Sunday, December 31, 2006

Friday, December 29, 2006

paper dolls - muñecas de papel

paper dolls - muñecas de papel
paper dolls - muñecas de papel,
originally uploaded by munieca.
My daughter loves paper dolls. The truth is I love paper dolls!!! Well, I recently found a free download for these adorable paper dolls. They were created by Maria Andrea Sardo. She suggests you print them on cardstock which will make them sturdier. Unlike many paperdolls these are large, full 8.5 X 11 sized dolls. They would be appropriate for younger children although my 8 year old daughter went crazy for them. So, I suggest you head over to Lulu and download and print them out today!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Praiseworthy Audio: Christmas Music




I love Christmas music and last year I started finding some like minded bloggers. These dedicated people buy up old albums at thrift stores, bring them home, check to see if they are available on CD and if they aren't they digitize and upload them to their blogs to share with other crazy people! Bongobells is one of the best. I feel that he makes a dedicated effort not to break copyright laws and graciously shares what he finds with the rest of us. His selection is eclectic and I have found many nice albums there. In addition today he had a special message reminding us all to remember why we are celebrating this time of year. To remember the birth of our blessed Lord and Saviour. I encourage you all to check out his site and perhaps you may also find something interesting there as well.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Praiseworthy Recipe: The Best-Ever Almond Toffee

For about 10 years now I've made Almond Toffee every year at Christmas. The very first time I made it was a success. Every year after a failure. I'm not sure why, but I could never recreate that first success. A few days ago on one of my favorite blogs, Cookie Madness, I found this recipe for The Best-Ever Almond Toffee. She wasn't kidding. It came out perfectly. Better than I have ever made. So, if this is a candy you have been wanting to master I suggest you head over to Anna's blog and try this recipe here. I wish you success!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Praiseworthy Toy: The Box

One of the highlights of my children's week is when we go to Costco and they pick out a new box to take home. It may sound crazy, but with all the toys in their rooms, they are more excited about getting a box to take home and cut up, color or do whatever too. Then at the end of the week, they throw it away and get a new one. Well, if this sounds like your kids I found this great site call Mr. McGroovy's Project Ideas. The projects are made out of cardboard boxes! I suggest you look for your materials in the back of an appliance store by the dumpster. Have fun!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Praiseworthy Video - A Different Frosty

I'm really loving this jazzy video of Frosty the Snowman today. I have actually never been a big fan of the Rankin Bass cartoon but I really enjoyed watching this and plan to share it with my children. I thought perhaps some of you might enjoy doing the same! I can't vouch for everything on YouTube, but this is a lot of good, clean fun.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Something fun! Ten Two Studios Holiday Countdown

There is just so much sharing goodness going on out there on the web during the Christmas season. You can find some of it at Lisa Vollrath's interesting craft site called Ten Two Studios. There are lots of ideas on this site for paper type crafts...artist trading cards, altered books, and the like. I love paper ephemera just because I do and she is sharing some right now! On several holidays throughout the year Lisa sets up a "holiday countdown." Each day she shares something new for download. She's doing it right now with Christmas themed items. Check it out here everyday between now and Christmas and start downloading!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Praiseworthy Review: The Glorious Coming

I hear so many at this time of year asking, "how can we make Christ the focus of our Christmas season?" One way is by doing Jesse Tree devotions. Last year I went on a quest to find the best Jesse Tree devotions. I think I have found it with Ann Voskamp's new The Glorious Coming.

What is a Jesse Tree? A Jesse Tree traces the lineage of Jesus. The idea is inspired by the bible verse in Isaiah 11:10 which prophecies the coming of Jesus, "At that time a root from Jesse will stand like a signal flag for the nations. Nations will look to him for guidance, and his residence will be majestic." There are a number of different ways to do a Jesse Tree, but most include daily devotions with a small symbol of that days devotion to hang on a tree or banner.

Ann Voskamp is a writer that I have long admired. Her writing can be sampled at her blog, The Holy Experience of Listening. It's beautiful, simple, and straight to the point. Ann graciously allowed me to preview The Glorious Coming and it did not disappoint. The devotions are simple for any child yet powerful enough for any adult. A wonderful activity for a family to engage in to focus on Christ during this Christmas season.

