Thursday, May 29, 2014

Apologia Educational Ministries Review

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  Apologia Review

     Something you hear often in our society is how children need to understand their "self-worth" or "self-importance". But do we believe that as Christians? Do we believe that we can "be anything" or "do anything" we want to do? As a parent of small children it's something I have wrestled with myself. Let me tell you about the curriculum that I have recently had the honor of reviewing from Apologia Educational Ministries.
Pricing for this set is as follows:

     What on Earth Can I Do? by John Hay and David Webb, is the 4th volume in Apologia's What We Believe series and it answers some important "self-worth" questions from a Christian Worldview stand point. We have not had the opportunity to use the previous three volumes and this volume certainly can stand completely independent of the other three and be used first with no confusion.

Apologia Review

Our family (with children ages 4,6, and 8) were all able to participate in this study (though the curriculum itself is recommended for children in grades 1-6) We received the What on Earth Can I Do? (hardback book), What On Earth Can I Do Notebooking Journal,What on Earth Can I Do? Junior Notebooking Journal and What on Earth Can I Do? Coloring Book.
The sections of the textbook are titled:
    1. Your Story or God’s Story?
    2. Who Put You In Charge?
    3. Will You Be Found faithful?
    4. Where is Your Treasure?
    5. Where Does Your Time Go?
    6. Whose Life Is It Anyway?
    7. Why Isn’t It Easy Being Green?
    8. What will Happen When the Master Returns?

Each section is approximately 30-40 pages long and each includes Scriptures to study and a prayer, as well as extensive information about the subject included in the text, usually an application story from a historical figure and then a discussion of the implications in your children's lives.

Apologia ReviewApologia Review
Apologia Review

     While I would read a section from the textbook, the children would color one of the coloring pages. Because my children were on the younger end (and several of them younger than the recommended age group) this helped them concentrate on what was being read and discussed. Then we would all talk about the questions in our Notebooking Journal and my oldest would help write in the answers. The Notebooking journal has lots of writing opportunities for your older children to express their opinions and feelings about what they have read and also projects such as making a "tapestry" out of pictures from their lives to see how God is "weaving" them into the person He wants them to be.
     There are lots of great "lapbook" type projects  such as coloring pages, "fill-in-the-correct-word", and word puzzles in the Notebooking Journal Junior and these were helpful for my 6 and 8 year old to further understand what we were discussing. Each section has a scripture verse to work on memorizing together.
      We have really been enjoying working on this homeschool resource together (which could easily be used a family devotional as well). It is very well written and engaging and lines up so well with what I have been trying to teach my children as well. Your self-worth comes from knowing and following God, not because of what you accomplish or who you become.

     Can you imagine the impact if more children realized this Truth? That instead of feeling worthless because they don't think they are a smart, funny, talented or even as attractive as those around them, that they would see their worth through God's eyes who made them unique for a purpose and that they have a role and a job tailor-made for them by the God of the whole universe for His purpose and His Glory?!? Wow, this is so necessary and so powerful and I pray that God uses "What on Earth Can I Do?" for His glory and the furtherance of His Kingdom.

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Some of the activities require some advance planning. A list of materials is provided with each activity. Most of the materials are household items or can be easily obtained

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Friday, May 23, 2014

My Favorite Low-cost or Free apps for Kindle (for ages 3-9) - Part 1

 Some of the links in this post may be "affiliate links" if you click on them and then purchase an item I receive a small compensation. Thank you!!! I really appreciate your support in this way! This information is disclosed in accordance with the FTC regulations.

Whether you are a homeschooling mom or not, a Kindle or tablet is a great way to supplement your children's education. There are a lot of games that are so fun, kids forget they are learning! I find a lot of these games helpful as a homeschooling mom, because it also helps when one child needs more undivided attention to have the other children take turns with their learning games.

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     On our Kindle, we have a separate folder of educational games for each child, that way they can quickly click on the games and know the difference between games that are just for fun and which games I mean when I say "Go find an educational game on the Kindle to play". Here's some of our favorite low-cost or free educational games.

  There are a lot of tracing apps to use on Kindle. The reason this one made the list is because it has upper and lower case alphabet, shapes and numbers. And most of all it has an "easy" and "hard" setting. So that even when my daughter was 3 and couldn't quite stay on the line herself, she could practice the motions of the letters and shapes. Some other apps are VERY touch sensitive when you are tracing and this doesn't work well with children who can't keep their hands that still yet. There is also the "hard" option which means the child needs to stay in the lines when they trace, great for older children!! Even my 8 year old occasionally is asked to use this, because it's a great way to remind him how to form letters correctly and not get lazy about it!


