Greatly Blessed

Greatly Blessed

Friday, June 26, 2015

Our Week with New Friends

It must be summer, the weeks are flying by!  I can't believe June is almost over already.

Nothing much in the way of homeschool this week.  Eli finished up a painting he's been working on.

And then decided to add just a little bit more to it.

In other news, we have a couple of little ones staying with us right now.  It's been fun and chaotic, hence the lack of pictures this week.

I got the button sorting tray out for Katie again.

The openings are cut so that the buttons will barely fit in, making this a good fine motor skills activity for her.

Paul spent 4 days in Wisconsin checking out the new fire truck being built for his department.

Hannah had her last day of school today, and I filled out the disenrollment form when I dropped her off this morning, so she's my student now.  I'm super glad she doesn't head back to school July 14, like the rest of her class does.  Not much of a summer break.

Jack and Eli went to the dentist this week.  I like to think having the little ones hasn't affected me too much, but I almost left Eli there, so I may be kidding myself.

In other news, our new refrigerator should be coming this week!  Exciting!

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Seven Natural Wonders of the Earth book and $50 #giveaway

I have a book series to tell you about today.  My First Travel Books were written by Anna Othitis.  We received The Seven Natural Wonders of the Earth for review purposes.

Being that I spend a lot of time teaching geography, I love that Anna included the flags of the countries where the Wonders are located!

Usually when I hear "Seven Wonders," I think of The Temple of Artemis or the Great Pyramids.  However, these are the natural wonders.  Amazing sites in our world, not created by human efforts.  The Seven Natural Wonders were identified by CNN in 1997.  Places like the Great Barrier Reef in Australia or our own Grand Canyon.

This book was a gentle way to expose my little girls, ages 4 and 8, to these natural wonders and to their locations on our planet.

Follow Captain Frankie on his adventures...

Are you ready to take to the skies?
Then welcome to Angelic Airlines!
Come join the adventures of Captain Frankie and the Angelic Airlines flying angel as they travel across the world to the Seven Natural Wonders of the Earth. Captain Frankie is waiting for you to book your ticket, safely stow your bags, and open your eyes to the beautiful places created for all of us to visit in My First Travel Books.

This is Anna Othitis’s second trip with Captain Frankie and the crew. Originally from Zimbabwe, Africa, her home port is now Wanaque, New Jersey, and she has flown across the world in her travels.

Book available at

"My daughter and I enjoyed these books. We took a trip around the world without leaving the house! We saw things and places we will probably never see in real life." - review from Amazon

"Beautifully illustrated, amazing little 'first travel' adventure book for children. A great way to get children interested in the geography of the world and the delights of travel." - review from Amazon

"Another gem from this consistant author. She is making quite a name for herself. You will not be disapointed!!" - review from Goodreads

"This book is in its simplest form: fun, educational and informative, which plays an important part in connecting our children with our world.  So come on and fly the skies with us on Angelic Airlines to some popular world destinations with your friendly Captain Frankie"

Check out the other My First Travel Books...

My First Travel Book (My First Travel Books) (Volume 1)
Are you ready to take to the skies?
Captain Frankie welcomes you on board.
Come join the adventures of Captain Frankie and the Angelic Airlines flying angel as they travel across the world to some of the most popular, entertaining, and educational places in the world.

Captain Frankie is waiting for you to book your ticket, safely stow your bags, and open your eyes to the beautiful places created for all of us to visit in My First Travel Book.

Book available at   Barnes and Noble

The Seven Wonders of the World (My First Travel Books) (Volume 3)
Are you ready to take to the skies?
Then welcome to Angelic Airlines!
Come join the adventures of Captain Frankie and the Angelic Airlines flying angel as they travel across the world to the Seven Wonders of the World. Captain Frankie is waiting for you to book your ticket, safely stow your bags, and open your eyes to the beautiful places created for all of us to visit in My First Travel Books.

This is Anna Othitis’s third trip with Captain Frankie and the crew.

Originally from Zimbabwe, Africa, her home port is now Wanaque, New Jersey, and she has flown across the world in her travels.

