Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Almost Wordless Wednesday!

My mom called and told me to run outside and take some pictures of the fog, this is what I found. Hoar frost, weird name I know, but very cool looking stuff.  Go ahead and click, the frost looks so cool up close.

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Monday, December 27, 2010

Holiday Wrap-up!

We had a great holiday, I pray all of you did as well. We started our celebrating on the 21st by attending the ballet. It was my second time going, but Sissy's first. We started by dressing up and going out to dinner, just me, Sissy and Gramma. Gramma presented Tanyn with some Christmas ornaments to honor the occasion, a beautiful pair of ballet slippers and a nutcracker; she couldn't wait to hang them on the tree.
We had such a great time, it was truly magical to see my daughter and my mother enjoy each other and have a great time together.

We picked up our celebrations on Christmas eve, with a wonderful candlelight service at the church my Grandfather attends.  It was so wonderful to be back in this particular sanctuary, my husband and I were married there almost 17 years ago; it brought back great memories.
The above tree is one of the things I love about the Lutheran church, the decorations on it and the vestments that the pastor wears all have meanings and tradition behind them.  It's just comforting to head back to a service that you grew up with, my kids enjoy the more contemporary services; but I feel so at home with the more traditional Lutheran service.
My entire family showed up for church service, which was really awesome; I don't think my whole family has been in the same church since I got married.  My grandfather really enjoyed showing off the grands and great-grands to his friends.
Christmas morning we got up and opened the gifts that we got the kids and then loaded up to head to Grandma Janet's(my MIL).  This is where we met with some difficulties, my husband's car broke down on the way to Grandma's house; literally.  We're pretty sure that the gas lines froze up and the car couldn't be restarted.  Now if you've ever had to have your car towed, you know that they can take 1 maybe 2 people with the car.  We are a family of 6, along with all of the gifts, snacks and drinks that we were taking along on our travels.  Luckily or maybe supernaturally, police and motorist assist showed up on the scene as well.  We had the car towed to a place within walking distance of our house, so Chris was able to walk home.  The police officer put the 4 kids in his car and I rode with the motorist assist guy, they took us to the local gas station where my mom rode to the rescue to get us home. Thanks, Mom.  I told the kids that better be the first and last time I see them get out of a police car!!  I was so grateful to the people working on Christmas day and their kindness to my family. Chris's mom, ever flexible; packed up gifts and breakfast and came to us.  Thanks, Janet; we appreciated it.   
We finished our Christmas celebrations at my moms house, where we took family portraits, opened gifts and ate until we were ill.  Definitely have a diet in my future.  I look at this picture and am shocked at how much my kids have grown, my oldest two boys are as tall or taller than I am.  When did this happen?  Am I shrinking?  It's kind of sad to look at a family photo and see young men where little boys used to stand, I'm just not ready to face it.

  This is a picture of my entire family, not my extended family, just my parents and siblings families and of course, Greatpa.  I think this might be the first picture in decades of all my family in one place.  I think it turned out great and I'm glad we were able to take it.

I hope you and yours had a great Christmas and are looking forward to a Happy New Year!

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Tiny Planets-TOS Review


As a member of the Old Schoolhouse Review crew, I was asked to review the online site Tiny Planets.  Let me just start by saying that my kids are old had at online communities, they are in love with anything computer and have very solid opinions about what they like.

We went to the Tiny Planets web site and signed up the kids and I into new accounts.  They enjoyed picking their cadet names, although it could have been explained better, the sign up was a little confusing.  We began to wander around the sight but were quickly frustrated, my kids are pre-readers; so the need to read a lot frustrated and irritated them.  They did enjoy the Tiny Planets TV episode that they received free, but after that they needed keys to access them.  Not my favorite part, I would rather pay some sort of monthy subscription and have access to everything than to nickel and dime the key purchases.  Maybe something they should think about.  Both of my kids said it was fun, but they would rather play their other online games.  Not a ringing endorsement, unfortunately.

From the website:
Tiny Planets provides award-winning educational entertainment set in space exploration and discovery, inspiring creativity and critical thinking in youth ages 4 to 12.

Tiny Planets features the cosmic adventures of Bing and Bong, two whimsical aliens who travel the Universe of Tiny Planets together on their gadget-loaded plush sofa. With Bing and Bong, children are encouraged to think for themselves, assume social responsibility, take care of our planet and learn about the mysteries of space.

Pros:  It is a safe online community.
          Ad free.
          No online chat, except for preselected phrases.
          No personal information used online.
          Engaging characters and solid content.

Cons:  My kids didn't really seem to enjoy it.
           A lot of reading for the pre-reading set or their parents.
           Confusing sign-up.
           Needing keys to do a lot of content.
Keys are available at the following prices.

10 keys    $1.95   (about 20 cents per key)

25 keys    $3.95   (about 16 cents per key)

85 keys    $9.95   (about 12 cents per key)

250 keys  $25.95  (about 10 cents per key)

600 keys  $49.95  (about 8 cents per key)

The 600 keys is obviously the best buy.  It takes about 10 keys to purchase a book or TV episode.  The upside is that whatever your children buys stays theirs.  You don't have to keep repurchasing that favorite TV episode, they can watch it repeatedly.

I realize this wasn't the most glowing review, but I think that many would enjoy this website.  My kids are not really interested in Science and space right now, but if your child has the fever to study science; this site is for you.  It really has engaging characters and fun content, content that is sound educationally speaking.

