Thursday, March 26, 2015

When They Want One Thing & I Want Another

The time has come for our homeschool co-op registration renewal.  I've blogged several times about our participation in the co-op.  This is the first year that we've been part of a co-op for the entire year.  It's been a fun change for our family and it has seemed to work out rather well.

A few weeks ago, I submitted a class proposal and applied to be a teacher for the upcoming school year.  I was pretty excited about it.  I felt like I had a great, fresh idea for the early elementary crowd, who were often underrepresented in the class course list.  Sadly, despite no parameters being set on who can apply to be a teacher, it was deemed that I wouldn't be the right fit for teaching next year.  And I was pretty hurt by the situation.  Instinctively, I wanted to quit when this year ended.  However, I decided that the co-op participation was for my sons and if they wanted to be involved next year, we would renew our membership.  
Now, it's time to decide.  The boys are sometimes on the fence about it.  They like the fun of co-op, they LOVE the field trips, and they enjoy seeing their friends.  They do not like classes that end up being boring or lacking in good instruction and they really don't enjoy waking up early.  The course list has been decided and available for review.  As expected, there are few classes for Jaxon as a Kindergartener.  I suppose at five years old, however, it just needs to be fun and engaging.  There are a few selections I think Zander would enjoy and several offerings for Adisson.  

Really, I'm back and forth on the decision and still hesitant.  It doesn't seem fair that my hesitation is because of my own hurt feelings when no one has been unkind to my children.  I make a lot of decisions for our family, and nearly all of the decisions regarding our homeschool, so it's a bit difficult for me to want to decide one way and the boys to decide the other.  Next week, we'll review the course catalog together to determine if the boys find classes they would be interested in taking.  

Have you ever been in a situation where your children wanted to continue with an activity that you did not?  

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

HomeSchool Office from Lord Heritage (Schoolhouse Review Crew)

HomeSchool Office Review

I think it would be completely accurate to describe me as a Mom on a never-ending quest for organization.  With an active-duty husband, three homeschooled boys, an elderly dog, and two incredibly mischievous cats, my life resembles a bit of constant chaos.  So, the opportunity to review HomeSchool Office from Lord Heritage as a way to get our homeschool organized seemed like it was meant specifically for me.

When you log in to the site, you are given several options from which to choose.  I'll list them below and briefly describe their purpose.  

Team -- Under this heading, you set-up your homeschool with your information under the tab appropriately named Home School.  There were several additional tabs labeled School District, Educators, Students, Resources, and Friends.  Clearly, this tool is an option for educators outside of the homeschooling world.  After inputting our school name (required by our state) and address, I cruised over to the Students tab to add my two school-aged students.

Plan -- In this tab, you have the ability to build a master schedule, set up lessons, and schedule course goals.  There is also an option to arrange a homeschool budget.  Under the School Year Plan tab, you can quickly and easily select the days that will make up your school year.  This is a helpful feature for those who have to track attendance records as required by their state homeschooling laws.  This feature, in particular, was useful to me and easy to use.  The Master Schedule tab was a nice idea, but I had a difficult time getting my schedule set up correctly.  I found it hard to personalize this area for when we have outside activities.  

-- This tab shows you a calendar at-a-glance.  You can select the view you'd like to see whether it's a daily, weekly, or monthly plan.  This calendar is created from the previous tab, Plan, with your master schedule.  I liked the ability to quickly see several different calendars by just clicking on which calendar I wanted to see.  I typically like a weekly overview but a monthly picture is sometimes helpful.  

Work -- This tab provides access for your students.  They have the option to log in and view their calenders, as well.  There's also a to-do list feature on the right hand side of the screen.  They can also check off their completed work on this screen.  Viewing and printing individual schedules is also an option.  

Evaluate -- Under this tab, you can enter grades for each student as well as attendance.  We don't keep grades right now, though I'm sure that will be changing in just a short time for my oldest son.  The feature I really like here is the ability to track daily attendance as well as attendance by subject hour.  I have friends who homeschool in a state in which hours are recorded so I can see this feature being helpful to people who have to keep records of that sort.  

Report -- Under Report, you can create a variety of different reports using the Report Builder.  Attendance, progress per subject, student information, and starting/ending dates of quarters are some of the topics around which you can build a report.  You can also export the report to Microsoft Word and even build a transcript.

