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Feb 27, 2014

Dragonflies and Brownies

Even though I love, love, love, love dark chocolate, I prefer the milk chocolate cocoa in the K-cups.  This super adorable mug was given to us by my mom, along with the dragonfly Pyrex and the tall turquoise mugs.  I feel all giddy about the pretty mug, but I do NOT give it to small children (sorry Merrick).  I don't want it to get broken!  This cocoa is paired with a Ghiradelli brownie.  I have some in the freezer.  Me thinks I should get one out.  It's cold and dark and lonely in there...

Feb 26, 2014

Eureka!: Review

We tend to get a lot of science done in our homeschool.  That includes notebooking, read alouds, videos, co-op classes, and hands-on experiments.  At the end of the year, when we gather our work together to report to the state, I never feel like we haven't covered enough science.  I'm not super science-minded, but the boys just eat this stuff up, especially Xavier.  I was pretty pleased when our first curriculum review for the Schoolhouse Review Crew would be the Online Subscription.

Science4Us Review is a full science curriculum for grades K-2 and is great review for 3rd-5th grades.  Using a 5E method of teaching, the website uses modules to cover topics such as simple machines, living or non-living, qualitative and quantitative data, science tools, and much more. The 5Es stand for Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate.  There are eight sessions for each module, designed to take two weeks to cover.  Each session runs about 15-30 minutes.  In addition to the online tasks, you will find optional printable activities to be completed before and/or after each of the sessions.  These sheets help parents and teachers assess prior knowledge, take the lesson further, and evaluate the level of the students retention. provides a good basic STEM foundation for lower elementary grades.  It's a great way to sneak in some math and language arts, too.  Math skills taught include tallies, graphing, measurement, and diagrams.  Language arts skills are bolstered by practice in alphabetical ordering, analogies, vocabulary words, and syllables instruction, as well as stories, songs, and poems.  It's suitable for classroom or home use.

This snapshot is a peek inside the teacher side of

Science4Us Review

After logging in to your teacher account, you can choose one of the four science books and select a module.  Each module contains eight daily sessions.  The intention is to spend 15 to 30 minutes four days per week for two weeks.  The session time includes the offline materials available for the students.  Each session is very fully explained here, with quick links to the teacher resources on the left and classroom/offline resources on the right.  The student materials are very similar, with minor adjustments for grade level, so would be very easy for a homeschool family to use with multiple students across several grades.

Teachers are able to assign a few sessions, the entire module, and even everything available on the website to individual students or all students.  There is even functionality to assign due dates.  Reports can be easily viewed under each module using the Teaching Tools section.

The students names are listed on the left, the name of each session is across the top, a star shows a completed activity, and there are two graded sessions in each module.  By clicking on the grade, one can access all the questions, see the student's answers and which questions were missed.

This is what a student sees upon logging into their personal account.

Science4Us Review
Any assignments will be shown where this photo reads Recent Activity.  Completed sessions will be marked by a star here also.  If nothing has been assigned, or if you don't mind letting the child direct his own assignments by a current interest, they are able to choose a science book, module, and session from the upper right section.  The My Tools section contains a glossary, notebook, and a "mini-explain" booklet.  What is a Venn diagram?  How does a balance scale work?  Your student will find the explanation here.

Mal can turn just about anything into something train related.
I could go on and on about the features of, but those are just the facts.  How did it work here, in our home?  Well, pretty well!  Usually, when I assigned all the components of a module, I gave them a week to complete it, not the two weeks the eight sessions are intended for.  They would complete them in about two or three days.  Now, that was just the online part, but we would do many of the offline resources together at the table.  Not only did they fly through the assigned activities, but they would repeat favorite parts or go off and explore the other modules available as well.

I think they gained a really sound foundation on a lot of parts of elementary science I hadn't touched on much.  We've been using more of a one topic for months at a time approach to science.  Astronomy?  Let's study that!  Anatomy?  Let's study that!  And the rest was a hodge podge of randomness on the side.  They got a much better grasp in some areas doing things we hadn't touched on at all this year.

