November 27, 2014

It is Good to Give Thanks

This year is disappearing so quickly and we'll be changing over to 2015 calendars very soon. It is hard to believe that we have already reached Thanksgiving 2014. Thanksgiving is a day set aside long ago by great leaders of our country--the Pilgrims in 1623, George Washington in 1789, James Madison after the war of 1812, and Abraham Lincoln in 1863--as a day to thank God for freedom, safety and abundance

No matter what craziness is happening around us, we are abundantly blessed beyond measure when compared to the rest of the world. Freedom alone is something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. Our family always thanks God for our blessings and for the privilege of living in the United States. We are thankful for the founders of this country who recognized the importance of freedom and justice. 

May you and yours have a most blessed and reflective Thanksgiving 2014. Enjoy the time with your loved ones--cherish every moment and make beautiful memories! 


November 24, 2014

Baking + Books = Kitchen Adventures! {Poppins Book Nook}

Here we are at the end of November. Can you even believe that 2014 is almost gone? Since it is November, it's also the last month of the year for Poppins Book Nook. We finished off a great year with the theme IN THE KITCHEN. This theme is a great one for this time of year, as I know I am in the kitchen much more often. This month we read some great books revolving around the kitchen and I had helpers assisting me bake some yummy things!
in the kitchen with books poppins book nook

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At first I was a bit befuddled as to what books related to the kitchen. But as I started thinking about it, I decided that if the book was about food or the making of it played a dominate role, then it worked. I went to the library and just started browsing titles...there are quite a lot about food in the children's section, did you know that?! LOL! I stayed away from the obvious ones (Green Eggs and Ham and Stone Soup for example) and tried to venture into some new ones. 

Here are the books that we read over the course of the month:
by Patricia Polacco

Grandma consoles her frightened granddaughter by telling her that the dark clouds of the impending storm are nothing more than the ingredients for a Thunder Cake. 

This is a great book to use with a day in the kitchen! The colors of the illustrations are fun and the story is interesting. My boys enjoyed it very much and laughed at some of the unusual ingredients. There is a recipe in the back for making your own Thunder Cake, and there is a great lapbook available for you to use with it.

How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World
by Marjorie Priceman

An apple pie is easy to make...if the market is open. But if the market is closed, the world becomes your grocery store. This deliciously silly recipe for apple pie takes readers around the globe to gather ingredients. 

We love this book! It is so much fun to travel the globe and seek the different ingredients in this book. The illustrations are so beautiful! We like using our globe and finding the different places that she travels. The favorite though is Sri Lanka. The boys loved learning about cinnamon. It's one of our favorite spices in general. We examined some cinnamon sticks and tried to think of it as bark on trees.

This book is also part of the Five In A Row program which we have done in the past. This means there are a LOT of resources for it, including various lapbooks and activities which you can easily find with a search on Pinterest.

The Gingerbread Man
by Karen Schmidt

Run Run Run, Fast As you Can...Can't Catch Me, I'm the gingerbread man!

Everyone knows this book! But it was a fun one to read to Baby Britches for the first time. He loved being able to sing the chorus with me. We are going to be making some gingerbread men once I have found a good recipe. I really want to have one that works like sugar cookies, but tastes like ginger or molasses. I'm still looking around. If you happen to know of a great one to use, please link it up in the comments for me!

A Tangle of Knots
by Lisa Graff

In a slightly magical world where everyone has a Talent, eleven-year-old Cady is an orphan with a phenomenal Talent for cake baking. But little does she know that fate has set her on a journey from the moment she was born and it might end in peanut butter cupcakes.

I included this great chapter book because the main character is a hard core baker and spends a lot of the time planning out cakes and cake flavors for people. There is also a secret recipe for the worlds best peanut butter on the loose. I desperately wanted to eat cake after reading this book! There are even cake recipes in the back of the book for some of the fun flavors mentioned in the book.

Cranberry Thanksgiving
by Wendy Devlin

Every year Grandmother invited a guest for Thanksgiving dinner and allowed Maggie to do the same. "Ask someone poor or lonely," she always said. Thanksgiving was Grandmother's favorite day of the year. The cooking was done and her famous cranberry bread was cooling on a wooden board. But she wasn't happy to find out Maggie had invited the unsavory Mr. Whiskers to dinner. Would her secret cranberry bread recipe be safe with him in the house? 

This book is a tradition for us for this time of year. It's just such a fun story and the boys love it while I read it out loud. We did a great cranberry themed unit using the Cranberry Thanksgiving lapbook unit from One of the funnest things is doing bouncing cranberry tests. Have you done those before? We also tasted them. We discovered we aren't huge fans. Reading this book was a great time to re-watch our cranberry farm videos from Curiosity Quest. I think that this week, we will try making some cranberry bread like the book.

We had fun in the kitchen this month making various goodies...Baby Britches helps me more than Little Britches in the kitchen.
biscuits with mommy

baking and books
My best homemade biscuits recipe

The first three layer cake I ever made began here...

And it ended beautifully here
I was tickled to death to have adventures in baking this month. This three layer cake was the best and tasted so incredibly good. It was my biggest baking adventure yet! This cake recipe is the BEST--and I mean THE BEST and very old fashioned in taste.

It's fun to mix books with the kitchen. There are SO many books out there all about food or baking or spending time in the kitchen! I hope you will check out a few of these!

Feed Our Small World:A Cookbook for Kids Giveaway! 

Every month the Poppins Book Nook group will be offering readers a chance to win a brand new storybook or product that ties in with our theme for the month. This month one lucky entrant will win a copy of the book Feed Our Small World: A Cookbook for Kids for the theme of To The Kitchen!

