Sunday, March 29, 2015

Weekly Wrap-Up – March 15th-21st

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!


Monday was National Ice Cream Day, so after we picked Hayden up from school, we headed off to Dairy Queen for a free vanilla cone.


The weather was perfect for sitting outside, and it had been ages since we’d had a DQ cone, so it was a nice treat for us.


As it turned out, it’s a good thing we got to go out together on Monday afternoon.  Because despite our grand plans for St. Patrick’s Day, I was awakened before 6 AM by Hayden, who had spent all night throwing up.  Bummer!  So I had to cancel the Cookie Exchange I was hosting for friends that day, and we also stayed home instead of going out for free pancakes at IHOP like we’d planned.  I nursed Hayden all morning and made sure he felt better and could keep down liquids by mid-day, and then I took him to school at 1 PM so he could catch his last class and not be counted absent for the day.  He also needed to stay after school to finish up a group project that was due the next day, so it worked out okay.  By day’s end, he was feeling much better, and he was thankfully able to enjoy our traditional St. Patrick’s Day dinner of Old-World Corned Beef & Cabbage from the crockpot.


Later in the week, I stopped at Big Lots and discovered an extra large cushy dog bed, just the right size for Lilly.  It was only $25, whereas any others I’d found that size before were over $50.  So I sprang for it and brought it home for her.



As you can see, she took to it immediately, and although Teenie has her own pink cushy bed, she took to curling up with Lilly in hers.  Aren’t they just adorable together?  Such sweet girls they are!


Haylee dressed up her new Our Generation doll that she bought with her Target gifts cards that she earned from playing GPALOVEMATH for a review.  This is the first doll that she has found with the same hair and eye color as her.


She was able to get the doll, an outfit, a hair accessory kit, and a styling chair with the $100 in gift cards.  She had a blast playing with it all week long!  The doll has extra long hair that you can wind in and out of the head so you can make it different lengths for different types of styles.  She loves giving it fancy hairstyles!


On Saturday, I took the kids over to the community clubhouse for an Easter Egg Hunt.  They had fun, though it was almost a disaster when someone accidentally started the older kids’ hunt too early so half the kids missed out.  We had to wait while they went and bought more candy and refilled the eggs so they could hold a makeup hunt for those that had been with their younger siblings and missed out.  Crisis averted!

Holden's Easter Egg Hunt

Haylee's Easter Egg Hunt

I was glad the kids got to do a community egg hunt, because we’ll be up in the mountains on vacation over Easter, so we won’t be doing a hunt of our own.  We’d probably lose the eggs in the woods!  LOL


And of course, you can’t leave out the obligatory photo with the Easter bunny!  :)


We were supposed to have dinner at a friend’s house this weekend, but we both thought it better to postpone for another time, given the recent sickness our kids had.  Her daughter was vomiting the same night that Hayden was.  It’s really going around, and many families we know have had it much worse!  So we’re playing it safe and not spreading our germs.

Stay well!  After all, spring has official sprung!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Weekly Wrap-Up – March 8th-14th

Not too much excitement happened this week.  Here’s a quick recap.


Mid-week, my neighbor and I went to the Harrison Opera House in Norfolk to see the Virginia Opera’s student night performance of La Traviata!  20150311_FB_IMG_1426115303057

It was a wonderful show and a good story.  We had a great time.  We also got the list of next season’s performances, and I’m terribly excited to see they’re planning to do The Flying Dutchman!  That was the first opera I ever saw, and I was in my early twenties, before I had children.  I won tickets from a radio station on my way to work one day, and Steve and I went together.  I was hooked from there on out.  I cried my eyes out at such a tragic love story!  I’m anxious to see it again a couple of decades and many operas later.


We got some bad news on Friday.  Our tenant of 17 years informed us he had been on a waiting list for a couple of retirement homes, and he had been offered a spot.  He said he was moving out at the end of the month.  Trouble is, he has a roommate on the lease, and they both just signed a lease a month ago for another year!  While I’m happy that he will be getting the care he needs in a group home, I surely can’t afford to be stuck with that mortgage without paying tenants on such short notice, and the other tenant informed me the next day that he could not afford to stay there alone.  So now they are on a hunt for a new roommate.  Keep your fingers crossed that they locate a good one quickly before all of us are in a pickle!


I hope you all have a wonderful week!  Spring is almost here.  :)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


We looked forward to trying out and reviewing GPALOVEMATH by GPA LEARN.



