Friday, April 30, 2010

Life is Good Blogiversary Giveaway!

I'm interrupting the previously scheduled curriculum review for a little celebration I almost forgot: It's my one year blog-iversary!

And this is something to celebrate for a couple of reasons.

One, because it means I actually kept up with a project for a full year, and that, for me, is an amazing happening. Really. My house, computer, mind, is FULL of unfinished projects. So this is big.

Two, because of what I've learned this past year. I started this blog because I was in a homeschooling rut, and I was desperate. I thought maybe if I got online to talk about my homeschooling days, then I would be inspired to make each day, well, something to blog about. And it did help. A lot.

March 2009, Starting Out

But what I didn't expect was to be so welcome-ly included into the bloggy homeschooling community.

I didn't expect to find so many wonderful ideas all over blogland that would inspire and enrich my homeschool AND my life.

I didn't expect to find friends, both homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers, who would share comments, ideas, and laughs daily.

I didn't expect to be inspired to become a better wife, mother, chef, teacher, photographer, writer... but because of YOUR BLOGS, I have been.

Life is Good.

So I'm celebrating by thanking my readers for being there. For making my life good. And to make life even better, the folks at Relaxadaisical are helping me celebrate by giving away one of their awesome Life is Good diner mugs to one of my readers. Yippee! Because I LOVE Life is Good products. I mean really, really love them. If it were up to me, my entire wardrobe would be Life is Good t-shirts, because they make me happy to look at them.

I mean,

don't you love it?

And I love the color names they come up with for their products - canoe, pickup truck, picket fence, pink lemonade.... brilliant!

And their diner mugs are not only cool and cheery, but just feel good to hold. Like, sitting-by-a-campfire-drinking-coffee-first-thing-in-the-morning-by-a-big-mountain-lake kinda feel good. So I'm so excited one of you is going to get one.

To enter the giveaway, just go to, look at their stuff, then come back and tell me in a comment which product you like the most (if you can choose just one. If not, okay, you can list more). Also tell me which of the mug designs you would want to win if you win.

You can find all their mug designs here.

That's it.

You can enter even if you've never commented before, because I would love to meet you!

The winner will be chosen in a random drawing on May 9 (Mother's Day).

Good luck, and thank you for being here!

got medals?

I know I'm supposed to be talking about curriculum today, but I wanted first to do a little raving about a different kind of product. I'm not usually the type to go back and do a product review after I purchase something, because I'm lazy like that, but I was so impressed with this company I want to share it for anyone out there who may be the leader of an athletic, music, drama, educational co-op, VBS, etc. group, and who may use medals for end-of-the-program awards.

I'm talking about Because it was the first year running our homeschool music program and we had brand new decisions to make about how to award our students for all their hard work, and because I'm not very organized, I waited until the last minute to decide to order medals. I chose this company because I liked that they offered engraving on the front of their medals, and because with 4 kids in tow, I LOVE to shop online. I e-mailed them telling them I was one of those annoying doofuses who waited until the last minute to place a big order (in so many words) and asked if they thought they could get my order to me in time (which meant in a little over a week). They immediately replied back that they could, so I placed my order.

Get this, they SHIPPED it the same day I ordered it! And that's with personalized engraving on the front! And I got it in the mail, everything securely packaged, several days before I needed it.

And for once, the quality of the medals was actually BETTER than it looked on the website. So I was absolutely thrilled, and couldn't wait to share them with our little hard-working musicians at our end-of-the-year concert. And of course, the students loved them, and my son, who has a collection of medals from gymnastics, said it was the best medal he had ever gotten. Don't you love it when things work out right?

So, if you need medals, or trophies, or plaques... do check out this company. They rock.

And speaking of our music program, here's a few pics from our end-of-the-year rehearsals and concerts yesterday...

our Suzuki Violin class performed for the rest of our music program students and parents

they did great!

Here's our band, all beginners, who have improved so much this year. I'm so proud of them!

Check out this amazing violin cake one of our parents made for our reception

at the pizza party after our second set of rehearsals later that day

That night we had a joint concert with the music program of a local private school. The kids had so much fun playing in a bigger group. And in a fancy recital hall (at our town's university).


(still wearing his medal from earlier in the day :))

Here's our joint orchestra. What a size, and what a sound! This scene is what I had envisioned when I started our music program earlier this year, but never thought it would happen so soon. And I just found out another private school in town wants to join with our program for next year, so we are growing even more.

God is good!

Thanks for letting me share :)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Looking Back: Curriculum Review

Wow, is it really almost time to start looking for next year's curriculum? (Insert any "where did the year go?" type cliche here). Thought I would review our last year's curriculum out loud, both to help me make decisions for next year, and to give you some ideas in case you are looking for something new for your homeschool.

Here we go...

