Friday, December 19, 2014

SchoolhouseTeachers.com Yearly Membership Review




We have been homeschooling for several years now and I'm often on a quest to find ways to keep the boys engaged.  Over the last few weeks, I've been browsing around the SchoolhouseTeachers.com website and have found many resources that we are excited to incorporate into our school day.  You'll find SchoolhouseTeachers.com offers a Yearly Membership with classes that are online (so a computer/tablet is necessary), but many courses offer videos and printable pages as well.  There is so much available for ages preschool to high school.

Science = Win 

With kids on such different grade levels, it can be difficult to find ways to bring everyone together to discuss a topic.  However, a fun science experiment is a surefire way to get all three boys eager to learn.  Since we are on a modified school schedule right now for the month of December, I spent my time on SchoolhouseTeachers.com, reading about some great supplementary resources.  

In order to best accommodate the age range of all three boys, I opted to check out the Pre-K/Elementary side of SchoolhouseTeachers.com.  Once there, I found classes that offer an entire year of content, classes that offer a semester's worth of content, and a section of supplementary resources and materials for parents.  Under the supplementary heading, I found the subject of science and headed that way.

Mr. Science is Great!

Let me just say that Mr. Science is great! We checked out the science lessons provided for December and found each one had a video and accompanying experiment guide.  Plus, the lessons are set-up to coincide with the season or upcoming holiday. With everything laid out and helpful descriptions and instructions, getting started and finding science experiment success was no problem!  I opted not to print out the experiment guide, but rather have it open on my laptop when we got started.  I assembled the few supplies before calling the boys in to the kitchen.  

Did you know that pinecones can indicate whether there is moisture in the air or that you can pop popcorn inside a Christmas tree ornament?  See?  FUN!  Check out our experiments below!

Experiment Time

We first experimented with popping popcorn in a Christmas ornament.  I was only able to find glass ornaments that were already decorated, but the boys and I decided that it looks even prettier that way.  We definitely used too much popcorn in each ball, but they still turned out nicely!  In fact, the boys would love to buy some more ornaments and make these as Christmas gifts for family members.

Supplies for Popping Christmas Ornament


Finished ornament!

We tested the air's moisture with pinecones.  With plenty of pinecones to be found in the backyard and Zander in the middle of a botany class in our homeschool co-op, this experiment was very timely.  We learned how to determine whether or not the air is full of moisture or not.

Setting up our Pinecone Hygrometer.

Which one indicates moisture?

And we made an exciting flash with an orange and a candle.  This experiment was the most fun for the boys!  Of course, most things that include fire are a big hit with boys.  Our tip with this experiment was to use smaller pieces of orange peel to get the desired result.

Supplies needed for Orange Flash.

See the flash?

As school resumes after the holidays, we'll be checking out a few more classes.  Adisson is super interested in learning to play the guitar and wouldn't you know, there's a class for that!  I'm also looking for ways to make preschool learning fun (because after the first few kids, it appears as though my preschool game is getting a bit dry) for Jaxon.  Those classes and many more are available.  I hope to have a little bit of downtime over Christmas break to add some courses into our schedule.

But, wait!  There's more!  There are also several resources for parents and the whole family.  Meal planning, family fitness, reading lists, and nature studies are just a small selection of courses available.  Have you ever checked out the courses available at SchoolhouseTeachers.com?  If not, then it's absolutely worth your time to see what it's all about.  Also, check out some additional reviews from other Crew members to hear what they have to say!



Crew Disclaimer


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Monday, December 15, 2014

Ronald McDonald House Book Drive: Your help is needed!

Last week, I started a fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald House in Durham, North Carolina.  The goal of the fundraiser was to raise money to purchase Usborne books.  You see, Usborne has an incredible program in place for book drives.  Once your book drive reaches $500 in donations, Usborne then donates an ADDITIONAL 50% more books.  That means, a $500 book drive receives $750 in books; a $1000 book drive receives $1500 in books, etc.

$1500 in books?

And that was my goal--to make it to $1000 so I could walk in to the Ronald McDonald House with $1500 in books.  I thought there could be no better way to spend the days leading up to Christmas.

I started the fundraiser and I posted about it on facebook.  Everyday.  A few times each day.  I tweeted about it.  I talked to my friends about it.  I've emailed people about it.  A lot of people.



Today, a week later, my book drive sits at $115.  While I'm so incredibly grateful for those who have so graciously given of their money, I'm a little sad that I couldn't manage to raise more than that.  Despite my near-begging, I couldn't reach that $500 threshold.  

There are a few days left in the book drive and I won't count myself out of a Christmas miracle.  We'll see...




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Friday, December 12, 2014

The Choice to be an Army Family

I'm not a superhero.  Sometimes, I joke about being one when I tackle a mountain of tasks in one single day.  But I'm not.  People thank me for my service to my country by being married to a soldier but the truth is, I know no different.  The only kind of wife I've ever been is an Army wife.

