Friday, April 29, 2011

Homeschool Product Review: The Curiosity Files- Quicksand

Being that I recently combined my homeschooling blog with this one, I am going to start this review with a brief biography of our homeschool.  I have 3 girls and 1 boy.  My daughters are ages 10 years (4th grade), 8 years (3rd grade), and 4 years (pre-school) and my son is almost 3 years old (also pre-school).  I have been homeschooling from the beginning and use an eclectic mix of styles and curriculum.  Due to the age gap in the children, we generally do a broad study of a topic together and then I work with them in groups of two, based on age.  Having told you all this, you will better understand how I will review homeschool products.  

My children and I had the opportunity to review an e-book from The Old Schoolhouse.  It is part of The Curiosity Files, a series of unit studies that cover a variety of topics including quicksand, dung beetles, Zombie fire ants and more.  We received the e-book about quicksand, edited by Karen Sargent and compiled by a team of researchers, led by Heidi Strawser. 

This e-book is a comprehensive study of quicksand at an upper elementary through junior high level, but can certainly be adapted to slightly younger ages and older age levels as well.  The e-book starts  with an introduction to quicksand by Professor Ana Lyze and goes on to address myths and scientific facts about quicksand.  Once the reader has learned a bit about quicksand, including what to do if you encounter quicksand, there is a quiz to test the reader.  After the quiz, there are several passages of Biblical scripture and a Bible story, all having to do with sand and building a firm foundation for life.  There are several math problems, covering a variety of math topics such as conversions, place value, and basic operations.  The math problems cover a range of abilities and I suggest using the ones that are appropriate for your student and creating your own if more are necessary.  Language arts are also covered, both in the form of word games, an essay topic, a blank outline and tips for writing essays, spelling and vocabulary lists for elementary and middle school levels, and games for learning and reinforcing the spelling and vocabulary words.  In the copywork section, there are several scriptures both in manuscript and cursive so that you can choose the form your child is working on, or both if need be.  My favorite section was the science section which includes lessons and labs to learn about surface tension and viscosity.  In social studies, the reader learns about geography.  The book then offers recipes to make goo, a mixture similar in properties to quicksand; as well as an edible quicksand.  There are several art projects to do as well, including making a sand bottle, sand art pictures, and a painted walking stick.  Near the end of the e-book, there are snippets that help walk the child through creating a lapbook or notebooking pages for the topic; and there is a page with some music ideas as well.  The e-book concludes with a list of books and websites for further study and answer keys to the quiz and worksheets found in the book.

When I first received this e-book, I reviewed it by myself to see how it would best suit my family.  The topic of quicksand is not one that we have encountered in our daily life and not one that we have discussed at any great length.  After reviewing the activities in the e-book, I decided that I would do all of the teaching activities with just the older two, but that I would involve the younger two in some of the more hands on activities, mostly the science and art activities and in the making of the recipes.  

You can purchase The Curiosity Files- Quicksand for $6.95 at The Old Schoolhouse Store.  It is an instant download so it is available for use right away and there are no shipping costs.  If you are interested in other e-books in The Curiosity Files series, they are also available on the website.  Prices vary from $1-$6.95 for individual e-books, or you can buy a 9-pack bundle for $46.

I recommend this for anyone that has a child with an interest in quicksand, as well as those who are teaching across a variety of ages, particularly if at least one of them is in the upper elementary or junior high level.  This could also be nice if you want to study quicksand every year or every few years, adding activities as they are appropriate. 

I received a free copy of the e-book in exchange for my honest review.  No other compensation was received.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Making It Better Monday: Just Shut It

In my last post, I talked about starting a series where I would share ideas and habits to help us keep our homes and lives in a more organized manner.  I am going to call the series "Making It Better Monday" and will post every Monday.  Each week I will share an idea or a habit to work on during the upcoming week.  If it is a habit you are already in, work with your other household members so that they can get in the habit as well, making your life easier.

This weeks tip is: If you open it, shut it.

Easy enough, right?  This is something I am going to be working with my kids on improving.  If you have drawers, doors and cupboards open in a room, it makes the room look chaotic, and it creates serious safety issues.  My then 3-year-old, ended up in the ER last year when she was playing ballerina in the bedroom she shares with her sisters.  After completing a twirl, the dizzy ballerina fell, hitting her ear on the corner of her sister's open dresser drawer.  She pierced an "L" right through the cartilage of her upper ear and scraped her scalp on the other side.  Fortunately, she was okay and has no long term problems from it, but it could have been a lot worse. 

