Friday, December 19, 2014 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 website and have found many resources that we are excited to incorporate into our school day.  You'll find 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, 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  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  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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