Tuesday, May 29, 2012

It's Animal Kingdom 'round here!

I guess our house was given the all clear within the animal world for baby deliveries this Spring.

The other day I was looking at all the new, baby hydrangeas buds that will soon be blooming and what walked out on a leaf?  A teensy praying mantis.  I didn't have my camera handy to get a picture of it.  Bummer!  Praying mantises (I'm guessing at the plural here.) love hydrangeas, so I'm sure we'll see them periodically throughout the summer.
**Edited to add:  I went back out to see if I could find him again and there he was! (I can't guarantee that it's the same one, but we'll pretend.)  He's twice the size he was last week, though.  Little buggers grow quick!

Last week, I noticed a new Robin's nest under our back deck, so I peeked through the slats and saw three little blue eggs.  No, the Robin family was not happy when I snapped this picture (dangerously teetering on a chair, by the way.)

Today I checked and we have babies!  I'm not sure how many.  I only saw one bald head and big eye looking back at me through the slats.  My picture of the babe (that I almost got attacked by Mama Robin for trying to take) is fuzzy, so I'll try again later.  

Also today, I was going to get the mail and I saw a hole in the ground near my front porch.  I had chased a stray cat away from the area this morning (cause I thought he was going to use it as a public restroom).  Not so.  He was trying to get these little guys.  

Three (at least from what we could see) little bunnies.  So cute!  Now I'm fretting over their well-being.  I recovered their hole, so I hope Mama Bunny will come back to tend to them or move them to a safer place.  I've already checked them, through the window, a hundred times today and will be looking out at the hole a million more times before bed, I'm sure.  

Sheesh!  Being a self-appointed, wildlife overseer is exhausting.  

Gotta go check my bunnies.  

Update:  One bunny didn't make it through the night.  He was lying beside the nest this morning.  I'm not sure if the Mama took it out because it was already dead or if something else pulled it out.  The other one was recovered and is a feisty, little thing.  I'm going to have to keep a close eye on the hole today.  :-(  

Update 2:  Mama Bunny came and moved the other little baby.  I am so glad she did (at least that is what I am believing happened - I haven't seen any evidence that something else got him) because his eyes weren't even open yet and he kept trying to hop around and leave the hole.  Sheesh, bunny.  Get back in your hole.  You're hopping around with a bullseye on your back if you don't!  Fingers crossed that the little guy's going to make it.  Julianna kept praying for it's safety, so all will be well.  :-)  

Friday, May 25, 2012

Drumroll, please....

As the 2011-2012 Crew year comes to a close, we are once again presenting the TOS Homeschool Crew Blue Ribbon Awards to our vendors. The following vendors are the recipients of the award this year. Click on their name to check out the Crew reviews! 
Favorite Reading Instruction Product: Reading Eggs 
Favorite Writing Product: Write Shop
Favorite Language Arts Product: Progeny Press
Favorite Social Studies Product: TruthQuest History
Favorite Science Product: Amazing Science
Favorite Math Product: Math Mammoth
Favorite Online Math Product: Math Rider
Favorite Foreign Language Product: Visual Latin
Favorite Fine Arts Product: Artistic Pursuits
Favorite Christian Education Product: Apologia: Who Am I?
Favorite Preschool Product: Before Five in a Row
Favorite Elementary Product: All About Reading
Favorite Middle School Product: Write with WORLD
Favorite High School Product: Excellence in Literature
Favorite College or College-Prep Product: Excellence in Literature
Best Online Resource: Reading Eggs
Best e-Product: Heritage History
Best Homeschool Resource: Apologia: Educating the Wholehearted Child
Best Book, Novel, or Magazine: Apologia: How to Have a HEART for Your Kids
Best Children's Book: Amazing Animals by Design
Best Game or Toy: Northstar Games: Wits and Wagers and Say Anything
Best Hands-On Resource: Pitsco Education 
Best Resource I Didn't Know I Needed: eMeals
Best Customer Service: K5 Learning
Most Adaptable Resource: Creek Edge Press
Most Family-Oriented Resource: Northstar Games: Wits and Wagers and Say Anything 
Kids' Choice (favorite of CHILDREN ages 0-12): Reading Eggs
Teens' Choice (favorite per the TEENAGERS): Pitsco Education
All Around Crew Favorite: Visual Latin  

Each winning vendor has received this wonderful award to display with pride:

  Congratulations to our winning vendors! We hope you will sail with us again!  
Many Crew Members are blogging about these awards as well. Click below to see what they have to say! Powered by Linky Tools Click here to see the Crew Blog Posts...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

