Monday, June 24, 2013

Medieval History Memory Game: A Mosaics Review

I am terrible with completing the supplements for history. I mean, they all sound super fun and I even sometimes purchase the supplies, but inevitably most are pushed to the side and eventually forgotten.

That's where The Classical Historian's Medieval History Memory Game comes in. We aren't hard core with history just yet, but since they do enjoy some extra reinforcing activities we were excited to crack this open. Now, truth is, it is a memory game pretty much like other memory games. You spread the cards out and try to find matches. The big deal about these cards though, are the historical photos on them (think William Shakespeare, The Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the Crusaders). Each photo corresponds with a different Medieval historical event, helping to pique interest in and reinforce learned historical facts that pretty much encompass the entire known world at the time. You will see photos dealing with everything from works of arts to the religious turmoil between the Catholic church and the leaders of the Reformation. While it is just a simple memory game, it does open the door up to a lot of discussion and research and is a great way to introduce little ones to some history.

Besides the memory version of the game, there is also an alternate game that is won by sorting the photo cards into categories according to the region they happened in. This is a nice variation if you have older children.

The Medieval History Memory Game costs just under $15 or you can purchase as a set at a discounted price, and is recommended for ages 3+, and I think a younger child could match the pictures if they can play other memory games already. The Classical Historian also offers memory games from other time periods as well, plus many other history curriculum and supplemental items.

My final thoughts:

The game was ok. There is some value in the images on the cards, but at the end of the day it is a memory game and it got old very quickly. I am also not sure the price point is right as most similar memory games go for $5 or less. The cards are quite a bit thicker than your typical toy store memory game so that does make the price a little more palatable, especially if they will pass through a lot of little hands.  I can also see the value in introducing a game like this to a younger child rather than trying to dig into a full curriculum. This would be a great way to "unschool" history and if the games weren't quite so expensive, I would consider purchasing more.

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A Letter to My Younger Self

Dear Younger Me,

 You are sitting on the couch right now browsing curriculum catalogs and researching learning styles. And you are FREAKING.OUT. Not on the outside of course, but on the inside you are panicking. Before you had children you just knew that your child would get the public school education you "missed" out on. You even moved to be in a school district that was supposed to be fantastic, and maybe it was. However, as your children grew you realized that you really didn't miss out on anything worth having, but as K5 for Brianna inched closer, you also realized that you couldn't bear the thought of being one of those moms standing in tears watching as this child who has been so fought for, so wanted, this child who was an extension of you, was sent away to someone else for 8 hours a day to be taught and trained. Even private school was out. So you decided to give homeschooling a trial run.

I am here today to tell you that the trial run never ended. You did it. You made it past those first few years when you were most likely to quit. As a result you have been witness to some of the most joyful moments as well as those most difficult ones in your children's lives. You have taught them to read and to count. They have learned about space and phonics, Ancient and American history and botany. Your children, who by the way, now number 3, are bright, polite and pleasant to be around.  They speak respectfully to adults, make friends where ever they go and are learning at a pace you can hardly keep up with! Both Brianna and Keira are avid readers and eat up classic literature like it is cake. Your youngest, Luke, is a little more reluctant, but he is also learning and adores to add sums on his fingers!

Your kids will make friends! They will, I promise. They will become part of a community that you help start! You will get to be a part of planning parties, play dates and even field day! Your children will have friends ranging from 2 years all the way up to adult! Some of their favorite people right now are young adults! Teens that love to be around the little ones will be vital in helping your child see what young adults should act like. They will participate in sports and volunteer work and one day they will get to participate in prom and even a formal graduation service! All those things that everyone is telling you they will miss out on...well, let's just say that homeschooling is an oxymoron.

