Spring Update

It doesn’t really feel much like spring out there with the cold temperatures and the dumping of fresh snow that we get every couple of days, but it must be around the corner, right?

I figured it was time for a little bit of a family update:

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We’re started using Easy Peasy All – in – One Homeschool for the majority of our children’s studies. Morgaine has been able to get a day’s work done each day, but Liam is finding it more challenging as he has a lot of other programming projects that he is busy with (more about that later). It’s (sort of) simplified my life a little, in that it much easier to track their work, but it is also a bit more labour intensive for me (though it is mostly all online material). There are areas we’ve never really touched before so the children need more help and encouragement. They are both becoming little poets (here and here). Only about another two weeks of poetry left and we’ll move on to something else for English. They will be happy about that. Science and history I’ve had to supplement, as well, but we are moving along at a good speed.

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Things are going well at Lye Abilities. It is a little less busy than it was before Christmas, but I am getting a number of repeat customers. I’ve started playing around with hot process soap more and more and while I was not sure of it to begin with, I’ve made a few pretty soaps that way now and it is something I will probably regularly add to my line up. Speaking of line ups, I’m hoping to come up with 6-8 soaps that I’ll make regularly and then a couple specials each season. I haven’t figured out which are my favourites, yet. I’ve started soaping in double batches to keep up with demand and create a bit of a stash of the most popular. I’ve added a super mild baby soap bar and would love to eventually branch out into other baby/mama care products. I’m not sure what the plans are, yet.

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Liam has been pretty busy with his computer programming and is starting to get some recognition for his work. That is really thrilling for him and it nice for us to see his hard work paying off for him!

He actually created and coded (in HTML5 the new layout for Snap! Snap! is an online coding environment that allows people to build their own blocks to create programs of their own. Snap! is presented by Berkeley University (University of California) and Liam is thrilled to have his name associated with a university (especially when a couple of his online friends pointed out the Berkeley is a pretty prestigious university). You can see the homepage that Liam designed here (if you scrolled to the bottom you will see his name).

He also get special mention in another online game that has taken a year to develop. He has no real idea what he did beyond having a few conversations with the developer and giving him feedback (all good in my opinion). It has been fun for him to have his ideas heard and for him to see that there is the potential for a real future in computer programming. A few months ago he was in tears over really wanting to help people with his programming, but not knowing how. Well, he is well on his way and we are very proud of him.

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Morgaine and Ruadhan are doing well. There really isn’t a whole lot to say. They are both loving their science (they are doing it together this year) and are learning all about animals. Ruadhan is super bright and it is a lot of fun to teach him as he is really eager and full of questions.

Morgaine has gotten into Minecraft and is quite the designer there. She has a really eye for knowing what looks good. She loves the interior design shows on W Network and sees a future in that (or fashion design). She certainly is creative so it sounds like a good choice to me.

Yesterday was Mike’s birthday and Ruadhan and Morgaine were in charge of the cake. They did an awesome job and worked so well together (that isn’t always the case).

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Things are going well for Mike at his new job. It was a lot of driving this winter, though. He’ll be glad to have better roads (full of pot holes, mind you) now that spring is thinking about arriving.

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I am doing well. I am still writing for Home & School Mosaics and I will be applying for an online teaching job (fingers crossed). I think it would be a good fit for me, but we will see if I get called for an interview and their training.

Beyond teaching and soap making, there isn’t really anything new with me. The winter has been a bit long and hard on me so I have actually started taking an anti-depressant. I am hoping that it will be a short term thing, but we will see. I am hoping that the sun and warmth will help, though the  medication itself has done its job. It’s not something that I want to depend on either.

I’ve been doing a fair bit of reading at night to help me fall asleep and I am always looking for suggestions for what to read so if anyone that happens upon this have any good must reads, let me know!

