For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves it is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

Friday, April 17, 2015

Random 5 on Friday

It's been a month since my last random 5. Wow, time flies by quickly! What have we been up to?

The Pebble Pond
1. Zach joined a violin/cello ensemble and is enjoying it a lot.

2. Spring  Electives started back a couple of weeks ago, and the boys are doing: cooking, basketball, badminton, photography, and science

3. On the school front, things are moving along. We are still doing all of our subjects. We are slightly behind in our TOG studies, but pushing on.  We finished Fractions from Life of Fed this week, and will be starting Decimals and Percents next week. We have one more spelling list to d and then I am in search for a new spelling curriculum. I a crossing my finger for a review product coming soon that could serve as both vocabulary and spelling. This week we started a new read-aloud: Ten Boys who Made a Difference.

4. I have started planning for next year. Am I the only one? As I am planning for Zach's 7th grade year, I am keeping in mind that high school is not so far away. Yikes!!!! Lots to consider....

5. I am quite excited that I was able to contribute a post over at the Educents blog on How we Use Life of Fred in our Homeschool. Check it out!

And since it has been a while:

6. I am trying my hand at balcony gardening. I have planted tomatoes, green peppers and thyme. I am really hoping for the best. Any tips or advice welcomed!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Star Toaster - TOS Review

Do your kids hate reading? Are you looking for a way to get your kids excited about reading? Then, I have a review product just for you. Star Toaster is an online Reading Adventure that is sure to get your kids reading and enjoying it. We were tasked with trying out their Orphs in the Woodlands Online reading adventure, and I am glad we made it on this particular review.

What is Orphs in the Woodland?

Orphs in the Woodland is an online Reading book that offers you more than a reading experience. It is an interactive adventure, of which reading is the main component, but where you get to play games, and learn from a lot of different subjects.

It is all online, so you will need a computer, or tablet connected to the internet. The set up is easy, each child gets a code name and sets their profile, and then  he is set on his journey.

When you purchased this book you get a two-month subscription, with one-month extension available, good for up to three children

The story:
Your children get to be spies and seek to get the orps (orphaned by the night creatures) back to their homeland  Ivythwhite. Along the way they have to care for them by providing them with what they need. The way they do that is by earning stars through completed jobs.

The chapters of the book are rather long, but manageable. At the bottom of the screen you can see how many pages are left for you to finish that particular chapter. If your child can't finish a chapter, he can always stop and pick it up the next day. He won't be able to access the jobs until the first chapter has been completed, but after that, he will be able to access them. Certain jobs are unlocked only after a chapter has been read.

Star Toaster's motto is:

"an educational journey that combines:
a reading adventure, 
an academic treasure, 
and a rewarding game."

This is exactly what Star Toaster is. Geared towards kids between 4th and 7th grades, younger and older kids can still enjoy it and benefit from it. The academic treasure is hidden in its breadth of topics covered throughout the book:
  • Vocabulary
  • Math
  • Famous Quotes
  • Science
  • Recipes
  • Critical Thinking
  • Logic
  • Latin
  • Music
Throughout the text, there are highlighted words, which, when hovered on reveal the meaning of the word.

Lessons are scattered throughout the text, which you click on to access as you read. Those same lessons are available as well, when you do the jobs, as training sessions, before you actually get tested and earn your gold stars.

How we used it and how we liked it:

I had the boys worked on it independently at their own pace. My fast reader (6th grade) was able to complete a chapter a day and finished, the whole book within the review period. My 4th grader, struggled to finish a chapter a day, more because of the length of the chapter (as he is a slower reader), than a comprehension problem. .

They worked on it between 3-4 times a week.

The lessons included in the book took various forms: flashcards or videos. The boys absolutely found the videos hilarious. I have to admit they were quite funny, though one will have to get use to the particular kind of humor.

The jobs were mainly in the form of multiple choices questions, at the end of which you earned gold stars for correct answers.

Other aspects I loved:
  • Great and appealing graphics
  • The parents get a regular report in an e-mail of what the child has been learning and what other topics are upcoming.
  • The story emphasizes positive character traits and good values.
  • It can be done independently
Here is what my boys have to say about it:
  • It's fun
  • It's suspenseful
  • It's educational
  • You get to open secret messages
My oldest, who finished the book, is eagerly awaiting the next book that will be coming out soon.

Star Toaster offers a free trial of the first chapter, so go ahead and check it out. You probably will be glad you did.

You can connect with them as well on Social Media, and find out more about them:

Star Toaster Review

Friday, April 10, 2015

Real Life Homechool and Housekeeping

This is it, the last day of the Real Life Homeschool blog hop week. I hope you have had a chance to read the different blogs posts on the topic, and gleaned some insights into some real life homeschools.

