Homeschool Posts

Friday, October 29, 2010

Re-Prioritizing: Coming up for Air

Life is full of Eureka moments---those points at which reality comes into clear focus and your muddled brain finally "gets it." My brain seems to be a little slower than most, or maybe it has some holes in it (I'm envisioning Swiss cheese sized holes, here), so I seem to be a little slower to have those moments, or quicker to lose the insight. Sometimes I have to have the same insight over and over again. I'm thankful that God is so patient with me.

Last night I had one of those moments. I realized that my kiddos have totally taken over my life. Hello! I've got 4 of them, spend about 50 percent of my time stepping in, stepping over, or cleaning up their messes (ok, maybe 50 percent is a conservative estimate), and I'm just now figuring this out?

But I was always able to have some time to myself and get other things done once they were in bed for the night. It made me feel like I still had a sliver carved out for myself (and hubby). Lately, though, the time is coming later and later at night, and I'm more and more tired. And cranky. The time for myself and hubby has got to stop coming last.

My every breathing moment has become filled with teaching the kiddos, feeding the kiddos, cleaning up after the kiddos, and fighting with the kiddos, and in the gaps I write reviews, escape on the internet and try to get the household necessities done (always with a kiddo in my lap or bellowing in my ear or riding on my hip).

There simply hasn't been enough room for me to pursue some of the other things that bring me joy. Don't get me wrong, I am joyful to have my children and to spend so much time with them, but there are other things in this life that used to bring me joy and that are worth pursuing, other aspects of my personality that seem to be fading away. And I'm tired of gritting my teeth. And not getting enough sleep. And dreaming of a day when they are grown. And keeping my head cocked waiting for the dreaded sound of little footsteps creaking on the stairs.

Some changes are coming. Hopefully, some gentle changes that can be embraced by all, but there will be changes.

How do you balance your motherly and wifely duties with honoring your self identity?

Fit Mommy Challenge: Week 1

How's it going, you ask?
Hmmm, maybe I should practice looking before I leap (just kidding).
The challenge started on Monday...and yes, I did have chocolate on Sunday, so sue me!

I started the week highly motivated, and doing well. I didn't even have any trouble passing on birthday cake for breakfast (Tuesday was my birthday). As the week wore on, and I started to develop the kiddos' head cold, and started having to stay up later and later to get my exercise in, I lost some of my spunk. Let's just say that I only got my exercise in yesterday because I took the kiddos for a walk early in the day. But, I'm keeping a positive mind and I'm sure I'll shake this cold.

The past 5 days I have:
  • drunk 48 glasses of water (that's 12-16 oz. glasses), 5 cups of tea and 1 medium iced mocha
  • exercised on Wii fit for 68 minutes (including hula hooping, rhythm boxing, stepping, jogging, skiing and yoga) and walked for 20 minutes outside (will exercise for today a little later)
  • consumed no candy, though I did have dessert 4 of those days (birthday cake)
  • upped my fruit and veggie intake
  • remained the same weight
I discovered:
  • it had been 81 days since my last session with Wii Fit
  • I can't jog 2 days in a row without waking in the wee morning hours with a Charley Horse, ouch
Not a bad start. I'll keep you posted.

Review: Yuck!


Boys like goo, slime, and other things that go squish…how about a clean(ish), germ-free/bug-free alternative to the snot, mud and slugs they like to play with? Come on girls, I know you want to encourage creative play and sensory feedback, but there are limits. Buckets O Fun has got the thing for you (and your next all boy birthday party). Yuck! is an acrylic polymer that absorbs water faster than a sponge, expanding to several times its non-hydrated size and comes in 4 different varieties: sticky, saucy, chunky, and snowy.

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Sticky is probably the most icky Yuck, with exactly the consistency of clear snot, you know the kind that comes from a perpetually runny nose? You’re thinking, how do I clean that up? More on that in a minute.


Saucy is a near second, with the consistency of apple sauce, but more cling-to-it-ness.


The Chunky looks a bit like crushed ice, but squishy.


And snowy looks and feels like slushy snow.

Fun to play with, if you like messy stuff. I didn’t find the yuck factor very high, really. But maybe that’s because I’m so accustomed to dealing with the reality of bodily fluids that really are yucky? Anything that actually starts as a crystal or powder and is added to water is just so…sanitary.

