Monday, May 30, 2011

Ancient Greece and Rome Kit from Hands and Hearts (and a valuable coupon for YOU!)

Throughout this school year we have used various projects from the Ancient Greece and Rome History Kit made by Hands and Hearts. What follows is a review of this kit. In exchange for my review I will receive a coupon, but my opinions are solely my own. By writing this review I will also be eligible to receive a free Kindle! I'll be honest and say that I really, really, really, really, really want the free Kindle. There are two ways to win ~ first, the blog author who has the highest number of readers purchasing an item from Hands and Hearts will receive a Kindle, and second, another winner will be chosen through a random drawing. Despite my desire for a Kindle, I will also be honest when I say that this kit is by far the best hands on kit I have used in our 10 years of homeschooling!

So, my dear blog readers, I am shamelessly asking you to read this post through in its entirety, and then PLEASE visit the Hands and Hearts website. They have many items that would enhance your homeschool studies, make great summer time activities, and even make wonderful birthday or Christmas gifts, such as their deluxe potholder loom, or the Night Sky Glow in the Dark Sticker Book. If you enter the coupon code "Pam" during checkout, you will receive 15% off your purchase! (and I will be a bit closer to winning that free Kindle!)

Here are some of the activities we did from the Ancient Greece and Rome kit. First, when we studied Ancient Greece a few months ago, our daughter used the mosaic project in the kit to make this beautiful masterpiece:

All of the materials that were supposed to be included were included, and the directions were clear and easy to follow. We also painted "Greek" pottery ~ some pots as well as paints and brushes were included in the kit.

For more pictures on the mosaic project and the painted pottery project we did from this kit, please go here. I did purchase an additional student kit, and found that with two kits we had more than enough materials for all five of our children to do most projects. I did have to provide a couple more small clay pots for the pot painting project, but those were easily found in our gardening shed.

More recently, as we've been studying Ancient Rome, we have had fun playing this game that matches Roman and English numbers. The cards for this game were printed on cardstock with perforations for easy separating. Again, the directions were clear and easy to follow. A great way to learn Roman numerals, and it's lots of fun!

Another project we did from the Ancient Greece and Rome kit was making frescoes. This was very fun and extremely popular with all the children. We did this activity on a weekend so that dad could be involved too! Again, I was impressed that all the parts for this activity were clearly labeled, and directions were easy to follow. First, as I mixed up the plaster the children drew on paper the pictures they would later paint on to the wet plaster.

The plaster came in heavy plastic bags, and I just added water to the bag and mixed it right in the bag. After pouring the plaster into the provided foam containers, I just threw the empty bag away. Virtually no mess!

After waiting about 35 minutes for the plaster to "set", we painted our pictures while the plaster was still damp.

Here are the finished frescoes, according to age. First Little Man's (with help from daddy). His is a carnivorous dinosaur in the process of eating something! (bet you didn't know there were dinosaurs in Ancient Rome!?!)

Son C's is a simple lake scene:

Son L painted a picture of Spiderman swinging through a city street:

Son G chose a sunset picture:

And daughter G painted a Roman chariot race:

Didn't they turn out beautifully?! Son G said, "I liked painting frescoes best of all the activities. I enjoyed painting mine, and I like knowing the picture will be there for thousands of years!"

I can honestly say that some of the major highlights of this year for the children were the fun activities we did from these kits! There are a wide variety of activities in each kit (even more that we did not get to), as well as copywork, and Bible verses for memorization. The kits are well planned, thorough, and easy to implement. What I love best about them is they are FUN, and the directions are very clear and not complicated.

If you are interested in seeing how Hands and Hearts can make history come alive for your children, please use this link to visit their website. If you choose to make a purchase, by using this link you will automatically receive 15% off your entire purchase (discount will already be applied). You can also go to their website directly, and then enter the coupon code "Pam" during checkout to receive your 15% off. This discount will expire at midnight on June 11.

Have a child who loves to bake? Check out this ABC baking kit.
Or a boy who is into building things? How about this foam construction kit.
There are so many great items at Hands and Hearts, including some beautifully illustrated books. Please check them out!

Every Once in a While I have a Brilliant Idea!

With four boys playing soccer, and our daughter refereeing, we have lots of soccer gear which we keep in a tub on the front porch so the dirty, muddy cleats never even have to come in the house. Works great.

We have soccer practice on Mondays and Wednesdays, and Wednesday is also the night of Awana and youth group at our church. So I was having to load the kids' regular shoes, regular socks, Awana books, vests/shirts, and Bibles into the van when I went to pick them all up from soccer, as well as dinner so they could quickly eat while driving to our church for evening programs.

Then one day it hit me. Why not load up the soccer tub with all the stuff we needed for Wednesday night, put it in the back of the van, and then the kids could take out the stuff they were changing into and put their soccer stuff back in the tub right in our van before even going to church or home.

