Sunday, December 4, 2016

We finally have eggs!

Ever since we first started looking at moving out where we had some wide open spaces, we have talked about things like getting chickens.  Our own eggs, where we know the animals are well-treated, and we know the eggs are healthier.  Sounded like a grand plan.

It only took us eighteen years to follow through, and we did get chickens last spring.

These two photos are from shortly after we finally got them moved into the chicken coop.  The coop certainly wasn't finished yet, by any stretch, but they needed to move in now.  And they got to watch the renovations occur around them.

That has to be fun, right?

Aren't they pretty?  I ought to go get a picture of them now.  There certainly is less grass in the chicken run these days (as in, NONE) as they certainly ate all of that up.

We worried a bit about the cats that adopted us, but both cat and chicken seem to hold their own against the other.

When we let the chickens roam the property, they always go check out the area where we feed the cats, and eat up whatever the silly kitties left behind.

We're not sure what we did wrong, but our hens were quite slow to start laying eggs.  I was starting to feel like a total homesteading failure.  Seriously, what kind of person can't even manage to get chickens to act like chickens?

Then the kids came in, excited as can be:

Seven eggs.  We suspect that we had missed looking at least one day, probably two, as we haven't had seven in a single day since that momentous event.

But we are starting to get 4-5 a day, pretty consistently.

It is fascinating to see the smaller eggs layed by the hens who are just getting started.  And to see the nice, big ones we are already getting from  the ones who got started first.  But one day was just wild.  I have a fairly "normal" egg, the eggs we usually see when a hen just gets started.  And the egg Trina found this week:

How cute is that little guy?

We have not cracked into it yet, but probably will do so today.

And we are loving this having fresh eggs thing.  It took us long enough, but it is still rewarding.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Radical Book for Kids {a Litfuse Blogger review}

We've been working our way through a new book, The Radical Book for Kids by Champ Thornton.  I was a bit put off by the title ("radical" just doesn't make me think, "oh, sounds like a great theology and church history book, let's get that!")  I'm glad I read more and tried it out.

From the publisher:

A kid-sized explorer's guide to faith and life

The Radical Book for Kids is a fun-filled explorer's guide to the Bible, church history, and life for boys and girls age 8 and up. Along with examining some of the most exciting realities in the universe, the handbook is vibrantly illustrated and chock-full of fun facts and ideas. Deep truths are communicated to elementary and middle-school aged kids while stimulating their curiosity and sense of adventure within a gospel-centered framework.

This power-packed book is "radical" in more ways than you might think! It is "radical" in the sense of the original meaning of the word, "going to the root or origin." The Radical Book for Kids will take children on a fascinating journey into the ancient roots of the Christian faith. But it's also "radical" in the more modern sense of being revolutionary. Kids read about men and women who learned to trust Jesus and stand for him---displaying radical faith---even when everything seemed against them.

But The Radical Book for Kids is also "radical"---meaning fun or cool---in the eyes of a child. Kids read about ancient weapons (and how to make one), learn about jewels, create pottery, discover ancient languages, use secret codes, locate stars, tell time using the sun, play a board game that's 3,000 years old---and more.

Check out the table of contents, skip around, or read straight through. However a child chooses to explore it, The Radical Book for Kids will open new vistas for their imagination and help to make straight paths for their feet.

Our thoughts:

We are really enjoying this book!  We sit down and go through one chapter in a sitting.  I have all my at-home kids involved.  Two (ages 10 and 12) are in the intended age range for the product, which is recommended for ages 8-14.  My 16- and 17-year-olds are sitting in on it too. 

The book covers a lot of different topics, most of which are familiar to us.  We've covered a lot of apologetics and the like over the years, though.  One thing we really love about this particular book, though, is that the information is presented in a way that makes sense for younger kids, and we are free to pull out some of our other resources to dig in a bit deeper.  The 67 chapters in this book give us a good outline to cover many important topics.

One topic coming up has to do with time in the Bible.  They talk about a couple of scripture references such as, "about the third hour" from Matthew 20:3, or "in the second watch" from Luke 12:38.  What do those actually mean?  I knew that the hours started counting at sunrise, so "about the third hour" would be about three hours after the sun came up.  But the details of all of that?  I certainly did not grasp that an hour did not necessarily mean 60 minutes in the same way our time does.  And I never quite grasped the whole "watch" thing.  Like -- did you know that the Jewish people divided the night hours into three watches, while the Romans had four?  So what time the second watch is would depend on whether it was a Jewish watch or a Roman one.

