Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Introducing Homeschool Library

Twenty-five dollars won't fill up the gas tank in my car.  It barely gets me a sack of groceries (let's not talk about ground chuck at $3/lb. for Memorial Day).  So this may be one of the best bargains on the planet right now.   The folks at The Old Schoolhouse Magazine have created a virtual Schoolhouse Library with books, videos, and audiobooks and you can have it all for $25.  This is not a subscription--you'll have access to over 175 eProducts forever (plus any new products they add down the road).  Here's a sampling.

  • a lapbook from Hands of a Child
  • 15 audio books from My Audio School
  • a Map Trek sampler for Knowledge Quest
  • a Bible Study from Grapevine Studies
  • an Amy Puetz unit study
  • lots, lots more!
You'll find resources for Bible Study, Economics, Nature Study, Grammar, Spelling, Reading, Geography and more.  So check it out for yourself.

Monday, May 27, 2013

TOS Review: Simplified Pantry

I know that most of my readers visit Ozark Ramblings to check out the latest homeschooling products I’ve been reviewing.  I’ll be upfront and say that this time we’re not talking about homeschooling, so if you don’t need to feed your family, pay bills on time, or not miss doctor’s appointments then feel free to tune out….Well I see most of you are still with me.  I guess Franklin was wrong, there are other certain things besides death and taxes---like someone asking “What’s for supper?”  So let me go ahead and introduce you to three eBooks by Simplified Pantry.  I spent most of my time using Simplified Dinners.  (You may click on each title to visit its web page)

Simplified Dinners  ($12.99)
PDF download  (531 KB,  30 pages)

Don’t brush off this eBook based on it’s size.  This is not just a collection of recipes.  It truly is a cook book, that is it teaches you the process for cooking a basic recipe and then gives you several options for varying the dish.   From a one-page Master Pantry List, you could literally cook hundreds of dinners without repeating yourself just by switching out ingredients.  It can also help you set up a weekly meal plan (Sunday-roast, Monday-pizza, Tuesday-stir fry) without the monotony of exactly the same dishes every week.

These meals definitely satisfied my “meat & potatoes” family, especially since I could customize each recipe to suit our tastes, budget, and allergy concerns.   With the Cinco de Mayo sales I picked up some avocados at a great price for fajitas, but other weeks we may forego this ingredient.  Working with a master pantry list is also good for the budget.  You can stock up when items are marked down and purchase enough to last until the sales cycle comes around again (good reason to keep a price book). And none of the ingredients require trips to the specialty aisles or stores.  I once bought an expensive bottle of Juniper Berries to make a copy-cat recipe for one of those restaurants that build a burrito for you.  It’s still sitting in the pantry collecting dust because I didn’t like how recipe turned out but I don’t want to throw “cash in the trash.”
Most of the dishes seemed geared towards a large evening meal (the title should have been by first clue).  Lunches could be made from the leftovers.  There are potato hash and oven omelette recipes that could serve for hearty breakfasts.

All this being said, Simplified Dinners might not be for everybody—especially beginning cooks.  Because the focus is on a process first and then variations, you may need to look in more than one place to complete a dish.  For example, the stovetop Bean Pot process has 7 steps, if I want to make the Herbed Beans Variation I need to alter steps 1,3,4,6 and 7.    A newbie cook could easily miss a step bouncing back and forth between the top and bottom of the page.   Also, a lot of the dishes don’t specify amounts.  If you’re not used to using a spice you may not know the fine line between enhancing a dish and overpowering it.   I’ve been cooking for myself or my family for more than 20 years and  I’ve also gotten pretty good at “winging-it” when I’ve got nothing planned for dinner—finding a meat, starch, cutting cup veggies and adding a sauce and some spices to make something palatable for dinner so this aspect didn’t bother me.