Both Malachi and Xavier are eager to do science on the computer, they've done well with the offline activities, and we've found some projects and hands on experiments to reinforce that learning.  Merrick loves to sit and watch them and I'm happy to let him!

Merrick put his "Blue's Clues" stamp of approval on Xav's work.
I'm not being driven crazy by any of the voices, stories, or songs.  That alone is a huge plus since I have two punks using it every day.  The teacher helps are very thorough.  The activities are engaging, in fact there is one I want to do myself just to hear the things the characters say.  (FYI: It's the Question Conveyor game where they say encouraging things like, "Byoo-tee-ful.  Very nice." in an accent that I would call New York City-ish.)

We've had two technical problems.  We have not been able to complete one sorting game and earn the star.  When I contacted customer support, I was basically told I must not be finishing it and was given a list of the correct answers (the same list I have in the teacher section of the website).  We also haven't been able to complete about half of all of the alphabetizing games.  Usually, when the boys get to the last word, it will not move to the alphabetized side.  The computer hasn't "locked up" or frozen.  Everything still works, but the last word won't move.  These issues are relatively minor and affect a very small percentage of the over 350 activities.  But if you have a child who needs to see that star for completion, it can cause a bit of stress.  These issues occurred in both Firefox and Internet Explorer and consistently involved the same activities.
The web site says "Automated Reporting for Homeschool Portfolios."  While there is a module report (see above), I have NOT been able to view any type of full website tracking report, requiring me to print out all of the module reports.  This just doesn't make sense to me.

Bottom line - will probably be one of our very favorite Schoolhouse Review Crew vendors this year.  I see us using this product until the day our subscription expires even though we will have finished every module on the website before then. costs $7.95 per month for each child.  The lessons are currently web-based, but will be available on iPad THIS YEAR.  {Yippee!}

Psssst...  They're looking for Beta Testers for the iPad app coming out this year!  Apply to be a beta tester.   {wishes I had an iPad}

Find on social media.


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Feb 25, 2014

Piano Program: KinderBach Review

I was an oboist (very briefly), a member of chorus all through school, our "Progressions" group in high school, and choir in college.  You'd never know it by that, but I have a shocking confession.  I never really learned to read music.  I can name the notes.  I know FACE and Every Good Boy Does Fine, but I have very little knowledge of measure, and piano or forte (I actually had to look that up, otherwise I would have just typed loud and soft!).  How do I teach my children what I don't know?  Well, we have our first music lessons together!  We use KinderBach Online Piano Lesson Membership with Teacher Corner.

Kinderbach Review

This is an online course, so you will need a computer and internet access, although DVD lessons, CD books, and an app for iPad and iPhone are available. 

KinderBach is intended for ages 3-7, but we have all used it.  Even two year old Merrick likes to get involved on days with the rhythm instruments and the high/low game, which we've watched and played over and over and over...  He enjoys the scribbling, I mean, coloring pages as well.  (Ignore the faded look at the bottom of the printing.  My printer always fades out at the end of a print job and it is in no way a reflection of KinderBach.)

The PDF lesson plan follows an up/down format, giving children a chance to move and sing, alternating with quiet activities.  An example lesson might include singing, clapping, dancing, watching the video, playing rhythm instruments, and then coloring.

There is a short video introduction each week that informs the parent or teacher what the four lessons for the week will involve.  Usually, at the beginning, you only need rhythm instruments (these can even be homemade or use a pot and a spoon) and crayons, paper, and scissors.  We do not have the size keyboard recommended on the KinderBach website, but we've done just fine with 22 keys for the time being.  There is also a printable keyboard available.

When we finished the train stations and placed them on the keyboard with Dodi's house, Mal stepped back and softly whispered, "WOW!"

Each lesson is a short video, usually with activities.  Sometimes, we do the activities in advance (like coloring and cutting) so they can jump right in without having to pause the video.  The listening and visual activities need to be done with the lesson.  Once they have practiced a concept on the video, I've used the keyboard, my voice, or rhythm instruments to practice.  It's so easy for them to memorize the order of the video for loud/soft and high/low, so this way I can mix it up.  I'm a bit devious like that.  There are plenty of coloring sheets, matching, and other hands-on (or "ears-on") projects to reinforce the video lesson.

