Sunday, June 29, 2014

Fun Times in St. Clair County

We've been here in the country for almost three years now, and I SO GLAD we finally left the city life behind us!  Our transition finds us getting to know a whole different county than we were used to.  Despite the fact that I grew up in St. Clair County, I am finding myself only vaguely familiar with the area.  A lot changes in 20 years!  Not to mention, I did grow up in the city of Port Huron, not the country surrounding it.  There is a lot to explore within the city of Port Huron as well as the outlying areas.

Country life suits us, and we're working more and more, ever slowly as it may seem, toward more of a homesteading lifestyle.  With this struggling effort comes acquaintances with interesting connections and fascinating lifestyles.  We are attracted more to farm related activities; things with a slower pace and more of a family feel.

With our reentry into the homeschool circuit, I have come to know some fascinating people, made some awesome friends, and established some valuable connections.  This past year I had the pleasure of volunteering with the Great Start Parent Coalition.  Each year they publish the most awesome free resource!  The 2014 Summer Fun Guide is an invaluable publication that lists events throughout the county that are either free or have a minimal expense.  Other resources can be found within the pages as well.  I have picked out a few of my favorite to share with you:

Fort Gratiot Beach, Fort Gratiot - This is our absolute favorite beach!  There is no charge for entry or parking.  It's located just off M-25 on Metcalf Road on Lake Huron.  It is a beautiful wooded area with a nice stretch of beach.  There are picnic areas, a playground, and paved walking trails.  Whenever we go to the beach, this is where we go.

KOA Port Huron & Sawmill City - A fun little area in Wadhams that is on our list to do in the future.  The two youngest are a little short for the water slide, but we do plan to visit the putt-putt golf area this summer.  There are bumper boats, go carts, train rides, bank-shot basketball, batting cages and water wars.  You do not have to be a camper to visit Sawmill City.  This is "just down the road" from  us, and we are sure to be visiting it a lot over the years.

Powder Puff Pacas - This alpaca farm in Lenox is such a nice place.  Although, we have not been to their new location yet.  My family first discovered this farm and the lovely lady that owns it several years ago when we were still city dwellers.  Thanks to a good friend we found out about a farm tour they were doing where you traveled the area visiting the different alpaca farms.  Unfortunately, I don't believe they do the traveling tours anymore, but you can visit Powder Puff Pacas any time by appointment.  They also host an annual open house that is free of charge and open to the public.

Family Center at St. Clair County RESA - What a WONDERFUL resource for parents of young children.  There are play groups available, a host of resources, and wonderful play bins that can be checked out for FREE.  They are located right on the corner of Range Road and Smiths Creek in Marysville.

All American Flames Gymnastix - Another fun place right in our neck of the woods that is on our list to check out.  I am thinking we will pay it a visit in the super hot days of the summer, or the super cold days of the winter.  I have heard nothing but good about this indoor gym from many people.  When the weather drives us inside, but we want to be out and active this is where we plan to head.

St. Clair County Library Main Branch - Imagine my surprise when I walked into the children's area and saw the same librarian that was there when I was a kid!  There are a lot of free activities that happen at the library; this location, and all the others.  There are also wonderful puzzles, games and sitting areas to occupy children of all ages, and there is even a fishing pole section that allows you to check out poles just like books!  We plan to visit Burtchville Township and Memphis over the summer just for fun.  They're all relatively the same distance from us, so why not?

Carnegie Center - Or, as I know it, Port Huron Museum.  It's hardly changed since I was a kid, but it remains just as fascinating.  There is a whole area that changes content and displays on a regular basis.  There is a lot of fun exploring to have here, and there are various events offered throughout the year.  We just participated in a Pioneer Days field trip through our local home school group there last moth.  It was wonderful!

Huron Lightship at Pinegrove Park - I cannot begin to tell you the number of times I've toured this lightship, and it never gets old.  This current batch of children have not had the experience yet.  If not this summer, then soon.  We're sure to visit several times over the coming years.