That is not to say there weren't rough days. Yes, those were there too. There were days when you were sure that you wanted to give up, that you weren't doing a good enough job, that the task seemed impossible. You still have them, even this far in, but what you have gained is wisdom, conviction and a burning desire to see your children succeed. What started out as just a deep need to not be apart, is now a strong unquenchable commitment to teaching and training your child not only in academics, but in the admonition of the Lord. And oh, how you have needed His grace during the days that seemed they would never end. If not for that unfailing grace, the tears that sometimes seemed to flow for days would have never stopped. But by this grace, you have come to see that your children are not only your God-given responsibility to raise, but that they are a joy beyond measure and you would not want to trade even the bad days. I want to tell you all of this because I know how hard and impossible it will seem at times. I know that for every success there will be a struggle, but that you will make it through and you will reap rewards that you could never have imagined.

I also want to tell you to take a step back and relax! You will come to a place where you recognize that pushing 4 hours of formal work on a pre-k aged child is not helpful. When you realize that learning is not something found in a book, your entire homeschooling experience will change and while book learning will still be very much a part of your day, you will also learn to enjoy those more "organic" moments. You will spend days without ever opening a math book and that is OK! Those walks in the park discovering bugs or days playing store, they are learning too. Take advantage of quiet times, sit on the couch and read together. Oh, your children will enjoy that so much! Go play in the sandbox when the weather is nice and plant gardens together. Take spontaneous trips to the library and let them pick out 30 books, all on minerals and crystals, you know they will never read. Play lego for hours and put the art supplies in a place they can access at any time. Don't fret, two are now advanced readers and the third, well he is only 4. There will be plenty of time for math books and formal science. Right now, enjoy your children.

So put the curriculum catalogs down, step away from the printer and just be with your children. Enjoy these precious younger years that fly by faster than you could have ever imagined and know, that you can do it and you can do it better than a stranger in a class room can. No one knows your children like you do, no one cares for your children or is willing to fight for them the way you do and that mama, makes all the difference.

Your 4 years in the future self,

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Having It All Together - Life as Supermom


I have noticed and discussed with the homeschooling moms around me how it seems that when school is going really well, the house is a complete disaster and we worry that someone will report us to that hoarding show and probablyshould and we know that we would consider it because we could use the extra cash and free therapy cluttered and we are eating out almost everyday not eating as healthy as we should *ahem*; or when the house is clean and the meals are all made from scratch, schoolwork is not getting the amount of focus I would like.  It seems like it is one or the other.  Well, I guess, in a way, it is. 

I know people frequently look at me like I am wonderwoman, raising four kids, one who has a chronic illness, homeschooling, playing secretary/accountant for my husbands business, blogging, taking care of my handicapped brother, organizing the local bulk food drop, cleaning, cooking, being a friend to others, being a wife, and a host of other things like reading books and sewing and occasionally grinding my own wheat.  PHEW!  I tell you what! After typing all that I am tired and wonder how I "do it all".  HA!

Many of you probably hear much of the same thing I do:  "I don't know how you do it all!"  "I could never....."  "You have a lot on your plate" etc. etc.

The reality is, only a few things consume the majority of our day. The rest are things that take time here and there, and with the right amount of panic and last minute rushes proper planning, those things get done.  We prioritize what we want do and accomplish.  This is good.

The danger is when we feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities we have chosen and what we do with that sense of overwhelmedness (I am fairly certain that I just invented that word).  I tend to sit and not do anything.  I feel paralyzed and feel like I can not make decisions of any kind.  Those are the times that the house falls completely apart, school consists of a lick and promise and dinner is carry out pizza.  Those are the times that I fall off my diet, drink 54 cups of coffee in a day, and find myself considering whether or not showering and brushing my teeth are too much of an effort. Lots of people get there. The danger lies in the consequences of staying in that place.

To avoid that, I have to understand that I can not do it all. No one can.  I also understand that is not a reason to try to accomplish much.  Things have to be done. Kids must be trained and educated.  These are my responsibilities, my tasks given to me by a Holy God who knows that I am capable, even when I feel like a failure, and He will equip me with the resources I need to get the job done.  I also know that God doesn't expect a spotless house and perfectly educated kids, but he does want us to live in  decency and order.

When I feel overwhelmed, I go to Him in prayer, admitting my need for renewal in my spirit.  I also seek the counsel of trusted friends, who give me practical ideas and a good measure of grace.

Then I put one foot forward and pick up all the books that are laying around.....