Another thing I like about this devotion is that, like so many of Ann's ventures, it benefits a fine charity, The Samaritan's Purse Operation Christmas Child. And it's a downloadable e-book. This makes it easy to print out the ornaments included to go with each devotion for your kids to color. AND it makes it nice for anyone who has waited until the last minute to start devotions as you can download them today and get started! Visit her page to see samples and download A Glorious Coming today!

Praiseworthy Audio - The Cinnamon Bear


I have blogged before about how much my family loves listening to audio books in the car. It is really a life saver! For years we have listed to this old radio series, The Cinnamon Bear, about two children who discover an incredible bear in their attic at Christmas time. The Chirotoons have made this wonderful series available on mp3 for free at their site. There are 26 episodes so you could listen to one a day until Christmas. This offer also includes a free downloadable coloring book to go with the series. I encourage you to check out the Chirotoons other offerings at their site. They have a lot of very good quality old radio shows available in mp3 format at their site, Living Books for the Ears.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving & The Thrifty Homeschooler!

I subscribe to the Thrifty Homeschooler newsletter written and edited by Maureen Wittman. If you haven't checked this out yet I urge you to do that by subscribing here. This newsletter is a valuable resource full of tips from Maureen and her readers. She also has a blog now!

Recently Maureen wrote this on her newsletter. I thought it summed up so much of what I am thankful for that I asked her if I could post it here.

Dear Thrifty Homeschoolers,

I was thinking today how blessed I am to be 'not rich.'

I may drive a junker car, but I don't have to worry about being carjacked anytime soon.

I may buy most my clothes at Goodwill, but I don't have to fret when one of my littles gives me a big hug before washing hands after eating a fudgesicle.

I can't afford to buy loads of premade, prefab, precooked foods, but my family is healthier because of it.

I may live on the other side of the tracks, but I don't have to worry about snobby neighbors.

My kids may wear hand-me-downs, but they're as non-materialistic as you can get.

I may not have cable TV, but my kids read and play a lot more.

I may not have a lot of stuff, but I am grateful to God for what I do have.

Blessings,Maureen :)
www.thriftyhomeschooler.blogspot.com

Like Maureen, I am so thankful to God for all He has blessed me with. I hope you all have a wonderful day giving thanks!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Librivox.org

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Our family loves to listen to audiobooks. I have two children and sometimes the bickering in the car can be too much, especially on the 4 hour trip to Grandma's house. But I discovered a few years back that my children, then 4 and 6, will listen to an audio book for HOURS in the car. So, I started checking out audiobooks at the Library. We follow the free online Ambleside Online Curriculum's literature reading selections and we can get many of them from the library on audiobooks. Things such as the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, Charlotte's Web, and Winnie the Pooh were borrowed from the library, but there were many classic books I could not find on CD at my library. Then I discovered Librivox. Librivox calls itself "an acoustical liberation of books in the public domain." Basically that is a completely free site which provides mp3's of books in audio read by volunteers. I have found the readings to be of excellent quality and as a former teacher of Theatre I might have an informed opinion of such things. I'll leave that for you to decide. We have downloaded and listened to several Grimm's Fairy Tales, The Velveteen Rabbit and Heidi so far. My children loved them all. There are so many Ambleside selections here that I have to wonder if someone on the list of volunteers uses Ambleside. Next we will be listening to Peter Pan and Pinocchio. Our Island Story is another Ambleside selection available there.

But don't think this is a site solely for children's literature! There is a collection of works for adults from Aristotle to P.G. Wodehouse that includes novels, poetry, short stories and non-fiction. There is so much here my family could be listening for years. There are also volunteer opportunities for readers as well as listeners to help check recordings. So I urge you to check out Librivox. It's a most praiseworthy thing!

Free Printables

Everybody with children loves free printables right?! Well, I just found a new site, Just Print Something. In addition to lots of printables from gift tags to miniatures for dollhouses, there are articles covering things such as How to Print on Fabric to Questions on Copyrights. This stuff is ideal for scrapbookers, doll house lovers and artists of all types. There is also an area for authorized members to upload printables. All images should be safe as the user agreement states: "By registering at Just Print Something, you agree not to post anything that could be considered abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening, sexually-oriented, or any material that may violate any applicable laws. Posting these types of materials may lead to you being immediately and permanently banned, and your service provider being notified of abuse. The IP address of all posts is recorded to aid in enforcing these conditions. " Hopefully they take that seriously. So head over there and sign up for a free account!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Almost Perfect Day

