Monday, July 30, 2012


I recently told a blogging friend that I want my blog to be a reflection of my mind.  If you read it, it would be like reading my mind.  But then I realized something: my mind is a very scary place.  It's full of dark corners, a few cobwebs, things waiting to jump out and surprise me.  I freak myself out on a regular basis.  And I'm not talking about watching too many horror movies.  I'm talking about something much scarier.

SHE is hiding there.

She goes by different names.  Pride.  Fear.  Defiance.  But the worst part is, I never recognize her.  She shows up very predictably, but I always let her in and entertain her for a while.  Sometimes I even let her talk to my husband, though she usually doesn't want to because he recognizes her right away and sends her scurrying back to a corner.  Most of the time, I hold her hand and lead her around my innermost thoughts and let her whisper in my ear.  And I know she'd love to guest write a blog post.

The only way to get rid of her is to invite her to speak to my Best Friend.  He knows all of her tricks, but more importantly, He can banish her.  He did it a long time ago in the wilderness.  He finished it on the cross.  And when I hear Him start to say, "It is written..."  I know she's going to turn tail and run.

And then I can blog.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

20 Years!

Twenty years ago, I made one of the best decisions I've ever made.  Happy Anniversary, my love!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Deadlines and anniversaries

This coming week has some important dates.

Our homeschool portfolios are due on June 30, but since we are going to be at Good News Camp the whole last week of June, I need to get them turned in by Friday.  This is always a big stress-out time for me because I don't want to forget anything.  Also, inevitably, Caleb has not finished all of the required writing for the year.  So we need to finish a paper he's been working on and write up a lab report as well.  Thankfully, I'm already finished with Isaac and Joshua's, and Noah is still too young to need one.

On Wednesday, hubby and I celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary.  How it got to be 20 years already, I'll never be able to tell you.  What I can tell you is that every single day, I love this man I married more and more. He is planning to take me up to Hershey later today for some serious roller coaster time, without the boys.  Yep, he knows what I like!

Did anyone see the guy walking across Niagara Falls last night?  My stomach still hurts from all the anxiety.  I am so scared of heights, I can't even watch other people do stuff like that without my palms sweating.  Eek!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Time FLU and I didn't have fun

Ha ha.

I don't think it was actually the flu.  Although I had the vaccine this year, and I guess it could have been a mild case.  I woke up in the middle of the night Sunday night with horrible nausea and stomach cramps.  And then a headache and body aches.  And I stayed in bed all day yesterday.  All I had to eat was graham crackers and a soft pretzel.  That's how sick I was.

Today?  Just fine.  I woke up at 8:30 (granted, later than I usually would) and I felt fine.  I spent the day visiting with my parents, who have finally arrived from Florida in their RV.  I have eaten the normal things I would eat on any given day and it has caused no further distress.

But I did lose a whole day.

I also got to see what my family would eat if I were not around to cook for them.  Shudder.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012


At the beginning of this school year, I wasn't at all sure my then-9-year-old would be reading even up to second grade level, let alone 4th, where he should be.  He has always struggled with remembering sounds and combinations, so we went over the same things many times.  But we found the perfect program for his needs: Funnix.  You can find it here.

Isaac's biggest problem with other phonics programs was that they moved too quickly.  I won't name them (though if you want to know, email me and I'll share), but we tried several other computer-based phonics programs and they left him in the dust.  This meant either tears of frustration, or no long-term retention.  When we started Funnix, it moved at such a slow pace that he was able to follow it, keep up with it, and ACTUALLY LEARN!  He is now five lessons away from finishing Funnix 2 and he is reading fluently.  When we test, I fully expect him to be at grade level.  It's amazing the progress he's made this year, and so exciting!

My favorite part is sitting in his Wednesday night class at church and listening to him read Bible verses out loud from the King James with little to no hesitation.  I am thrilled.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Land ho!

I think I'm done.  I think I've found a name I'm happy with, a look I'm happy with, and a layout I'm happy with.  Now if I could just get the fonts to cooperate...

