Homeschool Posts

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

WFMW: Roasted Veggies


I’ll admit that I’m not the most organized homekeeper around. You won’t find my calendar blocks filled with tantalizing menus, and frankly, I’m more like to forget to take something out of the freezer than not. But sometimes I surprise myself with a vision that translates to a killer meal from the dregs of my pantry. The great thing about this recipe is that it totally works with old potatoes (the only kind we ever seem to have) and doesn’t take forever to cook (need a last minute meal fix?). In the summer, wrap it in a foil pack and throw it on the barbie.

veg 002

Roasted Veggies

Cut all your pieces aprox. the same size for even cooking. I used what I had on hand and that’s the beauty of this…don’t run out and buy anything, unless, of course, your cupboards are bare.

  • 4-5 largish red potatoes (make sure you scrub the roots off), scrubbed and cut into 3/4 inch pieces
  • 2 small, old and tough sweet potatoes, peeled and cut up
  • 1 med. yellow oven, slightly shriveled (peel off the shriveled outer layers), cut up
  • 2/3 of a large red bell pepper, seeded and cut up
  • 8 oz. baby bella mushrooms, quartered

Toss all your veggies into a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil (doesn’t need to be extra virgin as you will be roasting them). Sprinkle seasoning on to taste (I used a rosemary and garlic blend, you could use Italian seasoning, just salt and pepper, whatever floats your boat). Toss to coat. Spread out on a foil lined and non-stick sprayed 15x10ish jelly-roll type pan (you’d think the oil would keep them from sticking, but mine still did, so try some spray). Roast at 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Mix up with a spoon to turn it over. Roast for another 10 minutes. They are done when tender and starting to brown.

Transfer to a serving bowl. Add a couple handfuls of shredded cheese (not much, less than a cup, I used an Italian blend). Gently stir. Very tasty and very filling. Would be great with fish or chicken, but equally yummy on its own.

Yields about 6 very generous sides.

Technorati Tags: , ,

iheartfaces: Dramatic B&W

When I first took this photo, it begged to be converted into B&W.
This week's competition gave me the kick in the pants I needed to actually do it.

The competition ends at 9pm CST tonight, so there's still time to enter. But do check out some dramatic photos.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Review: Family Mint


Family Mint is a new online service designed to help your children learn to appreciate and manage their money. It’s a simple accounting system, designed to be simple enough for an elementary student to use, and yet robust enough for a teenager to plan out their future financial goals. And it’s free!

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I was asked to use and review this free service. I received no compensation. This review reflects my honest opinion.


As the family banker, you’ll set up an account and then add “depositors.” The website provides a complete tutorial on how to use the site, so you won’t be left floundering. Each depositor can then choose an avatar and set goals for their money. The program will help them to keep track of their overall funds and their progress towards their goals. Additional features for the banker include option of adding automatic “deposits” (a regular allowance, perhaps), and interest to help motivate saving.

This is simply an online accounting tool, a way to keep track of money. It is not linked to any accounts. You’ll need to decide if the physical funds will be kept in a bank account, the child’s piggy bank or an envelope for safe keeping.


Our children are still quite young. While David (age 10) and Mary (age 6) have a good understanding of what money is and an inkling of what it represents, our family found that using an online accounting system was a tad too abstract for them. It depersonalized it too much for them. Holding the money in their hands and counting it out to determine what they can buy with it is more concrete and simply makes more sense to them at this age. While I applaud Family Mint’s mission to help children see money as a tool to achieve particular goals and to encourage them to save it, I think using an envelope system is probably more appropriate for our kiddos until they are more comfortable with seeing money in the abstract. In a few years, I’m sure I’ll feel Family Mint is an invaluable tool.

Family Mint is currently 100% free, though they may be adding more features in the future that may require a fee.

For more reviews of this product, please visit:


Technorati Tags: ,

Review: Math Galaxy


Finding the perfect math program (or collection of programs) can be a challenge, there are simply so many on the market. How to choose? We recently had the opportunity to try out Math Galaxy’s entire suite of math programs and worksheets (I’ve included the title screens so you can see all the topics covered):

  • Whole Numbers Fun (grades 1-4) for $24.95


  • The Whole Numbers Worksheet Generator for $24.95
  • Whole Number Riddles e-book for $12.95
  • Fractions Fun (grade 5) for $24.95


  • Fractions Worksheet Generator for $24.95
  • Fractions Riddles E-Book for $12.95
  • Decimals, Proportions and % Fun (grade 6) for $24.95


  • Decimals, Proportions, and % Worksheet Generator for $24.95
  • Word Problems Fun (complements the other programs) for $24.95


  • Pre-Algebra Fun for $24.95


  • Algebra Fundamentals for $24.95


  • Algebra Worksheet Generator for $24.95

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received free downloads of Math Galaxy’s software and e-books for review purposes. I received no financial compensation. This review reflects my honest observations of this product.