My Thoughts?

I really wanted to love this program.  I've been searching for awhile for a way to organize our homeschool electronically.  There were so many features I thought would be useful in the planning aspect of homeschool organization.  Unfortunately, despite my ability to utilize web-based programs with ease, I could not get the hang of this program.  The learning curve was quite a bit more than I had the ability (or patience) to overcome.  

HomeSchool Office Review

Crew Disclaimer

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Friday, March 20, 2015

GPALOVEMATH from GPA LEARN (Schoolhouse Review Crew)

Math is always a difficult subject for me to teach because I've got boys with drastically varying skill levels.  I was incredibly excited to have the opportunity to review the math program, GPALOVEMATH, through GPA LEARN.  I feel like both of my guys work better at math when it's computerized.  Since this program fit the bill, it seemed like it would work well for us.  This is not a download, but rather streamed from the internet.  You will need to have an internet connection to use this program.

Critical Thinking Company Review

I'll take you through the process of getting signed up and started.  I was able to assign each boy their own sign-in and password and also have one for myself.  Once a student logs in, they are taken to their dashboard.  For this review, I'll mostly be referencing one child, Zander, but both of my school-age sons have been using GPALOVEMATH as their math lessons for the last few months.  They each use the program in the same way, so it's just easier to pick one and explain how our household makes this product work for us.

Once on their dashboard, overall progress can be viewed.  There are four tabs, Dashboard, Learn, Engage, Motivate.  Under the Lesson Summary on the dashboard, you can quickly see how many lessons have been attempted, the number of lessons completed, and how well completed lessons rank: Rockstar, Excellent, or Nice Job.

If you click on the Learn tab, you are taken directly to the colored paths of lessons.  There are three paths, differentiated by the colors green, blue, and purple.  I have Zander's lessons set-up to be completed in the recommended order.  This means that the order of lessons is pre-determined.  He can only select a square that is in color, the gray squares have not been unlocked.  They will be unlocked as he completes other lessons.

So, how did we like the lessons?  We all love them!  The lessons are divided into three parts: Instruction, Practice, and Quiz.  You can skip Instruction and/or Practice and go straight to the Quiz.  The good aspect of being able to skip ahead is that if Zander is proficient in that area of math, we can just skip forward and go right to the quiz.  The bad part is that if I'm not in the same room, Zander can be tempted to skip right to the quiz and sometimes that doesn't work out as well as he was hoping.  (In our home, you have to achieve Rockstar to move head.  If you do not, you need to redo the lesson.)

The lessons are engaging and fun and seem to hold the attention of my guys well.  They don't complain that the lessons are too long or boring.  I like that lessons require a great deal of participation from students, not just a lot of talking at the kids.

The next tab available is Engage.  This tab is pretty funny for my boys.  In this tab, you are able to "friend" other GPA LEARN users.  Each child is given a "Friend Code" which is automatically selected and a silly combination of words and letters.  You can find friends by inputting their Friend Code.  My boys each friended each other and occasionally send messages back and forth.  I can also send a message to each of them.  

We don't use this feature very often, but it's a fun way to stay connected in this program.  I figure if I can keep them active and engaged inside GPA LEARN, then they will remain excited about using this program for their math lessons.  So far, I haven't been disappointed.  I don't hear much whining when it's time for them to get started with math.

Finally, and probably their favorite tab of all, is Motivate.  When I set-up their accounts, I was able to go in to the motivate section and select rewards for each child.  I could make my own, but decided to give the pre-made ones a try (because that was easier for me).  I selected Chores from the column on the left -- the Rewards Store -- to get started.  Once I select the topic from the Rewards Store, a selection of chores becomes available.  I then click on the green button that says +My List and it is then added to that child's list. 

This screenshot is from my account.  

The green bar you see at the top shows that I have selected enough rewards that a reward will be given after 8 lessons have been completed.  The boys would like for me to select a few more rewards so they are rewarded more often, but I like the current arrangement.  

As each lesson is completed, points are earned based on how well they have done on the quiz.  So, not only can they receive rewards randomly as they complete a number of lessons, the child can go under their Motivate tab and do a little reward shopping themselves.  They can select from the same rewards from which I have chosen.  

This screenshot is from a child account.