I didn’t like it though when I had to use ratios to come up with a specific amount of sauce. Let’s look at Skillet Cutlets with Pan Sauces.  You want pan sauce ingredients to equal 1/2 C of liquids per 4 servings and for Sweet & Sour sauce you want to combine 2:1:1 chicken broth, vinegar, and soy sauce.  The only way I could do this was to pour 2 T of broth, and 1 each of the other two ingredients into a measuring cup and repeat the process over and over until I got to the right amount.   I’d rather have amounts listed for 1 batch and then I could multiply it as needed for the number of servings I was making.

Still, as you continue to use Simplified Dinners you can probably make more of the dishes from memory and this won’t be such an issue.

Simplified Dinners Gluten Free/Dairy Free
($12.99) PDF Download
  (729 KB,  33 pages)

The processes are the same, with Pizza removed and the addition of Lentils over Rice and Desserts.  Along with the Master Pantry list is a page to help you find gluten and dairy lurking in ingredient lists on labels.

Paperless Home Organization  ($3.99)
(2.89 MB,  75 pages)
The days of the home management binder being an actual binder are disappearing with new technology (much like most kids today don’t know why we say “dial” a telephone).   If you’ve got a smartphone or tablet , the author takes you step by step through set up of Evernote, Remember the Milk, and Google Mail & Calendar.  These are all free programs you can find online with apps to sync to your mobile device (iOX or Android).  You can also use them just on your PC (which is all I have).  Since I’m not able to access my calendar or To Do list when I’m away from my computer I still have to really on pen and paper.
You can also take 30% off these prices by using coupon code TOS2013 at checkout  (code is valid May 20-June 3).


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Della's Dinovite Challenge--Halfway

I just got an email reminder from the folks at Dinovite that we're halfway through the 90 day trial and I thought I'd share the results I've seen so far.  Remember the seven signs that your dog might need a supplement?

  1. Itching & Scratching -- We've still got that problem.  I don't really see any improvement.
  2. Dry, Flaky Skin  --  While Furminating Della, my husband has noticed that there are few dandruff flakes.
  3. Recurring Ear Infections -- She still scratches her ears.  Hubby hasn't noticed any foul odors lately--at least none that he's mentioned.
  4. Paw Licking--I've still  seen her do that occasionally.
  5. Stinky smell --This really wasn't a problem to begin with.
  6. Excessive Shedding--Still shedding a lot.  We use a Furminator tool to remove as much as possible.
  7. Lethargy --  She still lays around, but does go through playful periods we call "Crazy Dog" where she zips around the house.
The Dinovite email reminded us that it will take a long while for the nutrients to be replenished in all her systems and to not make any judgments until the end of the trial.   We still have a long way to go.

TOS Review: Joyce Herzog

Full disclosure time—Joyce Herzog and I go way back.  She was at the first Homeschool Convention I ever attended in Indiana back in the ‘90s.  I attended her workshops, I used her Scaredy Cat program to teach my son to read.  I even owned her Timeless Teaching Tips book ($15)  until I lent it out to a friend considering homeschooling and never got it back.   So when I received another copy for this review, it was like I’d stepped back into that workshop from so many years ago again.  I found tips and tricks I’d been using for years but couldn’t remember where I’d picked them up.

For example,   Schnickelfritz  could easily multiply three digits by two digits in his head but when it came to writing down the work he often got the wrong answer.  Huh? What’s up with that?  I figured out his sloppy handwriting was keeping him from properly aligning the numbers he needed to add.  I made him start writing the problems on graph paper, one digit per box, and that took care of the problem.  It’s all detailed 
Or when I don’t want him to circle answers right in the book, I cut the edge off a page protector and slip it over the page in the book.  Then he marks on the page protector with a wet erase marker.  When he’s done we remove the page protector and the book’s as good as new.   That came from a chapter called A Dozen Teaching Tips.
Mrs. Herzog’s book is divided into sections titled:
  • Principles of Learning--Steps of Good Teaching, Is it Knowledge or a Skill?,  Labels Limit, Goals and Goal Setting, Principles of Changing Behavior, and more……
  • It’s Been Said—quotes about Education, America as A Nation, Worldview, and more…
  • Practical Helps—dealing with Limited Resources, Teaching Reading Comprehension, Building Spelling Success, Math Helps, and more….
  • Homeschooling Issues—Happy Helpful Hints, Get a Jump Start!, Multilevel Can be Fun and Easy!
  • Gems- affirmations about Children, Learning Differences, Training Character, and more…
  • Spiritual Considerations—Soaking in the Scriptures, Understanding the Bible, and more…

