Monday, September 30, 2013

Book Review: My Very First Noah's Ark Playtime: Activity Book With Stickers

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. This simply means that if you click on the link and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you. I also received a copy of the book from Kregel Publications to facilitate my review.

About My Very First Noah's Ark Playtime 

This fun activity book includes on-the-page puzzles, games, and stories—all based around the story of Noah. There is also a page of stickers for completing the activities. The cute and colorful illustrations jump off the page and keep children engaged with the activities. There's plenty for children to do, on their own or with an adult, and this handy book can be used during the holidays, on journeys, or just to fill the time on a rainy day.

My thoughts on My Very First Noah's Ark Playtime

This is a great book for introducing young children to the Biblical story of Noah's Ark.  The pictures are simple and bright, drawing the child's attention easily and what child does not love stickers?  My kids enjoyed the activities as well, and did not need too much help with them.  We not only used the book at home as part of our homeschool curriculum, but we also bring it to church with us to keep the younger ones quietly engaged while we try to listen.  My 6 year old particularly likes to look at the pictures and then draw them freehand.

I recommend My Very First Noah's Ark Playtime: Activity Book With Stickers to anyone with young (2-6 years old) children who are interested, or whose parents are interested, in Biblical stories.  It is great to toss in a bag to bring along to church as well as for home use.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Lesson Plan: Rita Moreno (Hispanic Heritage Month)

We kicked off Hispanic Heritage month with a full unit study on Rita Moreno.  Here is what we did:


Read the biography of Rita Moreno, and answer the following questions:
  1. What is Rita Moreno's birth name? (Rosa Dolores Alverio)
  2. When and where was she born? (12/11/1931, in Humacao, Puerto Rico) 
  3. What role did Rita Moreno play in West Side Story? (Anita)
  4. What was significant about her winning the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for West Side Story? (She was the 1st Hispanic female to win.)
  5. Rita Moreno is one of only 11 people (and the only female) to do what? (win all 4 major entertainment honors- Emmy, Tony, Oscar and Grammy awards)

English and Writing:

Folktales are common in Hispanic cultures.  Learn more about this genre and write your own folktale. You can choose whether or not to publish it, but either way, feel free to share it here in a comment.

Spelling and Vocabulary:

Be able to spell, define, and use each of the following words in a sentence: folktale, genre, heritage, Hispanic,entertainer


singer: el cantor (male)/la cantora( female); actress: la actriz; stage (noun, as in a theater): el escenario; to sing: cantar; woman: la mujer

Social Studies: 

Learn about and color the Puerto Rican flag.
Visit a couple of sites about Puerto Rico ( and are two sites you  can use) and create a travel brochure or poster, encouraging people to come visit.  Include some interesting facts and places to visit.


Read about the Ponce Carnival and make a Vejigante mask


Watch Rita Moreno in the musical Westside Story.
Read the lyrics to the song America, from Westside Story.  Write out the positives and the negatives of Puerto Rico that they  sing about.


 Rita Moreno needs to work hard to keep her voice strong and healthy.  Read these tips and exercises about keeping your voice strong and healthy.  Choose 3 of them to work on for the next month.


I will be typing out a bunch of problems using numbers written in Spanish and expecting the answers written in Spanish.  For example: dos y cinco iguals ? (siete)  This will help them review some basic math facts, while working on their Spanish vocabulary.  Here are the numbers zero through 10, plus some helpful Spanish vocabulary:
0= cero
1= uno
2= dos
3= tres
4= cuatro
5= cinco
6= sies
7= siete
8= ocho
9= nueve
10= diez
plus= y
minus= menos
equals= iguals
divided by= dividido por
times= por

Domestic Arts:

Make Puerto Rican Pork Mofongo.

Physical Education:

Rita Moreno is an avid walker.  Take a walk outside several days this week.  Try to walk a little further every day.  Be sure to do this safely and with another person, preferably an adult.


Learn about the coquí, a small frog that is native to Puerto Rico. Share 5 facts that you have learned.

Special Mini Units September 21-28, 2013

To see how we are using mini-units in our homeschool, you can see the post that shares all of our mini-units for September 2013.

9/22 Elephant Appreciation Day

- Spanish word of the day: elephant- el elefante
- Learn about elephants and answer the following questions:
  1. What are some of the things that threaten the existence of elephants? (habitat loss due to climate changes and human conflicts, poaching ivory)
  2. What are the 2 main species of elephants? (African and Asian)
  3. How much food does and adult elephant eat per day? (300-400 pounds)
  4. What is a group of elephants called? (a herd)
  5. What is a baby elephant called? (a calf)
  6. What do the male elephants do around the age of 12-15 years? (leave the herd and live solitary lives or possibly with other males temporarily)
  7. What is the gestation period (length of pregnancy) for an elephant? (22 months)
- Read Horton Hears a Who
- Make elephant stilts:
  • Take two large empty cans
  • Paint the open end to look like elephant toes (basically 4 large oval-like nails).
  • Once dry, use a punch-style can opener and punch a hole on each side of the can,near the bottom (sealed end).  Put matching holes on the bottom, near the other holes, so that you can tie cord through them.
  • Tie long  pieces of cord through each set of holes, making handles that your child can use to help lift the can as they walk on them.