This life is a difficult one and I have no shame in admitting that fact.  My marriage is composed of three entities: myself, my husband, and the United States Army and one of us is making a lot of decisions without consulting the other two.  We're told where to live, where Adam will work, when he'll be gone, and when he'll be home.  We're given parameters of traveling, how far and how long, and the Army insists on knowing where their soldiers are on a daily basis.  That can be a hard pill to swallow.

But, we've chosen the lifestyle, again and again.  Adam first enlisted for 4 years and we're creeping up rather quickly on his 12th anniversary of raising his hand and swearing his oath.  That means that we've had The Conversation several times.  You know the convo..."Get out or stay in?"  There was one time we were thisclose to saying we'd had enough, it was time to move on.  Then, he got promoted to Staff Sergeant.  I knew with that one act, that one event in our lives, that he had just become a "lifer."

Sometimes, I question the decision to stay in.  Our families all live in Ohio.  I have two brothers with children that I get to see once or twice each year.  I had the blessing of an incredible aunt growing up and I always thought that's the kind of aunt I was going to be...a fun, exciting, awesome aunt who always offered a place of refuge, but I'll never get to be that aunt.  That might be the hardest part for me and for the kids who will never really know what it's like to have cousins, who are like siblings that live down the road.  I also have four (much) younger brothers who are adored by my sons.  I've never had the chance to live near them so I'll never get to be the big sister to them that I was to my other brothers.

My sadness about not being close to family ebbs and flows.  As we prepare to spend some time over the coming holidays with our relatives, my excitement is sometimes marred by heartache knowing that our time with them is all too brief.  We won't get to spend as much time as we'd like with our aging grandparents.  I won't get to do all the fun things I want to do with our nieces and nephews.  My boys will have just a few days with their cousins and the rest of their extended family.

It's the distance that makes this lifestyle so difficult.  It's either the distance between us and Ohio or the distance between my husband and home.

But every time you ask us if we'd do it all over again, if we'd continue to make the choice to be an Army family...the answer is always yes.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Book Drive: Happening Soon!

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity for us.  Visiting family, Thanksgiving, shopping, the big, awesome birthday party, and of course, homeschooling. To add to an already busy lifestyle, I've recently decided to become an Usborne Books & More consultant.  I love kids books, a lot! When an incredible blogger friend of mine invited me to join her team, I thought about it for a few days before saying yes.  


It's been pretty exciting!  I've received a beautiful box full of amazing books and I just love them. Plus, and this is a secret I'm hesitant to reveal, I love the smell of books. New books, old books, slick pages, chapter books, whatever it is--I just love the smell.  Ok, so that probably makes me weird, but I'm fine with that. :)

I've had a facebook party and have a few parties schedule for next week, but there's something else I'm working on that thrills me even more.  I'm hosting a book drive.  It hasn't officially started yet, but I cannot wait!!!  

I'm raising money to donate books to children and families staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Durham, North Carolina.  


But wait, there's more!  When a book drive raises at least $500, Usborne Books & More donates an additional 50% more books! So, in an amazing world of generous people, if I meet the goal of $1000, I'll actually be able to purchase $1500 in books for families who will be spending Christmas at the Ronald McDonald house with a child in the hospital.  

My fundraiser goes LIVE on Monday, December 8th.  I'll be sure to post a link when my fundraiser is live, but in the meantime, I wanted you to know that it's happening soon!  If you are able to donate at all to this incredible facility, you would touch so many people with your generosity and thoughtfulness.  

I hope you'll look for my announcement on Monday and even more, I hope you will share the information with others.  I would love to be Santa for an afternoon as I deliver board books, doodle pads, sticker books, chapter books, activity packs, and kid kits to very deserving families.  

In the meantime, here's a video from the Ronald McDonald House in Durham.


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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

I have a lot of words I'd love to say for this post, but I won't.  Because it's my Wordless Wednesday post.  Here are my guys.  And goodness gracious, I'm a lucky mom.












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Sunday, November 30, 2014

How our Thanksgiving was Different

Last week, we were blessed to welcome my Mom and oldest nephew, Landen, for Thanksgiving.  We haven't had family visit for Thanksgiving, so it was very exciting for us.  I spent most of Wednesday evening baking pies and planning my cooking schedule for the following morning.  I was up early to pull the turkey from the brine and get it in the roaster.  I started on the other desserts before moving on to the rest of the menu.  

