Archives For United States

Just What IS Me Time?

Heather —  September 13, 2010
Image via Wikipedia

This weeks Blog Cruise asks an interesting question:

How do you find free time? Is it okay to take time for yourself? If so, how?

Now, many people will answer this question straight up. They will probably talk about carving out early morning times, exercise times…book groups…but when I first heard the question, I thought about that Me Time Myth ebook I read last year.

I couldn’t get that out of my mind. So bear with me while I get it out of my system?

When I hear this question, I personally think I am in a time in my life where it really is not useful to have “me” time. Somehow, I always pay for it.

I can just hear everyone now, saying, well, Me Time is healthy! You should get some. But, let me explain. I have 5 kids now…and most are teens. Honestly, life is just moving very quickly around here–and often, I miss something special if I am busy being just me in my me time…

I like to think that I have found ways to incorporate my activities and my rests into our lives. As I don’t have any toddlers running around, for example, I can sit and have a cup of coffee and read a bit. I can plan a little trip (although as my 5 year old has epilepsy, we haven’t felt comfortable leaving her alone this past year–so we have to pack her as well) but still, I have a lot of freedom…compared to women with little ones, I am in a restful period in my life.

And deep down, I do feel like the kids are growing up so quickly now. I have already had one go off to college.

After he left, I was in shock. Somehow I always thought there would be time for more things. I was always telling him– that —“I was busy and we’d talk about that later….”

Oh, you guessed it. I cried when he packed. And cried when we saw the dorm. And cried when I kept listening for his car at night.

And, while I think having a special hobby or work that you enjoy is fantastic, I also think that our culture has skewed our concepts of what actually refreshes us. Talking to my oldest always refreshes me.

I think that we can slow down and incorporate what is important to us as people into our lives as wives and moms.

I do not feel that the two are mutually exclusive. Last year, I read an ebook called, WeE-book™- The “Me Time” Myth. That little ebook really struck a chord with me. You can download it for $1.95 from TOS (no, I’m not reviewing/selling it) I just wanted to share the link if anyone is interested. You can even just read the summary to get some sweet thoughts!

Anyway, my point is that I think Moms need to take a period of their lives to be “hands-on” moms.

When you are doing that, and truly believing that you are doing an amazing, essential thing, you will be refreshed in the middle of being with your family.

So, while I may enjoy a pedicure…or a book…this is one Mom who you won’t hear complaining about being with her kids.

Now, you may hear me complaining about a behavior one of my kids has that I want to get away from!

To read more thoughts from bloggers on this topic, check out the Blog Cruise.

Settlers of America Meets the Kids

Heather —  September 8, 2010

Some days, I am an amazing, inspired mom. And the kids all get along and play intense strategy games with educational value while working together around the beautiful coffee table I gave them for games and eating brownies…

Ok, So there were no brownies, only pretzels. And, ever since I put an adorable coffee table downstairs for them, they want to play on the floor.

But, still, the kids all got together to play the Settlers of America Trails to Rails, from the Catan history series.

I asked them to help me review the game…but I did have a secret plan…a plan to find a game that was difficult enough to hold their attention, yet fun…and one where they would not fight…you know, the trifecta.

I definitely hit the mark on finding a game that would challenge the kids. And the X Box stayed silent. I think kids really like board games deep down, sometimes where they don’t even know it.

This game has…game. Seriously. To begin, just take a look at the pieces:

  • 120 railroad tracks (in 4 colors)
  • 48 cities (in 4 colors)
  • 8 train engines (in 4 colors)
  • 8 settlers wagon (in 4 colors)
  • 1 outlaw
  • 40 goods cubes (in 4 colors)
  • 40+ die-cut gold coins (in 1 and 5 denominations)
  • 4 building cost overview charts
  • 1 map board
  • 2 dice
  • 12 die-cut number tokens
  • 95 resource cards
  • 24 development cards
  • 1 rulebook

And you will need the rulebook for the first games. I liked the quality and artwork of the board and cards and the wooden pieces. Our little one liked them, too. I liked that she was able to get some ideas about the settling of America while just hanging out with her brothers.

So, we began by getting all the pieces together and checking out all the resource cards. The game action is set in the 19th century and the players are in on the quest for westward expansion. This educational game is the latest in the Catan History Series, and just one of the many educational games Timberdoodle carries.

As play progresses, players collect and trade resources in order to build settlements, acquire locomotives and railroad routes, then race with other players to deliver the most goods.