Book available at

About the Author
I lived and was raised in the beautiful land and country of Zimbabwe, Africa (home will always be home). We relocated to Wanaque, New Jersey, USA, our new home and where our younger son, Frankie, took up his “American Dream”.

 My husband George, sons Johnny, Elia and Frankie encouraged me to write my first children’s book titled My First Travel Book, which was inspired by Frankie (Captain Frankie). Given a wonderful opportunity, he graduated in his Masters degree in Aeronautical Science, and is successful in his career as a professional pilot. My favorite saying is: “Be Bold Be Brave”.

My dream is to be given the opportunity for my book to reach each and every less fortunate child who will have the opportunity to fantasy travels through our book to see our lovely world destinations, and to one day to give back and assist the needy in Africa and beyond, to keep giving care and love to the less fortunate. Whilst in Zimbabwe I was involved with many charitable organizations and groups where my greatest passion and love was with the primitive, simple people of Zimbabwe, Africa and will still continue to reach out to the many beautiful children of the world.

Now living in the USA, after having traveled some short and some long journeys, to get to our final destination, we realize how small this world really is, yet is also so big and so beautiful in each and every corner. Still so much is untouched by humans, which will hopefully remain sacred in many areas. We have to cherish every and all beautiful things that our planet earth has to offer to us.

Find the author on the following sites...

Follow the Book Tour

I received this book to review through Beck Valley Books Book Tours, all the opinions above are 100% my own. 

Win a $50 Giftcard or Paypal Cash
(winners choice)
Open Worldwide
Ending on Sunday 12th July at 11.59pm EST

Enter Below and Good Luck !!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Monday, June 22, 2015

SmartKidz Media

Our family was selected to review the SmartKidz Media Library for Homeschoolers.  This is a huge, online wealth of information from SmartKidz Media.  We received a 1 year subscription and got to watching and listening right away.  The SmartKids site has a lot to offer to a variety of ages, starting at just 2 years old.

Social Studies based videos:

We started out with Mysteries From Ancient Times, from their World of Discovery line.  Personally, I found it fascinating, since I love history, so we watched all 3 of them.

I was a little taken aback at the nudity in Ancient Cultures, since SmartKidz is billed as Family Media.  I also have mixed feelings about the travel videos.  We love learning about other countries, but with the amount of drinking, smoking, and bikinis in some of them, it didn't feel like these were geared toward an audience of children.  Scotland was wholesome.  Spain, not so much.  Bottom line, I'd recommend previewing these videos for younger or more sheltered kids.

Science based videos:

If your children are into animals, they'll enjoy Magnificent Beasts and also Animal Journeys, which explains migration.

SmartKidz is not a faith based company, and their movies do contain references to evolution.

There are also How Did They Make That? shows, which explain how various common objects are manufactured, something all kids find fascinating.

Early Learning Videos:
SmartKidz has the entire Baby Signs program online.  We used Baby Signs with Jack when he was a toddler, since he was a late talker, and our whole family picked up signs from it.

The Animal Family section, found by clicking one of the links in the top menu bar, has shorter, friendly animal clips, geared for younger children than the animal videos on the main page.

Personal Development Videos:
Personally, exercise is not my thing, but they do offer workout videos, including a couple that are specifically for children, and they have maternity workouts coming soon.

Speaking of "coming soon," SmartKidz is adding new videos all the time.  During our review period, they added a series on World War 2 and a trio of PG rated animal videos, Life in the New World.

In addition to the plethora of videos SmartKidz offers, they also have music.  I liked being able to have the music going in the background on my computer as we worked on art projects or other activities in the school room.  In fact, when I played Music From China, Katie came in and asked me if it was Chinese.  I love being able to expose all my kids to multicultural learning, but I'm particularly partial to keeping Chinese culture alive and interesting and familiar to my Chinese daughters.

The Rhythms of the World was another favorite.  It's heavy on the Pacific Island cultures, and pleasant to listen to.  With Annaliese just moving to Australia, of course we had to listen to the Music From Australia tunes as well.

Another music related resource is the kids karaoke section.  Since SmartKidz can be accessed from a variety of players, including iPhones, tablets, and TVs, in addition to computers, I can see this being a fun "on the go" activity.

