ The Old Lady, the Mouse and the Princess

Irma blew into town as a rather old lady, but she was feisty and determined to destroy all that she could until the very end of her days. She raged about our town, knocking down trees and power lines, leaving many in our county in the dark. She was a force to be reckoned with even in her dying days. Unlike so many who had met her before us, our family was left mostly unscathed. She brought down a great deal of dead branches on our property and made driving very hard for a day or two, what with so many street lights out of order. However, we have no complaints and are blessed to have come through her bluster unharmed.

The rest of the week was calm in comparison to Irma but still filled with some excitement. I went out to run a few errands one day and returned to find that my teens had caught a mouse in our dining room! Not only had they caught it, but they had placed it in a my largest cooking pot and fed it all kinds of lovely nuts, celery and bread! They also named him Alfred. While they were cooing over their new found friend, I studied what diseases Alfred could be carrying and plotted the demise of his potential siblings who were likely lurking somewhere in my home. Alfred moved to the woods, much to the kids dismay, and the house has been laced with toxic mouse treats. Hopefully, our unwanted guests will have moved on soon.

Lastly, this was a stellar week for Anne. She was picked to be the princess in the performance of The Nutcracker and The Mouse King. Our dance theater follows the original story of The Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffman which you can read about here. There is a story within a story and Princess Pirlipat is one of  the pinnacle characters of the within story. Anne is delighted to get this main character role, which has been reserved for adult dancers in the past. The role doesn't interfere with many of the other junior company dances, so she will get to do several other characters in the Nutcracker as well. The family celebrated with a small cake from Whole Foods.

The rest of the week was uneventful. There was a family cold to contend with, lessons and appointments. Dean is the sickest at the moment, and the rest of us are in different stages of recovery. Hopefully, we will all feel well soon, since we have some very exciting events planned for next week.

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Carole P. Roman Books to Review

Carole P Roman
We were given the opportunity to review four books from Carole P. Roman. She has authored an extensive collection of books. We received If You Were Me and Lived in ... Portugal, If You Were Me and Lived in ..Scotland, Oh Susannah: It's in the Bag, and The Treasure of Snake Island: A Captain No Beard Story

Carole has authored over 50 children's books. Her books have won many awards, including the Pinnacle Book Achievement Award, Moonbeam Children's Book Awards and the Clarion Award. In fact, her books have won over 100 awards. Her children's series include the following:
    • Captain No Beard
    • If You Were Me and Lived in- Cultural 
    • If You Were Me and Lived in- Historical
    • Nursery series
    • Oh Susannah - Early Reader
    Carole P Roman Blog
This is a little bit of a different review, because there are so many different books with varying age range and interests. I will talk a little bit about each book.

The Treasure of Snake Island
This is a sweet story that is appropriate for preschool through early elementary. A group of friends are sailing along with the hopes of finding treasure. They come to Snake Island and find a great treasure indeed. The story leads the young reader to understand that books are wonderful and important. 

Oh Susannah: It's in the Bag
This story is all about feelings and deciding to deal with a difficult day or hide all of your problems away. Of course, if you hide all of your problems, things tend to get bigger and bigger until you lose control of them. This book is an early reader that is intended for elementary students.

If You Were Me and Lived In...Scotland
This is a fun geography book for the early elementary years. The book is written in a conversational and informative style. The story tells lots of interesting facts about Scotland. The book is filled with colorful pictures and the print is large. This is a nicely published book that is easy to read, and the information is given in small segments, so it is easier to retain the information that is presented. This book alone has won five awards. 

If You Were Me and Lived in...Portugal
This book is from the same series as the book about living in Scotland. It begins with a map of Portugal and has the capital marked. Its location is also shown on the globe. The book introduces just a little bit of the language that is spoken in Portugal and talks about what food you might like to eat and a little bit about the country's favorite sport. 

All of these books are carefully created. The stories are pleasant and the illustrations are cute. The maps and graphs are clear. I like the moral content of the stories and the gentle way in which lessons are taught. My kids are a bit too old for these books, but they looked over them and thought that they would be enjoyable to younger children. 

To see what other members of the review crew had to say, click on the banner below. We all reviewed different books and there are many titles. There truly is something for everyone!

Oh Susannah, Bedtime Stories, Captain No Beard, If you were Me ... {Carole P. Roman Reviews}
Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Review ~ Progeny Press ~ Macbeth

Macbeth - E-Guide
I am a huge fan of Shakespeare, so I was delighted to receive for review the Macbeth E-Guide from Progeny Press. This is a downloadable guide that I decided to print out, but you have the option of just looking at it on a computer. 
Progeny Press
I always find Progeny Press study guides to be very thorough and this one did not disappoint. The discussion questions really helped us dig deeper into Macbeth. What an exciting play! During our review time, we had a unique opportunity to see Macbeth performed in an outside theater. It really made this play come to life for us. Being able to use the the discussion questions from this study enhanced our learning so much further. I doubt that the kids will forget this Shakespeare play. 

