Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Police visit Royal Rangers

Last week the firemen visited our Royal Ranger's outpost, so it only seemed fair that the police had a turn.

This will be the only time in my life I will happily display a photo of my Schnickefritz being handcuffed . All the boys were anticipating this part.  When asked to raise their hands...for any questions, the boys didn't wait for the end of the sentence but eagerly threw out both hands for the cuffs.

We read Acts 23:12-22 and Fritz  drew a picture of himself obeying the law to earn the Keeper of the Law Acheivement patch.  It's actually a picture of nme obeying the law--not passing when there's a solid line in the center of the road.  I have no idea why that rule made such an impression of him.



Thursday, October 22, 2009

Review: Amazing Bible Timeline

I had a typical public school education.  Every subject was conveniently broken down into 50 minute segments.  Music was never combined with history and  nothing from school was every tied back to what I had learned Sunday morning.  So it's no surprise to me that I had no clue that  Mozart was composing at the time of the American Revolution or that the first Olympic games took place around the time that Jonah was swallowed by a big fish.  I guess that's why I wanted to make sure to use a timeline in Fritz's education--so that he could get an overall picture of the course of history.

When I received a free copy of the Amazing Bible Timeline to study and use for this review, I cleared off the dining room table (it's that big ), found the magnifying glass and spent an hour or so delving into the mysteries of history.  The circular chart is broken down into century wedges--everything within a wedge occurring around the same time.  The beginning of the world occurs at the 12 o'clock position and the life of Christ, separating B.C. from A.D. can be found at the 6 o'clock position.   The color coding designates a variety of things:  purple for events of the Catholic Church, light pink for the Reformation, and yellow, blue and deep pink for descendants of Noah's sons--Shem, Ham and Japheth, respectively.   I'm not sure why the people who lived before Noah's sons are colored in at all because they clearly aren't descendants.

  In the bottom corners is a table designed to help you locate specific people or events  once you understand  how to navigate the chart.  If you look up Jonah you will find the reference "8-9 B.C."  This doesn't mean Jonah can be found at the year 8 or 9 B.C.  In the center of the chart, the lines forming the century are numbered with zero at the life of Christ and increasing by one for each wedge line going forward or backward in time.  So Jonah can be located in the wedge formed by lines 8 and 9 on the B.C. side of the chart.

The timeline explains that where very ancient history is concerned some of the dates are really just best guesses--we have to accept that with any timeline.  I was more concerned by what appeared to be several "agendas" the timeline was attempting to push without overt comment.   The most blatant being that the  American Indians are actually Semitic if not an outright lost tribe of Israel.  All along the outer rim is a yellow (Semitic) band labled The American Indian.  In each wedge is another "proof"  like "Spaniards found Hebrew characters on many ancient tombstones..." or a directive to read an outside source "Read  'Indian Legends'  J.W. Leseuer."

As a Bible believing Christian, I accept the fact that Native Americans descend from one of Noah's sons--we all have to.   It's a big stretch for me to think that one group of Shem's family would move such a great distance when all the others stayed in the Middle East, or that Japheth's line traveled to the Far East and then stepped aside for someone else to cross the land bridge to North America.  In no case could these people be a lost tribe of Israel because the covenant with Abraham didn't even occur until centuries later!!    I leave it to others to determine why establishing the Native Americans in the Semitic line is so important to the timeline's creator.

A second area of concern is using Biblical prophecy to interpret events since the birth of Christ.   Text  near the outer rim states;  "That man of sin"  reigned 1260 years Rev. 13: 1-18  II Thes. 2:1-18 .  Just above it is the statement "From the fall of paganism to Napoleon abolishing the civil power of the Pope 1290 years Rev. 13:1-18, 17:1-18, Dan. 7:14-25.   At the same time, closer to the center the divisions of west Rome are given the title "The Ten Kingdoms."  I can only infer from this that the timeline is taking prophecy from Revelations and calling the Pope the antichrist. 