GPALOVEMATH is a really cool web-based math program which provides, instruction, practice, and quizzes for grades K-5.  Using entertaining animated characters (a different one for each grade level), GPALOVEMATH guides your child on an adventure while learning an entire year of math curriculum.  Parents can set up their own reward system using the suggested rewards or customizing their own.  In addition, students earn points for their performance that can be redeemed in the Marketplace store for e-gift cards to places like Toys R Us and Target, and even tickets for sporting events.

Your subscription is just $129/yr. per child with promotion code GPAINTRO15 (reg. $149/yr.) or $12.99/mo.per child for the month-to-month subscription.  Whichever one you buy, you’ll receive access to all grade levels for each child.

You can even try it FREE for 30 days by signing up here.

The program is compatible with your Microsoft Windows or Apple MAC computer; Apple iPad, or Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 (10”). You can use it with your favorite browsers, Google Chrome (recommended), Apple Safari 6 & 7, Microsoft Internet Explorer 11, and FireFox.



Both my 10-year old daughter (5th grade) and my 7-year old son (1st grade) got to try out GPALOVEMATH, and it’s been a really positive experience for both of them.  They are both one year above their grade level in math, so Holden has been doing the 2nd grade level in the program, and Haylee has been doing the 5th grade level as a review in preparation for her standardized testing this spring.

Initially, we were all a little put off by the very artificial computer-generated voices of the characters, but don’t let that turn you off…we soon became accustomed to it.  We also found it was a bit slow to load sometimes using Wi-Fi on our laptops, but hard-wiring the laptop made it super-fast.  We have a large network in our house that’s pretty spread out, so it probably wouldn’t be like that for everyone.  In addition, we found it worked quite well on the iPad 3, and it seemed to load more quickly.  Haylee preferred using the computer, but Holden preferred using the iPad.  It was nice to have the option of using either one.  DSCF4063

The first thing I did after setting up the kids’ accounts was to select my parent rewards which the kids would randomly receive every so many lessons.  These were rewards that would be fulfilled by me.  The program gives the parent the option of letting it automatically set up rewards using the 5 most popular parent rewards, or you can select your own customizable rewards.  There’s a list of suggested rewards in various categories, or you can make up your own.  I had to do this for each child, which allowed me to personalize the rewards for each of them.  That was really nice since they have different interests and notions of what they’d consider to be a reward.

Next, I had to decide whether I wanted them to complete the lessons in the suggested order, or if I wanted to unlock all lessons and let the kids work through them in any order they chose.  I decided to have them use the suggested order.  By selecting that option, only certain lessons were unlocked for the kids to work on, and they had to do those lessons in order to unlock the next series of lessons.  The lessons were broken up onto three colored paths, which represented different types of math, such as computation, algebra, or geometric problems. 

Once the kids got the hang of navigating the site, they were off and running.  Initially, Haylee moaned about doing extra math lessons, but I expected that, knowing how much she detests math.  However, in the end, she was absolutely crazy about the program, and I could barely get her off my computer because she wanted to spend all of her free time earning rewards!  That was a major feat, given her feelings about math in general.  But I’ll talk more about that after I explain the program.

Each grade level had its own animated character that taught the lessons to the kids. The first portion of the lesson was instruction.  I found the instruction portion to be very thorough, and it took the kids through the information step-by-step with plenty of explanation and examples.  The next portion of the lesson was the practice session.  It provided a series of practice questions for the kids, which gave them immediate feedback and explained the correct answers.  It gave lots of positive reinforcement to the kids, which was especially good for Holden.  Then the final portion of the lesson was a quiz.  It consisted of 10 questions.  The kids received their DSCF4117 scores as soon as the lesson was over, and then they had a chance to review what they got wrong and see the correct answers demonstrated for them.  The points they received for each lesson were based on the score they received, but they had the chance to go through the lesson again and retake the quiz in order to earn the full potential of points for the lesson. 

One thing I really liked about the lesson layout was the qui ck navigation available, allowing the kids to skip the lesson and/or practice portions and go right to the quiz if the topic was one they knew they’d already mastered.  That kept them from getting bored by material they already knew and kept them engaged and interested in moving forward through the lessons.