Math Galaxy is a series of simple, straightforward computer programs that “tutor” your child in various math topics. The idea is that the student can focus on weak areas, rather than going through every topic. While there are some “review” topics offered that give a fuller explanation, this is not a full curriculum, but a supplement that offers plenty of additional practice.

Problems are set up so you can choose to answer them “step-by-step” or just give the final answer. In either case, the computer “shows” how you arrived at the correct answer through visual manipulatives once you give the correct answer.

There are no distracting sound effects. Graphics are very simple. Perhaps a bit too simple in some cases. Some children may have difficulty linking these round balls with coins:


Explanations that are given tend to be reading intensive, as there is no sound. If your child is not a strong reader, you will have read the explanations to him.

Problems are randomly generated and the programs keep no record of progress. Each session is a blank slate. The advantage is there is no need for multiple profiles if you are using the programs with multiple children and there’s no limit to the number of children who can use the programs. But the disadvantages are numerous. There’s no way for you, as the parent, to go into the program and find out how many problems your child completed, what types of problems he completed, how many he got correct or incorrect, or which problems he is having problems with or anything like that (unless you are standing right next to him, watching).

There is no gradual increase in difficulty in a problem set. So a child who has a basic understanding may become discouraged when they get several difficult problems in a row.


“Robots” are the main reward in Math Galaxy’s math exercises. For every correct answer to a problem, the student earns a robot which can be used in a little arcade-type game called “The Labyrinth.” If your child answers a problem incorrectly, they will get 2 more chances to get it right. And if they still get it wrong, the computer will give them the correct answer and still give them another robot to use in the Labyrinth. Since each problem earns a robot, your child could answer a few 2-second questions and then spend the better part of an hour playing the Labyrinth.

There are other games that are more of a challenge, including the “Math Riddler” (solving math problems to “decode” a riddle) and “Bridge the Swamp,” which requires some strategy and math skills.

I found the math exercises to be time intensive, especially using the “step-by-step” option. For a double digit addition problem, for example, the computer asks you what digit goes in the ones column, then tells you if you are correct, shows adding up the ones, puts that digit in the ones column, asks you how many tens you are carrying, and so on. Giving the final answer is not much faster.

The worksheet generators are similar to other worksheet generators I’ve seen and used online, with one main difference: they offer hundreds of “riddle” worksheets in addition to the more traditional worksheets. My 10-year-old, who likes all things having to do with spies and despises worksheets in general, didn’t mind these as there was a riddle to solve and only a handful of problems per sheet. One problem: once he had solved a few of the problems and filled in those letters, it was easy for him to guess what the riddle’s answer was without solving all the problems.


The e-books offer a selection of the same worksheets in pdf format, simply print a handful or the whole book as you need them.

Math Galaxy system requirements: Windows 98 or later or Mac OS X and a CD-ROM drive for installation. My machine is running Windows XP. The programs installed and ran with no problems.

Software is available on cd (ships free!) for $24.95/program. License entitles you to install to one computer. E-books are available for download for $12.95 each.

You can access many of the math exercises as Java Applets on the Math Galaxy website for free, as demos.

To read reviews of this product by other homeschoolers, visit:


Technorati Tags: ,

Monday Playback

Last week, Mary continued to make strides in reading and has mastered telling time to the hour and half hour.

David has mastered over 50% of his addition and subtraction facts. His handwriting continues to improve and he stills tears through books at break-neck speed. He created a comic book entitled “Death Raiders, Vol. 1.”

Peter created 3 comic books, a complete series, call “Monster Hunters”! The only way to experience one of Peter’s comic books is to have him “read” it to you, he adds in all the special effects and really throws himself into it---it’s like 3-D movie with surround sound. He will not allow me to record it, though, so I’m doing my best to save it in my long-term memory so I can remember the boy he was when he’s a man. Or even when he’s ten.

We finished our unit on Dolphins and learned about echolocation. The kiddos even tried to echolocate by clicking their tongues while blindfolded. Not easy to do with with a 4-year-old and toddler “helping.”