Fort Gratiot Light Station and Gift Shop - A lot has changed around here!  The light station has been reopened after years of being closed, and there are new buildings on the property.  I haven't climbed the lighthouse since grade school.  So, that's another one to add to my list of things to do with the kids over the next couple of years.  It is so beautiful there just to visit, even if you don't do the climb, and Lighthouse Beach is right next door for a picnic or some playground fun.  Watch out for the current on the beach.  It's a strong one!

Historical Village at Goodells Park -  We frequent Goodells Park A LOT, because it literally is right in our neighborhood.  When the kids get older they will for sure be riding their bikes there all the time.  We enjoy everything on the grounds, and it's fun to look in the windows of the buildings in the Historical Village.  There is also a splash pad, playground, farm museum, butterfly garden, and a host of events that happen there throughout the year including the St. Clair County 4-H Fair.  Our newest annual tradition.

Knowlton Ice Museum - I've wanted to visit here ever since we moved to the area.  We haven't made it there yet, but we will.  It's located right in Downtown Port Huron and would be a perfect fit for a day trip.  This is on our list!

SC4 Natural Science Museum - This is a new one to me.  I didn't even know it existed!  We will be watching to see what is going on there from this point forward.  We had to miss out on the 4-H field trip to the museum this month.  It overlapped with Harmony's week at camp.  Who knows?  Maybe I'll plan a field trip there for our home school group.

Wills Sainte Claire Auto Museum - Yet another museum I was unaware of its existence.  This is on my list more for my husband than myself.  We're supposed to be doing a staycation this year, and it's within 20 minutes from our home, so why not?  The hubby and the son will surely enjoy it, and it won't be so big as to torture us females.  LOL

Pine River Nature Center - So many fun activities happen here!  It's right near Goodell's Park which is right in our neighborhood, so this is another local treasure we are sure to use countless times in the future.  Already, Harmony has taken art classes there, we've attended a really cool exotic animal petting zoo hosted by a local rescue facility, taken guided and unguided hikes on the trails, and attended a super fun Great Start even there.  Lots of fun for all ages!

Pine River Stables - Years and years ago I went horseback riding here, and one day I plan to visit here again with the kids.  All of my kids love horses, and they want to ride.  This is a nice place for those that like to ride the wooded trails.  Harmony can't wait to go!

Sanborn Nature Area - I cannot believe that I have never been to Sanborn Park, and I had no clue until this year that there was a nature area.  How crazy is that?  Our 4-H club participated in an even this past fall there, and that was the first I heard of it.  Now, I see that it is used by teachers and other organizations for nature instruction.  You know we have to check it out!

St. Clair County Parks and Recreation Trails - We live right near the train trestle on the Wadhams to Avoca Trail, and I cannot wait to visit the trestle.  I love to take pictures.  This is one outing that would make me personally happy to take on my own just so I could be free to linger and take as many photos as I like.  However, this is perfect for a family nature walk or even a couple's night out.  We have walked part of the trail, but not the trestle part.  St. Clair County also has Beards Hills Recreation Area, Bridge to Bay Trail, Woodsong Nature Area, and Columbus Township Park, our favorite sledding hill!

Sunny Fields Botanical Park - Here is another local treasure "just down the street" from us that I have intended to visit for the past two years, but I have failed to make it happen.  Like the train trestle, I would love to go here along, or with a friend that likes to linger, so I could take pictures galore.  The lilacs here reach their peak in mid-May, but they are open April through October by appointment.  I need to get around to making that appointment.

Barnes & Noble Booksellers - I love browsing a bookstore, and I love the clearance center at B&N.  In the summer they host a storytime for ages 2-5 on Fridays at 11 a.m. for FREE.  The local store has a nice children's area, too.  There are also great teacher events and other happenings throughout the year.

Blue Water YMCA - We've never taken advantage of the Y, but a lot of our home school friends participate in Home School Gym & Swim and other events that happen there.  The location is beautiful, and the building is always bustling with activity.  It's worth a look-see.