Entrants must be 18 years or older and reside in a country that receives U.S. Postal mail. This giveaway is brought to you by the company Enchanted Homeschooling Mom who is owner and founder of the Poppins Book Nook. By entering this giveaway you are also acknowledging that you have read and agree to all of the Rafflecopter terms and conditions as well as Enchanted Homeschooling Mom's disclosures found here {}.

Just enter the Rafflecopter below to win:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

The wonderful bloggers that participate in the Poppins Book Nook are:

Enchanted Homeschooling Mom ~ 3 Dinosaurs ~ To the Moon and Back ~ Planet Smarty Pants ~ Farm Fresh Adventures ~ Growing in God's Grace ~ Chestnut Grove Academy ~ Learning and Growing the Piwi Way ~ The Usual Mayhem~ Preschool Powol Packets ~ Monsters Ed Homeschool Academy ~ Adventures in Mommydom ~Teach Beside Me ~ Life with Moore Babies ~ Kathy's Cluttered Mind ~ Are We There Yet? ~ Our Crafts N Things ~Hopkins Homeschool ~ ABC Creative Learning ~ Joy Focused Learning ~ P is for Preschooler ~ My Bright Firefly ~A Mommy's Adventures ~ Inspiring 2 New Hampshire Children ~ World for Learning ~ Ever After in the Woods ~Golden Grasses ~ A glimpse of our life ~ Journey to Excellence ~ Happy Little Homemaker ~ Little Homeschool Blessings ~ Raventhreads ~ Tots and Me ~ As We Walk Along The Road ~ Stir the Wonder ~ For This Season ~Where Imagination Grows ~ The Canadian Homeschooler ~ School Time Snippets ~ Peakle Pie ~ A Moment in our World ~ Every Bed of Roses ~ Finchnwren ~ At Home Where Life Happens ~ The Library Adventure ~ Embracing Destiny ~ Day by Day in our World ~ Our Homeschool Studio ~ A Peace of Mind ~ Thou Shall Not Whine ~ SAHM I am  ~ Simple Living Mama

Have you written about ways you used books and cooking? Maybe you enjoyed exploring a cookbook with your family? Please feel free to link up this month:

Thanks for joining us this month! We will be taking December off to enjoy more time with our families, but don't forget to join us again in January for a new year and another book club theme!
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November 23, 2014

Linden Flowers and the Cough Kicker Tea {Fresh from the Cabinet}

Plants. They are all around us. They provide us beauty, fresh air, and a lot of natural remedies for every day issues. I have really enjoyed diving into the world of herbal remedies and discovering new and exciting ways to use the many herbs and flowers that grow on our earth.  One of the plants that I have had fun exploring recently is the Linden tree--also known as the common lime or basswood-- a native tree to most of the middle and eastern United States. Known throughout folk medicine for its fever reducing properties as well as a long list of other health benefits, the flowers (also called lime blossoms) from this tree  are a valuable everyday remedy for any home.
Learn more about Linden flowers and Cough Kicker Tea

The links on this blog and in the posts may be affiliate links.

Let me start with a HUGE disclaimer: I am not a botanist. I am not a medical provider. I am not an herbalist. I am {just} Doctor Mom with an unquenchable thirst for trying to find ways to keep my family healthy, without relying on many of the side effect filled over-the-counter drugs being used to treat everyday problems. As always, please use common sense and wisdom. Consult your health care professional before undertaking the advice shared here, to best assess your individual needs, symptoms and treatment. This information is intended to just provide you ideas about more natural ways you could deal with everyday issues in your health and home. I have included all sources that I have studied for this article at the bottom of this blog post for further reference.

Linden Tree--aka common lime---aka basswood

linden flowers
The Linden tree (also known as the common lime or basswood) is a native species to a most of the eastern United States. It is a deciduous tree with soft, green, heart shaped leaves and clusters of tiny drooping lemon colored flowers. The flowers show up starting about June and will give way to a small velvety green fruit during the fall. These flowers are very pleasing (and strong!) to smell and bees love them. The flowers (also called lime blossoms) hang down from the tree in clusters. 

The tree is said to be able to grow up to 130 feet tall and can live up to 500 years. It has dull gray bark when young, which browns up slightly as it matures.

I asked Love-Of-My-Life about them...he knows them by their name Basswood, but says he only knows of one in the area at his uncles property--there aren't as many around here any more, though they are native to this area (Kentucky).

The tree is very pleasing to the eye and is used in decorative landscaping (and as a shade tree) frequently. It's wood--more familiarly called basswood--is used in making models and for carving due to its light density. Did you know it's used for making musical instruments and for artist's charcoal? Even the inner bark can be used for things like rope, baskets, mats and other woven crafts. 

The tree is amazing...and we aren't even to it's homeopathic uses yet!
Linden Flower Tea

It is commonly known in the homeopathic world that the linden flowers (aka lime flowers) have many medicinal uses.  The flowers are best known for containing a high amount of the curative plant fiber mucilage--great for dealing with respiratory complaints. Natural healers have been taking advantage of the warming properties of the trees blossoms for years in making fever reducing tea. Drinking a hot linden-flower tea is known to induce sweating--which as you know is the body's way of cooling itself...thus linden-flower tea is known throughout folk medicine as "fever tea".

But that's not all! 

