Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Michigan STEM Legislation

There has been a huge debate going on in Michigan in regard to adding a STEM certification to the diplomas of our high school graduates.  I would like to provide you a little food for thought as well as some resources to educate yourself and take action should you feel so led.  It is my belief that this legislation is poorly written, part of a bigger plan, and will ultimately destroy educational choice for all, not just those choosing to homeschool.  BUT, that is just my opinion.  Here are some resources for you:

Have you heard of Gov. Snyder's vision for P20 education?  Do you realize that the 'p' stands for prenatal?  If this is all new to you, you may want to do a little research to familiarize yourself with the vision and initiative.  Here's a place to start.

Spunky Homeschool, aka Karen Braun, has been a fearless advocate for our educational freedom as homeschoolers.  She has put together an informative collection of details on Common Core on her blog, SpunkyHomeSchool.  If you are new to the term Common Core, or if you just desire to learn more, this is an excellent resource.

Last week was the first time hearings were held on the STEM Bills.  Stop Common Core Michigan has done a good job of keeping us up to date on the happenings.  Here is a good recap of what has transpired so far.  To the best of my knowledge the bill passed the Senate Education Committee yesterday and is slated to go before the house tomorrow.  They sure do seem in a hurry to pass this through making Michigan the first state in the country to pass such legislation.  Not sure that's a precedent we should be setting, but that's my opinion.

Here is the actual wording of the bill as it stands today.  Keep an eye out here at the Michigan Legislature website for updates on the progression of this bill.  Contact your local representatives and let them know what you think.

From the Michigan Stop Common Core website these are four main reasons to oppose the STEM Credentialed Diploma:

  • It is unwise to create a “class system” in Michigan which is not supportive of all students.  Having a STEM diploma creates a “better” path, leaving the students not on this path to believe they are on the “failure track”. A high school diploma should carry the full credibility of a robust education for all graduates regardless of their preferences of study
  • All specific course information is already provided on high school transcripts.  Colleges and universities currently use high school transcripts to determine the coursework and student achievement in their determination for entering freshman. In this manner, employers determine the courses appropriate to preparation for their field.
  • Michigan Department of Education should not control diploma designations and course requirements. Control of the diploma designation becomes a politically driven process rather than an educationally sound process controlled locally by teachers, parents, community members and employers.
  • The alternate pathway designation begins in 7th grade, limiting a student’s ability to change their mind. 7thgraders are typically 13 or 14 years old, perhaps aware of their personal preferences, but not ready to make career defining decisions.

To read more on the STEM Designation on High School Diploma click here.

I wanted to provide you with a more rounded collection of resources.  Unfortunately, it seems no one else is speaking out about this.  If you know of other sources, I would love to check them out.  I believe it is important to read as much on a topic as possible from as many angles as possible.  The most important thing is to pray, seek wisdom, and take action as we feel led.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Easter Stories - A FlyBy Promotions Book Review and Giveaway

With Easter soon upon us, it comes early this year, I have really been enjoying this unusual collection of stories.  Easter Stories is a compilation of short stories that guide our hearts and minds to the true intention of the celebration of Easter.  It is not a time of bunnies and eggs, frilly hats and fancy dresses.  Easter is a somber time of reflection and reverence.  This 27 story anthology is a varied assortment of classic literature as well as folk tales from authors like Ludwig von Gerdtell, Leo Tolstoy, C. S. Lewis, and The Brothers Grimm.  Through this exceptional publication we are transported to various times and places and instantly reminded of just why it is we celebrate Easter within the Christian community.  We are also reassured of the undying love of Christ.

I have been enjoying these stories all by myself during my quiet reading time each morning.  However, I can see this collection getting dogeared over the years from much use within my family.  Though the intent is to illuminate the true meaning of Easter, this collection of tales is easily applicable to other times in life, especially within our homeschool.  I find relevance to history in the story of How Donkeys Got the Spirit of Contradiction where a pastor gathers his congregation together on a Christmas Day during World War II to share with them a story about Jesus' life in order to give them strength and courage as they worked in an underground railroad in Nazi-occupied France saving refugees and lived a life of great fear day in and day out.  My children are young now, but I will for sure be sharing this story with them the next time World War II comes around in our history rotation.

