Cutest Blog and Widdlytink

My Stick Family from

Oct 16, 2014

Weeks in Review 8/10 and 8/17/14

    In my life this week…
Ordered our homeschool t shirts from Great Products annual T-shirt sale. $5.99 for regular Ts.  I bought the Lego shirts for each of the boys, the safari T in a size big for Merrick, and I splurged on a V-neck for myself.  I love this sale and I love these shirts, but this year my shirt was a different brand and was larger and a slightly different cut.  It also had one wonky sleeve.  Last year's shirt was much better.

Xav decided it would be a good idea to pop a laundry soap pod. He got some in his face. After flushing for 10 minutes and consulting with my on-call MIL/nurse, we decided he probably would live. Then he asks this: What if I accidentally forget how much it hurt and do it again?
*Moms. Accidentally forgetting how much it hurt since the dawn of time.*

Mal greeted me after church with a huge smile and told me, "I rode the four wheeler, but I didn't have any fun." Then why are you grinning?   

    In the yard... 
Pickings from the garden; peppers, beets, carrots, and corn.

Micah tore out my poor, dead cherry tree.  This winter was just too much for a few of our plants.

    Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…
Lee's party - A fun surprise birthday party for one of the Friday School dads.  We went on a nature hike/scavenger hunt, wrapped watermelons with rubberbands until they exploded, ate cake (of course), and the kids found forts in the woods.
Target - After that we stopped off at Target, since we were in NY anyway.  That's how this family parties.

    I’m cooking…

Banana "pancakes."
One banana and two eggs.  I did add some vanilla and pumpkin pie spice.  The whole time I was making them, all I could think was that I was basically feeding my kid a banana omelet.

    We surprised the kids this week by…

We surprised the boys with a trip to the COG Railway and a ride up to the peak of Mount Washington, the highest point in New England.  I'll be writing about that another day.

Completely oblivious about our destination.
We also saw a hot air balloon over the road on the way home.

    A photo, video, link, or quote to share (silly, serious or both!)…
This fish theft.  

    This week's reviews... 
Wizzy Gizmo 
UberSmart Math Facts 
Happy Kids Songs 

Review of Apologia's iWitness Book Series

I'm a big fan of Apologia Educational Ministries.  I'm also very interested in Biblical archaeology.  When Apologia very generously offered The Crew the chance to review three of their iWitness books, I literally begged for the opportunity!  I received iWitness Biblical Archaeology, New Testament iWitness, and Old Testament iWitness for review.

Musician and apologist author Doug Powell has written these three books as well as two others in the series, Jesus iWitness and Resurrection iWitness.  Mr. Powell wrote these books for people like himself, to answer the questions for which he once wanted answers.  He wishes to empower other Christians with a defense for their belief.  Learning to use Christian apologetics is a goal of mine for all of us. 

These engaging books are paperback, sized about 9x6 inches, with mostly sepia-toned pages giving them an old parchment kind of look.  Each book is jam-packed with information.  I don't know what it is, but kids really seem to like books that have the fun jumbles of information and illustrations like these books have.   Though these books are considered interactive, I tend to think interactive implies lift the flap, turn a dial, pat the bunny...  OK.  Maybe not the last one.  There is none of that here.

iWitness Biblical Archaeology
This was certainly my favorite title.  I pretty much expected it to be all along. I am SO interested in Biblical Archaeology. I love seeing proof of the truth of God's Word. I don't need the proof to have faith, but I love to see it!  I rarely see something about Biblical archaeology that is truly interested in showing the truth of the Bible. Too many times, I see something that is called Biblical and the articles have been misleading or downright blasphemy. It breaks my heart. I want my children to feel the truth of God and to see it in tangible ways when possible. I want their faith so deeply rooted, it can never be shaken.

This book was doubly fun (for me anyway!) because I could follow up by reading the Bible verses mentioned and easily enough search for more information on the various artifacts mentioned.  Some of these include Hezekiah's tunnel which was dug in Jerusalem to withstand a seige, various bullas and cylinders, the infamous Dead Sea Scrolls and the Shroud of Turin.