I’ll be here blogging more regularly now, but you may have noticed that my posts are quite random. I’ve been trying to take part in a daily writing challenge here on WordPress and it isn’t easy to use the prompts and keep with the whole family and homeschooling thing. I know this blog started out as a “real life” thing, but in my real life before this site I wanted to write (which is actually why I started Mama Manuscripts waaaaaaaaaaaaaay back in 2007). Mama Manuscripts has lost her home on the blog as she stopped paying for web hosting so my writing projects are making their way over here. You never know, maybe one day I will write that novel.

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Baby, It’s Cold Out There

We’ve been staying warm inside.

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HM-IWrite-125I’ve started writing for Home & School Mosaics as a monthly contributor (in addition to the sporadic reviews I’ve written for them over the past year or so). I do enjoy being involved with a wonderful group of women (and men). The articles are always interesting to read and I am blessed to be a part of the team. You should check out there website for lots about homeschooling, but also about home and family matters. They have a few interesting things running this year like a weekly link-up (this week check out crock pot meals), featured homeschooling styles, and a kind of “book club” per say. I’ve been working on the feature for the February older child book and I’m excited to share it. I’ve never done anything like it before.

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All three children are gone math CRAZY. I introduced Morgaine to Khan Academy and she loves it. I think that we are going to use it as her main math curriculum. Liam has also been plugging away at Khan Academy and pre algebra from Math Mammoth. Ruadhan is also a very eager math student and we’ve been having tons and tons of fun with Right Start Math. He goes around the house asking when his lesson is going to be. It’s fun to have the children interested in learning again.

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Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 6.17.48 PMWe’re busy looking at houses while simultaneously trying to get our house ready to go on the market. My husband has taken a position even further away from home which means that the children do not really get to see him during the week and it leaves long days for both of us. I think the isolation of our current locations has been wearing on all of us and while I adore the land and could not ask for a better house, it is time to look for something in a community where the kids can start making connections again that go beyond just Mom and Dad. We just put new windows on our house here in rural NB and she’s looking really good.

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IMG_3656Soap making at Lye Abilities got a little behind over the holiday season so I am pretty busy restocking my shelves right now. I ended up with the never ending plague and ones sense of smell is quite important to soap making and aromatherapy work, I’m afraid. Mike bought me a fraudulent soap making book (there will be a post coming to warm other soap makers *sigh*), however, I was able to save the soap my turning it into a beautiful rustic hot process lavender soap. While hot process soap making is not my favourite, it does speed up curing time quite dramatically and that’s a plus when one is behind. I’m actually quite liking this one so I’m think it may become a part of the regular line up at Lye Abilities. What do you think?

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We’ve officially reached near annoying adolescence with our PUPPY. She being quite the challenging little dog at the current time. This stage did not last very long for Cyndi, who has mellowed into a lovely mature dog, but if I ever, ever (like even 10 years from now) tell you I am considering a puppy, please remind me that I really don’t mean it. :p

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Things are settled into a pretty good routine and we’re feeling pretty at ease with the way things have started out this year. Lots of new plans. New energy to get things done and come to a place were we can relax and enjoy each other more. Everything is quite comfortably routine for now and i’m okay with that. We are willing to take are time with whatever decision come our way and it is nice to be able to do so. One day at a time.

Wizzy Gizmo ~ A Mosaic Review

I was recently given the opportunity to review Wizzy Gizmo’s Fast Track Bible Pack as part of Home & School Mosaics. My oldest son was once very much interested in the Bible and while we aren’t doing formal Bible studies this year, I thought that he would still be interested in looking at this product. There were a couple of different options to choose from, but because my son was older we decided to go with The Fast Track Bible Pack as it would give him more to work with over time. Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 7.51.41 PM The Fast Track Bible pack gives you child an overview of the New Testament by teaching them about the main themes of each book though informative cards. On one  side you are given more general information about the book and an overview of what you will learn about as you read it. The information is divided into sections:

  • It’s position in the New Testament;
  • The number of chapters;
  • The author (if known);
  • The date of writing;
  • The theme and and an overview.

The reverse side includes even more information for further study , including:

  • An outline,
  • The key chapters (and there relevance);
  • Key passages;
  • Key doctrines;
  • Key people.

While we are not actively doing bible studies this year I appreciate these cards as occasionally questions come up in some of our other work or we are talking about values and it’s nice to be able to use these cards to find relevant passages in the Bible when we need to. I love that each book comes with it’s overall theme outlined. I can see us using these cards to help us with a more complete study in the future. I am thinking that it would be nice to choose one card a week and spend time learning more about God through the stories by looking up that passages and talking about the kep points. The wheels are turning and I am sure that I will come up with a way to use these in our homeschool in the new year.  My son goes through stages of being very interested in Bible studies and I am sure that they bright coloured and logically organized cards will very much appeal to him. For 14.99$US these are definitely worth having in our homeschool. In addition to The Fast Track Bible Pack, Wizzy Gizmo has a number of other resources for Christian Studies including:

  • Who Created Everything (both an audio CD and book)
  • In his Image

Both of these resources sound very interesting as well and from reading some of the other reviews on Home & School Mosaics I am strong considering purchasing them for my younger crew. For more information on Wizzy Gizmo be sure to check them out on social media.

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100 Happy Days ~ Days 6-10

Day 6 – March 18th, 2014

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Finishing this project with the kids. It took us a good 10 hours over 3 days and it actually went surprisingly well. I tend to have very little patience for these pre-made kits. I am not that handy with scissors and glue, but this time I decided that we’d got straight to tape and it was much easier. Taking a series of photos of the three kids (and the dog) was also a hoot and I caught some really excellent shots that captured my children’s personalities perfectly (maybe I’ll make another post and share some). 

Day 7 – March 19th. 2014

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Thanks to my lovely sister, Morgaine and I have been playing with make up regularly and we are quite enjoying it. It makes me happy to have something to do together as sometimes our relationship can be a little intense. We always have fun with this, though! 

Day 8 – March 20th, 2014

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It was warm enough on Friday to open the window (briefly) and sit quietly listening to my daughter read while breathing in the freshness of spring. It was quite lovely and one of the books had me in tears *lol*. 

Day 9 – March 22nd

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This child was exclaiming how beautiful the snow was and I have to agree! That barn in the background also makes me happy even though it is not ours. I just like looking out on it everyday and I wish that we had windows facing that direction. My neighbour frequently tells us of the wild animals she sees in the back yard, but we miss it because we only have one window overlooking the back and it is not in a very good place to stand and watch nature. 

Day 10 – March 23rd, 2014

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Mike bought me this el cheapo ukelele from Chapters and I’ve been enjoying watching YouTube tutorials. I swear I am going to learn to play this thing! It’s such fun (if only it would stay tuned….for what it worth, likely a good uke for your child to play on….not so good for someone that wants to actually learn to play as we’ve had to retune her after ever 10 minutes or so of playing :/

 

Schedule, Here We Come!

Oh, Schedule, what a love/hate relationship we have! I know I have left you out in the cold, but I am ready to let you back in – slowly and carefully, if you are willing to be somewhat flexible.

Yesterday, as I was preparing supper, I got to chatting with Liam. He’s been having a hard time regulating his computer usage (he is working on a very interesting project, but it has been interfering with his motivation for some of his other projects and schoolwork). We were trying to brainstorm ideas that would help and we decided that a schedule would likely be the best bet. So with our roast in the oven we sat down to work out a plan that would work for all of us.

Here’s what we came up with for Liam:

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Breakfast – Breakfast includes getting dressed, making beds, putting dirty clothes in hamper.

Mealtimes include eating politely at the table, picking up plates and feeding scraps to the dog (or putting them in the garbage).

Daily planning – A time to talk over the goals for the day and the chores that need getting done. Children can share their ideas for projects and whatever else they may want to share.

Further Up and Further In – We hope to cover two chapters in Narnia each week, including those activities we choose to do. There can include art, science (animal and plant notebook), bible studies, history (mostly reports), and writing/vocab. Extra activities from The Chronicles of Narnia Unit Study.