Today was an almost perfect day for me. First it's autumn and that makes it pretty good right off the bat. Today was sunny but with a slight chill in the air. I spent the morning reading blogs and email and then I got into a cooking mood. I made this wonderful recipe for Bratwurst Stew from Taste of Home. This was recommended to me by another friend and I have made it several times with anything but bratwurst! I have used ham and turkey in the past and they were very good in this recipe. I actually like it with bratwurst the least. My husband and I decided today that it would actually be just fine without any meat at all. Those of you who are vegetarians could use a vegetable broth and it would be lovely.

Then I made Pumpkin Muffins using this recipe from Vegetarian Family. Since I am not a vegetarian (I eat a plant based diet, but only semi-vegetarian) I changed the recipe by using an egg and milk. I also added one cup of pecans which were really good. This recipe is exceptional. Probably the best pumpkin muffin I have had. I enjoy the Vegetarian Family blog as they always have great recipes and things that kids like.

Another cooking project today was Hummus. I made a recipe out of The New Best Recipe which is one of my favorite cookbooks. I made a double batch and plan to freeze part of it. Yes, I recently read that you can freeze Hummus! Amazing. Tomorrow I plan to make some pita bread to go with it.

My almost perfect day ended with a trip to Goodwill, one of my favorite stores where I scored two glass pie plates. Every almost perfect day needs a trip to at least one thrift store!

Hope your day was as perfect as can be.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Contest ends today!

Have you heard about the contest to guess the number of new products in the Vision Forum Catalog??? Well check it out over at the Life in A Shoe blog. But you have to hurry because the contest ends at midnight tonight! You could win up $700 in Vision Forum products or one of two $50 gift certificates. The Vision Forum catalog is a most praiseworthy catalog full of wonderful, classic toys and books for your family. I suggest you check it out too by following the link on the same blog. Let me know if you win!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

And now for something completely different...

A dear friend taught me to knit three years ago. It has been a tremendous blessing to me as a creative outlet. I find it relaxing, fun and something to do with my hands. I also love animation. If you enjoy those things, you will love this piece which I found on one of my favorite blogs Craftzine:

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Praiseworthy words: Charlotte Mason on Education and the Christian

Charlotte Mason was an educational reformer in the late 1800's and early 1900's. She wrote a six volume series on education that can be read here or check out the blog below for daily postings of excerpts. This particular excerpt struck me today:

Antagonism to Law shown by some Religious Persons.––These last blessings are so unspeakably satisfying, that often enough the believer who enjoys them wants no more. He opens his mouth and draws in his breath for the delight he has in the law, it is true; but it is the law of the spiritual life only. Towards the other laws of God which govern the universe he sometimes takes up an attitude of antagonism, almost of resistance, worthy of an infidel. It is nothing to him that he is fearfully and wonderfully made; he does not care to know how the brain works, nor how the more subtle essence we call mind evolves and develops in obedience to laws. There are pious minds to which a desire to look into these things savours of unbelief, as if it were to dishonour the Almighty to perceive that He carries on His glorious works by means of glorious Laws. They will have to do with no laws excepting the laws of the kingdom of grace. In the meantime, the non-believer, who looks for no supernatural aids, lays himself out to discover and conform to all the laws which regulate natural life––physical, mental, moral; all the laws of God, in fact, excepting those of the spiritual life which the believer appropriates as his peculiar inheritance. But these laws which are left to Esau are laws of God also, and the observance of them is attended with such blessings, that the children of the believers say, Look, how is it that these who do not acknowledge the Law as of God are better than we who do?

via: A Full Life blog

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Kids Craft Weekly and Craftzine!!!

Crafts are much loved at this house. I was raised by the queen of crafts, have always loved to do crafts myself, and when my daughter was about three she looked up at me one day and said, "could we do crafts everyday, please?" And believe me, she does. She frequently comes up with her own ideas for a craft or she draws from the many craft kits she receives for birthdays or Christmas. But I have found a great source if that well runs dry.

It's called Kids Craft Weekly and I discovered it on one of my favorite online zines, Craftzine. First a bit about Craftzine. The Craftzine site features a blog that keeps you abreast of all the latest in the online crafting world. Recently, the blog featured several knitting and felting projects such as that knitted Princess Leia wig you've always wanted! But the whole world of crafting is covered.