9/23 Birthday of Ray Charles

- Spanish word of the day: music-  la música
- Watch the video biography for Ray Charles and answer these questions:
  1. When was Ray Charles born? (September 23, 1930)
  2. Where was Ray Charles born? (Albany, Georgia)
  3. When, and how, did Ray Charles lose his eyesight?(age of 7, due to glaucoma)
  4. Who was Ray Charles idol? (Nat King Cole)
  5. What was his first R&B #1 hit? (I Gotta Woman)
  6. What movie did Ray Charles appear in in 1980? (The Blues Brothers)
  7. When and, from what, did Ray Charles die? (2004, age 74, of liver disease)
- Listen to two of Ray Charles' hit songs: Hit the Road Jack and Georgia On My Mind

9/24 Birthday of Jim Henson

- Spanish word of the day: puppet- el títere
- Watch the video biography and read the Synopsis of Jim Henson's biography and answer the following questions:
  1. Where and when was Jim Henson born? (9/24/1936 in Greenevill, Mississippi)
  2. What did he call the combination of puppets and marionettes? (Muppets)
  3. What tv show, that started in 1969, did Jim Henson produce? (Sesame Street)
  4. What show did he create? (The Muppet Show)
  5. When did he die, and from what? (1990, of pneumonia)
- Make a marionette

9/25 Pacific Ocean Discovered

- Spanish word of the day: ocean- el océano
- Locate the Pacific Ocean on a map
- Learn about the Pacific Ocean and answer the following questions:
  1. Is the majority of the Pacific Ocean warm water of cold water? (warm water)
  2. What are the names of some of the small, volcanic islands found in the Pacific Ocean? (Hawaii, Tonga, Samoa)
- Learn that the deepest place on earth, the Mariana Trench, is found in the Pacific Ocean.

9/26- Birthday of Johnny Appleseed 

- Spanish word of the day: happy birthday- feliz cumpleaños
- This would be another good day to go apple picking
- Read page 1 of the Johnny Appleseed biography (you can read page 2, but it did not offer much that I felt was necessary for my children) and answer the following questions:
  1. What was Johnny Appleseed's real name? (John Chapman)
  2. When and where was Johnny Appleseed born? (9/26/1774 in Leominster, Massachusetts) 
  3. How much land did John Chapman own at his death? (about 1200 acres)
  4. In what state is Johnny Appleseed the official folk hero? (Massachusetts)
- Take the steps to start growing an apple tree (a long project).

9/27- Native American Day

- Spanish word of the day: people- la gente
- Learn about a group of Native Americans from your area.  For us, this is Western NY. We will be doing this by visiting the Native American exhibit at the Rochester Museum and Science Center.
- Make some Native American foods, such as:

9/28- National Good Neighbor Day

- Spanish word of the day: neighbor- el vecino
- Do something nice for one of your neighbors today.  You could bake some cookies, sweep their driveway and front walk, rake their leaves, or anything else you think could be helpful and nice.

Special Mini Units September 14-20, 2013

To see how we are using mini-units in our homeschool, you can see the post that shares all of our mini-units for September 2013.

9/15  Make a hat Day

- Spanish word of the day: hat- el sombrero
- Make a paper sailor hat.  We used sheets of newspaper and I let the kids glue on construction paper shapes and use paint to decorate them.

9/16 Mexican Independence Day

- Spanish word of the day: war- la guerra
- Be able to identify Mexico on a map.
- Learn about Mexico and the Mexican War for Independence and answer these questions:
  1. What is the capital of Mexico? (Mexico City)
  2. What type of government does Mexico have? (a republic similar to the US)
  3. What is the official language of Mexico? (Spanish)
  4. What did they want that made them want to reject the values of Spain at the end of the 18th century?  (freedom of speech, a representative government, and restrictions on the power of the Catholic Church)
  5. Who gave the speech that is now known as the Grito do Dolores? (Father Miguel Hidalgo)
  6. What words were said by Father Hidalgo and are repeated every year at Independence Day celebrations? ("Viva Mexico" and "Viva la independencia!")
  7. How long did they fight for their freedom? (11 years)
  8. What are the colors of the Mexican flag and what does each one represent? (green= independence, white= religion, and red= union)
- Listen to the National Anthem of Mexico and read the lyrics (in English)
- Prepare a Mexican meal. Some ideas are:
  • Pozole (soup)
  • Guacamole (I mash up an avocado or two and add some salsa and a splash of lime juice for a quick and easy guacamole or you can follow a recipe.)
  • Flour or corn tortillas (You do not need a tortilla press, though one helps. You can use a heavy skillet or a rolling pin.)
  • Tres Leche Cake

9/17 National Apple Dumpling Day

- Spanish word of the day: apple- la manzana
- Go apple picking.
- Make apple dumplings.