Easy to make and a little goes a long way. We received a teeny sample bag of each type and got anywhere from 2 cups to 5 cups of Yuck depending on the variety. We also received a sheet of science experiments (many observational, like measuring absorption rate and seeing what happens when you freeze yuck, etc.) and a sheet of party games. Yuck is sold in buckets, in amounts from 1 lb to 50 lbs, so you can imagine how much of the stuff you can make.

We liked the Chunky and Snowy best…easier to clean up and just plain cooler. The Snowy sparkles just like freshly fallen snow, but if you look closely, it’s little tiny beads of the stuff. Does not pack like snow, though, so don’t plan on building a fort or making snow balls. A neat sensation to play in, I can imagine hiding little trinkets in it for a party. The Chunky has a satisfying squish without really sticking to you. The Sticky and Saucy really are ooey gooey, you just can’t really get them off of ya.

Clean up is a little messy. I would highly recommend mixing this in a disposable container. We actually ended up lining our mixing bowls with 2-1/2 gallon zip bags and mixing the Yuck in the bags---worked really well and made storing it away for later play a breeze. Yuck! cannot be disposed of down your sink (it could seriously clog your pipes). The informational sheet we received recommended putting it in your garden when you are done with it (it apparently bio-degrades over time). I would not recommend that, I think it’s a very bad idea. The same informational sheet also warns against ingestion by people or animals as very dangerous---Yuck! absorbs water, think of the horrible consequences. Why risk having some squirrels, birds or your dog ingest the stuff? And as it can dry out and reabsorb water, it may hang around for a long time. Basically, you need to chuck the stuff and wipe your hands really well with paper towels. Then you can finish the job with vinegar or soap and water.

Overall, pretty good for a fun time, but I don’t really know what I would do with a pound of the stuff.

Yuck! sells at Buckets O Fun starting at $16-$20 for a pound bucket.

Scroll to the bottom of the page to find out how to get a free sample pack to try before you buy.

Disclosure: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I received a sample pack of Yuck from Buckets O Fun for this review. I received no compensation.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Review: Secondary Student Schoolhouse Planner

Our oldest is entering tweendom…that time when he’s still a kiddo, but craves more control over his life. The temptation is to schedule everything out for him, managing his life so he gets everything done, but I know he needs to acquire his own management skills. It’s time to start turning over the reins, but he needs some tools to help him learn how to manage his time.


The Old Schoolhouse has introduced their new student planners, just right to help your student get a handle on his schedule. I was fortunate to get the opportunity to review the Secondary version (for grades 4-6). At 236 pages, the planner might seem a bit overwhelming at first, but the key here is to print what you actually need and skip the rest (or save it for later). In addition to calendar pages for 2010-2011, you’ll find weekly planning pages, and various forms to keep track of field trips, books read, library books, assignments, and extracurricular activities. There are also journal pages, unit study recording pages, chore sheets, music practice records, Bible memorization sheets,…more forms than the average student will ever actually need. Just about perfect for customizing your own notebook.

And the planner is more than just forms, there are also plenty of informational pages you’ll want to print off for easy reference, the types of things that tend to come up in the course of conversation: basic info about the planets, cloud types, measurement conversions, US Presidents, history timeline, and on and on.

This planner is a nicely condensed version of the Schoolhouse Planner I reviewed earlier this year, and would serve most students well. The type-in feature makes it easy to type your own subjects and text into the forms, save and print. Lots of flexibility here. My only real complaint: the weekly planner has a separate page for each week of the year, but it only goes up to 36 weeks. Some of us homeschool year-round. I would like to see a blank template of the weekly planner so I could add in additional weeks.

The download also includes a “parent” files with suggestions on how to get your child organized…they really did think of nearly everything.

The Secondary Student Schoolhouse Planner is available from the Old Schoolhouse Store for $9.95. Visit the product page for more info and a free sample.

Other Schoolhouse Planner options include:

  • Primary Planner—grades K–3
  • Middle School Planner—grades 7–8
  • High School Planner—grades 9–12

Disclosure: I received a free pdf of this product from the Old Schoolhouse Store for review purposes. I received no compensation.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Homeschool for FREE: Computer Programming

If you've got a kiddo who's a bit of a techie (and you're not) this one's for you. I have not personally used all of these, but I am actively investigating 10-year-old has a strong interest in computer programming (specifically games). This might be a big of a challenge for me, since I don't have a background in programming (not unless you count "Hello World" on the Commodore 64---that's a blast from the past, isn't it?).

