Friday, June 28, 2013

Creative Crafting

Katie graduated in May and doesn’t start working until August, so she’s finding lots of time for creativity this summer.


Staining and reupholstering a rummage sale find.


The original chair seat—with the fabric on sideways?!


The finished chair


Then she painted up a bulletin board/ organizer to match.


And made some couch pillows!


And Mod Podged Coasters

I think she’s going to have the cutest “first apartment” ever!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Couponing Deals

I’ve been working on a review for Christi the Coupon Coach: Couponing Made Simple (to be posted in a couple of weeks). I’m already a sale and coupon shopper, but am picking up a few new tips. Here’s a photo of this week’s shopping trip and great deals. At a 72% savings, I have to say that this was one of my better weeks. (The mayonnaise and dog treats were actually money makers! The cole slaw mix was free, one of the apple juices was 1 cent, and the turkey burgers were $1 a pound.)
  • Regular price: $107.25
  • I paid: $30.49 (72% savings!)
Not much produce this week from the store this week, because I just got an awesome supply of peaches, blueberries, squash, green beans, cucumbers and potatoes from my sister’s garden! Yum!

Tips to Help You Shop at a Furniture Outlet

(sponsored  guest post)

Whether you want to update your outdated bedroom furniture, modernize your living room furniture, or purchase an entirely new dining room group, you can find great deals at a furniture outlet. The options are endless when it comes to shopping for furniture, but in order to find the best deals and the right furniture to fit your needs, you should consider these important tips before you start shopping.

Set a Firm Budget

Before you start shopping, you need to set a firm budget. Shopping without a budget is like going to the grocery store without a list. People who shop without grocery lists tend to spend too much time in the grocery store, and they often spend way more money than they bargained for because they are easily enticed by items that seem like great deals. The same is true of shopping for furniture. Without a clear budget, you may struggle to keep your costs low. You might find furniture that you absolutely love, but without a price range, you may find furniture that is well outside your price range.

Do Research First

Another tip to help you find the right furniture is research. Before you start shopping, allow yourself plenty of time to check out different stores and to read reviews online. Talk to friends who have purchased furniture from certain stores and see what they liked or didn’t like about their purchase. Also, consider different payment options. You should know ahead of time whether you want to finance the furniture or pay in full. Many furniture stores are offering financing options without interest. These deals can seem enticing, but you need to be sure that you have thought through the process of how you will pay the furniture off.

Avoid Impulse Purchases

When it comes to buying furniture, you should try to avoid impulse buys. You can avoid making impulse purchases by setting a budget and visiting stores multiple times before you ever make a purchase. You may find what you think is the perfect deal at one store and then find an even better deal at another location. These easy tips can help simplify your process of shopping at a furniture outlet.

Disclaimer: This paid post was sponsored by Bucks2Blog.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

How to Play Driver’s Ed Games

(sponsored guest post)
Learning how to drive can be a stressful endeavor. For the novice student in drivers Ed in Baltimore, this is a very nerve-wracking venture, full of all sorts of dangers. Plus, you have to keep track of all rules and regulations. This is a lot to take on, even for a practice spin in a car. Fortunately, there are other ways to learn to be a better driver before even getting behind the wheel. One great method for learning the rules of the road and operating a vehicle is to play computer and other games.

Computer Games

You can get on the computer or the Internet if you want to play interactive games that teach you about driving. You’ll be able to practice your driving skills and test your knowledge. A few neat games include "Driver Ed to Go," "Drivers Ed Direct," and the "Drivers Ed Game.” With these games, you get in a virtual vehicle and drive around. You are first required to select a character and then fill in information on a personal profile. In some cases, you are permitted to pick out your own automobile or instructor. Depending on the game, you’ll be able to practice certain skills. Sometimes you can select these levels yourself or the game will determine what you need to work on. Expect to start easy and then climb up the difficulty scale. Navigate in your virtual car by hitting the direction buttons on your keyboard. Generally, the up key allows you go forward while you use the right and left keys to steer the vehicle. The game will provide you with instructions as you go so you can practice skills such as yielding, braking, parallel parking, and obeying traffic laws. Over time, you should be more comfortable in the driver’s seat.