9/18 National Cheeseburger Day

- Spanish word of the day: hamburger- la hamburguesa
- Serve cheeseburgers.  Instead of traditional cheese burgers, we mixed shredded cheddar and chopped bacon right in the meat mixture.
- Learn where the different cuts of beef come from.

9/19 International Talk Like a Pirate Day

- Spanish word of the day: pirate- el pirata
- Talk like a pirate
- Write a poem in pirate language.
- Read about female pirates and answer these questions:
  1. What did female pirates need to do in order to be successful pirates? (disguise themselves as men)
  2. Who were some female pirates? (Anne Bonny, Mary Reed, and Grace O'Malley)
- Read about Modern Maritime Piracy and answer the following questions:
  1. Are there still pirates today? (yes)
  2. Who monitors modern piracy? (the International Maritime Bureau, a division of the ICC Commercial Crime Services)

9/20  POW/MIA Recognition Day

- Learn what POW and MIA stand for. (Prisoner Of War and Missing In Action)
- Learn about the POW/MIA flag and answer these questions:
  1. Who created the POW/MIA flag? (The National League of Families/William Graham Wilkin III)
  2. What phrase is on the flag? ("You are not forgotten")
  3. Where is the POW/MIA flag displayed in U.S. armed forces, the dining halls, mess halls and chow halls? (draped over a single chair and table in the corner, signifying that a chair awaits in hope of their return)
  4. What are the "rules" regarding displaying the POW/MIA flag with the US flag? (it should fly directly below, and not be any larger than, the US flag)

Canning Jar Sewing Kits

We made these recently to commemorate National Sewing Day on September 10th.  They were super easy to do and fairly inexpensive.

Items needed for Canning Jar Sewing Kits:

  • small square of fabric (We used some scrap fabric and for one, used a piece of a sheet that had gotten a whole in it)
  • small bit of batting (We used some stuffed animal and pillow stuffing from some that were no longer good. We washed them thoroughly with bleach and hot water before cutting up)
  • a canning jar just big enough to hold all your sewing notions (we used jelly jars that my dear friend, Gail, had given us, but you may be able to find some at a yard sale or second hand store)
  • a lid and seal for the jar (We used new ones, but I imagine you could use a used seal as well.)
  • sewing notions (These are mostly for the kids to learn with, so we just picked up small kit for each one at Dollar Tree.  The quality of the notions is not great, but it will serve us for now.)
  • hot glue gun and glue sticks

Instructions to make Canning Jar Sewing Kits

  1.  Clean jars with hot water and remove any stickers and labels.
  2. Place sewing notions into jar.  This will probably be fairly easy, but may take some maneuvering.
  3. Place batting onto top of jar seal and cover with fabric, so that the covered batting is on the top of the seal and the fabric edges are on the bottom of the seal. Trim any extra fabric, or you may not be able to put the lid and seal on afterwards.
  4. Turn seal over and carefully use the hot glue gun to glue the fabric down.  ***I highly recommend an adult do this, as I, myself, ended up with a few burns on my finger tips.***
  5. Push the covered seal up through the lid so that the covered batting is coming through the top of the lid.
  6. Screw the lid onto the jar and you are done.  If you are having trouble getting the lid to screw on, make sure the seal is pushed through right to the top and trim any extra fabric that might be preventing it from screwing on.  This does not need to be a perfect or tight fit, but to look nice it should at least screw on a little bit.
You now have all your sewing notions together in a small jar and a pincushion on top. I am planning on picking up some canning labels and putting each child's name on their kit, but it is not necessary.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Book review: 250 Great Movies for Latter-Day Families

Disclaimer: Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. This simply means that if you click on the link and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you. I also received a PDF file of the book to facilitate my review.

About 250 Great Movies for Latter-Day Families

Finding wholesome, uplifting movies can be a daunting task---especially when Hollywood s values are so far from the Church's. 250 Great Movies for Latter-day Families offers a broad selection of edifying options for your family's next movie night. With content reviews, gospel discussion guides, and indexes by genre and gospel topics, this guide is sure to have something for everyone.

