Friday, July 25, 2014

Random 5 on Friday -- July 25th

1.  It's still really hard to see down into the nest to see the baby birds, but we can definitely hear their little chirps when we check the mail.

2.  We just had our parents/informational meeting for co-op.  The kick-off picnic is in about a month, and then co-op starts back up!  Elliott is so excited, he's asked a few times this summer when we get to go back.  He's not really a social butterfly or anything, but he enjoys the classes.

3.  There's a local curriculum swap tomorrow.  I'm excited for it.  As long as I can find the place.  It's in a little town that I don't really know at all, so it should be fun.

4.  My husband bought a one-month subscription to to see what else he could find in his family tree, so I'm definitely planning to do some more digging, finally, after the fun Genealogy Revelations experience I had.

5.  We have a few interesting homeschool reviews coming up, so stay tuned!  Mathletics, Essential Skills Advantage and Under Drake's Flag are on the list.  So enjoying the blessings of the Schoolhouse Review Crew!

The Pebble Pond

©2011-2014 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Mom Made Us Write This in the Summer {book review}

Mom Made Us Write This in the Summer

Mom Made Us Write This in the Summer
Author:  Ali Maier

This is a cute book.  It is written in journal style by Max and Maggie, 10 year old twins.  Over the summer, their mother gives them a journal with specific rules--they can write about anything, but they must write a specific number of times and follow a few other instructions.  According to Max and Maggie, the worst part is not that they have writing assignments during the summer . . . the worst part is that they have to SHARE their journal!  They are allowed to respond to each other's journal entries, provided they follow mom's rule of being polite.

What ensues is a comical and creative retelling of their summer together.  The fonts are different for each child, so you can easily tell who is currently writing.  We learn why Max doesn't usually like zoos, why Maggie is not a good babysitter, how they feel about getting in trouble, and at the end, we learn what Max and Maggie learned from their writing experience over the summer.

There are some things that might make a parent cringe, like talk of bodily functions.  (Though admittedly, it is in reference to zoo animals.)  I know it's typical boy funnies, but it's the type of talk I discourage in our home.  It's not a book I would assign for school reading, but it could work for free-reading.  It certainly has kid-appeal, and looks perfect for approximately 3rd-5th graders.

I would suggest this book for independent reading, not as a read-aloud.  The reason I say this is because Max and Maggie are constantly doodling and commenting on each other's entries, and the notes in the margin make it difficult to keep the flow of the story if you're trying to read those aloud.  It is much better suited for independent free-reading, because the reader can follow the notes and drawings in a way that makes sense for them.  Because of this, my kids aren't quite ready for the book.

Now, as far as the concept of a shared journal--I love it!  I did this in middle school with a few of my close friends. We kept a spiral notebook, and we'd pass it back and forth on the school bus or in the halls, and it was just a fun way to keep up with each other!  It's definitely a great idea for helping kids rediscover the lost art of writing for personal pleasure.  For siblings, I definitely think it could be used to try to work out sibling rivalry issues and promote positive sibling relationships.

For more information about the author Ali Maier, to see the new releases or to purchase the book, check out the website Mom Made Us Write This or their Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest pages!

FTC statement

©2011-2014 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Random 5 on Friday

1.  Now that I'm starting the 2nd trimester, the desire to cook and eat real food is BACK!  So far in the last week or so I've made chicken Alfredo with roasted broccoli, cashew chicken over rice and summer blend vegetables, pasta salad, brown sugar and basil pork chops, and Vegetable Quesadillas.  I'm pretty sure that's more variety in one week than we had the whole three months prior.

2.  The bird's nest in our paper box belongs to an eastern bluebird.  We are waiting on the eggs to hatch, and from what I've read, we should be getting close.

3.  We have been enjoying the mild weather the last few days!  It's been nice to spend some extra afternoon hours outside.

4.  Eleanor, as much as she loves her hair brushed, does not love hair bows.  She would prefer to walk around with her hair in her eyes all day.

5.  It's time to start "planning" for school again.  When I say plan, I really just prefer some general goals and an outline with notes and ideas, rather than a detailed plan of attack.  I don't want stifling structure and schedules and checklists.  I do like routine, but I want one that allows for flexibility.

The Pebble Pond

©2011-2014 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Vegetable Quesadillas {Recipe}

The other night I was looking for some new bell pepper recipes, as we had a lot of those that needed to be used up.  I came across this Farmer's Market Vegetarian Quesadillas and I don't know why quesadillas hadn't crossed my mind, but I knew this was going to be my inspiration for dinner the next night.  I was even more thrilled to find this specific recipe because it was veggie based and it included squash and zucchini which are always in excess supply at our house during the summer thanks to my generous in-laws and their garden!  I'm always looking for new ways to use those up, so I figured I'd give it a try!  