New Testament iWitness
This title teaches the criteria used for all of the books in the Biblical canon, who determined the books qualified, why some books did not meet the qualifications, and how the New Testament was copied and handed down, among other things.  The details provided were listed "backward" timeline-wise in this one and I was confused, not by the information, but by the decision to present it this way.  That decision was actually explained in this author interview.  This was covered in the first half of the book.  The second half was the more technical aspects of getting the New Testament into print; copying manuscripts, dealing with differences in copies, choosing the most likely version to be closest to the original.  It was all very interesting and eye-opening.  There are three major text types, or manuscript families, used for NT writings.  We learned which current Bible versions are based on which text types.

Old Testament iWitness
Covered in this installment is, how does the Old Testament differ from the Hebrew Bible and how Jesus is revealed in that scripture.  We learned that the copying process for the Old and New Testaments are completely different.  Where the NT uses the oldest copies available because they're believed to be closest to the original, the OT uses the newest manuscript copies, then old or damaged copies are disposed of in a special burial ceremony.  This book also covers the Septuagint (which means 70), Torah, major and minor prophets, and the Apocrypha.

Two more iWitness books will be released, I believe, in 2015.  They're titled iWitness World Religions and iWitness Heresies & CultsThey're on my wish list, too.

Reading level is for age 11 and up.  You can certainly read these to or with younger children.  Personally, I feel tween to adult is about right.

$14 each

Apologia on Social Media


Click to read Crew Reviews

Crew Disclaimer

Oct 8, 2014

Week in Review 8/3/14

    In our homeschool this week…
We used Legos and Schoolhouse Rock videos to introduce multiplication.  The boys have already memorized many of the songs that are more like skip counting; threes, for instance.

We had our last VBS of the summer this week.  The theme was Blast Off to God's Faithfulness.
Day 1, I entertained Merrick at Trish's.  Day 2, I found out he could attend the tot class and I had two quiet hours of reading in the car.  Sadly, Day 3, he was frightened by the use of the word "elevator" during a time machine skit and that was the end of my quiet time in the car for the week.  He did well, he just needed me nearby.  The bigger littles received good reports and made fun projects every day and learned new songs and Bible verses.

Almost got everyone looking in the right direction.
Merrick has been alternately sleeping in his crib and in Beepa's bed in his room.  Sometimes, I tuck him in one place and find him in the other in the morning.  Next time a grandma visits, they may have to fight him off!

 I have a tendency to cringe and coil like a spring on the inside any time someone asks, "Are you (insert child's name)'s mother?"  I'm pleasantly surprised when I hear things like I did at this week's VBS.  There was a woman there struggling to walk with a cane.  He asked her about the cane and told  her he was sorry that she couldn't walk well.  She told me he was such a sweetheart and she really appreciated their conversation.

Mal found his favorite ship in the clearance section at Staples.  He convinced me to buy the last four TEAtanics; one for myself, one for a friend, and one each for him and Xav.

    What we're reading... 
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Yes, this book will take for. ev. er. at the rate we're going.  But it's all good.)

    In the yard... 
The boys would not stop monkeying with the ladder to the lower level of the treehouse.  One day, we had friends over.  Trish and I sat in the house chatting when we heard the kids shouting.  It didn't sound like anyone was hurt or upset, so we just laughed about how much fun they all seemed to be having out there.  Periodically, the shouting would start again.  Eventually, all the kids ran inside and told us they had been trapped in the treehouse when the ladder fell.  The neighbor boy had let them down.  And we laughed and laughed.  Excellent parents.  Many parenting awards coming our way!

Everyone was over to pick blueberries.  We found this little guy and watched him for a bit.

Had a snake in henhouse, too!  I saw it in there a few times, but whenever Micah looked it was nowhere to be found.  Finally, he caught it.  Did he kill it?  No!  He threw it back into the woods.  I've just been waiting for it to reappear, since it knows where a nice cozy home is.  YUCK!