Even though the beginning lessons were pretty easy for the kids since they’re 2/3 of the way through their school year, there was always something new mixed in for them to learn.  For instance, Holden was working on some subtraction problems to 20, and he skipped the instruction because he already knows how to do that.  But one of the quiz questions asked him to drag minuend, subtrahend, and difference into their correct places in a subtraction problem.  That was a surprise!   We had not covered that previously, and that was pretty challenging for a kid doing 2nd grade math!  So don’t assume the lessons will be as simple as what you might initially think they are.  There’s a good deal of material covered in the lessons!  I’m looking forward to June when we start our new school year.  Then I can adjust Holden to 3rd grade math, and everything will be new for him rather than review.  I think GPALOVEMATH will be a wonderful learning tool for him when he’s learning new material!  I think it’s great that subscribers now get access to all grade levels for each child, so you can adjust the grade level at any time as you see fit.

It was Haylee’s discovery of the Marketplace store, where she could spend her points on e-gift cards, that becam e the ultimate motivator for her.  A perfect score on a lesson would get her 150 points, and every time she’d accrued 1,000 points, she was able to redeem them for a $10 e-gift card.  She had a choice between Toys ‘R’ Us or Target, and she chose Target so she’d have more choices of things to spend it on.  During the review period, she managed to earn $100 in gift cards, and Holden earned $40 in gift cards!  Isn’t that amazing?  That’s more than they get for birthdays or Christmas, and they were ecstatic about the chance to save up for something big.  The rewards alone would more than pay for the subscription price of the membership, making it an excellent value!DSCF4065

As a parent, I received emails every time one of the kids completed a lesson.  It told me how much time they spent on the lesson, the topic they worked on, and their quiz score.  And each time they redeemed points for a reward, I received a message to go and approve their redemption. I liked how it kept me informed about their progress without my having to go and log in to the website. 

We did run into a couple of technical glitches and errors along the way, but there’s a place on the website where you can send feedback.  Whenever I let them know about a problem, GPA LEARN responded quickly and corrected any problems right away.  They even took the time to notify me when the corrections had been made.  That’s great customer service!

Overall, I think GPALOVEMATH is a well-designed instructional math program that manages to make math fun in a game-like learning environment.  It’s colorful, engaging, and highly interactive.  Even the way the kids respond to questions varies…from clicking to dragging to entering responses on the keyboard.  We think it’s great, and the incentives it provides keep the kids coming back for more!  I only wish it went beyond 5th grade math, because it’s the first thing that has gotten my daughter interested in practicing her math!  With the free trial they offer, there’s no reason not to give it a try and see for yourself!

Take a look at what other Crew members had to say about GPALOVEMATH by clicking the banner below.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Weekly Wrap-Up – March 1st-7th

The word for this week is concerts!


After church on Sunday, I was off to hear the symphony play Dvorak’s Cello Concerto with my neighbor friend.


I love cello performances!  It was absolutely beautiful.


On Tuesday, we began an official countdown to our cabin vacation.


It’s only 31 days until we’re off to Cliffside Cabin!  We used to go every year in October, but we haven’t been able to go since Hayden started public school.  This year, we were able to book the cabin during Hayden’s spring break from school.  We’re really looking forward to a nice retreat!  It’s been 2.5 years since we were last there.


On Saturday night, my neighbor and I were supposed to go to the symphony POPS concert in downtown Norfolk at Chrysler Hall, but her daughters were both sick, so she sold her ticket to my best friend, Micka, and I picked her up on the way.

20150307_195704 20150307_195723

We had a fabulous time and got to hear them play The Music of Benny Goodman.  Micka loves jazz, and while I’m not a fan of jazz, this was more of an old-fashioned swing concert, so I enjoyed it, too.  It reminded me of the music my dad listened to growing up.


While I’m not fond of having lots of commitments outside the house one right after another, I really did enjoy the concerts this week, and there are a few more this month as the VSO and the Virginia Opera both finish up their seasons in March.  I really love all of the cultural arts events available to us in Hampton Roads.  Do you have a lot of similar events in your area?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

REVIEW: Glow in the Dark Egglo Eggs, The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure book, Egglo Treasures Scripture Scrolls, Egglo Bible Verse Stickers, and The Egglo Glow in the Dark Egglo Event Curriculum by Egglo Entertainment






We had the opportunity to review Glow in the Dark Egglo Eggs, The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure book, Egglo Treasures Scripture Scrolls, Egglo Bible Verse Stickers, and The Egglo Glow in the Dark Egglo Event Curriculum by Egglo Entertainment.