I did especially like that the players have to work together during each turn. While ultimately there is one winner, the game had a feel that everyone was working towards a common goal. (I love that!) There was a lot of trading and building going on.

You know, I did not get this game specifically to “go” with a homeschool curriculum. I was looking for a game that had a good storyline…a theme…and wasn’t too easy.

The fact that the game could also be used to reinforce or to introduce American History and the concept of westward expansion, well that is just icing on the cake.

Overall, I think this is a good game. It is difficult, I believe. The game lasts about 2 hours and requires 3-4 players. It is marked for ages 12+ and I agree with that…although we did have one 5 year old playing.

She enjoyed all the playing pieces and really got into the resource cards. I think she learned a bit. I have no idea why her hair looked like she was from the Netherlands somewhere back in time.

I think the kids will be playing again soon…we even added a player towards the end…

The list price is $54.95, but it is on sale right now at $44.95. Also, I have not played any Catan games before and this one has me curious to go look at the others. For families, this would be one to play with your kids. Like I mentioned, it is not easy the first time, but is fun and worth learning how to play.

Check out Timberdoodle’s homeschool vodcast for all kinds of educational ideas for your kids. I really like their games and other homeschool curriculum and homeschool supplies.

As a member of Timberdoodle’s Blogger Review Team I received a free copy of Settlers of America in exchange for a frank and unbiased review.

Technology in Our Homeschool

Heather —  August 30, 2010

em at computer

I think this weeks Blog Cruise question is a good one. The question is:

Do you use technology (iPods, Computers, Videos, Digi. Cams,etc.) in your homeschool?

My Answer? Yes, yes and YES!

I honestly can barely imagine running our homeschool without technology. Especially as I am teaching high school age children, we are very open to incorporating technology.

Right up front, I will address the fact that I do believe too much technology can adversely effect your homeschool. Obviously, it is not great for kids to be sitting in front of a computer all day long. I have found it is important to establish some type of schedule for using some of our technology–and the schedules are not just for the kids! They make me get up and go for that nature walk. And I don’t want to hear whining if it’s time to get off the computer learning games…so it has saved my sanity, to have a plan and set timers.

That being said, I do think computers, ipods, digital cameras…items like ebook readers…all of these things can be wonderful teaching aids. I do think that having a college student and teenagers pushes me to be aware of the technology that exists. It seems like every week, I am hearing about new items and/or programs that exist in the world of technology. I woke up to a new operating system on one of our computers the other day…Ubuntu. Apparently, it would make that computer go faster. I am proud of my tech savvy kids. Need a program installed? Need things rewired or the new router installed…who am I gonna call…? My kids. They are amazing critical thinkers when it comes to hooking up tech gear.

So, let’s get down to exactly what tech stuff we use around here..

We have a couple of laptops and itouches that are networked. The kids also have the xbox and tv setup so they can watch netflix on there. I added another free app the other night so I can watch Netflix on my itouch. Pretty neat. I have a digital camera and I let the kids use that on field trips… we also use the itouch as an ereader. We also use podcasts and audiobooks… dvds and videos to reinforce different subjects we are studying.

Now, how do we use that stuff…

We use the internet in so many ways. Our world is amazing and I love being connected to learning communities…downloading ebooks and maps…teaching ideas on really short notice…whole downloadable unit studies–just with the click of these buttons!

We use many internet sites that have teaching programs–both free and subscription based. I have listed some that are great for little kids on my “Fun” page, which you can access by the tab at the top of this page. My five year old especially likes the Starfall page and Mathletics. But there are so many useful things out there for her age.

My older son takes several classes online. Currently he is using the math program ALEKS (you can see my old review for ALEKS) and he is also taking a Potters School Science Class (Apologia Biology) I like the Potters School because they have a safe community for kids to interact. While using the Potters School setup, my son also uses video and speech software to interact with the class. If you take a look at my “Homeschool Helps” page, you will see many of the items are computer based or have some type of tech “connection.”

We like to find stuff on Netflix that goes with our studies–they have a lot of educational movies on there!

One issue I have with having the older children using the tech a lot is that, while I do trust my children…I understand that they are not perfect and they may be doing something they should not (like messing around on email and facebook) when they are supposed to be working. I want to teach them freedom…but also responsibility. So how does Mom not hover over the laptops while they are working?

I have NOT had much luck with using computer protection systems–I find that while I am trying to block some things I consider evil or whatever, I will end up with many of the sites I NEED blocked. This has been an ongoing frustration for me. Just recently I got a TOS review product to check out called Lanschool. So far I am loving this! I will tell more when I really know how to use it, but so far this program allows me to monitor my kids while they are working and lets us send popup messages back and forth. While the kids are not thrilled I can choose to see what they’re doing, they know we are doing this and so they can take the laptops, etc and go off to another room…just whatever. They actually have a lot more freedom within this structure.