As the time to eat was approaching, Landen became increasingly concerned about when our guests would be arriving.  I explained to him that he, along with Nana, completed our table this year.  But, at home, he said, everyone was on their way to Grandma Sonia's house to have a big giant meal together.  Weren't we having a lot of people over for dinner?  
He was rather disappointed when I explained to him again that we weren't having anyone else over.  Our military friends were gathering with other friends, traveling to see family, or had family visiting from out of town.  I excitedly pointed out that this year, we were so fortunate to have family visiting to make the day more special to us.  Oddly, what was my silver lining was his dark cloud.  

We typically spend Thanksgiving like we spend every other day--celebrating with each other.  When our families go out to dinner on Mother's Day, gather for a Fourth of July BBQ,  or celebrate the birthday of a grandchild, we aren't there.  Each holiday that we are missing out on the fun of family togetherness with our loved ones in Ohio, I spend part of the day being sad that we are once again not present.  

We continued on with our dinner and have a lovely time discussing all of the reasons we found to be thankful.  Mom kept the kiddos so Adam and I could spend a few hours shopping together.  I thought it was a remarkable day, but even as Landen was leaving, he commented about being sad that our Thanksgiving wasn't like the one he was accustomed to at home.  I'm not sure it ever will be.  

One person's amazing day may be someone else's disappointment....even if they shared the day in the same way.  
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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Shop from home at Minted.com

I love shopping.  It can be hard to do when I'm on a budget or with kids in tow, but there's something exciting about finding just the right item for just the right space.  When our house was being built, I'd spend every free minute daydreaming about how everything was going to be just exactly how I wanted it, livable and beautiful.  After almost two years in our home, things still aren't just so, but I'm forever working on each decorating aspect.
One of the areas I've tried to be more purposeful is the decor I select for the walls.  I try so hard to find pieces that reflect who I am and who we are as a family.  We love the ocean and I think each of us consider the coast our favorite place.  I love to find prints the remind me of the time we get to spend with the sand between our toes.  Recently, I was able to find some incredible pieces at minted.com.
Selection of prints I love at minted.com    

Oh my gosh, though, once you are at minted.com, you could spend a few hours browsing.  What is Minted, exactly?  As I've mentioned, you can find fabulous art prints, art inspired by your own photos, and other beautiful gifts.  You will also see that there is a gorgeous selection of stationery including Christmas & holiday cards, wedding invitations, birthday invitations, baby announcements and so on.  We're talking high quality stuff here.  
Speaking of amazing Christmas cards, check these out.  Seriously, these are perfect for my family!  How cute would my fellas look on this card?!  Plus, it includes free recipient addressing--one more thing I could cross off of my to-do list!
As you can see there are so many reasons why I can't wait to try minted.com.  Head over, check out the site, and after you find a few things you love, make sure you look for the coupon code near the top for Black Friday specials.  
This post is sponsored by minted.com. I received a Minted credit for in exchange for my time and honest review. My love of their art and my desire to cover my walls in it are 100% my own!
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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Thrill of Shopping on Thanksgiving Eve

Sometimes, I'm good at planning and getting things done in plenty of time.  However, this week seems to be an exception.  Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I hadn't yet finished my grocery shopping.  This weekend, we are hosting not one but TWO parties on Saturday and I haven't really gotten everything done for that, either.  Maybe it's because we have some family in town visiting for the holiday but it's likely that I'm just getting a bit worn out.  All work and no rest makes this lady with an autoimmune disorder feel icky.  


So on the eve of Thanksgiving, I had no choice but to venture to the grocery store.  I was prepared for the worst: food shortage on hot ticket items, long lines, irritable people....however, I didn't find any of that.  I found plenty of stuffing and gravy, I waited behind just one couple with less than 10 items, and every single employee at Food Lion was incredibly nice.  The place was packed full of people, each of them considerate of their fellow patrons.  As I stood there picking out the best apples for my famous apple pie, I stopped to look around and I smiled at what I saw.




In that grocery store was a whole host of folks picking up the last few things they needed to prepare tomorrow's big meal. Whether expecting friends or family to help carve the turkey or if each military family was going to be enjoying the holiday among those with whom they live, they were likely there to buy the fixings for Thanksgiving dinner.  And the thought of everyone making their final selections of food to prepare warmed my heart.  

I'm so blessed to have my family.  I live with four amazing fellas.  I count several military friends as part of our North Carolina family.  Part of my heart forever remains in Ohio with my parents, little brothers, nieces and nephews, and all of my extended family.  We're also so fortunate to be able to afford last minute trips to the grocery store on Thanksgiving Eve for food when others find themselves not able to do so.  

While you may find it completely silly that I was standing next to the apples deciding on Fuji, Gala, or Golden Delicious smiling all goofy like at everyone in Food Lion, that's what I did tonight.  
Now, it's on to pie making.  :)  Happy Thanksgiving Eve!

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Christmas Traditions, Part Two




Yesterday, I talked to you about our favorite Christmas traditions. I shared with you our list of activities that we do each year as we prepare for our most favorite family holiday. I also mentioned that we would be incorporating new traditions into our Christmas celebration this December as well.  (Please note, this post contains affiliate links.)