I enjoy how easy it is for me to use as a parent and that it requires very little preparation from me.  In fact, the only thing I need to do is quickly set-up the account for each child and select their rewards.  The boys each know their sign in information so when it's time for math, they know how to get started.  I'm nearby to help with questions, usually going back and forth between the two of them as they work on separate computers.  

We will definitely be continuing with GPALOVEMATH.  Both of my boys like it and I do as well.  If you are looking for a math curriculum, you should head over to Great Parent's Academy!

Follow Great Parent's Academy on social media:

GPA Learn Review

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

McGhee March Madness

A few weeks ago, Adam came home and said "Nicole, I want everyone to complete their own March Madness brackets.  I want there to be a competition among the five of us.  I want you to have a scoring system and a prize at the end."

Okie dokie.

Let me tell you a secret.  We don't watch basketball.  Like ever.  We watch college football every Saturday in the fall (GO OHIO STATE!) and by we I mean me and whomever else is in the living room.  But not so much on the basketball (or baseckball if you're Jaxon).  However, I'm intensely competitive so I said ok.  

We waited until the very last second to get our brackets done.  I had mine completed several days before the games started, but it took the sound of squeaky shoes on a basketball floor when I was flipping through the channels to remind me to get the boys done.  Technically, a few of the Third Round games had begun, but they didn't know that.  Besides, filling out their brackets was just going through each round saying two team names and waiting for them to choose.

They had an incredibly different approach.  Zander was first and he selected the better ranked team for each match-up.  Jax was next.  At 5 years old, he just picked whichever team sounded better.  He was relatively loyal to Ohio State since "we have family in Ohio!" and North Carolina teams--except for Duke because he didn't realize they are a team in NC.  He also decided early on that he liked Eastern Washington, choosing them over Georgetown...even taking Eastern Washington to the championship game.  I kept trying to sway him another way but he wanted the "team from Washington DC" and he couldn't understand that Eastern Washington was one of the farthest teams away from Washington DC.  Anyway, Adisson finished up the madness of children choosing their brackets by mostly following the same approach as Zander, but selecting a few underdogs to take a little further.

The boys are very excited to watch the games this weekend and can't wait to see who wins our own
McGhee March Madness!

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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Book Report on a T-Shirt

We're involved in a local homeschool co-op.  It's been an interesting experience for us this year.  Each of the older boys are taking three classes and Jax has his preschool class, that he just loves, at 10:00.  In fact, the other day he walked into his class (I'm not allowed to walk him there, his rules), raised his fist in the air, and yelled "Party in the house!"  It was so funny that I called his dad to tell him.  :)

One of Zander's recent assignments for his literature class was to create a book report.  When we first discussed this assignment, Zander and I talked about the options available and he decided on the diorama route once I explained the specifics of a diorama.  When it was time to get started, however, he wanted to do something a bit more exciting.  

Enter a T-Shirt Book Report.  We saw the idea described on Pinterest and Z knew it HAD to be the way to go.  His book of choice?  Geronimo Stilton The Kingdom of Fantasy. 

We gathered the supplies: 
  • t-shirt 
  • fabric paint
  • cardboard (to make stencils)
  • paintbrushes
  • iron-on letters
  • iron-on paper
We set to work.  And I totally forgot to take pictures of this part.  :(  Sorry.  

This was his finished product:

I know, it makes absolutely no sense if you haven't read the book.

Ok, so I'll try to sorta explain what is on the shirt.  Starting the name.  We used iron-on letters to spell out Geronimo Stilton.  Zander helped me with the cutting and organizing, but I did the ironing.  In the middle of the shirt, you'll see a staircase.  I used the cardboard from the back of a notebook and cut out a stair stencil.  I placed it on the shirt and Zander used a black fabric paint paint to trace it.  We repeated the process until we went all the way across the shirt.  He then used yellow fabric paint to make the stairs yellow because he was showcasing a golden staircase.  

Down in the right corner are spider legs.  In the book, you don't see the spider's body or other legs, it's a shot just like that so we depicted it the same way.  We just used a straight edge and Zander again traced around it.  To the left is a rainbow.  I did the line to start each color and Z filled it in.  He found it easiest to squeeze a little paint and use the end of a paintbrush to fill in the band of color.