There are animated ebooks, too.  I like that the words change color as they are read aloud.  This helps Jack follow along and reinforces learning to read unfamiliar words.  There are ebooks for kids beginning at age 2, and going all the way through Aesop's Fables reading level.

Beyond videos, music, and ebooks, SmartKidz Media also has some puzzles and games.  I like the geography puzzles as a fun, easy way to reinforce map skills.

SmartKids Media offers an abundant wealth of videos and other resources.  There's something to interest everyone in the family.  A one year membership costs $99.  A single month membership is $10.  Prospective new members can sign up for a 2 week free trial to check the service out for themselves.

You can connect with SmartKidz Media on Facebook or Twitter.  To read what other Crew families have to say about their experience using SmartKidz Media, click the box below:

SmartKidz Media Review

Crew Disclaimer

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Friday, June 19, 2015

Our Week with Household Projects and Sewing

Is it seriously Friday again already?  How did that happen?  What all happened this week?  Let's see...

Since it's summer, Bri has been staying at a friend's house, soaking up all the time they missed out on while she was in school.  Paul has been wanting to take down the bunk bed in her room since we moved Hannah into the panda room with Katie, and the "throw all your junk on the curb for us to pick up" day was sufficient inspiration for him to get to it.  He made this bed from odds & ends, hence the different colors of wood.

Speaking of making, Paul recently finished the right half of our front yard.  I've added some flowers to the middle terrace since taking this picture, so it's a little more colorful now.  Looks a lot better than the plain dirt and weeds we had going before!  I'm sure the neighbors are pleased to see progress.

While we're talking about household projects, here's a neat one.  In April, Paul "rescued" some old cabinets that a coworker was ripping out.  He brought them home, installed and painted them.

It turned out really nice!  He added some pegboard, and his garage is looking really good now.

One of the "side effects" of the big kids not being in school is that Hannah has time to play for a little while in the morning before she leaves for school now.  One. More. Week.  She'll be done with school in one more week, and then I'll only have Sam's football practice on the schedule most days.

Katie and Brayden share their sticky block creations.

Speaking of Brayden, the need has come up a couple of times this month for him to have different clothes than the ones he arrived in.  This was never an issue when Luke was here, because he could borrow from Luke's ample wardrobe.  Now that Luke and all his clothes live elsewhere, this presents more of a logistical problem.  He was sporting a pair of Katie's jeans with flowers embroidered on them recently.  I decided maybe I should come up with a couple spare outfits for him, so I sewed this one up to test pattern size for him.

 photo usacamojos.jpg  photo usacamosam.jpg
Josiah and Samuel, 2005ish

It makes me a little nostalgic, since I used the patriotic camo fabric for Josiah and Sam when they were younger.  Sigh.

While I was in the sewing room, I finished up with Minnie Mouse set for Hannah.  The dress fabric was pre-shirred, making that part really easy.  I made black & white polka dot shorts for underneath, although you can't see them in this picture.  I should have gotten a close up of her hair bow, but she was dashing out the door to school.  It's Minnie ribbon.

The last nightgown set that I made for Hannah was starting to fall apart, and the last PJs that I bought her were getting that crunchy, washed too many times, feeling to them, so I made her 3 new nightshirt/shorts sets.

This one is princess fabric on the top and crowns for the bindings and shorts.  I believe my friend Meg gave it to me when she was cleaning out her sewing room at one point.

Here are the other two sets.  The fairy fabric on the left, I'm pretty sure came from Sewbaby.  I had the perfect blue binding to match the fairy dresses... but only enough to do the sleeves!  The neck binding is a little brighter than the lime fairy dresses, but perhaps it will tame down with time.  Oh well, it's pajamas, right?  The Asian fabric on the right, I bought from another sewing mama.

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen that we took a trip to the library this week.  I picked up a few books for Hannah while we were there.  She's becoming quite the reader.  I'm looking forward to her joining our homeschool adventures in the fall.

The boys pitched a tent in the back yard.  Funny story... we used to have a tent.  I bought it for Paul when we lived in Santa Rosa, thinking we'd go camping as a family.  Never happened.  It sat in the box.  Time marched on.  I loaned it out a couple of times to friends.  On one of these vacations the tent took without us, it got eaten by a wild animal.  My friend offered me cash for the loss of the tent, which I was thrilled to get, because we were in process to adopt Hannah at the time, and cash was in short supply.

