Monday, September 29, 2014

W is for Water- 8 Easy Steps

Did you know that about 71% of the Earth's surface is covered by water?
Or that around 60% of the adult human body is made of water?
Or that the average person should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day?

You do remember that I am a homeschool mom, right?

Anyway, water is important.  And because we do not drink a lot of anything else in this house, water is especially important to our family.  Which is why I have looked longingly at water filters for a long time now.  Berkey filters, specifically.  

They are cool!

And pricey!  (but, yes, worth every penny I believe!)

But you know men.  They like to create. And play with tools. And challenge themselves.

So with the encouragement of Farmer Dan, my hero husband decided he could make a comparable water filter.  A man has gotta do what a man has gotta do.

Two stainless steal pots, 2 Berkey filters, a Step bit, and a spigot later- he was ready to create!

The short of it-
1- Use two Stainless steel stock pots, your choice of size.  We used 16 quart ones and one lid.
2-  Drill two holes on the bottom of one pot to attach filters.  This will be your top pot.
3- In bottom pot, drill a hole on the side for your spigot to attach to.
4- Prime filters according to directions that come with them.
5- Attach filters and spigot.
6- Place pot with filters on top of the pot with the spigot, the rivets of the handles will keep the top pot from sliding too far down into the bottom pot.
7- Fill with a little bit of water to ensure no leaks, and then add more later.
8- Enjoy- CLEAN WATER.

And now we have a Clarke-E!

And it works!

And we love it!  And it's creator.


Ben and Me

I Choose Joy!

Family Toolbox Giveaway!

I have had the privilege of being part of a review team for Family Toolbox for the past several weeks.  Let's face it- good, strong families do not just happen.  Raising kids is not easy.  Being a spouse takes work.  But with the help of good resources (and yes, a whole lot of prayer) you can be better equipped.  Look for my full review of this awesome resource on October 13th , with a Facebook party full of fun and prizes on Thursday, October 16th, but until then here is the opportunity to win a bundle of great products from Family Toolbox.  You won't wan to miss it!


 The Family Toolbox is a DVD/video-driven program that brings parents and teens together for constructive dialogue around significant issues of discipleship. Conversation is sparked by engaging video clips. Sixteen Life Success Principles are communicated through eight lessons that give parents and teens biblically-based, practical topics for discussion. The format grabs teens and gets them interacting. The Family Toolbox has 8 lessons. Each one has a 1-2 minute scene of a family living life and experiencing common challenges in their relationships. A discussion guide prompts dialogue between parents and teens and a 10-minute teaching session for parents featuring Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN gives practical tools to use right away. Family Toolbox Giveaway
I am excited to be joining with the National Center for Biblical Parenting (NCBP) to bring you a wonderful giveaway to celebrate the release of the Family Toolbox.  The giveaway includes a $50 Amazon Gift Card + a bundle of biblical parenting resources from NCBP, including: 

The Christian Parenting Handbook and Companion Guide

The Christian Parenting Handbook contains nuggets of parenting wisdom condensed into 50 short chapters, each one biblical, practical, and relevant for parents of children ages 2-18. Learn appropriate ways to correct, instruct, and set limits. Glean wisdom for dealing with emotions, conflict, and developing closeness in your family… and much more. These 50 strategies provide you with hands-on tools for parenting children of any age.  The Companion Guide is a workbook of 50 lessons along with 50 audio tips to take you through The Christian Parenting Handbook step by step. 

Cultivating Responsibility: Parenting Wisdom for Ages 9-12 Years

The later elementary age years are among the greatest times to build responsibility in children. Heart transformation takes place when parents use other tools than behavior modification. Sometimes though, bad attitudes, disrespect, and a lack of cooperation can muddy the waters. You’ll want to learn from the experts how best to navigate these years. Your children are making significant developmental leaps in their cognitive, social, emotional and spiritual growth. Understanding how best to help children through these years is essential.

Family Heart Moments

The Family Heart Moments book is a treasure. Over 70 inspirational true stories from parents who are eager to connect with their children's hearts. The heart is a special place in the life of a child. You don't want to miss it. This book will give you practical ideas for touching your kids in the deepest place.