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Friday, June 21, 2013

Motherhood, Maps, and Malachi

Yesterday I was preparing the boys for a homeschool map activity and my oldest did his best drama in ages, dropping his head all the way back to his spine and letting out a huge sigh. You know, labeling maps is HARD!! We were going to read from Luke, and we did eventually as it was part of our school work. But. I said "hey guys, let's stop for a second, I have something else to read..."

And it began like that...

I said...

"Let's look at Malachai 1..."

I reviewed Jacob and Esau with them, they both remembered the story pretty well.

"6 “‘A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect?’ says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests who despise My name"

"Wow guys, God wants the honor due Him! And if we honor daddy, why don't we honor the Lord all the more? Let's keep reading..."

"But you say, ‘How have we despised Your name?’ 7 You are presenting defiled food upon My altar. But you say, ‘How have we defiled You?’ In that you say, ‘The table of the Lord is to be despised.’ 8 But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly?” says the Lord of hosts. 9 “But now will you not entreat God’s favor, that He may be gracious to us? With such an offering on your part, will He receive any of you kindly?” says the Lord of hosts. 10 “Oh that there were one among you who would shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindle fire on My altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord of hosts, “nor will I accept an offering from you."

"WOW guys look, (I say wow a lot during this lol) these guys question the Lord "how have we done this???" Yikes! And look, their sacrifice matters to God, they aren't giving their best! God gave them the means, but they aren't giving back... God isn't pleased. I don't want God to say that of me! And He says "Oh that there were ONE among you who would SHUT the gates" seems He couldn't see even ONE who would stand against these lame sacrifices. Let's read on!"

"11 For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to My name, and a grain offering that is pure; for My name will be great among the nations,” says the Lord of hosts. 12 “But you are profaning it, in that you say, ‘The table of the Lord is defiled, and as for its fruit, its food is to be despised.’"

"Gentlemen, God's name is important isn't it? And yet, God says they profaned His very name! I don't want to be a bad witness for the Lord! I don't want to misrepresent Him. I sure don't want to profane His name! Keep in mind this comment about a pure sacrifice, we'll come back to that!"

"13 You also say, ‘My, how tiresome it is!’ And you disdainfully sniff at it,” says the Lord of hosts, “and you bring what was taken by robbery and what is lame or sick; so you bring the offering! Should I receive that from your hand?” says the Lord. 14 “But cursed be the swindler who has a male in his flock and vows it, but sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord, for I am a great King,” says the Lord of hosts, “and My name is feared among the nations.”

"Oh boys! Look at that, "My how tiresome it is." And my how tiresome map making is, and doing dishes, and folding laundry and every other thing we do around here daily! It IS tiresome, so what's wrong with feeling weary from it? Well, hold on, let's look at Romans 12..."

"12 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."

"Whoa! Ok boys, so our bodies are the sacrifice, right? And is our sacrifice pure? Is God's name great, are we glorifying Him in our actions? How tiresome my housework is, and yet, that very housework is my serving God. Because in Col 3:23-24 we read..."23 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve." So, my work seems tiresome and I'd like to whine, but we are to do all things without grumbling and complaining (Phil 2:14). And what's worse, my grumbling and whining is a LAME sacrifice! I'm not serving with a PURE heart! When I ask you to do maps, yes, it is tiresome some days, but that eye roll is a lame sacrifice lol! God wants pure worship, a holy sacrifice acceptable to Him. But when we whine and complain we are not giving Him that sacrifice, we are being lame! I don't want to be lame. I don't want God to say of me "I am not pleased with you." But I give Him many opportunities to say such a thing about me and about my so called sacrifice. I don't want Him to say He isn't pleased with you boys! Our bodies are a sacrifice, our daily living can be worship to Him, or it can be the lame sacrifice that profanes His name, and we can be that cursed swindler! Yikes! Oh Lord, remind us how Holy you are and that daily we are the sacrifice, remind us to be a holy sacrifice not a lame one, You have standards of worship. Just because I think it is worship doesn't mean you accept it! Do you boys get where we're going here?"

They did seem to get it, they sat silently through the reading.