I prefer timelines to display facts rather than conjecture.  I also like the freedom to add events and individuals as we study them.  We will therefore continue to use our homemade timeline in the hallway rather than the Amazing Bible timeline in our homeschooling.  If you choose, you may order the Amazing Bible Timeline from this website for $29.97.  You will also receive a downloadable version, an interactive map,  the genealogy of Jesus Christ, and other free downloads from time to time.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fire Dept

The Fire Department gave the Royal Rangers an upclose tour of their fire engine tonight.  The boys got to see the jaws of life, an airbag/carjack,  hoses, ladders... the whole works.  I think they were most impressed by the huge lights that rise from the top of the truck and can be rotated to shine and illuminate the area.   We live in a rural area with no fire hydrants so the trucks also carry a thousand gallons of water and an inflatable pool that a tanker truck can fill.

We read the story of Elijah and his challenge to the prophets of Baal (fire related).  Now Fritz will draw a floorplan of our house and the escape routes and meeting place in case of fire.  The last thing is to check the batteries in the smoke detectors (which everyone should do--Daylight savings time serves as a good reminder date).  Then he'll have his Firefighter acheivement patch.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Review: Sarah's Wish

Sarah Smith, recently orphaned, tries to honor her mother's legacy by carrying on her work in the underground railroad.  At the same time she longs to be part of a family again.  The book is filled with suspence--will the slave catcher find the secret room hiding the couple trying to find freedom or the slave hiding under the straw in the wagon?  It was hard to find stopping points because of the constant wonder what would happen next. 

Author Jim Baumgardner dedicated  Sarah's Wish to his homeschooled grandchildren.  It reminds me of the old Landmark Book series--well researched Historical Fiction,  reverence to God, and no obscenities or questionable language.  (Although the author did share in one of his newsletters that another book in the series does contain a derogatory term in the context of showing how bad slavery really was).

Sarah is a very inquisitive child who wants to grow up to be a teacher.  As she asks questions, both she and the reader learn about life in the 1850's:  slavery, herbal medicine, steamboat travel, the beginnings of baseball.  After a while I felt as though events were being "set up" just so the author could teach us something new, like when Sarah and Granny going to the wheelwright's shop and we learn  how a wagon wheel is made.   

The dialogue of some of the characters is written in a colorful way with phonetically spelled words and apostrophes cutting off the ends of words.  This might make reading difficult for some students.  If you don't like reading aloud, the end of the book gives instructions to download a free audio copy.

I advise you to visit  for yourself.  You can read samples from all the books in the series, sign up for the newsletter, or get your own autographed copy of Sarah's Wish for $9.99. 

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sick Day

My Schnickelfritz had a bout of "The Yuckies" today, unable to keep anything down until late this afternoon.   We were able to spend the day snuggled under warm blankets reading On the Banks of Plum Creek .  Fritz also wanted me to read his chess book--it's really a workbook by Championship Chess, not exactly reading material.  I read it to him anyway, in a comforting voice while scratching his back.  It reminded me of when he was a baby and I'd read aloud to him magazine articles that I was interested in, but in soothing tones as if I were reading a fairy tale.

We also watched Swiss Family Robinson.  He'd drift in and out of sleep.  Then we'd have to skip backwords so he could see what he'd missed.  The afternoon ended with watching deer in our back yard.  We've had three visit us daily for the past two weeks.  Fritz has names two of them Bucky and Emily, but hasn't settled on a name for the third one yet.

THis has really been the first time he's been sick since I stopped working outside the home.  It was so nice to be able to focus just on him and having to make phone calls to sitters and my job, not having to try and get work done from home, or worrying about how big the pile will have grown when I go back.   I didn't want a sick kid, but I've really felt blessed today that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing--if that makes sense.

Post Script --Fritz is feeling much better and has mentioned that it's been a l-o-n-g   time since he's eaten pizza.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Review: Virginia Soap and Scents

Virginia Soaps and Scents recently sent me a free sampler of their products to test for this review.  The sampler included three scented soaps, a scented shampoo bar and a kit to make my own laundry soap.

