Tuesday, May 19, 2015

motivate your child ACTION PLAN - A Book Review



Parenting is an exhausting endeavor with its challenges and its joys.  Raising children is no small task.  Just look at us.  We figured we'd like to have a go at it ten times over just because we enjoy studying in the trenches so very much.  Parents and children come in all varieties.  There are various personalities, different sets of luggage, personal challenges, family history, genetics, and a slew of other factors that come together to form our own, unique family makeup.  Gone are the days of June and Ward Cleaver with their cookie cutter family.  Families rarely look the same anymore.  I know ours is anything but ordinary.

Motivate Your Child ACTION PLAN written by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN is a followup book to their previously reviewed at The Zoo Crew book simply titled Motivate Your Child published by National Center for Biblical Parenting.  I was originally drawn to this book and its teachings because it fits so very well with our goal to raise these three currently under our tutelage to be motivated, self-sufficient, young people, and later adults, with a love for God, family, and community.  We are more thoughtful of our parenting style and technique now than we ever were with the seven that went before them.  Let's just say we learned a lot, and there is a lot to say about giving some forethought and prayerful consideration to just what it is we are doing under this title we wear called parent.



In Motivate Your Child we learn about parenting to the heart of our children.  We are introduced to the conscience and the importance of helping our children to develop a strong one.  Despite its ability to stand alone as a wonderful parenting tool Motivate Your Child ACTION PLAN is a perfect companion for the original Motivate Your Child.  It's written in a workbook style with short chapters that focus on a specific area and task.  I have this aversion to writing in books, so I started a text file on my computer and am working through the book that way.  The chapters are simple to read and easy to follow.  What may take you some time though are the action items.  Though the concepts and given tasks are simple in their stating and ideas, the actual process of carrying them out can elicit some emotion and require some soul searching.

In our family we are working through some big stuff.  Life has thrown some major hurdles at us, and we are making wonderful emotional progress.  It can be the toughest for our soon to be ten-year-old.  As most of you know, she is our granddaughter, and we are legal guardians to her and her younger sister who is four.  They have been with us for nearly three years.  For the young one the transition has been more natural, but the soon to be ten-year-old has had to unpack some baggage.  She's come a long way, and we've come a long way with her.  Talk about feeling like you're traveling unfamiliar terrain wearing a blindfold!  Praise God we've had some wonderful support from more wise than us people perfectly planted in our lives at the precise moment they were needed.  Motivate Your Child and Motivate Your Child ACTION PLAN are just two more resources in the perfectly timed support system in which we have been blessed.

When I finished reading the first book back in January I have to admit that I was a tad frustrated.  I had all this wonderful information that I agreed with wholeheartedly, but I lacked the tools necessary to know just what to do with this information.  I was super excited for the opportunity to review this follow up book with its 12 audio presentations, one for each chapter.  With our family dynamics, and my one deaf ear, listening to or watching anything for informational purposes can be quite challenging.  It's just not my time in this department.  Quiet?  Seriously?  You have that in your home?  I did manage to listen to the first one (well, most of it), and it is nice to hear the authors elaborate on the content of the chapter.  I can see where this resource will be beneficial to many.  Maybe I can benefit from it at a later date, like when my kids are all 10 and above!


Anyway, I am taking the process of working through this book very seriously.  My main focus is working with the oldest child, but I am already experiencing where what I am learning is carrying over to the other two.  In a way it reminds me of when you commit to morning devotions, and you notice the impact it has in all areas of your life when you stick to the commitment.  This is the same way.  Once I started working on my relationship with my oldest at home, I saw the benefit with most all of my relationships.  It's kind of a mindset thing.  Honestly, I am not as far along in the book as I would like to be at this point, but some things just cannot be rushed.  This is another circumstance where we create better children by becoming better parents ourselves.  Sometimes this means we have to do some serious soul searching and looking within.  It may require a little more time on our knees.  I am dedicated to finishing each part of the book before moving on as I desire to gain as much from this process for myself and my family as I possibly can manage.