    My favorite thing this week was…

I love Willy Wonka's bottle caps candy.  Well, I like the cherry, orange, and grape.  I LOVE the root beer and cola caps.  Micah bought a box and picked out all of my favorites to give to me.  Yum!

    We surprised the kids this week by…
Micah went to his class reunion.  When he returned from his parent's place, he brought a little four wheeler with him.  Xav had wanted to know why he had taken the van and removed the bench seats.  I told him Dad was bringing something home with him.  He assumed it was a van full of school papers and was very disgusted.

All of the boys can fit in the backseat of a regular car now.  Not that I want to part with my van...

When Micah got home, we sent Xav out to start unloading all of that school work.  Priceless.

Micah also came home bearing gifts from his parents, popcorn and "bread," preserved via suck and seal.

    This week's reviews... 
The Schoolhouse Review Crew's Roman Roads Media  

Oct 1, 2014

Preschoolers and Peace ~ A Book Review

When the Crew was offered a review of the e-book Preschoolers and Peace: Homeschooling older kids with success while loving the little ones at your feet, I jumped at the chance to read a copy.  Kendra Fletcher of Preschoolers and Peace has written a loving guide for integrating your toddler or preschooler into some of your school day.

Preschoolers and Peace Review

Many homeschooling families are raising and teaching children of multiple ages.  I know full well how difficult it is to teach school age punks with a baby on the hip or toddler under foot.  Mal and Xav tend to get distracted by Merrick when he is doing something different at the table.  Naptime is the easiest way to school Mal and Xav.  As Merrick got older, he first gave up his morning nap and now sometimes doesn't sleep in the afternoon.  I preferred the morning hours for school.  I think the bigger littles stayed focused better before lunch than after.  Right now, we're getting in one and a half to three hours each afternoon, plus read aloud time and some outdoor activities most days.  That just isn't ideal for us, though.

Preschoolers and Peace Review

In thirteen brief chapters, Kendra guides you through scheduling a school day that includes your tot, rather than banning them from all of the excitement they just know is going on in that other room.  I love the idea of circle time as it is in the book.  What I associated with calendar time with the boys a couple of years ago and evolved into their daily notebooks, can be kicked up a few notches to include preschoolers.  In Preschoolers and Peace, it's defined as, "...fabulous, all-ages-are-welcome, group teaching time that allows us to pray together, laugh together, and get to the things we often run out of time for."  As I think about ways to incorporate this into our mornings, I really see the beauty of it.  I've been pulling out activities that Merrick can sit at the table and do with us while we talk and learn.  Training the olders to be less distracted by him is as important as teaching him to work on his "school" quietly alongside us.   

Top: Merrick working on QTip painting numbers.  Bottom: Our letter sort box, learning alpha order and matching upper and lower case letters.
Don't let the thought scare you.  The suggestion to schedule your day is really just to create a routine for your family.  If you aren't sure how to occupy the littlest family members, Kendra includes a great list of educational and fun busy work.  We all know just how much simpler life is when they are occupied.  Who among us hasn't had that dreaded thought that the toddler has been just a little too quiet for a little too long?

Topics in the book include
  • How Do I Keep Them Busy?
  • What a Homeschooling Mom Needs
  • Preschool Boys
  • Preschool Chores
  • Meal Planning 101
  • When All of Your Kiddos Are Preschoolers 
There are so many more resources in this book.  Preschoolers and Peace is a very enjoyable little book.  Sort of like chatting with the neighbor mom over your favorite hot beverage.  Kendra is a wealth of doable and worthwhile ideas.  I suggest reading the blog at Preschoolers and Peace as well.  Then do some strategizing and gather those little ones right in.

$2.99 ebook
For homeschooling moms with toddlers or preschoolers, or any mama who wants to discover ways to spend meaningful time with their littles.