Six levels are currently available, with sixty weeks of lessons, four lessons per week.  Just start the children where you feel they are ready to begin.  Xavier had recorder lessons at co-op last year.  He was the youngest in his class and the only boy.  He was a little familiar with some of the concepts at the beginning, but the activities were so fun for all the boys, that we just started at the beginning and worked from there.  You can easily complete more than one lesson at a time, as they are very short and simple.  KinderBach is adaptable to fit your family's needs on any given day.

Friends like Frisco, Dodi the donkey, and the Beat Bugs give students their first piano lessons, learning about notes, keys, and beats. Malachi *flipped* when we got to week 5 and he saw we were going to involve trains in our music lessons.  The trains live at the three black keys.  If your little ones like trains, they'll enjoy the Train Stations! ebook.

Karri Gregor, the creator and teacher, has a friendly, happy face to watch.  She kept the boys mostly engaged and they were happy to be cooperative, which around this house can be difficult with all three of them involved.  Her artistic abilities are not limited to music, as she is also the author and illustrator of the companion books of the piano pals.

Kinderbach Review

In the Teacher Corner, ebooks are available for the teacher guide, student books, and for the first three levels, teacher audios as MP3s.  A parent guide gives you all the information necessary to introduce your child to music theory.  The story book, coloring books, and song books (including Frisco's First Hymns) with MP3s are also located here.  I love how these song books are set up so much that I just had to share this small piece of the Doxology page.

I'd like to share this story of our first day with KinderBach.  We were having a MISERABLE day, an awful, terrible day.  After everyone took a rest (separate rooms, quiet time), I had Mal and Xav come out to the computer to see our first lesson and I told them how fun this game was (it was the high/low game).  Mal crossed his arms and yelled, "I hate singing and dancing and I'm not going to do it!"  I told him that he wouldn't be singing and dancing, but that he definitely would be playing the game.  I started it up and Xavier got so excited.  "We used to play this game in recorder class!"  It didn't take Mal long to catch Xav's enthusiasm.  He played along and laughed and flopped around. They enjoyed it so much, they played it three more times.  We were all laughing our heads off.  KinderBach was a huge blessing to all of us that day!

So far we've covered quarter notes, two black keys, three black keys, correct fingering, loud/quiet, high/low, beat, and how to follow along to read a song.  These lessons and more are still just on level one.  I've found KinderBach to be entertaining and educational.  Each of the boys has enjoyed various activities, there may have even been some good-natured competitions while completing the lessons.  Karri is pleasant.  The animations are sweet.  The lessons are paced well for the age range.  Overall, I found it to be a great introduction to homeschool piano lessons.

The only issue I had with KinderBach was that the video was a little bit grainy in full screen.  I think it may have had something to do with the blue screen back drops (which, by the way, are cute), but I'm not certain.

The regular price of $130 for one year is currently reduced to $95.88. There is a New Year Clearance of 40% off of of the reduced price, which makes it about $57.52 for a year if you purchase before this Friday, February 28, 2014.  HURRY!  That is a phenomenal deal on music theory and piano lessons!  Get the code!

KinderBach on social media.
Facebook for Teachers 
Twitter: @KinderBach
YouTube: KinderBach Preschool Piano

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THMJ Week of 2/16/14

    In my life this week…
Getting some blog reviews ready to post next week.  Some pretty cool stuff to tell you all about.

I was telling Micah about an email I got from Chili's asking why I never use the coupons they email me (kind of creepy that they know), so I gave them some feedback that basically said the coupons are all dine in, they are an hour away, and I have three young boys, so we are more like a take-out family.  Micah listened quietly then told me to go look on the counter.  I hadn't even seen him bring them in...  *giddies*  My favorite southwest eggrolls from Chili's!  He's terrific!

    In our homeschool this week…

I've found that giving Xav the "job" of working the mouse for Merrick when he plays on StarFall makes for a more harmonious home.  He and Merrick are engaged and Mal is left alone.  Peaceful.
We are using a new book, Asia: Its People and History this month.