If you have not done much in terms of the roots of our faith, you really should look into this book.  And if these are topics you have covered, I think you'll still find information in here that is new.  Or you can use it like we are, as a roughly four month outline of study.  We're averaging four chapters a week, so that gives us about seventeen weeks of material.

Disclaimer:  I received this book through LitFuse Blog Tour.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.  

Monday, November 21, 2016

Fallacy Detective

One of the things I think is absolutely critical in my homeschool is to teach my kids how to think. I want them to be able to take a look at all the “stuff” of life and actually be able to analyze what they are being told and decide if it makes any sense at all.

In a year like this, with a presidential election going on, there is a perfect opportunity to work with informal logic and specifically with logical fallacies. This is a great skill for wading through political rhetoric, but it is also important when listening to advertising, or when discussing theological issues.

I have two teens in high school, and they were not enthusiastic about studying fallacies.

When I told them I was reviewing The Fallacy Detective by Nathaniel Bluedorn and Hans Bluedorn, they sighed and knew they were stuck.

The book consists of 36 chapters split into the following sections:

· The Inquiring Mind
· Avoiding the Question
· Making Assumptions
· Statistical Fallacies
· Propaganda

One way you could easily incorporate this into your schedule is to simply do a chapter a week for an entire year. Two chapters a week would take you a semester. We opted to try for four chapters a week, and finish it over the course of a couple of months.

The book is easy reading for a high school student, so you could easily hand this to your student and tell them to go for it. That isn’t the approach I’d recommend though.

I opted to read each (short) chapter out loud to my two teens, with lots of breaks to discuss the often silly examples. They’d take a look at the comic strips, which include all kinds of recognizable characters such as Calvin and Hobbes, Dilbert, and Peanuts.

And then we’d do the exercises together. And debate the answers. And argue back at the authors when we disagreed.

Those are the moments when I truly realize how much I love homeschooling my big guys.

We did not maintain our four chapter a week pace, but we are down to the final four chapters of the book. We seem to have a very hard time picking it up at this point, mostly because we don’t want this to end.

What has been truly exciting though is to be taking a look at all the people trying to sell us something and to have the words to explain what is wrong with their arguments. For example, one of the amendments on our local ballot earlier this month had to do with allowing the county government to sell internet services, or something like that.

We were reading some of the materials put out about why to vote for this measure, and one of the first reasons given was that many other counties do it, so we should too. Prior to Fallacy Detective, we would have laughed about whether or not you would jump off a cliff if your friends were doing it. So we recognized there was something wrong with the logic being used to convince us to vote yes.

After this book, though, we were discussing whether this is an appeal to the people or not. I grabbed Fallacy Detective, and we jumped ahead to the Bandwagon chapter in the Propaganda section. Basically, the idea in both is that we should do this because everyone else is doing it.

I highly, highly recommend this book. My middle school kids kept “happening” to be present when we were working in this book, and I definitely think this can work with middle or high school ages. I plan to go through it with the two younger ones in another year or so.

Trivium Pursuit has some other fantastic products you ought to check out as well.  Teaching the Trivium is one of my favorites.

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from the publisher.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review. 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Thanksgiving With the Pilgrims {a Homeschool Review Crew review}

One of the greatest aspects of being a part of the Homeschool Review Crew for awhile is that we have the opportunity to revisit some of our favorite vendors.  Homeschool Legacy is one of those companies.  We have reviewed some of their Once-a-Week Unit Studies in the past, which gave us a chance to work on Boy Scout and American Heritage Girls merit badges.

Over four years ago, we worked through We the People: Getting to Know Your Constitution.  That gave us a chance to work on the Citizenship in the Nation merit badges.  This time around, we decided to try one of their Once-a-Week Micro-Studies titles, Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims

Once-a-Week Studies {Homeschool Legacy}

There are a few big differences between the Micro-Studies and the regular Unit Study products.  The biggest two, for me, is that the Micro-Studies do not explicitly fulfill merit badge requirements and there isn't an extensive book list included.

Most of the Micro-Studies are four weeks long (Thanksgiving is six weeks), and they include three 30-minute assignments per week.  These can be done once a week, as the title indicates, or spread out over the week.