Beside the rainbow is an iron-on transfer of Geronimo Stilton.  My guy found the picture he liked, I printed it out, and ironed it on.  Not quite ready to let Zander use an iron yet.  Going up the shirt you see a big, orange area.  That's a beard!  It's probably our favorite part of the shirt.  In the book, a giant's orange beard is shown.  The only other part of the giant you see in the book is his shoe, so Z picked the beard (because Dad has a beard) and we worked on that.  I did the outline in fabric paint, but Zander did the filling in.  

Just above Geronimo Stilton, you see a blue unicorn.  He's also featured somewhere in the book so Zander wanted to include it.  We used iron-on transfer paper.  And that's it!  Of course, I need to show you a picture of my favorite second-grader wearing the shirt:

He's so cute!! :)

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Glow in the Dark Eggs (Schoolhouse Review Crew)

My sons LOVE Easter eggs.  May rolls around and I finally have to gather them up from each nook and cranny and put them away for next year--that kind of love.  When the opportunity came to review Glow in the Dark Egglo Eggs and The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure book by Egglo Entertainment, I knew they would be thrilled.

Egglo Entertainment Review
When the package arrived, the boys were ready to get started right away.  We received a nice treasure trove of goodies including the following:

Glow in the Dark Egglo Eggs
The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure Book
Egglo Treasures Scripture Scrolls
Egglo Bible Verse Stickers
The Egglo Glow in the Dark Egg Hunt Event Curriculum

The book isn't thick, but it's a bit long so we spent the week reading through it, a little each day.  Due to the amount of reading on each page, I thought the boys would complain once we got started.  Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised by their willingness to be still and listen.  Several times throughout the week, someone would reference a part of the story later in the evening.  It makes this mama pretty happy when they later relate to something we've read or discussed.

Egglo Entertainment Review

Each day, we spent a few minutes reading through the story together and looking at the very colorful pictures.  As the daily reading ended, we would discuss what we just heard, paying special attention to each scroll.  The boys were especially interested in what the scrolls had to say.  Each time we read a riddle scroll, the boys would guess where the clue was taking them next.  

In addition to the story book, we also received the curriculum download.  It was filled with ideas of how to bring this story to life in your home or event.  It included activities ideas, printable activities, snack options, even invitations if you would like to use this with a group of people.  The download is mostly geared toward a larger group (like a church group) but they did enjoy printing off a few coloring sheets to complete while I was reading.  When we get these eggs out again in a few weeks for Easter, I hope to make a snack or two featured program guide.  

Egglo Entertainment Review

When the book was finished, it was finally time to get started with the eggs.  The boys were incredibly excited to see these interesting glow in the dark eggs.  We added the stickers to the scrolls and placed them inside the eggs.  I also added a few pieces of candy inside each egg.  We set them under a lamp to "charge" for about an hour (a self-imposed time allowance).  My middle son, Zander, wanted to be sure they would reach their maximum "glow-ness" so he set a timer and pretty much watched the clock.  

When the time came, I sent the boys upstairs to wait while I set out to hide the eggs throughout the first floor.   I hid them on the floor, behind chairs, in the corner of the couch, places that would be easy to reach in the dark.   Then, I called for my anxiously adorable sons.  The search for the eggs was on.  They each found a few eggs and then excitedly opened them for the goodies.  Then, the endless egg hunting ensued.  Charge the eggs, hide the eggs, find the eggs, repeat.  

Egglo Entertainment Review

For a family that enjoys plastic Easter eggs, this was a really fun way to learn more about the meaning of Easter and play with something fun and new.  Now, I hope I can keep all of these eggs put away so we can do this again in a few weeks for Easter.  

If your family enjoys hunting for Easter eggs and you would love to incorporate a story about the meaning of Easter into your celebration, you should check out Glow in the Dark Eggs and The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure by Egglo Entertainment.  Visit the social media links below.

Google +:

Egglo Entertainment Review

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Thursday, March 5, 2015


A few years ago, I jumped on the bandwagon of choosing a word of the year.  I haven't done it in awhile and haven't done so for this year either, but it's something that's been on my mind.  If I were choosing a word this year, it would be Responsibility.  

I long to ensure my sons know the virtue of responsibility.  I hope that despite the fact that I don't work outside of the home, they see the responsibilities I see to on a daily basis.  Additionally, when I falter, I try so hard to take responsibility for my shortcomings.  