My thoughts on 250 Great Movies for Latter-Day Families

Jonathan Decker does a great job giving the reader the synopsis for each movie, without giving away the storyline.  He then lists any areas of concern that the movie may contain, such as foul language, sexuality, etc.  My favorite part is the messages to discuss sections, which include scriptures and quotes from General Authorities of The Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints.  Having said that, I highly recommend this book to all families, of any religious persuasion (or none at all), that are looking for wholesome entertainment the whole family can enjoy.  With 250 movies, that is almost 5 years worth of weekly movie nights!  If you are not LDS (latter-day saint), you can still discuss the messages that are suggested, you just may want to look up related scriptures and quotes that are more closely tied to your own beliefs.  Of course, you can also use the LDS scriptures and quotes as well.  Feel free to let me know if you are interested in a free copy of The Book of Mormon ;)

Product Review: Nuby Easy Clean Bibs

About Nuby Easy Clean Bibs

The Easy Clean Bibs are made of a durable waterproof vinyl that will keep your baby's clothing clean and dry. They feature a crumb catcher pocket, a velcro closure and are available in a variety of fun prints and colors.  They are sold in a 2-pack.

My thoughts on Nuby Easy Clean Bibs

After having 5 kids, I have some pretty solid opinions on the different bibs we have used.  The Nuby Easy Clean Bibs rank right up at the top for our favorite bibs.  They provide good coverage on the baby's front (though I wish more bibs actually came with sleeves as well,) and the crumb pocket actually does catch crumbs.  A word of caution though, some of my babies, including Sam, have been known to stash food in the crumb pocket on purpose, so be sure to check it when you take the bib off, or at the very least before washing it.  I also really like how easy it is to clean the bib as well.  You simply wipe it down with a damp cloth and mild soap and hang it to dry, which happens rather quickly.  I do wish the instructions said it was washing machine safe, but they do say not to wash them in the washing machine.  Admittedly,  I did not read the directions until after I had already washed it in the washing machine once (I did line dry it though) and I have to say it held up just fine.  The material on the front is soft and has vibrant colors.  The back of the bib keeps your baby dry and is made with 100% phthalate-free PVC material, as is the pocket on the front.

This makes a great feeding bib for babies and toddlers.  If you are looking for a basic bib to keep your babies clothes clean and dry, I highly recommend the Nuby Easy Clean Bibs.

Disclaimer- I received the above product in exchange for my honest review.

Special Mini Units September 8-13, 2013

To see how we are using mini-units in our homeschool, you can see the post that shares all of our mini-units for September 2013.

9/8 Grandparent's Day

- Spanish word of the day: grandparents- los abuelos
- Write a letter or make a card for each of your grandparents and great-grandparents.
- Get to know a grandparent better. Write out several questions to ask a grandparent and/or ask them to tell you a story or 2 from their childhood.
- Make a gift for a grandparent.  Some ideas are:

9/9 Teddy Bear Day

- Spanish word of the day: bear- el oso
- Writing Prompt: Imagine your favorite teddy bear were real, write a story (or for pre-writers, draw a picture) about an adventure they might have.
- Sing Going on a Bear Hunt and The Other Day (I met a Bear).
- Make a Venn diagram comparing real bears to teddy bears or gummy bears.
- Have younger children describe their bears.
- Give each child a small bag of gummy bears.  Have them sort them color and make a bar graph to represent the number of bears of each color.  Then write out some math equations using the bears.  You can tailor this to your child's math skills.  We did some addition and subtraction, as well as greater than/less than equations.
- Make teddy bear cookies.

9/10 Sewing Machine Day

- Spanish word of the day: to sew- coser
- Learn the parts of a sewing machine. (I found a Power Point that showed this, but cannot figure out how to link to it here.  Try Googling "sewing machine power point")
- Read the history of the sewing machine and answer the following questions:
  1. What were the first sewing needles made from? (bone or animal horns)
  2. Who built the first commercially successful sewing machine? (Isaac Singer)
  3. Who invented the machine that Isaac Singer based his machine on? (Elias Howe)
- Make a Canning Jar Sewing Kit
- Use a flexible tape measure to make body measurements and/or fabric measurements.

9/11- 9/11/01 Remembrance Day

- Spanish word of the day: liberty- la libertad
- Read A Moving Picture and answer the following question:
  1. What is the name of the movie that Sumra Mian and her classmates produced? (Empty Spaces)

- Read and take the Pledge to Stop Hate.  Answer the questions asked in the pledge.

9/12 Chocolate Milkshake Day

- Spanish word of the day: milkshake- el batido
- For this day, we simply made chocolate milkshakes for an afternoon snack.

