Thursday, December 31, 2009

National Blog Posting Month

Well, I tried National Novel Writing Month back in November and didn't make it so far. I started late and got 10 000 words into my novel and then decided it was WAY too intellectual so I scraped it and made it another 10 000 words into a second, much more fun, idea. Close to 20 000 words...not bad but a long way from that 50 000 word goal! So, I'm giving it another go but instead the goal is to publish a blog post every day for a month (any month). It should be manageable considering I used to, once upon a time, post quite regularly.

I moaned and complained about this blog not being what I anticipated anymore so now I'm going to do something to change that! (Thanks Tim from TOS...visit his blog here!)

To find out more about National Blog Posting Month please visit .

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas Overview

We had a lovely time and hope you did as well!

Waiting patiently to dig in to our snacks on Christmas Eve!

Keeping it easy for the pregnant lady!


Christmas bunch..... was YUMMY!!

Liam loves his new DS is driving Mommy crazy!

Morgaine's favorite gifts!

Not a bad looking turkey!

Christmas Supper

Sunday, December 27, 2009

24 Weeks-Growing, Growing, Growing....

One day early last week, I spent the night awake because I could not be comfortable because of round ligament pain. Every movement hurt as everything stretched and grew.....really, REALLY grew!!

I'm very, very suddenly looking like I am closer to 37 weeks than 24! I feel absolutely humongous! I don't make my babies small but this is ridiculous. Not only am I looking really pregnant, but I am feeling really pregnant. Breathing and eating have already become difficult and sleeping has definitely become interesting with my nest of pillows. I'm thinking I will have to find a bed of my own soon as more and more pillows make their way into the bed! Poor Mike!

We are still waiting for confirmation on whether or not I will be able to use a midwife for the remainder of the pregnancy. Two midwives are required to attend a home birth and the second midwife is due to be away around my due date so they are unsure as to whether or not they'll still be able to take me. I am also not in their jurisdiction and they have not been taking client from "away" since the new regulations have come into place. I should hear back from them on the 11th of January with news on whether of not they think they can help me out. As of now, my appointment in their area has been put on hold.

Only time will tell....

I continue to feel pretty good but am ready to have a "final" plan in place as to the birth...

I will let you know more as soon as I know!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Opps, We've Done it Again....Maybe

As you know we have a soft spot for cats in need. Remember George? Remember Mama?

Well, here is the newest addition.

Mike showed up on the doorstep at noon with this kitty in his arms and I couldn't turn them away. One of his elderly clients had been feeding this cat outside for a while but noticed that it was getting more and more matted signaling that she no longer had an owner. Of course, kind hearted Mike decided we could take her in for now. Hey, what's one more cat when you already have four, right?

Anyways, it is our intention that she be a short term boarder until we find a suitable home for her so if any of you wonderful kindhearted Capers out there would like a kitty we do have one available. She seems to really, really patient and affectionate. I think she would be good with the other kitties but right now we do have her separated from the rest of the gang. She has a couple little sores from being outside fending for herself for a while but they look like they will heal well with a bit of time.

Certainly feel free to let us know if you or someone you know would like to open your home to her. Until then, we are the proud (crazy?) owners of FIVE cats!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Wishing you a Blessed Solstice

You darkness, that I come from,
I love you more than all the fires
that fence in the world,
for the fire makes
a circle of light for everyone,
and then no one outside learns of you.

But the darkness pulls in everything;
shapes and fires, animals and myself,
how easily it gathers them!—
powers and people—
and it is possible a great energy
is moving near me.
I have faith in nights.

- Rainer Maria Rilke, On Darkness

On this shortest day of the year take a moment to reflect on the darkness but then gracefully and graciously step into the light of a new day. Embrace those around you and celebrate a new dawn, a new light, a new day. Many blessing to you and yours as you celebrate solstice and Christmas with those that are dear to you and much love and light as you head into a new year filled with new beginnings.

Namaste....Blessed Be

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Place of her Own

Ever since she's been born Morgaine has shared a room/bed with someone. As an infant she snuggled in close to Mommy and Daddy and then when she got too big for that, she and Mommy got a room together in the basement where it was cooler. Then, when Mommy had enough of that, Morgaine moved into Liam's bed with him. When we moved to Cape Breton, the room was big enough to have two beds. So she finally had a bed of her own and did really well with it. Liam and Morgaine have very different sleeping styles, though. Liam likes it dark and quiet. Morgaine likes the light on and to sing herself to sleep. Even though there's not a lot of extra room in out house we decided to give Morgaine a place of her own. Daddy cleared out the storage room and Mommy painted (pink, of course!).

Morgaine loves her new room.....

BUT somehow by early morning they usually end up with each other (sometimes in Liam's bed, and sometimes in Morgaine's) and their favorite things to do is to "camp out" in Liam's room on the floor!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Maestro Classics-A New Twist on a Much Beloved Favorite

Product: The Tortoise and the Hare: Stories in Music
Company: Maestro Classics
Price: 16.98$US

It was a great pleasure to review "The Tortoise and the Hare: Stories in Music" featuring the London Philharmonic Orchestra as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew. As a family, it was pretty much our first ever experience with books on CD (besides one totally annoying book/CD combo I borrowed from the library last summer). I have to say that it was a WONDERFUL experience for my son and I. Combining a classic story with a delightful new classical score preformed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra is a winning combination.

