Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Summer School Goals

I want this summer to be fun and relaxing, not just for the kids, but for me too, so I'll be trying to keep everything simple and frugal!

Not wanting my children's brains to go to mush, or to hear "I'm board!" through the summer, I'm setting some simple goals for my children to accomplish, and setting up some incentives to help get them excited. Since it is still cool around here (60's) we're not really itching to get outside too much yet, so they are just happy for a change of pace.

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1. Reading- Summer reading programs are common all over the country, libraries often offer one that includes goodies, prizes, and activities through the summer. We've done those in the past, but not this year. Instead I'm having each of my big kids choose one book per month (subject to our approval, these will not be easy reading books) that they have never read, to read and then do a book report on. This may not seem like much, but it will give my avid readers some direction (and give them a writing assignment), and my not-so-excited-readers the push they need to sit down and read!

*both Mr. R and Mr. M have chosen "Lamplighter" books for the month of July. We LOVE these books, and I'll be doing a review and giveaway on them later in the week. In the mean time check out their web site. We like these books so much we decided to become affiliates recently, if you decide to buy any, please do so through one of our links! Lamplighter.com

While this is something my "big" kids can do on their own, I want my little ones included in these goals. My beginning reader will pick a simple book to practice and read to me, besides his regular reading lessons. My pre-schooler and toddler will be encouraged to ask each of their older siblings to read them a book every week (besides the ones I'm reading to them).

INCENTIVES for reading- I think I'll do a weekly treat (most likely of the frozen, homemade, variety) on Friday or Saturday if each of the older kids have read to each of the little girls, plus a bonus treat for finishing their chosen book and report.
2. Math- I'll be having the kids do drill cards daily on either addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division to help them keep their skills up, or fine tune them. I'll also be doing some placement testing with them since we are switching curriculum and I want to be sure to be putting each of them at the appropriate level.
*these cards have been around for a long time, I used them when I was in grade school (homeschool)

INCENTIVES for math- Once they can show me that they can do their assigned card(s) in 2 minutes or less with 95% accuracy they will get to drop down to just once a week. I'm still trying to decide if I'm going to add in some other sort of reward.

3. Geography- We will be working on identifying more of the states. Each child will have a goal set for them by me. Even my 3 year-old will be included in this, though my expectations will be fairly low.... Four states, that's it.... Specifically Oregon, California, Colorado, and Arizona. No, these were not chosen at random. These are states that have some meaning to her (she has lived there, will live there soon, or visits often), so she will be interested.

INCENTIVES for geography will involve baking and decorating something using this.....
The goal will be that they must each have their states memorized (and I will test on this) by the end of July. I want them to work together and be encouraging one another on this, so this will be an "all or nothing" one. I've set realistic goals for this, with something I know they are excited about. I'm certain they will get this one!

If all goals are completed before I have the baby (mid-August) I'll add in the bonus of getting to choose to watch a video during quiet time twice a week (which is big since this is not something we regularly allow).

What are the goals (and incentives) you have for your children this summer? Please link up to this post with your "Summer School" goals, or just a post on what you are up to this summer with the kids. Please be sure to link back to this post, and link to a specific post on your own blog. If you don't have a blog I'd still love to hear from you, please leave a comment here!

Oh, and grab my button for your blog too!

UPDATED TO ADD: Next week I'll be posting on "out and about" ideas that are free or inexpensive. Our area has limitations, but special attractions too... I'd love to hear about what you are finding to do out and about with your kids this summer!

I'm linking up to Raising Homemakers.

link up!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sing n' learn reviews: Classical Math & The Presidents March

Classical Math to Classical Music by Sing n' learn
I've known that Miss E (and my younger kids too) needed some work on her division tables, so I was excited when Sing n' learn offered me the chance to review one of their Classical Math CD and workbook sets! We were sent their Division version which covers Division Tables 2-12. While I did let her listen to it a couple of times on her own, the first time we all listened to it was in the car. By the second song the kids were all singing along quite joyfully!

Since the music is classical music it is easy to listen to, and I was pleasantly surprised at how well the vocals went along with the music. I love that they go through each set twice (with the answers) and then a third time without the answers. We only prompted the kids once (on the first song) "do you know the answers?" after that they sang along with each song, even my six year old was getting into these! These have great potential for helping kids learn their Math tables!

I like that this CD comes with a workbook that has information about each of the Classical Musicians and a crossword puzzle for each of them (with the answers in the back of the book). That way your kids are not just learning the math, but are able to recognize the name of the song, musician, and information about the musician! I liked this set, and I'm considering purchasing the one for Multiplication.

