Wednesday, July 1, 2015

BookLook Bloggers Review: Samantha Sanderson- Off the Record by Robin Caroll

Our latest mealtime read aloud was Samantha Sanderson - Off the Record.  My girls are fans of mysteries so when this title became available I thought it would be a good fit because of their love of the genre.

This was our first time reading a title from the Samantha Sanderson series.  Samantha Sanderson is a middle school girl who dreams of becoming an award winning journalist.  She spends her time developing her reporting and writing skills for the school newspaper.  Off the Record shares Samantha's story of keeping her integrity or bending her rules due to friendship.

The story is Christian based, and Samantha's beliefs pop up ever so often to help her differentiate between right and wrong.  For instance, Samantha shares that her scripture for the year is Matthew 22:39, but she was only thinking in the context of her actual next door neighbor.  She realized that the scripture also applies to her classmate that she is not so fond.

My youngest daughter has enjoyed listening to Samantha's adventures.  For my oldest daughter, I believe she would have enjoyed it more if she read it alone.  The story is engaging and keeps one guessing about the culprit who changed the grades of the students at Robinson Middle School. There are also many biblical truths weaved into the story line.

I enjoyed the fact the setting is my hometown.  I didn't realize it initially.  I find it a pleasure when there are familiar parts to a story especially the setting.

Overall, Samantha Sanderson -  Off the Record is an appropriate story for girls 8 and up.  It can be enjoyed as a read aloud for younger girls, and older girls can enjoy it alone.  My youngest daughter wanted me to share that there aren't any bad words in the story.  Robin Caroll does a good job of reminding the reader that you can have faith in any situation.  I appreciate the way that she doesn't attempt to make the environment or the main character perfect, and shows us that life is about choices.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Why We Continue to Homeschool ...

It's been a little over three years since I wrote the Why Homeschooling Works For Us!  Before that moment,  I hadn't ever written about our reasons for homeschooling.  Now, I am realizing that I also never came back to share our reasons for continuing to teach our daughters at home.  Sometimes our reasons for starting something are not the same as the reasons we continue.

As many of you know, the girls and I ventured off into public school.  And as many of you know, it wasn't the most pleasant experience.  We did all return with new found dedication and appreciation for the gift of learning at home.

Because we had that out of the home experience, my top reason for continuing to homeschool is because my daughters want to learn at home.They saw first had that school isn't the same as it is on television.  My oldest had the perception that school was going to be just as fun as our co-op or Sid the Science Kid or even the Magic School Bus even though she knew they wouldn't go on the awesome trips that Miss Frizzle takes her crew.

All my other reasons stem from the first.

  • I can challenge my girls.  I have more than enough time to create or find materials to get them out of their comfort zone.  It's easy for me to recognize when they are in their comfort zones, and need a gentle to push.  They aren't limited by outsiders.  Their only limits will be the ones that they create for themselves.
  • Since they desire to be home, I am able to make it enjoyable.  Our learning environment isn't perfect, but we seldom fight about getting work done.  They understand the privilege of learning in the comfort of their own home. We also have the opportunity to go on many different awesome outings although I'm still no Miss Frizzle :)
  • We are able to restore some of the things that were lost in the generations before us.  The relationships that I have within our family of four are priceless.  If I wasn't living my own life, I would continue to think that this life isn't possible for folks like me.  I wasn't allowed  to enjoy my childhood.  My parents were not there so seeing an intact family is like a dream to me.
  • My children are able to form their own perspectives about people, situations, and such.  They have yet to be hardened by the world, and I am immensely grateful for this.  In my year of teaching, I had so many six year old students that already felt like the world was out to get them.  It truly is an honor to be able to help them strengthen themselves from the inside, and preparation for what the world may or may not bring.  
Those are few reasons why we choose to stay on this journey as a family.  

Be blessed!

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©2009- 2015 A Little This... A Little That. All rights reserved. All photographs, text, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written permission of the author.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

What We're Learning: That Time We Helped a Cardinal

We were headed home just like any other day.  Well, maybe not just like any other day because we were engrossed in The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry.   We made it to our apartment complex, and Vic turned and asked me, "Did you see that bird in the street?"  Of course, I didn't because I wasn't paying attention.  This made me think of all of the other times that I missed something because I was paying attention.

He turned the car around and drove us back to the part of the street the cardinal was sitting.  The cardinal was basically stuck on the white lines.  I could only imagine the fear (I've been told animals don't have feelings, but once you live with one your perspective changes).  It was there in the same spot it was in when we passed.  Turning this way and that when a car came a little too close.