Other Games

You don’t need a computer to learn more about driving. If you are an instructor for drivers Ed in Baltimore, consider introducing a couple of games to your class. Set up a road sign bingo, an activity that teaches students how to identify traffic signage. The boards will have pictures and symbols on them and students will have to mark which traffic signs have been called out by you. You can devise another game that helps students learn about what to do in certain driving situations. You can set it up like a game show and ask questions about actual driving scenarios. Students will “honk” in when they know an answer.
Disclaimer: This is a paid post sponsored by Bucks2Blog.

More Fun with Science!

As Emily was studying respiration in her Apologia General Science book, I looked on the Supercharged Science site for some additional activities to reinforce what she was learning. We love this site!
Here, she is measuring her lung capacity. First, she marked 100 ml. increments  outside of a bottle. Next, she filled the bottle with water,   placed it upside down in a bowl of water, and inserted a piece of tubing into the bottle. She then took a deep breath and blew into the bottle,  displacing the water from the bottle into the bowl. She then capped off the bottle, turned it over and figured out her lung capacity.
In this experiment, she checked for the presence of carbon dioxide in the air she exhaled. She mixed bromothymol blue with water and blew into the cup. The chemical reaction with the carbon dioxide in her breath turned the solution from green to yellow. She was quite impressed! For fun, we added a drop of ammonia to the solution, which turned the color back to green.
I wrote a full review of Supercharged Science a few months ago with details of more fun experiments that we’ve tried. 
If you’d like to try out Supercharged Science totally free, here is a link to 30 free experiments and videos:

401 Science Activity Manual and Video Collection ($30 value)

Cool science experiments! Did you know that you can bend light to make objects disappear? Make the fourth state of matter in your microwave? Build a speaker from a plate? You can do all these activities and more in our free Science Guide!
Simply click here to download a copy of the Homeschool Science Activity Manual & Video Guide. Save it to your computer - it's in PDF format.
(affiliate link)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Moving Beyond the Page (Schoolhouse Review)

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Moving Beyond the Page is a complete (except for math) homeschool curriculum that covers science,  social studies, and language arts using literature and hands-on activities. Each age level is divided into 3-4 week units and the units in each subject area correlate with each other.  For example, 8-10 year olds study magnetism and electricity  in science while they are doing a literature study of Ben and Me.


Moving Beyond the Page can be purchased as a full-year or semester curriculum or units may be purchased individually as supplements. Each unit includes the manual (either print or online) and an assortment of books and supplies. Currently, curricula is available for grades K-8.

The program is designed to support different learning styles and to encourage critical thinking.

We reviewed 2 books from the 11-13 age level. I love literature-based learning and I also try to integrate school subjects as much as possible, so I was excited to try out these units. They fit perfectly into the time period (Renaissance) that we have been studying too!

Newton at the Center ($40.88 online or $44.94 print, including all necessary books) teaches language arts lessons using  Newton at the Center, a text about the history of science by Joy Hakim. The unit focuses on grammar skills and teaches the process of diagraming sentences. It also focuses on the characteristics of informative works, such as chapter headings, bolded words, index, table of contents, and sidebars.  Activities requiring essay writing and giving oral summaries are also included. Because this text is 450 pages long, only portions of it are used for this study. (Newton at the Center is also required for two other Moving Beyond the Page units, though.)

The Technological Design science unit ($27.88 online or $31.94 print, including the necessary books and supplies) uses the book, Leonardo da Vinci: Inventions You Can Build Yourself to teach about the development of technology over the years. In addition to answering daily comprehension questions, Emily did activities such as drawing using perspective, writing directions to draw an ellipse for another person  to follow, analyzing the technological design and building models of several of Leonardo Da Vinci’s inventions, and analyzing the design of modern inventions. The final projects have the student designing and building inventions of their own.