The U.S. President's March by Sing n' learn
This CD not only includes a song for the Presidents in order, but also the First Ladies! There is also a bonus song about the constitution (a bit of history of how it came to be). Again, the music was great, and the vocals were well done on The President's March songs. We listened to these in the car too, but noticed that no one was able to sing along. They just could not catch the words/names (but we were enjoying listening!).The CD has three tracks for each song, one is just the song, the other is a split track, and then the third is with no vocals. These will help in learning the names, and then practicing on your own.

We realized that this CD had a couple of uses, one was to just listen to it and hear the names (without the goal of memorizing, but being familiar). The other would be if you are actually focusing on learning all of the presidents and are wanting a song to sing the names by (but would have already become familiar with all of the names). I don't think this is a CD that you can just pop in and think that your kids are going to get these names stuck in their heads, it is going to take more effort than that, but it will be a great accompaniment to your plan for learning the President's/First Ladies' names.

*Sing n' learn sent me free copies of these CDs so that I could review them. I was not otherwise compensated for this review and these are my honest opinions (and that of my husband and children as well!).

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Indoor sandbox/sensory bin

**Be sure to enter my YWAM book giveaway!**

The first sensory bin that I made a couple of months ago was such a hit with my girls (and even the older kids too!), that I knew they would LOVE this one! Its an indoor sandbox, complete with some buried treasure, rocks, and shells!

First I put a couple of inches of sand in the bottom of the bin, and added some fun colorful sea shapes and some "treasure" (a couple of bracelets).

Then I added more sand and arranged some pretty rocks, shells and tools on the top. Thats it! It is done! The hard work was heading into HomeDepot with six kids in tow to get a 50 lb. bag of sand. We hardly made a dent in it, but it seems my hubby has some uses for it...

The girls were so excited to get to play in this!

A blanket under them is a MUST on this one, just look at all of that sand! This is not one for the table top!
If you have a handy little vacuum that is good for small jobs your kids can clean up any mess that makes it off of the blanket too! Miss J likes this part of clean up!


YWAM book review and giveaway!

To go along with my "Summer School" posts I'm going to be doing some book reviews (and even some giveaways!) to help encourage some Summer reading!

The "Christian Heroes; Then and Now" are one of our favorite series of books. YWAM publishes these wonderful books about missionaries, and others, that have stood strong in their faith. These books are written for children in mind, however they should not be limited to children! I've enjoyed reading each one we've read.
I love that these books not only tell us the life story of a Christian hero, but they take us into the time, place, and culture in which the book takes place! My kids don't just learn the dry facts of a biography, but grow to love the people and places as well! We enjoyed reading about how Gladys Aylward worked so hard just to get to China, and the many difficulties she struggled through during her ministry, and the many wonderful ways God was able to use her! We are currently reading the Corrie Ten Boom book, which brings the struggles of those that were willing to help Jews in Holland (and all of Europe, really) to life. What a blessing to be able to share these accounts with my children through such engaging books!

I read these out loud to my kids as a group after lunch (usually after putting the little ones down for a nap). My big kids make sure to remind me to read these books to them, and after our daily chapter shouts of "More!" and "One more chapter" can be heard nearly every time. It is obvious that they love them.

There are also some similar "Heroes of History" books that are written by the same authors (Janet & Geoff Benge), and we've enjoyed each of those too. We also love that all of these books are very reasonably priced, which allows us to add them to our library regularly.

YWAM has graciously sent me a Gladys Aylward book from this series to give away! I also found that we somehow have ended up with an extra Gladys Aylward book in our collection, so I'm going to be able to give two away! Yay!

So, here are the ways you can win...

1. leave a comment here.

2. Look at the YWAM site and then come back and tell me which one of these books you would most want to read. (leave a separate comment)

3. Facebook this giveaway (leave a separate comment)

4. Be a follower of my blog (leave a separate comment)

I'll run this give away for a week or so, be sure to check back to see if you won if you did not leave contact information!

*I have not been compensated for this review, though my review would have been the same had I been compensated! ;) YWAM did provide one of the give away books.

I'm linking to Raising Homemakers

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My new wallet!

I've been needing a new wallet for quite some time now, and I knew I wanted to make it, but the task was quite intimidating. Finally, about a month ago, I started looking up tutorials on line. I found a couple that I could work with to make what I wanted (I used this one and this one for measurements and some directions). I took another week or so to think about the details. Then I started cutting. It was still an intimidating task, and one I had plenty of excuses to put off for a couple more weeks....