Today let me tell you about how real life homeschooling works out for us when it comes to keeping the house clean and in order.

I just have 4 words: It does not always.

We live in an apartment and space is limited. School is done on the floor, on the sofa, on the bed, at the dinning table, and at the computer desk. What this does is that there is school work all over the house. At the end of the day I try to have both boys pick up everything and put it where it belongs, but it does not always happen. On a typical day, if you pop in my house in the middle of the day, the dinner table is a mess, the living room is a mess and the bedrooms are always a mess.

I have a few mottos I try to apply to help me keep the house in some decent order and cleanliness:

Motto #1:  "everything must have a spot where it belongs." In a small place it is hard to live by that rule, but it is needed, otherwise you get overrun with paper, toys, books, you name it. So at our house, we have a few designated areas for books, for pens and pencils, for legos, for bags etc....

Motto # 2: "if you don't need it, or have not used it recently, toss it". I came to adopt this recently, after reading about de-cluttering and wanting to make space for stuff I want to have a spot for. This one is hard for me because I always think I will have a need for something, but the key to living by that motto is to be ruthless. I mean it ruthless! Some of these things will come back around again before you actually need it next.

Motto #3: Delegate and enroll help. When the boys were younger I used to have them help around the house. Unfortunately I did not enforce it and was left to doing everything in the house. After realizing I was giving them bad habits and not teaching them responsibility and ownership of what they enjoy in the house, I decided to go back and assign them chores that they have to complete to help the house stay clean. Some, they get to earn money for as well. Their tasks are:
Doing dishes twice a week each
Taking the garbage out
Cleaning the bathtub and bathroom sink
Setting and clearing the table
Putting away dishes
Taking out the recycling.

When it comes to meals, I do cook twice a day. Lunch is usually leftover, or bread, or cereals, or some sort of store-bought pizza or chicken nugget. I cook breakfast and dinner. My hubby is a big breakfast kind of guy, so I try to cook a good breakfast.

Dinner gets ready anytime between 4:30 and 6:00. I always seek to look for recipes that are quick, one hour or less, check my pinterest boards for ideas. I love my crockpot for those days when we are out of the house all day. I love it for other days too, but I am not organised enough to plan ahead and get it going early enough to have it for dinner.

Because I tend to do my blogging in the evening, or play family games, I am often up late at night sweeping, mopping, or doing dishes. Even my baking often happens at night too.

My youngest has decreed Friday night as cookie night, so he has been baking cookies on Friday nights for the past few weeks.

So there you have a little idea of how I keep home as a homeschooler.

Real Life Homeschool Blog Hop

Here are some more blogs for you to check out:

A Net In Time
Counting Pinecones
Some Call It Natural
Kingdom Academy Homeschool
Debbie's Homeschool Corner
Life at Rossmont
A Stable Beginning
Happy Little Homemaker
Joyful Hearts and Faces
Day by Day in Our World
Mama's Coffee Shop
Delightful Learning
Double O Farms
Tales of a Homeschool Family
Home Sweet Life
A Rup Life

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Real Life Homeschool: What Really Happens

As part of the real life homeschool blog hop, I would like to share with you our schedule and how it gets, or does not always get followed. 

Monday: Online Math, Life of Fred, Grammar, Writing, Copywork, Science, History, Spelling, French, Bible, Reading and read aloud

Tuesday: Same as Monday except for spelling and read aloud. The science is lighter. In the afternoon Johann has piano lessons.

Wednesday: Same as Tuesday. In the afternoon Zach has violin lessons.

Thursday: we do not school on Thursdays because it is dad's day off ( he is a pastor). Coincidentally it is our co-op day which happens 7 weeks straight in the winter and in the spring. It goes from 12:30 to 3:30 and we do have to drive a good 30 minutes without traffic to get there, to over 1 hour in traffic time. In the winter we also have 7 weeks of volleyball on that day.

Friday: Online Math, Life of Fred, Copywork, science, History, Spelling, French, Bible, Art/Poetry, Reading and read aloud

Just recently Zach joined an ensemble that meets weekly on Fridays, at 10:30.  This has somehow disturbed our Friday schedule but we are going to figure it out somehow as we go along.

Week-end no school.

This is the official schedule, but as the blog hop says, this is real life homeschool, and real life happens. Not all the subjects get done. Many days, I will say, "no spelling", "no read-aloud", "we will do it tomorrow, or Friday" .... Often times something is not printed, and so does not get done. Or sometimes one subject takes us wayyyyyyy longer than it should and I decides to not do some other subjects that day. This is exactly why I school year round, we can catch up anytime.

Real Life Homeschool Blog Hop

Real life homeschool for us means a lot of different things, but there are five mains things that characterize our homeschooling:

Daily Bible reading at breakfast

No set start time

No set end time

Play is allowed during school hours

Trips (field trips or outings) happen anytime in the week, or month. Just this week we were all out in Buffalo celebrating my husband and I 13th anniversary.