In order to implement this habit, I plan to pay more attention to who is opening what throughout the day and then gently reminding them to close it when they are done.  After a few days, if they are still leaving things open, I may just have them go back and practice opening and closing the door (which is what is likely to be in our house) several times.  Hopefully, next week, I will be able to tell you that we have mastered this habit.

Friday, April 15, 2011

More changes

I wanted to let you know about some changes that will be coming to my blog.  My blog has gotten away from me and I am finding that I am unable to blog about the things I truly enjoy.  I was trying to keep several blogs going and realized that I was in over my head.  I stopped posting on most of the other blogs completely and the two that I kept began to feel more like chores, than something I was enjoying.  I want my blog to be useful to others, but also help me as well.  Here are the changes I have planned:
     - I will no longer be posting to my homeschool blog, at least for a little while.  This means that I will be sharing more of our homeschool activities here.
     - I am planning to start a series on living a more organized life.  This is for those who may need to develop habits to help keep their homes clean and organized and/or for those who want to work on instilling habits in their children that will help keep the home clean and organized.  I will let you know now that these will mostly be very basic concepts, but ones that when practiced regularly will make a big difference.
     - I have also been inspired by the Frugal Girl's Food Waste Friday posts.  So, once I get a new camera, I will be posting our weekly food waste.  I find it to be a motivator to reduce our food waste if I am going to be accountable for showing what I am wasting.
     - There will be more pictures.  My digital camera is VERY old and while, it was cutting edge when we got it (10 years ago!!), it really does not take the quality of picture that I would want to post.  I am currently shopping for a new camera and once I get it, you will see more pictures. (On a side note- if you have any camera recommendations, please share them.)
     - I will still have reviews and giveaways, but they will not be the majority of the posts as they are now.  I am planning on posting more content on a more regular basis, so there will be tips, information, updates, recipes, and more intermingled with the reviews and giveaways.

I appreciate all of you for continuing to read The Happy Wife and I hope you will continue to read along as I try to bring this blog back to where it once was.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Preschool Robot Learning Pack

I just wanted to share a link to this FREE robot-themed preschool-level learning pack, available at Homeschool Creations.  It is very cute and covers a wide variety of subjects.  Have fun!!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Book Review and Giveaway Info: Beside Still Waters

About the book (from back of book): Raised among the Amish of Indiana, 18-year-old Marianna Sommer plans to get baptized into the church, marry Aaron Zook, and set up life in the only community she has ever known.  But when her older brother chooses the world's path following his rumschpringe, and a younger sibling begins showing interest in Englisch ways, Marianna's parents move the family to Montana.
      Although she is also in her rumschpringe years and not obligated to move, Marianna makes the journey to dutifully help her mother who is expecting another child.  Surprisingly, from strangers on the cross-country train ride to the less rigid stance of the new Montana community, many Englisch influences awaken within Marianna- and even her father- the desire to pursue a deeper kind of joy and love for God.
      After an accident, Marianna tells her friend Ben a defining story about the Sommer family, and his response further illumines the active relationship God seeks with His followers.  In due time, she learns the move from Indiana was not about losing anything, but finding out who God really is.  Despite all the shake-ups, Marianna feels a sweet peace, like still waters, in her soul.

My thoughts: I thoroughly enjoyed this book, right up until the end.  However, I was a bit disappointed in the number of "loose ends" after I finished the book.  The story focuses mostly on Marianna Sommers and her internal spiritual journey.  At the tender age of 18, she is discovering who she truly is and developing her own testimony of her religious beliefs.  She had grown up a devout member of the Amish faith, but she is now discovering that there are things in her religion that she questions.  I enjoyed following her story as she walked the road that helped her distinguish between what she was doing because it was expected of her and what she was doing because she believed it was right.  The loose ends at the end of the book had to do with several supporting characters.  I do not want to give away too much of the story so I will simply say that I hope there is a sequel that will answer many of the unanswered questions I have.

My recommendation: This is a great book for someone who enjoys following others on their search for their spiritual identity.  It is also a great book for anyone who enjoys reading about the Amish lifestyle, as you will get to read examples of both rigid and less rigid Amish communities.  There is also some romance in the book, but not enough for me to consider it a true romance novel, but if you enjoy romantic stories, you will likely enjoy this book.