The Craftzine blog is where I discovered Kids Craft Weekly. Kids Craft Weekly bills itself as "a weekly dose of crafty goodness for toddlers and preschoolers" but really my 8 year old would enjoy many of these projects as well. This week is featuring transportation as a theme.

So I urge you to check out two praiseworthy sites, one for you and one for the kids. Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Praiseworthy Recipe: Zucchini Squash Cake


I love zucchini breads and cakes. My mother has a wonderful assortment of recipes for zucchini as a result of having large gardens with lots of zucchini. Fortunately for her all of her children love it. I'm not sure why it goes so well with sweets and especially chocolate, but it's an excellent partnering. And the best part is that zucchini breads and cakes are perfect for those gigantic zucchini that everyone seems to have this time of year that don't taste good in other recipes. I've been known to shred those and freeze them to use all year round.

When I was very young we lived in the teeny, tiny town of Newburg, Missouri. If you've heard of it, I'm amazed. We had an acre garden at that time and most of our days in the summer were spent in that garden. My parents worked and weeded every free minute it seemed. And we always had a lot of zucchini. One year my step-grandfather and grandmother came to visit us. He was from Virginia and he taught us how to make flutes from the stalk of a zucchini plant. Sorry I don't remember how, but it can be done!!

Fortunately, I do have lots of my mother's recipes for using zucchini. Recently I made my children this recipe. It is straight out of my childhood because according to my mother the recipe was given to her by a women she knew in Newburg. My children loved it and wondered over the tiny pieces of green stuff in their cake. But they begged to eat it until it was gone. Try it with your family and let me know what they think.

Martha Schmidt’s Zucchini Squash Cake
2 cups grated zucchini squash
1 cup oil
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup nuts
3/4 tsp baking soda
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder
Combine squash, sugar , oil, eggs. Combine with dry ingredients. Beat no more than 1 minute. Bake 30 - 45 minutes at 300 degrees. Yes, 300.

Icing
Cream one 3 ounce package cream cheese
1 stick oleo (I use butter - you know a recipe is old when it calls for oleo!)
2 cups powder sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
¼ cup nuts (I made it without the nuts in the icing)
Spread over cake.
Enjoy!

I haven't seen the cookbook pictured above, but as so many seem to be looking for Zucchini recipes this time of year I thought someone might like to try it.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Praiseworthy Blog: Cajun Cottage

Cay Gibson writes one of my favorite blogs, Cajun Cottage and today she has a great post about being the kind of mother whose life is wrapped up in her children. Cay is a homeschooling mother of 5 and the author of A Catholic Mosaic. She describes her blog as "...about life in a Catholic, Cajun family: our lifestyle, our faith, our culture, our learning experiences, and our interests. It will also include my writing and reading material."

If you like reading about homeschoolers, mothering, or like me you are always looking for good books for your children to read I urge you to check out her lively, witty and often poignant blog Cajun Cottage.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Praiseworthy Book: Little Bitty Baby Learns Hebrew



I have reviewed Teaching the Trivium in the past and I'm sure many of you are familiar with the Bluedorn's. You may not know that their daughter is also a published author and illustrator.

Here is some information about the author from the Bluedorn's website Trivium Pursuit:

Johannah Bluedorn , a self-taught homeschooled artist, won her first art prize at age 14 and published her first book at age 17. She has illustrated several children’s books, including Alphabet for Biblical Greek, Become a Civil War Reenactor, The Lord Builds the House, The Story of Mr. Pippin, My Mommy My Teacher (all published by Trivium Pursuit), and Raising Maidens of Virtue and From Dark to Dawn: A Tale of Martin Luther and the Reformation (published by Books on the Path). She also designs and sews 19th and early 20th century costumes and raises Jersey cows and Quarter horses on her family farm. Johannah lives with her family in New Boston, Illinois.

Little Bitty Baby Learns Hebrew is such a wonderful way to introduce children to a foreign language. The illustrations are sweet and beautifully rendered. The text is simple and straightforward in the style of traditional ABC books. Each page features a letter of the Hebrew alphabet with a guide word, the steps to write the letter and a small drawing to help remember the sound. For example one page features the letter He. The texts states, "He sounds like the h in hat. He is written in 2 steps." Then the two steps are shown. There is a large picture of the symbol for He on the left hand side of the page and a drawing of a boy with a large hat with the symbol for He on the hat. At the back of the book is a chart of the biblical Hebrew alphabet containing the characters, name of the letter and prompts for pronunciation. Especially helpful for mom!

