Thursday, April 26, 2012

Momaholic (review)

I cannot really put my finger on the reasoning behind my choosing the book Momaholic.  I have nothing in common with the author, Dena Higley.  She has teen and adult children all of whom have suffered and triumphed in their own ways.  My oldest is five and his biggest tragedy to date was the dog chewing up a favorite toy.  Dena is the head writer for Days of Our Lives.  I am no longer a "working" mother, and I certainly don't watch soap operas.

However, something in the description drew me to this book.  Instead of a how-to/self-help type book, which I typically avoid like the plague, I liked the idea of a candid look at what happened inside of one unique family.   No directions on how to change your life.  No magic equations.  Just a mom who shares her heart.

Dena writes openly, honestly, and casually as if you are sitting at her kitchen table having a conversation.  That's not to say that she doesn't discuss serious topics such as autism, adoption, and parenting choices that could have been made differently.  But she does it with love and humor.  In the book, Dena tells you how she discovered she was a hovering helicopter mother who spiraled out of control and the road she took to recovering and discovering herself.  She talks to the mother, the wife and the woman in her readers, as if they are her dear friends.  No condescending, narcissistic this is the only way to change attitudes in her book.  She just wants to reach out to others who may have or be going through similar trials in there life to say "Yup, been there, done that."

The only thing about this book that I didn't like...well, not so much didn't like, but that struck me as odd, was a chapter near the end, that just didn't fit.  The chapter was a touching and heart-wrenching letter to a young man that has impacted her life, but it was so out of sync with the rest of the story.  It felt like I was reading a different book written at a different audience altogether.

However, I enjoyed the book.  My husband and I have discussed this before.  I don't want to be one of those moms, that seeps into every part of my children's lives by over-scheduling extracurricular activities, teaching every class, coaching every sport, and standing over their shoulder as they try to spread their wings.  This book is a gentle, and humorous reminder to slow down and enjoy life, enjoy my children and let them develop their individuality with my love and support.  Or in other words, don't to hover.

**I received a complimentary copy of this book through the BookSneeze program in exchange for my honest review.  

I review for BookSneeze®

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

K5 Learning

K5 Learning has an online reading and math program for kindergarten to grade 5 students.  I've been given a 6 week free trial to test and write a review of their program.  If you are a blogger, you may want to check out their open invitation to write an online learning review of their program.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Parrot Mountain

As I mentioned in Pigeon Forge - The Aquarium, we decided to return home a day early and forego some of the activities we had planned.  However, the kids were upset we were leaving, especially Elliott, who realized we were leaving a day early.

Our hotel had a parrot in the lobby as advertisement and the boys were intrigued.  I had already browsed the website for Parrot Mountain and Gardens and we knew they offered a homeschool discount, which made it reasonably priced, so we made the last minute decision on our way home to surprise the boys.  We were actually checking hours and directions on my phone as we drove.  When we found it, we told the boys we had a surprise, and they were very excited to see parrots lining the property!

Once inside, we were greeted by more feathered beauties!  The gardens were quiet and serene, and the facilities were basically empty when we showed up right after opening, so walking the paths with the birds was quiet and peaceful.

Because this is a rehabilitation center, many of the birds are in cages, but there are signs and descriptions, which was good since employees were not out and about on the trails.  I didn't see many toys, and that was a little concerning, because these are intelligent creatures and you wonder about the interaction and engagement they get.  Those would be my only complaints.

There was one enclosed area that the boys took special interest in.  Elliott spotted these eggs!

They also loved seeing the peacock display his feathers!

This bird slowly followed us around the tree as we walked through this path.

In  the parrot garden, you can buy food for $0.25 and even though Elliott was a little hesitant, he enjoyed letting the birds eat out of his hands.

When the birds are hungry, they will dip their heads down, and that's a signal you can raise your hand up to them.

After a couple of birds, Elliott moved on to looking at the larger ones, and dad finished feeding off the food we had purchased.

This is a shot of the parrot garden where all of the employees were centered.  We could feed, hold and take pictures with the birds.

The boys said they wanted to hold the birds, but then when the employers brought them over, they hid, so husband and I ended up taking the photo-op.  (I was going to include it, but I am technically challenged, and upon my first try at the scanner, I can't figure it out!)  Emory did end up petting a couple of baby birds in the nursery, though we were not allowed to take any pictures inside.

They were more than happy to sit and watch the birds hop around and listen to their music.

This natural shot turned out to be a better photo than me asking them to turn and pose!  :-)

We really enjoyed this side trip.  It was fun, educational and an experience we can't find at home.  With the homeschool discount, I didn't mind that we were only there about an hour, although we certainly could have stayed longer.  This is something I would do again in the future.

G, H and I are for..

I haven't had the chance to post much recently, including my blogging through the alphabet posts.  So here's my attempt to catch up and hopefully stay caught up!

G is for Games
In my head I was going to do G is for Games!  Games are such an easy way to work in learning opportunities in a fun, informal way.  We're mostly at the preschool/early elementary level of games, but I plan to continue using them as a teaching tool throughout our homeschool.  I am always on the lookout for games that can add an educational flair to our day--I have found many great games like Scrabble Jr., Boggle Jr., Rummikub, Candy Land, Sequence for Kids, Charades for Kids, UpWords and numerous others at great prices by shopping thrift stores.  Sometimes we play by the rules, and sometimes we make up our own to focus on specific math or language skills.  The best thing about a game is that it is a great family activity and bonding experience!