Here are a few more awesome resources:

Get Out and Play St. Clair County

Christian Home Educators of the Blue Water Area

City of Port Huron

St. Clair County

St. Clair County 4-H Fair

The Lake Bonisteel Music Association

Blue Water Area Chamber of Commerce

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Go Science DVD Review

Go Science Review
The kids and I had a wonderful opportunity to review two of the Go Science DVD's in their seven DVD series.  Library and Educational Services, LLC has put together a wonderful collection of science experiments in action with Ben Roy's Go Science demonstrations.  Ben has tremendous experience in the field of science with past endeavors including director of a news channel science theater, producer of science lessons for the Weather Channel,, and a Christian satellite broadcasting network.  Currently, he is a university science methods teacher.

Ben's enthusiasm for science is evident, and his experiments capture the attention of the children all the while using each demonstration to point them to our creator.  Each DVD consists of live experiments played out by children from the studio audience.  Ben interacts directly with the children and even connects with the children at home.  All of the experiments performed are ones that can easily be replicated at home.  Some are a little more involved than others, but for the most part they are simple opportunities to explore the wonders of science with children of all ages.  The series is directed toward the 4-12 age group, but my three year old was fascinated by some of the experiments and has enjoyed the hands on activities we have tried at home.  Children older than 12 would likely find some of the experiments enjoyable and fascinating as well making this a perfect resource for homeschools that consist of children across a wide age span.

Go Science Review
The kids and I chose to try one experiment from each of the two DVD's we received.  It is summer here in SE Michigan, and it has been quite humid.  With this in mind we just had to try making our own centrifuge from the Volume Two - Life Science and Weather DVD.  What kid could pass up the opportunity to get themselves wet, and even splatter their siblings, all in the name of science?  The supply list consisted of wooden skewers, plastic drinking straws, tape, and containers to hold water; enough of each for each child to have one.  I assembled the individual centrifuges for each child quickly and easily.  They sat on the front porch and proceeded to have lots of laughs.  Here was the end result:

You may notice Avery wearing sunglasses in the last frame there.  He didn't like the water getting in his eyes.  Safety glasses are consistently used by the participants in the DVD series.  So, Avery said, "Wait a minute mom.  I need my safety glasses!"  He learned the importance and value of protecting his eyes through the viewing of these two DVD's just one time.  What a valuable lesson!

Go Science Review
The second experiment we tried was the "Naked Egg" from the Volume Seven - Engineering, Design, and Flight DVD.  It's a super simple experiment that allows you to see inside the egg.  How cool is that?  The only thing required is a jar, vinegar, and an egg.  You place the egg in the jar, cover with vinegar, and allow it to sit.  After just one day we began seeing a difference in our egg.  We do use farm fresh eggs, and I think that makes a difference in time compared to a store bought egg.  (Maybe there's another experiment in our future on this topic!)  Here is our egg on Day 1 when we first put it in the vinegar:

We are now on Day 4.  The shell is dissolving, and the egg is rubbery to the touch.  You can see that the shell is still there, but is coming off.  This is what it looks like today:

The kids and I are all enjoying the process of watching the egg change, feeling the new texture, and the little ones always turn their noses up at the smell of the vinegar.  It's a complete sensory experience!  

We will continue to use these DVD's throughout our homeschool journey and will very likely add to the collection.  If I could change anything about the DVD's it would be to include a list of the experiments and required supplies inside the case with the DVD.  That would make planning a lot easier.  However, the complete list of included experiments is on the website in the product description when you order the DVD's.  We will be exploring the actual Go Science website referenced on the back of the DVD's for further information, kits and materials.  

Go Science Review
Libraray and Educational Services, LLC and the Go Science DVD series is a wonderful new resource for our family.  The DVD's can be purchased individually for $8.97, or the entire second series can be purchased for $59.82 at 40% off list price.  The kids and I will certainly be enjoying this series for many years to come!