9/13 Birthday of Roald Dahl

- Spanish word of the day: peach- melocotón
- Watch a movie based on a book by Roald Dahl.  I chose to base today around James and the Giant Peach, but other choices include Matilda, and  Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  If you have recently read the corresponding book, you can compare the movie to the book.  We prefer to watch the movie and then read the book, as we find it easier to spot the differences that way.
- Learn about Roald Dahl and answer the following questions:
  1. Where was Roald Dahl born? (Llandaff, South Wales)
  2. What was the name of Roald Dahl's first book for children? (Gremlins)
  3. How many children did Roald Dahl have?  (5)
  4. What year did Roald Dahl die? (1990)
- Prepare a recipe that features peaches.  We chose to make Peach Bread, which was so yummy.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Special Mini Units Spetember 1-7, 2013

To see how we are using mini-units in our homeschool, you can see the post that shares all of our mini-units for September 2013.

9/1 Mary Had a Little Lamb was First Published

- Spanish word of the day: lamb- el cordero
- Sing Mary Had a Little Lamb
- Make a handprint lamb

  • Trace child's hand on a piece of black construction paper, with fingers slightly spread (with a bigger split between the middle 2 fingers (Vulcan style) and the thumb fully extended.  I found it easiest to trace with a white crayon, but pencil will work too.
  • Cut out the handprint.
  • Glue several cotton balls on the palm part of the handprint, leaving the fingers and thumb uncovered.
  • Turn the handprint so that the fingers, which are now the lamb's legs, are pointed downward.  The thumb is now the lamb's head.  Using a white crayon, draw an eye on the lamb or glue on a googly eye. 
- Read the story "Little Lamb" from the April 1994 issue of The Friend magazine.

9/2 Labor Day

- Spanish word of the day: to work- trabajar
- Writing Prompt: If you could create a holiday, what would it be called?  When would it be? What would you celebrate?
- Read the story of The Very First Labor Day and answer the following questions:
  1. Who "invented" Labor Day? (Peter McGuire)
  2. What was the date of the first Labor Day? (9/5/1882)
  3. When do we celebrate Labor Day today? (first Monday in September)

9/4 Rosh Hashanah

Note- We are not Jewish, but believe it is important to know what other religions believe and celebrate in order to better understand those who hold those beliefs.

- Spanish word of the day: honey- la miel
- Read about Rosh Hashanah and answer the following questions:
  1. What are the 4 meanings of Rosh Hashanah? (Day of Judgement, Day of Shofar Blowing, Day of Remembrance, New Year's Day)
  2. In what Jewish month is Rosh Hashanah celebrated? (the 7th month, Tishri)
  3. What do Jews say to each other as they are leaving Rosh Hashanah services?: ("May you be inscribed in the Book of Life.")
  4. What do the fish in the water represent? ( the fish's dependence on the water represents the Jews dependence on God and just as a fish's eyes do not close, neither do God's)
  5. What are some traditional foods served on Rosh Hashanah and what do they represent? (Traditional foods are served, that are sweetened with honey, apples and carrots to represent the sweetness, blessing and abundance of the year to come.  Challah bread (which is typically served on the Sabbath) is also served, but it is baked in a circle to represent the wish that the coming year will roll around smoothly without unhappiness or sorrow.)
- Bake Challah bread formed in a circle to eat with dinner.
- Serve a dinner that starts with Challah bread and apples dipped in honey and includes carrots.  We made Honey Glazed Chicken and Honey Carrots.
- Learn about a shofar and listen to what it sounds like.

9/5 Cheese Pizza Day

- Spanish word of the day: cheese- el queso
- Make Cheese Pizza (You can use any combination of already prepared ingredients or make everything from scratch yourself.)
  • Make/prepare the pizza dough.  We like to bake ours for about 5 minutes before adding the sauce to keep the sauce from soaking into the dough.  We also like to Italian seasoning and fresh basil and oregano to our dough before rolling it out.
  • Make/prepare the sauce and spread it on the pizza.
  • Top with a mixture of shredded cheeses.  We enjoy Parmesan and Cheddar along with the Mozzarella.
  • Bake and enjoy!

9/6 Birthday of Marquis de Lafayette

- Spanish word of the day: The United States- los Estados Unidos
- Read about the Marquis de Lafayette (this was a bit dry to hold the kids' attention, so I gave them a condensed version after reading through it myself).

9/7 Birthday of Grandma Moses

- Spanish word of the day: art- arte
- Read about Grandma Moses and answer these questions:
  1. What was Grandma Moses' real name? (Anna Mary Robertson Moses)
  2. How old was Grandma Moses when she began to paint? (76 years old)
- Look at some of Grandma Moses' pieces of work

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

DVD Review: Pocoyo's Circus

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. This simply means that if you click on the link and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you. I also received a copy of the DVD to facilitate my review.