The story of The White Lily is the first in the book and one I will be sharing with my three much sooner.  There is no introduction given with this tale, but its message is strong.  A simple act of kindness has tremendous potential for the impact of good.  Here we learn about the importance of being kind and generous and how our actions are directly representative of the love of Christ.  One thing does lead to another, and the love of Christ surely shines on well after the gift of life was given. 

Easter Stories is a sturdy paperback book with strong pages that hold a nice size font for comfortable reading.  Each story is preceded by a beautiful, black and white illustration that gives a small indication to what we might find in the next group of pages.  All stories are timeless tales that either teach of the love of Christ or speak specifically to the Easter season.  These are wonderful to read aloud as a family, as a couple, on your own, or even to incorporate into a school lesson or integrate into an object lesson for home or church.  Some stories, like The Atonement, are just a few pages long allowing for a quick reading and discussion.  Others, like Saint Veronica's Kerchief, are longer requiring more than one reading session to complete, especially if reading as a family or part of a school unit.

Whether it be a lesson of the infinite sacrifice of Christ on the cross told in Robin Readbreast, or the example of taking on the punishment of those we love in The Atonement, Easter Stories is a valuable collection of great literary work and is worthy of the space it will hold on my bookshelf.  I look forward to sharing these stories with my children and grandchildren for years to come.  Stories are a simple way to share the love and sacrifice of Christ as well as provide launching points for valuable discussions in our life as Christians as well as moral issues we will face throughout life.  Reading is by far my most favorite way to worship, share, learn, educate and grow.  I am thrilled to have such a worthy collection in my possession.  Maybe you'd like to own a copy as well.

I did mention a giveaway, right?

Please leave a comment below sharing your most honored Easter tradition or your most treasured Easter memory for a chance to win your own copy of Easter Stories.  

The deadline for entry is March 30th.

Find out more here.

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"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

GPA LEARN - A Review

Critical Thinking Company Review
Why do we always seem to stress over math as homeschoolers?  Since we began our current homeschooling journey we have tried several different approaches to math.  One thing that I have been eager to see happen is our nine-year-old to gain some independence in her academics and not require so much one on one attention with me throughout the day.  Initially, it was a non-issue, but now that the younger ones are getting a little older I would like to be more available for one-on-one time with them as well.  It can be a difficult thing to juggle.   I knew that once our nine-year-old strengthened her math and reading skills this would become more and more of a reality.  Using GPALOVEMATH by GPA LEARN has greatly fostered this attribute in our homeschool, and it has been an amazing experience for all of us in many ways.

All three of our children - ages 4, 5, and 9 - just love GPALOVEMATH.  Our nine-year-old has become super independent in her math studies, and it is such a confidence booster.  Not only is she gaining the ability to problem solve and learn on her own, but I am gaining some freedom in my routine.  All three of the children just love the teaching style implemented in this online program, and we have found a way for all three of them to be independent in their math studies in one way or another.  The nine-year-old works 100% independently, with an occasional question for me, and is learning the importance of taking the time to be taught and learn before diving right in.  It can be tempting for her to skip the instruction and practice phases and dive right into the test.  However, she is finding that sometimes we need to take the time to allow ourselves to be taught in order to learn.  When she has worked on lessons within the program I receive an email update informing me of her progress.  This alerts me of her successes as well as provides me with information as to when she may be struggling.

My five-year-old surprised me by showing readiness for first grade math.  This is something I would not has as quickly discovered had we not explored using GPALOVEMATH with the youngest two.  He works equally well on the laptop and the tablet requiring occasional clarification or assistance from me.  He is not only learning math skills, but he is also gaining computer skills and learning how to better follow directions.  I hear, "Can I do math?", on a very regular basis from both the five-year-old and the four-year-old.  The nine-year-old will even request extra math time now and again.  That really says a lot in my book.

The four-year-old using GPALOVEMATH on our nook.