The book is a small 7 X 5 inch board book. The pages are sturdy and laminated in the style of most board books today. The pages are in full color and the illustrations are very colorful and detailed. There are 26 pages in the book. This book is an excellent resource for any age really. My children are 5 and 8 and they enjoy looking at it and can read it themselves as well. It is modestly priced and an excellent value for the money as it can be used for years to come. To purchase Little Bitty Baby Learns Hebrew or the newer Little Bitty Baby Learns Greek check the website at www.triviumpursuit.com. The website itself is interesting with several resources and free downloads.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Bloglines

Once upon a time in a land far, far away I worked in a book store. One of my fellow employees left for the summer to work at a camp in a beautiful, isolated location. When he returned we asked him how it was living in such beauty and tranquility. He told us that he had discovered something about himself. "I am an info-junkie, " he said. He had become so used to reading the latest books, magazines and newspapers while on the job in the bookstore that when he no longer had this infusion of information, he just about lost his mind!

Well, I'll have to admit that I'm the same way. I love to read and I like my reading to be informative and thought provoking. In the last year I have discovered blogs as a wonderful, cheaper alternative to magazine subscriptions. The problem was that I found so many lovely blogs that it was difficult and time consuming to keep track of them! So they were often neglected.

Then a wonderful friend introduced me to Bloglines. With Bloglines you can subscribe to your blogs and they will kindly keep track of all of them and let you know when someone has posted something new. No more flipping through all the addresses looking at each one to see if something new is there. In just a few minutes I can open my Bloglines account and see if anything new has been posted and take a minute to read it. My reading time has become much more efficient which is important to a homeschooling mom! So hop over there yourself and check it out!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Praiseworthy Blog: Kiddley!

I love this blog. The author endeavors to post a new activity for kids almost everyday. She is about to have a baby any day, so that might slow down. Don't worry, there are plenty of things in the archives to keep you busy. The posts include ideas, activities, tips, and web resources. The illustrations are bright and fun. Take a look at Kiddley!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Win $100 Shopping Spree at Old Schoolhouse Store!



The Old Schoolhouse is one of my favorite Homeschooling Magazines, but that is a post for another time! I wanted to let you know that right now they are having a drawing to win a $100 Shopping Spree at their site. The shipping is also free for winners! What an awesome deal!!

All you have to do is browse the store for a favorite product and leave an honest review letting other customers know what exactly you liked or didn’t like about it and what makes it special. For each completed review you will be entered into our random drawing for a $100 Schoolhouse Store gift certificate!

For more information please visit the publisher's blog here.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Praiseworthy Review: The Mystery of History



Part of the reason I homeschool is to be able to teach my children about our faith. I really wanted to blend chronological biblical history with our history studies. I looked at several ways to do this. I previewed some other biblical history curriculums, but found that they included a lot of extra-biblical information passed off as fact. Then I found this curriculum and my search was over.

The Mystery of History is a history curriculum written by Linda Lacour Hobar for all ages really. It's published by Bright Ideas Press. The book is 472 pages and jam packed with information, projects and teaching helpers.

Linda Hobar has done a fantastic job of reintroducing biblical details into the history our children learn. This book contains clear instructions for how to use it as well as activities for different age levels at the end of each lesson. There are pretests and quizzes, maps, book and video lists, and an answer key in the back. It's so easy to just pick up the book with a little bit of materials gathering and use this curriculum. My children love it and I love it. One of the perks of homeschooling is filling in the gaps of my own learning and this book has taught me so much. I find that I better understand the big picture of God working in our world after using this book. I used Volume one with my 7 year old and now she is eight and we have moved on to Volume Two. I will be cycling back through these when we repeat our history rotation and using the projects for older children at that time.