The book doesn’t have to be read in order.   I jumped from topic to topic as needs and my mood dictated.  Many pages have small blocks of bolded text  like “Help me see progress” or “Look for Lessons in Simple  Things”  so just jump in when something catches your eye.
Just thinking about homeschooling?  Mrs. Herzog is there to assure you that anyone can teach.  After all, your 12 year old isn’t still wearing diapers, drinking from a bottle, and saying “Da da”.  Newbie homeschoolers may be drawn to the practical help tips to use what they have on hand to teach—I bet you have a ruler, a set of measuring cups, index cards and a Bible in your home.  And parents who've been homeschooling for a while may need to focus on the Gems to keep them motivated after a tough year or to recall why they undertook a homeschooling life in the first place.
Teach principles and truths that last forever,
not facts that become obsolete in a few years. 
I hope my old copy of Timeless Teaching Tips is still being passed around  so other’s can benefit from the wisdom accumulated in Mrs. Herzog’s lifetime of teaching (ironically she never had children of her own to teach).  As for this new copy, well your welcome to read but it stays in my house.  Perhaps you’re better off getting your own copy.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Homeschool Field Day

Yesterday, over 50 families from our county met at the town park for Field Day--an End-of-the School-Year celebration.  The kids participate in tug-of-war,  races, and skill events.  Everyone sits down for a pitch-in lunch.  The afternoon is always the highlight, with the "you may get wet" events take place.  This year the local fire dept. and ambulance district came with their rigs for the kids to see during lunch.  They even stayed to play Baby Pool Baseball (it's a wet sport).

I brought my camera but had very few opportunity to take pictures.  I was on the kitchen crew:  we set up tables, grilled 50 packages of hot dogs, cut up fruit and the desserts, poured drinks, and washed dishes after lunch.  Afterwards I went home, settled in on the couch, turned on RFDTV to watch Campfire CafĂ©, and immediately fell asleep.  I woke up to find Schnickelfritz asleep in the recliner so he must have had a full day too.

This game is Musical Buckets.  Rather than scurry around for an empty chair you have to sit you tush in a bucket of water.  The littlest kids eventually sink down in the buckets and have to be pulled out.  They have so much fun, they don't even worry about who's the winner.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Review: Hands of a Child Notebook

Did the blog title throw you for a loop?  Yes the company famous for its lap books also makes notebooks for older kids.  My son was recently given the opportunity to check out their Basic Survival Skills Note Pack.  The cover says "For Grades 6 and up," but my 10 year old found it engaging and had no problems answering the questions.  It's been a good foundation for his Royal Rangers (and someday FCF) camping merits.

There are 14 pages of teaching material including a new vocabulary list and nearly two pages of other recommended reading--fiction and nonfiction.  I hadn't thought of My Side of the Mountain since my teacher read it aloud when I was in sixth grade, but what could spark a kid's interest better than the story of a young boy living alone in a hollowed out tree in the Catskill mountains!

That's not to say your kid would be ready for a year of roughing it after this study, but they would know what to do if they got lost while hiking.   We covered 6 steps to take in an emergency,  Do's & Don'ts of where to place shelter,  food & equipment that should be part of your outdoor gear, and special tips for desert, water, swamp, and mountainous climates.

