Category Archives: Schoolhouse Review Crew Post

I’m Enjoying the Schoolhouse Expo SO Much!

Well! This is the first Schoolhouse Webinar I have ever attended, and so far, I am enjoying it a great deal! One of my favorite segments was Molly Green. I have a subscription to the Molly Green e-magazine, and I whole-heartedly recommend it. There are tons of articles and tips on frugal living, for one thing. In her presentation, Molly made a point of telling us what the definition of frugal IS, and is NOT. From one of the slides in her presentation:

“What does frugal really mean?

Frugal: practicing economy; living without waste (or avoiding waste); thrifty


Cheap: devalued, considered of small value, poor quality, inferior, worthy of no respect, stingy, miserly”

One can (and should!) be frugal in some areas in order to allow a little extravagance in the areas which matter to them, in my opinion! I really ENJOY Molly Green, and am slowly working my way through all of her publications, which are available to me as part of my subscription, which you can also get at, where she has a deal going to give you the first month for just $1.00!

As I said in my very first post about the Schoolhouse Expo, I was so looking forward to the Dean Butler segment, which was on yesterday afternoon. I very much enjoyed hearing him speak about how much it has meant to him to have become involved with the legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder as a result of having been such a large part of the television show, Little House on the Prairie. I was surprised to find out that in the series, Almanzo’s name was mispronounced, throughout the show!

I’ve just finished with the segment by Hope Auer: “How to Write a Novel: A Homeschooler’s Journey to Becoming an Author” who, as a 13-year-old homeschooler, began writing her first historical fiction book, and is now a published author!

Right now, I am waiting for the presentation coming up at 3:00 p.m. my time by Jessica Hulcy, who will talk about multi-level teaching, and then right after that, the presentation by Todd Wilson, on “Taming THE techno Beast: Parenting in the Internet Age. The timing works well today, though I will probably miss the last part of Todd Wilson, as we’ll need to leave for church before 6:00 p.m., but I also know that as an attendee of the expo, I will be able to listen to the recordings later when they are archived!

I know the Expo is half over now, but it isn’t too late if you’d like to attend! You may register at:

And now that the Expo is part-way through, the price has been lowered for the remainder of the Expo to $17.00!

Disclaimer: this is a promotional post, in return for which I was given free admission to the 2013 Schoolhouse Expo

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Filed under Almanzo Wilder, education, home education, homeschooling, Schoolhouse Expo, Schoolhouse Review Crew Post

Understanding Child Brain Development: Family Hope Center . . . A T.O.S. Review

As the parent of multiple children with special needs, I was interested in reviewing the DVD “Understanding Child Brain Development” from Family Hope Center by Matthew and Carol Newell, for the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

This DVD runs about two hours, and is a LOT to go through in one sitting, but you can watch it in sections by using the chapter menu, thereby managing to take breaks without needing to leave your DVD player on pause for any length of time.

This DVD is a recording of a live presentation given by Matthew and Carol Newell. I had some issues with the sound quality ( I needed to turn the sound up quite a bit on the TV in order to hear it clearly ), and was unable to read the visual aids they used, but with the DVD you’ll receive a link for an e-book with all of the slides in it for use while following along.

The Family Hope Center’s purpose (and their belief in the possibility) is to help special needs children and their parents to overcome and “correct” brain dysfunctions and disabilities. Both Matthew and Carol Newell are certified in Craniosacral and Myofascial Release Therapy. They have been trained to work with special needs children, and they also used these theories with their own daughter.

The first part of the program gives a TON of really good information about child brain development, and how different things affect it. Things like getting more time to crawl around, instead of being put mostly into walkers, bouncers, car seats, and cribs. They also talked about how much better it is for the development of the brain for babies to be put to sleep on their stomachs, which surprised me, as I’ve been hearing the phrase “BACK to sleep” for years now, referring to the need to put babies on their backs when putting them to bed. We are told on the DVD that sleeping on their stomachs helps the baby’s digestion, and also aids the baby in learning to creep and crawl, which, as I mentioned above, is important in aiding the brain development.

While I found all of the information on child brain development to be fascinating, and am in complete agreement with the idea of limiting TV, electronic games, etc . . ., and that children should spend much more time playing, eating more nutritious foods and drinking a whole lot more water than they generally do (the water thing is a constant battle with our kids!), I did have issues with some of the things recommended to help and treat children with developmental disabilities.

I felt that this was yet one more time of being criticized if, as parents, we have chosen to allow our children to be put on medications. I do believe that for many children, medications are definitely called for, and that their disabilities cannot simply be treated and cured with alternative methods. There were things that I have heard before, such as not using microwave ovens, not allowing the use of cell phones, etc . . . that I, personally, have never seen any real proof of their scientific value. Admittedly, I have a bias when it comes to cell phones, as our income comes from my husband’s job with a major cell phone company, but truly, I don’t believe the theories that cell phone use causes medical problems to have been even close to proven. Nonetheless, our children don’t have them. Not because we believe these theories, but because we don’t believe children need to HAVE cell phones! πŸ™‚

I will say that my oldest child, who has fetal alcohol syndrome, was the main reason I was interested in reviewing this DVD. He was adopted at age two, and is developmentally delayed. He also has some mental retardation and is on the autism spectrum. I got the impression from the Family Hope Center that developmental disabilities can be “cured” with their treatments, and I simply don’t believe it to be true. I do believe that they give a lot of good information that parents can do on their own to help their child, in fact, a lot of the ideas were things we did way back when “The Batman” was much younger. I agree whole-heartedly that we should be working with our children to help them be all that they can be, and to progress as far as they can, however, at the same time, I know that even as my son has progressed much further than the “experts” told us he would when we adopted him, he is very unlikely to progress past a certain point, which is why we have been given legal guardianship over him that will never expire now that he is over the age of 18.