Remember when I said that it was a must have in your house for everyday remedies? Here is a "short" list of what linden-flower tea is also known for:

*alleviates respiratory ailments including coughs and the byproducts of the common cold
*stimulates the appetite, promotes healthy digestion, and soothes intestinal disorders
*helps calm the nervous system, thus reducing symptoms of anxiety
*to help promote natural sleeping
*eases painful cramps
*skin health and regeneration
*swelling reduction
*a mild diuretic and good for easing the symptoms of gout and rheumatism.

I think you can see the benefit of having linden flowers at your disposal! I have also read that linden flower honey is delicious! I'm a big fan of honey in general, so I would love to try some!

You aren't limited to using it medicinally! The fresh tender leaves of the linden (lime) tree can be added to green salads. You can even remove the stalk from the leaves and add them to your next sandwich. 

Obviously, you have to make sure you are really harvesting a linden tree before you ever consume anything from it...and if you find one, make sure it's not anywhere near a place sprayed with pesticides/herbicides. You don't want those added to your diet!

But if you are like probably just want it already harvested for you. If so, you can buy the linden flowers from most herbal suppliers. My personal favorite is Mountain Rose Herbs. They have excellent prices and are careful to make sure they only provide you herbs that are either organic or cultivated without chemicals or synthetic products--and aim for ethically harvested plants in the wild when available. But, if they can grow it themselves, they do!  Here is the link to purchase dried Linden Leaf and Flower like what I use in our home.

How can you use it to benefit your health?

If you do a search on Pinterest, you can find all sorts of herbal recipes with Linden Flowers in it. I have found many in the books I have read. Linden flowers can be used on their own or mixed with complementary herbs. They are definitely a common denominator of ingredients in the herbal recipes I have checked out.

To use the Linden Flowers as a tea, the most basic recipe is this:
Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 tsp of linden flowers, and then steep for 10 minutes. Be careful not to steep too long or the flavor will be lost.

*Sip it (as hot as you can stand it) three times a day to reduce fever and to promote perspiration.
*Drink a cup or two of the tea each day to help break up mucus buildup and congestion, relieving bronchial problems and to help eliminate painful cramps.

I will throw out this note that as I was reading I learned there are contrary arguments regarding drinking large amounts of linden-flower teas. Some sources believe it might damage the heart, while others claim it's safe. Those with heart disease may want to limit their intake to be safe. 

How about a great facial?
Clean your skin and pat dry gently. Place 4 tbsp of linden flowers in a bowl and add 1 litre (1 3/4 pints) of boiling water. Lean over the bowl and cover the head with a towel to trap in steam. Remain in this position for a least 10 minutes to allow the steam to open and cleanse the pores. Then wipe your skin with a cool damp cloth. Pat dry and allow the skin to cool down naturally for about 30 minutes before heading outside.

Simple and oh so effective for a great deep cleaning feel. I like to do this when my skin is at its oiliest. It makes my face feel so good!

Have puffy eyes?
To decrease swelling, simply soak cotton balls in the tea (cooled down of course) and place them on the eyelids for about 20 minutes. The flowers are said to reduce swelling, so this a simple and quick remedy.

How about dealing with sleep issues?
Make a tea by boiling 2-3 handfuls of linden flowers in 1 quart of water. Strain this mixture and pour it into the bathwater (or put the handfuls in a muslin bag and toss into your bathwater). Bathing in this will help calm nervous tensions, fight insomnia and is effective for calming children and babies before bed.

I'd even throw in some lavender blossoms (or a couple drops of lavender essential oil) for a truly delightful and soothing bathtime soak.

As I did my searching, the ultimate goal was to find a great recipe to help my boys with the nasty wet cough they have thanks to this nasty warm-cold-warm-frigidly cold-warm bipolar weather we are having this year. A sign of the month of November it seems. I know we aren't the only ones dealing with it this month.

Once I learned that linden flowers had such a great amount of mucilage (great for breaking up mucus and treating respiratory issues)--similar to one of my favorite herbs Slipper Elm Bark-- I knew I wanted them in a tea. I looked at a lot of recipes and came up with the following recipe--I used it today and the boys not only liked the taste, but it I could hear the coughing ease as they drank their tea. I would say that they got a good 2 hrs free from coughing thanks to the tea--and it prepped them for a great night of sleep too.

This recipe is great for boosting the immune system and for alleviating all those annoying bronchial issues--especially the never ending cough! Only want one cup of tea? Just remember it's a 1:1 ratio on the herbs--with a smidge extra for the linden flower. You can adapt it to fill just a tea ball or a tea infuser mug. I don't really measure--I really do pinch! LOL!
cough kicker tea
What my herbal pile looked like before putting it in my tea pot. It's so pretty! 

*When I am giving the boys (age 4 and 8) herbal tea, I make one mug of tea and split it between them giving them about 3-4 oz each. This has always worked well and I would recommend a similar dosage of herbal teas for any child 4-10 years old.  

I get all my herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs and everything in this recipe can be purchased from them. This makes a delightfully rosy colored up of tea which just looks pretty too. And as always, LIBERALLY lace it with raw honey for extra flavor and help kicking the cough.

I hope you enjoyed learning more about the amazing Linden flower. You can see why it is so valued in herbal medicine and I hope that you will consider adding it to your natural remedy "medicine" cabinet in your own home!