My 4 year old daughter dismissed this product immediately saying she already knew the story of "The Tortoise and the Hare". However, this CD was so much more that just the classic retelling of a timeless Aesop's fable. Liam was delighted that the story was so much more involved and complex than the one that he was familiar with. The hare who is "exceding proud of his lower extremities", the pretzel vendor of Paris selling his wares at the starting line, Mrs. Beaver and her new French style cafe, and the tortoise whose only desire to make a respectable showing at the race are brought to life by narrator, Yadu (who does a phenomenal job). The "silences" are punctuated with a delightful musical score that portrays each characters personality without words.

In addition to the story (running 20 minutes 44 seconds) the CD also includes information on the original Aesop's fable, the composer (Stephen Simon) discussing how he was able to create a score for the story that fit each character so well, the song "Pretzel Vender of Paris" as well as a sing-a-long of the same song. The informational booklet that is included with the CD includes basic information on music, hares and tortoises (and how the are different from rabbits and turtles, the words and music for "The Pretzel Vender of Paris, as well as puzzles and games for your young student to complete.

If "The Tortoise and the Hare" does not appeal to you then Stories in Music offers a variety of others to choose from. Choices include:

  • Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel

  • The Soecerer's Apprentize

  • Swan Lake

  • Peter and the Wolf

  • among several others you can learn about here.

There are currently 7 titles available for 16.95$US and 3 additional gift box sets (which include a paperback version of the book in addition to the CD package) available for 24.99$US. You can also purchase 3 CDs for 45$US by using coupon code MAESTRO45. To help you make your choice, samples are available on the Maestro website. I personally think that these CD sets would make a wonderful gift and I would be happy to see them under my tree this year! I would also be more than happy to share these CDs with other music lovers on my shopping list. They are delightful, entertaining and just generally really well done!

***Any products reviewed by me as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew have been given to me free of charge in order for me to provide you with an honest review of the product and/or how we used the product within our family. I do not receive any other form of compensation for the reviews posted on this blog.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Mathletics by 3P Learning-A Review

Company: 3P Learning
Price: 99$ Canadian per student per year. 59$US per year per student in America (49.95 if you know the human calculators favorite number....9)

We've had a lot of opportunities to try out different math programs this year (both on the Homeschool Crew and just in our little homeschool). I would have to say that in general it has been very hit or miss. We've tried some things that we've loved and then we've tried some things that we really didn't. There have been programs that I've had to bribe my son to try. Thankfully, Mathletics by 3P Learning was not one of them. As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I received a 45 days membership to Mathletics' online math program.

Mathletics offers a variety of ways (over 750 actually) to challenge your child (grades K-8th) while they practice their math skills. When your student first registers, they can customize their own avatar (hair, eyes, nose, etc) that they can use to compete with other students from around the world (which is also a great geography lesson because more than once we pulled out our world map to see where other students were from). However, if your child would rather, practice mode offers a variety ways to challenge your child and with a variety of rewards/credits given for reaching certain scores even a reluctant child might find themselves enjoying trying to reach higher and higher scores.

We begun using Mathletics by having Liam play against other students. Unfortunately, this caused some stress because he'd panic if he typed in the wrong answer and then feel bad because it would take him time to correct his mistake (your child and either answer the question wrong hitting enter and go on to the next question or backspace and correct their answer before continuing and Liam would get flustered looking for the backspace key and then because he fell behind give up). After seeing this cause him stress, we decided that it may be best for him to work on the practice section instead. The practice section allows the student to practice a variety of math skills (many, MANY more than the competition section). Students earn medals/certificates and credits as the answer questions and unlock bonus games. My son really enjoyed this but did get stuck on wanting to get every section PERFECT (because the perfect sections get a gold shiny bar beside their names as opposed to the blue one the student receives if they haven't answer every question right). It took me a while to convince Liam that it was alright to make mistakes and that by making mistakes you actually learn. A good lesson that needed to be taught.

While there is a lot to captivate a reluctant math student, Mathletics also offers a lot of extras for the parent as well. When you register your child, you actually get a parent account where you can log on to see your child's results in the various areas he has practiced. You can receive weekly progress reports e-mailed to you directly which reflect your students weaknesses and strengths. I really appreciate that I didn't have to stand over Liam to see what he was learning and I am sure that he enjoyed that Mama wasn't watching over his shoulder!

With a Canadian price of 99.99$ per year, I would be reluctant to purchase this product for my family at this point. While Liam had a lot of fun and I really appreciated the ease of use, I cannot justify the cost (which is per student, by the way) for a supplemental curriculum as it would be difficult to use this product as the core curriculum so an additional math program would likely have to be purchased (in my opinion). I know that the American membership is significantly cheaper at 59$US (49.95$US if you know the human calculator's favorite number "9") and at that price I would be much more willing to purchase this product as it does have a lot of benefits over other math "drill" programs that I have seen.

To find out more about Mathletics please visit their site here. (Americans may have to type link can be finicky) To read more reviews by other Homeschool Crew Members please click here. (Some reviewers seem to have had access to additional material (instant workbooks) that I was unable to view for some reason. I was told by the company that because I had a trial membership that I did not have access but pretty much everyone else reviewing did).

***Any products reviewed by me as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew have been given to me free of charge in order for me to provide you with an honest review of the product and/or how we used the product within our family. I do not receive any other form of compensation for the reviews posted on this blog.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Belly Pictures-22 weeks

Eeks, the time is flying.

I did find my USB wire last night (finally!!!) so I will post both the 20 and 22 weeks photos. I am sure I must have taken 18 week photos as well but I cannot find them. Things continue to go well. It looks like we may have the opportunity to travel to Bridgewater/Lunenburg to deliver this baby with a midwife. Mike, especially, remains uncertain about the maternity care at the local hospital here and we've been spoiled to have a midwife for the other pregnancies. We will have our initial information/first prenatal appointment down there early in the New Year. As it is a bit of a trek, the kids and I would likely rent a place in the area for a month or so before the birth with Mike joining us close to the delivery date. I have every confidence that we will find something that will work out well for us.