032410 001 032410 005

Technorati Tags:

The Birthday Pictures

birthday 041

birthday 042birthday 043 birthday 044 birthday 045 Trick Candles

birthday 046birthday 049

birthday 051

Anything else would have gone instantly into the mouth.

birthday 052 birthday 055There it goes!

birthday 017birthday 028David, ever the ham.

birthday 021birthday 016 birthday 029

Technorati Tags:

Not Me Monday: The Birthday


Ok, I admit it, when it comes to birthdays I have a tendency to…ahem, get a little carried away. I freely admit that it was me that organized that little jungle safari birthday party for David’s 7th birthday, complete with hanging vines, a jungle obstacle course, a (nearly) lifesize stuffed lioness (we call her Mama Tiger), a realistic looking plastic iguana, a snake hunt and 15 munchkin guests. Or the pirate 6th birthday with a real sail blowing in the wind, a plank to walk, temporary tattoos that decided to not be so temporary, a treasure hunt and a treasure map cake.

But that was before I had 4 kids, with one discovering the world of walking and discovering how well things like batteries from the junk drawer fit in her mouth. No more mega birthday parties for me. Who has the time?

Besides, I’m much more organized and less eager to impress these days. A little family get together to celebrate David’s 10th and Emma’s 1st (they are exactly 9 years and 1 day apart), was the perfect thing. No magical feats needed here. A simple cake and you’re done, right?

There’s simply no way on earth you would have found me decorating 2 cakes after midnight on Saturday (er, Sunday). Because it took the kids forever to go to sleep (I hate daylight savings). Or trying to figure out how to devise a mock-up of a “steam punk” submarine using an empty milk jug and some aluminum foil to put on the cake for the soon-to-be-10-year-old. And then giving up and going to plan “b” (you’ll see plan “b” later). Or consuming about a pound of sugar and butter in the form of various colors of buttercream.

And there’s simply no way I would go to bed without cleaning everything in sight, knowing that I had 10 grands, aunts, uncles and cousins coming the next afternoon with barely time for breakfast, church and lunch beforehand. Just because I simply had to sleep. You see, Emma never spends the night between Mommy and Daddy kicking Mommy in the ribs. Or pinwheeling and head-butting Mommy in the chin. And Peter never gets up at 4 am and insists that Daddy absolutely. Must. “Sweep” with him. Now. And then gets up at 6 am and demands food. So he doesn’t starve to death. Really. Never happens. And my family never arrives a half hour early.

Technorati Tags: ,

Thursday, March 25, 2010

March 25th: Feast of the Annunciation

Today we celebrate the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary. The angel Gabriel visited Mary and told her our Lord had chosen her as the earthly vessel to carry His Own Son. She accepted His Will for her without question. And without hesitation.

Do I do God's Will without question and without hesitation? Do you? This is an area I definitely need to work on, putting the discernment and fulfillment of God's Will for me first rather than becoming mired in all my earthly troubles and concerns. While I can't ignore temporal obligations, they shouldn't consume my life. What are some ways that you keep your day-to-day life in focus without losing sight of God's plan for you?

Technorati Tags:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Review: Seasons of Faith from CBH Ministries

CBH Ministries, known for the Children’s Bible Hour radio program, has produced a series of 4 books based on radio scripts from that program. Each book includes a cd with an audio recording of “Uncle Charlie” reading the book, complete with tones that indicate when to turn the page. The books are built upon the idea that there are different Seasons of Faith, with various challenges that can be overcome through the love of our Savior, Jesus Christ. You can read CBH Ministries’ statement of faith here.

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I received the 4 books from CBH Ministries Seasons of Faith Series for review purposes. I received no other compensation. This review reflects my honest opinions.


Race with Midnight, illustrated by Robert Sauber- Becky is eager to share her Christian faith with her cousin, but anxious about being up to the task. This is the Spring Season, when “Christians begin to share the Salvation message with others.” (Text in quotes comes from the books' back copy.)


You Can’t Come In, illustrated by Robert Sauber- Zack discovers that just as he needs help to remove the mud from his clothes before he can enter his home, he needs Jesus to wash away his sins before he can enter heaven. This is the Summer Season, “when faith grows under God’s love and care.”


Seventy Times Seven, illustrated by John White- Brad learns first-hand the consequences of being an “unforgiving servant.” This is the Autumn Season. “Times of struggle and temptation, peer pressure, making mistakes and scary transitions happen in this season.”