Vegetable Quesadilla Recipe

I did alter the recipe that was my inspiration.  I had to substitute, omit and add, based on what I had on hand and personal preferences, but I still think it's a great base recipe.  I substituted yellow onion for red.  I omitted the mushrooms because we didn't have any, and I despise the texture of mushrooms anyway.  I added some yellow bell pepper to the red, mostly because of the multitude of bell peppers that we had.  My 7 year old prefers his bell peppers raw, so this way I had some some leftover for him too.  I added black beans and corn because it sounded good.  I also seasoned the vegetables, as the original recipe didn't call for anything.  I had to use regular flour tortillas because we didn't have wheat, but they were open in the fridge and needed to be used, which is another reason this recipe was timely!

My ingredient list
  • 1/2 cup chopped red & yellow bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped zucchini 
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow squash
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • corn, cooked and cut off cob (two small ears ~ 3/4 cup)
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • salt, just a pinch
  • pepper
  • cooking spray
  • 6 tortillas
  • 1 1/4 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese (approximately, I just shredded the rest of an open block of cheese)

The Process

In a large skillet, over medium heat, I added the bell peppers, zucchini, squash, onion, garlic and salt/pepper.  I cooked just until tender, about 7 minutes maybe.  Love the colors!

Vegetable Quesadilla Recipe

I had cooked the corn on cob while I was chopping veggies, so while the veggies were cooking, I cut the corn off two small ears, and I shredded the cheese. 

Vegetable Quesadilla Recipe

I stirred in the black beans and corn at the very end of the cooking time for the veggies, just to warm them.  Then I transferred the veggies back to the bowl I was using as I chopped.  Confession:  this veggie mixture was actually really good just like this!

Vegetable Quesadilla Recipe

I assembled them following the instructions of the original recipe--spray pan with cooking spray, 1/4 cup cheese, 3/4 cup veggies, 1/8 cup of cheese.  

Vegetable Quesadilla Recipe

Top it with another tortilla and allow to cook about 2-3 minutes on each side.  It actually flipped easily enough, but the tortillas didn't "stick" together as well as I'd hoped, and the veggies leaked out a little.  My husband informed this novice cook that I should have just put another heavy skillet on top and it would have held together better.  Lesson learned.

Vegetable Quesadilla Recipe

Then I sliced into quarters and it was oh so yummy!

Vegetable Quesadilla Recipe

Simplified Directions
1.  Oil the skillet, and cook the bell pepper, squash, zucchini, and onion, with minced garlic, salt and pepper, just until tender.
2.  Add black beans and corn to warm through, then remove veggies from heat.
3.  Spray skillet, still on medium heat, with cooking spray.  Place one tortilla in skillet, and layer with approximately 1/4 cup cheese, 3/4 cup veggies, 1/8 cup of cheese.  Top with second tortilla, and cook on each side (2-3) minutes until brown and crispy.
4.  Repeat for remaining ingredients.
5.  Serve warm with sour cream or any other favorite toppings!

I ate mine with sour cream, but I'm sure it would work with guacamole or salsa.  This was one of those times I cooked a "me" meal, as I cooked this on a night the husband was out of town for business.  The first thing he said when I mentioned vegetable quesadillas was "Oh, that would be so good with mushrooms in it!" so if I make them again, I'll just add mushrooms to his.  He said he wasn't sure if he'd like it with squash/zucchini, but I didn't think you could even taste them.  I find those to be rather tasteless though, so I'm not sure if it was just me or not.

The recipe made 3 quesadillas (so leftovers for the next day since I was the only one who ate them) with a little veggie mix leftover.  The boys weren't a fan, so they mostly ate corn on the cob, bell pepper slices, and some other fruits and veggies.  Eleanor liked the actual quesadillas, but when I tried to serve her some of the veggie mix, she had a rare "no thanks" moment.

I really liked these, and they were actually fairly quick to prepare.  I like that it's a different way to use all the garden vegetables we get during the summer.

This recipe is linked to Try a New Recipe Tuesday.

©2011-2014 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Moving Beyond the Page {Schoolhouse Review}

When the chance to review Moving Beyond the Page was presented to me, I was intrigued.  I was given the opportunity to choose from several different language arts, science and social studies units.  I chose Language Arts Package - Poppy and Science Package - Lifecycles, because they both looked interesting and were designed to go together.