Egglo Entertainment offers a unique and creative program to help your and your family or church group to celebrate Easter in a meaningful way.  The program includes a variety of components to choose from, including:

  • Glow in the Dark Egglo Eggs – plastic 2-piece eggs that you “charge” in sunlight or fluorescent light and then use in an Easter egg hunt in the dark as they glow ($9.99 for a box of 12)
  • The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure book – this tells a unique adventure story that helps kids see how Jesus is the light of the world ($9.99 softcover)
  • Egglo Treasures Scripture Scrolls – these cute little plastic trimmed scrolls unroll to reveal a variety of scriptures…perfect for tucking inside the glowing eggs ($4.50 for a bag of 12)
  • Egglo Bible Verse Stickers – these stickers contain bible verses, as well, and can either be easily hidden inside the eggs or stuck on the outside of the eggs for decoration ($3.29 for a pack of 12)
  • The Egglo Glow in the Dark Event Curriculum – a downloadable 60-page guide that outlines how to host an Easter event that’s centered around the use of the glowing eggs, but also includes a variety of suggested activities, visual aides, printable discussion cards, invitations, decorating ideas, themed snack ideas, coloring activity pages, and both bible verse scroll and cross cut-outs that can be placed inside the eggs ($9.99 for the one-time download that you can use to print from over and over again)




Although this program is designed to be used as part of a religious celebration of the Easter holiday, my family used it a bit differently.  We’re non-denominational Christians and do not celebrate any man-made holidays as religious holidays.  Therefore, it actually worked out well for us that we were asked to review these products outside of the Easter season. 

The Story

My 10-year old daughter, Haylee, and my 7-year old son, Holden, sat with me on the couch while we began by reading the Egg-cellent Easter Adventure storybook together.  Although this fictional adventure refers many times to Easter being a religious holiday, it was easy enough to explain to my children why we don’t celebrate it as such, and that sufficed.  I’m in complete agreement with the concepts the program conveys, other than the actual religious celebration of Easter, so I had no problem making this work for us.

I have to say that I really liked this very creative story and the message it conveyed of how the children were led ultimately to the cross of Jesus to discover that He was the real treasure…that His sacrifice was the real gift.  I also loved how this discovery was shown to influence the children to improve their behavior and their treatment of one another…enough that their parents noticed the difference in how they interacted with each other.  Secretly, I was hoping that as my children (who often bicker with each other on a regular basis) listened to the story, they might be moved to examine their own behavior and be moved to make similar changes.  A mom can hope, right?!?

The Curriculum

While we weren’t hosting an event but merely using the program for own own family, I was still happy to have access to the Egglo Glow in the Dark Event Curriculum.  Despite not needing the decorating ideas and invitations, the rest of it was still useful to us to use at home.  It was filled with wonderful ideas for snacks and activities. 

DSCF4113There were so many ideas to choose from in the curriculum guide!  We started with one of the snack ideas.  We made “torches” out of pretzel rods with large marshmallows on the ends, then dipped them in whipped cream and bright sprinkles to represent a flame.  Then we used a set of discussion questions that were in the guide to talk about how Jesus is the light in the world and what that means.  We talked about how the world would be a dark place without Him.  I suggested that it can be scary to fee l lost in the dark, and how much better you feel when you find your way with the help of a light source…and then we discussed how it’s just that way with Jesus as we try to make our way through this life. Then the kids got to enjoy their snack, which of course they loved!

Next, we went back and reviewed the story we read by using the Q&A sheet from the guide.  It had been several days since we’d ready the story together, and I was impressed with how much detail the kids remembered. Clearly, this story had made an impression on them.  They even remembered each of the personality problems the characters had exhibited in the story.DSCF4106DSCF4104

There was a neat bible memory verse activity in the guide called Scripture Scramble.  It suggested that we put each of the words from John 1:5 onto balloons and have the kids unscramble them to reveal the verse.  Instead of using balloons, I put the words on index cards and spread them out on the floor.  I had the kids work together to solve the puzzle.  They did a great job!

For the Bible Alive activity, we talked about the bible account of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Then we used the Q&A from the guide to see how much the kids remembered about the events.  It was a great review for them, and they worked together to answer the questions.DSCF4114

I also printed out a variety of coloring pages from the guide for Haylee to color.  They depicted Jesus and characters from the storybook, as well. 

Then just before we started the egg hunt, we went over the Egg Hunt Discussion Cards from the guide to prepare our minds for the hunt.

These were the activities we selected, but there are many more options to choose from in the curriculum.  There’s sure to be plenty of ideas there for your family or church group to work with in making your event memorable for everyone involved!

The Egg Hunt

The Egglo Treasures Scripture Scrolls were just adorable.  Each one was tiny enough to fit inside the eggs and was closed with a tiny rubber band.  As soon as Holden saw me stuffing them into the eggs, he started getting excited and trying to read them, but I snatched them away and told him that would be part of the surprise inside the eggs.  Since we had enough scrolls to fill the dozen eggs, I decided to let the kids have the Egglo Bible Verse Stickers to use on their own for fun.

I let the eggs sit in a bowl on the dinner table all through dinner time so they’d get really “charged” under the lights.  When I took them outside, they were really glowing!  I tossed them all over the yard and then had the kids race out to collect them.  It was so easy to see them!  They had a lot of fun, and Holden found almost as many as Haylee did, so she congratulated him on the way back inside.  That was nice to see from these two kids who never seem to get along!

Then they rushed inside and sat down to take turns reading the scriptures from the scrolls inside their eggs.  It was such a nice way to share scripture with each other, and the novelty of doing it as part of an egg hunt gave it an extra dose of excitement!

DSCF4107 DSCF4108 DSCF4109


Even though, we don’t celebrate Easter as a religious holiday, we were able to make this whole program work well for our family.  It created a fun atmosphere that encouraged the kids to talk about the bible and all that Jesus has done for us.  It made the actual egg hunt just a fun way to wrap up a sort of family bible study, rather than the egg hunt itself being the focus of what we did.  The kids willingly participated in all of the activities, and we really, really enjoyed the storybook and the lessons it demonstrated to the kids about how to treat each other more kindly and respectfully.  I really hope those lessons stick and that they will remember that Jesus really is the light in their world.

Check out what other Crew members had to say about these products from Egglo Entertainment by clicking the banner below.

Monday, March 9, 2015

REVIEW: Digital Science Online: Elementary Edition (Grades K-5) by Visual Learning Systems


My kids and I had the opportunity to review Digital Science Online: Elementary Edition (Grades K-5) by Visual Learning Systems.  I also received the Secondary Edition (Grades 6-12), though my kids were not old enough to use that portion.



Visual Learning Systems offers a unique science curriculum called Digital Science Online that combines stimulating online videos with printable pre-tests, video summaries, vocabulary exercises, post-tests, activities, and experiments to give students a multi-sensory approach to learning a whole host of science topics for grades K-12. 

The Elementary Edition is broken up into Primary (gr. K-2) and Elementary (gr. 3-5) sections.  Within those sections, the topics are broken down by physical, earth, life, and integrated sciences.  There are so many topics to choose from within each of the sciences!

Homeschool pricing for the online program is $99/yr. for the elementary edition (K-5) and does not include any public performance rights. 

It’s a great idea to check out the tutorials and lesson demos so you can get a feel for how the program works.  I found them very helpful in understanding all of the components and how to get started in utilizing all of the resources available to me with this program.



I alternated having my 5th grade daughter, Haylee, and my 1st grade son, Holden, work on the lessons.  She used the elementary lessons, and he used the primary lessons.  I was impressed from the start by the wide range of topics available to each of them. 

When you log into the website as the teacher, you get access to all of the videos, plus the online teacher guides, which include all of the other printable elements.  There’s even a script for the video, which would be handy in classroom situations to be able to follow along. 

One thing that struck me about this program is the tremendous flexibility in the ways it can be used.  You could just watch the videos, or you could add the pre- and post-tests.  You can do those with or without the activities for the primary lessons or the experiments for the elementary lessons.  You can use the whole shebang, or just bits and pieces of it to suit your needs.  You could print the worksheets, or you could just discuss them orally.  There’s also flexibility in the way you schedule it.  You can choose to watch the whole video at once, or you you can select segments of the video to watch so that you can stop and discuss portions of it as you go.  You could also watch it in segments over the course of several days.  It’s up to you.  You could do the whole lesson with all of its elements in one sitting, or you could break it up over a period of days.  It lends itself easily to doing the pre-test one day, the video and video review page another day, the vocabulary exercise and post-test a third day, and the activities or experiments on the fourth day. 

My kids seemed to prefer doing a whole lesson once a week in one sitting, which worked well for us because we do a 4-day schedule for our regular schooling.  That made this a fun extra for us to do on Fridays.  But at other times when we had other things going on that day, it sometimes worked out better to break it up.  Again, having the flexibility to do what best suited our needs at the time was wonderful.

I’d like to summarize a lesson each of them did to give you an idea of what kinds of things were included in the lessons.