Due to allergies in my family, I did not test any of the scented products.  I will say that the soaps looked lovely.   If anyone practices hospitality, I'm sure their guests would feel pampered and special with these handmade soaps in their powder room.  I donated our soaps to the county's recently opened safe house and I pray that they might, in some small way, lift the spirits of the women who take shelter there.

Fritz and I did make and test the laundry soap.  The easy instructions included in the packet had us mix and melt soap shavings in water. 


Don't ask me to explain the "robot arm" made out of a roller coaster construction set.  All I can say is life is never dull in our house.

Then we added the powder from another bag.   I originally had some concern about using my cooking pots for this procedure.  I've looked at several other recipes for cleaners online that state you must use a pot reserved just for the cleaning solution.  I contacted Virginia Soaps and Scents and received a speedy response that it wasn't the case here.  It is safe to use pots and utinsils that will touch food later.   An added bonus is to throw the pot in the dish washer and help get your dishes extra clean.

It was all transferred to a storage container and more water added.  (As a side note, no sacrifice is too great in performing these reviews--Fritz and I had to empty the ice cream container in order to use it for the soap.  Delicious!!)  The soap gels as it cools so a bucket you can scoop from is better than a container you would need to pour out.

The next day I used the soap to test three loads of laundry--colors, whites, and blue jeans.  We used both hot and cold water and I can say I'm quite pleased with the results.  Fritz's socks seemed a little bit brighter and everything got clean.  The load of blue jeans was particularly grungy, so rather than just put the soap in the washer, I rubbed it into the areas of the jeans most heavily soiled.  The soap doesn't produce as many suds as detergent, which is a good thing in our house.  I have cut back on detergent several times and still see soap bubbles foaming around the drain pipe.  While I have no clear evidence to back this up, I'm sure it's better for our septic system as well.

I'm going to be ordering more of this laundry soap.  You can either buy it as a kit ($4.95 for 64-72 loads) or just buy a cleaning bar ($3.95) and add your own borax and washing soda.  A bar provides enough soap for two batches of laundry soap.   I'm a big fan of the Tightwad Gazette so now I'm going to have to get out a pencil and see which is more cost effective.

To check out what others on the Homeschool Crew thought of Virginia Soaps and Scents click here.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Review: Guardian Angel Publishing

I recently received six free ebooks from Guardian Angel Publishing to read and review.

The first we read was a lighthearted story Are we Flamingos.  Two young flamingos are concerned that they don't look like the other members of their flock.  After being reassured by their mom that the pink coloring will come in time from their diet, the siblings amuse themselves by drawing pictures of what they might look like if they diets consisted of other foods.  That night at bedtime their mother shares that it's not what they look like but what's inside that counts. 

This story might be good for the one red-headed child in the family who has been teased into beleiving they were adopted.   Fritz is an only child, but he did enjoy the story.  The vived pictures really captured his immagination, especially the  "pepperoni pizza flamingo."

Our next selection was the Rainbow Sheep.  This was another story with terribly creative illustrations--in this case they were photographs of pictures made with felt.   This one had much more reading per page than the flamingo book but Fritz was interested enough in the picture details that he didn't seem to mind.   In the story a young shepherdess uses her imagination to tell stories to amuse (and brighten) a rainbow bored with life. 

Perhaps I'm being nit-picky here, but  in the first picture Fritz asked why there were snakes slithering among the sheep.  "Wouldn't that scare them?" he asked.  The text has a simile "Rain fell from the sky, like snakes slithering down the hill."   Having actual snakes complete with eyes and a forked tongues made it hard to explain that it was just a figure of speech.

Parts of speech is a good segue to our next book, Hamster Holidays .  This book about fictional holidays has color coded words--blue for nouns and red for adjectives.  I appreciated the definition for noun: a word that names a person, place or thing.  I grew up in the era of Schoolhouse Rock on Saturday mornings and the song "A Noun is a Person, Place, or Thing."  A grammar lesson by Joyce Herzog helped me identify that faulty logic (I am a person, therefore I am a noun).   After learning what nouns and adjectives are in the introduction, we couldn't practice identifying them in the story because the work had been done for us.  There were some activities in the back of the book, including a uncolored story, to reinforce the grammar lesson.   We did not use them at this time.