Or (and this is what we did) you could make this a one-week study by doing a week's worth of work (about 90 minutes) a day.  In the case of the Thanksgiving study, the sixth week is actually about Christmas, so I think an ideal way to use this study would be to do the first five "weeks" of work in the week and a half leading up to Thanksgiving, and then spread week six out over the week after the holiday.

And then you could start the Once-a-Week Unit Study, Christmas Comes to America.  We did that one three years ago, and in re-reading my review, I am reminded that I wanted to do this again when Trina was an Explorer so she could earn her Music Appreciation badge at this level.

The Micro-Studies are intended for grades 1-8, but I did use it with all of my children (5th to 11th grades).  It has been awhile since we truly studied Thanksgiving as a whole, and there was new information for everyone.

One thing I loved about this study was that we spent a fair amount of time watching historical re-enactments online.  Almost as good as taking an actual field trip!

In addition to great videos and online activities, the study contains great information and gave us plenty to talk about.  Towards the end of the study, there are some cooking activities you can do (Indian Pudding, stringing cranberries, Wassail) but we opted not to do those.

My kids are pretty impressed with the studies as well, and are already in discussion about which we should do next.  One is all for pirates (Pirates or Privateers: You Decide), my Anglophile thinks that Victoria and Her World is the obvious choice, and learning that cherry pie was part of the lesson plans made Cooking up History with the Founding Presidents a top choice as well.  One thing I find really interesting is that most of the other studies have more hands-on activities, with timelines, maps, or doing things like labeling the parts of a ship. 

What I really love about these studies is that they do go into some depth without being overwhelming.  I'm not a big unit study fan, as they always seem to be too much work for not enough benefit.  These, however, are very open-and-go, and they don't suck up a lot of time.  We can take a one-week break from our regular history program and play a bit.

You can read what other Crew Members thought of their studies, as we had a total of six of them being reviewed!  Go.  Check it out!

Once-a-Week Studies {Homeschool Legacy}

Social Media Links


Crew Disclaimer

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Catching Heat {a Tyndale House Blog Network review}

About a month ago, I read Catching Heat by Janice Cantore is the third book in the Cold Case Justice series.  It's taken me forever to write up a review for this because I just don't feel like I have all that much to say that I haven't said before.

Janice Cantore always writes fabulous Crime Fiction.  A former cop, she clearly knows her subject.  With 22 years in the field, she certainly ought to!

The first two books in this series, Drawing Fire and Burning Proof were page-turners.  Catching Heat is as well.

Like all of her books, I foolishly began it thinking I could read for an hour.


More like, I could read it until the book was done.  Bookmarks are also known as "quitter strips."  I certainly didn't need one for this title.

From the publisher:
Twenty-seven years after the deaths of Detective Abby Hart’s parents, she’s desperate to find the proof that will put the mastermind—the governor’s wife—behind bars. When she joins a newly formed task force and teams up with PI Luke Murphy, Abby is sent to San Luis Obispo to work the cold case of a murdered college student. Realizing their investigation will bring them near the town where Alyssa Rollins grew up, Abby decides to do a little digging of her own into the Triple Seven fire.

Luke is eager to help Abby close the books on a case they both have personal stakes in. But as she uncovers long-held secrets, Abby stumbles into an explosive situation, and Luke fears that her obsession may prove deadly.
Don't start here though.  Start with Drawing Fire, but go ahead and get all three.  Because you will want to be able to move on right away and find out what happens next.

Just don't have them all easily accessible immediately, or you'll be up way past 3 a.m.

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from Tyndale House Publishers.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review. 

Friday, October 28, 2016

CrossTimber {a Homeschool Review Crew review}

Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse {CrossTimber} Reviews
I've always been fascinated by name meanings, or at least I have since the point where I first started reading through the Bible seriously.  I was about ten at that point, so it seems like always.  As you go through the Bible stories, there are so many times where a comment is made about what a name means.  Of course, I go looking into my name and it is b-o-r-i-n-g!  More on that later.

When the Homeschool Review Crew had the chance to review a Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse from CrossTimber, I was really excited.  For my kids.  Because, for the most part, I had done more than just try to come up with names that sounded good when we were naming everyone.  I tried to have names that meant something.