Haylee selected an Elementary Physical Science lesson called Magnets and Electromagnetism.  We have a computer hooked up to a television in our recreation room, so I was able to play it on the tv screen that way.  We skipped the pre-test, because I knew that shCollage of Hayleee already knew a lot about the topic.  While she watched the video, I had her fill out video review as a means of taking good notes on what she was learning.  When the video was over, she did the vocabulary page and the writing activity, and then I pulled up the answer key on the screen so we could go over her answers together.  Then she took the post-test, and we graded that. 

Then it was time for the activities and experiments!  Our choices were to build a compass, to learn about the magnetic field of different shapes of magnets, and to build an electromagnet.  We had built a compass before, so we decided to try out the other two experiments together.  To learn about magnetic fields, we gathered some iron filings, a couple of bar magnet, a horseshoe magnet, and some cardboard.  I placed the iron filings on top of the sheet of cardboard and then dragged each of the magnets underneath past the iron filings to see how they would respond.  Then Haylee tried to guess which shape of magnet I was using by observing how the filings piled up on top.  She drew diagrams of what she saw and recorded her observations.  That was fun!

Next, we gathered some wire, some tape, a “D” battery, a nail, and some paper clips so we could build the electromagnet.  Haylee had never done anything like this before, so this was a great opportunity for her to see how the addition of the electricity would intensify the magnetism of the nail.  This was really exciting for her!  She was amazed at how well it worked, and she ended up playing with it for quite a while to see how many paperclips the electromagnet could lift at once.  Then she answered the questions about what she observed and how it worked.

Last, she read an article about hydroelectricity and how it’s used, and then she answered some comprehension questions about that.

I thought the unit was put together really well and gave her lots of opportunities to observe and apply what she had learned.  I loved how the program combined the audio-visual portion with note-taking and traditional worksheets and tests, followed by plenty of hands-on activities to choose from.  It really had “something for everyone” and made the whole lesson really interesting for her.

Holden selected a Primary Physical Science lesson called Gravity.  First, I had him take the pre-test just to see how that would compare with afterwards, but as it turned out, there was a lot that he already knew about magnets, though some of it was new.  As he watched the video, I helped him fill out his predictions.  At the end of the video, it paused every time it ask a video quiz question and gave him time to record his answer.  Then I had him take the post-test to see what he learned.  I was pleased to see that he was able to select the correct answer on the thingsCollage of Holden he’d missed on the pre-test, which showed me that he was paying attention and had learned some things from the video.  Then we worked on the worksheet called Gravity Everywhere, in which he had to draw arrows to show the direction that gravity would pull on the pictured items. 

The Primary videos had more of what I would call activities rather than experiments…they are more like demonstrations for a younger child to observe.  They were perfect for his age, though, and they gave him a chance to feel like he was doing experiments like his big sister.  So for his activity, we dropped a wad of paper, tossed up an eraser, and dropped a tennis ball from high up, and he had to write down what he observed with each one and then answer some questions about what the results had in common.  Logically, he had to conclude that gravity was the force that had made all of them ultimately fall to the ground.

I’d like to mention again the flexibility of how you can use this program.  On another occasion, we were just sitting around on a casual Saturday, and he decided he wanted to watch another video.  He picked out the Primary Life Science lesson on Investigating Heredity.  We chose that one because his big brother has been sharing what he’s learned about genetics in his high school biology class at school, and Holden wanted to learn more about it.  We were in the living room together, and the rest of the family was playing a video game in the recreation room, so I decided to try out the program on my iPad 3.  To my delight, it worked beautifully on there!   I had no problem dragging the viewing window to full-screen in the Safari browser, and it displayed so nicely for him.  He curled up with the dog on the living room floor and enjoyed his video there . 

Then I decided to do the post-test like he was on a game show, and I was the host.  I had his older brother video it for me, and I wanted to include that here.  He had so much fun running around the room, getting his wiggles out, and acting crazy while he answered his test questions as a “contestant” on our game show.  It was such fun for him, and of course, it didn’t feel at all like school! 

Overall, I have to say that we really like the Digital Science Online program.  Holden is a kid who could sit and watch science videos all day long if I’d let him, and I have no problem letting him sit and pick out whatever he wants to view from the selections.  Everything has been age-appropriate, engaging, and interesting to watch and listen to.  The narrator’s voice is interesting and not monotone.  It reminds me of watching nature programs on public television.  The videos do a great job of teaching concepts in a fun, informational way without feeling like you’re sitting in a classroom listening to a boring lecture.  The kids are willing to watch participants in watching it, and the activities and experiments are really fun and easy to do with materials we already have on hand in basic science supply kits we own. 