Family Time Activity for Teens

Teenagers are in an exciting time of life. They're learning a lot about themselves and the world, and they need lots of spiritual guidance. The activities and applications in this book are designed specifically for teens. The object lessons and games are captivating and the biblical lessons are timeless. Walking Billboards, Fear Factor, and Gender Differences, are just a few of the titles. Nineteen lessons are included, all unique and powerful. Make Family Time a regular part of your family's spiritual growth. 

Learning About Sex: Love, Sex, and God

In a natural, conversational style, this book answers tough questions that help teens separate sex and love facts from myths. Straight facts on dating, marriage, sex, and sexually transmitted diseases are presented here.

Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining and Bad Attitudes, in You and Your Kids

It affects the way people think, the way they act, and the way they treat others around them. Honor motivates parents to treat children differently. It gives children more constructive ways to interact with their parents. It helps siblings develop tolerance and patience. Honor builds incredibly strong bonds that, in turn, benefit all members of the family. This book shows you in practical ways and shows how honor can transform your family. To enter, use the Rafflecopter below. This giveaway is open internationally to those age 18 and older. a Rafflecopter giveaway   Also, please join us for The Family Toolbox Facebook Party on Thursday, October 16, 8-10PM ET where there will be even more great prizes, an opportunity to ask your parenting questions, and lots of fun and fellowship! The winner of this giveaway will be announced at the Facebook party! RSVP for the Party here:

  Family Toolbox Facebook Party

Friday, September 26, 2014

Angry Words- 52 Weeks of Family Scripture Memorization

Today we are adding on to our verse from last week.  Go ahead and try- you can do it!


An emotion that can get the best of us, and our children if we are not careful.  

My youngest knows this well in our home.  His natural tendency when angered is to lash out.  When he first came home at age 21 months he would slip into times of rage when he did not get his way, when he was frustrated, or when he was scared.  At times is was terrifying.  Praise The Lord, most of that behavior has subsided, but he still battles with controlling his temper.  

Words slip out of his mouth that are hurtful and harsh sometimes, and I have to remind him that while it is ok to feel angry, it is NOT ok to use hurtful words.  Let's just say, we work a lot on the "catch your words" concept.  That once you say things, you cannot take it back.  That once someone hears something, you cannot make their ears forget what they heard.  Words spoken in anger hurt other people.

Oh, how many times a day does God wish I would "catch my words?"  It is not just a little kid problem.  It is a human problem.

I see it in Walmart when a parent yells at their child for disobedience.

I see it on the street when a driver yells at someone who accidentally cut in front of them.

I see it on Facebook when someone responds to a post with harsh words because they disagree.  

I see it in spouses who are suppose to love and respect each other.

Honestly, I see it in me more times than I care to admit.

And it always leads to evil!

This week, let's hide God word in our hearts and remember to "catch our words" as we teach our children about God and His love.  His words are the BEST!

Blessings, Michele

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I Choose Joy!


The Mommy Club Updated (2)

Essential Fridays Linkup

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Sewing Through August

Ha!  August and September, that is!

I am just going to tell you right upfront that none of the projects I am showing you are mine.  Big surprise, huh?  NOT!  I do have several waiting in the wings if I can ever find the time to get myself in the sewing room and turn on a machine.  It is seriously pitiful, ya'll.  I have big aspirations, but just cannot seem to find the spare time.  

I am going to figure it out!  Eventually.

On the other hand, my seamstress daughter is busier by the day.  Hour, maybe.  She is now the only seamstress for a local dry cleaner.  (Did I tell you that already?)  She picks up work three times a week and does a two day turnaround.  She had become quite the expert in hemming pants and replacing zippers.

She also sent this cute outfit to a cousin.

And taught a friend how to make a jean skirt out of jeans.  

And finished her sister's Eowyn (from Lord of the Rings) dress.  Yes, that is all hand embroidery.

Oh, and has continued to work for a friend who sells beachwear.

And made herself a shirt one day because she liked the fabric.

And still does custom orders for people as well.

Hmmm, maybe my lack of sewing is not about the lack of time, but the lack of space for me in the sewing room.

Yes, I am sure that is it!  ;)
yep, my space!