It's working so well! See, they may not come along frequently, but every once in a while I do have a brilliant idea!

Sunday, May 29, 2011


I can type faster than I can upload pictures, so here is a random post (the kind my mother loves!).

We are working to finish school by this coming Friday (June 3). I use the word "finish" very loosely, as three children will need to finish math during the summer, and daughter G has not finished her physical science course. But the daily routine will radically shift after Friday. We are all ready for a break (especially the mama).

Right after school ends, I will start painting the first of four rooms that I am tackling during the summer. One of them is the family room, and as much as I would love to paint that one first, I am being a good mom and painting all the kids' bedrooms first. The family room will have to wait. Haven't even decided on a color yet, all I know is I am sick of its current off-white blandness.

Our van smells like wet soccer socks. Ewwwww! Febreeze, can you help me?

In the throes of finishing school for this year, I have also done quite a bit of planning for next year. Had a planning meeting for REAL moms, a couple online planning meetings for the next year of our virtual co-op, and lots of lining up of various schedules (making sure there was no accidental double booking!). It is going to be an interesting year, schedule wise (read that: busy with different kids taking different classes at different places, both in real life and online) and a fascinating year, school wise. I'm really looking forward to it!

Our daughter will probably have to take a little bit of homework on her trip to Washington this summer, as we start virtual co-op three days after she gets home.

For the first time, we will have kids in elementary, middle, and high school at the same time. It will be this way for the next five years, until Little Man starts sixth grade.

My garden is not yet planted. Hoping to tackle that this week. Every year I say I'm going to do it before school gets out, but it is always *so* hard to make that happen!

My husband worked for 5+ hours yesterday afternoon, replacing the front brakes on his parents vehicle. The rotor bolts wouldn't come off. Then the rotor itself didn't want to come off. One rotor had to be replaced, so I made a quick run to the auto parts store at 9:15. Did I mention it was raining during the whole time he was working? Working outside, in our driveway? My husband is pretty clever though, he moved our patio umbrella to the driveway and was able to stay relatively dry by working under it. So thankful he was able to bless his parents in this way! And he got a cool new toy to play with (an impact wrench).

I was not faithful to do my foot exercises this week. :-(

A nap is in my immediate future! :0)

Friday, May 27, 2011

G and her tree, both 14!

When G was born, her Uncle Mark gave her a tiny little dogwood tree. It moved with us to this house when G was four years old. Every year we have taken a picture of her with her tree, and here they both are at 14! I waited too long to take the picture, so most of the blooms had already fallen off. But trust me, it was really pretty! It is not very big, but we can definitely see slight changes from year to year. More changes in our daughter though! :-)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

So busy.... no time to post. But lots of pictures coming soon!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Happy 11th Birthday to our Wonderful Son!

Son L turned 11 today. Amazing. I remember each of the children's births very clearly, but his had extra drama. He was born completely blue and was not breathing. His first apgar score was 2. Within a minute or two he was doing much better, but those first couple minutes seemed like an eternity to me, as I watched from my hospital bed while a crowd of specialists surrounded him. How thankful we are that God spared L's life and blessed our family with this amazing boy!

His own dart gun. Oh happiness! He and G have matching guns now, and they had quite the dart war this afternoon!

With presents from his Washington grandparents. He loved the book and movie choices! Thanks mom and dad!

L, you are a joy and a blessing to us. We delight in the boy God has made you to be, and the young man you are becoming. May you always know how much you are loved, and may you always follow God with a whole heart. We love you!

Edible Mosaics

We are now in unit 4 of Tapestry of Grace Year 1, and learning in depth about the Ancient Romans. The Romans took many aspects of Greek culture and made them uniquely "Roman", one of those being the intricate mosaics they are known for. We had already made paper mosaics when we studied the Greeks, but I got this edible mosaic idea from my friend at Much Like Hippies. It was a HUGE hit!!

We used graham crackers for our base, covered them with vanilla frosting, and built patterns with mini m-n-m's. What's not to love about a project like that? Fun to make, fun to eat, and nothing to store afterwards! ;-)

Little Man made a cat.

Daughter G worked on a globe picture of the earth.

Son G made this Roman soldier, complete with long, rectangular shield! (so different from the round shields of the Greeks)

Son C also made a picture of a cat, along with the word "meow" across the bottom.

And son L made a dog.

I made no mosaic but did enjoy the m-n-m's while everyone else was working!! A fun, easy, and "light" activity - thank you T!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

I Love Spring!!!!

I always seem to forget how many different shades of green there are, and each spring it is a wonderful surprise to see the variety of deep, medium, and light green hues.

Spring pics from our yard:

The one half of one flowerbed that is weeded and mulched so far! haha (many more to go). This is the herb garden outside my kitchen window.