I think this program is ideal for homeschoolers, and it’s online nature means you can take it with you anywhere that you have wi-fi access.  You can print out the worksheets and activities, or you can view them on the screen and discuss them orally.  You can pick and choose all the elements you’re in the mood to try, making it a great fit for all kinds of learners.  I could see using it as a fun supplement or even as a core curriculum by using all of the included elements in the downloadable teacher’s guide.  I highly recommend it!

Take a look at what other Crew members had to say about this and other levels of Digital Science Online by clicking the banner below.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Weekly Wrap-Up – February 22nd-28th

And it snowed again…

After missing 4 days of school last week due to snow and ice, Hayden ended up missing another 3 days this week!  It was kind of crazy for Hampton Roads.  I can’t remember there ever being this many snow days in one winter, much less in a 2-week period!  We’ve had record cold temperatures a number of times this month.


On Monday, I went and got my rear brakes replaced on my van.  Another $140!  Reminds me of that old saying…when it rains, it pours!  Also, I found out my washer fluid pump has died, so I’m going to have to take it back at some point to get a new one put in, and it should probably be before we take the van on vacation.  With all of the salt and sand on the roads, I’ve got a continuous layer of residue on the windshield, and it’s really distracting to not be able to wash it off, especially when the evening sun bounces off it!  Ugh.

I need to just keep reminding myself that I no longer have any car payments.  At least there’s that.


On Tuesday, we headed out to meet up with my friend, Gina Nall, and her two kids to have lunch at Mi Casita before all the bad weather hit.  It was snowing when we got there, so we made it in and out of there just in time!  It’s our favorite Mexican restaurant, and we just can resist Taco Tuesday for 99-cent tacos.


And of course, we also can’t resist finishing off the meal with some Mexican Fried Ice Cream!  I ran a few quick errands and then picked Hayden up from school.  He didn’t end up going back any more this week!


That night, it seemed so peaceful out, listening to the snow fall with hardly anyone out driving around.  I decided to take Hayden and Haylee and our little dog, Teenie, out for a walk with me.

 20150224_194617 20150224_194634

I love the peaceful silence that comes with snow, especially while it’s still actively falling.  It was so beautiful!


The snow was really slushy this time, so as pretty as the 3 inches was to look at, it wasn’t good for playing in.  So we all just holed up in the house and hung out.  Fortunately, the kids were off school this time, so having Hayden home wasn’t a disruption to their getting their work done.  We all just got to relax and spend time together.  That was pretty cool.

I know much of the south and certainly the northeast is experiencing record amounts of cold and precipitation this month, too, so I hope you’re all staying warm and dry.

See you next week!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Weekly Wrap-Up – February 15th-21st

The word for this week is SNOW!


On Sunday, I went to see the Virginia Symphony Orchestra play at the Sandler Center.  Then we picked Hayden up from his weekend trip on Sunday night.  It was so nice to have him home again!  He said he had a fabulous time.


On Monday, Hayden was off from school for President’s Day, so it kind of made up for his being gone for Valentine’s Day.  But on Monday night, we were greeted with our first real snow of the season!  Here’s the snow just starting late in the day.


And here it is by evening.  We got about 3 inches.


Isn’t it pretty?  It was topped off with a layer of sleet, which made it crunchy and no fun to play in, but it also resulted in icy roads, so school ended up being canceled…for the rest of the week! 

Here’s how it looked the next day.


It never got any warmer and stayed constantly below freezing for the remainder of the week, so any slight melting re-froze and didn’t really go anywhere.  It was like a second holiday break from school!  It made it challenging to get the homeschooled kids to complete their work, but luckily, Hayden was actually a big help, and he kept Haylee on track while I got things done with Holden, and they actually all had more time to play together than usual.  Steve ended up missing one day of work because they closed his office in Newport News…that never happens!


One big downer this week was that my dishwasher finally broke completely…as in, it wouldn’t turn on because the start button quit working.  Ugh.  This Frigidaire dishwasher has been a nightmare.  When it worked, it worked well, but the rest of the time, it was totally unreliable…not draining, draining all the time and trying to run with no water in it, having to re-start it 3 times to get it to run a normal cycle, indicator lights not working, and now the control panel is dead.  Ugh!  I paid about $600 for it, and I ordered it exactly 4 years to the day when it quit for good.  Disgusting!  So as soon as I could get the car out later in the week, I headed up to Lowe’s and looked around.  I took my smart phone with me and researched the various models, almost all of which had terrible reviews.  Don’t they make a good dishwasher any more?  Too much electronics involved, I think.  They should just go back to the old push button models.  They weren’t apt to break so easily.