Anyways, that's the update....

Now, for those of you who are just longing for a glimpse of my stretched marked belly (he he he) I was trying to figure out how to make a photo strip of all my pregnancy photos so far (so you could see the changes) but I could not figure it out (if someone knows a good program to use on a Mac, let me know).

Without further ado, here's 20 weeks....

and 22 weeks.....

I'm definitely growing but I think because I was soooooo swollen in the early weeks (remember these) that some people are still unsure whether I am pregnant or just continuing to gain weight. My belly certainly doesn't play peak a boo very much anymore and with a baby in there that was measuring close to a pound at 20 weeks (I don't make them small) it will only get bigger and bigger from here on out!!

Opps, I thought I posted

some belly pictures but I guess I didn't because I was soooooo excited that I will be giving birth with a midwife (or at least I am pretty sure I will be)!!! YAHOOO!!!!

(and yes, I found my USB wire so pictures to follow shortly...)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tektoma-Informational Post

Product: Tektoma: Game Tutorial for Kids
Company: Tektoma
Price: 140$US per year (14.95 per month)
Additional Information: 14 day free trial membership available

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I was given a 3 month membership to Tektoma, a website which allows you to play and develop your own computer games using easy to follow video tutorials. There are tutorials for everything from racing games, platform games, fantasy games and more. Each tutorial lets you know what will be involved in the games so that if you do not want your child to view certain content you can choose different tutorials (some contain shooting but are relatively non-violent...think older Mario Brothers games here). Unfortunately, the software used to develop the games is not supported on my Mac so I was unable to take full advantage of this subscription. I did get the opportunity to view some of the tutorials and supplemental resources/premade "sprites" (characters/vehicles needed to make the games in the tutorials). I believe that if there are avid gamers in your house (whether a child or an adult with limited (or no) computer programming experience) who might like to try developing their own games this is a worthwhile membership to invest in.

To use Tektoma to it's full potential you will need:

  • Windows XP or Vista

  • Broadband Internet (the video tutorials are MASSIVE and would not work well with a dial-up connection)

  • Any current browser

  • GameMaker software installed on your computer (available for free on the Tektoma Website)

According to the website, Tektoma offers you:

  • Engaging video tutorials for ages 7-17

  • Tutorials of varying skill levels and topics

  • Learn at your own pace in the comfort of your home

  • Natural progression helps develop technical skills

  • Customize your learning experience

  • Low monthly membership fee gives access to all our resources

  • New curriculums available monthly

For a 140 dollar year long membership (or 14.95$US per month) you also get access to forums where you can gain additional support when building your games. Tektoma also offers a 14 days free trial membership so you can try it out to see if it is something that interests you and your family before you commit to buying a membership. If we had the requirements on our computer this is something that I would consider purchasing (likely on a monthly basis) for my son as he really loves games and is also interesting in making his own. He has tried several online sites but nothing seems near as complete as these tutorials and software. To get your free 14 day trial membership click here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Spelling Made Easy with All About Spelling

My son, who is 6, spells well for his age. I, on the other hand, at MUCH older than 6, do not spell very well. My method of spelling is to write the word down and see if it looks right. I decided that this year I would start a formal spelling program with Liam. I was quickly bombarded with questions like "when do I use a K and when do I use a C?" "How do I know if a word needs CK at the end?" and "why does night and weight have a 'ght' at the end instead of 'te'?" Unfortunately, while I generally spell correctly, I do not know the rules behind spelling so I was unable to give him really clear answers. Thankfully, as part of the TOS Crew I was selected to review All About Spelling (Levels 1 and 2). This easy to use program could not have come at a better time!

This product is broken down into levels (currently 5 with another to be introduced in the spring) that start with the basics and progress from there. It is important to note that the levels are not based on grade level and while the spelling words contained in the earlier levels may not prove difficult for your older student the teachings in these earlier levels ensures that there will not be gaps in your child's grasp of spelling. Even an older child that it having some difficulty with spelling would benefit from starting at level one of this program. Liam and I have had time to get through most of level 1 in the review period and will move on to level 2 come the new year. Level 1 begins by teaching how to write and say the first 32 phonograms and how to segment words into sounds and then syllables. Several spelling rules and tips are taught throughout the lessons as well. Students learn about short and long vowel sounds, how to write the plural of words and when to use "ck" at the end of a word (amongst much more).

According to All About Spelling's website (their comments in bold, mine in regular font), All About Spelling:

  • is multisensory: Studies suggest that children learn better when they use more that one sense to learn a subject. All About Spelling incorporates hearing and seeing with kinesthetics (writing, moving tokens and letter tiles) to teach students how to spelling.

  • is logical: I really appreciate that this program makes sense. I'm not teaching things and wondering why I am teaching them. The lessons follow a logical progression which is good for the teacher and good for the student as well because neither are left guessing what the purpose of the lesson is. Each successive lesson is built on a previous one and Liam was clearly able to see that and point out the connections.

  • is mastery-based and has continual review: Liam did not appreciate this as much as I did as he does not have a lot of patience for doing things over and over again. I, on the other hand, feel that it is pointless to move ahead with any subject if the student has not grasped the easier concepts related to that topic (one of my issues with public school is that students can get let behind because in general the teachers don't have time to make sure that all students have mastered the topics being covered). With continual review, the students do not forget what was learned previous and as they continue to built on the concepts they gain confidence in their spelling skills. Using an index card system for learning and review, each topic (coloured coded and provided to you on perforated card stock) is divided into three sections (review material, mastered material, and material for future use) and separated by index cards also provided with the level. This simplifies things greatly and eliminates the need for lists and scralwed notes to track progress.