    In Rangers this week... 
Malachi said he had a tummy ache, so he and daddy stayed home.  Merrick refused to finish getting ready when it was time to go, so he ended up staying home out of stubbornness.  I headed off to Rainbows with Ms. Teri and Xav went to Ranger Kids.  He heard about Ms. Sue's daughter's miraculous recovery, came home with a paper airplane and more paper to make another because, apparently, "their paper works better than ours."  P verse:  Praise the Lord for it is good to sing praises to our God. Psalm 147:1

    What we're reading... 
Egg-cellent Easter Adventure again and again...
Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims
Encyclopedia Brown 


     Fun boy stuff...

Using two adjustable rods, we put up our hall tent.

Outside, there were tunnels to dig.  Micah started one.  Xav and I expended the first and added the second entrance to make a tunnel.


The next day, Mal helped dig and they put a third entrance on the other side, digging a Y into the snow pile.  That's Mal inside the original entrance.

     Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…
The library was exciting for Merrick this week.  As well as the usual dot markers, he got to use one of their iPads for the first time.  He played an Elmo ABC game.

Listening to a family favorite, The Monster at the End of This Book 
Saturday involved a trip to Lowe's Build and Grow.  They hadn't gone in a long while.  The project was a claw game of their very own.  This trip also involved donuts and Toys R Us.
    Things Dad is working on...
Being sneaky and devious.  He sent me off to the store and when I got back, he had installed lighting under the upper kitchen cabinets.  Sneaky. 

    I’m cooking…

Sunday I cooked a few meals to get them out of the way.  I made shells and cheese for Mal for his lunches.  It lasted two days.  I also made plain pasta in sauce and sloppy joes.  Xav decided he loves messy burgers and this makes me happy.  I also marinated chicken in speidie sauce.  If you are ever in western NY (anywhere near Binghamton), find a speidie.  Yum.  I like the chicken grilled with veggies or fried with peppers and onion on a nice, chewy roll.

    Out of the mouths of boys... 
Xav: Was there an actual battle from the Evolutionary war fought at our house?
Me: Revolutionary?  No.  I don't think so. 

    I’m grateful for…

OK, this was foolish, but I freaked out Monday when Xav was out digging a tunnel in the front yard and he disappeared.  I went to the door and yelled and YELLED.  Nothing.  I went in and threw on my boots, saying, "Please, God, let him be OK."  I headed out the door and there he was across the yard traipsing through the path Micah and Mal made snowshoeing.  He was around the house and hadn't heard me.  So, of course, I started bawling.  I thanked God, and bawled, and thanked Him again.  

    I’m praying for…

Friends with health issues, life changing decisions they need to make, and wisdom to deal with some sticky issues.  Venezuela.  China.  Of course, I'm always praying for my family and myself.

    We rewarded the kids this week by…

We used our Book It rewards at Pizza Hut this week.
Dad took the punks to Toys R Us with some fun money Grandma of the Forest sent out for them.  They brought home pizza and donuts.  We never eat out or get take out this much.  I'd say I was rewarded this weekend because I didn't have to cook three meals! 

    Something I am ogling or have my eye on…

UGH!  I saw a Cricut on clearance.  I've kind of wanted one for a long while.  Now I'm thinking about all kinds of things besides scrapbooking and card making I *could* do with one.  I'm hoping it's still there when I go back.  Kicking myself!
Yippee!  Wahoo!  I went back on Saturday and it was there!  Mine!  Mine!  Mine!

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

A great quote.
When you allow the wrong people into your house, stuff will come up missing, like: joy, peace, love, hope, faith... (Yes, people steal these things.)

And as a wise friend pointed out, it isn't just your house, but your life and your heart.  I just googled the quote so I could give a proper attribution.  I didn't find anything earlier than this.  I know nothing about the blog or blogger, but thought the quote was worth a reminder.