There are a series of these apps for different grade levels and all of them have a free version that you can try out first. But really the paid version is worth it! This Preschool and Kindergarten version comes with12 different games (and was actually useful for my older child too since it has a noun and verb game as well) It has games for Math (counting and simple addition and subtraction, counting down from 10), simple spelling and reading, positioning, puzzles. A lot of games that have this much are more like $5-10 this one is the nicest series of apps for under $2!

 This app doesn't have a free trial but it's a lot of fun!! Actually even my husband and I enjoy playing it! They will ask you simple state facts and information, such as what the capital is, nickname, state flag, sometimes just which is the right state (i.e. they show you four state shapes and ask "which is Maryland?") If you get the answer correct you get to "drop" the state onto a platform. Before you drop it you can rotate it or raise or lower it. If you don't drop it correctly it will bounce of the sides of the platform (sometimes my kids just enjoyed purposely dropping the states "wrong" they have funny little eyes and look very silly as they fall) The goal of the game if to stack enough states to reach the line (which gets higher as you move on in the game) My kids all think this game is really fun. My 8 year old can play independently (he can read simple sentences and though he's not always sure of the answer this game is really helping him learn his state information in such a fun way he ASKS to play it. My 4 and 6 year olds need help to figure out what they are asking but they both love this game enough that sometimes they will click on it just to play around. =) As you earn more states (you earn them by getting correct answers and then collect them on your personal "map") you get "bonus" games as well. This is really motivating to my 8 year old, he loves the extra games.

If you have kids who are learning addition, subtraction, multiplication or division you'll love this one! This game will remind parent (who grew up in the 80's like me) of the old computer games and original Nintendo games. You are a knight and you fight various beasts and villians, but the way you fight them is by completing addition problems quickly! As you vanquish the bad guys you earn coins that let you buy better weapons and shields. The Addition game is free and you can get the subtraction, multiplication and division games for $2.99 here but honestly, if you just get the free app for the addition it's really fun and your kids will learn without even knowing it! =) (I had the free app for 6 month before I chose to upgrade =) )

This games is a cross between the game above and the very popular fruit slicing game. You are completing math problems by "slicing" the correct answers. Occasionally you get "bonus eggs" that you have to slice to get extra points. Interestingly enough, my 8 year old really likes the above game, but my 6 year old likes this one better. This one goes in order , so you do all the "1+_" problems on one level and then move to "2+_" on the next level. There is an upgrade feature on this game as well, but we have never used it yet, and have been having a great time enjoying the free game.

This is a really great free game to introduce your young children to basic information about reading music. There are games to teach pitch and duration of the notes. There is also a game that will teach you to play simple songs, and a "free play" feature where the kids can play around on the key board and it will show them which notes they are making. It's a really nice free games to work on beginning music skills.

This isn't a super exciting game, but it was super useful for my struggling reader! It  gives you word syllables in separate boxes and you need to find the syllables and put them in the correct order to spell words in categories such as "wild animals" or "musical instruments". This was a game I sat down and worked on with my 6 and 8 year olds. It was a challenge for both of them since you have a list of syllables and have to figure out which two, or three, go together to form a word. But this practice was really useful for both of them (some 8 year olds may have no struggles with this app, however, if your child struggles a bit with mixing up which sounds go at the beginning and end of a word like mine does this app can really help them think of it in a different way.

I hope you find these Apps useful in teaching your children like I have! I will be completing part two of my favorite educational apps for kids soon. I'd love to hear from your in the comments about your favorite apps too!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Golden Prairie Press Review

Golden Prairie Press Review

     Charlotte Mason, a heroine of many homeschooling parents, said a living book is one that is “well put” and “well told". I am here to tell you about a well put and well told story by Amy Puetz. Amy, of Golden Prairie Press,  has written an elementary American history  for children, grades 1-6, called Heroes & Heroines of the Past: American History . This is a complete digital American history curriculum that includes three e-books books and three audio downloads:

Heroes and Heroines of the Past: American History Part 1 ebook
Starting with the people of North America and traveling through time to Andrew Jackson's presidency.

Heroes and Heroines of the Past: American History Part 2 ebook
starting with  former presidents Van Buren, Harrison, and Tyler and all the way through current times with the current Obama administration.

Additional Materials Downloads
 Timelines, videos (you will be given a link to watch them online), coloring pages, maps, and ,more

Historical Skits ebook
 Short skits to help bring the history to life. From Columbus to World War II.

Sing Some History CD
20 historical songs mentioned in the book

Listen to Some U.S. History MP3 CD
20 original speeches, poems, sermons, and documents that are mentioned in the book.