 
The Jesse Tree



I've heard of The Jesse Tree several times over the last few years, but I never took the time to really look into what a Jesse Tree is all about.  Essentially, the book The Jesse Tree is a story about the biblical reason for this season and a corresponding ornament to go along with each day. This year, my friend offered to include me in another friend's Jesse Tree ornament swap.  I'm a sucker for swaps so I readily accepted.   I can't wait to show off our new ornaments after the swap.  



Truth in the Tinsel



Honestly, I found Truth in the Tinsel  during a Google search and I cannot wait to get started.  It looks so fun!  It's an e-book with a page for each day of Advent.  It's easy, which I love.  It's crafty, which I love even more.  I'm very excited to spend with the boys each day learning about the real meaning for Christmas.  You just turn to the page for the day, read through it, and create something together.  You can also buy printable ornaments from the site to make your planning even easier!  Here's a list of what you'll do each day:

  • Read Together--a passage from the Bible
  • Make Together--an ornament
  • Talk About Together--discuss what you've read and made
  • Do More Together--bring the lesson into your life with practical applications


I'm very excited to get started on these books in addition to the LEGO bricks and chocolate. Have you ever read The Jesse Tree or Truth in the Tinsel? What are your thoughts?



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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Our Christmas Traditions


The first of December is ushered in with a host of excitement!  I'm a mama big on tradition.  I want for my fellas to have so many memories of a magical Christmas time in our home each year.  This year, I'm combining all of our Christmas traditions into one box that will be "delivered" on December 1.  (In the interest of full disclosure, this box might actually arrive on November 30 because that is when we are putting up our Christmas tree!!)  I want to share with you what we've done in the past and tomorrow I will tell you about what we will be adding to our Advent celebration this year. (Please note that this post contains affiliate links.)

I can't wait to share with you our Thanksgiving traditions next week, because Thanksgiving is one of my most favorite days of the year.  However, if you were hoping to start any of these traditions in your home, I wanted to be sure you had time to acquire the necessary items before December began.  On to the fun....

LEGO Advent Calendar

Each year, we have a LEGO Advent Calendar.  It's difficult to have one, single LEGO Advent Calendar because it's a fight everyday over who is getting to open the LEGO for the day.  In any case, we have that Advent calendar.  Also, if this is something you are interested in doing with your kids, please don't wait until November 30th to buy one.  It's possible you'll find them sold out in most locations (in stores and online) and have to resort to buying the set on an auction site.  And paying nearly double what it cost originally.  Don't ask me how I know this.  



Chocolate Advent Calendars 


I do buy a Chocolate Advent Calendar for each of the boys so they can open their own piece of chocolate for the day.  I suppose if you can't be the one to open the LEGO window and assemble the minifigure that day, you can at least be comforted by a piece of yummy chocolate.  Adisson's not a big chocolate fan, so I end up getting so share with him.  Love that!


Christmas Book Advent


In the few days before December 1, I wrap up 25 Christmas books in festive wrapping paper (clearly unlike what you see above--I'll be sure to get a good photo this year). They sit in a basket near the fireplace or Christmas tree.  Each day, we unwrap a Christmas book and read it together, or the boys take turns reading them aloud.  Honestly, they get pretty excited about unwrapping the books and then I have a hard time keeping their interest if it's not one of their favorite Christmas books.  I'm hoping to add to their Christmas collection this year with some better books.  Look for a book list in the coming weeks.  



Christmas Movies


We have a collection of Christmas movies and watch them all month long.  Our absolute favorites are Home Alone movies (the first and second movies are the best, in our opinion).  We love The Santa Clause movies as well. I'm pretty sure we have nearly as many Christmas movies as we do Christmas books. It's something we do together as we work on crafts and making gifts--we just get really excited to watch Christmas DVD's.


Elf on the Shelf
Each year, our Elf on the Shelf arrives with our Advent calendars.  Freddy, our cute little elf, has been around for several years.  He never ceases to amaze the kids with his antics.  I heard from Freddy a little early this year and he tells me he's arriving with a new mission this Christmas season.  He's going to show the boys how awesome it is to be nice, helpful, and considerate.  No more messes to clean up in the morning.  Sure, he'll still be funny and silly sometimes, but he wants the boys to know that he's a good, thoughtful elf now.  If you haven't already purchased an Elf on the Shelf, now would be a good time or you can look into some of the other ideas that are similar in nature.  

There you have it, our list of daily activities for December.  While we will continue with the above activities this year, I'm so excited to tell you about the new traditions we'll be starting.  I can't wait to show the boys some of the more important reasons we celebrate Christmas.  Stay tuned for tomorrow's post!

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