They have chores they are to complete each day, as expected from each member of our family.  They have additional chores that they can choose to complete for payment. Sadly, they don't often have much interest in working for money.  After school work and housework, they usually want any extra time to be spent playing. 

But it's so important to me that they know how to take on responsibility and what to do with it once they do.  Sooner than I'd like to admit, they will be grown.  Grown men with the responsibilities of taking care of themselves and others.  When that time comes, I want them to know how to use the microwave, what setting is best on the washer, and how to be handy around the house.  

In the meantime, however, I'd really just like for their dirty clothes to make it to the opposed to laying near the basket.  

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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Koru Naturals (Schoolhouse Review Crew)

Let's be honest here, being a homeschool mama can be rough.  We could all use some pampering.  When the opportunity to review Koru Naturals Pure Emu Oil and Pure Lanolin Lip Balms arose, I jumped at the chance. 

Pure Emu Oil

Koru Naturals Review

I've suffered from dry skin my entire life.  I was born and raised in the lovely state of Ohio and cold, dry winters always did a number on my skin.  Even now, as a resident of "the South," I still struggle with helping my skin retain moisture.  I was anxious to give Emu Oil a try.  When it arrived, the first thing I did was see that some oil made its way to my dry elbows.  Later that evening, I finally escaped to the tranquility of the tub, where I added a teaspoon of emu oil to the bath water.  The oil gave my skin a nice silky feeling! (Note: be careful when using oil in the bathtub--slippery!)  

Perhaps my favorite use of the emu oil, however, is the use as a conditioner for my dry hair.  In addition to my skin drying out, this weather definitely makes my hair dry as well.  According to the website, you can use the emu oil as a hair conditioner by squeezing 2-3 drops in your palms and rubbing it into your hair, starting with the ends and working towards the roots.  As a treatment for dry and/or damaged hair, use 5-6 drops in your hair, starting from tips to roots, and cover with shower cap.  After waiting for 10-30 minutes, shampoo the oil out of your hair.  I wasn't able to try to the shower cap method, but I used the oil as a conditioner.  It left my hair feeling silky and smooth.  I have continued to use it once per week.
The ingredients of the Pure Emu Oil are listed as 100% Grade A Emu Oil -- no preservatives or additives.

Lanolin Lip Balm

Koru Naturals Review

As a lip balm buff, I always have balm on me.  I keep it with my makeup, in my purse, in the van, in my co-op bag, in my Cub Scout's everywhere.  I despise the feeling of having dry, cracked, or chapped lips.  After receiving the lanolin lip balm, I added it to my collection--with my makeup and in my purse.  I noticed right away that the lanolin lip balm was different than some of my others.  The lanolin lip balm seemed to be a bit softer than I'm used to using.  In fact, the first time I put it on, I smeared too much onto my lips and needed to wipe off the excess.  Throughout the next few hours, I consciously checked to see how the lip balm felt.  Was it goopy?  Was it sticky?  Did it cause my hair to get trapped on my face (I hate that!!)?  Did it soothe my lips?  
The verdict?
The lip balm was smooth once on my lips.  It was thick enough to feel like it would be effective but not so thick it felt heavy.  It was still noticeable after an hour or two.  I applied more before going to sleep and could tell a difference when I woke.  The winter weather in the South has definitely caused some dry lips for this family but we're definitely making use of the Koru Naturals Lanolin Lip Balm!  

My middle son suffers from incredibly chapped lips most of the year.  I buy him lip balm frequently but he doesn't seem to remember to use it.  When the lanolin lip balms arrived with the emu oil, I wrote Zander's initials on a tube and instructed him to use it anytime he thought about licking his lips, in the morning, and before bed.  He carried it with him during the day and put it beside his bed at night.  For the first several days, he remembered to use it on his own, but afterwards I could tell that he was forgetting to use it because I could see the patches returning/worsening on his lips.  After a few weeks, I can see that it has definitely made a difference in the patches that had developed on his lips, though he declined a before and after photo shoot.  
The ingredient list on the pure lanolin lip balm is 100% pure anhydrous lanolin.  

Interested in following Koru Naturals on social media?  See links below!

Koru Naturals Review

Crew Disclaimer

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