Age suggestions are relative, a lot will just depend on your child's skills and level of interest.

Gamemaker - from YoYo Games will allow you to create 2-D games without actually writing any code. Of limited educational value, though it could help to ignite some interest in the underlying coding. Some tutorials available on the site. There is a paid version of the program as well, which has more features, though we found the free version to be more than adequate. Includes an image editor (my son was able to edit his little bro's drawings and use them in a game). My son used this when he was 9.

Scratch - from MIT is a programming language designed with education in mind. The site also provides a getting started guide and other resources on how to use Scratch. My son used this when he was 8.

Greenfoot from University of Kent (UK) and Latrobe University (Australia) is designed for novice programmers to design java based games. Includes a tutorial. There is teacher support, but only for teachers with "official credentials." I'll have to find out more about that:-) Site suggests it for ages 13 and up.

Snake Wrangling for Kids is a downloadable programming course (pdf) written for use with Python computer language. ages 8 and up

Simple is a free computer programming language for kids that can produce 3-D games. Includes a tutorial. no age given

Alice from Carnegie Mellon is a program designed to teach object programming in a 3-D virtual world. Includes very basic tutorials. There are actually a number of books that have been published to teach this program. Intended for high school and up, though their Story-Teller Alice is aimed at middle school students. My 10-year-old has been successful at programming some games in this program.

Other editions of Homeschooling for FREE that might interest you:

Odds and Ends

Friday, October 22, 2010

Our Week in Review: Simple Measures

I talked a little this week about some changes we are making. We are cutting out some of the extras and focusing on the nuts and bolts. It makes little sense to cover tons of odds and ends if the basic foundation isn’t laid. The irony is that in cutting back, we are already accomplishing much more. There’s also more time for rabbit trails, which we’ll be exploring.

This week we have been mainly concentrating on the 5 R’s (reading, writing, arithmetic, reasoning and religion) plus one special topic.

Reading and Writing:

David has started the Write Foundation (review coming soon), level 1 and really loving it. This lesson was on alliteration and he amazed me with his willingness to do extra work…as long as he was having fun doing it and it was his idea. He is reading a couple of books during his independent reading time, including a Tom Swift book and Sir Rowan. He is also studying Macbeth in the evenings with his Dad.

Mary has started All About Spelling, level 1 (again). We used this some before she was a fluent reader, but didn’t follow through with it and it was time to get it out again (don’t tell anyone, but it was also temporarily misplaced by the move…it only took me 4-1/2 months to find the box it was in). Spelling doesn’t come naturally to her, like it did for her older brother, and she’s struggling a bit. She also does a lot of copywork (she loves to copy things).

Peter is learning phonics through Progressive Phonics. We are using the Alphabetti books and doing the accompanying activities. His main challenge is being serious about it…he likes to make jokes and doodle all over his paper instead of actually copying and tracing letters. But, I have noticed that he has better control making his letters in general, so even doodles have value.


David continues with Right Start, Book C. We have skipped a number of lessons, things that he already knows and knows well. But we are also doing a lot of review, particularly of basic math facts. He is developing the automaticity he lacked before and this is good. I do need to sit down sometime and go through the next several lessons to see what we can skip and what we need to review. This week was Roman Numerals. He was a little shaky on some of the higher numbers when we started, but seems to have them all now and doing addition problems with Roman Numerals was a breeze.

Mary continues with Right Start, Book B. I’m finding that Mary also needs to skip some lessons…or she’s going to totally lose interest in using this curriculum. This week we were working on understanding hundreds, which she already understands. And just to prove it to me, she wrote out a couple of pages of math problems, using hundreds, all on her own from her little brain.

I’m beginning to wonder if going with the trouble and expense of using Right Start was totally necessary…I think I just need to go through and see what we can use and what we don’t need. I’ll keep you posted on this.

Peter is using CIMT for math, reception level. He’s doing well with this, and actually the lessons are not really challenging enough for him so far. I’ve mixed in some beginning pages from a 1st grade math book as well (they are review pages, so not too challenging for his abilities). But I think I need to take a look further ahead at the CIMT lessons to see if we can skip some of them, too.

Reasoning abounds! I couldn’t stop them from reasoning if I wanted to.