Head on over here to see what others thought about Tiny Planets.

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 {This product and the keys to access the product were provided to me free of charge as a member the Old Schoolhouse Review Crew.  I received no other compensation for my review and was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions are my own and those of my children.}

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas at Bass Pro Shop

We don't generally push the Santa thing and honestly I think I might have one pic of my older kids on Santa's lap, miserable and sad. We never went again and the younger ones have never been to see Santa. Neither of them were overly excited at the idea but they both did it.
They are a little out of focus, because they are a pic of a pic.  He was probably one of the nicest Santa's I had ever seen. He was extraordinarily soft spoken and so gentle, you couldn't hear their conversation but you could see the animation on the kids faces as they talked to him.  They really seemed to enjoy it.

From there I proceeded to snap a few random pics working with different settings on my camera.  We are in the middle of a bitter cold wave and all of the downstairs windows were frozen over.  I love ice and the patterns it makes on glass, this is a crop of a shot I took.  I think the lower right hand corners look kind of like flowers.
 They had multiple play areas set up for the kids to enjoy, Mom enjoyed racing with Ry and Sissy.

We looked around a lot and really enjoyed the pond and live ducks in the store.  They have  multiple stuffed animals and mannequins doing different outdoor sports that we thought were really cool, too.
The miniature train set up to go through a snowy landscape was one of Ry's favorites, he played with the train and I played with my camera and the aperture settings a bit to try to get the background to go blurry.  It worked pretty well, click and see.

Finally, I've been working on the above technique at home too.  It's called Bokeh when you can get your background to blur and cause lights to make beautiful blurry spots.  Here's another example of my effort.
I'm linking this up to Holiday Bliss over at Garden of Learning.  I haven't really played along much this month, but honestly we don't do a lot during the holidays.  Thanks for stopping by and I hope y'all are making the most of this Christmas season.

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Monday, December 13, 2010



There are so many choices for math curriculum, how does one choose. We have used about 5 different curriculum in our homeschool, from computer based to online to textbooks, none of them seemed to be just right. Well, we got to try another one recently, as a member of the Old Schoolhouse crew I received a month subscription to ALEKS.

I know what you're asking yourself, what the heck is ALEKS. Well, I'll tell you!! ALEKS is an acronym for Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces. Basically that means that your child takes an assessment test and then based on how they do they are assigned problems that either reinforce lessons that they did average on or introduces new topics. If the child already has a firm grasp on the topic, they don't have to work on it; they can move on. In other words, it doesn't beat them over the head with it, "master" it and move on.


I had Koty work with this product to get a hands-on opinion, he is an "8th grader" doing Geometry. He is very driven and math is one of his best subjects, so he's a great test subject. We chose Geometry out of a wonderful selection of courses which you can see here.  He has been working with another curriculum but we put that on hold so we could enjoy this opportunity.

Koty really loved that after his assessment, the program kicked him right into things he didn't have mastered and didn't make him repeat anything that he already knew.  He could work on topics that he 'probably' had mastered by doing some practice questions under that topic, if he did great he would be switched to mastered and could move on.  As we all know, sometimes you have to see some things a few times before it 'clicks', but once it does your ready to learn something new.  ALEKS really fosters the independent learner, who enjoys pushing themselves to learn and master more.

This isn't Koty's "Pie" but it shows you what your child's screen would look like after assessment. Some topics are mastered and others need to be worked on. In the case of Koty's "Pie" he isn't allowed to work on some pieces of the pie until he's mastered other sections of his pie. This limiting guides the student to work sequentially, therefore; not letting them get in over their heads and enabling them to enjoy success.

The above graphic gives you an idea of what you would see through the Master account or the parent account. You are able to see how your child is progressing with a very easy to read graph that plots out the number of topics mastered and how many more they have to work on. With the next graphic you can see how long your child worked on ALEKS and how many topics they attempted, giving you a really good grasp of any problems your child might be having. For example, Koty usually attempted up to 4 topics a day, when he only attempted one but still spent the same amount of time; it was obvious that he was struggling to grasp the topic and needed some help. The whole program is very individualized and meets your child where he's at!!

So here's the nitty-gritty: ALEKS is a subscription service that costs as follows.

Month to month: $19.95
6 Month subscription:$99.95
12 Month subscription:$179.95

ALEKS also offers a family discount, click here to see pricing for multiple students.

What did we think?  Koty really enjoys challenging himself to master topics and move on.  He loves filling in his pie chart and can really visualize his success with the "Pie" graphic.  We definitely recommend this product and will probably be extending Koty's subscription to finish Geometry and possibly to move on to Algebra II and beyond.  Normally,  ALEKS offers a free 48 hour trial, but to homeschooling families reading this review; they are offering a one month free trial, just click on the button below and go see how ALEKS can work for your family.  Head on over here to see how other families utilized ALEKS in their homeschool.

Visit ALEKS for 1-Month Trial

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{I received a one month subscription to ALEKS,  free of charge as a member of The Old Schoolhouse review crew. All opinions are my own and  I was not required to write a positive review.}

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Holiday Bliss--Day 3

I don't have a lot of holiday traditions.  We tend to keep it pretty simple, but we did get the tree up and decorated and hung our outdoor decorations.  Here's a few pics of some of my favorite ornaments.

I'm sure I won't do near as well with this challenge, but I'll give it a shot.  Head on over to Garden of Learning to get some great ideas to make the holidays special.

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