Golden Prairie Press Review

     I admit, I was at first thinking "Well, this is just a download, so it won't be very interactive for the kids". Wow! Was I ever wrong! When you receive the files and start to look through them you can see what an incredible amount of passion and attention to detail went into them. Practically every page is filled with amazing historical pictures, recipes, ideas for activities. Amy has set up the e-books to be separated into two tellings of each chapter, one for younger children who may not be able to concentrate as long and one for older children who will look for more detail. My oldest son, who is 8, loved the more advanced material and was eager to listen to each chapter. My younger son, who is 6 was interested in the more curtailed explanation and then wanted to look at all the pictures and maps and do the activity at the end of each chapter.

     They really enjoyed making a Native American teepee and you can see my 6 year olds Perler bead rendition of a Viking ship in the photo collage below, don't tell him it looks like a duck, it's clearly a sea monster. =)  (Note: The curriculum mentions making a Viking ship out of homemade playdough, however, my kids were going through a Perler bead phase and asked if they could use those instead. ) 

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     Amy has clearly put so much time and love into this curriculum, and my kids  are really enjoying it. We sat and filled in timelines while we listened to beautiful historical songs from the included CD. I wasn't sure if we would be able to do the historical skits, since none of my children could read that well yet, however I'm am really glad we did! The kids had fun dressing up in play silks (and my daughter, who is just 4, loved being Queen Isabella in the Columbus skit) and I read the lines and they repeated them and acted it out. They actually remembered a lot more about the story after performing the play. They enjoyed it so much we had to do it again for Daddy when he got home later. (I wish I had taken a picture of this, too many things, not enough hands!)

     We have not yet reached the part of the curriculum where we watch the videos together or listen to the historical speeches, however I listened to several myself in preparation and they are beautifully done and very clear and easy to listen to. The historical videos are very interesting, I know my kids will love to see videos that were made by Thomas Edison!

Golden Prairie Press Review

     I also love how this homeschool history curriculum shows the providential hand of God over the course of time. Some historical facts, that would be left out of modern history courses were included here. For instance, did you know that the name Christopher means "Christ-bearer" and that one of the reasons Christopher Columbus wanted to go to India, was to share the Gospel with the Indians. When they first landed in the New World (which, of course, they thought was not a new world) they had a church service on the beach! I actually read a small first reader with my kids at the same time that was about Columbus and they made it sound like when he landed he thought only of Spain and all the money he would make.
     Digital Heroes & Heroines of the Past: American History Curriculum is $98.99. It will give you a much fuller understanding of American History and is definitely worth the price. I am looking forward to learning more with my children as we continue on with this curriculum!

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Logic of English Foundations A Review

Logic of English Review

     Have you ever wondered if there was an easier way for your child to learn read and write? Is it confusing to you how many "exceptions" there are in English? Do your children struggle with reading and spelling? Let me tell you about a program I was blessed to be able to review with my children called, Logic of English.

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      Logic of English is a systematic phonics program, that teaches students in a step by step process that makes it very difficult to fail! It is a teacher intensive program, but you will love the results for your extra effort! I was given the opportunity to review Foundations, Level A - Manuscript for the beginning reader. This level of the program is meant for children ages 4-7. Not only was it a great kindergarten reading program for my 6 year old, who is just beginning to learn to read, but also my 8 year old struggling reader was able to fill in some gaps in his homeschool reading. My just turned 4 year old was able to join in as well and, though she was not quite ready to fully participate, she definitely learned a lot more phonograms! 

     Here's what Logic of English says about Foundations A on their website:

"Foundations A sets the stage for reading with extensive phonemic awareness activities. While students learn to read and write lowercase a-z, they also practice decoding short vowel words and consonant blends through a variety of games and activities. By the end of Level A students are reading and comprehending phrases with lowercase letters and short vowels."

Logic of English Review

My Foundations A  Manuscript kit included:

  • Level A Teacher's Manual
  • Level A Student Workbook
  • Doodling Dragons: An ABC Book of Sounds
  • Student Whiteboard
  • Basic Phonogram Flash Cards
  • Phonogram Game Cards
  • Rhythm of Handwriting Tactile Cards 
  • Rhythm of Handwriting Quick Reference Chart

     The teachers manual will guide you through using the rest of the products and occasionally give you additional activities you can use, with additional materials to support the student workbook lessons when needed.

      All of the lessons include lots of fun interactive ways to learn, such as sounding out the individual phonogram sounds and then the children have to put them together and do what the word says (example: J-U-M-P and the children say "jump!!" and then perform the action.