We've gotten a little more creative with our four-year-old using the program.  Life is easier when she can do things on a touchscreen tablet.  We have a nook, nabi, and Kindle Fire.  Currently supported formats are Microsoft Windows, Apple Mac Computers, Apple iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab 4, Goodle Chrome, Internet Explorer 11, Mozilla Firefox, and Apple Safari 6 and 7.  Although none of our devices are currently supported by GPALEARN we have managed to make the nook work for us.  We access the website via the web browser on the nook and use the website that way.  The sound doesn't always work with it not being a supported format.  The little kids rely on the program reading the lessons to them more than the nine-year-old.  When it won't work right I just read them the lesson, and they do the actual work on their own with occasional guidance from me.  All of my children would absolutely love it if there were an app created that worked on all of our devices, but we manage just fine with the format as it currently functions.

Another fun aspect of GPALOVEMATH is the different instructors.  Since each of my children is working at a different grade level they each have a different instructor.  Everything is animated.  The third grade level instructor is a very friendly robot, first grade is taught by a fun penguin, and kindergarten is led by a cool detective.  Each lesson is divided into three parts; instruction, practice, and quiz.  The student is free to choose where to begin and can go back anytime if necessary.  They earn points for each lesson that can be banked and redeemed for online gift certificates to cool places like Target and Toys R Us.  In addition to the gift certificates the parents can customize rewards to be given randomly for gifts of personal choice.  We have things like extra tablet time, puzzle time with mom, an extra bedtime story, and so on.  This is a lot of fun for everyone.

GPA LEARN has managed to free up some of my personal time, fostered a sense of independence in my children in regard to their zest for learning, and it has plunged my children into the deep end of mathematics all the while making the learning process fun and engaging.  You can learn more about GPA LEARN and GPALOVEMATH via Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest as well as reading reviews by other homeschool families by clicking the button below.

GPA Learn Review

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Friday, March 13, 2015

The Critical Thinking Co. - A Review

Critical Thinking Company Review
My four-year-old loves to sing the ABC song.  She actually taught it to herself.  I still remember the first time I heard her singing it and wondered how in the world she had learned the song.  Then I discovered that one of her little toys that sings song was the "teacher".  I've seen this with her when it comes to a lot of so called learning things.  She learns them on her own.  Naturally, I really thought The Alphabet Song Game by The Critical Thinking Co. would be a natural fit.  Sometimes our preconceived notions have a way of getting in our way, and that happened for us this time around.

See, I thought The Alphabet Song Game would be something that I could just let her run with.  So, I kept trying to get her to play the game on her own.  That worked once or twice.  Then she wasn't interested.  The game was awesome, and I couldn't figure out why she didn't want to play it.  What it boiled down to for her was that she wanted me to sit with her while she played the game.  She didn't want to do it on her own.  Once I adjusted my idea of how the game was "supposed to" fit into our routine all was well.

Critical Thinking Company Review

Her favorite way to play The Alphabet Song Game is with the laptop hooked up to our television.  When we do this even the five-year-old joins in.  Each level begins with an animated teacher singing the ABC song for you to sing along.  On the first level each letter is given in order, and you are asked to click on the correct letter with what is being said.  There is an option to have the letter repeated.  As the levels progress choosing the proper letter becomes more and more challenging.  The little kids get competitive with each other, and have a lot of fun trying to be the first one to identify the correct letter.  The five-year-old even likes to pull out our ABC puzzle to match the letters from the puzzle to the letters in the game.  They like having the option to repeat the game they just played or move on to the next game.  Each level increases in difficulty of challenge, and you can play using all uppercase letters or all lowercase letters.  We began with only uppercase and have "graduated" to learning the letters in their lowercase form.  However, a high enough level of accuracy must be achieved before the next level becomes available.  The kids really do have a lot of fun, and the nine-year-old even gets caught up in it sometimes.

We were given the computer license download for Windows as part of this review, but The Alphabet Song Game is also available as a download for iPads, Android Tablets, and Win 8 and Win 8.1 Tablets.  My kids LOVE playing on Tablets.  It's a new experience for them that we just recently added to our homeschool.  So, I am certain that The Alphabet Song Game will get even more use via our nook which I just downloaded the app to today.