Moving Beyond the Page

Moving Beyond the Page is a literature based, hands-on curriculum designed to leave the textbooks behind.  It is a concept based curriculum that encourages critical and creative thinking through project-based instruction.  It is billed as a hands-on approach to learning. 

Both of the units I chose are from the Ages 7-9 curriculum, which covers the concepts of Environment, Change, Cycles and Relationships.  The prerequisites for this level include the ability to read/comprehend chapter books on a 3rd-4th grade level, answer comprehension questions about a chapter, and the ability to write a few sentences.  It is typically used by children in the second or third grade.  Elliott is 7 and was "finishing first grade" (you know, whatever grade levels mean to homeschoolers!) when we started the unit, so I felt this was a good fit for us.

The Poppy Language Arts Unit is designed around the book Poppy, by Avi.  It is part of the Cycles concept.  It is a 3 week unit when used as written, and discusses the cycle of power, abuse of power and related concepts.  I received the Online unit, which costs $25.91 and includes the Online curriculum guide, the book Poppy by Avi, and an owl pellet kit.  The owl pellet kit had a bone identification chart so we could compare our bones too.  The boys were horrified at the idea of owl pellets at first, but later became interested!  The online curriculum guide includes the lessons in on online format, and the student pages are in PDF format.

Moving Beyond the Page Poppy

The unit covers a multitude of language arts skills.  Research, paragraphs, story elements, conjunctions and combining sentences, and many other topics are presented and practiced throughout the course of the unit.  Using only Moving Beyond the Page language arts units, it appears you would have topics sprinkled throughout the year, rather than focusing on them intensely at one time as you would with most traditional language arts curricula.  Comprehension questions are included for each chapter, but I found that we usually did these as an adapted form of oral narration, since we do not start written narration this early.  

Notes on the online unit - Your units are in your online account when you purchase them, but you have to manually activate each unit and then they are active for 90 days.  You can print as many student pages as you need while your unit is active.  You can also mark the lessons as complete as you work through them, but if you leave off in the middle of a lesson--there are a few two day lesson plans--it will take you right to the page you were on when you closed your browser, so it bookmarks your spot for you.  The units DO EXPIRE, so in a way, it feels like you are "renting" a unit.  For younger siblings, you would need to reactivate (at a discount) to use it again.  This may or may not be a wise investment, depending on your needs and preferences.

I thought the Lifecycles Science Unit would be a perfect late spring/early summer unit for us, as it helps children explore the life cycles of plants, insects and animals, and how they affect the life cycles of others.  For this unit, I received the full Physical Unit that includes the Physical curriculum guide, What is a Lifecycle? by Bobby Kalman, Who Eats What? by Patricial Lauber and Holly Keller, and a green earth butterfly kit.  The full physical unit retails for $45.92.

Moving Beyond the Page Lifecycles

You will have to put additional money towards the purchase of the caterpillars for the butterfly habitat {unless you find your own outdoors} and you will need to plan accordingly in regards to shipping!  Due to pregnancy/mommy brain, I forgot to order our caterpillars immediately, and then it was too hot for a live guarantee delivery, so we're going to be on the hunt for caterpillars for a fun 'follow-up' activity to the unit.  It'll be great to see what is remembered and what connections are made.  However, we've also been studying lifecycles naturally through gardening, and we've got our eye on a bluebird nest with eggs that is low enough to easily observe.  I am always thrilled when we can take what we've been learning and still find ways outside of the curriculum to expand on that knowledge.

I really liked that the science unit gave a bit more of a hands-on approach (there's a great science experiment with hard boiled vs. fresh eggs) and I think I preferred the science unit over the language arts.  The final project was really interesting as well.  The student creates a new species based on specific criteria outlined in the assignment.  This really gets the kiddo thinking back to what he's learned throughout the unit!

Notes on the physical unit - the lessons are yours to keep, but you will need to purchase additional student pages for any extra students, current or future.  You cannot copy any pages, as it is an infringement of their copyright policy.  Also, the student pages are right inside the teacher's manual.  This means you either have to share the book with your children, or tear the pages out of a spiral bound book.  Or I suppose you could buy the student pages separately, if you wanted to keep the manual clean and neat.  I think it would make more sense if the student pages were in their own book, completely separate from the teacher's manual and the lesson plans.

Final Thoughts
Some of the concepts are "taught" through discussion.  If your child is highly verbal and auditory, this will work fine for you.  However, a good bit of the assignments rely on the student pages.  Some things (like the owl and mouse puppets) are much more "activity" than "worksheet" but there are still a lot of Activity Pages, as they are called.  They aren't all fill-in-the-blank type worksheets, but they are still paper-to-pencil nonetheless.