  • is clear: There is no guessing when it comes to All About Spelling. Each lesson is carefully planned out and scripted, not giving the teacher a chance to worry about how to introduce the material. As I mentioned, the program is logical and what is logical is usually clear for both student and teacher.

It is also worth noting that All About Spelling contains NO GAPS. If there is a reliable rule that will help your child out, we teach it. If there is a tip that will help your child master a certain spelling pattern, it’s in there. I've been able to teach Liam some of the spelling tricks that he asked about in is "how do you know..." questions. I also have confidence that his other questions will be answered as we progress through the other levels of All About Spelling.

For the cost of 29.95 (for the lessons) and 26.95 (for the starter kit containing tiles, magnets and phonogram CD used for all levels) I think that this program is a worthwhile investment if you are struggling to figure out the best way to teach your child how to spell well. Be sure to check out their website for more information on this program.

***Any products reviewed by me as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew have been given to me free of charge in order for me to provide you with an honest review of the product and/or how we used the product within our family. I do not receive any other form of compensation for the reviews posted on this blog.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What we are up to-Early December

In no particular order...

  • Lots and lots of drawing....Liam is making up a fantasy book (mostly drawings), Morgaine is obsessed with drawing princesses and knights, and I am fooling around with my early Christmas gift of professional colour pencils from Mike.

  • Gestating a wee baby BOY. 21 weeks along now and looking pregnant and feeling better.

  • Hoping to get in a couple births as a doula/labour assistant before my wee baby comes earthside.

  • Learning about Advent and trying to get back to a more natural family focused holiday with lots of crafting and baking.

  • Learning how to play keyboard (sort of) with Kinderbach (review to follow shortly).

  • Working on making the house ready for our spring time addition (we have a couple walls torn out at the minute and hope to get a bathtub put in soon).

  • Enjoying drama class. The kids had a blast during their first semester with Class Acts Drama School.

  • DESPERATELY searching for my USB wire as I have a ton of photos/post ideas ready but no way to get the pictures off my camera.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Amanda is TWO!

Earlier this year I introduced you to my dear dear friends' baby who was born with Tisomy 18. I am please to announce that just a couple of weeks ago she celebrated her second birthday and continues to do well and bring many blessings to all those that know her. Her father and mother sent me an update on how she was doing, that I am happy to share with your all here. To read it, please follow this link.

Friday, November 27, 2009

I really sorry that this blog

seems to have become a review site only....that certainly was not my intention when I started it 2 years ago. Now, I do love reviewing and feel blessed with the opportunity but I miss sharing a little bit of our daily lives with you (not that there's much to share but I know that there are some family members that miss the updates on the kids and stuff.

I hope that I can get back into a more balanced place on the blog....

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Advent is Just Around the Corner

This year has certainly flown by for us. Christmas is just around the corner but before we celebrate Christmas we must also celebrate Advent. Growing up, Advent wasn't really celebrated in my family, though we did attend Church. For a couple years, I attended Our Saviour King Academy in Newfoundland and the emphasis put on Advent was really refreshing. At least weekly (if not daily) all the elementary school would get together and light the advent candles and there would be scripture reading. I also knew a few families that would partake in the tradition as a family (that I got to partake in from time to time). I really enjoyed it. However, as the years went by Christmas got more and more commercial for our family and I have never been very much into the hustle and bustle of shopping and Santa. Now for the first time, Mike and I will be away from our families for the holidays and I am hoping to bring in some of our own traditions (okay, the tradition I would like to start) to the season.

This year, starting on Sunday, the 29th of November, we will be starting a study of advent that you can find here. We may not actually do the lighting of the candles but I hope to do the reading, scriptures with the children. I feel that it is important that they know more about the coming of Jesus. We have read about it before but I think it is time to go just a little bit deeper and I think that my son, who yes, still loves the Bible will especially enjoy this exploration!

Feel free to join us if you will.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

AVKO Membership

As part of the TOS Homeschool Crew I have been privileged with a year long membership to AVKO. When I first went to their website I couldn't figure out for the life of me what it was all about. There was just so much information that I had a hard time processing it all. AVKO's "mission is to provide free and low-cost resources to school and home educators in order to achieve literacy for all, even despite learning challenges or dyslexia." AVKO, which stands for audio, visual, kinesthetic, oral, was founded by Don McCabe who is the developer of the Sequential Spelling program that you may have heard of as a home educator. The program focuses on teaching a child to spelling using all four means (hearing, seeing, writing, saying) with daily practice and exercises. As we are not using this spelling program I was unsure of what, if anything a membership to this website would offer me. I was happy to see that the site definitely had stuff to offer those who are not using their spelling program.

Here's some of the good stuff waiting for you with a 25 dollar yearly membership:

• Discounts on AVKO printed materials
• Hundreds of dollars worth of FREE e-books (PDF format)
• Access to the Member Only section
• AVKO Newsletter with freebies, discounts, resources, and promotions
• Access to Don McCabe's most popular workshop recordings in MP3 format.
• Supplemental Curriculum Materials including word games, worksheets, activities, and more!