Religion and Character:

We are continuing with the Faith and Life Series from Ignatius Press, level 2 and 5. We use level 2 as a read aloud that all the children can understand, then David reads level 5 on his own.

We are reading selections from the Book of Virtue and the Moral Compass on the topic of friendship (in the hopes that the kiddos will be better friends to one another).

Our extended study this week was on science and engineering and the topic was bridges. We were blessed to receive a kit from K’nex Education (review coming soon), and it has been a near perfect fit. We’ll be working more on bridges next week and I’m planning to post some resources then, too.

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This post has been linked to the Weekly Wrap-up which is being hosted by See Jamie Blog this week.

Fit Mommy Friday, the Beginning

I'm not overweight. But I'm definitely not fit. And I'm a bit lazy when it comes to actually taking care of myself. Denise over at Got Chai? has been doing this weekly meme for, oh I dunno...almost a year? And I've always meant to participate (insert sheepish grin here), but never got around to it. So now she's giving me a kick in the pants. Denise is teaming up with Mrs. White over at Legacy of Home to bring you: The Fit Mommy 10 Week Challenge! And there's even a prize. I take this as a sign from God that I really do need to get up off my couch in the evenings and do something to get the blood flowing.

So, here's the plan.
  • I am definitely a beginner, I think I'm allergic to exercise, so please don't laugh at my pathetic goals.
  • I will be doing at least 20 minutes of mild exercise each day. Most likely this will be brisk walks and hula hooping on the Wii Fit (hey, I'm pretty good if it's virtual, just don't ask me to do it for real).
  • I will drink at least 8 glasses of water a day. And for every glass of tea I drink I will drink an additional glass of water. (Ok, so I might be spending some time in the bathroom, too.)
  • I will be cutting back on chocolate. Did I really say that? No more bags of Dove or Bliss or whatever. And no more brownies in a mug. Promise. Really. No candy, brownies, cookies, ice cream or other dessert like substances except as dessert after a full-balanced dinner and then only on occasion. This does not include coffee that has syrup in it. Is that a cop-out?
  • I will be focusing on feeding myself as well as I feed the kids...why is it that I worry so much about their nutritional needs and try to subsist on cheese and crackers myself?
  • My goal is to make these permanent changes in my lifestyle, and get my body back into (non-stretchy) size 12 jeans (without having to unsnap them after dinner). Modest, I know, but hey, I'm a realistic gal.
And, of course, I will be doing a weekly check-in every Friday to let you know how I am doing.

Review: Little Reader from Brillkids

I admit, it never even occurred to me to look into a reading program for my toddler. We don’t start reading instruction with our kiddos until they ask. I’ve always figured that they probably weren’t ready to read before then. Don’t get me wrong…we do read to them. Constantly. And allow them to investigate books, even if it means that they eat a few. Or rip them to shreds (I’m sure our library hates us). But toddlers actually reading? And comprehending what they are reading?

Brillkids Learning Systems has developed an innovative approach to teaching kiddos how to read, in fact they may start reading before many of them have even started talking. The program is called Little Reader.

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received a copy of the Little Reader software, plus the full-year curriculum from Brillkids free, for review purposes. I received no compensation.

Little Reader is essentially a flashcard program that flashes words, pictures and videos on your computer screen, while pronouncing the words for your baby.

frog flash

Each lesson builds upon the previous lessen, so while you may start with only a few words, more will words will be added as you go on. Each lesson is divided into 2 sessions---the idea is to do one session in the morning and one in the afternoon or evening. (There are studies that show that going over the same information again a few hours later does lead to much better retention, so this makes perfect sense.) Each session consists of 3 parts: word flash, multisensory, and picture flash. The entire session is very short (about 5-10 minutes, depending on how you have your options set up, though you could make it longer than that).

little reader main screen

The pictures, videos and audio files used can be totally customized. You can replace all the included pictures with your own pictures, for example. And you can record your own pronunciation files.

little reader record screen

You can use your own videos, too. Adjust the volume. Decide if you want an arrow pointer on the screen. Choose how many pics to show of each word. So many options. The only option I could not find was the ability to change the amount of time between flashcards, though I could have missed it.

The controls for customization are not entirely intuitive. There are video tutorials available, but they are for the current version of the software available for download on the site---the Crew was given access to a newer version that has not yet been released. Presumably, once this version is officially released, there will be new tutorials to go with it. I found the tutorials to be informative, anyway, but the quality varied on them somewhat, and many had some rather loudish background music I could have done without. Still, I was able figure things out and add some of my own pictures…haven’t tried to record due to a lack of a decent mic at the moment, but we’ll try that eventually.