We pulled over to not block traffic.  Initially, our oldest daughter questioned us about wanting to help a bird.  Our youngest after seeing that it was still alive questioned us about not helping the bird.  I questioned us about what in the world would we do with it if we managed to get it out of the middle of the road.  As you can see there were a lot of questions.

Vic answered the question of are we going to save it by gathering some supplies.  He used a hard hat from one of his temporary jobs ( I am happy to share that he is employed full-time now) and a snow scraper from when we lived up north.  This made me think that God always gives us just what we need.  It doesn't have to be state of the art or fancy to get the job done.  Vic gently brushed the bird into the hard hat.  We aren't sure if the bird's wings were broken, but I did noticed that one foot was broken.
This was after I removed it from the hard hat, It flew from the screen to this bush.
While Vic retrieved the bird, I called our vet which directed me to animal removal service who then shared with me that I needed to call an animal rehab center.  I searched the web and found one that was 60 miles away.  The director was headed to work when I got her on the line, and she told me to put the bird in a shoe box and if it makes it overnight she would take it the next morning.  We transported the bird home in the hard hat covered with a children's fire hat that we collected from a Touch a Truck event a few weeks ago ( I guess it came in handy that one of my daughter's usually leaves her things behind in the car.)

We arrived home and transferred the bird. This was a little eventful because the bird could fly a little and when I removed the fire hat, it flew onto our window screen.  The girls and I screamed.  So sad.

The adult male cardinal spent the night in the shoe box on a bookshelf.  We couldn't risk Eva getting curious and finishing it off.

The next day while the girls were at VBS,  I trekked 60 miles to deliver the bird to the rehab center.  Of course during this time I was able to think quite a bit about this event.  I wondered how many times do we see someone straddled in traffic (not literally) with nowhere to go, but we refuse to show compassion.  A neighbor of ours stopped and thought about saving the bird, but drove off because he didn't think the bird was viable.  How many times do we look at others and wonder if their life is worth it?  With all the junk and horrific things that are happening in our world, I know that we do it too often.  Helping that cardinal really made me think a little bit more about the human condition and the simple ways that I could help. Honestly, it was simple to help the little guy.  Was it inconvenient? Somewhat.  I had to make a two hour round trip to a place I had no intention of going.  What I learned is that life has a lot of inconveniences, but I can choose to see them as gifts.

I learned about wildlife animal rehab because I really had no clue about helping animals except from what I read in Stuart Little  and White Fur Flying.  Our daughters are continuing to learn that they can always help.  It doesn't have to be a grand gesture.  My husband recognized the change within himself.  Neither of us would've imagined him turning around to help an injured bird or any wildlife for that matter.  This was really a beautiful thing for us to experience and I am so grateful that we are at the right place at the right time with the right tools.

If you don't know much about wildlife rehabilitation centers, I would suggest you find one in your area to learn more and find out ways that you may be able to help if it's placed on your heart.  The center I took the cardinal is ran from someone's garage.  Her center is aviary.  She has several types of birds, and when they are healed she releases them back to the area in which they were found.  The cardinal that I took her was the only adult bird in her care.  I also learned that there is another center about 30 miles away.  Both of these centers are nonprofit and are ran by volunteers.  They are licensed centers.  It is illegal for citizens to keep wildlife in their homes so centers like these are necessary for the local wildlife.

Have you helped an injured or orphaned animal before? Do you think that you would if given the opportunity?
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©2009- 2015 A Little This... A Little That. All rights reserved. All photographs, text, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written permission of the author.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Brave Girls: Better Than Perfect - 90 Day Devotional

Studying God's word with my daughters is such an honor and privilege.  Not long ago, we began reading, Brave Girls: Better Than Perfect, before starting our day.  This is a 90 day (really 86 day) devotional geared towards girls ages 8 through 12 years old. One of the things that I appreciated about this particular devotional is that it could be used for both of my daughters.  It was written at the right level of maturity for my 7 and 10 year old.

The daily devotion includes scripture and a prayer.  There are six sections within the devotional which causes the format change a tad bit, but scripture and prayer are always included no matter which section we were reading.  The sections include Truth Detectives which focuses on lies from the world versus truths from the Word, Bible Beauties and Beaus which shares the stories of some of the people from the Bible and how God was able to help them see themselves as He saw them, and Divine Design which focuses on seeing beauty in the world around us.

