Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Toy Cars

We have quite the collection of matchbox cars from over the years. There comes a time between 12 - 18 months old when each of my boys have begun a fascination with cars. Matchbox cars are one of my favorite things. They are inexpensive, they fit in a purse and can go anywhere with you. And you can play with them anywhere: in the dirt, on a track, up and down legs, the possibilities are endless. Always boys with pursed lips "vrrrooommm" or other engine noises that they imitate so well. Zippy is now there.

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He still has to have something to hold when he sleeps and now his choice is a toy car in each hand. He has them lined up in his bed in a sort of "garage" so they don't fall out of his bed. And the thing that fascinates John and I is that they all have to be lined up the same with headlights turned toward him. We try to sneakily move one the wrong way but he never misses a beat and turns that car right around. Everything must be just so before he will sleep.

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Zippy races them -- ready...set...GO! Oh, the excitement when they reach the end!

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Lately Zippy has been found stuffing his shirt with cars.

What a full belly silly boy! What's down there?

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Trying to get them out. "kuck!"(stuck)

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Ahh! Relief. We couldn't believe he fit ALL of these down his shirt!

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Monday, March 25, 2013

TOS Crew Review - The Art of Poetry

Roses are red, violets are blue... that is about the extent to any poems I have memorized. The children and I have read some simple books of poetry and of course the classic Robert Frost book Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening. When I first looked at The Art of Poetry from Classical Academic Press I thought I had better take a pass as it appeared to be over George's head. But in giving it a second thought knew it would be good to expand our horizons and even challenge our thinking a bit.


George and I reviewed The Art of Poetry Student Text and Teachers Edition along with the first DVD in the set. Both are large softcover durable books and are geared for 6th grade and up.


How It Worked For Us

George and I worked through The Art of Poetry together. Being that I am a bit "mystified" by poetry myself I knew it would be good for me also. The book is setup to use in whatever way works best for your family and gives sample schedules to guide you. This is something we needed to take slowly. 

Lesson -- Each lesson contains a number of poems. For example the first lesson had 6 poems. George began by reading the chapter about one of the elements of poetry -- Images. For each poem there are anywhere from 3- 8 questions to get you thinking more about what you just read. What works best for us is studying a few poems each week.

Activities -- There are optional activities to choose from at the end of each chapter. They include things like re-writing your own version of a poem, describing something using four images, and one we enjoyed was a word association game where I said one word and George and Pete would answer back with words that popped into their mind to see how everything would connect.

DVD lesson -- You do not have to have the DVD's as the Teachers Edition has so much information to assist you but I enjoyed watching the lesson. The teacher is the author of the book, Christine Perrin, along with 4 students in a sort of round table discussion. They go through the various poems in the lesson giving insight about each. Some of what they talk about George said was in his lesson and other ideas they present are in the Teacher's Edition. What I liked best was the little extras. For instance, in memorizing the poem Dust of Snow by Robert Frost there were helpful hand motions and also a rhythm in how they spoke that helped us (especially George) to learn quickly. Having the Teacher's Edition I wouldn't have come up with that on my own.

George still isn't thrilled with Poetry but at least one poem a week will be incorporated into his weekly routine. It is very beneficial in helping him to give more thought to what he is reading and be able to interpret it's meaning.

My Thoughts

The Art of Poetry is very well-planned out which makes my job so easy! I love the Teachers Edition and without it we would be floundering. When George would read through a poem and try to answer questions he would occasionally get stuck, especially when a questions says, "What is the significance of?" Well, let me see, I have this handy-dandy guide that answers each question and so I could give hints to get him on the right train of thought. It also gives more insight to each poem.

I really like that this incorporates vocabulary words and writing and gives your mind a workout.

Pricing Details

Note -- prices have dropped but are not yet reflected on the website


The price of The Art of Poetry bundle (student text, teachers edition and DVD series) is now $99.95!

The items can also be purchased individually:

Student Text -- $24.95
Teacher's Edition -- $29.95
The Art of Poetry DVD set which is over 15 hours of instruction is now $69.95

You can read more reviews on The Art of Poetry and also Discovery of Deduction from The Schoolhouse Review Crew.

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Sunday, March 24, 2013

New Washing Machine

Last week I went to the basement to do a load of laundry and saw puddles of water at the base of the stairs. It was next to a pair of boots so I told the owner he should really put his boots on a plastic drainer when they are wet. He told me he hadn't worn them that day (he was out in the snow in his shoes instead). When I went in the laundry room and saw more water behind the washer I realized we had a problem. Unfortunately, it was enough water that a portion of our laminate flooring is now warped from the water building up beneath it. John reminded me that the same thing had happened before causing us to buy a new washer. But that seemed like only a few years ago.

John packed it up right away and took it to town in the morning for an estimate to fix it. As it turns out we bought our washing machine 10 years ago already. Time does fly when you are washing loads and loads! I was surprised to find the cost to fix it was $500 and a new one could be purchased for less. How crazy is that? I so appreciate my husband! He doesn't sit around and wait he gets a job done and fast!

John found a deal at Sears and picked one out for me. I have no opinion in this area as long as it fits a large load I am good. He brought our new washing machine home, hooked it up and started the first load. The kids are all excited at the new appliance and how nice it looks. The boys each learned how to operate it and I told them maybe I should not ever learn how and they could do all of the laundry. George typically does his own and he is quite happy with this new and improved machine. It automatically senses the size of the load and adjusts the water amount to that. Quite nice.

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Appropriately we saw a cartoon drawing today of a washing machine, with a dryer and a "folder".

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I told the boys to come up with a design and invent one. I know lots of people who would go for that! Their creative juices were flowing and they discussed how that could be accomplished and were drawing out designs. But of course a lego mechanical set would be a really good investment to help them in this endeavor! I agree but wow, those aren't cheap!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

TOS Crew - Essentials In Writing

When we were part of a homeschool co-op George was in a writing club which gave him monthly assignments but beyond that he enjoyed making up stories to write. It is hard to keep up with writing ideas when you are doing it on your own and so we are sporadic in this area depending on what is assigned in our unit study. I have been looking into various writing programs to be more consistent and wanted to give Essentials In Writing a try.

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We reviewed Essentials In Writing for grade 5 which includes a DVD with the video instruction lessons and a CD to print out the corresponding worksheets in pdf form. But if you are like me and would rather not take the time to print them they also have a pre-printed workbook available.
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How it worked in our family

I chose to have George join Pete and Re-Pete in this as a review. The lessons are divided into two parts, the grammar and the writing. We began with grammar and they watched Mr. Stephens present a lesson at least twice a week. The lessons are short, typically only 5 - 10 minutes at the most. I suppose they could watch more at a time but I prefer to take it slow and let the information sink in. If they already know it then move on. Then they go on to complete a few assignment sheets for each lesson and it was just the right amount of work for my guys. Not one of them enjoyed the grammar portion but not because of anything in the program, it was just because it is grammar and how fun is it to learn about subjects and predicates? Here is a sample lesson that they have yet to complete.

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We then began using the writing portion and this is where the boys began to enjoy their lessons. They all got into writing a story about a day in their life. I liked how each lesson was broken up so that they took it slowly. First formulating ideas, the next lesson was putting the ideas to paper followed by revising and then editing and that was done over a week's time. They now know the process and writing a story won't be as overwhelming.

They are non-committal in giving me an answer about how they liked the DVD instruction. "It's okay" is about all I can get on this one.

My Thoughts

I am finding that I like programs that have a DVD instructor for some things and writing is one of them. Especially now that we have so many various levels of learning. I like to do as much as we can together but when we can't it is helpful to have another "teacher". I did like the short lessons as it wasn't overwhelming in any way which is helpful with my boys. And Mr. Stephens does have a sense of humor and is not boring to listen to.

I also appreciate the fact that the kids can work on this mainly on their own. They occasionally had questions for me but they were self-motivated most of the time.

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While I liked the writing portion, personally I would rather the grammar be incorporated along with the writing to make it a bit more relevant. I am not typically a fan of grammar learned on it's own with worksheets because it seems harder to comprehend when not related to anything they are doing. Sure, we'll learn parts of a sentence. But what does that have to do with anything until they apply it? If they study grammar while they are writing their own stories I think it would be more likely to be absorbed. But, that is my opinion and I know people on the opposite spectrum. That's okay because we all have different styles of learning.

How to Purchase

Essentials in Writing is available for 1st through 12th grade. And you can't beat the price for a writing program like this.

-- Essentials in Writing Fifth Grade (DVD & Printable Worksheets on CD-ROM) -- $40.00
-- Optional pre-printed worksheets -- $20.00

To see more reviews on the various grade levels check out what others on the Review Crew have to say.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Week in Review

There have been a number of little things that don't always seem worth a post in and of themselves so I thought maybe I should start an end of the week recap so I don't miss them.

I am attempting to make a few changes in the way we eat. While we totally revamped when Pete and Re-Pete were infants I have slacked in the past few years in some areas. A few friends have been making Kombucha and I decided I would try it as well. It is a fermented drink made from sweet tea. I won't get into the details of that in this post but fermented foods in your diet are very beneficial. The boys have nicknamed the SCOBY floating on top "omelet" and are getting a kick out of this. Now to get everyone to drink a little every day.

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Wednesday -- Little Miss was very excited that we were finally able to have a girls day with friends. We went out for lunch and then to a quaint shop in town where you can make your own lip balm, lotions, etc.

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Missy filled her own tubes with Root Beer flavored pink tinted lip gloss. They also made a body spray which is Missy's favorite. I made one too and hoped that her tastes were similar to mine so we could share. Wishful thinking I suppose but it was not to be. Her little nose gravitated toward the scents that I so dislike -- floral scents! At first she liked an awfully strong scent called Jasmine, so I pointed her to some seasonal scents and thankfully those were a little more tolerable. She settled on Blooming Tulip which is a very refreshing scent and now our house smells a little bit like spring.

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Thursday -- The only meat we had was in the freezer so I searched for some meatless meal ideas and found something so simple but tasty -- Mexican rice and lentils that you scoop with tortilla chips. I knew it was a hit when one boy who has a comment about every meal I make, and not always pleasant, came up to me the next morning and told me that I made the absolute best meal ever and when could I make it again. Oh, I love when often complaining boys turn around and give a compliment! I thanked him over and again! And my appreciation for that has had an effect as he wrote me a note today with another sweet message. I keep praying that the Lord works on his heart and I am gradually seeing evidence of that. Thank You Lord!

Friday it seemed as if my brain was going into overload! Everyone was on fire with wanting to learn. I don't know what got into them and George even accomplished a week's worth of work in one day! But by the end of the day of Missy wanting to work on reading and me being a dictionary for the older boys as they were writing stories, I was getting so confused with all of the words going in and out. Ahh! I finally told them we all needed a break. The boys did finish their stories and Little Miss did yet another lesson in her book for a total of 17 that day! Thankfully John picked up pizzas for supper.

Saturday -- George and Re-Pete had a guitar recital. They enjoy playing together and this time they were joined by their friend from 4H. They improve with each performance and it is so fun to watch their faces full of concentration.

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Sunday -- We aren't Irish, well, the kids might be as I think there may be some on John's side of the family. But I decided to get into a little fun of St. Patrick's Day and bought Lucky Charms for breakfast. George was shocked! I don't think I have ever bought it before. I am relieved that none of them liked it and prefer a tad healthier cereals. We ate at my parents house as we do almost every Sunday and I picked one of my favorites -- Pork Chops and Sauerkraut with mashed potatoes. Thanks Mom! It was delicious! Not Irish but we had the cabbage. Pete decided to make "George's jello" which is a broken glass type and that was our rainbow. Pistachio torte was for dessert.

That was our week in a nutshell. I did get a new washing machine but I will post about that as when I started typing it turned into too much for this post.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

TOS Crew - ARTistic Pursuits

My favorite subject in school was always art and if we could spend all day drawing and painting I'd love that. We haven't had much dedicated art instruction except for a co-op that we were in. My children all enjoy art and often will get out their own supplies and create. I was on the look out for art curriculum that incorporated studying works of art in addition to learning technique. I first saw ARTistic Pursuits last year at a homeschool fair where a Mom had it on display as one of their favorites. When it came up for review I was thrilled!


The boys looked over the choices and wanted to learn more about drawing and so we were happy to be able to review Elementary 4-5 Book One - The Elements of Art and Composition.


How It Worked for Our Family

George, Pete, and Re-Pete (ages 13 and 11) used the art book from ARTistic Pursuits. While it says it is for the elementary level ages 9 and up it still works for the older student like George as the instruction is the same but they work at their own ability level.

This program was easy to open the book and go and they were able to work independently. Although, I do think some direction is needed at times to make sure they are understanding. We needed a few basic supplies to get started such as ebony pencils, a vinyl eraser, metal pencil sharpener, and sketch pad, all of which we already owned. I liked that the supply list was at the beginning of the book and listed by unit.

You can schedule this to fit your own needs and our boys worked on it once or twice a week. The amount of time per lesson varied depending on the child and the difficulty level of what they had selected to draw. But it would be an hour at the most.

I liked how the boys were learning how to do as the book instructs and "observe the world around you -- to really see it." They were able to look around the house and find things of interest to draw. And each person has a different opinion of what would make a good drawing. I would point out an object such as the detail work on a chair and one might agree and the other not.

They finished the first two units: Space, and Line and Shape. This program has helped them to be more deliberate in their drawings. Last year Re-Pete entered a drawing of a car in the fair that was nice but now I think he'll be able to improve with more observation and study of the object and after learning more elements of art.

Here are a few examples of drawing from real life - fitting the object to the space vertical or horizontal.

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What I Like About ARTistic Pursuits

There are four parts to each lesson which is what I love about this program! It isn't only art instruction  or copying a project someone else has done but much more.
  • Building a Visual Vocabulary -- For example the first lesson in Unit 3 is on Texture. The meaning is briefly discussed and then they use that to relate to the real-world. There may also be an activity to help give more thought to that subject such as being blind-folded while feeling different textures offered to them.
  • American Art Appreciation and History -- They observe a work of art that includes elements such as texture and also learn about the artist and the time period they lived in.
  • Techniques -- Learning how to use the tools to help them with their art. For example learning how to move your hand around on the paper rather than being stationary. Or how to draw light outlines and erase as needed.
  • Application -- A final project is done based on what was learned in this unit and at times some review of the terms
What I like is that the child chooses what they want to draw. They aren't just drawing circles and lines that have no relevance except that it was the element they learned about. It isn't a step-by-step drawing book where first they draw this shape then they add this line and so on until it makes the picture of a car or other object. The key is observation and being able to truly study and see the world around us which helps them to draw or give a more detailed description. That is a wonderful thing.


The ARTistic Pursuits softcover 92 page book Elementary 4-5 Book One - The Elements of Art and Composition. is available for $47.95

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

4H -- A Kid's Life Musical

The beginning of the year is always a busy one for us getting ready for the 4H Music and Drama festival. There are two things that I really appreciate about being involved: It builds confidence in the kids that I see grow each year and they have so much fun getting to know everyone. My children have made really good friends through this portion of 4H.

This year we performed the musical A Kid's Life by John Jacobson. Our club typically purchases a script with CD and the only problem we have is our 15 minute time limit. There are many songs and lines cut all while keeping the story intact. One of our long-time 4H moms takes on the job of directing while the rest of us assist in any way we can. As always a week before the performance we were really concerned that it wouldn't come together but of course after much work the kids did great!

This is a picture from one of our final practices with George as a bingo caller during a lively game song. You can see Zippy in the background. He enjoyed wandering in and out at each practice and when the kids were up on stage he had a hard time not being up there with them. If you listen to the YouTube video you can hear him screaming at the beginning. At one of the practices Re-Pete, who plays the dad, comes back in the door with his wife. Zippy came walking in right along with them as if nothing was out of the ordinary. That made us laugh as it looked as if Dad and Mom went out on a date and came back with a baby! Ha!

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The Willing Workers performed mid-February and we enjoyed a fun day at the festival both watching and performing. 

The opening scene. A typical day in the life of a family. Pete is playing a video game. Missy is on her iPad. The other boys are part of the chorus. George and Tank really wanted more lines but there weren't enough parts for this big group.

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We made all of the gadgets over-sized out of cardboard to emphasize them.

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This was from the stage practice so "Grandma" doesn't have her wig on but I liked this shot of Pete and Missy wondering what kind of games they can play without their gadgets.

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Here Missy is telling Grandma that jumping rope is for little kids.

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Re-Pete had fun with the mic. His brothers thought he looked like a motivational speaker.

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Dad (Re-Pete) and Mom came home and Missy went to give him a hug.

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A portion of the kick-line on the family band song.

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One of my favorite parts is when the narrator/brother is speaking and all of the kids freeze in some form. You can see Pete frozen ready to give a high five to his "sister". The choir was always supposed to have their head down.

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Having fun dancing around on the closing song.

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You can watch the video of the performance one of the parents put on YouTube below. It isn't the best quality but you get the idea. During the game song Re-Pete and Tank are in a group playing charades off to the left so you can hear Tank guessing. He also says the line -- "table football" and during that same song Missy is off to the right playing Go Fish with her "grandparents" and says "It's easy!"

The Willing Workers performance was simply amazing! Especially since they only practiced twice a week for a little over a month. At the end tears were streaming down my face as I was SO proud of them! The judges really enjoyed the performance and had to work to find a constructive criticism and in the end found none. Our group WON!!!! So, we may be headed back to the State Fair in August yet again!

Part 1 of A Kid's Life

Part 2 of A Kid's Life

Thursday, March 7, 2013

TOS Crew - Lone Star Learning

Reviewing products can be a lot of fun and a great way to find what might help my family learn best. Lately, I am learning about companies I hadn't known about and this is one of them. Lone Star Learning offers teaching tools that were created by teachers to better help students learn. I reviewed their Target Vocabulary Cards - Math 1


How it worked for our family

We mainly used the vocabulary cards as you would regular flash cards going through them a few times each week. I would show the card and they would tell what it means. Now, the cards do not have the definition written on the back so if you don't know what it is it may be helpful to write it on.

The Vocabulary Cards are not your typical set of cheap flashcards. I was so pleased with these sturdy, coated cards and found them so bright and colorful. They are also nice to have hanging as "learning decoration". Hanging a few from small clothespins on a line of twine is my favorite way to display them rotating new ones in from time to time.

You can also do a word of the day or have the child/student write out the definitions and match them to the correct word.

It was mainly my older boys (ages 9 - 13)  that used them but they definitely could be used with younger children.

The cards are very helpful for that visual learner who needs to "see it" to understand it. I was reminded of when our oldest was struggling to read. We would go through his boring flashcards of sounds and the thing that helped him most was when he drew a picture on the card to represent the sound such as a band-aid to remember the ow sound. The vocabulary cards are right along the same line of thinking. You can tell someone which is the divisor and which is the dividend and some may grasp that concept but the terms are so similar so how do you remember? I am horrible at math and I can't tell you which is which. But seeing it graphically on the card really helps cement that in your mind.


We were privileged to be able to review a second set as well and that was the Science Vocabulary Pictures. Look how eye-catching the pictures are!



The Vocabulary Cards for Math come in two sizes and you can purchase the small size set which is what we reviewed for $29.99. They fit nicely into a larger file card box. There are 50 - 56 cards in a set and you can choose from 3 sets of math terms that are recommended for grades 3-8. They also have a Primary set which only comes in a large size. The words options are listed for you to select from.


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

TOS Crew - Abraham's Journey


I reviewed the book Abraham's Journey: A Celebration of the American Dream from Inspiring the American Dream by Robert and Kathleen Basmadjian


When I first saw this book the title interested me. Our family really enjoys American history but especially anything that relates to Abraham Lincoln. Even our dog is named Lincoln. I didn't know much about the book but thought I'd read through it.

A Brief Summary

Abraham's Journey is about a boy around the age of my boys aptly named Abraham. His parents recently lost their jobs right before Christmas and their family was going to have to go without. But Abraham thought there must be a way for him to earn money to buy gifts. In this technological time we live in Abraham texted his friends and a "wise old man" appeared. He guided him through time to meet American men and women to help him figure out a hidden talent that could help him realize his dream.


Abraham's Journey was written for ages 7-12. It is a softcover completely illustrated book and is available for $14.99. This book is brief and does not take long to read through.

My Thoughts

I decided to read the book for myself. While I like the idea behind the book this was not my style and so I did not ask my children to read it. Although, Re-Pete (age 11) saw it on the table and read it. He said it was "okay". 

I like how Abraham went through time and met a few Americans that helped shape our country. I also appreicated that he was taking initiative to try and help his family and learned lessons along the way. I do think this could be expanded so much more though. I felt Abraham rushed from one scene to the next with very brief encounters and you don't have a chance to really learn about the person. He met people like Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Norman Rockwell (who helped Abraham realize his hidden talent), and Amelia Earhart, but also modern "greats" like Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook, and Bill and Melinda Gates. 

Now, I admit I am on facebook. And it has it's place in keeping in touch with people to an extent. In the book Abraham meets Mr. Zuckerberg and finds that he needs social media to showcase his talent. I don't know, but that just turned me off. I know we live in an age where kids have smart phones and ipads and some are on Facebook. They know how to use a computer early on. It is hard to keep our children, children with all of the technology. Our oldest does not have the ability to text friends as Abraham in the book does neither will we allow him on facebook. And so that spin on the story just didn't work well for our family.

Now, obviously not every family is the same and our children have friends that do have phones and are on Facebook. And that is okay. So this book may be perfect for that family. It is good to see how people like those I mentioned took an idea and made big with it. We can learn from those living as we can from those in history past.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Big Snow!

Last winter we hardly had any snow and it was quite disappointing. If you are going to have winter and cold you might as well have the snow to go along with it! I'd rather have beautiful white covering the earth than drab brown any day. You may remember that we had days warm enough to hung out laundry last winter.

Well, this winter has not disappointed! We have had a lot of winter fun, well, maybe not me so much but the kids definitely have been out every chance they get. Sledding with friends is a favorite.

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They'd like to cross-country ski too but we need skis and getting them all at once is not going to happen.

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Overnight on Tuesday we were supposed to get 3 - 5 inches which is no big deal. It began snowing right as John got home from work. By the next morning he woke up and began to plow as we were snowed in deep.

As I watched out the window from my cozy bed and saw his truck stuck in the driveway I assumed he wouldn't make it in to work. All schools were closed and I kept hearing that the roads were terrible. But when I ever question about driving in the snow John always says "We live in Wisconsin!" and this time he added "It isn't Armageddon out there!" Yup, nothing stops John. Except maybe the ice underneath the snow which is why he was stuck. It took him twice as long to get there but he made it to work without incident.

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As it turns out there were only two patches along the lake that were dumped on so instead of the predicted amount that most people in Wisconsin got, the total was 16 inches! Even the TV weathermen were apologizing. I am not sure how much we had at our house and it was probably less since we are farther from the lake but we got plenty, adding to what we already had. We are VERY thankful for a plow!!!

Seppy trying out the glider. 

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Lincoln enjoyed bounding through the snow.
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The kids tramping through the deep snow busting up drifts.

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The walkway after John came home and finished up clearing the snow away. The sky still dreary and heavy with snow.

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It has reminded many of the big snows we had growing up. I remember a picture of me standing on the built up snow piles as a child able to touch the roof. Driving through town with piles lining the roads it brings back memories of days past.
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