....I got up the nerve to start sewing on Saturday morning.

By Saturday evening all of the sewing was done, and by Sunday I even had all of the dividers cut out and the whole thing was done! So far I'm very happy with it.

The lower portion is for my credit card etc. and my cash.

The upper portion is for my "envelope system" cash, coupons, etc.

I love that right now it has everything I want in it, but it does not feel full! It even matches my diaper bag (which I'll be using again in just about 3 months!). I love the fabric!

Isn't it funny how something can seem so difficult and/or intimidating and so we put it off not wanting to face it? Only to find that it really was not that hard, and even easy! I see that quite a bit in the projects I work on, and I think life is often like that too. Just something to think about.

I'm linking to Raising Homemakers.
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 up           party!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Summer school!


Though we will not officially be starting our summer break until July, we are winding down our school year and I'm starting to plan for our summer break. I was thinking it would be fun to do a weekly post with a link up for moms to share their ideas for summer break.

I tend to school year-round, but I like to take some time off during the summer to re-evaluate what we are doing and plan for the next school year. We all like some extra free time, however, kids left to manage their time themselves for a month or so can go terribly wrong! I like to plan a craft, activity, or "field trip" at least two days a week. Besides having a toddler, preschooler, kids, and tweens that I would like to include in all activities my challenge is that by the end of the summer I'll have a new baby and we're moving! I'll need to apply the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Sweetie) method, and yet still keep it interesting!

I'll be sharing what I come up with, and I'd love to hear what other mammas are doing this summer with their kids!

I'll let you know every week what I plan to post about the next week. It would be great to hear from others on similar topics, but anything is great. I thought I'd run this series through the end of August, on Tuesdays.

Next week I'd like to start off by sharing some of the educational goals I'm setting for my kids. It will not be much, but I wanted to give my older kids some focus for our quiet times in the afternoon (when the little ones, and mommy, are napping), and keep them in the habit of doing some math and reading regularly. I'll be finding some ways to include some of my younger kids in these goals too.

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I'm linking to Raising Homemakers and Smile Monsters this week.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Menu plan

Since KimC over at inashoe.com is asking for some bean recipes, and this week's menu includes two bean meals, I thought I'd post our menu for the week. I'll link to her blog and Menu Plan Monday at orgjunkie.com as well.

Monday- Burgers, salad, homemade fries

Tuesday- BBQ chicken cooked up in the crockpot while we run errands! We will have salad and acorn squash (cooked in crockpot too?), and maybe mashed potatoes.

Wednesday- Tacos! I make our taco filling out of rice and lentils (sometimes I add a little meat), I often add refried beans to help it all stick in the kids' tacos (helps keep it from getting too messy/losing all of the filling). To make this up I just cook up rice as I normally would, but I add taco seasoning and sometimes an onion, same with the lentils. Then I mix them all together (I often make a huge batch of this and freeze several meals worth). Continue making up your tacos as your family prefers!

Thursday- Black beans and rice. Several of my kids ask for this meal regularly, and its so simple. I just cook up a couple of cups of dry black beans, adding a bit of "black bean seasoning" that comes in those bags (or not, my kids actually like it better with no seasoning), and a chopped onion. I let it simmer on the stove for a couple hours or all day in a crockpot. Closer to meal time I cook up the rice. I chop up some pre-cooked smoked sausage and add that in about 30 before we are going to eat (I think this is what my kids like best, but they are happy to eat the beans along with it!). Serve beans over or next to the rice. We serve salad with this.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

sewing wet bags

The past week or so I've been working on sewing some wet bags. I was a bit nervous about sewing these, knowing the zipper part could be tricky. This tutorial was great, and made this project so much easier. Even so I started off with a practice bag. I'm glad I did, I had a bit of trouble with the zipper by sewing a bit too close to it. Even after taking the stitches out, it still sticks a bit when opening and closing it. This will be our "back up bag" that will be waiting in the car with a girly outfit that will work for either one of the little girls.
Then I moved on to making three more wet bags. I made one to match my diaper bag; since the one I have been using is pink and I just could not use a pink wet bag for little boy diapers!

I also made this wet bag for a friend who is about to have her fifth baby (a boy) and move to Hawaii! I thought the fun colors would work well for her and her little one(s). I love how cute the whole gift looks together in this little bucket!This one is for a new mama that has a classic elegant style; she just had a little girl.