I'm going to start with the winner for my absolutely favorite teaching resource from this year:



We discovered Teaching Textbooks about mid-year, and I can't tell you how much it has eased my anxieties about both teaching math and trying to fit all our subjects in each week. It is a computer-based curriculum (CD-ROMs), starting at 4th grade. I got it for my daughter, who is in 4th grade, and she can often be found doing her Teaching Textbook lesson when it's not even a school day (i.e., just for fun!) You can see free sample lessons at their website. The samples will speak for themselves so I won't go on about it, other than to say: definitely worth checking out if you are looking for a new math curriculum. By the way, we replaced Saxon Math with Teaching Textbooks. My daughter enjoyed Saxon, but is having more fun with TT, and the time it frees up for me to teach other subjects is invaluable.


We also used Singapore Math this year. My 7th grade, ADHD son really, really likes Singapore Math. Each semester has a small, colorful textbook and workbook and my son can usually work through these easily (and happily) on his own, with a short lesson explanation from me from the textbook. What I love most about Singapore is it makes students work a lot of mental math, which is something I never mastered in school and wish I had. My issue with Singapore is that now that my son is getting up towards the higher levels, I'm a little afraid the texts won't give enough of an explanation for me to be able to help him, and math is not my strong point. For that reason, I'm thinking of switching him over to Teaching Textbooks. However, when I asked my son which he would rather do, he chose Singapore, and that is saying a lot because he would live inside a computer if he could, and to chose a non-computer curriculum over the other means he really likes it. Still making the decision on that one. But will probably at least try a year of Teaching Textbooks with him to see how it goes. Guess we can switch back if we need to. For some reason my 4th grade daughter (BeachPea) never liked Singapore, which is why we were using Saxon before we switched to TT. So I guess it's not for everyone.

But my 1st grader and 4 year old use Singapore Math and are very happy with it. The pages are colorful and concise enough that math is not a chore, for me or for them. If math can be a happy thing right from the start, then I would imagine their life-long attitude towards it would be more positive (unlike it is for me - just the word math usually sends shivers of ickyness down my spine). Another good thing about Singapore is that it is cheap. For that reason, I'd say it's worth trying out if you are looking for something new. Amazon often carries it at discounted prices.


I read about this program on another blog and it sounded wonderful: quick, funny lessons, few problems to work, and an affordable price. We tried out the Life of Fred: Fractions edition. My kids absolutely loved the stories, about a 5 1/2 year old university math professor named Fred and all his adventures of trying to cope with life (using math, of course). They couldn't wait for me to read the next day's chapter. At the end of each chapter are questions where the student applies math to real-life situations. And then there are several "tests" or "bridges" to cross every five or so chapters. One of the selling points of Fred's program is that one doesn't need tons of practice problems to understand how math works, however, for my kids, there wasn't quite enough practice. I ended up having to make them extra pages of problems to work before they could remember a new math method well enough for it to be ingrained in their heads. And for me, who, if you will remember, is NOT strong in math, there was not quite enough explanation on how to work new problems. However, there was lots on the WHY we work the problems, and for that reason, I would recommend Life of Fred math. As a supplement.

I do truly think Fred helps them understand that math has a purpose, and that it can be useful and exciting to use - other things I never picked up from math when I was in school. It isn't too terribly expensive, and lessons can be done relatively quickly, perhaps as part of your read-aloud time, or on the student's own time. They say you can start using it once your child has mastered their times tables and division.

Speaking of times tables and division, let me mention another favorite resource from this year:


If your kids are having trouble memorizing their multiplication facts, TIMES TALES is the resource for you. It uses cute stories and illustrations to help students memorize each fact, and it took my kids less than two weeks of using this method to learn all their facts. Several months later, they still remember them, or can recall them quickly by remembering the story. It is a one-time purchase you can use for all your students (just make copies of the worksheets, which by the way, my kids loved doing).

I would recommend Times Tales and Life of Fred Math even for those who don't homeschool. I think they would be great supplements to a public school education, and would give you some fun family time (even if it is MATH (*shivers*)).

Hmm, I was a little more long-winded than I meant to be, so I think I'll review the next subject, Language Arts, next time. Until then, I'd love to hear which math curriculum YOU love...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Do you ever have one of those days

where the messes you made for yourself are just too hard to clean up alone?

on those days, isn't it great to have a friend

to help you out

(hey why'd ya stop?)

(that's better)

and to watch over you until you feel all better.

aren't friends great?

Especially when they have love written all over them.

is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. - 1 Corinthians 13:4-13

Have you hugged your friend today?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Beach Memories, Part 2/Coming home

As much as I loved the beach, I think I'm ready to come home, even virtually. So here are our last batch of random beach pics....

CarriBear, enjoying some of her birthday presents from her beachy birthday party

beach bubbles

sand castles

kayaking fun

all snacks are better at the beach

beach gymnastics

water fun

beach walks

and beach chases


and fires

with s'mores, of course

We'll miss the beauty and fun of the beach, but it is time to come home...

home to kitty cats

and caterpillars

home to lots of green, and pretty spring flowers

home to games of Mother May I in the backyard

twirly steps

and bunny hops

with an occasional caterpillar distraction

home to horses

and playdates with best friends...

(don't ask)

home to shoe-tying lessons on the front porch swing

home to messes

and masterpieces

and home to await the arrival of baby chicks

Home is good.
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