About Pocoyo's Circus

(From the back cover)
Join Pocoyo and his friends on a new fun-filled circus adventure!

One day a group of curious aliens arrive in Pocoyo's world.  Pocoyo soon realizes that these new friends are not just any aliens; in fact, they are circus aliens!

Their new friends treat Pocoyo and the gang to a free day at the circus, where Pocoyo and his friends must work together to help save the show!  Will they do it?  Find out in Pocoyo's Circus!

Learn about:
- Increasing Creativity
- Encouraging Imagination
- Expressing Feelings
- And More!

Stories Include: Mystery Footprints, Pocoyo's Balloon, Who's Calling Me Now?, Vamoosh on The Loosh, New on the Planet, Mad Mix Machine, Remember When

Running Time Approx 80 minutes
Includes Spanish Language

My thoughts on Pocoyo's Circus

When I first heard of Pocoyo, I was unsure how my little ones would feel about him.  My hesitations were unwarranted though as my boys (ages 1 and 5 years) love Pocoyo, particularly this DVD, and my girls (ages 7, 11, and 12 years) have a hard time leaving the room when it is on. 

Our favorite story was New on the Planet, and really it holds a good life lesson as well.  It tells the story of an alien that arrives on Earth and is scared of every creature he meets, until he realizes they are also afraid of him. 

The colors are bright, the characters are endearing, and there are no annoying repetitive songs or phrases that get under your skin after hearing them repeatedly.  The stories are sweet and the DVD kept my kids giggling away.

When Life Hands Us Lemons

Over the past few months we have struggled with figuring out what exactly is causing our van to not drive properly.  It has been drivable, just not driving quite right, up until this past week.  Now, we are lucky if it starts, and once it does, if we try to drive it, we are lucky if it doesn't stall out on us while we are driving.  We have taken it to several different places and keep hearing different reasons as to what is causing the problems.  We think we finally have the answer and it should be fixed in two weeks.  In the meantime, we will need to make the 5 seater car we have work for our 7 person family.  Fortunately, we do not have a lot of places we all need to be at the same time and we will figure out the logistics when we do all have to be somewhere.

To add to the vehicle issues, the laptop power cord also died last week.  Fortunately, I have an unactivated iPhone that works on our wifi, so I was not completely offline, but I was rather limited.  Our desktop was also available, but it is over 10 years old, runs real slow, not connected to a printer, and does not have my files on it.  None-the-less, we ordered a new cord and were expecting it to come this next Saturday.  You can imagine my joy when UPS delivered it today :) 

In addition to all of that, we are trying to adjust to my husband returning to school and to a work injury he sustained right before school started.

So how do I handle all that is going on and manage to still do the things I need to do daily?  It is not easy and there are times, whole days and sometimes weeks, where I am not quite sure how I will get through it.  Here are the things that I do to maintain my sanity and survive these tougher days.

1) Remember that you are not alone.  There is always someone cheering you on.  If you are religious, you also have the comfort of the Holy Ghost, but if you are not, you can find someone, even a stranger, heck, even me, who does not want to see you fail.  Most people want to see others succeed and there are many who will help however they can to help you do so.  Don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it. I have asked friends to help with transportation more times than I want to admit, but it has been necessary at times and always is extremely helpful.

2) Remind yourself that this is only temporary.  This is easier to realize after the trial is over, but if you can remember it during the trial, it helps make it a bit easier. 

3) Be prepared.  The Boys Scouts know what they are talking about.  Although there were several things we still could not do for school this week because they required the laptop, I still had my plan available to me.  I keep a handwritten one in a binder and one on the laptop.  The handwritten one has the websites I want to use written down and the one on the laptop has the links, so while I prefer the one on the laptop, I can still use the handwritten one in a pinch.  Also, when it comes to things you know you will be facing, such as a schedule change, you can prepare ahead of time for the transition stage.  We made a few meals and froze them and I wrote out our school plans further in advance than I typically would.  I also made sure to avoid scheduling a lot of things during those first few weeks.

4) Smile.  It helps no one to be miserable during difficult times.  Even if you do not feel like smiling, do it anyway.  Fake it 'til you make it.  The simple act of smiling will usually help lift your mood anyway and smiles are contagious, so when you smile at someone else, they will likely smile back and that also helps lift your mood.

5) Don't forget to pray and study your scriptures.  For me, this are the most important steps to maintaining my sanity.  If you are not a religious person, I would encourage you to try it, but I understand if you don't.  My advice then would be to keep a journal, where you can pour your thoughts out freely, which is helpful for everyone, religious or not.