Raising children that are secure in who they are with the motivation they require to move on and up in life requires some serious soul work on our part.  I've been around the block enough times now to know that there are no guarantees.  BUT, we can always do our best to lay the strongest possible foundation for our children to lift off from.  What they do with it is their own choice, and I pray that working through the Motivate Your Child ACTION PLAN will equip me with more relevant strategies to assist my children in the growing process so that they can develop a strong conscience and a healthy motivation to be all that God has planned for them to be.


If you purchase your copy of Motivate Your Child ACTION PLAN on or before May 31st you can receive 25% off the cover price.  By using the promo code AP5BGT you will receive an ADDITIONAL $5 off for a grand total of $15 off the cover price!



Birds of a Feather - A Unit Study Review


Homeschool Legacy Review



By now you've probably figured out that I love to support small business and homeschool created ventures.  Here we are discussing another wonderful product created by a homeschool mom.  Homeschool Legacy is the brainchild of Sharon Gibson.  She's a veteran of the homeschool sort.  She's been there, done that, and through her passion for figuring out what works well she created these wonderful unit studies.

For the past month or so our family has been enjoying Birds of a Feather.  It's a fun, no-prep, four week unit study.  We already had a fascination with the birds that visit our yard, and we have an avid owl lover in the house, but working through this unit study provided us the opportunity to get to know the birds in our area a little more personally and enjoy some quality time together learning even more about birds and how they live.  Birds of a Feather is a simple unit study with everything laid out for you.  There is no real prep involved, but you will need to do a little thinking ahead.


Homeschool Legacy Review

Unfortunately, we no longer live in an area with a wonderful library system at our disposal.  (The trade off was well worth it, but when it comes to things like this we have to get a little more creative.)  Sharon did a wonderful job providing a vast list of suggested reading to accompany the activities and focus for each of the four weeks.  Despite the large selection of material to choose from I was unable to locate not one of the 12 books she recommends for the first week.  However, like any good homeschooling mom I have my own personal library right at home.  We made do with what we had, and it went quite well from there.

Each of the four weeks has a theme.  We learn about a different aspect related to birds, but the basic outline remains the same.  There are library and video choices, a supply list, daily activities, weekly activities, family devotions, and a science lesson.  Everything always leads back to the Bible and God's wonderful creation.  The activities support learning together as a family and spending time in God's word both independently and together.

The girls setting up the feeding station.

As part of our review we received the digital download version, but the unit study is also available in paperback.  Personally, I would love to own the paperback copy, but I'm a book in hand kind of girl.  I just printed off the lesson each week, got my materials together, and planned when we would do each activity.  Basically, I just plugged it into my planner.  Super simple!

With our current stage in the game, my favorite part of the unit study was family movie night.  I liked the first film the best, Fly Away Home.  It was the perfect choice for getting the family interested in learning more about birds.  The movies really do add kind of a finishing touch to each area of study within the unit.  I especially like how the study is designed (rather intentional or not) in that it appeals to all learning types.  There's writing, reading, hands on, and visual learning all wrapped into one complete and easy to implement package.  There really is something to appeal to everyone, and it's wonderful for the educator in that it's all nicely presented with very little preparation needed.  We didn't need to purchase anything, but depending on what you have on hand you may need to buy some things to complete the activities and projects.

Hanging the suet feeder.
As a side note, since we don't have anyone in the category at the moment, Sharon even provides all the information for both Boy Scouts and American Heritage Girls to earn their relevant badges.  In the future we just may take her advice and use the unit study to complete a 4-H Project Record.  This is our first year participating in the fair, and the one doing the participating is already well underway with her project.  The ideas for using the unit study for children that participate in these groups are found in a section titled Getting the Most Out of Your Once-a-Week Unit Study, and I highly recommend you read this part before you start.  There is a lot of information provided to really help you get the maximum benefit from using the study.


Homeschool Legacy Review

Homeschool Legacy is social on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.  To learn more about the Birds of a Feather unit study as well the many other unit studies available through Homeschool Legacy visit their website, or read more reviews by clicking below.