Though we have a schedule and try to follow it as best as we can, I have to admit, our homeschool looks like me. I am not a very rigid and schedule and type A person, as a result our homeschool is not either. I am glad I have a type A child that keeps me in line and I am glad I have a laid back child that forces me to be more organized, ready and deliberate. It is a learning experience for all of us involved. No day is the same and I relish those rare days when everything goes smoothly, as set on the schedule.

Monday: Homeschooling my 4th Grader
Tuesday: Homeschooling my 6th Grader
Friday: Real Life Homeschooling and Homemaking

A few other Real Life Homeschool posts:

For This Season
Unexpected Homeschool
For Him and My Family
As We Walk Along the Road
Growing in His Glory
Homeschool Coffee Break
Daily Life
There Will Be A $5 Charge For Whining
Proverbial Homemaker
ElCloud Homeschool
Treasuring Life's Blessings
Double O Farms
This Sweet Life
Simple Living Mama
Fried Clams and Sweet Tea


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Introducing the NEW Educents Marketplace

I just recently received an email from the founders of Educents, Kate and Kaitlyn, with some really exciting news. Until today, Educents was a website for parents and educators to take advantage of daily deals.      But those deals expired...          And there were only 50 deals available at once...

I wanted saving money to be even EASIER. Kate and Kaitlyn agreed. So they created the new Educents Marketplace. It’s even easier to discover affordable educational resources that make learning FUN!


Thousands of new products - Educents Sellers can now offer ALL of their bestsellers on the new Educents Marketplace. There's a wide variety of worksheets, lesson plans, educational apps and toys.

Offers that NEVER expire - Sellers can offer our favorite educational products year-round. Once a deeply discounted Daily Deal expires, you can still find that product available on Educents at the lowest price. 

Discovery - It's easier to search on Educents. Search for your kiddos' interests like Minecraft or Frozen-inspired resources, and then sort by grade level, subject, brand, and more!
Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 9.36.15 AM

Follow your favorite brands and Sellers - The “Follow Me” feature lets me add my favorite Sellers to a list. Click the heart on the Seller Storefront. You can also see which Sellers are the most popular with other shoppers! 
  Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 5.59.18 PM

 The Educents Marketplace is exactly what I want it to be -- the best place for parents and educators to find the resources I NEED at an affordable price.      

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Real Life Homeschool - My 6th Grader Homeschool

Yesterday, as part of this week long blog hop on Real Life Homeschool,  I shared about my 4th grader school day. Today we will look at my 6th grader school day.

Real Life Homeschool Blog Hop

My oldest son is a typical first born, very autodidact, dreamer, lazy tendencies, and very laid back.

I find it harder to homechool him, but over the 8 years we have been at it, there has been progress, though there is still a long road ahead.

The difficulty arises in that he tends to get very distracted and needs to be held accountable.

When he wakes up in the morning, he likes to do his own thing, which consists of whatever is on his mind at the moment, writing a book, creating some Lego game or board games, playing imaginary battles, you name it.

After breakfast, as of recently he has taken to spending a good time in the shower. Then he tries to start his school. Most days he gets about 2-3 subjects done, then gets distracted again in doing something else, like playing with his swords, or writing or building project. Used to be by the time he starts his school, his brother would have already done 3-4 subjects. He has gotten much better at getting his school done in some timely fashion. I think maturity has a lot to do with it. He is eleven and a half.

So because of that, a lot of days his school is not done before dinner, and either carry over to the next day or gets done after dinner.

Recently, because he was getting tired of not finishing his school on time, he took it on himself to get going with school before breakfast. He would even get some doe before coming out of bed, by doing his online subjects, mainly French and Math. Unfortunately, when he wakes up late, that plan does not quite work.

His subjects' run-down, goes something like this:

French: Duolingo online

Math: A Plus Tutorsoft online

Life of Fred: with Johann and me. He usually takes him more time to finish the questions though.

Writing: together with me and Johann.

Grammar: On his own. We are doing the MCT books. We did the Voyage book together, and now he is going through Practice Voyage. I just check the sentences he does.

Spelling: with me.

Copywork: on his own.

History: the reading and map work on his own, and the Dialectic discussion questions with dad on Tuesday evenings.

Science: online on his own. Where there is hands on we do it together.

Bible Study/Devotion: with me

Logic: we are going through a book on fallacies together.

Read-Aloud: this is done together along with Johann. Zach loves books and loves being read to so he loves this time and the stories.

Reading: On his own. He loves this time of his day; he often retreats to his bedroom and on his bed for it. He has developed a real love of reading over the years; though it has to be a book he really enjoys! He tends to re-read them over.