*Ageless (website)
Botanical Encyclopedia entry for Linden Flowers (

*The Illustrated Book of Herbs (book)
by Gilda Daisley
Illustrated by Ingrid Jacob
Copyright 1989
"Lime" pg 86-87

*The Complete Guide to Natural Healing (book)
Copyright 1999
Therapeutic Teas (Group 2 Card 9)
Linden-Flower Tea

"Benefits of Linden Flower Tea" by Joanne Marie
May 17, 2014

*Linden Tea (website)

November 19, 2014

Blue Ribbon Awards 2014~ Our Top 10 Favorite Products

It is hard to believe that it's been a year since I received the incredible news that I was chosen to participate with The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew team for 2014. The reviews are done for the year and I get time to reflect back over what we did and what we enjoyed. Our team voted on all the products we reviewed (from 58 companies!) to award the Blue Ribbon Awards for 2014 in 27 different categories. I thought it would be fun to share which of the 33 products we were blessed with to review were our Top 10 Favorite Products!
top 10 favorite products for homeschool

Here are the ten products we reviewed this year that we loved the most. These aren't in any particular order, and I have noted which ones won the Blue Ribbon Awards for the whole crew. All of my links will be taking you to the reviews I wrote on the products.

Drum-roll please...............

1. WriteShop (won Favorite Writing Curriculum)
We love Write Shop and even though the version we had was too easy for my writer, it was an excellent program and one that I recommend to anyone seeking a great beginning writing curriculum. We loved it so much we will be continuing to use the curriculum in the future as well. We have WriteShop C to use this year and I hope to use some of the advanced ones later.

This was one voted by Little Britches as being one of his overall favorites for the whole year. It was enjoyable and fun. I also liked how easy it was for me to "teach" it and do up assignments for him. He wishes he still has access to it. 

3. CTCmath (won Favorite Math Program)
This is the one that we voted as our favorite math program AND the best resource we didn't know we needed. This program actually was like love at first sight for both boys. They both really enjoy the videos AND the program. We discovered that Little Britches did better with this program than he did with me teaching him a lot of the math. We ended up buying an 18-month subscription which will start once our free trial wears out. We highly recommend this and several friends have purchased subscriptions and have raved about it too!

4. ARTistic Pursuits (won Favorite Fine Arts Program/Curriculum)
This program was so much fun! Baby Britches just had a blast using it! It's a great program and so comprehensive for teaching and encouraging art. I can't wait to continue to use this. We will be considering using it as we continue homeschooling--just with higher levels.

5. Maestro Classics
Maestro Classics was a super fun product and the boys are STILL in love with their Mike Mulligan CD. It's a daily thing that they listen to while they get dressed and do their morning chores.

6. Veritas Press (biggest winner of 2014! Won Favorite History Program, Best Digital Resource AND All Around Crew Favorite)
Love love love. We LOVE this history program. Since the first day we did it, it has been a family favorite. This is one subject that I have no problems with getting Little Britches to work on. He asks if it's time to do it. The retention of the information is great and he just soaks it in like a sponge. I highly recommend this program (the only drawback is the price...the ONLY drawback) and we will be using it again in the future at some point.

7. Roman Roads (won Favorite High School Resource)
Roman Roads. I reviewed this history curriculum myself and it was AWESOME! I loved everything about it. It's definitely a great one for the middle school level at the very earliest--ideal for high school. I can't wait to bring this out again for the boys when they are old enough. I am still working my way through it just for pleasure because it is so well done.

8. My Student Logbook (won Best Resource I Didn't Know I Needed)
This was a GREAT product. And I agree with the category it won in. It has made our routine so much easier since he is able to just look at what he has left to do and check it off. No more questions of "are we done yet?" or fights about how much is left. He can see it all right in front of him. I highly recommend this product and we will be continuing to use it.

9. Institute for Excellence in Writing: Fix It Grammar (won Favorite Grammar Curriculum)
I am so glad this product snagged a category win. It is excellent and so useful! We both agreed to keep it as part of our regular curriculum because it worked well and he loves it. No groaning on this product either. I look forward to continuing in the books as we progress.

10. Heirloom Audio Productions: Under Drakes Flag (won Favorite Book, Audio Book or Audio Drama)
Little Britches chimed in on this one. He really really loves this audio drama and asks for it every time we go anywhere of distance. It doesn't matter how many times he's listened to it. He loves it all the same. I am looking forward to purchasing the next one In Freedom's Cause which is available this month!
Well there are our 10 favorites for this year...there were more that we really enjoyed, but these 10 stand out as the best of the bunch. I hope you will check out my full reviews on each of them and consider making some of them a part of your own adventure! If you want to see what some of my fellow crew members chose as their favorites for the year, you can head on over and read about in the Blue Ribbon Awards 2014 post!

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November 17, 2014

It's Time for a Homeschooling Progress Report! {Week #10}

It's been several weeks now since we started school. As I mentioned in my posts talking about what we were going to do for third grade and preschool, we had a lot of ambitions. So where are we now? How have we done so far? What changes have we made? 
Homeschooling Progress Report
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What's been going on in our third grade routine? 

I had a grand third grade curriculum summary that I set out to do this year. As we dove into our year, we discovered that it wasn't really realistic for our routine. So we made some tweaks. 

*For the Bible lessons this year, I said we were going to be using God's Names/God's Promises and We Choose Virtues. Right now we are still using God's Names for our weekly lessons. We are following a "curriculum" that I created which includes a memory verse each week. This is very interesting for us both and we are enjoying it. At this time we aren't still working on We Choose Virtues. I will add them in at some point, but for now, the lessons we are doing for God's Names working very well.

*We are still on track for History as we continue our work in the online curriculum from Veritas Press. We work through one unit every two weeks doing it 3 days/2 days. We aren't even half way through the curriculum yet, which is fine by Little Britches. He loves it and asks for it. He's currently working on the unit about Westward Expansion. We made a covered wagon for this unit which was fun.