Homeschool Legacy Review

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

S is for Smiling Sunrise - A Book Review

Smiling Sunrise Review
ABCs, ABCs, how many ways can we learn our ABCs?  Learning our ABCs is such a big deal when we are little.  As a parent it can get kind of mundane and boring teaching ABC's, especially when we're raising a lot of children.  I mean...really...how many times CAN we sing the ABC song?  How many picture books can we read with the typical A, apple, and B, ball, and C, cat, and D, dog, and on and on it goes?  WordsBright, a small, independent publisher, has published a book that is anything but the A, apple, and B, ball approach to the ABCs.  In writing S is for Smiling Sunrise Vick Wadhwa (He's on Facebook if you'd like to connect with him.) has most definitely provided parents and children alike with a refreshingly new take on ABCs.


Smiling Sunrise Review

It's quite impressive to me that a children's ABC book can be tied into our homeschool in a variety of ways with a variety of teaching opportunities.  Character and Virtues has been a concentrated area of focus in our homeschool this year.  S is for Smiling Sunrise effectively teaches and reinforces areas of virtue that we have been actively learning and practicing as part of our normal routine.  The vocabulary is excellent.  I love the words that were chosen to represent each letter of the alphabet.  They are anything but ordinary; K, kaleidoscope for example.  Then there's the rest of the book content which is rich in literary stimulation including rhyming words and wholesome messages.  The content is rich enough to even elicit conversation from the nine-year-old, not just the two young ones.  We really enjoy reading it as a family, as a bedtime story, and the kids enjoy looking at it on their own.


Bella, age 4, enjoying the book independently.

S is for Smiling Sunrise also comes with a few wonderful resources.  There is a FREE Teacher's Guide available for download.  I love that the teacher guide provides relevant ideas and activities for K-3 age children.  It's not just for toddlers!  In the Teacher Guide there are four areas of focus for each letter; concepts, questions, vocabulary, and activities.  That's 26 different concepts to explore, 26 different questions to discuss, well over 100 vocabulary words to learn, and more than 26 activities to do together.  All of this from a children's ABC book!  Did I mention that we love this book?  You can even download a free word poster to go along with the book via the website as well as an MP3 of the story put to song.

There is so much potential within the pages of S is for Smiling Sunshine.  It's a wonderful teaching tool for not only learning the alphabet, but fully enriching the learning experience of your child.  It would be a wonderful addition to any homeschool curriculum for young children as well as just enriching the learning process for any child in a variety of learning environments.  We are looking forward to expanding on the book with the provided resources as we go throughout the coming year.  Such a fun way to take learning the ABCs to the next level!



Wordsbright Review

Crew Disclaimer

Monday, May 11, 2015

Successful Homeschooling Made Easy - A Review

Successful Homeschooling Made Easy Review
I was a little apprehensive about taking an online course on how to succeed in homeschooling.  After all, I have been a homeschool mom for 18 years.  Really?  18 years?  It sounds impossible when I say it out loud, but it is the truth nonetheless.  I pondered the idea of taking the Successful Homeschooling Made Easy Course and ultimately decided I had nothing to lose and everything to gain.  Despite our status as a homeschooling family for almost two decades our family makeup, and therefor our school makeup, is ever changing and not remotely ordinary.

When we graduated our last homeschooler into independence nearly four years ago we were adjusting to life with a newborn.  I was actually considering church school for the little guy.  Homeschooling high school can be a little intense, especially three at a time, and this mama needed to know she had options.  Well, the baby turned into a toddler, my life as a high school home educator ended, and I became a new mom all over again.  It just seemed natural to continue with homeschooling.  At that point we realized that we ARE a homeschooling family.

Enter the next big change.  Two of our granddaughters came to live with us full-time, and life was a little shall we say hectic for a time.  The oldest one was school age, and big decisions had to be made.  She came home at Christmas break, and we never looked back.  I share this with you in relation to this review simply to illustrate that all of our journeys are a little different.  Our realities may have similarities, but the subtle (and not so subtle) nuances of each of our families are what make us unique.  We have different needs at different times.  That's what's wonderful about the Successful Homeschooling Made Easy Course.  It meets all of us right where we are at the moment.