About the author: Tricia Goyer is the author of twenty-six books including Songbird Under a German Moon, The Swiss Courier, and the mommy memoir, Blue Like Play Dough. She won Historical Novel of the Year in 2005 and 2006 from ACFW, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer's Conference in 2003. Tricia's book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion in 2005. In addition to her novels, Tricia writes non-fiction books and magazine articles for publications like MomSense and Thriving Family. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences, and has been a workshop presenter at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International Conventions. She and her family make their home in Little Rock , Arkansas where they are part of the ministry of FamilyLife. Visit for more info.

About the giveaway:
To celebrate the release of the first book in the Big Sky Amish series Tricia is giving away 10 copies of Beside Still Waters and a pair of super cute antique Amish salt & pepper shakers.
Details at Tricia’s blog, It’s Real Life:

BONUS! Each person who enters the giveaway will receive a FABULOUS Montana Amish Calendar. Hurry, it’s only available while supplies last!

I received an advanced reader's copy of this book from Litfuse Group in exchange for my honest review.   No other compensation  was received for this review.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Chile Lime Shrimp

I made this recipe a few weeks ago and promised the recipe to some friends, so here it is:

2 pounds medium, uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 Tbsp cornstarch
6 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 fresh red chile peppers, seeded and sliced
2 tsp brown sugar
juice from 2 limes (about 4 Tbsp)
zest from 1 lime

1) Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the chile peppers, garlic, and shrimp and cook until the shrimp are just opaque and the garlic and peppers have softened.
2) Add the brown sugar, the lime juice and lime zest.  Make a slurry by mixing the cornstarch with the water.  Slowly, add the slurry to the pan, stirring as you do.
3) Let simmer for 2 minutes, or until slightly thickened.
4) Serve immediately.

I like this best served over rice, with extra lime wedges on the side.  Enjoy :)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Book Review and Giveaway Info: Money & Marriage: A Complete Guide for Engaged or Newly Married Couples

Money and Marriage: A Complete Guide for Engaged and Newly Married Couples 

About the book:

In this thorough and practical guide, financial expert Matt Bell helps engaged and newly married couples navigate the merger of habits, flaws, and attitudes about money so two can truly become one.

His writing is full of helpful advice, Scripture, and practical steps to gaining financial freedom together as a couple. Learn to use money in a way that minimizes disputes and maximizes marital happiness.

My thoughts:

I have been married for over 11 years, but found many parts of this book useful in our relationship today.  We could have saved a lot of financial stress had we read this book before the wedding and I strongly recommend this book for couples who are contemplating marriage, are newly married, or who are struggling to get a grip on their financial situation.  The author combines Biblical principals with practical advice to help couples minimize financial conflict, plan for the future, and how to maintain and adjust a budget.  Advice is given for what steps to take and what should be discussed to make the most of your finances.  The book encourages open and honest communication, particularly regarding finances, which leads to greater financial stability and increased marital happiness.  It also brings together your separate visions so that you can create one vision together.  After all, if you are planning a future together, it helps if you both see it the same way.

About the author:

Matt began his career as a radio journalist, with his work featured on National Public Radio, the NBC Radio Network, and several other networks. His reporting earned national awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and United Press International.

Today, Matt is a full-time personal finance writer and speaker. He is the author of two books: "Money, Purpose, Joy" (September 2008) and "Money Strategies for Tough Times" (April 2009), both by NavPress. Matt has been quoted in USA TODAY, U.S. News and World Report, the Chicago Tribune, and Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine, has written for, and has been a guest on WGN-TV and several nationally syndicated radio talk shows.

Matt holds a Master's degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from DePaul University, where he wrote a thesis about the emergence of America's consumer culture and its influence on people's beliefs and behaviors.

Matt lives with his wife and their three young children in the Chicago area. Visit his website and blog at

To celebrate Matt has put together a Nest Egg Giveaway with a prize package worth over $250! 

One winner will receive:

•    A Free 1 Hour Financial Session
•    A $100 Visa Cash Card
•    A signed copy of Matt’s Money, Purpose, Joy and Money Strategies for Tough Times

To enter just click one of the icons below. Then tell your friends. And hurry - the contest ends April 11th. The winner will be announced on Matt's blog on April 13th.

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter