Hi, my name is Melissa. Pour yourself a cup of tea and stay a while. I'm completely devoted to my Savior, madly in love with my husband, and joyously raising my daughters. I'm so glad you stopped by and I hope you enjoy your time here!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Week in Review: September 15-19

We had a really good week overall. Last year it took maybe 2 or 3 months to feel like we were in a routine. Even then it wasn't a consistent routine for a lot of different reasons. I'm so grateful this year to God for good health as we start out this year. I know there will be bumps, but starting off healthy is just such a wonderful feeling.

Oh, and I have last week's post, but completely forgot to share it anywhere last week! So you can click here to see what last week looked like.

Grace: Preschool

We are plugging away at our "preschool" curriculum which is actually kindergarten level work. She's reading at a beginning 1st grade level and I found out by accident she already gets the concepts behind addition. She is flying through the the ABC series from Rod and Staff. To be honest, I think she could handle the work in Little Hearts for His Glory, but I want to make sure I'm ready to add in another guide! We'll see how things go.

She completes her work so well and then I let her have some time on the computer, usually PBS kids. She likes having a little freedom to play and I love letting her. Our computer is used from a friend and we can set it so they can only go to particular websites. Recently she's also been using Nick Jr.

We have some art projects from a preschool Abeka book that was passed down to us. They are super simple, but Grace loves them so we did one this week with her hand print and footprint! They didn't exactly fit in either square.

My girls using Heart of Dakota guides!

They study well together and enjoy listening to each other's history and read alouds. I'm so thankful for what I feel is an academically rigorous guide, but doesn't feel academically rigorous to them. It just feels fun!

I give the girls the English tests from Rod and Staff and they just happened to both be taking one on the same day. That won't usually happen, but they thought it was pretty neat!

Beth: 2nd grade, Bigger Hearts for His Glory Unit 3

This is by far my favorite picture of the week. Beth almost always goes outside to read her literature. Even when it is raining she'll sit on our porch swing. Sometimes she doesn't look very comfortable, but she always looks happy!
Going through Bigger Hearts for His Glory this second time has been a breeze. I've been trying to analyze why and I think it is because my Beth isn't as hard on herself as Rose tends to be. I appreciate Rose's desire to do well, but Beth's easy going nature is making the whole process much easier. 

One thing Beth seems to really love each week is the timeline. She as introduced to this last year in Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory and was excited to start all over again. She also seems more interested in the history, however, it is partly due to my figuring out I needed to give her something to do. I figured this out with Rose, but not for several units in. Thankfully I remembered this at the start and so my second little sweetie benefits. Right now she's working on a 3D village of Jamestown we snagged back when Scholastic was having a dollar sale. 
Beth has been really interested in biographies recently, even just for fun evening reading. This is a really neat biography series is brand new and we got the opportunity to review one of the titles! They are all about people from the Bible and incredibly engaging for my daughter. You can read my full review here!
Both of my girls have been faithfully working on their typing skills. Typing Tournament is what I recommend for anyone looking for a kids typing program. We reviewed this last year and several months later they still beg to play it even if I don't plan to have them do it each day. Beth is doing great. She hasn't passed the first test yet, but she doesn't care because she keeps getting higher and higher scores making her more determined than ever to pass it. She loves the games and so does Rose. Grace is the only one frustrated by it because as 4, she's just not ready. 

Rose: 4th Grade, Preparing Hearts for His Glory Unit 22

Rose is really enjoying school this year. Remember how I said before Bigger is easier because Beth is more laid back than Rose was when she went through the guide? Well I'm very pleased Rose seems to have relaxed a lot and genuinely is enjoying the process. We still have our moments where her perfectionism rears its ugly head, but they are becoming fewer each week. She is happier with herself and her accomplishments and tells me almost every day how much she loves homeschooling. She is why we started. Her intense nature and inward focus on her work was not a good fit for a traditional classroom. She is such a sweet girl and extends grace to those around her all the time. I'm so thankful she isn't as hard on herself as she was in the past. 
For anyone just starting out on the Heart of Dakota Path who feels the writing is light, do not worry. I honestly felt the same way at the beginning, mostly because I didn't fully understand that Heart of Dakota follows a Charlotte Mason methodology. Now that we are 5 guides into this program I am totally sold. Rose is becoming and excellent non-fiction writer and it is coming easily. It didn't at first, but it has so far this year. I love her creative poems with inspiration drawing from our weekly poetry units. I'm really excited for the creative writing in Hearts for Him Through Time: Creation to Christ which we're on track to start in January. 

She was seriously sitting like this thinking while we were working on her creative writing for poetry. I love that we're talking about similes, metaphors, and personification. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I love this curriculum and I fall more in love with it every week! 
And then my husband gave me this crazy awesome t-shirt! Icing on the cake for my week. Before anyone asks, I would LOVE to share the link with you, BUT it isn't in the website anymore. T-Spring is the company and it seems to have been just a one-time thing. Sorry!

Great week at our house. It feels so good to say this, but honestly, I know very well what tough weeks look like. Take a look at most of my weeks in review from last year! I'd love to hear from you. How was your week? Good? Tough? Somewhere in between? Please share! 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Palace of Darkness: A Book Look Blogger Review

I love history, but one of my least studied eras was ancient and biblical history. I'm finding a very fun way to explore the past through historical novels. Since my daughter is studying this era of history more extensively this year I have been drawn to these novels lately. 

The re-release of Tracy Higley's novels has been exciting for me as she was previously unknown to me. This follow-up to City on Fire: A Novel of Pompeii is an excellent way to delve into the early church and understand how difficult it was to be a Christian at the beginning of the church age. We take this for granted and I often don't think about. 

While the historical elements were fascinating and have inspired me to learn more about this ancient city, My favorite part about this novel was Cassia's journey to salvation. I love novels where the main characters are changed by the end in one way or another. I love how the presentation of the gospel to her was laid out by the believers simply by living their lives with her. There is much to be said for living our lives in this way, the way Christ did. 

I also like that although there is romance involved in this story, it is not the central motivating factor for the character's actions. I enjoy romance, but when the motivations of the main characters are always based on their emotions toward their love interest, I quickly lose interest. Higley's novels are never like this. The romance is secondary and the plot is primary. Too bad more author's don't think this way!

Even if you haven't ever tried a historical novel or one in the biblical genre, I encourage you to pick up this one. It's a great one to delve into and includes suspense and unexpected twists and turns along the way!

Get to Know Mary: A Book Look Blogger Review

My girls have been raised knowing a lot about the Bible. When Rose, my oldest daughter, was about 15 months old we started having nightly devotions and Bible time with her. This nightly routine has remained in place ever since and the girls make sure to remind us if we forget for a night!

Growing up as pastor's kids ourselves, my husband and I know how easy it is for the truth of Scripture to become so common place that it loses its wonder. This doesn't mean we stop training and teaching our kids, but it does mean we always need to be mindful that we should be making an effort to engage our daughters with Scripture in new ways. 

This new biography series for kids is a great way to engage your children in a new way. This beautifully illustrated book provides insights they may not have thought to ask about before. Alongside biographical information about the individual there are also many cultural and contextual explanations to help the individual feel more real.
Beth has really enjoyed this biography in particular. She likes reading about just about anything and was really excited when I showed this to her. The passages about Mary have always been some of her favorites. Whether winter is in the air or not she'll frequently flip to the Christmas story when choosing on her own something to read. I asked her what her favorite part was and she said all the information on the sides. That is also my favorite part. I am thrilled for her to be digging deeper using historical and cultural information to understand some of the deeper meanings behind what is in the text. 
If you are looking for accurate and engaging books, these are the way to go. There are several titles to choose from in the series and I hope to get a few more for my girls!

Disclosure:  I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook.com® <http://BookLook.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Week in Review: September 8-12

This week was light on schoolwork because Rose and Beth started classes at the homeschool learning center. I also started teaching my 7th and 8th grade English students. The year started off great, but as I start my 5th year teaching this class I know from experience that getting used to the new routine is always a little overwhelming when we add schoolwork in.

So we took pictures. We school year-round and so for the last couple of years I've decided to have "first day pictures" during the week our outside classes start. They don't seem to mind this at all and do great posing for me. Rose got a little silly, but I'm so glad! She's often so serious that I am thrilled to see her lightening up a little more.

Our days are very, very full now that our schedule is complete. I've had to learn about balance and discipline. I certainly don't do things perfectly...I'll never claim that! There are some ways to make it easier though. 

1. I have a plan thanks to Motivated Mom!

2. My kids each have several household chores, not just things that should be responsible for like making their beds.

3. I clearly communicate to my husband what kind of help I need. 

4. I'm realistic about what I can and can't do and I don't say yes to anything new without carefully thinking about it. 

5. I don't beat myself up if I get behind in any area...which typically ends up being the housework. 

One thing I'm trying to get better at is getting up earlier. When I do that my days are so much smoother. 

So here are the girls individual first day pictures. I know they may eventually outgrow wanting to do this, but maybe they won't. And maybe they'll enjoy looking back. I'm raising three little scrapbookers so I think they won't be able to help themselves! 

There was our week! Rewarding and fun!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Handwriting Resources from Pacon: Review

When I was doing my student teaching in college I became familiar with many of the companies teachers relied on for materials in their classroom. When I started homeschooling my first priority was curriculum. Now that we've been at this for a while we've been able to slowly add some wonderful resources we frequently use during our day. Pacon is one of those companies typically associated with the traditional classroom, but many of their resources are incredibly useful for homeschoolers. Pacon has given me the opportunity to review their Mini Pocket ChartSuper Bright Sentence Strips, and their Multi-Sensory Raised Ruled Tablet

All three of these products are just delightful and have been a wonderful addition to the resources I already have. When I rearranged our schoolroom I took a long time to try and find a spot for my new pocket chart. I hung it with clips on our easel for a while, but it felt rather awkward. Then one day I was staring the room down for a new spot and it hit me...the window! We have to leave the blinds shut anyway because of how hot the sun gets in this room. It has become the perfect spot! The girls can all see it from around the room and it isn't taking up any extra room. The rest of the pictures are from when we had it on the easel. 

Grace is at the point where she knows how to write most of her letters correctly, but needs work with neatness. She loves to write, but get frustrated at times with how her letters look. These tools have been a great asset to our handwriting lessons. I really like being able to put what I want her to copy onto the sentence strips and then into the pocket chart. It is good for her have larger letters to see at this point. The strips are much brighter than they appear in the picture online. I like using a black permanent marker to write on them so they show up well. 

The pocket chart itself is very durable and of high quality. I've used some cheaper, smaller versions of the pocket chart and there is an incredible difference between those and this one. The plastic pockets are tight enough to hold the strips in place so they don't flop forward, but short enough it isn't difficult to slid the strips in. Pocket charts are a great way for young learners to play matching games as well. This one is perfect for this and could easily hold thicker cards for word games. 

I love the handwriting paper. With my older girls getting them to stop at the bottom red line when they were first starting out was always a challenge. It had been a challenge for Grace as well until this new paper! 

You can see that almost all of Grace's letters start right at the top and stop right at the bottom. The reason is because these two lines are raised just slightly. She can actually feel a little ridge at the top and bottom to help her start and stop. This is seriously the most brilliant idea or handwriting I've ever seen! She was already forming her letters fairly well before we started, but she pretty much refused to try and stay in the correct form on writing paper. She said she really liked this paper because it felt bumpy and that made it fun! 

Grace is four, so to see her writing this neatly is very exciting for me. You can buy various amounts of this paper and if your student is just starting out with handwriting or you have a child struggling to stay within the lines given, this tactile tool will be incredibly helpful.

Pacon has many other wonderful and useful resources available. I've also been using their GoWrite! Dry Erase Music Staff Roll with my piano students. Wow! That is a really cool product! Click here to see my review of this awesome music resource!

Disclosure:  I received these products from the Pacon in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.