Included in the free e-books is To Teach a Dyslexic, and while my reader/speller does not have this challenge I found this book to be quite inspiring and informative. I'd pay the 25 dollar membership for just this book! The Teaching of Reading & Spelling: A Continuum from Kindergarten through College. was also quite informative for both teachers of dyslexic and not dyslexic students. I would recommend getting your hands on a copy of this book. I appreciate that AVKO's material seems to embrace fun and humour as well as being informative. There are a few instances in the children's material that the humour is a bit inappropriate so I would recommend prereading the sheets that you choose to give your students.

I think that a membership to AVKO would be a very good investment for families struggling to teach a child with dyslexia (or any other child that is having difficulty grasping reading and spelling). It's also great for people that are using their Squential Spelling program already. At 25 dollars for a year membership, I feel that it might be a worth while investment even if you do not necessarily have a struggling reader. The material is interesting and if you take the time to really get to know the website (not always easy at first) you will likely come across some real gems.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Free Resource from The American Heritage Education Foundation

Picture 14

I wasn't expecting to get to review FREE material as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew but about a month ago, I received a CD from The American Heritage Foundation. The CD contains information on four themes prevalent in American history that the American Heritage Education Foundation feel are missing in a child's education today-freedom, unity, progress and responsibility. The information is available in three different levels from K-12 as well as also having the elementary level also available in Spanish. The material can be downloaded directly from their website or they will ship a CD with the material to you for FREE.

As a Canadian, I have not taught American history/citizenship to my children, nor do I know all that much about it. I enjoyed reading through the information, though I found that it would be a little be dry for younger children, like my own. The activities seemed to be better suited to a classroom but many could adapted to fit into a homeschool environment without too much effort. There are a few, though, that require a large group of students so would be impossible to do (unless of course you wanted to do them as part of a homeschooling co-op). Included is a wide variety of activities that nicely cover the 4 themes that they set out to explore (each section lets you know at the beginning which theme(s) will be covered. It would be too difficult to cover the different themes together as a family even with children from a variety of age ranges.

While the material would be considered a little dry for my homeschool, it is FREE so I would totally recommend that my American readers go to The American Heritage Educational Foundation and get a copy. I feel that themes are important to touch on and the information is valuable and if used in conjunction with other activities would provide quite valuable to any homeschool (and public school, for that matter).

Menu Planning Monday-November 9

Picture 11
Saturday: Chinese food
Sunday: Jigg's Dinner
Monday: Hopefully Mike will get home in time to make his incredible shrimp pasta (I will post pictures and the recipe later this week if he does)
Tuesday: Crockpot ham with rice and carrots
Wednesday: Lentil Dahl (I'm too distracted on Tuesdays to make it and have burnt it the last two times *lol*)
Thursday: Minestrone with homemade bread
Friday: Cod fishcakes (sorry, the older pictures from my old blog site do not work over here)

Friday, November 6, 2009

I think I might be NUTS!

Picture 9

Well, through my circle of homeschooling friends I've finally heard of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). As an aspiring writer, one might have thought I'd have heard of this sooner. No, not I. I've been blissfully unaware of anything that could actually challenge me to get out there and write. However, once I did find about about this annual challenge to write a 50 000 word novel in one month, I couldn't get it out of my head (I almost wrote bed, and no, I couldn't get it out of my bed either). I crawled under the covers on Wednesday night expecting to fall into a deep sleep (it has been a long couple days with a sickie daughter) but instead I started writing a novel and finally at 4:30, I got up and made my way to the computer to sign up for the challenge. I do think that I have completely lost it. How is a homeschooling Mom of two (who barely has time to keep up with her blog) ever going to find the time to write a book? My only answer, I have NO IDEA!!

The book was forming in my head so easily as I lay there in bed on Wednesday, but in typical Katrina style as soon, as soon as I sat at the computer the words just flew out of my head and out the door, instead of onto the screen. I need to write 2000 words a day to reach my goal and when I look at it that way it seems totally possible, however, when I think about the whole project I have no idea how it will ever get done. Maybe I have a good idea for a short story, maybe even a tad longer, but 50 000 words. I'm such a perfectionist that I'll write a sentence 5 different ways before I choose the one I like. The goal of NaNoWriMo though is to write, not to write perfectly; to get the ideas out there and let the story form (LEAVE EDITING TIL DECEMBER!!!). I'm up for the challenge!!! I've written novellas (yes, we shall call this a novella) before so really, it is possible.

I've written 1273 words so far. Only 48727 left to go!!!

Find out more about National Novel Writing Month here.

(BTW, this blog post is 383 words *lol*)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Belly Pictures - 16 and a half weeks



There's not a lot new to report on the pregnancy front. Everything seems to be going well. I can officially say that the morning sickness seems to be a thing of the past (as well as the constant need to snack). While I was sure I was feeling the baby a couple weeks ago I haven't felt much of anything since. I am anxious for the real little kicks to start. Wee baby rolling and gas are just too similar. I'm feeling good but you don't want to catch me on a day when I haven't gotten enough sleep. IRRITABLE I TELL YOU!! Luckily the kids (and Mike) have been letting me sleep in most mornings. I really have to be better at getting to bed early so maybe I'll set that as a goal for the coming weeks. I have a doctor's appointment next week and then the 20 week u/s a couple weeks after that. The pregnancy is flying and before you know it I'll be half way there!

Monday, November 2, 2009


Picture 1
Product: abcteach membership
Price: 40$US/year

If you are a homeschooler, and enjoy using worksheets in your homeschool, you've likely come across abcteach in your online searches for material. If you go to google, type in a subject (let's say "fall") and the word "worksheet", it is likely that one of the top results (4th in this case) will be from abcteach. The website offers 5000+ FREE printable worksheets and activities geared towards preschool to upper elementary students. As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received a free month long membership to the website, which gave me access to 35 000 additional worksheets and activities!