I am trying to link at the following places, but my posting schedule isn't quite working out. I end up posting a week late, if I remember.  I don't finish my wrap up on Friday because I run on a calendar week and include weekends.  It's usually Tuesday when I finish a post.  I'm not sure if I need to rethink my schedule or look for new link ups.  Do you have any suggestions?  Please let me know in the comments or tell me when you see me.

The Homeschool Mother's Journal
Christian Fellowship Friday
Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

Feb 20, 2014

Whipped with a Pirouline

Dark chocolate Pirouline (Love those little rolled wafer cookies!).

Feb 17, 2014

THMJ Week of 2/9/14

    In our homeschool this week…
Merrick had his first school lesson courtesy of StarFall.  He loves being like the big boys, doing school on the computer. 

    In our homeschool co-op this week... 
Co-op was cancelled.  Sadly, no volcano in class this week.
In exchange, we received 18" of snow.

    In Rangers this week...
O verse: O give thanks to the Lord for he is good. Psalm 118:1

    What we're reading...
The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure


    Things I’m working on…
Xav and I made this Groundhog treat for Dad.

    Things boys are working on...
Mal made this cool Lego elevator.

Merrick helped BooBear use the Kindle.

The boys painted this cool volcano for co-op.

    A photo, video, link, or quote to share (silly, serious or both!)…
Homeschooler wins gold in the Olympics.   
Four Season FREEBIE from Homeschool Buyers Co-op and TeacherFileBox.

Linking up at Christian Fellowship Friday, and The Homeschool Mother's Journal!

Feb 16, 2014

THMJ October Wrap Up 2013

Apologizing for this old post.  I just had to finish it and get it out of the draft folder!  It was really fun to look back at what was happening a few months ago.  Before we were snowed in and saw no end of winter...

    In my life this week…
My Christmas cactus was in bloom a bit early.

    Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…

The boys TorTed around town and then we drove to the church for Trunk or Treat.  The weather was really awful.

    My favorite thing this week was…

Merrick's two favorite songs: "adoo, adoo, adoo" (Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelujah, Praise ye the Lord) and "EIO" (Old McDonald). 

    My kiddos favorite thing this week was…

Trick or Treating!
    Things I’m working on…
Pumpkin carving with the yahoos.

    Things Dad is working on...
Xav's cool rocket man costume. 

    Out of the mouths of boys...
Not out of his mouth, but this pic of Xav cracks me up.

Xavier fell in love at church. He met a six year old girl. He comes home and tells Micah, "I felt like I wanted to date her." Where does he get that? How does he even know about dating?

    I’m praying for…

Our shoebox recipients.  We saw this idea last year.

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

Excellent article about a Christian on the spectrum.

Feb 15, 2014

THMJ Week of 2/2/14

    In my life this week…
Both Punxsy Phil and Staten Island Chuck saw their shadows this week.  They've predicted six more weeks of winter.  We all know that means about eight more weeks here.
I briefly considered buying "Robin's Nest" in Hawaii this week.  Ultimately, we decided $15M was a bit steep for a fixer-upper.

    In our homeschool this week…

Malachi is struggling with qualitative vs quantitative data, while Xavier is having an equally tough time getting carnivore/omnivore/herbivore.

Merrick is learning 1:1 correspondence.  We may have to work on that a bit more.

Merrick made this terrific work of art at the library.  I call it Cookie Monster Blasts into the Sun.
    What we're reading...
Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims

    Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…

Rainbows was cancelled.  Since I didn't have to teach and we had already had two very long days out of the house, we decided not to go to Rangers.  We had a nice, relaxing afternoon at home.   

    I’m cooking…
I made this yummy pancake breakfast with a bit of Nutella and banana.  We found out that Merrick likes bacon.  Mama isn't happy about sharing with him.

    I’m praying for…

My dad who is dealing with some health issues.

    Something I am ogling or have my eye on…

Spelling You See has a Facebook Sweepstakes going on to win one free level.

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

My baby has a freak finger.

Also, for fellow Sherlock fans, Benedict Cumberbatch on Sesame Street.  "Act like a super-sleuth and figure it out!"

Linking up at The Homeschool Mother's Journal (when I don't miss it), Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers, and Christian Fellowship Friday.