     The white board and tactile cards are a great tools for practicing the steps for correctly writing the letters. The quick reference chart was very helpful with this. Foundations breaks down each part of a letter into the "strokes" you would use to form a letter. This really helped my kids form it correctly. Even the 4 year old could perform and say the strokes, though she couldn't quite make it look like a letter yet. She had a much clearer idea of how it was formed! I also had the kids evaluate their own work like the program suggests and I was surprised how well they could look at their practice letters and see their mistakes and the things they did correctly. It also had the added benefit that all three would try hard to make the letters "just right" so it would be harder to decide which was best.

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      I also had the opportunity to have my children try out the Doodling Dragons and Phonograms Apps as well. The Doodling Dragons app is like a living book version of the hardcover book that comes with Foundations A.  It's meant for children ages 2 through 7. Each page covers the phonogram for a particular letter and gives examples for each. For example 'b' has babies, bubbles, a beagle, and buttered bread.

Logic of English Review

     The app puts each page together in such a way that it makes each page into a rhyming poem. In the app you have the options to either have it read, or to "play" which will bring you to each page and the child figures out which picture they are sounding out using the phonograms. This is not like many apps I've seen where the word in sounded out using each individual letter sound, making it difficult to figure out which word to choose. This app is using the phonogram sounds so the word "bread" is "b-r-ea-d" using the "eh" sound for "ea". Each letter or letter combination is taught using each possible sound that it makes which really helped my children understand.

     The second app is the Phonics with Phonograms App, which is appropriate for ages 4 to adult. This app has "10 levels to teach the 74 phonograms needed to read and spell 98% of English words". This app is a great tool for supplementing the foundations program with an additional fun way of learning. Some of the additional tools this app provides (according to  the Logic of English website):

  • "Create a custom play list for each student by choosing lowercase, uppercase, single-letter and multi-letter phonograms to review.
  • Track individual progress and mastery for multiple students.
  • Use the simple flashcard mode for quick review.
  • See at a glance which phonograms have been mastered."

Logic of English Review

         The Foundations A physical copy of the Student Workbook, Teachers Manual and Doodling Dragons book is $71. The Additional Foundations Reusable Resources Set including the Basic Phonogram Flash Cards, Whiteboard, Phonogram Game Cards, Rhythm of Handwriting Tactile Cards, Rhythm of Handwriting Quick Reference Chart is $85. There are also e-book options on the website for some of the resources. The Phonics with Phonograms app is available at the iTunes store for $2.99 The Doodling Dragons app is available through Google play, Amazon and the Apple AppStore for $4.99.

         This curriculum was really just what I was looking for and I think it's going to help turn my beginning reader, and my struggling reader into stronger readers with much improved penmanship!

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    Tuesday, May 6, 2014

    Herbal Discoveries: Red Raspberry Leaf

    This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on these links and purchase something, I receive a small portion of the money. Thank you!! This is disclosed at the top of this post in accordance to the FTC regulations.


         This is the first in a series of new posts I'm calling my "Herbal Discoveries" series. Have you ever wanted to know more about how to use common herbs for you and your family? How about finding herbal solutions for cleaning or body care products without harsh chemicals? Or finding herbs that you can easily grow in your own garden?

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         I am not an expert on herbs, but it is a subject I enjoy. When I was growing up I always remember walking through the store with my grandma and she would look at clothes or little knick knacks and say, "Oh, I could make that myself and it would be nicer AND cheaper!"

          I guess that has always stuck with me, because I have a tendency to look at things and think "Could I make this myself?" When I started looking into using more natural body care products and cleaning supplies, I started looking at the ingredient lists and thinking, "These are all common items! What if I knew how to combine them in the right way and make this myself! How much money would I save!!"  

             So I'd like to share some of my Herbal Discoveries with you as well. I hope you learn something and are inspired to try something new!
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     freshly picked red raspberry leaves
         My first herbal discovery is Red Raspberry Leaf Tea! If you have been pregnant before, chances are you have heard of this herb, because it has a reputation as a uterine tonic. But there's more to this herb than that! Like other berries, red raspberries are high in antioxidants, but did you know the leaves of the bush are as well? Red raspberry leaves are high in vitamins and minerals including vit. C, E, A and many minerals such as Magnesium and Potassium. It also is rich in calcium and iron, in a form that's easy for your body to assimilate!  

           Red raspberry leaf tea can be useful for when you are sick, much like it can be helpful during pregnancy and labor, it also can be helpful during your monthly cycle, to restore balance and lessen cramping.

         Red raspberry leaf is also used as an herb for digestive upset. It can help in two ways, by supplying necessary nutrition when your body is lacking, and also by the tannins astringent anti-inflammatory action on your intestines, slowing the reabsorption of toxins. Commission E (the German government scientists who advise about herbs) suggest as an effective remedy for diarrhea making a cup of tea using two teaspoons of blackberry leaf (which has very similar properties to the red raspberry leaf).    