I highly recommend this book and Volume II which our family is now using. It's easy to use and highly readable. You won't be sorry. If you do decide on this curriculum, then consider joining one of the yahoo support groups for The Mystery of History. Linda Hobar is frequently writing on the list answering questions and giving updates on what is happening with the other books in the series. It has been a good place for me to glean ideas and learn from others.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MysteryofHistory1
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MysteryofHistory2

Or check out the website at here where you will find sample pages as well.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Praiseworthy Bread

I have loved baking bread for a long time now. I did it almost weekly by hand before I was married. For a wedding present I was given a Breadman Breadmachine which I still use daily and love it. Now that my children are old enough to not require constant supervision I have started making it again. I typed out this recipe for my friend so I thought I would share it here as well.

The bread I make is a hybrid of a few different recipes one of them being Cornell bread. Cornell bread was created by a professor at Cornell to try to bring more nutrition to bread. This professor hit upon the idea of adding 1 tablespoon of dried milk powder, soy flour and bran flakes to each cup of flour in a recipe. I find it delicious this way. Let me know what you think!

2 Tablespoons Honey
2 Tablespoons Canola Oil
1 1/2 cups 110 degree water (pretty warm)
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 cups whole wheat bread flour (see my explanation below for what to do with this)
1/2 cup cracked wheat
2 1/4 teaspoons instant rise yeast
soy flour, dried milk powder, bran flakes (see my explanation below for what to do with these)
4 Tablespoons vital wheat gluten

I just add the ingredients to my bread pan in order recommended and bake on whole wheat cycle with light crust and at the 1.5 pound loaf setting. Very good.

What to do with the flour. For each cup of flour first fill the cup with 1 Tablespoon dried milk powder, 1 Tablespoon soy four, and 1 Tablespoon bran flakes and then fill the rest of the way with WW flour.

Friday, March 31, 2006

The Clean Heart, Clean Home Challenge

It's so very praiseworthy to declutter your house. I'm actually in love with the after part so much more than the process. But Dandelion Seeds has started what looks like a most interesting challenge. She promises to help you not only spring clean and declutter your home - but also your heart! Her plan is to do this by following 52 weeks of online devotionals from Create in Me a Clean Heart. There is a strong focus on daily time with the Lord. The whole thing is really quite interesting so head on over to see the challenge on her blog

p.s. This is structured so that you can start it anytime, you don't have to do it live with her, but don't tell anyone!

p.p. s.s. It's actually 52 days. OOPS! See the comment from Amy!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Irish Soda Bread

Every year we enjoy celebrating St. Patrick's Day as a celebration not only of missionary who loved God, but also as a celebration of the Irish people. That celebration includes learning about Ireland, listening to Irish music and eating Irish food. This includes Irish Soda Bread every year. This year I tried a new recipe and my husband cast the deciding vote that this was the best ever! I got the recipe at allrecipes.com and the recipe I used was here. It's very different than any I have used before with the addition of eggs and sour cream, but I found two like it and both had been passed on from Irish women. I did follow the suggestions in the comments and only used 2 cups of raisins instead of 3. The texture is quite beautiful and the taste is exquisite.

I also used some tips that I found at one of my favorite sites Cooks Illustrated. This is a really nice tutorial with pictures. I did not use their recipe, but I did make sure not to mix the batter too much and I baked it in a cast iron skillet. I have enjoyed several pieces toasted today with butter and honey. Perfect with tea!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Praiseworthy Toys: Gears, Gears, Gears!

My 5 year old son is one of those very mechanically minded kids. He loves to see how things work, take them apart and then build his own. From the time he was very small he was always making tools. He would usually attach a shoe string to one end which he would then stick into a drawer or something. That was his power cable of course! Well, for those of you how are getting really tired of your kitchen implements (you know egg beaters, whisks and such) being employed for these purposes, let me give you some advice. Buy Gears, Gears, Gears! for your child. I came across them on the Amazon website and thought they would be just the thing for him. I was really worried about buying them because all too often I have given my kids something that seems really great and then two weeks later they could care less. This toy is not like that because it is endlessly creative. My son has built robots, towers that move, tools that turn and all manner of things with this toy. According to Amazon's website this toy encourages independent play, mathematical and motor skills and I couldn't agree more. What's more, after a year and a half he is still playing with it on a weekly if not daily basis. If you've got a builder on your hands, I think you'll be quite pleased with this.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Praiseworthy Poem

A wise, mature friend sent this poem to me and I thought it was most praiseworthy.

Let Me Grow Lovely

Let me grow lovely, growing old----
So many fine things to do:
Laces, and ivory, and gold
And silks need not be new:

And there is healing in old trees,
Old streets a glamour hold;
Why may not I, as well as these,
Grow lovely, growing old?