Preschoolers and Peace on Social Media
You Tube

Click to read Crew Reviews

Crew Disclaimer

Sep 30, 2014

The Nose Tree ~ An IEW Review

The Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) was started to help students develop listening, speaking, reading, writing, and thinking skills.  IEW uses a program created by primary schoolteacher Mrs. Anna Ingham in the first half of the 20th century.  In the 1970's, her nephew Dr. James B. Webster adapted Mrs. Ingham's lessons for older students and began to teach other instructors in her methods.  Mr. Andrew Pudewa was one of those instructors and brought this method to the United States.  I recently received IEW's Fix It! Grammar books, Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree [Book 1] (Teacher's Manual) and Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree [Book 1] (Student Book), for review.

Fix It! Grammar Review

Fix It! Grammar was written by Pamela White.  Mrs. White also teaches for IEW.  There are six levels of Fix it! Grammar.
  1. The Nose Tree, which I will be talking about, and
  2.  Robin Hood
  3. Frog Prince, or Just Deserts
  4. Little Mermaid
  5. Chanticleer
  6. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight 
The Teacher's Manual and Student Book are durable soft-cover with a spiral binding.  The student book can be downloaded as well.  Which brings me to the incredibly generous copyright policy which you can see in the image below.  IEW knows, acknowledges, and meets the needs of the homeschooling family and community.  Amazing.

The student book consists of the lessons, a grammar glossary, grammar review cards, and a certificate of completion. The Nose Tree begins very basically with nouns, homophones, end marks, and paragraph indentation.  By the end of the 33 weeks of lessons, the student will have a good working knowledge of basic grammar.  There are lessons in capitalization, contractions, clauses, and more with regular review weeks throughout.

This compulsive mama gave the cards to the boys to cut out.  You have to let go at some point and say, "Fly little birds.  Here are the scissors.  Please don't ruin our cards."  When I looked at some, I was going nuts and wanted to trim them all when I noticed they don't line up on both sides.  Fix It! Grammar's one, tiny flaw.  *smile*  I put two envelopes in the front of Malachi's notebook.  One holds the cards we have used or are introducing and one holds the rest for future use.

I love the look of the pages with plenty of white space for marking corrections.  That fact alone helps Malachi remain more focused on what he is doing and where he should be doing it.  Ahem.  "Should be."   There really is more space than there appears here.  Mal just writes really large letters.

And he flat out refuses to cross out homophones with a line.  Once he started X-ing, he continues X-ing.   My stubborn boy.  Each day consists of editing just *one* sentence.  No one needs to get bogged down, feeling overwhelmed.  Very few students can't correct one sentence, look up one word in the dictionary, and rewrite one corrected sentence.

The lessons begin with a page highlighting the week ahead.  There is an explanation of the new grammar topic with examples and a reminder to pull out the applicable grammar card.  This is followed by the basic instruction that remains pretty much the same each week.  Read the sentence, look up the vocabulary word(s), fix the sentence, and rewrite it.

First, Mal reads the sentence out loud.  He then decides on the end mark and locates the parts of speech we are working on or reviewing.  So far, we've covered nouns, articles, pronouns, quotation marks, and homophones.  Next, he determines what word to look up in the dictionary.  It's the bolded word or phrase in the sentence.  After looking it up, he writes it in his personal dictionary.  Then, he turns to the back of his notebook and rewrites the edited sentence.

His dictionary is a children's dictionary which was also chosen because there is plenty of white space and a couple of pictures on most pages.  That means that occasionally, one of the words or phrases he needs to look for isn't found in that book.  The Teacher's Manual contains a definition for all of these words.  All the answers are right there as well as plenty of teacher's notes and comments directed at "grammar lovers" intended to clarify anything that is considered too advanced for your Nose Tree reader.  The TM also has the scope and sequence listed for each of the 33 weeks and a grammar glossary.

With purchase of the Teacher's Manual, you will have access to a download of the Student Book and two helpful audios.

The Nose Tree Teacher's Manual costs $19.
The Nose Tree printed Student Book costs $15.