Andy & Spirit Go to the Fair shares the experience of a  boy participating in a 4H horse show.  He overcomes not only his physical disabilities but self-doubt and bullying to take the top prize.  This story didn't keep Fritz's interest, through no fault of the story.  I think he's a little too young for it.

I did not share The Sum of our Parts with Fritz.  Frankly, I found some of the pictures (like what we would look like without bones) disturbing.  I'm having a hard time figuring out the target audience for this book.  The subject matter and vocabulary would suggest an older student, but I'm not sure they would appreciate the Dr. Suess'ish rhyming or the cartoonish smiley faces drawn on each of the bones.

Earthquake may prove to be the most useful book for our family.  We live in the region of the New Madrid fault.  As a child I can still remember four different earthquakes and I'm sure we will experience more now that we've returned.  This book helps youngsters to know what to expect during and after a quake in terms they can relate to (big quakes are like roller coaster rides .... they can sound like a train, etc).  There are also practical ideas to be ready for an earthquake: don't mount picture frames over your bed, make an emergency bed pocket to hold glasses and a flashlight, have an emergency back pack.  If you live in an area where earthquakes are possible (and according to the book 46 of 50 states did have one between 1975 - 1995) this book may be a good investment.

 This is just a sampling of the books available from Guardian Angel Publishing.   Downloadable ebooks sell for $5.00.   There are several free samples available on their website. If you prefer reading in an easy chair instead of in front of a computer screen, you can order actual books for slightly more plus  shipping charges.

You can see what others on the Homeschool Crew thought about Guardian Angel Publishing by clicking here.

Monday, October 5, 2009

My best bargain

I was walking our dog this morning and ran across a neighbor holding a garage sale.  I spotted some furniture and since we've been on the lookout for another storage cabinet for the kitchen I popped in.  The cupboard was already sold, but nearby I saw a set of dishes.  It was a service for eight and when I picked one up I saw it was Wedgewood.  The lady said she didn't have a price on it but she'd take $5 for the set.  I noticed there was one plate missing.  "It had been broken," she said "and it's too much trouble to find a replacement."  This set hardly looked used and my 20 year old set looks VERY used.  Since there are only three of us I thought we could live without one plate and maybe I'd run across a replacement someday.  I took the dog home and drove the car back to load up the dishes.

At home I got online to see if I could find a single dish on ebay.  To my surprise, the dishes are still being made and a single place setting cost $60-75!!  My five dollar investment would have cost nearly five hundred dollars at Macy's.   I can't believe someone "dumped" these dishes because it was too much trouble to find a replacement plate (which I've found for $16.)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Review: Nature's Friend

We're all familiar with the phrase "A picture is worth a thousand words."  I'm not sure a thousand words is enough to do justice to the jaw-dropping photos that grace the covers and pages of Nature Friend magazine.  The picture on the first issue I received captured an owl with extended claws about to pounce on a mouse.  I have a feeling if you left this magazine out where little eyes could see it, your child couldn't help but peruse the pages.

I was leafing through the September magazine when my six year old Schnickelfritz hopped up on the porch swing next to me.  I shared the "Invisibles" page with him -- remember those drawings with hidden objects to find?   The puzzle kept his attention until he had found all the objects, then we turned the page and started reading the article about walking sticks.  I'm not sure "article" is the right word to use--rather than just providing facts about the insect, it was written as a short story of a girl and her mother discovering one of these critters. 

Another regular feature is "Wondernose," a Pennsylvania Dutch term to describe someone who is curious about everything around him.  (This describes my son to a tee, but I think I'll stick with Schnickelfritz as my endearment for him.)  There are also art lessons, fill-in-the-blank quizzes, puzzles, reader submitted poems and drawings--a lot packed into 20-something pages.  An optional Study Guide insert provides additition puzzles, a lesson in writing and great tips on nature photography.  One thing you won't find in the magazine is advertisements.  Okay, a second thing you won't find is any evolutionistic undertones--the magazine is written from a creationist viewpoint.