The Critical Thinking Co. stands behind their products with a full satisfaction guarantee.  Their quality products have been around since 1958, and their mission is to empower the minds of our young people.  They offer wonderful customer support, and provide wonderful articles and advice via their website.  You can learn more about The Critical Thinking Co. and The Alphabet Song Game by following them on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and Pinterest.  Their website is set up to search by grade, subject, or product type making it simple for you to find just the right product to meet the individual needs of your family.

Critical Thinking Company Review
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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Winter Beach Play

Pat and I and the kids had a fun day of exploring this past weekend.  We live near Lake Huron, and we just love the water.  Bella had asked a few times over the winter to go to the beach.  I thought it sounded fun to explore the beach in the winter.  She's been itching for over a month or so to go to the park as well.  All of the beaches we frequent have a park.  Win, win!  Here are some pictures from our adventure.  Maybe you'll be inspired to visit a park in the winter, too.  If you happen to have a beach, bonus!  I can tell you that we had the park to ourselves, and even though it was cold the kids weren't ready to leave when we were.  I was surprised about that, but they really were having a lot of fun!  Now, for our adventure:

We love the playscape at Ft. Gratiot Township Park.
Avery enjoys everything to do with music!

Annabella loves to swing, and Harmony always loves these big swings.
A few of the parks near us have them.

Avery exploring the awesome playscape.

Annabella coming down the spiral slide.
One thing to note is that slides aren't as slippery when it's cold.

They didn't know where I was.
I kept whistling, and then they found me!

Harmony standing on one of the huge snow piles!

Is Lake Huron gorgeous, or what?

Interesting bits about Lake Huron.
(Avery insisted on the green frame.)

Burtchville Township Park has been a special spot for our family for years.

Lake Huron at Burtchville Township Park.

Picnic Table waiting for picnickers at Burtchville Township Park.

Harmony, Annabella, and Avery on the small playscape
on the beach at Burtchville Township Park.

Avery and Annabella having loads of fun!

Lexington Harbor takes on different form in the winter.

Docks at Lexington Harbor.

Dedicated ice fisherman at Lexington Harbor.

The boardwalk at Tierney Park in Lexington.

No amount of snow can stop Annabella from swinging!

This kid!

Harmony trying to maintain her footing
while pushing Avery on the swing.

Daddy's always good for a few good pushes!

Harmony looking introspective on the
playscape at Tierney Park in Lexington.

Even if you don't have amazing bodies of water near your home, parks can be a lot of fun in the winter.  We spent SO MUCH time cooped up last winter and this winter with sub-zero temperatures that it was a very refreshing change of pace to get outside, explore, and play once the temperatures reached into the 30's.  It was plenty warm, and the wind was mild, so the kids never complained of being cold.  Traveling from beach to beach allowed them time to warm up and relax between destinations, and they really enjoyed watching the water line as we traveled.  We would have driven even further up the coast, but the kids were getting hungry.  Since it was a spur of the moment activity, we hadn't planned ahead.  In the future I would most certainly pack a picnic lunch and make a full day of it.  It was a very enjoyable way to spend time together on the weekend.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Visual Learning Systems - A Review

Visual Learning Systems Review
The kids love learning about science, and they love the visual aids that can sometimes accompany the subject matter at hand.  I am getting better about utilizing technology in our homeschool.  I have to admit that I am slow to warm up to all the online resources, videos, apps, and the like.  I guess I'm just old school.  I mean having a home computer wasn't even a reality until I was very much an adult.  A lot has changed in the last 10-20 years!  My reluctance to usher our homeschool into the 21st Century via technology is made just a little easier to transition through by companies like Visual Learning Systems.  Their approach to science is simple, thorough, and easy to use.  All very important attributes to this overstimulated, homeschool mamma.