*Geography is going great. We are completing several pages of The Complete Book of Maps & Geography each week because it's so easy to put in. It's really something above and beyond because there is a lot of geography being covered in his history lessons.

*We made a few changes in our Math. While we are still working on and enjoying, we have decided to use IXL (we reviewed it earlier this month) as our supplement. We haven't worked on Ubersmart much at all thus far. IXL is a great supplement because it reviews the skills he's learning in CTC. Both programs are online, but the IXL is also available on my Kindle as an app which makes it portable. 

*We are on track with Science as we work through Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the 5th Day...but we are wishing we had more experiments. There are only one or two per chapter and they are "boring" (his words!) and sometimes we don't have any at all. I am considering adding something "extra" relating to what we are learning to make it a bit more exciting. We are enjoying everything else about the lesson though and find them very interesting.

*In Language Arts, I had planned on doing Pentime (Handwriting), WriteShop C (writing), Fix It Grammar (grammar), Logic of English (Spelling/Vocabulary), Lightning Lit 3 (Reading and reading comp) and free reading. As we went along as started Lightning Lit 3, I discovered it was more than I thought and included some grammar, and writing with the literature study. We've not had the need for Write Shop right now. We are continuing to use LOE for our spelling about 3 times a week and do the Fix It Grammar 4 days a week as it's laid out.  So the biggest change was throwing out Write Shop for right now. I have every intention of using it at some point but Lightning Lit is turning out to be a fabulous program and a pretty complete program so we are enjoying using it.

*It would be safe to say that Foreign Language studies is going great. Both boys are enjoying the lessons and absorbing them quickly. Song School Latin rocks! But we aren't stopping there! We are also learning Spanish with Middlebury Interactive Languages! We've discovered that both languages blend well together and use a lot of the same rules and even have similar bases. 

*Fine Arts...hahahahahhahahahah. Here is where we have strayed very much. At this point, I am incorporating art into our lessons and not as Art History as planned. I do want to get him back over to my MIL for lessons, but she has started subbing at the schools more often so she's not there often enough to count on her.  It's been the same thing for music. I really want to get back on track with lessons at some point...but am now thinking Little Britches might like to switch over to the recorder for a little while. I mean, don't all elementary kids learn how to play the recorder (to the despair and suffering of their parents!) 

*The extras...these ARE extras so I didn't have them as set in stone. We have been enjoying keyboarding, but took a break from it to get caught up in other areas. We will be putting it back in this week because he enjoys it. Essential Skills Advantage. This was another extra and we've let it slide. I might add it back for Friday work since we don't have major lessons on that day.

But wait...I've added something!

We have been taking advantage of morning work by adding in a daily math problem from a little book that I was given. It's called Figure It Out Book 2: Thinking Like a Math Problem Solver. This book is small--just about 31 pages. Each page provides a story problem and then walks the student through the process of solving a story problem. 
story problems for math

It's very simple and step by step and I love it--and the best thing is he enjoys it too.

We've also added a bit of creative writing too using the Snake Oil game like I talked about in my review from last week. These two things make our morning work more fun!

Okay--so we know where we are with Third Grade...but what about Preschool?

Preschool. Sigh. Well, the best laid plans just haven't...worked. As I mentioned in my post sharing our Pre-K curriculum,  the "core" of what we were going to do was going to be Before Five In A Row. Well...this has been put on the back burner. I've discovered that while he adores books and was doing very very well with the program, that he wants something "more". He gets restless and bored some days even when doing the B4FIAR work. So we changed up our routine. We now do three types of school: paper school, cabinet school, and computer school.  We start the day with him declaring which one he wants to do first. 

Paper school means he's in the mood to do things with worksheets and workbooks. Coloring, circling, cutting...workbook type activities. If he wants this, then I pull from the workbooks I have for him. We work on them together until he's "done". 

Workbook pages

If he requests cabinet school, he wants to do activities from our cabinet--puzzles, beads, beans, games...manipulative style learning.
lacing cards from $1 store
He's recently fallen in love with lacing and loves to spend time on lacing his animal cards.
 We have been doing a lot with his magnetic letters and pom-poms ("fuzzies"). Today we did something new. I flipped the back of a cheap $1 cookie sheet over and wrote two colors on the back with a line to separate using dry erase markers. Then he pulled off all the fuzzies and letters to match the colors and stuck them on. We did this with green and yellow too.
cookie sheet color match
Write on the back of a cookie sheet with dry erase and have them match all the same colors.
Computer school is self explanatory. It's the online programs that I let him use to work on skills. Sometimes this means using my laptop, but usually he uses my Kindle Fire. I will be sharing a post of the apps that I use for each boy in the near future.  He likes to do CTCmath, IXL and on the laptop. He is working at Kindergarten level in each of those programs. He gets to spend 15 minutes doing this.  Sometimes I need to help him if the program doesn't have audio for him--or it's asking to do a bit more "mouse usage" than he is able to right now.
With this new way of doing school, we move at HIS pace doing what HE'S in the mood for. We regularly do all three types of school in one day--but some days we don't. We are still doubling up on the foreign language and he sits in on history and science. We DO sometimes do a unit of B4FIAR, but right now this other way is working much better for us. We've already met some of the goals we set at the beginning of the year!

So there is my progress report. We've branched out in some ways and just trimmed off others. It's working for us right now without anyone (myself included) getting overwhelmed. This is another thing I am really enjoying about being "out of the box" this year with our curriculum.

I will do another progress report at week #20 to see how we are doing then too! I think it's fun to see how our routines morph as the year continues.