Really, I know I’m just scratching the surface here. There are so many ways to use technology in homeschools. I would love to hear from others, too.

Do you have some favorite ways you incorporate technology into your homeschool? Favorite learning sites? Please tell!

And do go by the Blog Cruise and see what other people have to say on this topic.

I like this little clip from ecoStore:

It’s true, isn’t it? There are so many products in our homes that are not good for us–and we do have a choice!

Once we began going organic, we wanted to change MANY of our habits. In order to run the household, I needed to change the way I shopped…the way I judged products….

One of the changes I wanted to make was to change over many of my household products, like shampoos, soaps, laundry stuff…to change them over to more “green” natural items. Originally, I was worried it would be very expensive to make these changes.

However, what I am discovering is that it is all about being more about being educated on what works rather than spending tons of money.

For example, I have had good luck using vinegar and a bit of water and alcohol as our new glass cleaner. Even to clean our shower, I found the vinegar and some baking soda worked wonders–shockingly better than one of my industrial cleaners…hmmmm

I am still learning and it is all about making choices. I really like using cleaners that are all ready for me and those with pretty scents…so, I was happy to do a review recently for ecoStore–using green products that are convenient and smell good–the best of both worlds, I think.

Originally, I planned to try out some cleaners from ecoStore, but I when I saw they had some coconut body washes and soaps I was overwhelmed with a desire for a treat, so I requested those!

Overall, I was pleased with the products. They even came in all recycled packaging. I really love the coconut scent. I did not care for the bottled hand soap—it did not lather up well—The bar soap and body wash, on the other hand, are fantastic. The body wash lathers up with tons of bubbles and it seems to be lasting forever—which is unusual in our house!

In using the ecoStore products, I am thrilled that I am using using plant based non-toxic products—but without having to give up a nice lather or scent.

Check out the company here: They are an extension of a 20 year old New Zealand company that makes plant based, non-toxic Household Cleaning, Baby and Personal Care Products that contain No Nasty Chemicals™.

You can also find them on Twitter and Facebook. And, they have free shipping on orders $25 or more

Thanks to ecoStore USA for providing me with body wash and soaps for my review.

Landon Donovan of the United States clashes wi...

Image via Wikipedia

So, you’ve heard of the World Cup…

You know that thing with the ball that happens every four years? It’s taking place in South Africa right now.

You may wonder…Why is this important? Why should I watch something that the United States already got kicked out of? Why should I watch the football with a round ball? Didn’t that Landon Donovan guy –the star US striker– didn’t he divorce his wife? The chick from Rules of Engagement on CBS? Well, yes he did and his performance in this year’s world cup almost helped mend his marriage. Until he mentioned that he possibly impregnated a British woman…Wait I’m getting off track.

So you haven’t watched any of the Cup’s games yet. More importantly you haven’t made your children watch the games. Well, don’t fret. You can make up for that on Friday when the Quarterfinals begin. That’s right there are eight teams left– Seven games left to watch.

Why should you sit your child or teenager down and force them to watch the World Cup?

There are so many reasons…how about because of all the politics?

fifaHow cool is it that 210 teams played to qualify and 32 countries qualified and have been competing? If you download the FIFA app on your ipod or itouch, your kids can even check out the national flag and song for each team (my 5 year old loves doing this, and it’s a free app!)

Think of all the interest your daughter will have in foreign affairs when she sees that cute Argentinean score that hat trick! (I’m talking about Messi who has been hailed as one of the best players ever)

And… downtime between goals there are serious values you can teach your children while watching together:

  • Respect for other cultures
  • Sportsmanship
  • Team playing
  • They probably don’t know what “offsides” means
  • The soccer federation is still somewhat anti-technology so what the ref calls goes –i.e. sometimes life isn’t fair–that means no repeat camera viewing to make a decision
  • The clock starts at zero and runs until 90 (with respect for halftime of course),
  • Why it’s so important that the soccer federation had South Africa host one of the largest world championships
  • Dedication to ability and talent
  • And one more: the fun of Yelling and Screaming when the team you pick wins or goes home!

Start watching Friday as the eight teams fight for the monumental honor Italy took home in 2006.