Be sure to check out Library and Educational Services, LLC on Facebook!

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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Keeping it Together

We're all human.  We have bad days.  We may have even had bad weeks, months, or even years.  Life is not always perfect that is why it is so important to grab the good moments, days, weeks, months, and years and soak them for all they're worth.  There will always be challenges, struggles, and obstacles to overcome.  If there weren't, how would we grow and learn?  Though uncomfortable, adversity offers opportunity; opportunity to grow closer to God, opportunity to know ourselves better, opportunity to get to know those around us better, opportunity to get better acquainted with our community, and opportunity to share with others.

If you are one of those people, like me, that have faced large challenge after large challenge, and dare I say see no real end in sight, it is worth the introspect to determine just how it is you face the hurdles that appear in your path.  What do you normally do when the going gets tough?  Is it working for you?  Is there something you could do better?  Are you taking care of yourself?  Is your focus on the right thing?

When I am feeling defeated and overrun (or run over) with life's challenges, the first thing I do is pray.  God can handle anything we dish out.  He's a big God.  He's tough like that.  The bible says to "pray without ceasing".

Right now, I feel as though I am drowning in resources and wish I had a little cabin in my woods I could retreat to in order to sort out all this information I have at my fingertips, clear my head, and return with a solid plan.  Since that opportunity does not exist in my reality, here I sit buried in paperwork, books, files, websites, and information in general, desperately trying to find where to start.

As if that all isn't challenging enough in and of itself, I have happened upon a new discovery in relation to my physical and mental well being.  A realization I have had for several years that I have been in perimenopause has been illuminated under a new light that stress compounds the side effects of perimenopause and further magnifies the side effects of hormonal imbalance.  Oh, yippee!  As you might well imagine I am eyeball deep in this life draining transition, and I am tired.  Exhausted.  Drained.  Wiped out.  Simply put, most days I feel as though someone has drugged me, and I could spend my entire day in bed sleeping, reading, and watching movies.  Yes.  That would 100% work for me right now.

However, staying in bed until I feel like getting up is not anywhere in the realm of my reality, so I press on.  I have done a few things to get my feet out of the muck and make my "one foot in front of the other" a tad easier.  Maybe what I've figured out for myself could be of some benefit to you.  We're all different, and we all carry our own set of unique burdens.  It is possible,  however, for us to learn from each other through our similarities as well as our differences.

What I've found to be true for me right now in my current set of circumstances is this:

1.  Put Myself First - Much like the guidance from the flight attendant to put our own oxygen mask on first, we do need to care for ourselves in order to be fit to care for our families and our communities.  We need to see to our health, both spiritual and physical.  I sought out help and began a new supplement regimen in order to address some long standing health concerns that have really been dragging me down.  It's a slow process, but I am starting to feel better.

I also provide time for myself to begin my day with prayer and Bible study.  It's amazing how just a little time in the morning with our creator can change our perspective and reset our sights on what is good and important.  Quiet time in study and/or reflection is the perfect way to begin our day on the right path with a healthy perspective.  I find I am better for it, as is my family.

2.  Establish and Guard a Schedule - UGH!  I detest this one!  Seriously.  This is SO challenging for me, but the fruit is undeniable.  I have three children ages 3.5, 4.5, and 9 in July.  They thrive on a SET IN STONE schedule.  It drives me batty!  You did see the post where I wrote about being an eclectic educator, right?  Well, I have grown to like flexibility over regiment.  Part of that may be due to my last batch of homeschoolers being high schoolers.  Life is different when you're strictly working with the young adult to adult crowd.  It's a whole different ball game with toddlers and elementary aged children.  They thrive on schedule, and as much as I'd like to say it isn't necessary, IT IS.  (If I knew how to enter a sad face right here, I would.)  I've seen the results first hand, and life without schedule, predictable schedule, isn't pretty.  Trust me, it isn't.