"Boys, let's not be lame anymore. If we catch each other offering a lame sacrifice, let's have a secret phrase like "don't be lame!" to remind each other haha!"

They giggled.

The rest of the day we all went about our work with more joy. I didn't get any complaints about maps, or silent reading assignments, or picking up messes around the house. God didn't get complaints from me either. Ok, it was just one day out of hundreds. But I want to save this conversation so I can remember it. I told the boys this was for me every bit as much as for them.

How are you being a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable? How are you worshiping? Are we conformed or transformed? (that was another conversation I got into with the boys, conformed to the world or transformed for and by God... that's another post lol!)

Have a fabulous worshipful day!


Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Letter to the New Homeschooling Mom

Dear New Homeschooling Mom,

Eeek! You did it! You made the decision to take full responsibility for your child's education and to homeschool them! I am so excited for you and you should be too, for you are embarking on one of the most rewarding adventures.

But I also want to be real with you. It is scary.

You will wake up excited one morning and terrified the next. You will have days where you wonder why on earth you thought you could this. You will worry that you are behind, you will worry that you aren't doing enough and you will worry that you are doing too much.

You will have days when your child refuses to do what they are asked. Where chores go unfinished and where math takes 4 hours and yet you accomplish nothing. Tears will flow and you will want to quit.

You will most likely start out with a very pretty picture of what your school will look like. You probably read books, researched learning styles and decided on what method you believe will work best for your child. Most likely, it will turn out to be the exact opposite of what your child thrives on. You will spend money on curriculum that doesn't work. More than once.

There will be days when you will envy, just for a moment, maybe longer, the moms who get to send their children off for the day. You will wonder what it is like to have so much time alone. What is it like to have a clean house? To take a hot bath or to go to the bathroom...alone?

There will be hard days. Mark my words, there will be days when you will want to quit.

But oh will there be joy! You and your child(ren) will spend days cuddling on the couch with good books, exploring nature in the park, learning, laughing and living together which result in a closeness that is more fulfilling than you could ever imagine.

You won't have to spend your days wondering who is influencing your child, or if they are being bullied. You will be able to speed up or slow down to meet your child's educational needs.You will be able to saturate every moment of their day in Christ and teaching them to live like Him. Their hearts will be yours to guide and their minds will be yours to mold.

You will get to watch moments of discovery that would have been relayed second hand to you if they were at school, if they were relayed at all. You will get to see the moments of delight as your child overcomes an area they are struggling with.

You will spend days relishing the fact that you can send your children outside to play during the cool hours of a summer morning or going on a field trip during the school year when the museums are practically empty.

You will get to watch them grow knowing that you were there for the entire thing and most of all you will know that your child is being raised in a Christ centered environment.

New homeschooling mom, you will have days of fear and doubt, but you CAN do this. Let the adventure begin!

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Monday, June 17, 2013

How Do We Know God is Really There? A Mosaics Review

Every child has, or will at some point ask the question "How do we know God is really there?" (be sure to download the free sample!). It is easy to answer with "because the Bible tells us He is", which is of course, true, but not only has God given us His word to remind us of His presence, but His has announced Himself to us throughout creation!

How Do We Know God is Really There? by Apologia is a beautifully illustrated picture book which helps even young readers to understand that the existence of God and the existence of science are not mutually exclusive. In fact with out God there is no science! Using astronomy, you and your child will reason through the questions most kids will be introduced to at a young age, from the origins of matter to time and space, and all on a kid friendly level!

If I had a con about the book it would be the length. However, I also understand that a lot of information is being covered in a short time. The book is also pretty neutral in that it doesn't go into literal creation vs evolution, but I think that is more because it just doesn't get that far. The purpose of the book is to prove that without God the universe can not exist, and so it doesn't reach beyond that. I will be interested to see if they continue the book into a series, how they address it, even if I already know where they stand on it.

The basics:

Price: $16.00

Age: pre-k through 4th though older children may still enjoy the thought provoking questions. It is the story itself that is a bit young. This is my own personal opinion though so be sure to check out the samples for yourself!