The social studies unit that correlates with the above units is on Elizabethan Europe. After starting with the 2 units I received for review, I ordered this one too! That tells you how much I liked what we have done this far! We’ll start this unit in the fall.

Our Thoughts:

One thing I liked about these units is that they filled in some “gaps” or areas that we haven’t covered. Technology is a subject that we haven’t (and probably wouldn’t have) covered as a focus of study. Practicing note-taking and highlighting, then giving oral or written summaries were good practice for Emily that will improve her study skills in other subjects. Diagramming sentences was also a new skill—one that Emily picked up on quickly.


Point of view and diagraming exercises


Analyzing technological design


Testing da Vinci’s parachute!

I was very impressed with how well designed the daily plans are. No day is alike; the assignments vary quite a bit from day to day—from answering questions to worksheets to internet research to hands-on creative tasks. . Many times, the student is given a choice of two activities. Emily appreciated being able to choose the task that appealed to her more. This level was formatted for the student to use independently, but there are discussion topics for the parent and child to talk about together at the end of the session to review the day

We found the daily work to take more time than expected—often over three hours  for the two units. I think it would have been very difficult for Emily to have worked on all three coordinating units simultaneously as designed. We’re actually stretching these units out to five or six weeks long instead of the recommended three or four weeks (in part due to vacations and other summer plans that kept us from doing full school days this month.) We did use some of the later units in the 11-13 age level, so it is possible that the earlier units are not quite as intensive. I also didn’t think there was enough practice on diagramming sentences—typically just 2 sentences were assigned to practice each concept. We added a few more of our own.


Classifying types of technology



We used the online guide for Newton at the Center, and the printed guide for Technology. Both were equally easy to use. I had a slight preference for the printed guide because it’s easier to thumb through to get an overview of what’s coming next. There were many worksheets and charts incorporated into the book, making it a consumable resource. The worksheets from the online guide are printable, but the rest of the guide must be used on the computer.

Emily really enjoyed using Moving Beyond the Page and learned a lot. I felt that it was quite challenging for her and stretched her in new directions. I’m very happy to have discovered this great curriculum!


I received this product free in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Currclick Sale and Virtual Convention

(contains affiliate links)

I love Currclick’s  great sales and resources for homeschooling materials. From June 24 (today) to June 28, they are featuring a “Can’t make it to convention” event with speakers, goody bags, and lots of items on sale.

All of my Super Star Speech materials and learning games are 30% off for this sale, so it’s a great time to stock up for the coming school year!

Can't Make it to Convention Sale

Three Reasons You Should Be There:
1. CurrClick's Biggest Summer Sale Ever
2. FREE Live Speaker Sessions, Monday-Friday (June 24th-28th)
3. FREE Virtual Goody Bag Worth $40

Click on the banner to find out more!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Ending World Poverty

I have been a long time supporter of Compassion International and we currently sponsor two Guatemalan children through their child sponsorship program. The organization rates in the top 1% for fiscal accountability and integrity and its leaders obviously have a heart for God and for children.


The most recent Compassion Magazine had an article about an independent research study that was done to evaluate the actual results of child sponsorship programs. Compassion opened up their records, and researchers spent two years collecting data on and interviewing formerly sponsored children in 10 countries. The results were impressive:

  • Compassion sponsorship increased the rates of secondary school completion by 27 to 40%
  • Sponsored children were 35% more likely to become white collar workers with more stability and higher salaries
  • The were more likely to become leaders in their churches and communities.

I was thrilled to read of the documented success that has resulted from individual sponsorship. It is wonderful to know that the small contribution (financial and relationship) that I make really makes a difference!

One of our sponsored children has a goal of becoming a teacher; the other is an honor student who hopes to attend college. I don’t know if these children will fulfill their dreams, but I am happy that they, as sponsored children, have a better chance of doing so and that, instead of feeling hopeless,  they have a vision of something beyond their lives of poverty.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Feeling Sad

I was (and am) blessed with a wonderful father. I have always known that he loved me very much. I have many happy childhood memories of him playing with me, taking us on family vacations, and so on. I am thankful that my parents live nearby and we are able to see them often.