Last summer, when we went on vacation, the kids loved sleeping in tents.  And let's hear it for family who says, "Well, you're welcome to come visit, if you don't mind the kids sleeping out in the yard."  They had a blast!  So, as we get ready to make the same trip again this summer, I decided to get a little tent to bring with us.  The boys have it up in the back yard now, and have already asked if they can sleep in it tonight, and if they can use the lantern we reviewed.  I said yes, but I'm not sure if they'll actually make it through the night out there when there's real beds in the house.

Happy to see summer fun commencing around here.  Even sibling relationships are changing with the season.  Sam and Eli have been hanging out and playing on the Wii together.  Life is good.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Enrichment Ideas for Apologia Astronomy

I recently had someone ask me, "How do you find all the cool extra stuff you do with your kids?"  It hadn't occurred to me that this was a talent.  I've always liked "themes."  I have a strong inner Ms. Frizzle, not because of the science aspect, but because of the wild themed clothing she wears and the field trips she takes her class on.

As I see things, be it online (shopping, blogs, or Pinterest) or while we're out & about, I make a mental note, "Hey, that's cool!  That would go well with a study of ____________."  When our learning path wanders around to that topic, I often remember and add whatever it was to our experience.

Today I want to share with you some of the things I added as we went through Apologia Astronomy in the second semester of our Rome to the Reformation year with My Father's World.

This toilet roll constellation project is one that my older kids did in their science PACEs years ago.

It's very simple, just cover the TP core in construction paper and use a sewing pin to poke the holes.  I printed a page of constellations I found online for the boys to choose from.

Toobs have been really popular with my kids in the last year or two.  The little girls ask for "the animal bucket" all the time.  I'd seen the Space Toob in passing, and thought the boys could make a moonscape diorama with the figures.

Turns out, having little pieces they could see and touch was also great inspiration for art!

Jack got out our Spacecraft Cards and started matching all the figures to what cards they went with and reading interesting facts about them to us.

We enjoyed all the educational toys and ideas that came with our Space Scouts box.

And again, the more we read about planets and spacecraft in our Apologia Astronomy book, the more we got inspired to create space themed artwork.

We even had space pasta for lunch one day with "asteroid" meatballs!

If you have toddlers or preschoolers, you might want to check out Hugg a Planet's Hugg-A-Moon.  We have the Earth one, and it's a favorite around here.

When not being used as a pillow, it rolls around our school room, and more than once during Astronomy, I grabbed it and had someone hold it while someone else orbited them to illustrate a concept.  They also have Mars and the stars in huggable versions.  I like these a lot better than inflatable globes, which my kids tend to throw more and pop quickly.

Eli found directions online to build the Space Shuttle from K'nex, his current favorite building toy.

There are many books that would go nicely with a study of astronomy.  Jack enjoyed the Level 3 reader, Space Heroes Amazing Astronauts.  You might also like Felix Explores Planet Earth (from space) for the picture book crowd, or if you have a sticker fan in your house, try National Geographic's Super Space Sticker Activity Book.

Fans of the Magic School Bus will enjoy Space Adventures or Super Star Power on DVD.  We have the boxed set, and Katie asks for them all the time.  My kids have spouted random science facts to me before in conversation, and I'll say, "Wow, that's interesting.  Where did you learn that?"  Magic School Bus, of course!

Groovy Lab in a Box puts out a variety of STEM kits, including Moon Dance, where we learned about lenses, gravity, and why Neil Armstrong's footprints are still on the moon.

Eli painted and assembled this model solar system for us.  I like it, but I also saw a cute idea on Pinterest later that I might want to try next time around involving styrofoam balls and skewers.  The one I saw placed the sun in a flowerpot, which was a cute idea, or you can hang the finished product from the ceiling.

I hope something here has sparked your interest and given you ideas for your own homeschool.  Even if you do absolutely none of these things, Apologia Astronomy is still a great program all on it's own.  I look forward to delving into Apologia Botany in our second semester next year.

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