TOS Review - Write Shop Primary, Book B

We didn't have a formal writing curriculum this year.  We had a handwriting curriculum, but any writing was done on the fly.  (I won't dwell on my anxieties of how "behind" other first graders that we are.  That's why we homeschool, right? Right?!? Don't leave me hanging!)  Anyhoo, I was hestitant when asked to review WriteShop Primary, Book B, but it turned out to be right up our alley.
WriteShop offers incremental writing programs for Kindergarten through 12th grade.  The first products they offered were for middle/high school students, but now they have Primary (K-3) and Junior (3-5) levels.  This is an overview of the Primary level from the WriteShop website:
WriteShop Primary teaches the skills of the writing process at the very simplest level through activities, crafts, and picture books. It accommodates pre-writers as well as beginning and developing writers, so your youngster needs no previous reading or writing experience. Slowly and gently, the child is asked to help with the actual writing, first in simple words and later, through copywork. And by turning these stories into a little craft, he will have a project to proudly share with others.
Several schedules help you plan according to your child’s grade or skill level. Lessons are divided into eight Activity Sets to thoroughly cover a topic without hurrying the child. Examples abound to make teaching oh, so easy for you!
Each Activity Set includes Guided Writing Practice. Activity Sets 2-8 also include a key activity or project.
Activity Set 1: Guided Writing Practice only
Activity Set 2: Pre-writing Activities and Picture Book
Activity Set 3: Brainstorming
Activity Set 4: The Writing Project 
Activity Set 5: Editing and Revising
Activity Set 6: Activity Set Worksheet
Activity Set 7: Publishing the Project 
Activity Set 8: Want To Do More?
My Musings:
For our writing pace, WriteShop Primary was a good fit for us.  It's lessons are laid out in three, two or one week plans depending on how quickly or slowly you want to progress through the activity.  The writing activities can either be done by the student or as teacher guided writing (which is the way we went). The beginning units we completed were on writing a friendly letter (page formatting and expanding on what you want to say) and how to address an envelope.  Those both came at the time we were working on her Thank You cards from her birthday, so she was able to see it used in real life.  (Not saying her thank you messages were full of information, but she got the basics covered.  Lol)  Another activity that we did was learn about acrostics, so we did one for SUMMER.  I should have taken a picture of it, but it included swimming, making cupcakes and running outside.  All kinds of fun.  The lifeblood of the program, in my opinion, is the Teacher's Guide.  It is totally scripted (if you like that kind of stuff - it does have to be edited for your family) and has all the activities and instructions that you need to teach.  Some curricula you can fudge your way through without the TG, but you cannot use this program without it!  There is an activity pack for each level that is purchased separately.  Here is a sample lesson from Book B:

The Teacher's Guide is available in a print edition for $29.95 or as a digital e-book pdf $26.95 and the Activity Pack is available in a print edition for $4.95 or as a digital e-book pdf for $4.50.  WriteShop is offering my bloggy friends (that's YOU!) a 15% discount on the WriteShop Primary and Junior products. Enter in the coupon code: CREW15 at checkout.  Offer is good through June 15, 2012.

*Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Crew,  I received a set of WriteShop Primary Book B in exchange for my honest review.  No other compensation was received.*

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

TOS Review - Go Science DVD

We seem to be focusing a lot on science lately. We enjoy it though, so we'll just go with the flow. Library and Educational Services provided us the opportunity to review a couple DVDs from their series, Go Science, featuring demonstrations by college professor, Ben Roy. Recommended for ages 6-14, there are currently six titles available:
 Volume 1: Motion and the Laws of Gravity
 Volume 2: Simple Machines, Sound, Weather
 Volume 3: Magnetism, Electricity, Engineering, and Design
 Volume 4: Chemistry, States of Matter, Life Sciences
 Volume 5: Air, Flight
 Volume 6: Water, Space, Solar System

My musings:
We chose Volumes 2 and 4 for our review. We were in the midst of our life sciences unit (and had just finished learning about simple machines and a separate unit on clouds/weather), so I felt these would be a good complement to our lessons. The DVD includes several demonstrations (volume 2 has 14 and volume 4 has 11)on the specific topics. Each one follows the same format: Mr. Roy does a short teaching segment in front of a group of kids, often using one as a helper. He ends each segment reminding them that as they learn more about science, they are learning more about our Creator. While we enjoyed watching the demonstrations, most could not be easily duplicated at home without buying specialized materials and advanced planning. That is a downside for us. Julianna likes to try the experiments at home - she's a hands-on girl. One of our favorites was the demonstration on making clouds using dry ice. I love watching how dry ice rolls over surfaces when water is added to it. (I used to work in the radiation safety department at West Virginia University in a previous life. Our office would receive all the shipments of isotopes that were ordered for the Univeristy Hospital and various research departments. Most came packed in dry ice which would then become billowing blankets of vapor pouring out of the sink after the package was picked up. Good times. Wonder where you even buy dry ice? I digress...) Overall, I would recommend the Go Science series if you want to use video demonstrations to supplement your science units. If you are looking for experiments for easy duplication, this might not be for you.

Disclaimer: As part of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received 2 volumes of the Go Science DVD series in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was given.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Makes perfect sense

What do you do when you're done with your school work for the day, you've just put some outgoing mail in the box and it's raining?

You go jumping in the puddles, of course!

 Happy Monday, friends.

An American Girl Weekend Extravaganza - Part 1, Party Day

Well, friends, I am now the mother of a seven year old.  I know, I can't believe it either.  How this snuck up on me is a mystery.

I've mentioned before that Julianna is a *little bit crazy over American Girl dolls. (*A little bit crazy = completely nutso).  Last year, we went to the American Girl Place in NYC for her 6th birthday.  You can read about those escapades here. This year, we already planned on Dad taking the day off and taking her to the new American Girl Place that opened up outside of Washington, DC.  To kick off her birthday weekend, we hosted a small AG party for a few friends.  Our plan was to make some AG doll sized clay foods and crafts (Which is one of Julianna's favorite activities...creating AG or Barbie sized anything!), eat and play games.  Mission accomplished.  We didn't get to as many of the crafts as I had planned, but the girls got to take them home to complete.  Here are a few pictures of our par-tay.

The party poof idea I got from Pinterest.  (Pinterest, oh, Pinterest, how I doth love thee!)

Our AG table centerpiece built by Dad. :-) 


An excited birthday girl...and her helpers.  Lol

The girls and their girls.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Mama's Favorite Summer Ride

For the past few weeks (since it has been a crazy, warm Spring, so far), I have been taking (when I can fight her steering wheel away from my husband) this beauty out for a spin on Thursday nights.  I put on my sunglasses, slick my hair back (so the wind doesn't mess it up too much) and hit the gas.  Every time I'm in the driver's seat the song "Born Free" ('Born free, free as the wind blows. Free as the grass grows. Born free to follow your heart') plays in my head.  Okay, maybe I sing it aloud, as well.  

  It's the simple pleasures in life, my friends.