It’s summer time–so go ahead grab some snacks, turn up the TV and beat the mid day heat. Your children will thank you. Well maybe not right away: when your son is grown and his Italian supermodel girlfriend doesn’t know more about soccer than him then he’ll thank you.

If you don’t get ESPN –Head over to where you can watch the games streaming live.  If the 9:30am or 2:00pm games are too early for you, at you can watch the games you’ve missed at no cost anytime after they’ve finished.

ZakumiAnd the mascot isn’t too bad either. His name is Zakumi the “Za” means South Africa and the “kumi” means 10. South African World Cup 2010.

How’s that for some Homeschool?

Today is a Review Day!

Heather —  June 29, 2009

As a kid, do you remember being all excited to organize all your brand new school supplies for the first day?

I totally do. I remember lining up newly sharpened pencils, colored pencils, erasers, composition books…having a special pencil case usually completed my pile of treasures. I was READY. I was excited…I felt like I could take on the world.

I have to say, that is exactly the feeling I get thumbing through my brand new OldSchoolhouse Planner for 2009! I get a sense of peace looking through the planner and adding my own personal notes and plans into my new book…my ONE book…instead of my usual many separate books.

Are you curious about what kind of planner would give this mom of five a sense of peace…the feeling that she’s actually not missing something? Okay. I knew you were, just a bit. As I mentioned a little while ago here on my blog, this year I am a member of The OldSchoolhouse Crew (TOS Crew), and as such, will be using homeschool products and sharing my thoughts about them with my local homeschool group, and with you here on Faith, Family & Fun.

Well, one of these products is the 2009 OldSchoolhouse Planner, the 375 page E-Book subtitled “Making a Plan for School and Home.” The editors have done a great job of determining what organizational helps homeschool moms (and dads) need to make their duties as teachers and homemakers easier. The cost is a steal at $39. You can take a look at a sample of the planner or peek at the table of contents here.

Basically, the Planner is divided into 4 distinct sections. These are:

1. Main Body of the Planner. This section includes yearly and monthly calendars. Each month offers a topic with an article and ideas for unit study, clickable hyperlinks to more resources, and recipes. With my homeschoolers being on separate ends of the spectrum–one preschool, one High School, I am pleased to see topics ranging from “Lapbooks” to “Getting into College”. I feel good about having topics like American Government Basics, Weather and Astronomy.

2. Miscellaneous Educational Information. A helpful section with wonderful charts & tables like measurement conversions and historical timelines. (Great quick reference so I sound like a genius to my kids:)

3. Homeschool Forms. This year I will be homeschooling a highschooler. Frankly, I am worried about keeping excellent records–I know it is essential for this age. I believe this section of the planner will make a real difference in our lives. There are forms in here I never thought to keep, but which will support my child. There are evaluation forms, annual plans, report card forms, High School transcripts, High School hours tracking log, copypages, even journaling pages…way too many to list here!

4. Household forms. These are the icing on the cake for me. Not only will I have my official records covered, but I can feel more in control on the home front. I love the family health information forms, homekeeping reminders, food inventory logs, address book, party plans and gift lists!

The Pdf file downloads easily and all the forms are interactive. While you can just download the file and type into the forms and then print out as you see fit, I often need to print things out–hold them in my hand to really know what I am doing:)

I immediately went ahead and printed my Planner out and placed it into an Avery Heavy Duty 2″ binder. It fits easily. I think it is marvelous that I have all this knowledge and the forms at my disposal!

On top of that, as I get more organized during the upcoming year, I will type things into my PDF Planner and reprint…all updated, tidy, and beautiful! Plus, I cannot “lose” a form–they are in my PDF file! This will be great for using for records. Can you tell I am a “thrower-outer” who tends to lose things? Truly, I tend to file things in “special” places and then cannot find them. Not with this:) I am so glad this came when I was getting ready for record keeping for High School. Also, my state is very easy on Homeschoolers regarding records, but I hear many states have more stringent requirements. Having many of these forms handy can help protect your family.

Another nice option is that the Planner is expandable. The OldSchoolhouse Store already has monthly modules geared to supplement your original monthly units, with more on the way. These modules include lesson options on topics such as summer fun, and federal, state and local government, just to name a few. Take a look at these here.

The 2009 Planner can be ordered right here and..if you purchase your 2009 Planner by July 12th, you can also get the 2008 Schoolhouse Planner Useful Excerpts for free! See my post about the excepts, here

Kudos to the OldSchoolhouse! The only thing I need now is a special holder for my planner that zips, so I can fill it full of photos and post-its. Check back with me throughout the year to see the difference having the planner makes for us!