So I came home and ordered the only dishwasher with good reviews and discovered that it was not only on sale in the store, but it was nearly $100 cheaper online than in the store.  To make the deal even sweeter, I paid a couple of bucks to a coupon service to send me a good 10% off coupon code to use online, and I also clicked through E-bates for roughly another $15 cash back.  All told, I got the price down from the regular price of $699 to about $465!  Not too shabby, and I got free delivery.  Trouble is, they can’t deliver it until next week due to the ice and snow.  :(  So for now, I’m stuck washing dishes by hand, which I detest.

Another big downer was that I took my van in to the dealership to get my oil changed and my state inspection done on Friday.  It barely passed, and I ended up spending the rest of the day trying to get some repairs done elsewhere.  I took the list to my favorite mechanic nearby, and he narrowed down what really needed to be done and dismissed the rest.  He said he could do the rear brakes for me one day next week, but that I should go back to Goodyear to see about getting 2 new tires and an alignment done.  So that’s what I did.  Then I walked home.  Trouble was, we had so much snow and ice on the ground that the sidewalks were completely covered with irregular piles from the plowing that had gone on.  It took me forever to trudge through it, and the wind chill was –8!  I had gloves on, but my fingers had the early stages of frostbite when I got home.  They were so sore and tender and actually hurt! 

Later in the day, they called to say my van was ready.  I tried to get a ride with a neighbor, but nobody would do it, so I ended up walking up there again.  The blazing sun had made the ice even slicker during the day, so as a result, the walk up there was twice as treacherous as it had been that morning.  I ended up falling 3 times on the ice!  Ugh!  The bill was over $500.  Yikes!  And I still have to get the rear brakes done.  It’s always something.  So in the course of the week, I was out over a grand on unexpected expenses.  Isn’t that always how it goes?


With all this free time on my hands, I decided to teach myself how to knit.  My mom had taught me when I was little, but I never learned how to cast-on the first stitches…my mom always did that for me.  And I remember her trying to show me how to cast off at the end, but I never mastered that, either.  I’ve never actually made anything…just knitted and purled for fun.  Now my mom…she knitted every day of her life that I can remember…right up until her first stroke, which left her paralyzed on one side.  It was so sad that she could no longer knit.  She loved the peacefulness of it, and it gave her something to do with her hands while she watched tv.  Anyway, I had picked up some yarn and a variety of knitting needles at the thrift store recently, so I figured this was a good time to figure out what I was doing.  So I found an easy beginner pattern online for a neck warmer/ear warmer headband, and I set out watching YouTube videos to figure out how to get it started.  Learning to cast on was much easier than I imagined, and I was on my way.  My mom would be so proud!  I wish she could see me now.


With encouragement from family members who knew my mom had inspired me, I worked on it every chance I got.  I wanted to make myself a neck warmer to match my favorite coat, which did not have a hood.  I sure could have used it on Friday when I was walking in such horrid wind chills!  So by Saturday morning, I had it finished.


I made a couple of mistakes along the way (I somehow picked up 3 extra stitches shortly after I started it, but I didn’t mind), but I was happy with the outcome, and it was so warm!  I love it!

When Haylee saw it, she said she wanted me to make her one as an ear warmer headband, so I spent the rest of the afternoon making hers, which went much faster and didn’t have any mistakes in it. 


In fact, it went so well that I decided to go back to YouTube and see if I could learn how to crochet a flower to stitch onto it so it would look pretty in her hair.  I’ve never crocheted before in all my life, so this was a completely new experience for me.  I did it, though, and here’s how hers turned out!


On Saturday evening, I went to the thrift store and bought some more yarn…some pink yarn for Haylee.  Of course, she now wants me to make  a pink one.  Figures!


It was great having the kids all together this week.  And My Gym where the kids take their weekly gym classes offered a Snow Day Pay-to-Play day on Wednesday where I only had to pay $8 for the 2 kids to play there for 4 hours while I sat in the lobby with Hayden and knitted and did some puzzles.  They had a blast, and it was a good incentive for them to get their school work done.  It got last busy for the last hour, so they even let Hayden go in and join them.  He had a good time, too.

I hear we’re in for more snow next week, so we shall see!  I’m sure making up all of these school days for public schools will be a mess to figure out.  It caused a big uproar last year.  Personally, I love the white landscape, and Haylee and Holden will be off school next week anyway, so more snow won’t affect them at all…just Hayden.

Let it snow!