Feb 13, 2014

Cocoa and Oreos

While I mentioned before that this salted caramel cocoa was a bit bitter, I confess to continuing to drink it.  These oreos are double stuf.  I like to open those babies up and double them to make quadruple stuf.  Yummo!

Feb 10, 2014

THMJ Week of 1/26/14

    In my life this week…
My friend, Susanne invited me to attend the Every Woman Breakfast Cafe at her church.  The speaker was Leo Martin, director of education at Jenny House Museum in Plymouth, MA.  He told a tale wonderfully and shared many little known facts from Pilgrim history.  It was a shame we didn't know about The Jenny Grist Mill when we went to Plymouth in 2011 (they moved to the Jenny House *after* that trip).  

    In our homeschool this week…

I finally got back to sort of scheduling our days.  For school, anyway.  I do a week at a time and just make sure everything is on the correct number of days I want to cover. Simple enough.  Now everyone knows at a glance what we are doing before school can be over.  No one needs to ask me a thousand times.  There are, thankfully, things that can be done while Merrick is still awake now, mostly on the computer.  We are fitting more into the day, by adding assignments to the morning instead of trying to cram it all into Merrick's nap.  I really like how that is turning out.

    In our homeschool co-op this week... 
Magic School Bus Science class studied light this week.  It followed our color lesson from last time quite nicely.  We did the "broken" pencil and appearing penny tricks, and used a spoon to learn about convex and concave reflections.
Duct Tape class - Mal covered a box and made a belt.
Amazing Body class - I guess Mal stuffed some guts into his skeleton.
Nature class - Xav learned about a couple of extreme habitats and how the camel and polar bear live in them. 
Art class - Xav made a pie tin tambourine.
Archery - Xav popped all his balloons.
Merrick wasn't able to be in Wiggles and Giggles this week.  

    What we're reading...
Box Car Children
Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims 

    Around the house...
We're learning to hoola hoop.  I'm not good yet, but Xav picked it up quickly.  Merrick loves it, too!

    Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…
Xav and Merrick had checkups.  They're both healthy, tall, and heavy, but they look pretty skinny to me.  Merrick has a giant melon.  He gets that from his dad.
At Rangers this week, the N verse was "No man can serve two masters."  Matthew 6:24    

    My kiddos favorite thing this week was…

The boys had a pinewood derby race for Rangers Saturday.  Xav got second place in his age group.

    Things Dad is working on...
He finished construction of the derby "cars" and managed to not have a stroke when he saw the paint jobs.


    I’m grateful for…
Healthy children, a warm home, a loving family...

I'm linking up over at The Homeschool Mother's Journal, which by the way, is no longer restricted by writing prompts if that has kept you from contributing.  Personally, I have loved having the prompts and have been using the provided ones as well as some of my own.

Feb 6, 2014

SuperMug of Cocoa

Sometimes I am easily kafluffled.  And it irks me afterward.  Our grocery store almost always has a 50% off bin or three with all kinds of treasures.  One day, I saw Ghirardelli hot cocoa in said bin.  I wanted it and was trying to convince myself that it would be about the same price as a tin of regular hot cocoa mix.  And, really, it was.  So, I meandered the grocery store, picking up this and that, and decided to grab a can for my very own.  As soon as the groceries were put away, I made myself a cup.

EGAD!  I had grabbed the chocolate MOCHA, not the double chocolate!  Woe is me!  Agony!  I am one of those *freaks* who cannot stand anything remotely coffee-like.  When I was pregnant, the smell would cause a need for emergency rest stops.  I was so disappointed, not to mention angry at myself.  Anyway, I needed a pic for our cocoa adventures.  This mug is for Micah.  (By the way, he also was not impressed and proclaimed it to be quite bitter.  Sad day around here, my friends.)

Feb 3, 2014


Webster's 1828 Dictionary defines it thusly.

SELF-SUFFI''CIENT, adjective Having full confidence in one's own strength, abilities or endowments...

I am very confident of my ability to butcher rabbits after this easy lesson.