I will admit, that I often consider worksheets to be busy work, and do not often use them. I prefer to read with my children, discuss topics and do hands on activities. However, there are times when busy work can come in handy and I was surprised to see how many worksheets that were available to supplement the work we were already doing. For example, when we received the membership we were just finishing up Charlotte's Web. I was able to print up a word scramble, writing prompts and a crossword puzzle for Liam based on the book (which was nice quiet work he was able to do at the library waiting for his sister's preschool to finish). Liam had also finished reading Dingos at Dinnertime (a Magic Tree House book) and we were able to find a guide for that book as well as lots of information on Australia. We printed tangrams for math and also sat together and did some word problems/questionnaires without having to print off the material. In addition to math and reading, there are numerous worksheets for printing, science, arts and crafts activities, and unit studies. Having a paid membership at allows you to make a variety of custom worksheets. You can use your own word lists to make word searches, crossword puzzles, and other spelling games. You can make sheets for copy work and math worksheets. These tools are easy to use and save time if you like to make your own worksheets.

The year membership costs 40$US/year and allows you access to all 35, 000+ worksheets and activities, as well as the custom worksheet option. There are new things being added to the site on a weekly basis. If you look around online you can sometimes find co-ops that allow you to get additional savings on a membership to this website. If your children enjoy using worksheets then I think that this may be a good website to explore. I would also recommend it to elementary school teachers (and it fact, when I was first looking at the site, felt it would be more appropriate to a teacher that was teaching numerous students at once as opposed to a homeschooling family). While the site is recommended for students from preschool to upper elementary, I found that most of the material is geared toward a younger audience so I would not buy a membership if I had children in the upper age range. In general, I would recommend this site for families with younger children that enjoy using worksheets to supplement learning, however, it is not a site that I would use regularly in my homeschool.

I couldn't help it...

A couple days ago, Morgaine decided to throw one of her awesome temper tantrums because I wouldn't give her what she wanted to eat. Lots of tears, very dramatic, some hurtful words. I bent down in front of her to make eye contact and attempt to explain that supper was coming so she would have to wait. I took one look in her eyes and I couldn't help it, I broke out laughing....


She looked so cute with the "hair" and the big tears. Well, I broke out laughing and she started laughing and we took a picture and her hunger was forgotten.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Virginia Soaps and Scents

GEDC0053Product: Sample soap kit and laundry soap starter kit
Company: Virginia Soaps and Scents
Price: Various prices (check website for details)

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I was excited (and somewhat surprised) to receive a delightful little package from Virginia Soaps and Scents. As someone who likes to play around making my own lotions and potions, I was inspired by the Spargur family who took a homeschooling history lesson and turned it into a work at home opportunity. Virginia Soaps and Scents have created a variety of handmade soaps, lotions, linen sprays and more. As a member of the TOS Homechool Crew, I received 3 sample size soap bars (fresh orange, coconut lemongrass, and oatmeal, milk and honey), one sample shampoo bar, and a starter laundry soap kit to try with my family.

Homemade Soap Bars

My whole family enjoyed these soap bars. Containing quality oils, these soaps felt really rich as we washed but did not leave behind a greasy feeling residue. I had been experiencing dry skin as a result of pregnancy and as soon as I started using these soaps the problem went away. My husband and I loved the fact that these soaps did not melt away in the shower like other natural soaps we have used. In fact, in the month we were using the soaps we only needed about one and a half sample bars (1.75 oz each) for our family of 4. Their standard bar size is 4.5 oz for 4.50$US, so definitely a good value for the price. It's also worth mentioning that Virginia Soap and Scents also makes gourmet soaps that are absolutely beautiful. They have also started selling sampler kits and gift packages that will likely be on my list of stocking stuffers this year.

Shampoo Bar

My son, Liam, and I enjoyed using the soap bar (my husband is set in his ways and my daughter does not have enough hair for me to say whether it worked well for her or not). The first time I used the soap bar it was an experience. My hair felt really, really tangly and my head was pretty itchy. I was not sure that I would want to continue with it. I did, however, and by the third washing or so, some beautiful hair started to emerge. My very frizzy hair was not longer flying all over the place and it was quite wavy. The best thing of all, though, was when I was brushing my son's hair after the first time he used it and he said "hey, Mom, you aren't pulling my hair." His hair that is usually quite tangled was easy to brush for the first time since he's been a baby. I had to say that me head still itches when I use this product, but I don't have any dandruff and neither my son or my husband (who I convinced to try the soap once so he could tell me if it made his scalp itch) have had this problem. I would still continue to use this product despite the fact.

Laundry Soap Kit

I enjoyed using the laundry soap kit to make our own homemade laundry soap. The instructions were easy to follow and the final result turned out looking like laundry soap, thick laundry soap, but laundry soap just the same. It seemed to clean the clothes well and I liked the fact that there were no harsh chemicals/detergents in the product. The mixture ends up quite thick so I would recommend not pouring it directly into the washing machine as it could easily all come out in a big glob. I know that some members of the Crew used a measuring cup to scoop out what they needed. I found that if I shook it well before using then it wass easy to pour. I will likely try to make our own laundry soap from now on as a result of trying this product. As I like to have a bit of a scented laundry detergent I would likely add a couple drops of essential oil to the mixture once it has cooled.

I was very happy with the products that I received from Virginia Soaps and Scents and I invite you to visit their website to view all their products and learn more about the pricing. I do believe that their products are competitively priced and I would not hesitate to buy from them. It's nice to be able to support another homeschooling family with a product that I truly believe in.