If you homeschool, what changes have you made since you began this year?
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November 12, 2014

Out of the Box Games: Snake Oil Party Potion {Product Review}

Game night is a big deal here at the house. Some of our favorites are John Deere Checkers, Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, UNO, Go Fish and the reigning game of choice Farm-Opoly. I am always looking for new games to add to our collection and thought that Snake Oil-Party Potion from Out of the Box Games might be a hit.

snake oil party potion product review

Product Summary

Out of the Box Games Review
Out of the Box Games is a company believing that games need to be fun. They also need to be easy to learn and play. The company specializes in games that can be learned in minutes, played in under an hour, are very colorful and very fun to play. Since 1998, they have become a prominent leader in American games and have won several of the most prestigious awards in the game world. 

Several of the games are lauded by the education industry for being aligned with Common Core standards, making the games a hot commodity in the classroom too. 

One of their newest games is Snake Oil-Party Potion.  Based on their original Snake Oil game, the newer version was designed for younger children to play (age 8-adult). The concept of the game is simple: One player is the "customer" and picks from a stack of customer cards. All the other players are dealt five word cards. They then pick any two of their cards to make a "product" to sell to the customer. One at a time they present their product to the customer-explaining what it is, what it does, and why the customer needs it. Once everyone has presented, the customer then decides who had the best product for them. The winner receives the customer card and a new customer is chosen and the game begins again.

In the Snake Oil-Party Potion, the words are simplified to basic nouns and verbs (rescue, scooter, dirt, shoe, foot, hop, etc) while the customers are everyday people and jobs (fire fighter, astronaut, grandma, toddler, etc) to make it easier for the younger ages to play.

The Snake Oil-Party Potion cards can be played separately or could be added to the Original Snake Oil game for greater play.

Snake Oil- Party Potion retails for $14.99 and is for ages 8+.

We received the game Snake Oil- Party Potion to review for our family.

How Did We Use This Product?

Out of the Box Games Review
Snake Oil- Party Potion comes in a pretty and more sturdy box. The directions for playing the game are written right on the back of the box for easy start-up. Included in the box are the word cards (2 stacks), the customer cards (1 stack) both in a black plastic tray. There is also a small booklet with the directions written again, ideas for playing the game in a group and in a LARGE group setting, as well as a brief history about what snake oil was.

I actually put off the game because once I got it and really looked at it, I questioned whether or not we could even play it with our family. My husband wasn't hot on playing it, because he didn't like the name of it. When i explained how it was to be played, he said he didn't think it would work for us. 

We tried it, and he was right. My 8 year old (though in the range of age on the game) didn't really understand the concept of "selling" the product to a customer. He could come up with ideas for products from his cards, but initially had a hard time describing what it looked like or what it did. And then he was clueless on how it could be used by the customer, much less how to sell it to them. It took a lot of prompting. And since one of us had to help him, that only left one other player. The game is not meant for just two players (as it states on the box).

So we quit playing and instead just started grabbing random sets of cards to see what kinds of things we could come up with. MUCH hilarity ensued as we got combinations like "Snot Mist", "Butt Dust," and "Foot Pimple". Then we started talking about how fun it would be to play this game with my parents and some close friends. 

We put the game aside...

But the next day, I had an idea. I decided to maximize on the parts of the game that Little Britches COULD do and use it in our homeschool. I gave him a blank piece of paper. Then I dealt him 5 word cards and one customer card. His instructions were to create a product using 2 or 3 of the word cards for the customer. He needed to draw a picture of it and write at least 2 sentences describing what it was and did, and why his customer needed it.

It was a match made in heaven. He LOVED this assignment and eagerly went to work. Here are some photos of two of the ideas he came up with...
 Customer: Snowman
Product: Rescue Scooter
Description: When the snowman is melting he can take a rescue scooter. The rescue scooter will always rescue him to the mountains so he won't die.
Customer: Chef
Product: Pimple Mist Plunger (ahem. Yes. I know. Nasty)
Description: The plunger squirts mist at the pimple and the plunger pulls the pimple off.
(I am still not sure why a chef needs this...but the vision that pops in my head is hilarious)

Today he came up with a Trumpet Kitten Tickle(er) for "Grandma". When you blow it, a hand comes out and tickles the kitten.  I think he enjoys drawing the pictures more than anything else. LOL!

If his word cards were "boring" I let him trade in one or two of them and get a new one. We only had to do this once or twice. This assignment has worked so well and he enjoys it so much, I will keep it in our daily work for awhile. I think that by doing it he will gain skills for playing the actual game the next time we do.

What are Our Thoughts on This Product?

Little Britches:
"I think the cards are really funny. I like how you get to come up with something silly by putting words together. I really like using it in school too. I wish I could get the cards like "butt" or "snot" more often because they are funny."

"The game is fun. But I really don't like the name of it (Snake Oil) because it brings to mind something sneaky or negative. I also don't think this is something that's really intended for anyone under 13. The concept of trying to sell the product you have come up with just goes over their heads at that age. They are doing good to even put words together to make something up...we won't be able to play it as a family right now without a lot of assistance--since we only have 3 of us even older than 8 years old. But I think it would be really hilarious to play in a group of adults. That would be fun."

I basically agree with Love-Of-My-Life. I'm not incredibly fond of the name either, but I did like that they included a small information sheet explaining where the term came from. That there really was indeed SNAKE OIL at one point.

We ended up taking out two of the customer cards and two of the word cards because they were "occupations" and words that we don't use in our household-but since the offending "customers" were on different cards we just taped them together to make a "new" card. 