One of the things that makes Progeny Press guides stand out against others is their hands-on activities. It is hard to find hands-on activities for junior high and high school students. My kids love hands-on or interactive activities, and they retain the information much better if they have done more than just read and write. Progeny Press suggested that we watch a video about Scotland, especially the Highlands. We watched all the episodes on Scotland that Rick Steves has created. However, there are lots of other documentaries on YouTube, if you wish to watch something else. My kids also really enjoyed the Scrambled Quotation, which is sprinkled thoughout the study. They were memorizing famous quotes without even knowing it!

My kids are studying British literature this year, and I am busy counting hours toward their credits. This program, if used in its entirety, would grant a student 8 to 10 weeks of credit hours or about a quarter of their course work for the year. We do not have the attention span to stay interested in just one play for that long, so we only did parts of the study guide. That is another great thing about Progeny Press. It is a very flexible program and it is easy to skip around and only do what will enhance your student's experience.

My son is special needs and really needs most of his high school programs adapted. He can't really handle intense writing programs and needs the information delivered in smaller chunks. All that said, he is very intelligent and doesn't need anything dumbed down. He just needs it very clearly stated. The discussion questions are just the right amount of writing for him. However, there are lots of excellent writing projects that are suggested for the neuro-typical student. The expanded writing projects really make it a very complete high school program.

This program gets a thumbs-up from us. Our children found it enjoyable and liked the vocabulary questions, scrambled quotations, and hands-on activities the best. My students are not huge fans of Shakespeare like I am, but due to this study guide, they came away with a better appreciation of Shakespeare. To see what others on the review crew had to say, click on the banner below. We reviewed different guides and age groups. 

Study Guides for Literature {Progeny Press Reviews}
Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Week 4 ~ The Week Flew By

What a quick week! We added in the layer of dance with a second dance studio and also chores this week. Anne was asked to be a teacher assistant to a ballet level three class. Helping teach this class will pay for her to add one more class to her schedule, bringing her total hours to 11 at the one dance studio. She will still be studying Cecchetti ballet about four to five hours a week at the other dance studio. She is over the moon with delight! She is only behind in one math lesson and one history lesson for the week and plans to make them up today. She is happy to do school seven days a week, if necessary in order to dance more. We will see if that feeling holds all year long. Honestly, I won't be surprised if it does. She loves dance that much.
Cecchetti Ballet Class 2017
We did manage to do a great deal more than dance this week. The children had an art class with Grandma on Claes Oldenburg. My mother goes all out with these classes and does hours and hours of extensive research. She loves art as well as researching, and it shows. She always does a great presentation. The kids listened to the hour or more of presentation and then created clay sculptures, using the Oldenburg style. We invited our favorite twins over as usual and they loved his art work. Oldenburg is famous for creating huge sculptures of everyday items, which are commissioned as public art works and placed in various landscapes.

Anne's super-sized flip flop creation dangling over a bridge.

Dean's scaled large sculpture of a Canada goose on a small island in the middle of the lake.
My sack of birdseed would be very large, lying along the pathway.
They placed their creations on a scaled map that Dean made earlier in the week of a local lake. The landscape model was created at a 1:50 feet ratio. We measured only about one-fourth of the lake we walk around once a week. This was a complicated math lesson for math-challenged souls like Dean and me. We were glad to have my husband along on Labor Day to help us measure out and convert the numbers into a smaller scale. It really did feel like labor doing those two hours of math. HaHa!
Dad and Dean doing the math for our scaled map.
This is the final landscape with our Oldenburg creations. One of the twins made a fishing pole
pulling a fish out of the lake. The other twin attached a tall lollipop to the picnic pavilion. 
In biology this week, we reviewed the chemistry that helps with biology. Not our group's favorite subject, and it stretched their minds more than they wanted them stretched. I knew they weren't going to care for the lesson, so I made sure to have a really fun hands-on project at the end. We pulled out the stereoscopic (dissection) microscope and explored how to use it. We even learned how to take screen shots and save them to the computer. I am sure both of our microscopes are going to get a lot of use this year.

We also started learning about George Eliot. My husband started reading aloud her book, Silas Marner. During story time each evening, Anne worked on and finished another puzzle while Dean sketched.

We also did all of our math, history, home economics, science, English and writing lessons. Dean attended his weekly art class with a local artist, physical education class and guitar class. It was certainly a full week. We even squeezed in a round of miniature golf. 

Lastly, the rest of life kept us busy. My new oven arrived this week. I have been without one for EIGHT months, almost to the day. I am so blessed to have one again. I can't wait to bake. No more crockpot meals -- at least for a few months!

We are busy getting ready for Irma. We are well into the mountains but still in her predicted path. She will probably be a tropical storm by the time she gets here, but with the size of her, they are still predicting 50+ mile an hour winds and 6+ inches of rain in a short period of time. We are securing our outdoor belongings and making sure the basement is super clean, so that if it floods, we can just sweep the water toward the sump pump and hopefully have minimal loss of belongings. In 2004 when we had back-to-back hurricanes, we lost water and power for a week. We hope that doesn't happen again, but if it does, we are ready.

Blessings, Dawn