H is for Hands-On Learning
I remember the timed math drills, the pop quizzes, the vocabulary lists, and the spelling tests every Friday. I don't want my children to remember that about their homeschool experience.  I want the boys to know that learning can be fun, so right now we are leaving out the lessons and the worksheets.  Instead, we do a lot of hands-on activities for every subject.  Science is primarily Nature Study, math usually involves dice, dominoes or some other manipulative.  Sometimes we do an extension activity for a book, and we include a lot card games, board games and puzzles.

I is for Interest-Led Learning
At my children's age, it is very easy to say "This is what you need to learn to be on track with your peers" but that should not necessarily be the case.  In the spirit of being relaxed and fun, I try to allow interests to be a big part of our learning experiences.  Many times I will set out a few different activities and let them choose, other times Elliott will suggest a topic and we will explore it in a semi-unit study fashion, while still trying to maintain a Charlotte Mason foundation.  Our dinosaur theme and resulting field trip to the Creation Museum came about because Elliott popped up one day and said he wanted to learn about dinosaurs.  Other times we spend hours outside "playing" (to those that aren't in the know ;-)  because we are observing goats and their kids, learning about frogs and studying termites...again, nature study is a big part of our school, and I love seeing what creatures catch their attention.

Right now Elliott's interest is Lego and Mega Blocks.  There are so many opportunities for learning.  Reading and following instructions, planning and executing when building his own creation, sorting, patterning, symmetry, and a host of other "skills" can be covered with a box of Legos and a little creativity.


Origami and Poetry for Kids

While out browsing for books, I came across an unfamiliar one, Fold Me a Poem, by Kristine O'Connell George.  It's a book full of short poems (many with a Haiku feel) that follow a young boy through his day as he is making origami creations.  The illustrations are lovely and inspiring.  I knew it would be perfect for our April book basket, which I filled with poetry and rhyming books for National Poetry Month.

It also opened up an excellent opportunity to try origami.  I can't actually do origami myself, but I decided we would try it anyway.  I just googled "origami for kids" and used that website to let Elliott pick what he wanted to make.

Elliott chose to make Bailey, our dog.  He had to settle for black paper, even though she's a chocolate lab.  I read the directions, but he did the folding.  This was his attempt at the dog head and the dog body--all but his tail turned out fairly decent.  He added eyes, but hadn't yet drawn the rest of the dog face when I took the picture, although he did think to add her orange collar.

This was a fun activity and we'll probably try it again soon.

Linked Up:  stART, Kid's Co-Op and Playdate, Read Aloud Thursday, Thinky Linky Thursday, Homeschooling on the Cheap, Read.Explore.Learn

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sixty Acres and a Bride {book review}

Sixty Acres and a Bride by Regina Jennings is about Rosa, a beautiful, young Mexican widow who moves to Texas with her mother-in-law after their husbands are killed in an accident.  They plan to return to the family ranch, only to find they owe back taxes and must pay within three months or be evicted.

Sixty Acres and a Bride, Regina Jennings, 978-0-7642-0990-1

As with any historical romance, much of the story was predictable.  I still enjoy the genre though, and there were a few plot twists that I didn't expect.  Also, if you are familiar with the story of Naomi and Ruth, you will recognize much of this story.

The story explores a woman who desires to fulfill her family obligations all while learning another culture and staying secure in her new faith.

Occasionally I felt like the dialogue was a little modern and didn't "fit" within the story, and there were times I felt like the inner turmoil and denial were extremely drawn out and repetitive, but I still wanted to know how the story was going to end.  For a debut novel, Jennings did well.

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

Pigeon Forge: The Aquarium

It was supposed to be a nice weekend getaway.  However, when my husband booked the trip, he wasn't aware that there were major car shows going on (we're talking thousands of extra people) which made traffic go from bad to horrendous.  Sitting in bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go traffic and taking an hour to drive a couple miles really put a damper on our spirits.  Especially when Emory threw temper tantrums frequently.

However, we still managed to have some fun.  The first night we just went to The Old Mill Square.  The boys enjoyed the Toy Store and the Candy Kitchen!
Emory and his giant sucker

Elliott found "Lego" candy blocks

Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies
Day 2 was a bit busier.  The boys enjoy aquariums immensely, but we don't have any within a reasonable distance of home, so this was a nice surprise for them.  It's not huge, but it does offer a fun, educational experience.  It was a pleasant experience and the boys loved it, but I'm glad we got a homeschool discount.

I do appreciate the eye-level exhibits for little ones

The sharks were a big hit, as always.
Emory had no fear, and enjoyed the touch tank.

Feeling inside a shark's stomach

Can you see Elliott's head peeking out on the right?

After the Aquarium we walked around Gatlinburg for a bit, before getting a bite to eat.

Emory liked the ducks of course.

Afterwards we went back to the hotel for a nap, then that evening we walked to a little kiddie amusement park.  They boys LOVED the rides!
A train ride

No motion sickness!!

Elliott enjoyed the swings

Emory cried to get on the "horsies" then never would ride!

Both boys loved the airplanes, even though daddy was a nervous wreck!

So as not to bombard with too many pictures, I'll share the last leg of our trip (we actually left a day early because the traffic got to us) in another post, but here's a sneak peak!

You can now Check out part 2 of our trip:  Parrot Mountain!