There you have an idea of how a school day runs in the homeschool life of my 6th grader.

We do not do every subjects every day. Tomorrow I will share how our schedule is set up and how it actually runs. I will also share some of our routine activities.

Every Bed of Roses
Ben and Me
Footprints in the Butter
Mountain of Grace Homeschooling 
Counting Our Blessings
Ozark Ramblings
Chestnut Grove Academy
Only Passionate Curiosity
Farm Fresh Adventures

Monday, April 6, 2015

Real Life Homeschool - Homeschooling my 4th Grader

Many always wonder what it is like to homeschool and what a typical day is like for a homeschooler. Well this week I am joining over 50 other bloggers to share with you what our days really look like.

Real Life Homeschool Blog Hop

I have 2 boys, grade 4 and grade 6. Today I will share a day with my 4th grade,r and tomorrow a day with my 6th grader.

Let me preambule this with a few things to know about my 4th grader:
He is very routine oriented
He is by the book
He is driven
He likes to achieve and be done
He likes to have time to do what he wants to do and therefore tends to plan out his day.
He loves to eat
He moves a lot

I am not a morning person so my kids are usually up before me. Don't throw the tomatoes at me!!

Sometimes, my 4th grader will get started wit his school before breakfast, depending on his mood and how much work he has to do.

After breakfast, which is usually anytime between 8:30-9:30 am, he gets groomed and gets to work. Most days though he stays in his pajamas - he loves his pajamas. Every so often play gets in the way and he does not get started until 1/2 hour to 1 hour later. That play consists of messing around with his brother, or working on a puzzle, or anything that caught his attention

Both boys love to do their subjects in the order they wish, so I let them. My youngest is a bit more predictable in that regard though.

Here is what his do do list looks like.

When he needs me for a subject, he calls me out. If I am not ready to come, he usually either goes and plays something or works on a puzzle. And then he tells me: "tell me when you're ready." He will not do a different subject! He has to stick to whatever order he sets himself to do that day - except on those rare days when I am taking forever to come.

Subject run-down:

Online math - he does it independently and usually does well without me.

Life of Fred: we do together, with my 6th grader as well. I read the text and then they work on the "your turn". Sometimes he is seated next to me, sometimes he wonders around while I read. When it is time to do the exercises, we have to fumble around looking for pens and paper, but it does eventually get done.

Grammar: we usually work on it together, as grammar is not his strong suit. We are doing Practice Voyage right now.

Writing - we also do this together with my oldest. Same scenario where I read the text and then they do the exercise separately.

Latin -  he does on his own and then I correct it, or help him with the vocabulary.

French - we do together.

History - he does on his own as it is mostly reading, or filling out maps.

Science - on his own as well as it's online too. On days that we have hands-on we do it together.

Read-aloud - together obviously.

Reading - The required time is an hour which he fulfills with both audiobooks and with actual books (required by dad). When he listens to the audiobook, he usually works on  a puzzle at the same time.

Copywork - done independently

Spelling - done with me - tight now we are doing spelling lists test.

Art and Poetry - We do it together. we are going through a book together

Bible Study/Devotion - we just recently started a new Bible study book from the crew, and we are working on it together. This serves as a nice one on one intimate time.

My 4th grader is the one who is usually done by 2 or 3 in the afternoon most days. Once he is done, he gets to play with his technology.

There you have a day in the homeschool life of my 4th grader. Tomorrow, you will look at my 6th grader and how he days usually goes. Later in the week I will also share how the homemaking gets done while we homeschool (or more accurately barely gets done!).

Don't forget to visit the other bloggers' Real Life Homeschool stories.

Here are ten to get you started:

Indy Homeschool
The Open Window-An Autism Blog
Creative Madness Mama
Hopkins Homeschool
Tots and Me...
Growing Up Together
Our Journey
Crystal Starr
A Little This ... A Little That
For the Display of His Splendor

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Hearts for Home Blog Hop

I am joining over 15 other bloggers to bring you the Hearts for Home weekly blog Hop where you can share your family friendly posts.

Hearts for Home Blog Hop

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You can meet the other co-host bloggers here.

The Hearts for Home Blog Hop features encouraging and inspiring posts on home, marriage, parenting, tips and tricks for homeschooling, cooking, crafts, DIY projects, and anything home related. This is your one stop for sharing your family friendly posts and for finding these resourceful blog posts you are looking for.

Every week we feature the most clicked through post from the previous week, and this week, it is a wonderful printable pack from Monsters Ed Homeschool Academy that received the most clicks:
Barbie Preschool and Totschool Pack.

My personal favorites from last week:

Encouraging Boys to write

4 Things I have Learned on our Homeschooling Journey

15 Reasons to Love Your Library

***Family friendly posts ONLY! We reserve the right to delete any post that do not fit this criteria.