Karle Wilson Baker

Today we have what we call "youth culture" and there seems to be a great deal of emphasis on youth. But I think the youth have much to learn from those who have lived and experienced life. For centuries we have included our elderly in our lives and families, but it seems more and more the elderly are put aside. Fortunately, I grew up in a family that did not do this. I knew and spent time with my Great Grandmother, three great aunts and uncles, grandparents and even my Great, great Aunt. In addition I knew many older people in my church family growing up. They were wonderful people. They all had so much to share and were such a valuable part of my formation. I'm so blessed to have known them and I am forever changed by them. The Bible instructs the older generation to teach the younger. There is so much wisdom in that. Emerson said that, "every generation creates their own bible." Well, in anything great that I undertake I like to consult the experts. Who more expert in life than one who has lived it and lived it well?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Praiseworthy Review: The HomeschoolEstore

I was recently invited to review the "eCurriculum experience" at HomeSchoolEStore.com. The concept of “eCurriculum” is curriculum available on downloadable eBooks. These books might be workbooks, texts, audio books, supplemental educational materials, or comprehensive curriculums in an electronic format. After downloading the eBooks can be used on the computer, the entire book can be printed or (my favorite way) pages can be printed as needed to use with your student. If your purchase is an audio book it is in Mp3 format and can be moved to a folder on your computer or placed on a cd. The beauty of this type of curriculum is the convenience. Books are ready to be downloaded immediately after payment is made online. No more running out to the mailbox to see if it’s here yet!! Another incredible convenience is printing what you need when you need it. This really helps with that storage problem in the homeschool cabinet! And worksheets are then easily placed in notebooks or portfolios when the work is completed. No more ripping off a binding to get the pages loose. My favorite part of eBooks however is the price. Because the cost of printing has been removed it is much cheaper to purchase curriculum this way.

The HomeSchoolEStore website is easy to navigate and searchable by age, subject or publisher. There are many things to choose from such as the very popular Miquon Math, Writing Strands, Visual Manna’s Art Curriculums and G.A. Henty novels on audio books. After selecting your items it’s a simple matter of entering payment information and downloading your books. I also appreciate the fact that you don’t have to download the products at the time of purchase. By just going back to the website to “my account” the books can be downloaded at a later time as well. In addition you are allowed to download your purchased material a total of five times. This took care of that nagging fear I had of “what if my computer dies and I lose this file?”

I purchased three eBooks. I was very pleased with them all. The books were in Adobe PDF format and one of them included features like clickable links from the table of contents so I could go instantly to the page I needed. Overall my experience with HomeSchoolEStore was excellent. Easy to find materials, easy to use and FAST!! I had my files in a matter of minutes and I can start using them tomorrow if I want. I strongly urge you to try them out at HomeSchoolEStore.com.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Praiseworthy Review: Teaching the Trivium

"Teaching the Trivium"
by Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn

Having come to Christianity late in life I have always been put off by what I like to call “Christianese” that being any number of stock phrases that Christians use to communicate complex ideas to each other. These are phrases such as “fed” or “washed in the blood.” I’m so pleased to find Christian authors who have intelligent minds and use them without relying on a lot of Christian lingo to get their point across. The Bluedorns believe that educating our children is a mandate of God. They spend an entire chapter of this expounding, arguing and providing proof for this argument. That chapter alone is worth the price of the book. I found it so thought provoking that I often read portions aloud to my husband and we had many interesting discussions based on this. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. What the Bluedorns continue with in the book is a systematic approach for teaching our children in a manner that glorifies and honors God. They show us how to teach our children to not only love God with their whole heart and soul but also with their whole MIND. This is the great strength of this book.

If you are interested in Classical Education I strongly urge you to get this book. I, and many others I know, consider this a handbook or a manual if you will for how to classically educate your child. Once it has been read and understood then you can put it on the shelf close at hand to turn to again and again for answers to questions you encounter along the way. The how and the why of their plan is clearly laid out in a format that is easy to understand.

There are also chapters devoted to helping parents to use the Trivium with other methods such as Charlotte Mason as well as a discussion of some methods that do not fit well with the Trivium such as Unschooling. These chapters contain discussions and explanations of each method. This would be very valuable for those approaching educating their child for the first time as they investigate what method they will use.

Part two of the book is titled “The Practical Trivium” and contains valuable, hands on information for how to teach your child. All areas of study and ages are covered. Finally lists of specific resources and where you can obtain them are given. This is the part that I turn to again and again. The information here is extensive and exhaustive. The explanations and reasons are clear and easy to understand.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who home educates their child. The information is intelligent and thought provoking. You will come away well educated on the subject of homeschooling in addition to having valuable tools for carrying out homeschooling.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Valerie's Living Books

You are going to find out pretty quickly that I LOVE books. And I'd like to introduce you today to someone who not only feels the same way, but has provided a wonderful resource for the rest of us. Her name is Valerie Jacobsen. She describes herself in her signature line as "wife to Paul and Mommy to ten" and that shows you her priorities. As a homeschooling mother she is on the quest for quality books for her children. I met her along the same quest when I found her website Valerie's Living Books. Her site is home to her much acclaimed book lists which include reviews of "living books." Valerie defines living books as "...materials carefully written with an evident passion to challenge children, encouraging them to reason carefully and respond wholeheartedly." These lists include popular series like the Landmark books as well as others you may not be familiar with. It was through these lists that I found the right Childcraft set to buy and some great children's picture books to put on hold for my children. You can bet a mother of ten knows some great books for kids!

I encourage you to visit her site and read through some of the lists in order that you may glean wisdom in picking suitable materials for your children. I have used these lists often and I have not yet been disappointed. While there you may want to look at her blog which shows her sweet spirit and devotion to her family. You may also wish to look at the "new books for sale here" link. In order to supplement her families income Valerie is an affiliate with bookcloseouts.com and she scours their site on a daily basis to find living books at excellent prices for the rest of us to buy. She also offers some coupons for these purchases. I have also bought books through her affiliate links and have been very pleased with the quality and excellent prices.

So get a cup of tea and surf on over to Valerie's. Whether you use her site to find books to get at the library or books to purchase, you will be glad you did!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Praiseworthy Pancakes

Can it be true? Could the words whole wheat actually go with praiseworthy? Well of course I think so but my husband wasn't so sure. Then I heard about a whole wheat flour that was called White Whole Wheat. The company is Wheat Montana and the flour is terrific. I use their Prairie Gold White Spring Wheat. In my local Hy Vee Store there is even an in-store grinder where you can grind your flour fresh. Apparently the nutritional value of freshly ground grains is superior to that which has been sitting on a shelf for who knows how long. So I paired this fantastic flour with my pancake recipe and Praiseworthy Pancakes were born. I have decided that this must be shared so here you go!

Praiseworthy Pancakes

1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg well beaten
1 ¼ cup of milk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl
Combine egg, milk, and oil in a separate bowl
Add to flour mixture all at once and stir just until blended. Lumps are okay. Heat griddle over moderately high heat. Grease griddle lightly. Cook until center is full of unbroken bubbles and then flip to cook the other side. Makes about twelve 5 inch pancakes.

For waffles: separate egg whites from the yolk. Add the yolks to the milk and oil. Whip the whites until stiff but not dry. Fold the whites into the mixture after mixing wet and dry ingredients.

My family loves to eat these spread thickly with peanut butter and real maple syrup. I follow it with a strong cup of tea. Saturdays could not possibly start out better than this!

Animusic

My husband asked the kids and I to join him at his favorite local computer store. This is the type of family outing that I usually find a way to sit in the coffeeshop of the mega bookstore next door! But on this particular day my husband wanted our company so we joined him. While there my children became enthralled with Animusic. After coming home they begged us to get it for them so we did and they have watched it with delight several times this weekend.

First released in 2001, Animusic bills itself as a computer animation video album. There are seven "unique visual concerts" according to the plot synopsis on Amazon.com. The music is complex which my daughter loves and my son who is very into robots, loves the robotic instruments featured in each concert. The animated instruments actually play themselves and it is a visual treat for the eyes and ears. The music is not really the hard edged techno you might expect. It reminds me of Mannheim Steamroller more than anything else. The musical numbers are all instrumental and run the gamut from classical to a melodic pop style. My children find it mesmerizing and I hope you'll try it with yours! The link below will take you to more information and a place to purchase the dvd. All purchases are through my affiliate link.