When my children know what to expect, they are much happier.  They fight less, cry less, and cooperate much, much more.  They are overall completely different children.  Somehow, too many errands, field trips, play dates, and general time away from home stresses them out.  It's a slippery slope.  A good friend once told me of the importance of guarding your home.  I didn't completely understand it at the time, but I totally get it now.  This is part of it.  Saying no to things we want to do in an effort to keep the best interest of the family as a whole intact is essential, at least in part, to guarding our home.  I recognize this as a stage, and for the time being at least, we are going to be "home bodies".  As much as I may dislike missing out on fun, I know there is greater reward in honoring the specific needs of my children now.  Time is fleeting.  There will be new challenges on the horizon.  Caring for my family in the most healthy way, even if that means a predictable stay-at-home schedule, is more important than any other thing on my to-do list could ever be.

3.  Cut Myself Some Slack - And, A LOT of it!  How's that song go?  "We're only human, born to make mistakes."  Or, something like that.  The point is that we are not perfect.  We've never been perfect.  We will never be perfect.  Life is much easier if we just accept that fact.  We will make blunders, and a lot of them.  It's our destiny whether we want to accept it or not.  Being imperfect is just a simple fact of life.  We can make a conscious effort to forgive ourselves, learn from our mistakes, and move on from that point leaving the error behind like discarded rubbish.  It's as simple and as complicated as that.

4.  Go with the Flow - Okay, I know I said "Establish and Guard a Schedule", but we also need to remember that life happens.  Life is complex and messy and unpredictable.  As much as we need to have a plan and honor it, we also need to be flexible.  We can usually manage to keep the general outline of our day.  Ours looks like this:

Bible Study and Devotion
Book Work
Free Play
Quiet Time
Free Play
Family Read Aloud

Where flexibility comes in for us is within each category.  Yesterday, I let the book work go to the side in favor of the amazingly creative make believe play that happened naturally.  Much more learning happens in these natural occurrences than any pre-planned book work I could impose.  I've learned to embrace them as they happen whenever possible.  I also encouraged creativity with the nearly-nine-year-old by taking a day off of her normal book work at quiet time to allow for her own personal exploration.  She was thrilled!  However, if this were to be a normal occurrence she would become bored easily.  I have found that just the right amount of flexibility and deviation from the normal schedule of events breathes life into our routine.  BUT, too much deviation causes stress and turmoil.  It is a fine balance, and I am learning to walk the line like a pro.

Another aspect of being flexible is to realize that our lives happen in seasons, and honor that.  What works for us right now may not work for us later.  We need to be prepared to change things up as our children grow, and life happens.  Sometimes we need to amend our schedule, or even take a break.  The important thing is to keep you eye on the goal.  As long as we keep what's important in sight, our steps will continue to take us in the direction of progress, even when we can't readily see it.

6.  Have a Goal - It is important to know what we are working toward.  Getting bogged down in the minutia of life happens all too easily.  If we don't know why we are doing what we are doing, then our focus becomes muddled.  Our patience may even take leave.  Then, everything goes out the window, even the baby with the bath water.  If you have never taken the time to think about a mission statement for your life, or your homeschool, now would be a good time to do just that.  I haven't come up with something specific, but I do have an idea in my mind.  It looks something like this:

Our Homeschool Mission
"Provide an enriching environment that fosters a love for learning all the time in all we do 
in order to create within our children a strong moral base that includes virtue, integrity, and independence with a biblical perspective and love for Christ as the foundation."

On the days that I just feel overwhelmed and question what on earth it is I'm doing, I just remember the goal and everything comes back into focus.  That doesn't mean that I'm magically in a better mood, but I am more capable of carrying out my objective when I bear in mind why it is I am doing it in the first place.