       In fact, researchers don't know exactly which compound is the active compound in red raspberry leaves. According to the Green Pharmacy by James A Duke, " they (researchers) speculate that it might be Pycnogenol (an oligomeric procyanidin, or OPC)...In one study, taking 200 mg of OPC daily over two (menstrual) cycles eliminated or significantly relieved menstrual cramps and/or premenstrual syndrome in 50 to 60 percent of the women who took them." I find, from personal experience, if I drink the red raspberry leaf tea first thing in the morning BEFORE any cramping starts, it is much more effective than trying to take it like a ibuprofen, after the cramping has begun.

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    our very large raspberry bush that needs to be trimmed back, more tea!!!

         Red raspberry plants are extremely easy to grow at home! They thrive in most any environment. Make sure to plant them in a place with plenty of room because they will GROW! We use our own worm compost because our soil has very little organic matter in it. They seem to love the worm compost and our two plants have tripled in size in less than a year and already have many berries!

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    beautiful berries getting read to ripen!

         When your bushes need trimming back is the best time to harvest your leaves. Trim the unruly stalks (wear gloves! Red Raspberry has lots of thorns) and then carefully remove the leaves. Since I don't like to do this delicate part with my gloves on,  I like to wear one glove to hold the branch and then using the other hand fold the leaves carefully in half backwards and remove. Why, you ask do I recommend this procedure for removing the leaves? Here's why:

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    back of a red raspberry leaf

         Don't worry, once you dry the leaves the thorns will no longer hurt you. I use my dehydrator.

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         There are many beautiful dehydrators out there, popular with real food bloggers, which I'm sure work just as beautifully as they say. If you can afford the price tag, I'm sure they would be worth the investment. I can not, and I have been using the same dehydrator for 14+ years, and it works great! I have dried herbs, made countless kale chips, fruit leathers and dried a LOT of beef jerky on this dehydrator and it's still going strong. It was much cheaper when I bought it. =) If you can't afford one new, keep your eye out at yard sales and thrift stores, they are pretty common. =)

         You'll want to dehydrate your leaves on a very low setting. My dehydrator says 95 degrees F and that's what I use. It takes about two days, but this can change depending on your environment. So keep checking on them. The leaves should be nice and dry and crumble easily in your hand. I store the leaves in a simple Ziploc bag with the air out, and they should last this way for about 6 mo. If you need them to last longer they can be placed in the freezer.

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    dried leaves stored in a Ziploc bag

         To make the tea, I use a good deal more than Comission E recommends. =) I take a small compressed handful (about 1/4 cup, very stuffed full) of dried leaves and add it to hot (not boiling) water, cover your steeping tea right away! The essential oils from your plant will quickly escape into the air, so cover with a tea cup lid, or a glass/porcelain plate (NOT plastic) if that's all you have!

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    I took this picture kneeling in my front yard, I'm pretty sure my neighbors think I'm nuts!=)

         I sweeten it with a little stevia. For my children I use honey and lemon. Another great way to use this tea is to make a strong 2 cups of it and add lemon and extra honey. Wait until it's fully cooled and then put in in a Ziploc bag and lay it flat in the freezer. When it's frozen break it up in the bag. We call this "mama ice" (since it originated as a labor recipe) and whenever my children get an "ouchie" I give them a small Dixie cup full. It's sweet and cold and very nutritious!!

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    I could not find my exact tea cup and strainer, but this one is very similar. Please be careful the glass is thin!

         Something new I learned about the raspberries themselves, they can be used to make xylitol (commercially, I REALLY don't think you could do THAT in your home kitchen!) I had heard of xylitol from corn and birch, but apparently it can also be made from many fruits and vegetables, and even some mushrooms! (Source)  


    Want to learn more? Check out these titles that I use for myself and my family!

    The Green Pharmacy by James A Duke (Mr. Duke is a well-known herbalist who has some great herbal advice for many common maladies.)
    Naturally Healthy Babies and Children by Aviva Romm (this is my #1 top pick book for great natural advice for many childhood illnesses and injuries!!)
    Practical Herbalism by Phil Fritchey (this book gives specific doses and instructions for using 46 common herbs medicinally)

    Shared at Share your Stuff Tuesdays

    In case you are interested these shots were taken with a Canon PowerShot  SD 1200

    For any and all medical advice please see a qualified medical professional.
    I am a blogger, not a medical professional. In compliance with the FDA regulations, any advice is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
      Thank You!