But today, I am sad for my children, who have not been as fortunate. Chris was a great dad for many years. And I am thankful for that. I know that my older children do have good memories with him. But this is the 6th Father’s Day since Chris decided that he didn’t want to be part of our family any more. Emily has virtually grown up without a daddy. The others have been through milestones, graduations, and holidays never hearing from him. He hasn’t even been in the U.S. in 2 1/2 years. I see my children’s pain and my heart breaks for them.  I doubt if any of our four children will even contact their dad this Father’s Day.

I still pray daily that my husband’s heart will be turned back to God and to his family.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Memoria Press Geography 1 (Schoolhouse Review)

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Geography I , published by Memoria Pressis a geography program that covers Northern Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. This program is part of Memoria Press’s fourth grade curriculum, but Geography I is suitable for 4th-8th grade levels.
The Student Text includes one informational page for each country that tells about the history of the country and a “Fast Facts” chart with modern day facts (population, climate, language, etc.) Since Geography I covers the area of the Roman Empire, there is an emphasis on ancient history, but more modern history is also included, such as the Great Famine in Ireland, Martin Luther, and the Berlin Wall. The facing page features a map of the country.
The Student Workbook includes a page for each country that requires the student to name the country, capital, ancient name and fun facts, and a map to label. Periodic review pages are also included with maps to label and capitals and countries to name.
The Teacher Guide includes answers for the workbook and additional quizzes and tests.
The Fourth Grade Geography I set also comes with review books for US states and capitals. These are similar in format, but don’t have informational pages—just maps and practice of state capitals. They are intended for review, but could be used to teach as well. A student using Memoria Press curricula each year would have studied US Geography in third grade and would use these books for review the following year.
I was concerned at first that Emily might think the workbooks dull, but she has loved using them! It is one of the first assignments she completes each day and she is rapidly learning the European countries and capitals. (We skipped ahead to the Europe part of the books because it corresponds better with our current history study of the Renaissance.) She is often eager to tell me about one of the historical tidbits she has read each day.
I like that the countries are taught in small groups and are reviewed frequently through the use of quizzes and tests. I think that Emily will have a solid knowledge of European, Middle Eastern, and North African geography when she finishes this course…and will know a few additional historical facts as well.
The full Fourth Grade Geography Set (text, workbook, teacher’s guide, US geography review book, and US Review Key, Quizzes, and Tests) sells for $48.

I received a free copy of this product in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Kindle Fire Apps for School

This post contains affiliate links.

As a fairly new Kindle Fire owner, I’ve been looking for some good educational apps for Emily. Unfortunately, there’s not as much available for Kindle as there is for the iPad, particularly for older kids but I’ve found a few that I love.

Spanish in a Month: This reminds me of Rosetta Stone. This immersion style program labels a series of pictures, then repeats each word or phrase, requiring the player to choose the correct picture. There are 30 lessons in the full version ($2.00) and 2 lessons in the free version. We’re finding this well worth the price!

Treble Cat/ Bass Cat: These simple (and free) programs teach children to identify notes on the treble and bass clefs, respectively. Emily is learning to play the piano, but I was finding that she needed some additional practice to master her notes. After just a few game plays, she was doing much better on the real piano!

Bridge Constructor Playground ($1.99) teaches physics principles and bridge building through a fun game. We lucked into this one when it was a Free App of the Day.




Study Blue (free) is a free flashcard app. I haven’t tried others, but this works well and the price was right. Smile Emily uses this to practice her Spanish vocabulary.

Train Crisis HD ($.99) This isn’t educational, but it is so much fun! And addicting! Guide your trains to the correct station without crashing or derailing.

And for the teacher….read the Old Schoolhouse Magazine for FREE on your Kindle with this app.

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

Do you have any more Kindle app suggestions for middle school aged children?  I’d love some more suggestions!