Digital Science Online: Elementary Edition (K-5) has been a fun addition to our routine over the past several weeks.  This year at Royal Academy we are studying human biology.  We find it all fascinating.  Up until we started our review period with Digital Science Online we had mostly been doing book work and hands on activities.  Adding the visual aspect provided through the online videos has taken our learning experience to a whole new level.  The material provided at the elementary level under life science is a perfect compliment to our science curriculum.  We have enjoyed things like watching the process of blood circulation, seeing cells in action, and the role of nutrition in our digestive system.

Visual Learning Systems Review
Since I've mastered the art of hooking up our laptop to the television the kids and I enjoy cuddling up in the family room, it's been cold here which makes the option of cuddling under a blanket for science class all the more enjoyable, and viewing the video that complements our days activities.  The way the videos are set up in segments is especially handy allowing us to easily stop for discussion, either using the complementary material provided or just to answer a question or make an observation, and to allow for viewing over multiple days to keep pace with the book curriculum we use.

Visual Learning Systems Review
As part of our review we had full access to Digital Science Online: Elementary Edition (K-5) as well as Digital Science Online: Secondary Edition (6-12).  However, with all of my currently homeschooling children being in the lower elementary grades we spent the bulk of our time using the elementary edition.  I was surprised that we spent most of our time at the elementary level, and not much time in the primary.  Even though my youngest children are just four and five years old they kept right up to speed at the elementary level.  They asked questions, showed an understanding of the material, and found the videos fascinating.  Our academics tend to cater to the nine year old who is currently working at a third grade level.  With this in mind I sometimes have concern that we're leaving the younger ones out.  Adding the Digital Science Online video curriculum to our routine was exciting because it captured the attention of the young ones providing a super simple way for me to actively engage them in our science studies.  There was no concern that the activity would be to advanced or challenging for their young skill set.  Watching the video with us is a perfect way for them to engage in our learning experience.  They actively participate in the follow-up discussions and answer questions, correctly!  This is instant confirmation that what they are learning is sticking with them, and who doesn't love to see that?

Having access to such a broad spectrum of grade levels is wonderful.  We are not limited to a certain set of topics based on grade level.  Our family is able to explore any subject at any time at any level.  We are not limited to certain subjects, required to go in a set order, or restrained to a set grade level.  It is fun to be able to study the material which directly complements our current science curriculum as well as have the freedom to explore other subjects that we may simply find interesting at the time.  The teacher's guides, animations and images all complement the videos perfectly providing a well-rounded curriculum that could be used all on its own.  Having all of those resources at your fingertips separately allows for personalization of lessons which I absolutely love.  One can simply pick and choose what to use, or not use, and when.  With our eclectic learning style this is a perfect fit attribute that I am always on the lookout for.  Our resources simply must be flexible, and Digital Science Online by Visual Learning Systems fits the bill perfectly.

You can find Visual Learning Systems on Facebook and Twitter.

Visual Learning Systems Review

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Sunday, March 08, 2015

Egglo Entertainment - A Review

Egglo Entertainment Review
I have to admit that we've never made a huge deal out of Easter, especially with this current batch of children we find residing in our home.  (insert silly smile here)  My oldest kids grew up having a special dinner and looking for Easter baskets.  I wasn't even that consistent with reminding them of exactly why it was we were having a special dinner and hunting for baskets.  The second batch got a better education on the subject, and the third batch is getting the most substantial education on the subject.  It's just the way it goes for us sometimes.  Good resources are helpful when we're growing and learning, and Egglo Entertainment has put together just that.  My husband, myself, and my children thoroughly enjoyed the products we received, and we are super happy to share them with you.  My only regret?  My battery on my camera died after the first few photos, so I have no great pictures to share of our experience, so you'll just have to take my word for it when I tell you that we all really did have a lot of fun with our Glow in the Dark Easter Eggs!