5.  Be Interesting - You may have read my recent post about my new found love for Dr. John Rosemond.  One thing that he emphasizes time and again is that his mother was interesting.  It is important to be an interesting person in order to properly lead our children.  That is why it is important to allow ourselves the time, and give ourselves the permission, to explore things that feed our soul, inspire us, tap into our creativity, and give us joy.  It may help to take a little inventory.  I enjoy reading, photography, research, cross-stitch, writing letters, blogging, gardening, nature, and occasional naps (my own personal quiet time).  Up until recently, I could not tell you the last time I'd done ANY of these things!  I had allowed everyone and everything to come before me.  Talk about out of balance!  This is a baby-steps project for me.  The fist step was reestablishing our schedule.  This allowed me at least a couple hours to focus on things I needed or wanted to do.  So, there is a silver lining to our new found order; time for me.

6.  Do NOT Compare Myself or My Family to Others - As homeschoolers this may be one of our biggest challenges.  It is quite easy to look at the families around us, see their successes in a vivid light, and allow them to cast a shadow on our accomplishments giving a dim view of our own homeschool life.  We all have strengths and weaknesses.  God wants us to flourish as ourselves, not our neighbor.  We have been created unique individuals with strengths and weaknesses all our own.  It is our job to build on our strengths and strengthen our weaknesses.  We will succeed the most when we work to become who we are, not who our neighbor is.  It is helpful to take inventory of what we are doing well.  Again, it comes down to focus.  Be happy for the success and accomplishments of our fellow homeschoolers, but don't let them become a standard to uphold for yourself.  Everyone has their own seasons, and we are all not in the same season at the same time.  What is good for me right now may not be at all relevant to you, and that is perfectly good and normal.  Be okay with who you are, where you are, when you are there.  This can still be a challenge for me at times, but generally speaking I have learned to accept my place in life and do the best with what I have where I am.  I am much happier when I am actively doing this.

7.  Love Unconditionally - One of the most profound understanding I gained as I matured over the years is the simple fact that LOVE IS A CHOICE.  Literally.  No bones about it.  It is just a simple fact.  Love is not an emotion.  It is not earned.  Either we choose to love, or we choose not to love.  When we choose love we give a great gift to the one receiving our love as well as to ourselves.  Choosing to love is work.  It is, dare I say, rarely easy.  If we base all our decisions and actions on love, our lives as well as the lives around us are a lot different.  Things become markedly better.  In all circumstances choose love.  Easier said than done.  I know.  BUT, it is 100% worth the effort.

I don't have everything figured out, and this list is by no means all inclusive.  The past several years have seen us through many twists and turns, hills and valleys, and even a u-turn or two, but we have persevered.  We have learned, and we have grown.  Our focus has become refined, and our purpose has changed.  For me, personally, I have had to do a lot of soul searching, spend a lot of time in prayer, and offered up a lot of forgiveness; for others as well as myself.  It has not been easy, but we are still here.  We are still learning.  We are still loving.  We are still growing.  We are coming out of our winter and into spring.  Even though today marks the literal fist day of summer, we are not there yet.  It is still our spring, and we will ease into summer when the time is right.  With that we remain on schedule, and flexible.

"Anyone can give up.  
It's the easiest thing in the world to do.  
But to hold it together when everyone else 
would understand if you fell apart, 
that's true strength."

Friday, June 13, 2014

Toddler Busy Bags

Back in April I made the coolest discovery!  As I poked through Facebook I stumbled upon someone hosting a busy bag swap.  I had never heard of such a thing, so I inquired further.  This particular swap was hosted out of state and by someone I had never met.  My intention was to just learn about what these Toddler Busy Bags are, and consider hosting one in the future.

Well, I was invited to participate in their out of state swap, and I am so happy I did!  (I just participated via the USPS.)  The way it works is this:

1.)  Someone agrees to host the party.

2.)  People that wish to participate sign up with the host.

3.)  There is a deadline a couple weeks before the actual party so as to have a head count.

4.)  Each participant creates enough of the same busy bags for everyone to have one.

5.)  Participants meet up at the hosts home and exchange bags.

Example:  There are 20 participants.  Each participant brings 20 of the same busy bag that they create themselves.  Each participant leaves the exchange with 20 different busy bags.