Did I mention she just got a job at a local Bridal shop sewing for them?

Monday, September 22, 2014

V is for Very Blessed

OK, honestly, the V thing was hard for me this week, but I decided I would share with you and tell you how I am counting my blessings this week. The idea actually stemmed from a question our family pondered last night as part of our time together- "What makes you happy?"  As our kids have gotten older, they love to pick a question to talk about.  It started at the kitchen table, but you will often find us pondering life anytime we are all together.

So what makes me happy?

These peeps!

Even Mr. Frowny! ;)

I love my family.  They make me happy.  They bless me.

I love how my 7 year old cracks up about something and will laugh so hard he cannot catch his breath.  He has come from some hard places and it thrills me he can still laugh better than the rest of us.  He is growing up and I am so proud of him.  Adoption is hard, friends, and this kiddo is proving he can handle it and come out on top.

I love to see my 12 year old take interest in his father and how they have found hobbies together that they are passionate about.  Seeing the two of them working side by side thrills me.  Boys need their dads around and I am blessed that we are in a season of our lives that my hubby is around to be an active participant in the boys' lives.

I love to watch the face of my 16 year old light up about anything theater.  To see her face when she walks into a performance of any kind fills my heart with joy.  It is like watching a young child on Christmas morning. To literally feel her joy as tears run down her face in just about every show we see, to hear her belt out Disney songs and to laugh while she quotes whole scenes from movies- she steals my heart.

I love that my oldest daughter is finding her way in the world with such grace and devotion to God and those around her.  Her joy is back and she is walking an exciting path. (more on that soon, I am sure) I love how hard she has pushed herself through school even when things got hard, how she is going to graduate 3 semesters early due to her diligence and perseverance and how she is embarking on some neat, new projects.  She inspires me.

I love that my husband loves and takes care of this family with such amazing devotion.  He is an awesome father and husband.  He puts people first in everything he does.  I love how his face lights up when someone asks about his career and flying helicopters, how he laughs when he plays with the kids and how he gets fired up when he mentors young men and women in the military.  He is my hero on a daily basis.

Yes, I am feeling very blessed.
How about you?  What makes you happy?  We would love to know!


Ben and Me


Friday, September 19, 2014

Patiently Still- 52 weeks of Family Scripture Memorization

Did you think I forgot you this morning?  Running a little late around here!

To start off- this is the verse we are working on this week.  Heads up- we will add on to it next week as well.

These memorization posts were never meant to be a commentary from me really, just a 'hey, here is a verse or two we are working on, won't you join us" kind of thing.  But surprise surprise.  Sometimes I have something I want to share with you.  So.... today I want to comment on a few phrases that really struck me in this verse.

Ummm, really?  Being still is hard for some of us in this family.  I have a bouncy boy who does not sit still.  I have a preteen boy that has places to go and people to see.  I have two girls very busy with life.  We do life and often we do it at a fast pace.  So to BE STILL, well, that is hard. 

But it is God-commanded.  Did you know that God does not make suggestions?  The Bible is not a list of "hey, why don't you think about this?" verses.  Just like when I tell my son to sit still to keep him safe, God commands us to be still.  Not to take away our fun, but to ground us, calm us, and give us the opportunity to sit at His feet.  The only true place of safety.  

Well, we all know how good I am at this.  NOT!  Patience is not my strong suit.  How about you?  Just last night my family had a discussion about being box checkers.  Identify a problem, find a solution, fix it and check the box- move on.  We are guilty of that a lot of times.  But sometimes we cannot just take matters into our own hands and check a box.  God commands us (there is that word again) to wait patiently.   Sometimes the process God has for us takes longer than a moment or a day.  And sometimes, many times, He asks us to wait patiently for that process.  

I think I can hear a few of my friends snickering as I type.  Fret use to be my middle name.  It is a battle I face daily.  I am a worrier by nature.  But I am working on it.  Because 1- God said DO NOT FRET and 2- because I trust that He has got it- whatever "it" is.  And I want to live like I believe it!

Ok, so I know the verse is about so much more that.  Remember I said that these Scripture memorization Fridays were about hiding God's word in your heart, not a Bible study.  That I am not  qualified for.  But each time we read and learn a new scripture the Lord pricks my heart, challenges me, and reminds me of His love for me.