The quality of the pictures included with the program are good. Video quality is a little lacking (low res) and most words that have a video (not all do) only have one, so it can be a bit monotonous to see the same grainy videos over and over. This is not really surprising (the download for the product is of course, huge already, higher res videos would require even larger files). Perfect excuse to sub some of your own.

In addition to being able to change any and all of the media provided in the curriculum, you can create your own lessons from scratch. In fact, there are a number of lessons available for download (for registered users) that have been created by other users.

And if you are worried about your child spending too much time on the computer, any or all of the flashcards cards can be printed to use anytime, anywhere.

So what do we think of Little Reader?

I was skeptical. And hesitant to try this with 18-month-old Emma. We keep video time to a minimum in our house, and the thought of parking my toddler in front of a computer to watch video lessons was, well, a concern. Young children are very impressionable. What effect would this have on those circuits in her little brain?

I was reassured to see in the user guide that the parent is encouraged to participate in the lessons with their child so that this is a time for interaction, rather than zoning out in front of a computer screen.

Emma does love the lessons, particularly the pictures and videos of different animals. She gets very excited. Is she learning to read? I have no idea. It’s really too soon to tell. We haven’t been using it every day (I have a hard time remembering to get on the computer with my toddler), or we might be further along. The program definitely catches her interest. Ok, that’s an understatement…she’s riveted to it when it is on. She will occasionally point to the screen and make an excited sound, but she hasn’t even said any of the words, but then, Emma is still fairly non-verbal (she communicates primarily through her own baby signs, and uses few words). We may see some more evidence of what it going on in her brain over time.

Do I recommend it?

The program is well designed and I love the ability to fully customize it. But this is a very spency product and the few weeks that I’ve had it simply haven’t given me enough of a feel for its actual usefulness to be able to recommend it. I’m not convinced yet that it actually can do what it claims to do. I’m not convinced that I would or should want it to do what it claims to do. And I’m not convinced that even if it does do what it claims to do, that it’s worth the price tag. With further use, I should be able to get a better feel for all that. If we continue to use it, I may post some updates.

I do recommend that you try the Little Reader free trial for 14 days to see if it’s a good fit for you and your child.


Little Reader Basic with 6 months of pre-made lessons: $149.00

Little Reader Basic with 12 months of pre-made lessons: $199.00

Little Reader minimum system requirements (Windows compatible only):

  • Operating System: Windows XP, Vista
  • P4 processor with at least 1 GB of system memory
  • 10 GB hard drive with at least 5 GB of available disc space
  • CD-ROM drive (Required for CD Installation)

Check the Brillkids website for more info on system requirements.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Midweek Meltdown...

...came a bit early this week. Tuesday was the day that I seriously considered packing it in.

Wink. Sometimes we need to blow off some steam, re-evaluate what we are doing, get a second opinion.

And sometimes we just need to blow our collective top. Think pressure cooker, ready to explode, in real need of a safety valve.

And yes, I did call my hubby, my rock, and bawled my eyes out.

Hubby is a man of action, so we have taken action.

Don't worry, I didn't call the local school and enroll them, lol.

But we have put a few changes into place.
  1. We've decided that the children need more structure and a better idea about how our day is going to go. I tend to be very anti-schedule---call me a rebel! I think that stems from my perfectionism, actually. If it's on a schedule and I don't get it done, ack! If I don't have a schedule and I don't get everything done, not such a big deal. Not that I don't have a schedule of sorts, I actually do. But it's all contained in my pea brain. My pea brain that's developing holes from trying to remember everything, that is. So, I've started making a chart each morning that shows what subjects we need to cover before we are "done" for the day and they can do their own thing. Having strict time blocks doesn't seem like it will work with an adventurous toddler in the mix, but it may come to that.
  2. We are working out a "point" system. I'm not usually much for reward systems, I tend to think it sets a bad precedent. But hubby came up with this, and well, I do think I tend to point out the kiddos gaffs more than their successes...I'm hopeful we can make this a positive reinforcement, rather than a way to ding them for misbehavior. I'll keep you posted on what we come up with. The kiddos are wary but enthusiastic.
  3. I'm planning to try workboxes again. I just have to find the time to get them set up (ahem).
  4. I've decided that we were trying to pack too much into each day. Sometimes less is more. With fewer subjects in a day, you can spend more time and do a more in-depth study. My grand experiment, for now, is to do math and language arts each day, but beyond that to delegate each week to a particular subject. This week, it was science/engineering. We are studying bridges (more on that later). We may continue this topic next week. Some upcoming topics (that the kiddos have requested): penguins and forests (and the plants and animals that live there). The irony is that we are actually getting more done! And the kiddos are having more free time. And they've been spending that free time pretty productively: Mary is reading the Chronicles of Narnia and typing prayers from a prayer book. David is studying Macbeth with his Dad. And they are all drawing through reams of paper. Who said homeschooling was cheap?