We had a fun weekend.  We went up to Hershey yesterday after church and enjoyed our season passes for the first time.  I rode the new Skyrush coaster and screamed my head off.  It was terrifying.  In a good way.

Now we're down to what I anticipate being the last week of school for the younger boys, and hopefully the oldest as well.  We'll see.

Friday, June 01, 2012

I'm changing again

If you notice things changing on a seemingly random basis, it's just me trying out some different templates to see what I like.  I don't like the dynamic templates Blogger has because my sidebar disappears, along with most of my gadgets.  But I don't particularly like any of the other standard templates either.  I found this one on another site, but I'm going to keep looking - I can't change the background to anything but white.  TOO MUCH WHITE!  If anyone knows of any good blogskin sites out there, let me know.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Today is a migraine day

I made a decision recently.  Migraines aren't going to ruin my life.

I know, it seems like I should have made this decision a long time ago.  I've been getting them since college.  And thanks to medication and learning what my body wants when I start to feel a migraine coming on, they are not nearly as bad as they used to be.  But they still knock me out.  If I get a migraine, it's a guaranteed three days until I feel normal again.

Having said that, most of those three days are spent in a sort of "functional" migraine, as I call it: I can do stuff (clean, cook, teach the boys) but if I let myself get agitated or stressed, it gets worse.  Of course, NONE of my daily activities agitate or stress me, right?

 But what I realized in the last few months is that I use my condition as an excuse.  I can't volunteer for that - what if I get a migraine?  I can't have people over for coffee - what if I get a migraine?  And God does not want me to live my life on what ifs.

I have prayed, asking God to take these headaches away.  I prayed this with complete faith that it would happen.  It hasn't.  But what has happened may be better.  I have learned to do what I can do while I feel well enough to do it.  I waste less time doing silly things with no eternal value.  I'm not saying I waste NO time, just less.  I have learned to take time to slow down when I need to.  I am trying to reach out to other people.  And I am learning not to feel sorry for myself.  Just reading about what Paul went through in the Bible is enough to make me feel like a petty whiner for complaining about a migraine headache, even when it's really bad and has me vomiting and in so much pain I can't sleep.  This is my thorn in the flesh, and really, it's just a tiny little one.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Recently I was given a free month of in exchange for a review.  I was really excited about it, because I'd seen so many positive comments about it in the past.

The first thing I discovered was that time slows down in the Time4Learning universe.  And not in a good way.  After signing my two youngest up on the website, I received a message saying it would be (trying to remember here) either 24 or 48 hours until the account was active.  A week later it still said the same thing.  Just when I was ready to call customer support, the account finally went live.  But I was already ten days into my free trial.

Now the good news: the boys really liked it.  They weren't interested in the math section, so we did quite a few science, social studies, and reading lessons.  The lessons were cute, although somewhat repetitive.  The quizzes at the end were EXTREMELY repetitive.  The animations/stories are what really sold the kids on it.  We were all laughing out loud at some of the discussions between the animated characters.  There was also a lot of interactive clicking involved in the lessons, which keeps the kids engaged and learning.

So overall, I was pretty happy with the website.  I would definitely consider adding it to my curriculum for next year.  It would be great to let the two younger ones do some of their work online while I work with the older two.  I don't know that it's complete enough for a stand-alone choice, but I liked what I saw.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Language Arts - My Personal Choice

Here's the thing... You're going to notice a big difference in tone, style, and amount of unrestrained gushing when I get to the curriculum choices I am currently using and love. It's only natural, I suppose. You have been warned.

My personal choice for language arts is the Learning Language Arts Through Literature series (LLATL). I have used every grade level now except 1st and their American Lit course, and I love them all. This is what I was looking for when I got so frustrated at having separate grammar, spelling, usage and literature books. It's all here in one handy volume. All you need is the teacher book, the student workbook, and four or five novels a year. It's pretty affordable, especially if you can find the teacher's manuals used and get the novels from the library.

PROS: Everything is broken down to daily lessons, for 36 weeks total. All language arts subjects are covered in one book. The literature is maybe not the best known, but it's all good.