By something, I mean more than just what little Baby Name sites tell you.  We chose names that belonged to family members we admire.  My grandfathers.  My dad and brother.  My entire paternal line (with a maiden name of Williams, and a son named William -- well, he's named after simply everybody!)  Dale's grandfather (who died when Dale was really little) and the grandfather he actually knew (so a step-grandfather, I suppose).  My grandmother.  A couple of friends.

But we also looked at what those names meant according to the little baby books.  My boys pretty much all have names that include "defender" or "strength" in one of the meanings, for instance. 

CrossTimber creates name meaning products to help uplift and encourage you. 

Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse {CrossTimber} Reviews
I intended to get products for each of my kids.  It's a big year for most of them. 
  • Connor just headed off to college, and I really think he needs the grounding of a 'this is who you are' reminder. "He who seeks God's Perspective."
  • William is about to turn 18. What a perfect time for a 'this is what you are to be' gift. "One with a Desire to Protect"
  • Thomas is about to turn 16. Hello. Big year for him too. He needs a 'remember who you are' gift. "Blessed Abundantly by God."
  • Richard will turn 13 in a few months. Cannot believe I am this close to having four teen sons. I want him to be aware of the kind of man he is to become. "One with a Heart of Compassion."
  • I asked about Trina too, though 11 isn't a milestone birthday or anything. Her name echoes Connor's. "Seeker of God's Perspective." 
All of them turned out perfect for them.

I ordered the "artist's choice" frame, and John Dehnart messaged me back to find out if these would be hanging together or separately.  The idea was that he could try to coordinate frames if they were going to be all together.  I told him that the kids were probably going to be together right now, but as most of them are older teens now, it isn't for long.  I'd rather have the perfect frame for each one and not worry if they look okay as a group.  As it turns out, the boys still at home coordinate really well.  Connor's is very different.  Trina's is very different.

It is perfect.

I also told him that the ones for Dale & I will probably end up together in the long run, though I was envisioning them going up "at work" as a reminder to us in our daily lives as to who we are in God's eyes.  Bottom line was that I'd like it if ours looked good together.

I love that the frames are not identical.  Each is right for the image inside, but they do really look nice together.

These are beautiful products, and the photos I took don't do them justice.  But the best reason to support this company is the amazing customer service.

I mentioned above how I always disliked my name from the whole name meaning thing.  When I asked John about what he'd come up with for my kids, I threw in this comment as well:   "And I probably won't do anything with it, but I'd love to know what you come up with for Debra too. Everything always tells me my name means 'bee' and that is beyond boring."

His response literally made me cry.  I don't cry easily, for the record.
Oh, but Debra!  Bees aren’t boring!  Bees were designed with so many rich qualities, that there’s a host of characteristics you could apply to a name meaning!     They’re organized, industrious, hard working, precise in their communications, and they bring life to millions of plants that would otherwise die. 

Honey Bee, Enabler of Fruitfulness:
One of Leadership and Organization
Psalms 19:9  The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and altogether righteous. They are to be more desired than gold, than much pure gold: they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.

You know, you should put that on your TOS desk.  Those character qualities definitely show your skills for coordinating all these Review Crew details!
Seriously.   Dale heard that, accused the guy of flirting with me, told me he was absolutely right, and then told me I needed not just the print, but a mug as well.  Here's the result:

    All of that really got me thinking.  I never pressed my parents as to why they chose Debra.  Mom told me once that I wasn't named after anyone, but she just liked the name.  In reading what John wrote, it got me thinking about my parents.  Mom was working on her master's degree in entomology when I was born.  Her thesis had something to do with aphids and their impact on crops.  I attempted to read her work once when I was a student at NDSU, and I really didn't follow it.  The bottom line though, was that Mom was researching ways of decreasing crop losses from these nasty insects.

    Had they even looked at name meaning books or anything?  Did they know they were naming me after an insect that is all about increasing yield?  Probably not.  But I find the whole thing interesting.  And I chose an agricultural background for my framed print to remind me of all of that.

    I'm drinking coffee out of the mug as I type up this review.  And thinking more about how the ancient world had it right.  Names do mean something, and I want to be an enabler of fruitfulness.

    Before I close this out, CrossTimber is doing a huge giveaway.  Go.  Enter it.  And I highly recommend considering some name-meaning gifts for your loved ones.

    CrossTimber 2016 giveaway

    Go check out some of the other reviews.  The name meaning stories being shared are simply amazing.

    Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse {CrossTimber} Reviews

    Social Media Links:


    Crew Disclaimer

    Thursday, October 27, 2016

    Middlebury Interactive Languages {a Homeschool Review Crew review}

    I think that learning a foreign language is hugely important, but it is something that I struggle to work into our schooling.  I need a few things in a program:
    1. I do not have time to do much (if any) teacher prep.
    2. Teacher cannot need to know the language already.
    3. It has to really teach my kids to speak that language.
    4. They have to enjoy it enough that I don't have to fight to get them to do it.
    5. Did I mention that I don't have time to learn a language ahead of them?
    Middlebury Interactive Languages actually does a great job of meeting all of these requirements.  We chose to focus on their Spanish Courses, and Trina has really been enjoying Elementary Spanish 1 (Grades 3-5)
    Spanish, French, German or Chinese {Middlebury Interactive Languages}

    Middlebury's approach to elementary languages is to teach in a "unit study" type of an environment.  There are 14 units (plus two review units) to work through.  Each unit is centered on a theme, and it includes a story, a song, 10-12 vocabulary words, and some activities to complete.  Themes include:
    • Family (words for parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts/uncles, etc.)
    • Numbers (numbers 0-10, plus the word number)
    • Greetings (basic hello, goodbye, how are you?, good afternoon phrases)
    • Feelings (words like happy, sad, and scared)
    • Food (foods like milk, meat and corn, plus meal names)
    • Community/Professions (professions such as firefighter and doctor, plus places like the library and park)
    • Body (words such as face, ears and arms)
    • Animals (basic animal names like dog, monkey, and fish)
    • Colors (vbasic color names)
    • Clothes (words like pants, shoes and sweater)
    • Weather/Seasons (names of the seasons, plus sentences like "It is windy.")
    • School/Classroom (words like teacher, desk, and notebook)
    • Calendar (names of the days, plus day, week, and month)
    • Months (all the month names)

    How we are using it:

    Below is a photo of all the printouts I did for their current unit, (Greetings, Unit 3).  It isn't necessary to print it out, and you certainly can print in grey scale.  But learning Spanish is important, and I decided the color made it a bit more fun.  This is taken before Trina puts the pages in her fancy notebook. 
    As you can see, the vocabulary list is pretty short, which makes it easy to actually learn it all over the two weeks you spend in the unit (six lessons per unit, intended to be done three days per week).

    The story is an authentic tale from one of the dozens of Spanish-speaking countries.  During the course of the unit, you listen/watch the story a few times.  Through the images and the words you have learned, you are able to grasp the main plot, but the printout summarizes that as well.  It also walks through what is being said in the story, with the words the students should know being in green. 

    In this unit, it is a tale of how the rabbit got his long ears, and it involves the rabbit going around to multiple creatures to try to collect various items.  That involves a lot of greetings in the conversation.  So the rabbit has many opportunities to say things like hello, good morning, how are you, please, thank you and good-bye.

    The first time through, you are usually just listening to the story.  Subsequent trips have you listening for specific things, like all the greetings:

    There are a lot of other words in the story too, with translations on the printout, so Trina can easily go in and add some additional vocabulary learning when she wants to.

    What we think:

    This Spanish program does so much for us.  It is fun and interactive.  At this level, there is NO writing or typing required.  I truly love that part.  I think learning to read and speak another language at elementary ages is fantastic, but I just don't care if they can spell correctly.  Instead of writing, they do activities like this:

    My daughter enjoys Spanish and doesn't argue when I tell her to do it.  That's really a huge deal to me.  And she's using it in normal daily life, which tells me she truly is learning it.

    Having some experience with the upper levels of Middlebury's language programs, my big fear was sending kids into the Middle School or High School levels and having them feel completely overwhelmed.  I think a year of the elementary Spanish is going to put her in good shape to take on Middle School Spanish 1.  The Greetings lesson in Middle School, intended to be covered over two weeks, includes all of the vocabulary above, plus another 23 words/phrases, and she'll need to be able to type them out, including accents and all.  Already being familiar with saying at least a third of the vocabulary will put her in good shape to take on the rigors of middle school Spanish.

    I am pleased with this course.

    Go see what others had to say about Spanish, and also about German, French and Chinese.  Crew Members used various levels with kids from K-12!

    Spanish, French, German or Chinese {Middlebury Interactive Languages}

    Social Media Links:
    Twitter:   @middinteractive

    Crew Disclaimer