Review and GIVEAWAY: Chuck Black’s Knights of Arrethtrae---CLOSED

Chuck BlackWhen former F-16 fighter pilot Chuck Black started writing fiction, his goal was to create a rich world filled with Biblical symbolism to teach his kiddos how to live the faith. His current series is called The Knights of Arrethtrae and follows the trials and glories of the knights in the service to the Prince against Lucius, leader of the Shadow Warriors.

The Knights books are allegorical, not as a direct representation of Biblical events, but in a more general sense, as the main character of each book endures a trial by fire of sorts that will test their faith and lead them on a spiritual journey closer to God. Think of each book as an extended parable.

Chuck Black

In Sir Quinlan and the Swords of Valor (Book 5), Tav and Twitch are like brothers and have known each other all their lives. Tav is the accomplished swordsman who shows promise and everyone expects him to go into service for the Prince. Twitch lacks confidence and is a bit of a misfit that no one expects to amount to anything. But Twitch makes a choice that Tav is not willing to make, a struggle we all seem to have in our lives…

Sir Rowan and the Camerian Conquest (Book 6) is a brave knight who finds his world turned upside down after he’s attacked and left for dead. Is his destiny here, in trying to pick up the pieces of his home land, shrouded under the cloud of the Dark Knight…or does it lie elsewhere? Again, there are choices to be made and lessons to be learned…

Chuck Black

And what did we think of the books? It’s a little hard for me to place an age on these. Mr. Black’s tactical training comes through in his descriptions of the attacks and battles…boys in the 10 and up age group will find them rivetingly realistic, I think. The books are fun to read and he doesn’t beat you over the head with symbolism. They are not great literature, by any means, but definitely not twaddle.

But, the books are a bit more adult in places. There’s more than a little violence…after all, they are about the battle between good and evil. If you are adverse to your child reading about sword fights to the death, literally (but there’s also resurrection), you probably want to skip these. There’s also an element of romance between characters, nothing heavy, but it’s there, and something you may want to talk over with your child if he’s not quite there yet. Overall, I’d probably put the age range at 12-15 or so. An older child might find it too easy.

Each book has a series of thoughtful discussion questions at the end to help to bring the lessons home.

Now for the giveaway! Waterbrook Multnomah has been generous enough to send me an extra copy of Book 5 and Book 6 to giveaway to one of my readers!

Open to US residents only, please.

Mandatory to enter: Leave me a comment before Midnight EST on Wed., Oct. 27th.

Optional additional entries:

  • Follow me in GFC. (1 entry)
  • Follow Waterbrook Press on Twitter and tweet this giveaway. (1 entry)
  • Blog about this giveaway, linking to this post. (2 entries)

This is a Mama Buzz review. The product was provided by: Waterbrook Multnomah.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Review: MistyMate


There’s nothing quite like playing soccer in 90 degree heat, the sweat streaming down your face, water bottle drained before half-time. And there’s nothing quite like watching your kiddos do,it while sitting on the sidelines, no shade trees in sight. We’re thankful for the cooler temps, but it wasn’t much more than a week ago that we were still sweatin’ it…and we were thankful to have MistyMate.

MistyMate makes a whole line of personal misters and patio misters designed to take some of the edge off those Sahara days. The micro-fine mist can help lower the ambient temperature by as much as 30 degrees. And when you’ve got a kiddo with a genetic skin disorder that makes him prone to overheating (Peter can overheat in temps as low as 70 degrees), MistyMate can truly be a lifesaver.