Braving the Storm, illustrated by John White- Carlos’ family is going through a difficult time in their lives of upheaval and change, and learning to count their blessings after the storm is over. This is the Winter Season, when God “teaches us to lean on Him for comfort and peace.”

These are 10” x 8.5” paperbacks with glossy covers and heavy weight pages. Sound quality on the cds is good, with plenty of tracks, making it easy to find your place if you have to pause.

Illustration styles vary widely when it comes to children’s books and I’ll admit there are many children’s books I simply don’t like the looks of. John White’s illustrations are fine, not outstanding, but nice. Our family simply didn’t care for Robert Sauber’s illustrations, but I thought I would include an example so you can see what you think:


The stories themselves are told in a simple style, easy to understand. I appreciate the positive messages, but the characters are a bit flat and unrealistic in how easily they change their attitudes to come around to the right way of thinking from one page to the next. Of course, the point is to make a point. Perhaps that’s why the books didn’t really appeal to my family. We’re more accustomed to reading books whose primary goal is to tell a story. The point, in the hands of a gifted author, tends to make itself known without the author having to tell you what it is.

Each book ends with a page that presumably would be the end of each Children’s Bible Hour---how to get saved. The doctrine portrayed in these books is not in line with Catholic teaching, though I don’t think reading them is a problem for children grounded in their faith. We skipped the “getting saved” message at the end. The first two books are on witnessing place more emphasis on doctrine, whereas the other two place more emphasis on finding strength and wisdom in the Bible.

Each Seasons of Faith book is available from CBH Ministries for $10.

For other reviews of this product, please visit:


Technorati Tags: , ,

Monday, March 22, 2010

Not Me Monday: Confessions of a Coupon Junkie


I did not buy 8 cans of evaporated milk, because they were on sale. And I had coupons that were doubled, making them 50 cents a can. Even if they don’t expire until next year, what would I do with 8 cans of evaporated milk? Anybody got an awesome fudge recipe?

I have never filled the “deli” drawer with bricks of cheese (to bursting), after getting an awesome buy one get one free deal, and then using $1/2 coupons. And then watched as the kiddos consumed all the said cheese in less than 2 weeks.

I would never buy 3 quarts of plain vanilla yogurt with an expiration date a week a way and then proceed to use yogurt in every way I could think of to make sure I used it up. I think I’m going to hunt up the yogurt making recipe I have.

I do not scan the meat section at my local grocery store, seeking only the packages of meat that have been marked down because their date is coming, and snag all the packages of boneless chicken breasts that work out to less than a $ a pound.

My freezer is not full of pierogies (did you know you can get them with spinach and feta?), kielbasa, veg, and pounds of unsalted butter.

My cupboard is not so full that I have boxes of ziploc bags (buy one get one free and $1/2 coupon) stuffed on top of it.

What kind of deals have you made lately?

For more Not Me Monday fun, head over to MckMama’s blog.

Monday PlayBack

I’ve always meant to do a week in review post on Fridays to share what we’ve been learning…but by the time Friday rolls along, my mind is already on the weekend plans and organizing for the next week. Blogging is no longer on my radar. After a few days a blog silence, I’m just bursting with things to say…so here’s a playback of some highlights from last week.

We continued to learn about dolphins, using a unit study by Gwen Nicodemus. We learned about dolphins’ teeth, diet and digestion.

We continued to read about the life of composer Robert Schumann, using the composer set I reviewed from Zeezok.

Mary started learning how to tell time, beginning with full hours and half hours. She also aced the 1st chapter test of the 1st grade Math Mammoth worktext.

David is learning to measure angles and how to figure the number of degrees of each section if you divide a circle into equal parts. He’s also shoring up his math facts.

Mary is reading more and more. Nothing is safe. She’s got the, if it’s got words I gotta read it thing happening (yeah!).

Daddy finished reading our read-aloud: Lord of the Rings!

And we spent a whole lot of time enjoying the incredible spring weather.

emsilly davidandmary kidsplayground031710 043Ok, so we spent more time outside than cooped up inside. How cool is that?

The Great Dress to Impress Experiment

Last week I talked about presenting a professional image while homeschooling. On Thursday, I got up a little earlier, slipped into a dress, some hose and my black dress shoes (nope, not heels, after 4 pregnancies my feet don’t do heels), applied a little makeup and greeted the kiddos (for once) without a towel on my head.