***Any products reviewed by me as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew have been given to me free of charge in order for me to provide you with an honest review of the product and/or how we used the product within our family. I do not receive any other form of compensation for the reviews posted on this blog.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Cape Breton Place of the Week-Hank's Farm

As a family, we always try to reserve a special place to visit at least monthly, if not more frequently. When we lived in the Montreal area, we would visit The Ecomuseum regularly to walk and visit the animals. When we first arrived in Cape Breton, we'd spend hours driving around on the weekends looking for a special place we could walk or visit. It was always fun to see new places but we didn't find an area that was enjoyable for everyone (and the kids didn't always appreciate the long drives). On our quest to eat locally, we were introduced to Hank's Farm and it quickly became our weekly family destination. Only about 10 minutes from home, it is a wonderful place to start our weekends. We pick up our produce (at EXCELLENT prices) and then the kids get to play and Mike gets to visit the animals. Everyone wins!

Here are some pictures from our last visit (I know, I've been really bad about posting photos and just family updates recently).





Looking for our trip to the farm tomorrow. I'm not sure what we are going to do when it shuts down for the winter!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sarah's Wish by Jim Baumgardner

Picture 12 Product: Sarah's Wish
Company: Sarah Books
Price: $9.99US shipping included

As an avid reader of historical fiction, I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to read and review Sarah's Wish for TOS Homeschool Crew. Written by Jim Baumgardner (proud grandfather of 9 homeschooled grandchildren, by the way) Sarah's Wish takes you back in time to 19th century when slavery was still legal in many of the southern states of the USA. Young Sarah finds herself orphaned after her Mama is killed in an accident and as a result she must continue her Mama's quest to lead runaway slaves to freedom via the Underground Railway. Not knowing who to trust, Sarah must learn how to help those in need while at the same time cope with the loss of her mother. Through the book Sarah's faith is strong as she prays to God to grant her one special wish. However, by the end of the book she realizes that there are more important things than just this one wish.

This 126 page book was a delight to read and would be suitable for most children. I have not shared it with my children at this time as they are completely unaware of any of the hardships African Americans faced as slaves in America. While many slaves escaped to Canada, the history of the Underground Railroad is not a topic that is usually covered in Canadian social studies. However, in a couple years, I hope to cover some American history in our social studies unit and Sarah's Wish is a book that I look forward to sharing at that time. I have no doubt that the cast of characters and the vivid descriptions in this book with captivate them and keep them listening 'til the very last page. Learning opportunities are sprinkled as little extras through the book as Sarah learns from Granny, her guardian, about about herbs/medicine and goes on numerous outings with her (to the wheelwright, on a steamboat, for example). My children will surely gobble up these learning opportunities. Both of them are very much interested in herbalism and both have very much enjoyed the opportunities we've been given to explore history, via The Highland Village Museum and the Fortress Louisbourg here in Cape Breton. I am almost certain that they will share the same interest in American History. Jim Baumgardner's passion for history shines throughout his work and is very much contagious.

There are a few little extras worth mentioning as well. While this book is a delight to read aloud, there are instructions on how to download a free audio file of the book included at the end of the book. I have not listened to the whole audio file but the lady who does the reading is very good at what she does and really captures the feeling of the book. Jim Baumgardner also publishes an (about) monthly newsletter that is filed with little historical tidbits about the 19th century as well as sneak peaks of his other books Sarah's Promise, Sarah's Escape and a fourth book that is now in the works. To sign up visit his website here. On his website you will also be able to read excerpts from all three of his Sarah books, learn more about the Underground Railway, and even order an AUTOGRAPHED copy of any/all of the books. I invite you to check it out today!

***Any products reviewed by me as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew have been given to me free of charge in order for me to provide you with an honest review of the product and/or how we used the product within our family. I do not receive any other form of compensation for the reviews posted on this blog.

Monday Menu Plan-Oct 19th

Picture 11

I've decided to start with Saturday as that is when we do our shopping for the week...

Saturday: Mexican style tortillas with guacamole
Sunday: Vegetable Stir-fry (we ended up going out and I had pasta primavera and Mike and the kids had pizza)
Monday: Vegetable Stir-fry has been moved.
Tuesday: Lentil Dahl on rice
Wednesday: Chicken breast with carrots and potatoes
Thursday: Vegetable Potage (hopefully with homemade bread and butter)
Friday: Not sure yet but I am thinking leftovers.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Belly Pictures - 14 weeks


14 Weeks...


The baby is moving around in there more and more!! FUN TIMES!!

I'm loving - Autumn Treasures Freebie from TOS

Picture 10I love autumn! (as you already know)

To celebrate this wonderful season The Old Schoolhouse is offering a FREE Autumn Treasures complete lapbook for you to enjoy with your children.

To get your copy, please follow this link.

The kids and I are hoping to complete this over the next week (or two) and to share here (because I have yet to share a lapbook on my site and they really can be a wonderful homeschooling tool!)

I hope you enjoy it!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

E-books Galore from Guardian Angel Publishing

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I was sent 4 e-books published by Guardian Angel Publishing to Review. Guardian Angel Publishing publishes a variety of books for children ages 0-12 that are meant to be inspiring and informative. The books are available as e-books, printed books, or on CD.

Picture 1Andy and Spirit go to the Fair

This is the story of Andy, a boy confined to a wheelchair, who has the opportunity to compete in the county fair with his once wild albino horse, Spirit. Both Andy and Spirit face challenges when Spirit is taunted because he is albino. This heartwarming story of friendship and courage delights the senses. Having witnessed the benefits that children with challenges receive when they learn to ride horses, I was particularly touched by this story.