MistyMate sent us a Misty 2.5 personal mister, a 10 Classic personal mister, Keepin Cool 6 portable patio mister and an Artic Tie for review.

misty3test newmisty10 keepincool_6_1 arctictie_1

The children’s favorite is the patio mister.

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Think Tropical Rainforest.

They were actually begging to go play in the backyard when it was hot.

The Keep Cool 6 patio mister ($19.99) comes with 10’ of supply line, 10’ of mist line (with 6 micromist nozzles), 6 clips and instructions. The end of the supply hose screws onto your outside tap or the end of a hose. It does leak some at the hose connection, but not enough to affect operation.

By my thermometer, the ambient temp in the area where we used the mister was reduced by 10 degrees F, not bad considering it was in an open, somewhat windy space. I’ve no doubt it would be much more effective clipped to the underside of a huge beach umbrella. We may have to look into getting one of the larger systems…maybe our postage stamp-sized yard could become a postage-stamp-sized rainforest. The clips for attaching the mister hose are the badge type, so you are little limited in what you can attach them to (can’t attached them to a fence, for instance). I might have to get a little creative.

The personal misters are a handy way to take your mist with you, whether it be on a jog or to sit on the sidelines of a soccer game. I particularly like the Misty 2.5 ($16.99) for its kid-friendliness. You pump it up to pressurize it (even my 5-year-old can do this), then just push the little mist button. The kiddos were fighting over this one, though I don’t know how durable it will be. All the parts are plastic and I have a feeling a couple of drops on concrete or too much enthusiastic pumping might do it in.

The Classic 10 ($19.99) is a little harder to use, but more flexible in how you can use it and more heavy-duty---not too worried about this one breaking. The pump arm is metal and the rest of it is of a heavier plastic. Its belt clip makes it easy to take with you and the mist nozzle is at the end of a coiled hose with a clip---you can clip it to your clothes and just turn the valve on when you need some mist, keeping it relatively hands-free. The valve is a bit fiddly, hard for small fingers to operate, so I would reserve this one for the adults.

The Artic Tie ($19.99 for 2) is a simple accessory. It’s like a bandanna that has been sewn into a tube and then filled with those crystals that absorb and hold water---they can hold up to 200 their weight in water! You can tie this around your neck or your forehead to help cool you off. We just soak the tie for a few minutes in cool water, then throw it into a zipper baggie and take it with us when we go to the park or on a walk. This actually works pretty well, it’s good at keeping Peter cooler when it’s pretty warm, but not blazing hot. We’ve also combined with the Misty 2.5 when he’s watching his older brother play soccer. Between that and drinking plenty of water, he was able to manage being in the heat for the whole game, instead of hiding in the air-conditioned car. Truly wonderful!

The only problem we had with the Artic Tie is that the fabric is not prewashed and the color runs when new (ours was red) and there’s no way to wash it, really, to get the excess dye out. But repeated use seems to have mitigated that issue.

Thank you MistyMate, for helping to make the early Fall heat bearable…I wish I had found you sooner! While it has cooled off here, we still get an occasional hot day, and sometimes you just need some relief from the sun. I would definitely recommend these products if you live in a warmer climate, too.

Disclosure: MistyMate sent me the products mentioned in this review for free for review purposes. I received no other compensation.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

They Never Cease to Amaze


art lessons

This is an airplane Peter created from paper.

I think I may need to buy stock in 3M, but wow!

He totally designed, cut and taped this together himself.

Pretty impressive for 5.

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A dragon made the same way. What will he think of next?


Would you believe…a bridge!

Sometimes I think I’m wasting my time trying to give him “lessons.”

This is part of what homeschooling is all about.

Throw Pillows You Won’t Want to Throw

Turtle throwpillows-logo

Pillow fights, fort walls, bridges, ramps, tossing contests, mountains to climb, drool catchers…what else are throw pillows good for? How about a new best friend?

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His name is Turtley.

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He’s cute and cuddly.

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And a great place to rest a weary head.

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Would you believe we had to hunt for Turtley his first night---he usurped Eeyore’s place as bedtime buddy.

But you can’t buy him from! He’s a special promo gift to bloggers, a taste of what’s to come…I understand they are planning special monthly giveaways of pillows available in limited quantity, so go check them out.

In the meantime, you can get some very lovely pillows at, too lovely to throw around.