We liked the book choices for the most part, but I do caution any parent to read reviews or preview books first.  Children are expected to read the books for themselves, and may come across things beyond their maturity level.  For instance, one of our books had a section on reproduction that included some sperm-meets-egg information and graphic, that may not necessarily be suitable for every child in the 7-9 year old age range.

There are also a lot of activities crammed into each single lesson.  Even for highly motivated students, I think the pace is a bit intense, and I've always believed that for this age there is no reason to be spending an hour or more on one single subject every day.  It is a bit difficult to use the lessons as written, without feeling like half your day is gone.  Personally I stretched the units out much longer than the suggested three weeks.  This allowed us to not get overwhelmed by the number of activities each day, as well as keep this first-trimester pregnant momma going at a more manageable pace.

 Moving Beyond the Page has a very restrictive copyright compared to other curricula.  No copying of the physical unit is allowed, even within the family.  I caution you to at least be aware of its limitations with the copyright and the online expiration if you are considering using with more than one child at any point, so that you can plan accordingly.

Overall, there are a lot of great aspects to this curriculum.  It does attempt to get kids thinking and working outside of the proverbial box.  I love that it is literature based.  We're a bit too relaxed and Charlotte Mason in our approach for the intense nature of these unit studies, but I can certainly see how they would be a huge hit with unit study families. 

The crew members have reviewed a variety of language arts, science and social studies units for all ages, so be sure to check out what they think of the different levels!

©2011-2014 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Random 5 on Friday - July 4th

1.  Happy Independence Day!

2.  We took the kids to see the first of the weekend fireworks last night.  We were unsure what Eleanor would think.  Well, she LOVED them.  The louder they were, the more she giggled. 

3.  We have a bird's nest in our newspaper box.  It took me nearly a week of shaking out what I thought were "grass clippings" to figure it out.  One day I was later than usual checking the mail, and the nest was fairly well shaped by then.  So of course I left it, and now we're interested to see what comes of this.  The boys are desperately hoping they will lay eggs!

4.  I said last week that we had NO commitments this week.  I was slightly wrong.  I forgot I had an appointment with my midwife.  However, by the time I left and returned home, I was gone less than an hour and a half, which is a feat considering it's about an hour in the car round trip.  Love those in-and-out appointments! 

5.  The husband is taking the boys camping (in a tent!) this weekend.  We're not really the "camping type" so this should be interesting!  They're only going out on the farm for a trial run, but still.  I will be happily in bed while the toddler snoozes in her crib. 

The Pebble Pond

©2011-2014 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Treasure Trax {review}

If you're looking for a fun and entertaining game for preschoolers, you might be interested in Treasure Trax.  Treasure Trax is a scavenger hunt designed especially for preschoolers.  It is a simple, active and exploratory form of play for 3-5 year old children.  The premise of the game is so easy.  You use the sets of cards to create "clues" for your preschooler to hunt.  There are 60 cards total, with 30 location cards, 18 clue cards, and 12 jungle animal cards.  Basically, you start with one picture card, and your preschooler follows it to the clue to find the next picture card.  So if your child has a stuffed giraffe, send them off with the giraffe card to find the next clue!  You could really make this game as easy as your preschooler needs, or as complicated as they would enjoy.

There is also a personal explorer scavenger bag, which is the perfect size for preschoolers to collect their clues.  If you take a "mix and match" approach, you have a huge possibility of hunts to create!  The instructions are clear and creating the hunt is easy enough that even big siblings can help.

The cards are bight and colorful, so very appealing to the average preschool eye.  They are also large and sturdy, so they are easy for younger children to hold, and they can stand up to a bit of abuse from the preschool crowd.  This is always a plus in my book!

With a 4 year old, I knew this would be a delightful game for him.  It's exciting and is always different, because of the numerous combinations you can do.  The best thing is, it requires thinking and is an active game.  I love when an activity gets kids moving!  It is also easy for children to learn how to do on their own, so my 4 and 7 year old can even entertain themselves.  Now that is hard to do with games, because of the immense skill difference at this age, but since there's no reading or adding required, it's simple enough for my youngest, but challenging enough with creating the clues for the older one.

I think this game is great for families, but would also be fun in any preschool classroom setting.  It retails for $19.95 and only takes a few minutes to set up and a few minutes to play, but the many combinations make it useful for long-term enjoyment.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

©2011-2014 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.