What are some of the ways you maintain your sanity when life gets difficult?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Introducing Mini-Units and September Mini-Units

September Mini-Units The Happy Wife (homeschool)

I have decided to do something new this year with the kids.  We are still studying units like we have in the past, but this year, I also decided to include mini-units, several days a week, to break up the monotony of focusing on one main thing for a week or two at a time.  To decide on the mini-units, and to keep them relevant, I started at the Wacky and Unique Holidays over at Holiday Insights.  I went through the months and marked down the "holidays" that seemed like a good fit for my kids.  I then went through the Birthday and This Day in History calendars as well.  I also included regular holidays that are celebrated in the US, England and/or Mexico (my children's heritage).  I only choose one mini unit per day, so in the event there is more than one holiday/birthday/historical event/etc on the same day, I picked the one that was most relevant to our lives at the moment.   I also used the Wacky and Unique Holidays find  the "special" months (Hispanic Heritage month, Honey Month, etc) and add some of those in through the month, especially on days when there was not an appropriate "fun" event to learn about.  I will share with you what we have studied so far and what is coming up for us over the next few weeks.  Some days the mini-units take up more time than others and there are a handful of days where we do not do any mini-units at all.

I will start with the things that are celebrated throughout the month of September that we will be celebrating in some way:

Classical Music

We are listening to one classical musician each week.  We listen to one song by that musician each day and read a short biography about them, usually on Monday, but can move it to another day if needed.

International Square Dancing Month- 

This is an easy one because we will actually be making a full unit study out of it for Physical Education.  We are planning to learn several steps and a bit about the history of square dancing.  We will also be looking at some traditional square dance costumes.

National Piano Month-

 Learning piano has been on our bucket lists for a while now.  This summer I picked up some curriculum for learning how to play piano, so we are going to celebrate Piano Month by kicking off the piano lessons.

Chicken Month and Honey Month-  

We are celebrating by incorporating chicken and honey into recipes each week.  So far, we have tried Honey Carrots, and Honey-Glazed Chicken (which has become a favorite in our house).  Up next is Baklava and Fried Chicken .

Baby Safety Month-

We are going through the house and determining what hazards exist.  We are then sitting down and figuring out how to correct the hazards and then implementing our plan.  Since we have a toddler in the house, this is necessary anyway, so I am just turning it into a health/home ec lesson and doing during Baby Safety Month.

Hispanic Heritage Month

(actually runs from 9/15-10/15)- This hits close to home for us so we will be doing some full unit studies involving famous Hispanics throughout history, including Rita Moreno, Antonia Novello, Sonia Sotomayor, and soccer great Pele. As I complete the unit studies for each of these people, I will link their name to it.

Now for the daily events we will be learning about.  I will start by listing the units and then linking to the corresponding weekly post as they are written.

Week 1:

9/1- Mary Had a Little Lamb first published

9/2- Labor Day

9/4- Rosh Hashanah

9/5- Cheese Pizza Day

9/6- Birthday of the Marquis de Lafayette (incidentally we are in the middle of studying the Revolutionary War, so this was perfectly timed)

9/7- Birthday of Grandma Moses

Week 2:

9/8- Grandparent's Day

9/9- Teddy Bear Day

9/10- Sewing Machine Day

9/11- 9/11 Remembrance Day

9/12- Chocolate Milkshake Day

9/13- Birthday of Roald Dahl

Week 3:

9/15- Make a hat Day

9/16- Mexican Independence Day

9/17- National Apple Dumpling Day

9/18- National Cheeseburger Day

9/19- International Talk Like a Pirate Day

9/20- POW/MIA Recognition Day

Week 4:

9/22- Elephant Appreciation Day

9/23- Birthday of Ray Charles

9/24- Birthday of Jim Henson

9/25- Pacific Ocean Discovered on this day

9/26- Birthday of Johnny Appleseed

9/27- Native American Day

9/28- National Good Neighbor Day

I do not have anything scheduled for the last 2 days in September, but September 30th kicks off Get Organized Week so we will be choosing one area in the house to organize each day that week.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Giveaway: Woolzies Dryer Balls

I recently wrote a review about Woolzies Dryer Balls.  Well, the great folks over at Woolzies are offering my readers the chance to win their own set of Woolzies Dryer Balls.  As I said in the review, these are amazing so whoever wins is sure to be pleased.  I encourage you to follow them on facebook and Twitter, but neither is mandatory to enter the giveaway.  Enter on the Rafflecopter form below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, September 6, 2013

Product Review: Project Passport: The Middle Ages

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. This simply means that if you click on the link and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you. I also received a copy of the product to facilitate my review.