Flowering tree in the front,

and in the back.

Phlox growing in the rocks by our front door. We haven't planted annuals yet, so I'm very grateful the previous owners planted so many perennials!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Letting Go

Today we reserved a plane ticket for our 14 year old daughter to fly to Washington by herself this summer. I am super excited for her to have this opportunity! Special time with grandparents, an aunt and uncle and cousins, and the chance to make her own memories in the place that is host to so many of mine.

It is a first in so many ways.....

and a great opportunity for us to remember she belongs to God, and to offer her to Him..... again.

It is probably the first of many such letting go's. Mission trips. College. Someday, marriage. It is good practice. But it is still hard. She is my baby. My first born. My only girl.

But.....God has a plan for her, and I do not want to be clinging to her so tightly that His plan cannot fully blossom.

I keep remembering an experience my parents had when me and my sisters were all young teenagers. My dad went forward to pray at the altar after a sermon given by a visiting missionary. My mom sat in the pew silently praying as my dad wrestled in prayer at the altar. She thought perhaps he was feeling a call to missions, and she was trying to prepare herself for the possibility of moving far away. But later, he told her that he felt God directing him to let US, his daughters, go. To commit to not holding us back should God call us far away. It was hard for him, as a dad of girls, to offer us to God unreservedly, but he stayed at that altar until he could.

Thank you, dad.

Thank you for letting me go then. And thank you for the example that helps me let go now.

Thank you, mom.

Thank you for supporting dad, and trusting God to direct our family through him.

I am so glad my daughter will have special time with you this summer!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Homeschooling High School

We have always intended to home school our children through high school, but this winter, with 9th grade for our oldest fast approaching, we had to "officially" commit to that course of action. And we did, but it was a very big deal to me which consumed hours upon hours of thought and prayer and later, planning. I was confident of our daughter's ability to manage her time and study well, and I was pretty confident of my ability to provide instruction (either myself or someone else), but I was not very confident of my ability to be the guidance counselor, to make a four year plan for high school that would adequately prepare her for college, to make sure I had graduation requirements and college entrance requirements all covered. If I made a mistake and ruined her future, there would be no-one else to blame!

It was an entirely new hat to wear, and has taken some getting used to. I have been blessed to have had several homeschool friends and mentors with children slightly older than mine, but none of those I know well and in real life have chosen to continue homeschooling through high school (not a judgment of their choices, simply a fact). So it has been and will be another learning curve for me.

I am thankful to say that we now have a four year plan in place for our daughter that I have shared with a public school counselor and a private school counselor, and has passed muster! It is academically rigorous, but with electives tailored to her gifts and interests. It is not set in stone, but it's a framework that we feel much peace about. And I, personally, am very relieved that the initial intense learning and planning is over! She will have two online classes next year with certified teachers other than me (Literature and Spanish I). She has been in our virtual co-op for three years and is used to the technical aspects of an online class, but these classes will be much more demanding and grades will have to be earned by her (read that: daily homework, and at least in Spanish, homework will have to be uploaded to the teacher prior to class) and awarded by someone other than me (a great experience for homeschool students!). Also, many colleges want incoming freshmen to have experience with online classes, so this will more than cover that!

There are many homeschool co-ops in our area that are tailored to high schoolers, but after praying about it and even visiting one, we felt that it was not a good fit for the four year plan God gave to our family. We will continue with our writing co-op on Friday mornings, and do the rest of our schooling at HOME, together. At least that is the plan for now. ;-)

So, all of this to say, if my posts have seemed sporadic and picture-less until recently, it's because my brain cells and time were otherwise occupied. And if you are a homeschooler planning to homeschool through high school, let's support each other! And if you are not a homeschooler but you know someone who IS, please pray for them as they embark on their high school journey, especially if it is with their oldest and they've never done it before. And if you know of a homeschool family who is sending their high schooler to building school for the first time, pray for them as they make that huge transition. And how is it possible that my baby is about to enter high school?!?! ONLY FOUR YEARS LEFT?!?!?! Excuse me while I freak out for a moment......

Last but definitely not least, I am so thankful that God guides and directs in every decision! He is good!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

FIAR Co-op - How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World, Part 2

We spent a second week on this fun and entertaining book! First, we read and enjoyed it together again. Then we made an apple pie! Some of the children helped mix the pie crust, and some of the children rolled it out.

While the pie was baking we did another really messy activity, we painted with apples. We used apples for the main shapes, and brushes for fine details.

No, not blood. Just paint in the hair of our littlest student! If you know my friend Sally, this was something of an emergency even though it was not blood. :-) (love you Sally!)

For our snack, we of course ate the apple pie we'd baked! The letters cut out of the top crust stand for our co-op name: Families Learning In Christ.