The cards are high quality like a normal deck of cards. The font on the cards is large and very easy to read. I found that the words on the word cards were fairly basic and easy to understand and the customer cards included roles and careers that the boys could recognize--this is what supposedly makes the Party Portion version of Snake Oil better for younger players.

The game was VERY easy to explain and to put into practice...but with our household of a 4 year old and an 8 year old, it's not an easy game to play with just us.  Now, I think a group of 8, 9 or 10 year olds could easily play it together because they would just be silly and not care about the details of how it's really supposed to work. LOL!

In the role of a new creative writing assignment for our homeschool, I love it. LOL!  He looks forward to it every morning and I have no trouble getting him to do it.  

With the price of $14.99...I don't think I would purchase this on my own. It IS just cards. I think if it was in the $10 range it would be more reasonable for what I would be prepared to pay for it.

Would We Recommend This Product?

The pros far outweigh the cons on this product. It's got the makings of a hilarious game that would be so much fun for a group of people to play. We laughed just playing around with the cards and coming up with random combinations. 

The Party Potion version is intended for age 8+ and contains easier to read and understand words and customer cards, but we still don't think it's something that could really be played (without assistance anyways) by someone less than age 10 very easily. The challenge was not in coming up with the product, but describing what it did and why it's useful for the "customer" and then selling it as something someone would want to buy. It would be hard to play in a mixed group with children under about a teenage level for this purpose.

Will we keep playing this game? 
Well, right now we are going to continue to use it as a creative writing tool, but we have plans to play it the next time we get a group of friends together. We really think it will be fun to play...just maybe not as a family right now.

Want to Know more?

We reviewed Snake Oil- Party Potion ($14.99) by Out of the Box Games. We didn't quite use it as it was designed, but there were a lot of other reviewers who did! Why not head on over to see what some of my fellow crew members thought of this game and the other version of Snake Oil that our team reviewed!
Click to read Crew Reviews
Want to see more from Out of the Box Games? You can find them on these social media outlets.


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While this game didn't end up working for us in it's intended form at this time, we are enjoying using it to enhance our homeschooling studies. The vocabulary being learned from all the word cards is an extra bonus! But, I am dying to try it out in a group setting to see how it REALLY gets brother is coming in for Thanksgiving...we might have to give it a go then!

Well, this ends my 2014 review for The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew...but fear not! I just received my acceptance for the new 2015 year and I've heard that we are booked solid with vendors and I'm dying to see what is going to be available!

Stay tuned because next week, I'm going to do a "Best Of 2014" post, where I share with you what my top 5 favorite things I reviewed for the crew was this year. To see a full list of what I've reviewed, you can visit my Curriculum and Product Review Page!
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November 11, 2014

Purposeful Design: Understanding the Creation {Product Review}

We are nature lovers. Living on a farm makes us very aware of the beautiful world we live in and we constantly seek to know more about it. We love learning about how the Creator loving put great detail into all that He has designed. It is hard to find good books about nature that are not filled with the evolutionary theory--something that as believers in a divine Creator, we do not hold as truth. I was very interested when I heard about a product called Purposeful Design by Jay Schamacker, a book entitled Purposeful Design: Understanding the Creation. This book supposedly focused on examining the wonders of creation, while giving credit to God for His incredible design of the world we live in. This intrigued me--and I couldn't wait to get my hands on it!

purposeful design product review

Product Summary

Purposeful Design Review
Purposeful Design: Understanding The Creation is an award winning book written by Jay Schamacker, intended to bring the wonder of God's creation into the hands of children. The book reveals the principles of science that allow our world to work, and how much care and consideration our a loving Creator God demonstrated in creating it.  As each day of Creation is discussed, Mr. Schamacker includes scientific explanations and details about things like the earth's rotation, the rain cycle, the seasons, the moon, bird migration instincts and more. The reader will also discover that woven throughout the book are scriptures from the Bible. 

Author: Jay Schamacker
Price: $18.95
Age: All Ages

Chapters of the book:
Chapter 1 – The First Day: Creation of the Heavens and the Earth, the Foundation of it All
Chapter 2 – The Second Day: Creation of the Atmosphere and Water
Chapter 3 – The Third Day: Creation of the Dry Land and Vegetation
Chapter 4 – The Fourth Day: Creation of the Sun, Moon, and Stars
Chapter 5 -  The Fifth Day: Creation of the Birds and Fish
Chapter 6 -  Creation Day Six: Creation of Land Creatures and Humans
Chapter 7 – The Seventh Day

Also available with this book is Young Explorer's Club--a child's workbook designed to be used side by side with Purposeful Design. The workbook includes seven chapter activity sets and comes with a teacher's answer key.The teacher’s set also includes a certificate of completion for each chapter the student completes. The book was designed to make children think and expand their comprehension on the book and it's topics. This curriculum is available as a download free of charge.

I was given a copy of Purposeful Design: Understanding the Creation to review and I downloaded the free Young Explorer's Club curriculum to use as well.

How Did We Use This Product?

Purposeful Design ReviewWe were excited when this book came. The cover was so brilliant and blue, it just begged to be opened. It was very sweet to discover that the author had autographed the book for us.

The first time we did this book, the boys sat with me and we just flipped through all the pages eagerly examining all the pictures. The pictures were incredible and just drew your eye. The boys were so enthralled we looked at it for quite awhile. As we continued, they might say "What is that?" and we would read about whatever the page was about. We didn't spend time going through it and reading page by page because they were so excited to just LOOK at it. Here are some of the beautiful photos that are part of this book:
You can see that the illustrations are rich and vibrant and true to life. They are beautiful to look at.