Science  – Physics topics from Concepts and Challenges in Science 2 (not the exact book/course, but by the same company but all combine in one book). Morgaine will follow along. Liam will complete the written assignments. This will be supplemented with Science in Ancient Times and Science in the Middle Ages (for extra experiments and more advanced work…the text for Concepts and Challenges is pretty basic).

History Courage and Conquest for both children. Liam has completed this, but it will be a good review before we move into a move in depth study.

Cursive – practice for both children.

FrenchLe Fancais Facile for both children and likely Ruadhan, too.

Mathematics – Liam is currently working on Nelson Mathematics 7 and will move to Nelson Mathematics 8 within a month or two. Mom will include extra activities (logic puzzles and games) from the various math curriculum give to us (Friday Fun Math).

Free Reading – Liam can choose to read whatever we would like.

ProgrammingScratch (often used to create supplements to out Narnian studies in addition to other projects and game development) and 4Mod (a Scratch mod that Liam is developing on his own that will teach others about Squeak and Smalltalk while still adding things that are very useful [such as capital blocks and exponential equation type advanced functions])

Chores: 

  • Dishes once a day at lunch time.
  • Prepare supper on Thursdays.
  • Feed dog (Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday)
  • Feed cats (Monday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday)
  • Pick up after oneself.
  • Make sure library books make it back to the library shelf.
  • Clean up bathroom after shower/bath and teeth.

Morgaine’s schedule is very much similar. She has extra help in English scheduled in during some of the free time and will certainly use the free time for playing or artistic endeavours. She has a few more chores as she eagerly jumped on the idea of helping me out with things. I am soooooooo glad that they are able to do most of their subjects together. Last time I made a schedule, Liam’s was very different from Morgaine’s and we were running all around Sydney Mines for various activities. This schedule should be relatively easy to follow.

Afternoon Tea

This week’s accomplishment was preparing a tea fit for a duchess herself, or at least a family that has never had the opportunity to enjoy a true afternoon tea before. Way back when, I had the opportunity to have afternoon tea at The Dalvay By The Sea (yes, the White Sands Hotel from Road to Avonlea) in beautiful Prince Edward Island so I knew a bit what I was going for. As soon as I mentioned afternoon tea Morgaine insisted that we have crumpets. Now this child has never had crumpets and didn’t even have any idea what they were, but she knew that they were a component of a proper tea fit for royalty.

Screen Shot 2014-02-09 at 2.52.17 PMAs we researched we found out that English tea is often comprised of three parts.

  •  a savoury start – we had egg salad sandwich fingers, crustless, of course.
  • scones – served with butter, homemade lemon curd and jam. Crumpets would be served at this stage as well, but we actually had the crumpets for breakfast earlier in the day.
  • a sweet finish – we had a simple three layer sponge cake with lemon curd filling and a simple glaze on top.

It was so funny to see the kids trying to behave super prim and proper like royalty. It took some convincing for them to believe that even regular folk in England like to have a spot of tea and a bite in the afternoon. That no excuse to behave like barbarians, but I wanted them to understand that while it began with royalty is soon became common practice. I could go with a nice civilized tea at about 4pm each day. The children, however, insisted that it was the longest meal they’d ever attended. We very much enjoyed the togetherness of it all, as while we eat all our meals together, this tea was much more relaxed and no one was in any rush to go anywhere. If I could take that energy to the super table it would be quite wonderful!

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Morgaine’s face says it all…trying to get 5 pairs of eyes looking at the camera at the same time is next to impossible, but it set a relaxed tone for the rest of our lovely afternoon tea! 

Have you ever had English tea? We were very happy with the recipes that I have highlighted above (especially the lemon curd and the scones), so I invite you to give them a try for yourself!

Reading Eggs ~ Review and Read-a-Thon

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I am pleased to have the opportunity today to introduce you to an online virtual world aimed at helping your child learn to read. Reading Eggs and Reading Eggspress have been developed as a fun and interactive way to teach reading skills to your 3-12 year olds. There is also a math section called Mathseeds to explore.

When we first got the program I signed up my eight year old daughter. She has only been reading fluently for about a year and anything that makes reading more exciting for her is always good as she can be somewhat of a reluctant reader. She very much enjoyed the stories that were presented to her in the Reading Express program and I was glad to see her enjoying some non fiction books as well.

She enjoyed exploring her Floating Island and visiting the following areas:

  • The library – Offering books on a variety of topics, from science to animals, myths, art, and fantasy just like a regular library. Books can be filtered by age and each book ends with a comprehension quiz. Your child will be rewarded golden eggs and a trading card for each book that they complete.
  • The Comprehension Gym – Where your child can play daily games, read books and complete activities to test their comprehension (I even had fun with some of these games!)
  • The Studium – Your child can play against other players (or the computer) in challenges that test spelling, grammar, vocab and freestyle usage.
  • The Mall and Appartment – Where you can spend your golden eggs to buy clothes, pets, apartment items and more.

My daughter, who is not competitive, spent most of her time reading books and doing the quizzes in the library and then using her eggs to buy pets for her apartment. She also really enjoyed collecting the trading cards that you are given when you read a book. She did spend some time at the comprehension gym, but found the stadium to be a little bit above her reading ability so she only played with others a few times over the course of the review period.

Overall, she really enjoyed Reading Express and has been bugging me to buy her a year long membership, which we are considering, but would want her to spend more time in The Gym and Stadium as they have a lot to offer as well.

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Because my daughter enjoyed Reading Eggspress so much, I decided that I would activate a Reading Eggs account for my three and a half year old son, Ruadhan. Reading Eggs is the beginner’s program and as my son has no reading experience we started him off at the very beginning without taking the placement quiz (my daughter took the quiz for fun and it placed her pretty accordingly to her skill level, so if you have a reader already then this is a good step). I was excited to see what Ruadhan would think about a reading program of his very own.

Screen Shot 2014-02-04 at 9.21.40 AMWe choose to use Reading Eggs on the iPad (it is also available on Android) as my son is most familiar with that platform. Quickly and easily, Ruadhan was off on an adventure with Sam the Ant. On his first day, he learned about the letter sounds of “m” and “s” and was able to complete the leaning activities with limited help from his older sister. I personally loved it as I have a love hate relationship with electronics and if my little one’s are using it then I want them to be getting something out of it. It warmed my heart to see my two younger kids working together on this program. I asked my son today what he thought of this program and he said, “Well, I kinda liked it.” He did not seem too thrilled when I asked him if he wanted to play on it some more. I do think that he would come and join me rather quickly were I to put it on and start to use it myself. He is likely a little bit on the younger age for this program and we do not push academics on our little kids, so it likely isn’t something that we will be trying to encourage him to use regularly, but I do feel that for families that want their little ones to learn to read at an early age that this is a wonderful app.

You can purchase Reading Eggs (including Reading Eggspress and Mathseeds) for 49.95$US for a 6 month subscription or 69$US for a year long subscription. I invite you to check it out and get your own 5 week free Trial by following this link. We have been very happy over all with what we have seen.

There is more good news!

The Reading Eggs Read-To-Cure Challenge

From February 3 to March 7 your child can join thousands of children across the United State taking part in the Reading Eggs Read-To-Cure Challenge – an effort to inspire children to read while raising funds for The National Children’s Cancer Society (NCCS).

All money raised will help provide financial, emotional, and educational support for children and families battling childhood cancer. Learn more here.

All you have to do is sign up for a 5 week FREE trial of Reading Eggs and encourage your child to read as many books and complete as many lessons as they can. Friends and family can sponsor your child’s efforts and money raised will go to the NCCS. You child will be set up with their own personal sponsorship page on the Reading Eggs website.

In addition to encouraging your child to read and support a worthy cause, there are prizes up for grabs for the 3 children who read the most books and raise the most money.

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*NCCS will earn a minimum of $25,000 from Reading Eggs plus 100% of the donations collected by RTCC participants

I invite you to find out more at the Reading Eggs Website. You can also check out other reviews at Home and School Mosaics.