These bags were fun to make, I'm glad I tackled this project. They really came together much faster than I expected. As I mentioned, the tutorial really made this project easier for me. One thing I did to differently was to avoid using pins in my water proof layer so that the only holes would be from the stitches, not pins. I used paper clips instead. I also added the pocket to the front of the bags, which really comes in handy!

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Friday, May 20, 2011


We spent this past week-end up at our favorite camp again (Jenness Park), and once again we had a wonderful time. This time we were not up there for "camp" but instead for Presbytery (denomination business meeting) for a church we regularly attend out of town. It was a nice chance for us to meet families from all over the country! We also had time to visit with good friends from the California church....
and see plenty of firmiliar faces!

While the men spent most of their time in meetings, the women and children had plenty of time for visiting and playing games!

They also had the "adventure recreation" open at the camp. The older kids were allowed to go do that either in pairs or along with another family we knew well. I kept the little girls with me at the main field. They were quite happy to play with rocks, dirt, grass, pine needles etc. Miss J jumped at the chance to ride on a motercycle, and Miss E was happy to go along with her! Unfortunatly I had not anticipated such wonderful sunny weather and Miss J, Miss C and I ended up with sun burns.
The first evening there they had a talent show. The young adults did a great job on their "welcome to California" song, and we had plenty of music and skits and even audience participation! Mr. R gave his speech on Foxe's Book of Martyrs, and did a good job. Miss E recited the entire "Seven Silly Eaters" book (about 8 minutes) and amazed everyone with her ability to memorize so much! Both spoke clearly, made eye contact with the crowd and made their mommy and daddy proud!

The next day Rob skipped most of the meetings in favor of some quality family time. Miss J had asked to go on the zip line, so we headed up there first thing! Once we got up there she was a bit reluctant, but after watching a couple kids go down she was excited again. She looked so tiny coming down, and showed no emotion at all (which is how she deals with such events, she takes it all end and waits until it is all done to show that she likes it. You never know when things could turn ugly, so its best to wait to show approval! ;) ).

*despite the look on her face she really did have a good time, and even went on the zip line at least one more time!

They were a bit short staffed up there, and being regulars up there the guys in the family knew just what to do! Rob and Mr. R spent all of their time up there helping out. The other two boys helped a bit too, when they were not waiting in line to go down the zip line. Later in the day Rob headed into meetings (taking Mr. S with him) and I took the girls to nap. The older three headed up to the zip line. We were later informed that Mr. R spent THREE HOURS working at the zip line! The staff that he was helping up there were so thankful for his hard work and commitment that they bought him ice cream and gave him an official staff shirt!
We enjoyed the time up there and had a great time of fellowship! We stayed an extra night there to make getting to church a bit easier, but ended up having to deal with a few inches of snow in the morning instead! The kids thought the snow was great fun, and once we got out of there safely Rob and I thought it was fun too! (sorry no pictures, we were too busy trying to load up).

Dresser tops

The dresser tops in our room had become the holding spot for things that didn't quite have a home, the drop off point for things "to get to later" and this was the result....

YIKES! Some of those things are baby things that have slowly been showing up. I'm not ready to set up for baby yet, but didn't feel like dragging bins out to put them all the way away either. So I grabbed a large basket to use as the temporary home for those sorts of things for the next two months or so. The rest of the stuff just needed some time, attention, effort, and a little thought to get it into the right spots....
YAY! It didn't take too much time to get these all cleared off, and the few things that did need to stay here are now in baskets so they look pretty! Noticing the little bed? Cleaning up that corner allowed us to bring an extra crib mattress in (doesn't everyone have one of those just lying around? No? huh...). You can read more about why its there here, but so far it has been used every night since placing it there.

Oh, and are you wondering where my six kids are, and what they are doing when I'm doing all of this de-cluttering and organizing? Are you concerned they have been left to their own to run-a-muck? Fear not! Generally the older kids have chores or school work they are doing when I tackel these projects, sometimes I have one or two of them helping me though. The little ones are generally napping, with me, or an older sibling is keeping an eye on them nearby (I can hear them!). This time Miss J and Mr. S were my runners. They put things away in the place they needed to go (outside of my room), or ran to grab things I needed. Kids like to have jobs to do and feel needed, and these to did a great job helping me! I also provided some quiet play activities for the girls which kept them busy for quite a while.

I'm linking to Organizing Junkie today!