Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My Baby Turns One!

Can it really be? Zippy turned one years old today? That year has flown by! According to Pete he was born at 9:42 a.m. and how did he know that? He remembers me asking the nurse last year at this time. I'll have to look back to see for sure but I am guessing Pete does really remember.

I'll update another day but wanted to share this picture on his actual day.

Happy Birthday Sweet Little Boy! We Love You SO much!


Friday, August 24, 2012

TOS Crew - Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers

I love music and especially the old hymns. It is always fun to know the background behind a song and the book the kids and I reviewed was the perfect way to learn more about some of the great old hymns we sing and their writers. There are so many books I have on my "to purchase" list that I cannot possibly keep up so when I saw this available to review I was excited.

is the first book in a series by Douglas Bond

published by:


This book is is not just a textbook with facts and history to memorize but is written in my favorite style -- as a living story. It is about two children, Annie and her brother Drew who spend the summer with their Mother (who isn't really part of the story) in a quaint old town in England. They are dreading the summer ahead thinking they won't have any fun until they meet Mr. Pipes, an old gentleman who plays the organ at the local church. He takes them on various adventures and tells them stories along the way of famous hymns and about the writers who lived in England.

They learn about:
  • Thomas Ken
  • Isaac Watts
  • Charles Wesley
  • William Williams
  • John Newton
  • William Cowper
  • Augustus Toplady and Thomas Kelly
  • Scottish Hymn writers of the 19th Century
  • Woman Hymn Writers
  • John Bunyan
While this is a historical fiction book you will learn more than the history of hymns and their writers, but also some of the history of England, geography, and vocabulary words. It also includes the music for one of the writers hymns at the end of each chapter.

The suggested grade level is 7th - 10th but if you are using it as a read-aloud, which is what we enjoyed doing, even your younger children will enjoy it. The chapters are long, so while my 4 and 7 year old sat and were interested, they couldn't make it through an entire chapter. We also had fun with the setting as I always try to take on the accent of the character, so it was fun to try out a British accent.

Other books in this series are currently available for $9.89 in paperback:
The PDF version of Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers is available for $8.79. This is the version I reviewed and while it worked okay, we only have a laptop so I ended up carrying that with me to the couch. For those of you who are more technologically advanced, this would work well for you. But if you would rather have it in paper back it is also available for $9.89.

If you would like to read more check out what the rest of the Review Crew has to say by clicking below.
**Disclaimer: As a member of TOS Review Crew, I received a complimentary copy of this ebook to review. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are my own.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

First Words

I forgot to include it in Zippy's update but he is quite the talker! Of course most of it is in his own language at this point but his face is filled with expression often including a laugh here and there for emphasis.

His first word was not at all what I expected -- "goggy" (doggy) which is funny as our dog has become more of an outdoor dog simply because he cannot be trusted indoors. But that means Zippy only watches him out the windows or when we are playing outside and they don't interact, so that was not the first word I thought I'd hear. I assumed at first it was a sound with no association but he says it when he sees Lincoln so I guess he knows what it means.

Zippy says the sound "da" but hasn't put it together to make daddy yet and the "m" sound is still eluding him. His second word -- "kay-key" -- his sister's name which also is funny to me because she couldn't say the "k" sound in her own name for quite awhile and instead called herself "tay-dee"

He also is ready to greet us with a "Hi!". Oh, I love those first words and I have a feeling this little guy might be a talker at the rate he babbles.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

TOS Crew - Spelling City

Spelling -- it seems you either get it or you don't and if you don't you need to work at it. Most of the mistakes I still find with my boys is that they spell the way a word sounds, which makes sense. Spelling often doesn't. So how can we make spelling fun? I found a program awhile ago called Spelling City, although at the time I didn't work too much with it. But I knew it looked good and had recommended it to my sister to help my nephew practice his spelling words in a fun way.
Now that I had the opportunity to review Vocabulary Spelling City I realized how easy it is to make it a part of our every day learning. While you can use this program free, there are limitations with that. I recall my sister telling me that the spelling games her son most wanted to play were part of the premium subscription.

PhotobucketWhat drew me to Spelling City from the start was the ability to put my own spelling list in the program for the kids to work with. They can hear the pronunciation. They can see the word through flash cards. They can play games and then take a test. Not only that but you can find specific lists to use for whatever level your child might be at. I also found that if you use a program which we have used called Sequential Spelling, they have partnered together to help your child learn the word families.

What child doesn't like to have time on the computer to play games? I know some of my children will clamor around the computer when one person is playing a learning game online just waiting their turn. That is the draw with Spelling City they make learning fun.

But what is the benefit of purchasing a subscription? One thing I noticed right away is there are no ads which is a nice plus to avoid the distractions. But more than that it includes:

  • Progress checking
  • Record keeping
  • Word definitions
  • Parts of speech
  • Synonyms
  • Printable flashcards
  • Premium games
  • and more...
Vocabulary Spelling City is recommended for K-12. A premium subscription for a family of 5 students would cost $29.99 per year and when you consider how often you use it, how it can be used used with other subjects such as science, and all of the benefits that is a good deal! This is in no way just a program for homeschooled students but can be used in the classroom or at home to practice those weekly spelling lists.

If you want to learn more you can read additional reviews by clicking below to find out what the rest of the crew has to say...


**Disclaimer: As a member of TOS Review Crew, I received a complimentary premium subscription to review. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are my own.

Friday, August 10, 2012

11 Month Update


Baby boy is on the go! Oh my, I can't keep up with this little guy. I don't know if it is that I forget how the others have been or that this little one is much different. He is into everything! We have a hard time containing him as he seems to find a way of escape very often. Zippy's goal -- the stairs! Oh, does he want to climb those stairs with every part of his being. Occasionally he'll get past us and we wonder where he is only to find him happily up in the attic play area.

This little boy enjoys climbing onto anything he can. This was part of a blockade. 


Don't worry, we aren't planning on letting him continue this bad habit.

Although, flicking his hand to stop him from touching, etc. does not seem to phase him either. Well, from Daddy maybe but only for a moment.


And he was just too cute climbing on Missy Blue's kitchen that I took a picture instead.

He also has a facade he puts on when we are out and about. Everyone always comments on how happy and easy-going Zippy is. For instance we were at Re-Pete's guitar lesson and he was fussing probably about not getting his way. Well, the instructor comes out of the room at the end of the lesson and notices Zippy crying. When Zippy notices him there he immediately stops and puts on his charming smile. Ha ha! Isn't that just like us as adults. We might be grumpy to our family but step into public and we are all smiles. Oh, the sin nature... sadly there is no denying it starts at birth!

Well, on to happier topics. Zippy is a sweetheart too and such a mama's boy, which I always enjoy. I can't get enough of my little guy! My favorite time is immediately after a nap when I pick him up and he tucks in his arms and snuggles into me. Oh, how my heart melts!


Zippy is now napping wonderfully! I realized that I had been trying to have him nap when I wanted him to (like on my 10 and 2 routine his siblings easily fell into) and not when he needed to. Being that he still wakes between 6 and 7 a.m. and more on the early side that means he needs to nap much earlier too! (Why didn't I realize this sooner?) So, me trying to hold him off only made him overtired which meant he couldn't fall asleep well and if he did he'd wake up grumpy. Putting him down when he shows signs of tiredness and usually 2 - 2 1/2 hours after he wakes is the key. And now he takes a good nap and is getting closer to 2 hours! Ahh, maybe I will get something accomplished after-all.

He will take a pacifier from time to time although lately I find he would rather just hold it. But the key to his comfort is a hard toy in his hand. For the most part once he has that in his hand he is ready to sleep. I have made sure to interchange those toys so he isn't stuck on one that I need to bring everywhere.

What did Zippy do this past month? He rode on his first Carousel and squealed with delight. Of course I was sitting with him and Daddy was on a ride with the older boys so there is no picture to document this event.

He began to enjoy taking a bath! I hear many parents say how much fun their baby has in water but that is not always the case with a few of ours.


At the beginning of the month he did not want anything to do with the beach. This was a nice thing as we could put him on the blanket and he'd stay there as he didn't want to touch the sand.


By the end of the month nothing bothers him and he'll crawl on any surface: sand, gravel, wood chips, you name it. If it is in the path to get where he wants to be he'll cross it!


He still isn't too sure about the waves in the water coming up and splashing him so he is content to sit at the very base and get his feet wet as he explores the area. Here he found a butterfly that was barely hanging on. Needless to say, it did not survive after Zippy threw it back into the water.


This boy also is different in that he puts everything into his mouth. Nope, haven't had a problem with the others doing that.


Zippy you bring a lot of joy and excitement to our family! Oh what a beautiful smile!


Thursday, August 9, 2012

TOS Crew Review -- King Alfred's English

I had seen the book King Alfred's English advertised in various homeschool publications. A book about the English language and why we speak the way we do sounded very interesting. Afterall, I am from an area that combines some German and English and some words may give clues to where I live. For instance, my windows are "schmeared" (smeared) full of fingerprints from the children. Or I like to "go by the lake" and would you like to "come with?" I also drink out of a "bubbler" (water fountain) and so I thought it would be fun to read about where the English language came from.

I had the opportunity to review King Alfred's English: A History of the Language We Speak and Why We Should Be Glad We Do  -- written by Laurie J. White for the TOS Crew. I decided to read it for my own interest to begin with.

"But what is this language we call English? Where did it come from? Is it derived from some other language or did it spring up on its own? In fact, do languages ever spring up on their own, or do they all go back to, you know...the Tower of Babel? And what type of language is it, besides being Germanic, whatever that means?"

These are some of the questions that I had answered in reading King Alfred's English. I found this book to be so engaging and it really kept my interest. Typically I would find grammar and language to be a bit dry but yet Laurie introduces both subjects in such a way that I find myself wanting to know more. Along the way I excitedly shared portions to my older boys and decided that it will fit in perfectly for studying the middle ages so we will read this aloud this fall. I learned so much and in a way it reminded me of Story of the World. 

You may wonder as I did, who King Alfred is. He was the very first King of England also known as Alfred the Great. Among his many accomplishments was the promoting of the English language making the ability to read and write a qualification to be a nobleman. It was a way to unite the English people by using one common language.

So where does language originate? It is a gift that God has given us to communicate with Him and since "living languages always simplify over time" language is evidence of His design. I love that!

One example of languages simplifying over time is the word you which was interchangeable with the words thee, thou, and ye. Even after they were gone from common speech they were still used when praying as a form of respect to God. I always love to hear my Grandpa pray out loud as he still prays what we call a "King James Prayer" and will say such things as "We thank Thee Lord for thy many blessings".

King Alfred's English also covers the history behind the various bible translations and discusses Shakespeare, printing presses, why the English language is so difficult to spell and so much more. I could go on and on about this book but I suggest that you pick up a copy for yourself. I think you'll enjoy it!

The recommended age is 12 - adult but I found that my 10 year-olds enjoyed portions of it as much as I did.

To use this with students there is supplemental material such as: 
  • Chapter Worksheets
  • Unit Tests
  • Links to related online literature and primary sources
  • Links to articles, images, and videos that expand the topics in each chapter
  • Suggested movies
These are available to you at:

King Alfred's English is one of CBD's top 10 picks for Homeschooling and is available there in paperback form for $14.89.

As a special deal from the author, if you are interested in picking up a copy of King Alfred's English I can give away a code to purchase a paperback copy for 50% off ($8.47) to 5 readers. Please let me know in the comments and I will get that code to you.

**Disclaimer: As a member of TOS Review Crew, I received a complimentary copy of this ebook to review. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are my own.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Guitar Cake for the Birthday Boy

George had a hard time deciding what he wanted for his birthday cake this year. Chocolate cake has always been his cake of choice, with varying designs. But, he loves cheesecake in many flavors and fondly recalls a wedding reception he went to where there was a cheesecake buffet. Oh delight! So, he thought he wanted that instead. But he also likes guitars and a guitar cake would be fun. Oh, the dilemma. His days of shaped/decorated cakes is most likely nearing an end and so ultimately he decided to go with the guitar cake.

We found some online that looked nice and then he sketched out the colors he wanted it to be. I think it would have been a bit easier to use the shaped cake pan for this as he ended up baking two 10 inch rounds and one loaf pan. That was a lot of baking and it turned out to be a big cake. (We had to use the cover of a large storage bin to put it on.) He chose chocolate cherry this year.

George decorated the cake himself and it did not turn out quite as he envisioned which often happens to me too. The colors weren't exactly the same as his drawing so he put a blue sparkle gel around and spread it to give it a variegated look.

Another problem was the heat of the day. Since the cake was so big it did not fit in the refrigerator to keep the frosting solid. So, the handle is a bit melted and the frosting kind of slide down so that the gumdrop tuning pegs fell. He also had a hard time getting those strings straight. The idea we saw used licorice stings which would have worked well but George didn't want black strings and thought white frosting would look better.

George's 13th Birthday Cake baked and decorated by George himself. Not bad for a 13 year old boy! This is the 3rd cake he has decorated by himself. (Oh, I think Pete may have pipped a bit here too.)


Little did George know that he was also getting a new guitar for his birthday!


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

TOS Crew -- Create Better Writers

Writing does not come easily for my children and when I saw this writing program I had hope that maybe this would work for us and maybe George would enjoy it. He used to enjoy writing but lately, not so much. I chose to start him with something basic which was How to Write a Paragraph which is only part of a whole system.

Here is a little background information from the author, David S. Dye.

There are many wonderful and expensive, writing programs. Many of these programs require a great deal of time, and a certain level of expertise, for the home school teacher. The purpose of our system is to break writing down into its simplest form for both the teacher and the student.

The paragraph lesson plan will lead home school teachers into "How to Teach the Five Paragraph Essay" and finally into "How to Teach the Research Report". Along the way, students will learn to write more intelligent sentences and build strong vocabulary.

Sounds great to me! Lets give it a try.

From the Table of Contents --

Paragraph Writing – Overview
Part I – The BasicsStep 1 – Assessment: Students write a paragraph
Step 2 – Learning the five parts of a good paragraph 
Step 3 – Memorize the Five Parts of a Paragraph  
Step 4 – The Paper Set-Up 

Step 5 – Write a Paragraph Together: The Prewrite
Step 6 – Write a Paragraph Together: The Paragraph
Part II – Improving the Parts of a Paragraph
Step 7 – Topic Sentences
Step 8 – Closing Sentences
Step 9 – Paragraph Assessment
Step 10 – Practice, Practice, Practice
Step 11 – The Perfect Paragraph
Appendix A  / Appendix B 

This is for grades 3 and up and Mr. Dye recommends that you always start with learning to write a good paragraph because once you can do that you can write a good essay. The instructions were easy to follow, although also written for teachers so at times will talk about getting feedback from the group. Of course being summer it isn't quite as easy to get any child to sit and "do school". The emphasis is on taking your time and not rushing through this.

We learned that there are five parts to a good paragraph
  1. One Main Idea
  2. Topic Sentence
  3. 5-7 Sentences
  4. Closing Sentence
  5. Indent; Spelling and Punctuation
The emphasis is on one main idea and there are tricks to setting up your paper that help the writer remember the parts of a paragraph. And once you have all of those parts you have a paragraph. Of course it takes practice, practice, and more practice. This portion of the writing system can take anywhere from a day to a month to master. But by the end of this your child should know:
  1. How to setup their papers.
  2. Once given a topic they will write it down, narrow it down to one main idea, add 5 - 7 details that support it then number them in the correct order.
  3. Write a paragraph.
George did catch onto the five parts of a paragraph and was able to write one as well but we'll have to practice that more this fall and the first suggested theme is the classic "What I Did On My Summer Vacation". Being that we were not ready to move onto the next book How to Teach the Five Paragraph Essay my review is focusing only on this part of the system. I think it works well and offers games and suggestions for themes to keep it interesting and with no preparation on the part of the teacher which is what I like best.

The How to Write a Paragraph ebook is available for $7.99 but is free if you purchase the How to Teach the Five Paragraph Essay or with The Complete Writing System. Visit for more information.


**Disclaimer: As a member of TOS Review Crew, I received a complimentary copy of this product along with How to Teach the Five Paragraph Essay and The Homeschool Writing Action Plan to review. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are my own.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

TOS Crew -

A few months back I joined the Old Schoolhouse Review Crew which means I am part of a team that reviews homeschool products, curriculum, etc. I am very excited about this. Here is my first review...

When I saw I knew right away it was something I really wanted to try out. I am not the most organized person in the world and having things already done for me is a wonderful thing.

Here is a little background about it from the website -- was created with the vision to provide quality homeschool materials from the best teachers in many subject areas. We offer daily, weekly, and monthly lesson plans and activity ideas.The site has daily lessons on many subjects to assist you with your daily homeschool. Some of our Teachers will provide weekly or monthly activities that you can use at your convenience with your own lesson plans. You also will receive daily historical information, daily menu ideas, and tons more.

Photobucket is available to you for $1 for the first month and it is $5.95 per month after that and with all that is included you can't go wrong!

There are so many options to choose from and for all age levels. They range from geography and history to economics and literature. And new content is added monthly and often weekly or daily. It is hard to know where to begin! I suggest you begin where I did with the site tour of both the Teacher Lessons and Daily Studies.

There are daily features such as Everyday Explorers, writing, grammar, crafts and even daily recipes. And during the Olympics you can learn about a different sport each day with activities to go along with it. So much fun! But I am going to focus on my favorite part of Schoolhouse Teachers which is This Day In History in which you click on the month and select the day. There are two facts for each day so if I select July 30 I will see...

1935: First Penguin paperback book was printed on July 30, 1935, marking the introduction of modern paperback books.

1864: The Battle of the Crater is fought in Virginia.

And then there are assignments for each fact that look like this.

Fact 1
  • Who wrote Penguin Number 1, the first paperback book printed by Penguin?
  • Where was the book published?
  • What is term that refers to the main character in a book?
  • What is the term for the enemy of the main character in a book?

Fact 2
  • During what war did the Battle of the Crater take place?
  • Why was it called the Battle of the Crater?
  • Read about this interesting battle and its outcome.
There are then printables which is more information on each fact so for Fact #1 I can print a page entitled "Books, Books and More Books". Some of the days have mapping assignments or learning more about a certain person in history. There is no planning involved because you just look at the calendar and select that day.

If you want more history Diana Waring presents a series on Life Lessons of Christian Luminaries and for August it is David Livingstone. What you will help your student learn this month is:

  • How David Livingstone needed uncommon perseverance as a child.
  • How God sent David Livingstone to India instead of China.
  • What David Livingstone felt was the best way to end slavery.
There is a brief lesson online that can be printed out and then suggestions for further reading and internet links for additional research.

This website is a wonderful resource but not only for homeschool Moms. It would be helpful to anyone wanting a little extra learning at your fingertips and for a reasonable price. I can't begin to cover all that is included but if you want to learn more you can read more reviews from our team.


Disclaimer: I was provided free access to in exchange for an honest review of its contents.

Friday, August 3, 2012

A teenager already?

We have come to another milestone that I wasn't looking forward to... our first teenager! George turned 13 on Friday and what a strange feeling. I have heard from the moment he was born how fast time would fly and you think you are prepared but really it is as if I blinked and here we are.

George 4
Being that George sleeps longer than everyone else I was able to watch my sweet freckle-faced boy sleep one morning last week and flash back in my mind to the pictures I have of him over the years.


I can't really describe this feeling I have. It isn't sadness really, although it brings tears to my eyes. I guess it is more of the realization that all of my children will continue to grow and pretty soon they'll be gone. George is quite helpful in reminding me of this as he mentioned in another 10 years it would be possible that I could be a Grandma. Okay, let's just stop at 13 shall we? :)

George is definitely a first-born. He is a more of a leader and likes to be in charge. He is very responsible and helpful with his siblings and in the past month I have come to a new stage where he has been willing to stay home with everyone for an hour while I go to the grocery store. That is simply amazing and I still can't believe we are here.

George is very good at coming up with ideas of how to play and really enjoys dressing up with his brothers. Here he helped Tank get camouflaged.


Friday night we celebrated with family and for the rest of the weekend his grandparents took him to Wisconsin Dells for special treat as they decided this is what they'll do for their grandchildren upon turning 13. I am a bit jealous and would like to go back to being 13 for a brief moment so I can go too. :)- I know he enjoyed his time away.

Next on the agenda -- the much anticipated (by George) growth spurt. I know it is just around the corner. He mentioned after church last week that he was having a hard time singing high and couldn't reach some of the notes. Here we go.... Looking forward to what this next year will bring not only in physical growth but as I watch George daily spend time in God's Word and see him becoming a young man who is seeking after God. So very, very thankful!

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