Remember that love today and take time to teach it to your kids.  You will be forever blessed!


Essential Fridays Linkup

Missional Women

Counting My Blessings

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

My Student Logbook- Schoolhouse Crew Review

We have been blessed to be able to use and review My Student Logbook the past month or so.  Of course, since my 7th grade son was the one using it, he choose the My Student Logbook Jets.  Luckily for you, there are nine other choices to pick from.  Me, I would have gone for the one called Freedom. ;)

Made by a fellow homeschooling family of nine, My Student Logbook was birthed after looking for a way to keep track of their children's progress with school and other tasks - even on days that mom was busy and not able to micro-manage everyone's schedules.  Together, mom and dad fine tuned the details of a similar notebook system and came up with the My Student Logbook.

Simply put, it is an open ended "planner" that allows you to write down the tasks you want your child to complete each day and has boxes for each day of the week that your child checks off once those tasks are complete.  There are 53 weeks of planning space and it is spiral bound and has a clear plastic protective covering to keep it from getting too beat up.

You can order the Logbook in several different formats, depending on which suits your family best.  One choice has dated columns for a school year (Aug. 1- July 31), one for the calendar year (Jan. 1- Dec 31) and one is non-dated, allowing you to fill in the days of the week in the order you prefer. (M-S, S-S, etc)  You can choose which cover to put on any of the formats!

Also included are-

   1 Color paper divider
    1 All About Me page
    1 Prayers and Goals page
    1 Bible Verses Memorized page
    3 Books Read pages
    3 Events, Projects, Field Trips, Presentations, and Activities pages
    3 Test Records pages
    1 Year Highlights:  My Favorite Memories from this Year page
    Heavy black plastic back cover


My Student Logbook Review
You do have a quick set up but rest easy- you can do it!  Just a quick cut of your scissors and tape job to add the flap for assignments and you are ready to go.

How does it work?
You choose what tasks you want your child to accomplish.  Write them on the left hand flap, tuck in a new week page and you are off.  Once your child completes the task he or she checks off the box.  Once they complete a week a new page is tucked in and you start all over again.  Need to adjust the assignments?  Not a problem!  Just fill in a new task sheet, tape it in and off you go.
Here is a quick video to show you what I mean-

How did it work for us?
Like a charm!  I really surprised myself with how much I like this product!  We have used several methods of keeping up with assignments and none have worked well for long.  The new-ness wears off and we get sidetracked.  This time, not the case!  For my 12 year old son, I made a list off all of the subjects he has for school as well as chores and other activities.  He keeps the Logbook on his desk in his room and checks off things as he works through the day.

Here is what has struck me through this process.  One - I am not the keeper of the schedule anymore.  I love that.  This system has put the responsibility back into the hands of my son.  It is a great thing!  Second - it has given us both more freedom.  He does not have to continually come ask me what is next or if he can be done for the day.  He knows that when things are all checked off, he is done.  Simple as that.  

The other detail I like is the time column located right beside each task.  If something we do requires a time, I can write in the time fulfillment needed or he can write in how long it took him to complete the task.  For high school transcripts this is a must have.  It is much easier to build a transcript when you have documentation of time invested into each subject!  Trust me on this one!
I do prefer the non-dated planner as we school year round and so dates are not huge for me, but of course, that is a personal preference.

The Bible Verses memorized page is great for families like ours who memorize scripture together as a family or attend church programs that include memorization.  The All About Me and Highlights pages are a great way to document your school year for a fun memento as your children grow up.  Trust me, they WILL grow up and you will want to remember these years!

So, do we like it?  YES!  Do I recommend it?  Yes!  I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how this simple little planner will change your day and that of your child's!  In a good way!
You can purchase My Student Logbook for $15.00.  If your child can make check marks, they can use this!  If they are on readers, you can easily draw a picture to represent each task!
You can find My Student Logbook-
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Monday, September 15, 2014

Alpha Omega and 2nd Grade Math

I have to be honest with you from the start- I have used the same math for 16 years with my children.  It was only a few years ago that I added in a second math for the older kids.  It was hard.  But as I eyed our current 2nd grade math choice for this school year all I could think about was UGH.  Then I flipped through the table of contents and sighed a second ugh.  Patterns he knows.  Simple math facts he knows.  Teddy bear counters I am tired of.