Our family celebrates the Sabbath, and this activity was a fun addition to our day.  We spent the early part of the day exploring local beaches.  If you've never done this in the winter, and you live by any bodies of water, you simply must.  We're just twenty minutes from Lake Huron, and a frozen lake is a beautiful example of God's handiwork.  (I'll share more on this in a different post.)  After our winter exploring we came home and enjoyed lunch together.  Then, we all gathered in the family room.  I had already advance prepped the balloon activity from the curriculum.  We read the story from the paperback Adventure Book that we received as part of our review.  I was worried that the story would be too long to hold their attention, but the kids were interested in what the story had to say, and they loved looking at the colorful illustrations on each page.  The story did a good job preparing us for the Glow in the Dark Easter Egg hunt.  The more we got into it the more excited they got, and it provided us a nice platform for discussing the reason we celebrate Easter as Christians.

Egglo Entertainment Review

I like to educate my children on the history of our holidays, and the Adventure Book is a good launching board for such discussions.  My original plan was to do this with my brood of grandchildren that always come celebrate St. Patrick's Day with us.  On occasion we have an egg hunt since we do not get together for Easter.  When it's nice out it's a fun way to get the children outside running around and having fun.  However, we needed this review done early with Easter coming early this year, and despite previous years showing off the grass in mid-March, we are still knee deep in snow.  (I did walk outside in a t-shirt, capris and flip-flops today to get the sleds out for my children to play outside.  Only in the Midwest, people!)  With all these things in mind, we held the event as a Sabbath activity for our children, and we just had fun with it.  The Curriculum Download is packed full of activities and instructions for planning and hosting a large outreach event for a group of families should that be your desire.  It's an excellent resource.  As a previous VBS leader I can really appreciate the advance instructions and step-by-step guides for the volunteers.

Egglo Entertainment Review
Back to our egg hunt.  So, I read the story.  Once we were finished we used the discussion questions that I printed from the Curriculum Download and discussed the story.  As I mentioned, I had advanced prepped the balloons for an activity in the curriculum called, Scripture Scramble.  I wrote the bible memory verse on balloons that I blew up.  "The light of Jesus shines in the darkness." from John 1:5.  Each balloon had one word from the verse along with the reference.  The kids had to put them in order.  They loved it!  Afterward they got to just play with the balloons.  This kept them occupied until it got dark.  We did trick the oldest into thinking it was going to be held outside and even got her to hunt out there for a few minutes.  LOL  I know!  We are terrible, but we're silly like that.  It was a lot of fun!  HAHA!

I did manage to snap a few of her before my camera died.  LOL

Our review package also included Egglo Treasuers Scripture Scrolls and Egglo Bible Verse Scroll Stickers along with the Adventure Book and Glow in the Dark Easter Eggs.  In advance, I made a trip to our local dollar store.  I found some small gifts to add to the eggs.  (I spent about $5, so it was just a little investment.)  We're not big on candy in this house, so I included one piece of chocolate for each child along with three jelly beans in each egg that did not have a different gift in it.  I did a compass and headphones for each child.  They were easy to connect with the love of Jesus and fit well in the theme.  I also got a package of regular plastic eggs to add in with the glowing ones.  This particular pack had one golden egg to which I added four quarters along with the Scripture Scroll and Scroll Sticker for the lucky one who found it.  In our case it was the youngest one.  She was thrilled!

Egglo Entertainment Review

Once it was dark outside, and after we got Harmony back in the house, the kids went upstairs while I hid the eggs.  They came down and searched the family room.  I made sure I let them know that there were seven eggs for each of them plus one golden egg.  I gave them each a basket and asked them not to open any eggs until everyone had found seven and the golden egg had been found.  Of course the oldest was finished first.  If I had to do it over again I would have asked her to leave the easier ones for the little kids and search more diligently for the ones that were a little more challenging to find.  However, the little kids persisted and with a little "hot and cold" help at the end managed to find all the eggs.  They brought their spoils to the coffee table where a very little amount of trading had to take place in order for everyone to get one of each thing that there was just one for each child.  Amazingly, each child got one piece of chocolate and the correct set of headphones.  The only thing they had to trade was jellybeans for compasses as Avery got all three of those.  It went well, and did I already mention that they loved it?