The results were, hmmm…a little unexpected. I’ve heard countless times that a professional appearance and demeanor will bring better respect from students (my hubby has experienced this as a professor). Apparently my kiddos haven’t heard that. After telling me that I’m the prettiest mommy in the world they proceeded to…act exactly the same way they always do. Not follow directions, wrestle with each other, argue with each other, and so on. I saw not one iota of divergence from their normal attitudes. But my behavior did change.

In addition to being slightly less quick to lose my temper, ahem, I found that I was a whole lot less willing to do anything that might involve, say, getting my feet muddy. Seriously. Suddenly, walking a few (long) blocks away to the park and traipsing over muddy turf to the playground was distasteful. In my church shoes? Come on! And change out of my church shoes and put on my clunky clogs with my church dress? Get real! And, yes, we had just made this same trip to the park the previous day. It was fun in my jeans and my clunky shoes. Not so fun in my “professional” attire.

And truthfully, doing things like laundry or getting down on your hands and knees to wipe up spilt milk doesn’t work so well in church clothes either. So, I’ve decided to compromise: I’ll wear my comfy clothes and stop wearing a towel on my head.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Review: Homeschool in the Woods


I’ve never seen a product by Amy Pak of Homeschool in the Woods (HSitW) that I didn’t like. Last year I had the good fortune to review HSitW’s New Testament Activity Pak and was deeply impressed with the incredibly detailed artwork. I was thrilled to find out that this year we would be reviewing the Brand NEW Old World Style Maps.

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received free downloads of the Olde World Style United States Maps and the Olde World Style World Maps from Homeschool in the Woods for review purposes. I received no other compensation. This review reflects my honest opinions on these products.

FrameForHomePage The Olde World Style United States Map Set includes:

  • Maps of all 50 states, plus Washington, DC, in 3 different formats: labeled, unlabeled and just the outline;
  • Student notebooking pages and teacher keys for all 50 states;
  • State flags to color and cut out to add the the notebooking pages;
  • And various maps covering different eras of U.S. history, including the 13 colonies, the Louisiana Purchase and more.
  • The entire set is includes over 170 maps!

The Olde World Style World Map set includes:

  • Maps of different parts of the world for both ancient and modern times;
  • Political maps, physical maps, and unlabeled maps;
  • Over 40 notebooking pages, including a template for making a travel brochure, and various templates to report on whatever topic you choose, including world religions and cultures;
  • Full-color flags to print, cutout and use to enhance your projects;
  • Various specialty maps, including maps of Paul’s Missions.

You can download samples from both sets here.

Together, these will probably cover just about any map need you might have. The inclusion of unlabeled maps makes their use even more flexible.

The maps come in pdf form, either as a downloaded zip file or on cd. Rather than plowing through a folder full of pdfs, you’ll double-click on a “start” program which will open an attractive and easy to navigate menu in your default browser. Nice and convenient.

But what really sets these maps and notebooking pages apart from others I have seen and used is their very high quality artwork. Each map is hand-drawn, and once your child adds some careful coloring with high quality colored pencils…

watermarked map …you’ve got something genuinely impressive to add to his portfolio. Or even frame and hang on the wall (the watermarks do not appear on the actual product). I intentionally left part of this uncolored so you could see the detail in the blank map itself. These maps are gorgeous. And we love maps around here, especially antique maps. Our family will get a lot of use out of this set all the way through high school.

As much as I love this set, there are a couple of things that could be improved. I would have liked to use the U.S. Political map as an overlay to the U.S. physical map (both from the World set), but the 2 maps are not drawn to the same scale. On the one-hand, this is good, they are 2 unique maps rather than something added to another. On the other hand, this limits my ability to combine them. I’ve found doing maps with overlays is a great way to bring various aspects together. This was disappointing, I haven’t checked all the world maps, but so far, only the U.S. map appears to be in 2 different scales.

And while each map has an ornate box with the title and scale, there’s no room in the box to add your own symbols. You’ll have to add another box if you want to add a legend, which seems a bit of a shame. It would be nice if the title/legend box were a little oversized so it could be added to.

The Olde World Style U.S. Map set is available:

  • as a download for $18.95
  • on cd for $19.95

The Olde World Style World Map set is available:

  • as a download for $18.95
  • on cd for $19.95

Or buy the complete set:

  • as a download for $28.95
  • on cd for $29.95

You can read other reviews of this product here: