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Monday, March 30, 2015

Thick as Thieves Review #hsreviews

Thick as Thieves Book Review
I read a lot of books out loud to my family & I love when I find an author that everyone likes!! I just finished reading Thick as Thieves by Susan K. Marlow out loud to my kids and my husband & we all enjoyed it. 

Thick as Thieves is the first book in a new series from Circle C Milestones. This series is about teenage Andrea Carter. We started reading about Andi & her horse a few years ago in the Circle C Beginnings books and we are thrilled that we can read about her life as a teen. 

In San Joaquin Valley, California in the 1880's Andi would much rather spend time with her horse, Taffy, more than anything else. She is so excited for Taffy's first foaling that when the time comes Andi stays the night in the barn because she doesn't want to miss the big event. In the middle of the night Andi is forced to find her brother when she realizes something is not right with Taffy. 

Andi would love to spend her entire day training her new colts, but with school & chores she has little time left in her day for that. At home her family is worried about loosing cattle to the cattle rustlers and everyone is on edge. To make matters worse Andi is forced to befriend a new girl at school who is mean and cruel to everyone. Things get even worse when the cattle rustlers turn to stealing horses. Andi must learn to trust the one person she doesn't want to have anything to do with.

There is also a free 40 page Study Guide that goes with Thick and Thieves. There are vocabulary words, crossword puzzles, diagrams, a foal timeline to fill in, and even math problems from 1880. We learned about lice, cattle rustling, and the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. 
The day this book came in the mail everyone wanted to read it first. I decided that the best way to settle it was to read the book out loud. This series is recommended for ages 12 and up. I read it to all three of my girls (ages 10, 12, & 14), and Mike. Everyone enjoyed the book. As soon as the girls saw Andrea Carters name on cover they remembered the Circle C Beginnings books that they had read before. And Amber even remembered that we had read Golden Adventures by Susan K. Marlow. It's funny because the girls loved the young Andi series and they loved Tunnel of Gold, but they all agreed they liked Thick as Thieves the best. Could it be that they have grown with Andi and each book appealed to them at different ages. 

There is so much to like about this Christian fiction book. We loved the suspense and the mystery aspect. It also gave us a look at US History in the 1880s. We learned a little bit about the school, the children, how a ranch was ran, and even about indoor bathtubs. Since we read the book together the girls wanted to work on the study guide together too. We just printed out one copy of the guide and they went through and read and answered the questions together.

Thick and Thieves is a great book to add to any library. If your kids like historical fiction with a little adventure or they just love horses they will enjoy this new book from Susan K. Marlow. 

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

HomeSchool Office Review #hsreviews

HomeSchool Office Review
I will admit that some years our school is very organized and other years it seems chaotic. Having a plan is the best way to stay organized & I recently started using HomeSchool Office from Lord Heritage to help me. 
HomeSchool Office helps you get your home & school in order. You can create lesson plans, track student progress, generate reports for the current school year or from year to year. Having all this in one place will help in generating transcripts when the time comes. 

HomeSchool Office uses the acronym POWER; Plan Order Work Evaluate Report with biblical references to show us why we should be organized in this area. This plan can be beneficial in all aspects of life. They can be applied to your business, school, or just your personal life. 
When I first logged in there are tabs at the top of the page. You have Home, Team, Plan, Order, Work, Evaluate, and Report. By using these tabs in order it is very easy to create your lesson plans. I created my Team first. I added information about our school, each student, teachers, and you can also add resources & friends. The only other teacher my kids have is for their music lessons, but I think this feature would be very beneficial for those families that attend a co-op. 
Next I moved on to the Plan tab. In this section you can add the subjects and assign them to a student, you can plan your school days for the year, create a master schedule for each day, and keep track of any special projects or create a budget. When subjects are assigned the calendar days turn purple. To schedule a day off you just click on the day and it returns to its original color. There is also a school day total at the top of the page. That makes it very easy to see how many days you can take off for the school year & make changes. So, if your state requires so many school days & you take off any sick day through the year you know exactly how many you need to add to the end of the school year to meet state requirements. 

Under the Order tab I can create lists & print them. I can generate a calendar for the day, month, week, or a week or day list. The Work tab is where chores & jobs can be organized. You can add them to the calendar and print them just like the school calendar. Amber has 4 piano students and by adding them here she can go back and see how many lessons they have had or missed. 

Evaluate is the next tab and here you can keep track of each students grades & attendance. When creating reports in the Report tab you have the option of what you want on the report for each student. You can included their attendance, progress, goals, and a summary. Transcripts are also generated from here. You can chose the student and the year you would like a transcript for. You can also add a graduation date & if they have already graduated. 

We tend to be a very busy family and trying to manage our time can become overwhelming sometimes. I have to keep track of our home, school, outside activities, my home business, my blog, and my husbands erratic work schedule. I need to have some sort of organization to our chaotic lifestyle. HomeSchool Office is a great way to get everything in order and keep everyone on track for our day. I am also getting everything organized for high school. I cannot believe we are at this stage in school again. I want to create a high school plan for each of my kids individually so they can focus on some of their interest, but still get everything they need. Planning this on HSO gives me a visual and makes changing things very simple.

You can try HomeSchool Office free for 30 days. It could help you manage your homeschool, create high school transcripts, or just get organized.

HomeSchool Office Review
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Monday, March 23, 2015

Hot Air Balloon Cake #hotairballoon #funcake

Amber turned 14 this year. Her birthday is actually on pi day, but she doesn't like pie!! My kids don't eat a lot of cake any more, but when they do it is something special. Amber wanted a hot air balloon cake this year. No any ordinary hot air balloon. She wanted one that was flying or at least tethered to the ground. 

No big deal. We figured out exactly what she wanted & started designing our stand. Once we had our cake board dimensions figured out we gave them to Mike. He cut out the boards and drill the for the all threads. We decided to make the bottom part of the balloon out of cereal treats because we didn't need that much cake. 
She chose chocolate cake with cookies and cream filling!! 
She planned her design and decorated it herself. 
She made her basket and people out of modeling chocolate & fondant. 

We knew the cake would be top heavy and we wanted to carry it by the all threads. We didn't add the modeling chocolate for our tether ropes & our people until after we arrived. 
Amber & her younger sisters each made themselves to fly in the balloon. 
This is Amber in the front. 
This is Alaina.
This one is Delaney. She didn't use any color on her face, so the flash kept whiting out her face. Some day I will learn how to use my camera for my benefit!!

I think Amber did an excellent job!!! 
I'm just a little worried about what she might want next year. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Elsa Doll Cake #frozencake

I had a request for an Elsa doll cake for a little girl turning 3. 
I had a couple of cakes to deliver that day, so I told her I would drop her cake off as well. She was thrilled with the finished product.
The little girl came running into the room and the mom held the cake down where she could see it. The little girl squealed with delight and at the same time she grabbed Elsa around the waist!! As soon as she realized it was icing and her mom was telling her to stop she pulled her hands away. She only knocked off the top row of ruffles in the back. 
They all loved the cake and here she is playing her song. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Great Parents Academy Review #hsreviews

Critical Thinking Company Review
 Alaina is my only child who likes math. The others have been a range from putting up with it to hating it. When I showed Alaina the GPALEARNMATH from GPA LEARN she couldn't wait to try it.   
GPA stands for Great Parents Academy and their team is made up of lifetime learners who want to provide a fun way to teach children math. They believe a love for learning is the key to a child's success.

GPALEARNMATH is a math program for children in grades K-5. It has 150 lessons and over 10,000 problems per grade. If a child completes 4-5 lessons a week they will complete one grade in 10 months.

Alaina worked on 4th grade in GPA. Sometimes she worked on the computer and other times she used the iPad. When she first logged in her dashboard would appear. Here she can see how many lessons were completed, how many were attempted and any awards she had earned. There are tabs at the top that allow her to navigate the program. Her choices are Dashboard, Learn, Engage, & Motivate. You can also ask other members to be your friend. 
In the Learn section the student has access to their math problems. The Engage section is where you find your friend code and send and view your messages. Under the Motivate tab you can build your child's Surprise List. There are rewards you can choose for you child to earn after lessons are completed. The awards can be chosen from a list or the parent can make their own. 

Alaina had access to three sections: 
  1. Operations & Algebraic Thinking
  2. Number and Operations in Base Ten & Number and Operations - Fractions
  3.  Measurement and Data & Geometry
Each category has it's own row of problems. When the child has mastered that section they will have 3 stars colored in and the award is stamped on the square. When a lesson has been chosen you have the choice of Alaina using the lesson or having me use it. Each lesson has instruction, practice problems, and a quiz.

The 4th grade lessons are given by a Hooty Owl. During the lesson she uses a lot of "fowl language". She calls the students her little fledglings,  and uses words like hootastic & hooty hoot. The lesson can be listened to (in a computer voice) or it can be read at the bottom of the screen. After the lesson there are practice questions that are not scored. If the problem is missed the owl will ask again what you are looking for. If you are completely stuck you can use 3 lifelines to show the answer. There are around 15 questions on the quiz and it doesn't show you the ones you miss until the end.
I think this is a great way to have a math tutor online. It has a feel more like a math game rather than actual school. I did think some of the problems were a little wordy, but Alaina didn't seem to mind.
She liked working on GPA because she thought it was fun. She liked the stories that the Hooty Owl told to get the concepts across. She is a joke telling girl and she thought the owlisms were very funny, and she loved the fireworks that were at the end of the lessons. She did became frustrated that the quiz would not save until she completed all the problems. Two times she had to start the quiz over. One time she got up & her sister closed out her browser & the other time the computer froze up on her and when she logged back on she had to start over.

This is a great way to help students with math concepts in a fun way. 

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

World History Detective Review #hsreview

Critical Thinking Company Review
Years ago I ordered a Mind Bender book with some of our other curriculum & my kids loved it! We have been using them ever since. When The Critical Thinking Co. came up for the Crew to review we knew we wanted to be on this one. We were offered a choice of 8 items & we chose World History Detective Book 1
Critical Thinking Company Review
World History Detective Book One covers ancient and medieval civilizations. It is recommended for grades 6-12 and beyond. This 362 page softcover book divided into four sections: Prehistory, Ancient Civilizations, Medieval Civilizations, and Early American Civilizations. This book can be used as a stand alone curriculum for lower grades, a supplement for another textbook, or review for older students. It helps students with reading comprehension, writing skills, and critical thinking in the 78 lessons. Each lesson contains a reading selection, questions, and a map. Each sentence in the reading passage is numbered. The questions are multiple choice, short answer, or essay questions. The multiple choice questions offer 4 selections to choice from. After the student chooses the answer they are asked to give the number of the sentence that supports their choice. The questions also help the student draw conclusions, and distinguish between facts and opinions. 

Amber just turned 14 and she could not wait to get this book. She loves history, geography, and Mind Benders. We are studying Ancient China right now, so we skipped to that section in the Detective book and included it in our studies. Amber went back to the beginning to work on the lessons we skipped. History is a subject that we do together as a family. After reading and discussing our lesson for the day we read the corresponding lesson from the Detective book. I would have Amber & Delaney (age 12) answer the questions and I would help Alaina (age 10) with her questions. Sometimes I would have Amber & Delaney answer the short essay questions and other times we would discuss it together. 

We really enjoyed adding this book to our study of history. I really like the questions. Some of them contain statements and the student have to tell whether it is fact or opinion. The multiple choice questions aren't like most I have seen. They actually get you thinking about what you read enough to draw conclusions. It was harder for the girls to find the sentence where the answer comes from when I read the lesson out loud. When they read the lessons themselves they could find where they read the answer easier. 

This book does not teach about a biblical creation. It states there is uncertainty about the beginning of human life and gives time references to millions of years. We just used these opinions to reiterate what we believe about a young earth & a biblical creation. 

Another thing I love about The Critical Thinking Co. is their copyright. The original purchaser of the World History Detective Book is authorized to reproduce each page for their home or classroom up to 35 copies.

This book would make a great addition to any family. No matter if your children homeschool, private school, or public school. 

Using products from The Critical Thinking Co. has made my children better problem-solvers. My 14 year old loves solving problems and is even tossing around the idea of becoming a forensic scientist because she wants to solve problems. 
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Friday, March 13, 2015

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Nutella Dessert #yum #dessert #nutella

 The last time we made cinnamon rolls I decided to try something different. I had seen this shape somewhere on the internet, but I can't remember where or what their recipe was. I used my sweet dough that I use for cinnamon rolls. 

I rolled out three layers of dough the same size. Then I spread Nutella in between each layer. I cut an even number of slits all the way around the circle and the twisted two together all the way around. 
Then I baked it. I can't remember how long. I'm going to guess around 15 minutes. It was very good. My kids ate it right away. 

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