Final thoughts:
My kids enjoyed flipping through this book quite a bit and I even had to go on a mad hunt for it, because someone had snuck it off to the bedroom while I was still writing my review. I always know I have a winner when something disappears to the bedroom. I thought the book took a very logical and kid friendly approach to looking at the scientific evidence for God. I might suggest shortening the introduction story in order to make the entire book a bit shorter, but other than that, we really enjoyed it!

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Old Fashioned Southern Chicken and Dumplings

Grandma Dover, otherwise known as Brammie and the nicest woman you ever met, was really something special. She had the ability to take 5 white beans, a can of condensed chicken noodle soup and a crushed up bag of potato chips and turn it into a casserole fit for a king that would also feed 20 people.  She was amazing.  She died several years ago, and even though time has passed, it seems like it was just yesterday. I was fortunate to not only know her in my childhood but through my adulthood and my early married life.  She was kind enough to offer to teach me several of her recipes and I was smart enough to pay attention.

She could make wonderful chicken and dumplings. They are southern right down to the (chicken) bone and will go along way to feed a family.  These are not the noodle dumplings.  My Grandma Moore taught me how to make those :) but my favorite will always be my Brammie's. There really is nothing like cutting into a dumpling that is so fluffly inside, you could put butter and eat it like a biscuit.

Today, I am sharing this tutorial on how to make them and I hope that you enjoy them as much as I do!

You will need:
2 or 3 pounds of chicken (skin on, bone in chicken is better but not necessary)
a stick of butter
1 egg
several cups of self rising white flour (whole wheat is too heavy)
salt and pepper
poultry seasoning (or sage, thyme, and marjoram) (optional)

I know that is real vague.  But Brammie did not do measurements, she did it until it "looked right".

Okay so this is how you do it.

Put the chicken parts into a big stock pot with salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, and a half stick of butter. Let that come to a boil and simmer for a little bit - maybe 20 minutes or so?

Break 1 egg into a cup. Brammie said any cup will do, and she commonly used a coffee cup.

Fill the rest of the cup up with milk until the cup is full and whisk the egg and milk together. Pour into a bowl. Begin adding flour a half cup or so at a time.

Keep stirring and adding flour until it is too thick for pancakes and not thick enough for biscuits (unless you were doing drop biscuits). It will hold together and sit on a spoon. Set it aside for a minute.

Go back to your pot of chicken parts.  It should be at a good rolling boil and the chicken should be done or almost done. Take the chicken out and put in a baking dish. Sprinkle it with salt and put it in the oven at 350 degrees.

Add a little bit more water to the pot if you need to and taste the broth you have made - if it is too bland, add salt or chicken bouillon.  The broth needs to be yummy and how you like it at this point!  It will affect the taste of your dumplings.  Once your broth is how you like it  bring it back up to a rolling boil.  That is important. It must be boiling hard!

Once the broth is at a full rolling boil, drop the dumplings in by rounded table spoon fulls.

Keep dropping in the dumplings until they are all in the pot.

It should be looking like this:

Now, put a lid on the pot and turn the heat to medium, you want it simmering but not boiling over the sides of the pot.  Let that cook for 20 minutes.

Take the lid off the pot and you should have this!  A pot full of delicious dumplings.  You also need to take your chicken parts out of the oven if you haven't already!  

This is where me and Brammie part ways.  She would just keep all the chicken parts in the pot, let it all cook together and hope for the best but I don't like my dumplings to absorb all the broth on the first day I have them.  I save that for day two, when I reheat the leftovers! They can get a tad "gummy" in texture by the second day but I like that alright, too!
This is what the dumplings should look like when you cut them open.

Slurp!  So. stinking. good.
Now, the broth may still be pretty thin at this point, if it is then make a roux in another pot. Add equal amounts of butter and flour and cook it together for a minute or two.  Add some of the broth to it and whisk until it is smooth and thick and then add that to the pot of broth where you made the dumpling and stir it all together.  That will thicken it if you want it more like stew instead of soup.  Take some (all) of the meat off the bones of the chicken that you cooked and throw it in there. Throw the dumplings back in and put the whole shebang into a pretty bowl and serve.

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