About Project Passport: The Middle Ages

Bring history to life! The all-new Middle Ages activity-based history study – the first in a new “Project Passport” curriculum – invites children to take a trip through time to get a true understanding of everyday life, historic events, and significant people who shaped our world.

Equipped with a passport and luggage folder -- which will take you through additional Project Passport studies such as the Renaissance and Reformation Pak.  Your child will be ready to ride with Robin Hood, roam a medieval village, and explore historic castles.

The CD contains  25 "stops" – each one includes background text, and a selection of hands-on projects that allow children to get a deeper understanding of economic, social, lifestyle, political, and religious issues of the times. Children complete creative writing activities, create a period newspaper, build Lap Books, craft 3-D projects, and much more. Take the learning deeper with a series of audio tours that carry your children away to the age of knights and battles, Gregorian chants and village festivals.

My thoughts on Project Passport: The Middle Ages

When I decided to review this product, I originally wanted it for my 6th and 7th grade students, but even my 1st grader and kindergartner are enjoying many of the activities.  When I am choosing items to purchase for our homeschool activities, I particularly like those that are cross-curricular.  The beauty of this CD is that it covers social studies and history, as well as writing, art, and even home economics.  I also like that the CD works on both PC and Mac computers, since we are considering transitioning to a Mac in the future.  My kids are retaining the information they are learning as well, which is always a plus. 

On a side note, Project Passport: The Middle Ages, is brought to you by Homeschool in the Woods.  Although I have been a fan of Homeschool in the Woods for several years, when my CD arrived, I was excited to see that they are a local (to me) company.  Although it has no bearing on my opinion of the product, it is nice to know that it is a local business.

Project Passport: The Middle Ages deal on Educents

Until September 10th, you can get Project Passport: The Middle Ages for a great deal on Educents.  In addition to the CD, you will also receive a downloadable Authors Mini Activity Pack with biographical information, excerpts, and writing activities for 24 classic authors.  Shipping is also included in this deal.  This is a $50 value for the special price of $34.95.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Product Review: Rock N Learn Phonics Volumes 1 and 2

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. This simply means that if you click on the link and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you. I also received copies of 2 of the DVDs to facilitate my review.

About Rock N Learn

Volume 1:
  • Catchy rhymes make rules easy to remember
  • Covers: short vowels, consonants, special consonants, phonemic segmentation, oral blending, double consonants, ending S, blends, consonant digraphs and trigraphs, and silent e
  • Read-along stories and fun songs provide practice with rules and build reading fluency
  • Context clues help students develop multiple strategies to read for meaning
  • Delayed answers make it easy to check progress
  • Grades K & up. Approx. 70 minutes
  • YouTube sample: Phonics Volume 1
  • Windows Media Video sample: Phonics Volume 1
 Volume 2:
  • Catchy rhymes make rules easy to remember
  • Long vowels, r-controlled vowels, diphthongs (oi, oy, ou, ow), variant vowels (au, aw all al), syllables, schwa sound, y and le, rule breakers, ph and gh, memory words, silent consonants
  • Read-along stories and fun songs provide practice with rules and build reading fluency
  • Context clues help students develop multiple strategies to read for meaning
  • Delayed answers make it easy to check your progress
  • Grades 1 & up. Approx. 78 minutes
  • YouTube sample: Phonics Volume 2
  • Windows Media Video sample: Phonics Volume 2

My thoughts on the Rock N Learn Phonics DVDs

I used these DVDs with my kindergartner and 1st grader, both of which are emerging readers.  They both enjoyed the upbeat music and have asked to watch them several times.  Even my 15 month old, enjoys bopping around when the songs are on and sits and listens to the stories.  Who knows, maybe he will be my earliest reader, yet.  I particularly appreciate that the DVDs go beyond the basic letter sounds which my early readers are already pretty good at.  Another aspect I appreciate is that they show how the mouth forms the various sounds, which is particularly helpful to my son, who has gone through speech therapy for the past year.  Speech therapy had worked for him, but it ended a few weeks ago.  He started watching the DVDs the day after speech therapy ended and I have seen marked improvement in some areas where he had still been struggling.

An Educents deal for Rock N Learn Phonics

Until tomorrow, at 7PM CST, you can get a Rock N Learn Phonics bundle on Educents for 50% off the regular price.  Included kit #1 is the Rock N Learn Phonics Volume 1 DVD, the Phonics Volume 1 workbook to go with the DVD, and the Phonics Easy Reader DVD.  Kit #2 includes, the Rock N Learn Phonics Volume 2 DVD, Phonics Volume 2 workbook, "Jade and Chip's Amazing Snow Dance story, and Read Along Stories on DVD.  Each bundle is available for the great price of $19.99, plus $4.50 for shipping.  If you order both sets, you only pay the shipping one time.