After they were done searching for all their eggs we used the discussion questions from the curriculum that discussed the idea that Jesus is THE LIGHT of the world!  Unfortunately, our eggs really didn't glow that much.  I have a sneaking suspicion that, despite reading the directions, I did not properly charge them.  So, be sure your follow the directions exactly, and if you have to charge them for inside use do so under a light.  I placed them in a sunlit room all day, and it wasn't enough.  They really need direct light to charge properly.  Even though they weren't glowing strong my children loved them, and they did notice the cross on the eggs.  Everything about the Glow in the Dark Easter Eggs by Egglo Entertainment is designed to direct you to Jesus, and it does just that.  My children have already requested to do this again.  Looks like we may have a new tradition for our family.

Get social with Egglo Entertainment:

Egglo Entertainment Review

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Thursday, March 05, 2015

5 on the Fifth - March 2015

In February the kids and I were blessed to have participated in a 50 States Fun Swap that I just happened to discover through Facebook.  It was a really fun experience, and it renewed in me a love and appreciation for the state I've spent pretty much my entire life living in.  Michigan is a beautiful place to live.  The Great Lakes are gorgeous, and I am SO thankful to live a short 20 minute drive from Lake Huron.  The kids and I have a ton of fun exploring our area, and we look forward to venturing out as they grow and exploring more and more of the state we call home.  I thought I'd share just a small sampling of the blogs I discovered in my quest to find interesting bits to share with the people we sent our state information; seven in the trade, plus one friend in Georgia, and another friend in England.  We added our two friends just for fun.  In the trade we sent seven packages of information in anticipation of receiving seven in return.  Currently we have received five envelopes; Maine, South Carolina, Kentucky, Wyoming, and Missouri.  I hope you find our Michigan adventure fun and interesting as well.

In Michigan apples are HUGE.  It's a big deal when they come into season, and I just cannot imagine fall without a trip to the apple orchard.  The cider is amazing, and the donuts. donuts!  Beyond incredible.  I grew up canning applesauce with my mom and grandma.  Somehow I managed to get tunnel vision with apples.  You know, making the typical applesauce, apple pie, apple crisp, and applesauce, and apple pie, and apple crisp.  What was I thinking?  There are a bounty of amazing recipes out there, and this blog on the Michigan Apples website has plenty to stimulate your apple cooking creativity.  Enjoy!

I love photography!  I love nature photography above all, and Greg Kretovic shares his stunning photographs of Michigan's Upper Peninsula on his blog, Michigan Nature Photos.  The photography is gorgeous, and his captions are a wonderful way to learn a little more about the state of Michigan.  His photos alone are inspiration enough to get out and explore Michigan.  If I could move anywhere in the world it would likely be Michigan's Upper Peninsula.  If you've never been there, you seriously have no idea what you are missing.  As soon as I cross that bridge I never want to return home.  It wouldn't take much to twist my arm to stay there.

I love coney dogs!  There is nothing like a Michigan Coney Dog.  Nothing.  The sauce is quite unique, and everyone has an opinion on what's the best.  Personally, nothing compares to Gus' chili at Mt. Clemens Coney Island.  I have never had anything that I liked nearly as well.  I have not made it at home that even comes close.  However, the recipe at Winner Dinners seems to come pretty close to keeping with the tradition.  Any of my family members that visit from out of state always go out of their way to get a Coney Dog.  Traditionally they are served with chopped white onion and yellow mustard.  How the dogs are prepared is another personal matter, but the buns are always steamed.  If you've never had one, you just might want to give this recipe a try.

The kids and I were excited to find this idea at Child Central Station for creating a map of Michigan.  We each made a few so that we had one to include in each packet.  We marked the map accordingly to show where we live and added the bridge.  It was fun to read about their life in Marquette and compare it to where we live in the lower peninsula.  We included the capital on our map as well.  The kids really enjoyed making this map.  It's a fun craft for anyone to do whether or not you live in Michigan.

You can't think of Michigan without thinking of mittens.  Unfortunately, we didn't get to try this cool craft by Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas, but it is in my back pocket for next year.  I have never experimented with salt and painting, and I am thoroughly intrigued.  This really looks like a lot of fun, plus there's spray bottles involved!  Need I say more?

5 on the Fifth


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