Pillows made from all different fibers, something to suit just about any decor. I might have to staple them down to keep the kiddos mitts off them, though:-)

This is a Mama Buzz review. The product was provided by:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Loving Each Other

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Can you tell she idolizes him?

30 Days to a Kinder Mom

Step one: turn off the computer.

It's so easy to be sucked in by that glowing screen. And those millions of little links to information right at your fingertips.

There's always the desire for more input.

Want to buy a new printer? Look it up. Online.

Want to pay a lower price for something? Find a cheaper source. Online.

Want to "remember" who the guy was who played the gunsel in the Maltese Falcon, but the brain cells holding that info perished long ago? Look it up. Online.

And how old was Bogart when he died? You're already online, why not look it up?

And while you're at it, check to make sure there isn't another free source you could add to your study on Columbus' voyage to the new world that doesn't state that everybody but Columbus thought the world was flat.

It's funny how the information highway gives us access to so much information, so quickly, yet I still spend so much of my time collecting that info...and it ultimately doesn't improve my quality of life or make me a better teacher.

It certainly doesn't make me more sensitive to my children's needs or more cognizant of my own.

It doesn't even make me more productive.

I'm having a love-hate relationship with my computer right now. I really really really just want to turn it off. Ignore the email. Not surf the forums.

But I do have responsibilities outside of my own family that do require me to not sever my link to the world wide web. I also have a pile of reviews that need to be written.

So, this is what I'm going to: Clear the decks. I have a bunch of books and product reviews coming up over the next couple of weeks, stuff that was just sent to me or I asked to review, whatever. I'm going to get them done pronto.

Once those are done, I'll continue to review for the TOS Homeschool Crew. I may even do an occasional review beyond that if it's something that really speaks to me...but you are going to see a massive reduction in review and giveaway posts. It'll just be me. I hope you don't mind:-) This has been getting to feel too much like a job.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

30 Days to a Kinder Family: Update after 2 weeks

Change take time, right?

There have been very subtle changes in behavior, but I don't actually attribute them to the video ban.

We cut videos, computer games and Wii out of our lives for the first week. The first couple of days were full of resentment and recriminations. But it wasn't long before nobody was asking about and complaining about the TV or computer. It was probably a much needed break.

Their behavior and treatment of one another did not really change at all, for the better or the worse.

After the first week, I was beginning to realize that our issues run much deeper than whether or not the kids watch any videos. There is something much more basic going on.

The second week, we did allow some video. They watched the 2nd half of the Junglebook (we had started it before the video freeze) and they watched Wall-E. We have allowed them to play a few computer games and a couple of Wii games. Game time is limited to 1/2 hour.

Now, here's the thing...the computer is definitely more of a draw than the TV and infinitely more of a draw for the oldest than for the other children. But, here's the other side of that: we've decided that strictly outlawing it is not in anyone's best interest, at least not right now. But, I consider computer use somewhat dangerous for everyone, not just the kids. More on that in another post.

So, if technology is not ultimately the culprit for the troubles we are having, what is? And let me be clear here, I don't say that technology plays no part. It does, but in a different way than you might expect. It's not the root of the problem with the kids.

The real problem, and this is painful to me. Hubby bears some responsibility here, too. But I'm the one they see all day.

Parenthood is a challenging job, probably the most challenging job I have ever had or ever will have. But it's all on the job training. Unless you are blessed to have really excellent role models, you often find yourself flailing about trying to figure it all out.

I remember when I was pregnant with my oldest, I called my best friend, the one I've known since the 4th grade, to tell her.

Her response? "What do you know about being a parent?"

Splutter! As irritated and annoyed as I was at the time, I know now she was right. What do any of us know about being parents until we are parents.

I've discovered that I've got some growing to do. It seems God is always molding me, changing me, stretching me in ways that I don't really want to be stretched. Just when we think we've reached a pretty good point in our lives and we start patting ourselves on the collective back...well, you know how it goes.

So, the new name for this series is "30 Days to a Kinder Mom." And forgive me if I post less frequently, my family needs me.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Our Week in Review: A Mid-Week Dash to Assateague

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You’ve been promising them for over a year to take them to Assateague Island, home of the wild ponies.

Hubby has a week off from teaching.

The weather is finally cooling off.

Would you drive these 4 kiddos for 4 hours (each way)

to spend a few hours

on the Maryland Eastern Shore…

and maybe catch some waves?

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Linked to Weekly Wrap-Up on Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.