The bulk of the note pack are pages for recording the information learned.  I gave him the appropriate pages and he could fill them in as note taking practice while I lectured.  This is more learning survival theory rather than practicing skills--no need to build a fire or lean-to shelter unless you want to.  The 23 Hands-on activities mentioned on the HOAC website are really filling out the note sheets.  The 2 extension activities are making a burnoose and organizing a survival kit. 

Now here's the good news--you can win your own copy of Basic Survival Skills.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer:  I received a free PDF copy of the Basic Survival note pack for this review and I'd like to thank Hands of a Child for making a free copy available to one of my readers.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Centershot Ministries.

There aren't many times that I've envied the opportunities public school students have, but I did wish my son could participate in the National Archery in Schools program described in my Missouri Conservation magazine.  Schnickelfritz has been talking about archery since Camporama last summer where he got a bull's-eye on his first try!  I wanted a place where he could learn and practice before I committed to purchasing a bow (I especially wanted to see his reaction when he learned you DON’T get a bull’s-eye every time).   Isn't it great when God provides for our wants as well as our needs?   Back in March we attended the Truth and the Outdoors event and made PVC bows & arrows.  The same ministry that brought us that program has begun offering archery lessons through Centershot Ministries.  If you're like me and never heard of the program, here's a promotional video.

I was so impressed when I first arrived, not only to see  40+ kids eager to learn, but to see 10 men who would be teaching the archery skills and the Bible lessons.  So often children's ministry and VBS programs are led almost exclusively by women.  I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but I’m always please for my son to have male role models.  This guy here must have come straight from work because he still had his mechanic’s shirt on.
    Safety, safety, safety!  In the first lesson the kids learn not to even approach the bow rack until they hear the appropriate whistle command.  There are signals to Get Bows, Shoot, Retrieve Arrows, and an emergency stop everything whistle.  Even in weeks six and seven they still get tests--an adult will throw a ball into the shooting range and the emergency whistle is blown.  The student have to slowly release tension on the bow, return arrows to the quiver and bows to the bow rack, and stand behind the line.  

There are more kids than bows so the group is split and half go to to Bible lessons (and have a snack) while the other half practices.

If your church is looking for a new outreach ministry, this is a program for kids and adults!  If you’re looking for an already established ministry, I haven’t found a place on the Centershot website to find host churches by zip code, but according to a 2013 video there are more than 2000 participating churches.

 We’ve got two more lessons in the 8 week session.  So how’s Schnickelfritz doing?  Judge for yourself.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Review: Spanish for You!

One of the questions we homeschool teachers always get (after that socialization one) is “How can you teach all that?”  The truth is, there are some subjects that need to be outsourced. In our house it’s foreign language.   I can’t teach Spanish because I don’t know Spanish—that’s what Co-ops are for.  I can bring a virtual co-op into my home with Spanish for You! and its creator, Debbie Arnett.  She’s been teaching Spanish to students from K-12 for the past fourteen years.  The unique thing about her curriculum is it’s built around themes and she provides syllabi and worksheets for three grade groups: 3-4, 5-6, 7-8.   We received her Fiestas package (grades 3-8) to review.  Our package included:

  • the Spanish For You! book  (ours was an eBook, but a purchased set will have a soft-cover copy)
  • PDF Lesson Guides for grades 3-4 (30 wks.), 5-6 (24 wks.), 7-8 (24 wks.)
  • PDF worksheets for every lessons (for each grade). Page 1 has the exercises, page 2 has the answers.
  • MP3 audio files for every lesson—a set by the author and a set by a native speaker.
  • PDF files of flashcard pictures for vocabulary words
My son and I both worked on the 3-4 level and spent the entire review on reference section (pronunciation guide, common phrases, commands, colors, and numbers) and Lesson 1 which focused on Birthday Parties.  The other lesson’s fiestas are The Day of the Dead,  Carnival, Holy Week and April Fair.  There is a brief description of each of the last four fiestas at the beginning of the book.

The first week of the lesson focused on vocabulary (cake, friends,  candle, etc.) and verbs to sing, to open (as in a present), to eat, and to talk.  And yes, we did have to learn to conjugate the verbs, including an informal “you all” used only in Spain.   The driving force of Spanish for You! is the flashcards.  We did receive PDF files for the object vocabulary, but the lesson plans really want your kids to make their own as a memory reinforcement. You’ll have to make the verb and sentence flashcards anyway (stock up on index cards—you’ll need a lot!)   There are pages of games using these flashcards at the front of the book.  Of course my son’s favorite game wasn’t even in the book.  I hide all the English translation cards around the basement and then show him one of the Spanish cards.  He has to race around the room and then bring back the correct card to me.  It’s a great game for Wiggle Worms

The audio files are great for practicing pronunciation and learning to answer questions.  I had to sit next to the computer ready to press the pause button because there's not that time between phrases.  My Schnickelfritz needed just a little more time, especially when he was responding to a question and wasn't just repeating what the speaker said.

There are usually worksheet assignments every day as well (the lesson plans are designed with a 4 day per week schedule).  My advice is to take some time Sunday night to print out the worksheets you’ll need for the week.  Each sheet is its own file and I had a difficult time finding the ones I needed.  Part way through the review period I received an email from the author saying she’d organized the worksheets into folders by lesson so this may help.
  Some days he drew pictures of the vocabulary. Days when he had to write were harder.  There was no explanation that accent marks were important in spelling the word.

The lessons need to be done in order so if learning about the Day of the Dead isn’t appealing to you, you may want to try the other curriculum which is about seasons.  I didn’t know that it had nothing to do with Halloween (which we don’t celebrate), but is to honor friends and family who have passed on.  Still I don’t think I’ll have a need to be able to say “Regresa al cementerio” (Return to the cemetery)any time soon.  I get that the program is just to prepare students for formal high school Spanish, but I’d still like to learn things that I may use in real life not just learn for the sake of learning.  Maybe the new book coming out this year on Travels would be more what I have in mind.   The teaching and review methods were certainly effective and easy to follow.

As I mentioned, I don’t know Spanish but I understand there are differences between how it’s spoken in Latin America and Spain.  It appears this curriculum is trying to cover both.  The native speaker for the audio is from Mexico and the Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday.  On the other hand we had to learn the “you all” form of verbs used only in Spain with people you address on a first name basis (highly unlikely I’ll ever need that) and the April Fair is a fiesta in Seville, Spain. 

The package with all grades (3-8) is $64.95.  If you’ve got an only child like me, you can just buy one grade level for $39.95.    Want to try before you buy?  This page  has samples from both the Fiestas and Estaciones books.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Cinnamon Red Hot Apple Pie


Here’s my take on Apple Pie to go with last week’s pot roast dinner. 


8 baking apples (whatever it takes to fill the pie pan)

1 Cup sugar

3 T.  all purpose flour

3 T.  cinnamon red hot candies

2 T butter

pie crust for a double crust pie

Put the sugar, flour, and red hots in a large bowlAs you peel, core, and slice the apples stir them in the sugar mixture to prevent browning (you’ll also start to get a pretty pink syrup). 

Place the bottom crust in the pie pan and fill with the apple/syrup mixture.  Cut up the butter and dot the top of the apples before adding the top crust.

  Cut vents or decorative shapes in the top crust for venting.  This is a very juicy pie so you may want to put something under the dish to keep spills from the bottom of the oven.  Bake at 350 for 55 minutes.


Friday, May 3, 2013

4-H Field Trip

Schnickelfritz had a "behind-the-scenes" tour as part of his 4-H project.  Can you guess where he went?

It was noisy and there were lots of big machines (leaving us very little room to stand and observe).  Need another clue?  Look carefully at the next picture.

Do you see the white objects at the bottom, can you tell what they are?  Here's a different angle.

For the final day of his bowling project we got to go back and see the pin setting machines.  I never imagined the complexity...or the expense.  The sweeper arm that brushes the pins to the back during the frame can cost $20,000!  So please don't throw a ball at it if it gets stuck in the down position--you just make bowling games that much more expensive for everyone if it needs to be replaced. 

Also, for safety's sake, if an employee has to go behind the lane to fix something in your lane DON'T resume bowling until you see them come out of the back area again...even if your lane looks ready.  They could be reattaching a panel or something and these machines could crush them if they still had an arm in the way.

This was one of those local field trips I'd never thought about.  We had had 8 weeks of lessons in the history, rules and how-tos of bowling.  I bet that a bowling alley would be happy to do a tour for a homeschool group if they came and bowled a game or two.  Our local alley has cheaper rates for games & shoes if you come during the day (and it's not smoky then either).  Fritz loves watching machinery at work...but his favorite part was being given one of the damaged pins to take home.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Christian Parenting Handbook

It's the words a parent never wants to hear--"I think you'd better come, your son's been hurt."  I had been sitting in the church sanctuary reading quietly while my son attended co-op classes.  How could he get hurt in a book discussion class?   I found him in the hallway and gave him  the quick once-over to make sure he was okay, then I started asking questions to see how this could have happened in the first place.

He'd been sent to the hallway for talking out of turn in class.  While being disciplined another boy walked up and teased him and Schnickelfritz started grappling with him.  This led another boy to leave the book class and punch my son in a very sensitive spot while defending his friend.  All that mother concern over my son's well-being faded as the story unfurled.  Now I was angry--disciplined by another teacher, fighting in the hallway?  My first reaction was to throw the book at him (not the literal one from class).  Possible punishments swirled in my head--take away the X-Box, make him write sentences, etc.  We couldn't actually leave co-op because I was teaching a class next hour. 

Of course, that was a reaction--I was embarrassed by my son's behavior in front of all the other Christian, homeschooling mothers at co-op.  What my son needed was a response.  (Think about taking medicine--you want you body to respond, not react to the treatment).  Fortunately at that moment my mind hearkened back to something I'd just been reading in The Christian Parenting Handbook (remember I said I'd been reading in the sanctuary?).    Chapter 3, entitled "Consequences Aren't the Only Answer" warns that parents who believe the bigger the punishment, the quicker the change are usually disappointed.  My goal should be a changed heart, not just a punishment for doing wrong.  Schnickelfritz has a problem with self-control: he couldn't wait until the teacher called on him to speak,  he couldn't let the teaser pass by without attacking him. 

 Without knowing it I was already working into chapter 4, "Identify Character Qualities to Address Problems."  I was looking at the self control issue rather than the symptoms--talking in class and reacting to teasing.   I took Schnickelfritz to an empty classroom and we started working on Chapter 5, "Transfer Responsibility for Change to the Child."  I asked Fritz to come up with 5 things he could do to help himself when he needed to keep quiet and when someone was laughing at him. 

All that good parenting advice and I was only on chapter 5--I couldn't wait to discover the wisdom in the remaining 45 chapters.  The Christian Parenting Handbook covers 50 principles, each in their own brief chapter.  You can certainly get through one in a sitting.  And they're not all focused on punishment and discipline.  There are chapter titles like "Teach Kids to Add Energy to Family Life", "Use Mealtimes to Build Relationships", and "The Value of Grandparents." 

As I mentioned on Monday, this is the launch week for the book and it's already been a smash.  The online retailers have sold out of print copies, but you can still get eBooks through them.  If you'd like the print version, you may order at The National Center for Biblical Parenting.  They are offering a 25% discount.  You'll still receive the $400 in freebies.

Through May 5th you can also enter my Christian Parenting Giveaway and the mega blog giveaway listed below.

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