Together, we have learned more.  As a mother, I have been able to delve a bit deeper with my daughters.  I won't be able to think of scenario life may throw, and I probably won't always know the right questions to ask.  This devotional has helped open up our minds to things that weren't on my radar.  It also helped for the girls to hear from someone else about the many obstacles of life.

Better Than Perfect does a nice job of reminding young girls and moms (if you choose to use alongside your daughters) who we are in Christ. Although the devotional focuses on the standard American way of life, I think it can be used with a variety of young girls regardless of the family's particular lifestyle.

This devotional is an easy read and the passages take no more than ten minutes to get through so it could easily be used by a girl 8-12 alone, but I have found value in using this devotional with the girls versus sending them off to use it solo.

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Does your family use devotionals to study the Bible?  Share your tips about studying with your children!
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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Math for the Weary : CTC Math

 As our regular academic studies ended, the girls were given the opportunity to use and review CTC Math's 12 Month Family Plan.  This program was a nice change of pace, and a simple way to continue math lessons over the summer.

CTC Math is an online program that covers a wide range of math skills.  All elementary levels are included along with Pre-Algebra, Algebra, and other higher level math skills.

Both of my daughters are using CTC Math for their upcoming grade level.  My oldest daughter is working through the fifth grade lessons while my youngest daughter is working through the third grade lessons.  Each day they log in to the program from our computer.  We've learned that they enjoy online programs best on the PC.   Since the log in process is simple I rarely need to be around for them to get started unless someone forgets her password :)

I learned that you have to make sure that your bubble is still filled in when you select enter.  I had a few user errors when I started.

This math program could easily be used a primary math curriculum or as a supplement.  It could also easily be used with a mastery approach or a spiral approach.  The flexibility of the program is one of its greatest assets.  We are using it as our primary math for the summer.  I am not certain if it will be the only math program we will use during our regular academic school year because one of my daughters loves paper and pencil math.  In later years, I could remedy this issue by printing out worksheets from the program.  It would be nice if the elementary grades also had the option of printing the worksheets before completion.  We are able to print the completed lessons for review.

Back to the flexibility of CTC Math,  there is no specific direction a child must take to work through this program.  All grade levels are available for anyone who has an account.  My youngest wanted to check out the Kindergarten work so she did.  I decided I would refresh my Algebra skills so I did.  Whoever the student is will access to more math than they probably know what to do with it.  I think this is a perk to program.

Let me not forget to mention what makes this program really unique and good.  Each lesson has video instruction.  An instructor provides all the information needed to complete the upcoming lesson along with the opportunity to work through example problems. The video instruction was both of my daughters' favorite part of the program. I don't believe that they sat through many if any videos that were more than  five minutes.  This is because each lesson focuses on one particular skill which is the main reason this program could be used for mastery.

The program is set up by grouping the math into streams with each stream having several topics, and within each topic there are a few objectives.  Some topics have more objectives than others.  When beginning a topic, there is a comprehensive or standard test that could be used as a pretest which can eliminate work that may not be needed.  The girls do take the standard test before beginning a topic, and if they do well then they can move on to another topic.  If they do not do well on a particular objective within the topic then they complete the lesson for that particular objective.

I can see being able to use this program as a spiral program too, but I would have to be diligent put some time into planning which strands I wanted the girls to focus on before they sat down at the computer.  Most lessons they have worked through take them no more than 15 minutes.  This is fine for summer learning, but I would want them to spend just a little bit more time on math during our regular school year so I will more than likely have them work on maybe 2-3 topics each day versus one.  Again, that's the beauty of the flexibility of this program.

I also liked the speed drills portion of the program.  My girls are still working on becoming faster with their math facts.  This handy little program within CTC Math allowed them to practice their facts before or after a lesson.  The speed drills are timed for one minute and they able to focus on whichever area they choose. There are four levels.  The first level is addition and subtraction.  The second level is addition, subtraction, and multiplication.  The third level includes division.  The fourth level includes mixed computations, division with remainders, and order of operations.

We really enjoy using CTC Math whether we will use it alone or with another program, I am not certain, but either way I know that my girls will gain the knowledge they need.  This program is great for the parent that isn't sure about teaching math or who may need to refresh her skills.  I know that I will continue to use my account.

CTCmath Review
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 ©2009- 2015 A Little This... A Little That. All rights reserved. All photographs, text, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written permission of the author.