Minimal investment.  Large return.  Works for me!

So, what exactly is a busy bag anyhow?  Well, a busy bag is something put together inside a plastic, zipper seal bag.  It usually consists of the right amount of materials for one child to do an activity independently.  What goes in the bag is really limited to your imagination.

I made busy bags that consisted of small, laminated cards with pictures on them and a hole or two punched on the bottom to connect the appropriate links which I included in the quart size baggie.  (They really would have fit in sandwich size bags.)  I found a free download for the cards, covered one side in clear contact paper, cut out the cards, and punched holes in the appropriate spots.  I included several multi-colored connecting links which I purchased in bulk from Oriental Trading.

In return, I received all of this:

I cannot tell you what the kids think of them.  They don't even know they exist.  This momma is saving them for an upcoming road trip.  I am praying they make 14 hours on the road less excruciating for all of us.  I will be putting together travel bags for each kid, and these will be incorporated into the mix in one way or another.

This swap was such a joy to participate in that I may just host my own one day.  

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

We Choose Virtues - Parenting Cards Review

We Choose Virtues Review

With the change in dynamics, both planned and unplanned, in our family over the past few years I have become more conscious of the purpose of my role as a parent than ever before in my life.  My husband and I are what is now considered "older parents", and that fully impacts our perspective in relationship to our goals of parenting.  Now, more than ever, it is important to us to raise independent children with strong core values.  Because of this I was thrilled to have the opportunity to review the NIrV version of We Choose Virtues Parenting Cards.  This is such a simple resource with tremendous impact potential!  The kids and I will be using them for years to come. My homeschooling children are currently between three and eight, and this resource is geared for ages 3 to 11.  We will have plenty of opportunity to use it time and time again.

We Choose Virtues Review

For the course of the review period we incorporated the 13 Parenting Cards into our daily devotion time in the morning.  It seemed a natural fit.  The kids enjoyed coloring the corresponding virtue page from the PDF Dowload Kids of VirtueVille Coloring Book while I read the parenting card to them.  We discussed the virtue of the day, read the one paragraph story about the particular VirtueVille kid, and payed attention throughout the day for opportunities to learn more about the virtue.  The incorporation of characters, songs (another PDF Download resource), and object lessons really helps to cement the virtue into our memory.  The biblical application is seamless, a natural partner to the lesson.

Annabella coloring Gerbil Jill.

Avery coloring Chuck and Duck.

As many homeschooling moms are doing at this time of year, I am currently putting together our next year's course of study.  We Choose Virtues Parenting Cards are slotted to hold an important place in our daily plan.  It is my intention to expand upon each virtue for a more in depth study and application of the lesson.  It is very important to me to teach my children to have virtue and to know their bible.  The Parenting Cards are the perfect tool for the job.  With the Family Character Assessment, the Kids of VirtueVille Coloring Book, the Butterfly Awards, the Teacher's Handbook, and my bible I have all the tools I need to create a year's worth of biblical character building unit studies for my family.  My favorite part is the minimal investment of time on my part.  Bonus!

As we reviewed the cards together as a family in preparation for this review, I may have gotten the biggest lesson.  Be prepared, parents!  Instilling character in your wee ones is the most effective way to examine your own character, usually with a microscopic view.  Our first card was I am Patient.  Well, let me tell you, I am not nearly as patient as I thought I was.  What a good first card for us!  I needed that eye opener right from the get go.  It was good for the kids to see that even mom needs to work on her virtues.  We may be the leaders of our family as parents, but we are far from perfect.  It is good for our children to know that we are all a work in progress.

We Choose Virtues Review

Another way the Parenting Cards helped me personally is in the teachable moments portion.  This is the biggest section on the card.  It provides you with suggestions as to how to reinforce the virtue throughout the day or week, or your chosen time period.  This is highly beneficial for me, as I struggle with remembering to provide positive reinforcement to my children.  I have already been working on myself in this area for a while, and having the reminders is helpful.  I see my children shine the brightest when they are complemented on their actions.  It is so much more helpful to receive positive feedback on our accomplishments than to only hear where we are going wrong.  Balance is key, and this tool helps me keep it.