Picture 5Rainbow Sheep

The award winning story Rainbow Sheep by Kim Chatal, is a whimsical story about a shepherdess, her herd of sheep and a sad little rainbow. By weaving a fantastical tale, Genevieve, brightens the rainbows day and ends up with a surprise of her own. The fiber art images included in this book are delightful. There is also a beginner's guide for needle felting if after reading the book and admiring the photos you would like to give it a try.

Picture 6 No Bones About It: The Sum of Our Parts Series This rhyming book strives to teach the bones of the body from the bottom up. The rhyming does not feel forced at all and the book includes lots of informative tidbits on bones. I think that both the poem and the factoids would be a welcomed addition to any study of the human body. However, I was disturbed by the artwork in this book (depicting the the bones of the human body with human attributes...some rather grotesque). To be honest, up until last week I was unable to open this e-book without dashing to the washroom (but I do believe that I'm not the best judge of this at the moment with pretty severe morning sickness). I do think that while some children would find the pictures AWESOME, there are others that would find them disturbing.

Picture 9Maybe We are Flamingos

This is a book about belonging to a family. Two young flamingos are confused when they realize that all the other flamingos in the flock are pink while they are not. This book is very reminiscent of The Ugly Duckling but in the end the flamingos learn that they turn pink at about a year of age because of the food they eat. They end up drawing humourous pictures of what they would look like if they ate different foods. A nice easy book for young children to enjoy.

I like the variety of books offered on the Guardian Angel Publishing website and at 5 dollars per e-book they are a great deal. I, however, am old-fashioned and prefer to have the paper version of books. At $10.95US plus shipping and handling for paperback versions of the books, I feel that they are rather expensive for my family. I will, however, visit their website from time to time to see what new books they are offering and I may from time to time order an e-book from them. To find out more about Guardian Angel Publishing and the books they offer please visit their website here. They also offer freebies so be sure to check their site from time to time for more goodies.

***Any products reviewed by me as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew have been given to me free of charge in order for me to provide you with an honest review of the product and/or how we used the product within our family. I do not receive any other form of compensation for the reviews posted on this blog.

New Feature: Menu Plan Mondays

Picture 4

I've decided to add a new feature to my blog since I am back to the kitchen and looking forward to trying to simplify my life for the upcoming arrival. I need to get a plan going so we aren't running back and forth to the store/market more than necessary (really, who wants to be out freezing their bottoms this winter when they could be warm and cozy in the house?). So yes, I am hoping (hoping) to plan out the weeks meals in advance so that we avoid needless travel this winter. I've tried this in the past but have never kept up with it for more than a couple weeks. We shall see what this brings. I hope from time to time to be able to link to my recipes or share them as well.

Here goes (winging it a little this week because we haven't been out to get food for the week):

Monday: French onion soup
Tuesday: Chick peas in rice
Wednesday: maple/pineapple ham with mashed potatoes and honey glazed carrots
Thursday: Sweet potato in some form (forgive me, I am winging it *lol*)
Friday: Homemade spagehtti/pasta in a vegetarian arrabiata sauce.

I will also post an update on the 100 (130) Mile diet this week. From the above menu it is obvious that we aren't following it as well as well could!

Bonnie Terry's Writer's Easy Reference Guide

Picture 1 Product: Writer's Easy Reference Guide
Bonnie Terry Learning

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I was surprised when I was told that I would be receiving a Bonnie Terry product to review. As Bonny Terry Learning specializes in helping children that are struggling in particular areas (math, reading, writing, spelling) I couldn't see how her products would be a benefit to my son, who is actually advanced in most areas. A couple weeks later, I received Bonnie Terry's Writer's Easy Reference Guide. We haven't started a formal writing/grammar program with Liam, who is 6, so it is not something that I am readily able to use with him at the moment.

However, I do think that it is a worthwhile resource. I love how the compact 12 page guide is hole punched (with reinforced holes) and ready to place in your student's English/writing binder. While I believe that my son is too young to receive much benefit from this product, I think it would be suitable resource for a child who is learning how to write formal essays for the first time. In fact, there were times that I could have used this resource during my first year of college and had to keep looking up how to write a bibliography! According to Bonnie Terry's website, the reference guide includes "paragraph writing hints, essay writing hints, steps of the writing process, words to make your writing more interesting, common prefixes, suffixes and root words, grammatical and literary terms, how to write a bibliography." In addition it also includes a section on punctuation and capitalization rules (that I will be able to use with my son soon), a section on writing business letters, and a description of four of the basic essay types. This is a valuable tool for a student to use throughout the writing process. During brainstorming to get the main points of each paragraph down; during the writing and review process to make their sentences structure more interesting and varied, as well taking away the hassle of writing a proper bibliography at then end. If this guide is followed and used regularly, I feel that a student would gain confidence in their writing skills over time and no longer fear the dreaded essay.

For 17 dollars this is a reference guide that I would be happy to include in my middle school child's English binder at the beginning of the year. To find out more about this and other Bonnie Terry Learning products please visit her website here. To read reviews of this and other Bonnie Terry products be sure to check out The Homeschool Crew website.

***Any products reviewed by me as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew have been given to me free of charge in order for me to provide you with an honest review of the product and/or how we used the product within our family. I do not receive any other form of compensation for the reviews posted on this blog.

Friday, October 9, 2009

I'm loving....


Produce fresh from our garden....


Apple treats made from fresh picked local apples...


Decorating in the colours of harvest time...


Knitting for little bums with Patons Classic Merino in "Harvest".