And then the opportunity to choose and review any program for Alpha Omega Homeschool Publications came and I did a happy dance.  I love God's timing and wisdom!

Alpha Omega Publications (AOP) is a Christian, curriculum company that has been around for a while and is known for their strong curriculum choices.  Actually, I had the privilege of using two of their electives several years ago with much success.  Alpha Omega offers a full line of curriculum for grades Pre-K through 12th grade in four distinct formats.  Their well known Switched-On Schoolhouse is a computer based curriculum offered for grades 3-12.   If you have a visual learner or an auditory learner who loves the computer you should check this out.  Lifepacs are a series of booklet type workbooks that are self directed in their teaching approach.  Monarch is an online based, automatically graded curriculum offering 5 core subjects and over 35 electives.  It is offered for grades 3-12.

Horizons is a brightly illustrated, teacher directed program for ages Pre-K through 12th grade.  Because of my need to expand our own horizons last minute in math, I choose to review Horizons 2nd grade math.

Included in the second grade math set are two student workbooks and a pretty intensive teacher's manual.     The teacher's manual has a 29 page introduction that I highly recommend you read.  It includes the whos, whats and hows of the program.  It then has a two page lesson plan or summary of how to teach for each corresponding lesson in the student activity book.  It also contains the answer keys for each worksheet as well as additional student worksheets to copy and use.

Because I have been doing the same math FOREVER, it has been a long time since I actually read a teacher manual for math, so this one overwhelmed me at first.  Luckily, that did not last long.  Each day is well organized and written out.  Objectives and teaching tips are listed as well as what worksheets will be used and any additional materials, supplies or equipment you may need.  Then each step of teaching for that day is listed with a clear explanation of what to do.  While it is not really scripted, there is an occasion further explanation of how you would word something to better explain it. Once a concept is taught, you are directed to which small section of the workbook your child is to complete.  Once they complete that section you will move on to the next one.

Because Alpha Omega uses the circular teaching approach, once a new concept is taught over a three to five day span.  Then for the next two months it is repeated every two weeks for continual review and practice.  A four week break is then followed again by a three to five day review and then cycle continues.

How did we make this work for us?
Well, I am a rule sort of gal and so while I have heard lots of mommas say they do not always use the teacher's guide, for now I am!  To help me streamline, I read through each day and highlight the main points to be taught and hints on how to teach them for a week at a time.  This just helps me know what we are doing with a quick glance rather than have to stop and figure it out while my son waits.  We then work through the Student Activities one section at a time.  So far for us, each "day" typically lasts us about 30 minutes, give or take.

Likes and dislikes?
Mostly likes, honestly!  Up until now, my son, age 7, has been using one-colored worksheets with very little visual stimulation or interest.  One of the things that drew me to Horizons was the more engaging workbook style.  I realize that might not be everyone elses' bent, but I have found that my guy likes bright and colorful things and he tends to engage more with worksheets.  The other things I have found I really like is how AOP breaks down each student activity into sections.  Rather than just teaching something and then setting him loose with a worksheet on his own, we work together with a give and take.  For a fidgety boy who is easily distracted, this has allowed me to hold his attention more easily.  For students who get tired of writing, this also allows them a break every few minutes while you explain the next section.

The only thing I have found that I do not care for is the current lack of a manipulative set offered by AOP.  In the manual there is a comprehensive list of each thing you will need, from flash cards to counting chips, and which lesson you will need them for, but this busy momma admits to liking having the work done for me. I would love to see them add a basic math manipulative kit to their products!

Bottom line-
We have been very pleased with AOP Horizon Math!  It continues to stretch CJ by teaching new concepts and fits his learning style well.  We look forward to a successful year of math and a ton of learning!

A quick shout out to all of our fellow military homeschoolers.  Alpha Omega graciously offers a 30% discount for military families.  Call their customer support number to ask how to make that happen!

Don't forget you can enter to win your choice of curriculum from Alpha Omega in this incredible giveaway!