As I flipped through the book with the boys, I saw that this was a book that could be used as a science resource. Each chapter of the book revolves around a day of creation. Within each chapter are mini science lessons pertaining to things that were created on that day.  In Chapter 2 (day 2 of creation) there is a lesson on the atmosphere and water, including a detailed discussion on the rain cycle. Chapter 3 includes a study on plants and vegetation. Chapter 4 includes detailed lessons relating to our solar system. Every chapter is chalk full of information that can be used for any nature study!

Here are some examples:
The boys appreciated a detailed study on cows as part of Chapter 6. I appreciated an in depth look at the human body in the same chapter.

Every chapter continues to reflect back on the "Master Designer" who created everything with purpose. 

Another aspect of the book is that there are scriptures interwoven throughout the chapters as they pertain to the subjects, like this one from Chapter 4--with it's focus on the solar system.

One of the boys favorite pages from the book is the book talking about God's humor in creation. It shares photos of some very unusual critters:
An interesting thing is that we had just looked through this book before our trip to Florida (where we kept our annual Feast of Tabernacles observance), and one of the sermons we heard while we were there talked about creatures that God created to live in an extreme environment. One of them was the critter at the bottom far right of this illustration, the Yeti Crab. The boys instantly recognized it from our book and were eager to learn more about it. 

The book in itself is a very valuable resource, but when you pair it with the free Young Explorer's Club workbook, it nearly becomes a science curriculum. As I mentioned above the Young Explorer's Club is a free child's workbook to go side-by-side with the Purposeful Design book. It is broken down to match chapter by chapter. Each chapter of the workbook reflects on what was discussed in the book--including open ended questions, taking it further questions as well as simple fill-in-the-blank and multiple choice questions. Here are few examples:

I think you can easily see how it is the perfect compliment. There are also activity pages in the back (like crosswords) for even more. With a younger child, these could easily be used as oral work with the parent noting the child's answers--there is a lot of writing.

We chose to discuss the lessons orally for now--even Baby Britches was able to answer some of the questions. 

What Are our Thoughts on This Product?

Both boys loved the book. The illustrations were their favorite part of it. They found some of the animal information very interesting, though they didn't really care about all the super "science-y" stuff like percentages and equations and stuff.

*Focus on God as Creator
*Accurate Science Lessons
*Beautiful Photographs
*Diagrams for extra understanding of science topics
*Larger Text for easier reading
*Conversational Text for easy read-aloud
*Workbook to build into larger lessons
*Each Chapter Matches a Day of Creation
*Emphasis on the greatness of God by evidence of His creation
*Price ($18.95--free shipping!)
*Mention of the 7th day as being a day intended as a day of Sabbath rest to focus on God.

*Workbook is very wordy and and the activities geared more for age 8+
*Chapter 1 focused more on God Himself rather than the 1st day of creation (Day and Night)
*Larger size makes it better for a table rather than a bookshelf for storage

It is easy to see my pros, so I want to discuss my cons a little bit.

#1 The workbook is really better suited to an older child--I would say grade 3 at the least, especially if they are going to be working on any of it independently. There is quite a bit of writing and some of the questions will need assistance from a parent for understanding. This is okay though, because the questions could easily be answered orally. But if you planned on using it with an early elementary student, you won't really be able to.

#2 Chapter 1-Day 1. "Let there be Light and there was Light...and He called the Light Day and the Dark Night..."--this chapter was more focused on God as the Creator rather than anything about this particular aspect of creation. This isn't bad per say--because the information was fabulous--but since the rest of the book analyzes each day of creation, I expected chapter 1 to do the same.

#3 Because this is a bigger book, there really is only so many places you can store it. It IS meant to be a coffee table book, which works well. But if you want to shelve it, you will have issues since it is long. It would stick out of all my bookshelves.

#4--I didn't mention this in the general cons, but for our family, the mention of eating some of the creatures as food is a con. Our family follows the biblical food laws of Genesis, Leviticus and Deuteronomy--so the camel is not clean to eat (this is mentioned in the book as being food for man) nor the Piglet Squid (also mentioned as a possible food for man).  These are relatively minor, but we did have to clarify this with our boys as we were reading.

Would I Recommend This Product?

Yes! I think it is an excellent book and I know that many of my fellow homeschooling friends would love to have it as part of their resources. Even if you are NOT a homeschooler, if you are seeking a book about nature that is geared at glorifying God as the Creator, you will love it! It doesn't matter if you have children--this book is fabulous!

Having access to the Young Explorer's Club workbook for free (a pdf download), makes it even better for families--or even for Sabbath school teachers!

I would give this book as a gift because I know i would be appreciated by many and it's price is reasonable.
If you want a "neutral" view of natural science or one that includes other ideas besides Intelligent Design, this book is NOT for you.

Want to Learn More?

I reviewed Purposeful Design: Understanding the Creation( $18.95--free shipping!) by Jay Schabacker (PLUS the free Young Explorer's Club Curriculum) from Purposeful Design.

Are you curious to see how others used this beautiful book? Please check out the reviews from 74 of my fellow crew members to see their thoughts on this book.
Click to read Crew Reviews
Are you wanting to learn more about this book or it's author Jay Schabacker?


Twitter: (@Jayschabacker)

LinkedIn: Jayschab
I look forward to continuing to reference this book and the lessons in the workbook for future science that we will do. Right now I'm using some of the information from Chapter 5 about birds as we study our Zoology.


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