My first thought in reviewing this course is how much I would have LOVED to have had something like this at the beginning of my journey all those years ago.  What a tremendous blessing it would have been.  I tend to shoot in the dark and jump in the deep end without looking.  That just seems to be the way my life flows.  BUT - what if - what if I had this at the beginning?  This course is SO SIMPLE and SO EASY to follow.  I look forward to receiving the email each week with the new lesson.  It arrives as a downloadable PDF which I can read on my laptop or print and put in a binder.  It really doesn't take much time to work through.  Some weeks may require a little more effort, like when you're ironing out your schedule, but for the most part we're talking 20 minutes or so.  I love the way Stephanie suggests making a special time just for you to relax and focus on the lesson with a beverage of your choice.  Unfortunately, I have not been able to make this aspect of it work for me at the moment, but I have not given up hope.

Having worked through the first nine lessons (of the 26 total) as well as two bonus lessons, a nice little perk Stephanie throws in here and there, I know this is going to help me greatly as we transition into this next phase of homeschooling.  Currently we are moving from a full-time, year-round approach to a more relaxed spring/summer and more intense fall/winter approach.  Our family is getting deeper into homesteading.  This year we plan to grow more of our own food as well as add livestock to the picture.  This means we need more time in the spring and summer months to work our land and prepare for the fall and winter months.  I guess in this sense we are taking a more traditional approach beginning now as far as scheduling goes.  It has been MANY A YEAR since we took a break from academics in the summer, and the transition feels a tad awkward at times; just as much as it seems a natural fit.  Utilizing the guidance throughout the lessons helps me take a step back, evaluate our needs as well as our desires, and refresh my memory on the goals of just why it is we live like we live.  I think we all need to remind ourselves of that from time to time.

Successful Homeschooling Made Simple in my opinion would be most beneficial for those stepping into homeschooling for the first time and those, like me, that are looking to make a big transition in how they "do school."  It's also a wonderful resource for taking a little me time to walk through the lessons as a sort of self-evaluation as to how things are going within your own homeschool, or with a specific area that you'd like to improve.  The determining factor for me deciding to take the course was looking forward to the lesson on housekeeping!  Are there any of us out there that don't fret over the limited amount of time we have to pull off everything?  As a homeschooling mom it can often feel like we work a few full-time jobs.  Working through this course forces us to step back, gather our thoughts, and move forward with a more purposeful and simple approach.

Each lesson is presented in a simple, inviting, and easy to follow format.  There is always a preface to let you know what to expect within the lesson followed by the lesson itself.  Stephanie has sprinkled inspiring quotes throughout the course which I really enjoy.  There is also suggested reading in relation to the lesson.  The books are not required as part of the course, rather they are suggested as a way for you to get even more out of your experience with the course and within your homeschooling journey.  The lessons end with a summary, and assignment, and a little glimpse into the following week.  Yes, it really is simple!

Check out Stephanie from Successful Homeschooling Made Simple on Facebook!


Successful Homeschooling Made Easy Review
Crew Disclaimer

Friday, May 08, 2015

SEA LIFE Aquarium Field Trip

Our local home school group organized an awesome field trip to SEA LIFE Aquarium in Auburn Hills, MI.  This was especially exciting for my crew as it was the first "real" field trip we've taken, and daddy got to tag along.  It was an exciting day.  Not all things went as planned, but we all enjoyed the aquarium VERY MUCH.  We'd love to visit again for sure.  Take a peek at the fun we had:

Just seeing this got the kids excited!

This is just part of our group waiting to go inside.

Each area had a sign like this
to educate you on a specific topic.

The kids loved that they could actually get "inside" the tanks!


A little hands on area is always a huge bonus!


So many fascinating fish to observe!


The walk through tunnel was my favorite part.


Avery and his buddy, Seany.
He was like his personal tour guide.

The jellyfish area was fun with its changing colors.


This girl was all over the place.
Can you tell?

Harmony turning red with the jellyfish!


Silly kids!


Observing the sea life.


Part of the group of buddies!
We all had a wonderful time and definitely look forward to going back again.  There are so many possibilities for learning and discovery.  What a wonderful resource to have in our state, and it's only an hour drive from our home - all country too!  That's a bonus for me.  It's only a matter of time before we go back again.

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