We Choose Virtues Review

I am excited to incorporate We Choose Virtues Parenting Cards along with the PDF Download Package into our homeschool for the 2014-15 school year here at Royal Academy.  Our lives are surely richer for it.  Yours can be too!  The Parenting Cards are available for $38.49 with a FREE Family Character Assessment Download.  You can also purchase the We Choose Virtues Download Bundle for $7.99 here.

Visit We Choose Virtues on Facebook, Pinterest, and their blog.

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Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Kinder Cottage Publishing - Peter Rabbit Review

Kinder Cottage Review
Kinder Cottage Publishing was founded in 2012 by a husband and wife eager to teach their children through encouraging a love for their western heritage using literature, history, culture, and Christian faith.  Their first project was to publish the Peter Rabbit and Wizard of Oz series of books.  Our family was richly blessed by receiving two of the 10 books in the Peter Rabbit series for this review.

Let me just say that I was super excited when I saw this opportunity as I just loved listening to The Tales of Peter Rabbit as a young child.  My poor grandma read our one copy of a Peter Rabbit book to me countless times, and there was no way she could skip a page, ever!  Peter Rabbit's Birthday and Peter Rabbit at the Farm are the titles we were fortunate enough to have added to our collection of books we love to read.  The nice thing about this series is that the original artwork has been preserved, so the pictures are fabulous.  My four-year-old often asks me to wait before turning a page so that he can have more time to take in the details of the picture before continuing with the story.
Kinder Cottage Review

I don't know about you, but reading to more than one child can be a bit of a challenge for me.  It always seems someone is missing out on the ideal viewing angle, and I need to be able to actually see the words in order to read them the story.  This may be a minor detail to some, but I noticed right away that all the words are on the left hand page, and all the pictures are on the right hand page.  This made it SO MUCH easier for me to read the words while my three children enjoyed the picture.  I could hold the book up for everyone to see with much ease as I shared that particular tale of Peter Rabbit.

Kinder Cottage Review
Of course, Peter Rabbit is known for all his lively antics and the circumstances he seems to create for himself.  Nothing of that spirit is lost in these stories.  The only real change is some of the language usage.  The original stories were written by Duff Graham for the Henry Altemus company over 90 years ago.  Kinder Cottage Publishing has updated some of the text to make it more modern and easily understood by today's readers.

Kinder Cottage ReviewThe children and I are very much enjoying these new additions to our library.  As usual, Peter has issues keeping his clothes together and manages to get completely soaked in both tales.  In Peter Rabbit at the Farm he encounters several characters on his adventure after sneaking out of his home near Mr. McGregor's farm.  Even though he seems to irritate a few of his fellow critters, Peter always manages to set things right.  I like the personal courtesy expressed in Peter Rabbit's Birthday as Peter gets much more than he's bargaining for while traveling to personally invite his friends to his birthday party.  The innocence with which he faces each encounter is inspiring, and the nostalgia seeps through the pages like a refreshing drink on a hot day.

As a family we read the stories together after our morning devotions, and my four-year-old even requests them at bedtime.  It is so much fun to travel with Peter Rabbit on his journeys and adventures.  They are excellent teaching tools and with Peter's vivid lessons and lively adventures could easily be used as the basis for a unit study.  We will be using them on and off throughout our next school year as part of our values and virtues lessons.  There is much to be learned from Peter Rabbit, and we are enjoying every minute spent inside these wonderfully written tales.

The series is designed for the three to nine age group and is affordable, priced at just $30 for the set of 10 books, or $4 for each individual title.  The books are beautiful, full color, 5x7 hardbacks.  They are a wonderful addition to any home library, and would be a perfect gift for a mom to be or a young child.  Any family would be proud to have this collection on their shelf, and the pages are sure to become lovingly worn over the years.

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