The reader submitted drawings included the ages of the artists--ranging from 4 to 16 with the majority being between 9 and 11.  I would think kids much older than this would find the articles too simplistic.  The study guide articles seem to be written to an older audience.  You can judge for yourself if this would be a good fit for your kids.  Nature Friend's website has several sample issues you can download.

Subscriptions to Nature Friend magazine start at $36 for USA deliveries (Canada/Mexico $49, other countries $62).  The optional study guide insert is an additional $24 per year no matter what country.  There is a $3.00 discount available till Novemeber 30th for new subscribers.  Just enter coupon code BLOG93.  

You can read the reviews of my other crewmates by clicking here .

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Nature Adventure Day

The whole family has just returned from Rockwoods Reservation, having just had one of the best days of fall.  The Dept. of Conservation was hosting on open house of sorts highlighting all the activities available in the park.  

Fritz and I started the morning with a class on compasses.  The gentleman volunteer who taught us should be a homeschooler-- he was so good with the kids.  He had several activities to teach us how to use a compass and why it was necessary to have a reference in the woods.  The kids started by kicking soccer balls in an open field, then they were blindfolded and directed to "find their balls."  (The parents were walking nearby to keep anyone from hazards).    He certainly had all the kids interest at that point.  Next he used a giant compass mock-up to teach us how to get out bearings.

The soccer balls were kicked again and this time the kids used their compasses to get a bearing before being blindfolded.  They couldn't look out in the field, only down at their compass but by keeping the red arrow "in the barn" they all managed to reach their balls.

The next activity involved dropping a silver marker on the ground.  Then the kids set their compasses to 120 degrees and marched out 25 paces.  They dropped a marker and set off on a new heading of 240 degrees for 25 paces.  After dropping their final marker, the set their compasses for a heading of 360 degrees and marched again.  You may have figured out by now that the directions were leading the kids in the path of an equilateral triangle.  If all the computing and measuring was accurate, they should end up where they dropped their first marker.  Fritz finished less than 18 inches from his starting point!!  

Next we headed to a field with scattered trees to follow a regular orienteering course.  Each family was given what sounded like a Chinese proverb. 

 At the starting point were tags with the first words of the proverb, a course setting, and a distance to travel.  All the  tags were on trees so as long as we got our bearings right we didn't have to worry so much about the distance.  Fritz liked this activity so well we had to repeat it 4 times with other proverbs. By then it was time to move on to our next class -- Dutch Oven Cooking.

This was not our first class with the Dutch Ovens, so we were prepared to try one of the harder dishes, but Fritz had made friends with another homeschooled boy assigned to cornbread so we joined them.  All in all we had a three course meal with cornbread, the best chicken enchiladas I've ever had, and brownies for dessert.   There's nothing like hot food on a cold afternoon--although charcoal doesn't quite provide the ambiance of a campfire.

After our assigned classes there were plenty of tents to explore with walk-up activities.  We could identify stuffed birds, snakes, and small mammals for our region, cook biscuits on a stick (which they topped with strawberry preserves), and taste wild foods: hickory nut cookies, black walnut cookies, persimmon pudding, honey, blackberry jam, even mushrooms.  Okay, there was a lot of free food to be had. Can you blame me for being excited?

Finally we heard a lot of noise coming from a nearby shelter.  The kids were making critter keepers.  Someone went to a lot of trouble to cut up wood, screening, and plexiglass and predrill holes for nailing.

Then the kids could decorate with rubber stamps of plants and insects.  Fritz built this by himself (I did have to operate the staple gun to attach the screening, but he helped hold it taut).

There were other classes like a hike to a quarry or exporing a cave (we did this last Spring, see here)  It was such a wonderful day but also bittersweet.  We just learned that due to budget cuts, Rockwoods Reservation will not have staffing to host events like this after next year.  We take classes here every month and often meet other homeschoolers here.  I hope there will be a way to keep these classes and events coming.


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