Even though IEW clearly states The Nose Tree is for grades 3 through 12, I like to teach the boys as much as I can at the same time.  With the unforeseen dictionary sharing hassle, I decided to have one boy look up all four words at once while one boy rewrote the four sentences that day, and one day to correct all four sentences.  This took only three days instead of four.  Three VERY long days.  It only took one week of that to realize that was a bad idea.  It was a horrible idea, actually.  I tried Xav on The Nose Tree for two weeks before I finally admitted it was just too much for him.   If it ain't broke, applies to a certain grammar program, too.  We're back to using it as intended with Malachi only.

Interested in IEW, but not sure where to start?  Go to IEW's decision tree
Interested in Fix It! Grammar?  Take the placement test.  Which, by the way, left me completely in over my head in moments. 
Learn more by watching this Fix It! Grammar webinar.

Social Media for IEW

You Tube

See more reviews of The Nose Tree as well as most of the other books in the series.

Click to read Crew Reviews

Crew Disclaimer

Sep 22, 2014

Week in Review 7/27/14

    Around the house...
The boys and I needed to go somewhere.  I couldn't get off the front porch!  There are two gates, one blocked and one locked.

    In the yard... 
Blue Heron.  Another of my photography experiments.  Taken with my phone through binoculars.

    I’m cooking…
Made some of our beets.  Roasted with our own thyme.  I love the candy cane striped beets.  They're so pretty.  I also cooked little pot pies.  I made the crust from scratch which I rarely do.  I'm just not confident about crust.

    A photo, video, link, or quote to share (silly, serious or both!)…

Trish's Etsy shop

And I love this shot from Carey Crooker Photography.  This was my old neighborhood.  I've heard that mama bears will babysit or even adopt orphans.  I've been curious about this.

    This week's reviews... 
Schoolhouse Review Crew's Mathletics (including mine) 
Schoolhouse Review Crew's Hewitt Homeschool  (including mine)
Schoolhouse Review Crew's Analytical Grammar 

Sep 19, 2014

Field Trip Friday: Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium

I remembered at 12:30 AM that I needed to get up with the Bigger Littles and be out of the house in just seven hours for a nearly two hour drive for our field trip to the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium in St. Johnsbury!  OOPS!

I was really looking forward to this trip.  We had finished up Apologia's Astronomy book in January and I wanted to be able to reinforce some of what was learned while it was still relatively fresh.

We actually didn't stay very long.  Micah had a role in a mystery dinner theater that night, and we had to get our Wild West on!

The main floor was mostly wide open and filled with various taxidermy projects and habitats found in Vermont.  This was pretty interesting, but the most incredible part was seeing all those homeschooled children standing in a *line!*  Xav was such a cute little goofball in his hat.

Upstairs, were displays of toys, bugs, and many different societies in places and times.

In the planetarium, we saw a really neat presentation.  The boys handled it well.  I wasn't sure how Mal would do, but he enjoyed it even though it was a bit long on the less interesting parts.  For instance, we really liked the part that showed the sky for 24 hours and the changing constellations. Honestly though, the part about the zodiac was so boring.  I also could have done without the story of a drunk teenager calling the educator at home in the middle of the night to report UFOs.  I would have loved if they had focused more on visiting planets than seeing that.  We "traveled" to one of the gas giants and learned a lot about that.  After five months, my brain is fuzzy about exactly which planet we got to see in depth.  I guess I should write these Field Trip posts in a more timely manner. Outside the planetarium, the boys got weighed on a special scale that showed what they weighed on Earth, Venus, Mars, and the moon.

This light up sphere thingy was very cool.  The OmniGlobe displayed all kinds of information about the solar system, Earth, our moon.  Basically, it can display as any sphere.  We were able to look at the weather on Earth and other planets, compare sizes of planets, visit surfaces on other planets.  It was very versatile.  You can read about this 60 inch globe at the Fairbanks Museum.  I'd definitely like to go again (not so early in the morning!) and stay a bit longer.  There were a few areas we barely looked at.