CONS: The literature is not the best known out there. I have supplemented with additional books that I want my kids to read. The Gold Level (British lit), however, was fantastic. I didn't add a thing.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Language Arts, Part 3

The next year, I bought some used Bob Jones University Press books. They included several textbooks and workbooks for each grade. Again, there was so much work, I felt like we spent half the day doing language arts. I guess if you're stuck on BJU, it's okay. It seemed very thorough. It went into sentence diagramming and a good amount of grammar. But it was just too much.
PROS: Very thorough, good for those who like a classroom approach
CONS: Too much work per child, especially if they are not close enough in age to use the same books.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Language Arts, Part 2

The next language arts program I tried was K12. I really liked it. It was thorough from a grammar and spelling standpoint, and there were a lot of interesting stories to read. However, again there was so much work involved, it just felt overwhelming. While I would highly recommend their phonics program (worth the price if you can afford it), I don't think I would use their language arts again.
PROS: very thorough, no scheduling required
CONS: very work-intensive - there's grammar and usage, spelling, vocabulary, plus phonics for early grades, plus literature. It's also expensive.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Language Arts, Part 1

The first language arts program I tried was Alpha-Omega's Lifepacs for 1st grade. In short, I didn't much like it. There was not a lot of substance as far as I was concerned, and it cost way too much for what it was. Fortunately, I was able to sell my teacher's guide the next year and recover some of the cost. I don't think I would try AO again for language arts.

PROS: Nicely laid out, easy to follow, no planning involved. Good for parents who don't like to spend time planning.

CONS: Not advanced enough for my 1st grader, too much busy work.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Here we go again

I have had an almost irrestible urge to blog lately. It seems like it usually comes in the middle of the night. I'm trying to fall asleep, and the same thoughts keep going around and around in my head and I think, "Tomorrow, I'm going to get up and write about that." And then I don't. And yes, this has been going on for a long time. I don't know if you'd call it writer's block or what. But I feel like I need to work through it. So I think what I'll start with is reviewing curriculum I've used. I like talking about things that have worked for me, and maybe it will help someone else who has a question. Then I can move on to less structured topics. So tomorrow, I'm going to start with my favorite subject, Language Arts. In the meantime, tell me what's worked for you?

Thursday, March 01, 2012

It's an app, app, app, app world

A couple of months ago, my dad decided to get an iPhone and pass on his iPod touch to me. Like I needed something new to take up my time.

I instantly became addicted to it. I know this is a big shock to you all, knowing how much I hate technology and all things new and cool (cough cough).  Yes, I am my father's daughter.  Anyway, it is undoubtedly one of the coolest things ever and will accompany me everywhere I go for many years to come.

The one thing I didn't really know much about before I got the thing was "apps."  I thought apps were the things you got before dinner (ba da boom).  Who knew that my favorite thing to do with my new iPod would be browsing the app store for FREE STUFF?  Because, as I may have mentioned once or twice before, I love free stuff.

There are so many cool free games available, it's scary.  I've found a few I really like.  One of them is "Alchemize", a game where you match colors and gradually trade up until you get to gold.  Alchemy - get it?  Anyway, it's horribly addictive and I have been know to lose hours at a time to it.  And I Still. Haven't. Won.

Another fun one is "What Song?" which uses your own music to play a sort of "name that tune" game.  The faster you get the right answer, the more points you get.  It's fun, my only complaint being it doesn't ever seem to end.

I have a neato shopping list app that remembers everything I've entered previously, so the next time I want to buy it, I don't have to retype it.  Nice.

I have an app that lets me send unlimited text messages to any phone.  Free.  So if you want to be texted, just send me your cell #.

And then there are the podcasts.  The Lost podcast, the Vampire Diaries podcast, and on and on and on.  So many podcasts, and all free!  I'm listening to Jay and Jack on the Lost podcast as I write this.

So, do you have an iPhone, or iPod touch, or iPad?  What are your favorite apps?  And more importantly, are they free?