Even though I do have more trust in medical science than I do in alternative medical advice, I know many people who absolutely swear by alternative healthcare, even some who will ONLY use alternative methods. If you fall into that category, then I think this DVD may be something you will want, if you have a child with special needs. In fact, if you don’t have a child with special needs, and even if, like me, you don’t believe quite so firmly in alternative methods of healthcare, I think you’ll find all of the information on child brain development to be very informative and interesting.

If you would like to view the DVD “Understanding Child Brain Development”, you may order it by calling (610)397-1737, or you can order directly from the Institute for Excellence in Writing, for the cost of $19.00

Other Schoolhouse Review Crew Members also watched and reviewed this DVD. To read what they thought, please click the graphic below


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Filed under adoption, Family Hope Center, home education, homeschool products, Kids, Schoolhouse Review Crew Post, Understanding Child Brain Development

A Fun Way For My Struggling Readers To Learn: Reading Kingdom . . . A T.O.S. Review

I wasn’t sure how well the online program Reading Kingdom would go over with my twins “Mr. Loquacious” and “The Puzzler” when it came to us for review, but so far, they are really liking it!

Reading Kingdom is an online subscription program that is individualized to each student, so your child will not be competing with his or her siblings, rather, they will move along at their own pace and ability level.

While it is not as flashy and exciting as other educational games they have used, they are enjoying the process of moving along at their own pace. “Mr. Loquacious”, however, does have a strong competitive streak, and frequently tries to get me to tell him where his twin is in the program, most likely because “The Puzzler”, being more interested in reading, has, on his own, taught himself a lot of reading just by pushing himself and asking for help, even before we began this review. “Mr. Loquacious” would rather just be read to, and often pretends he cannot read.

Here are some of the things your child will see at different points in the Reading Kingdom program:

I really have always liked phonics based reading programs, but have come to agree with Reading Kingdom in believing that more than just phonics are needed. The American English language is not the easiest to learn, considering that so much of it has roots from so very many other languages! Add to that the fact that the phonics “rules” simply don’t always apply, and there are a significant number of words which cannot be “sounded out” using those phonics rules, well, it proves that phonics just isn’t enough for many people.

Reading is a NECESSARY skill, for anything one wants to do in life. Therefore, why not use whatever will help our children get there without the frustration often associated with using a solely phonics based program?

Here is a snippet of information from the Reading Kingdom website about their approach to learning to read:

“It’s because of these problems with phonics and whole language that schools across the nation show only 30% of children reading at a “proficient” level, while a staggering 35%-40%, across all socio-economic backgrounds, are failing to master this crucial skill (Source: US Dept. of Education) and those who are succeeding are taking longer to learn than they need to.”

My husband and I both grew up reading for pleasure. In fact, the first purchase we made together when we were getting married were bookcases, to hold our many books, after which, we also had to go through and cull out all of our duplicates! I mention this only to explain why it is so important to me that my children learn to read, not just foe educational purposes, but also for pure enjoyment.

When we first received our login information from the Reading Kingdom company, I got the boys all set up, and they were chomping at the bit to get going.

When a child first begins the program, there is an assessment phase, which helps the program decide where to place him/her. This program is completely customized to the individual student, beginning with the Skills Survey:

“This customization process begins right at the beginning with the Skills Survey. It assesses each student’s skills in reading and writing, and based on the results, the program places each child at the point that is just right for his or her skill level. This prevents students from becoming bored and wasting time learning something they already know or being frustrated by tasks that they are not yet ready for.”

Interestingly, considering that “The Puzzler” has actually pushed himself to read, while “Mr. Loquacious” has mostly resisted learning, the skills survey actually put “Mr. Loquacious” further along in the program. Upon further investigation, I discovered that this is because “The Puzzler” needed help with keyboarding skills, so the program started him in the “Letter Land” format. “Mr. Loquacious” was also placed in Letter Land, but progressed out of it rather quickly, while “The Puzzler” is at this point, 84% completed with this level. I’m fairly sure it’s mostly because “Mr. Puzzler” is developmentally much younger than his twin, so he isn’t quite as quick when it comes to these skills. “Mr. Loquacious” is currently in “Reading/Writing Level 1, with 14 % completed in this level.

By the way, there is another great thing about this program, the online (and emailed!) reports for me, the parent! You see, the program information states right away that other than helping the student get logged on, the parent/teacher is to stay hands off, and not help in any way, other than technological assistance. I like this aspect, and so do the boys, although at first, “Mr. Loquacious” did not, wanting me to tell him if he had the right answers before he would type them in. πŸ™‚

According to the information from Reading Kingdom, their program is “the only system that teaches the following six skills. When children are taught all six skills, they easily master both reading and writing. By focusing on these skills, Reading Kingdom teaches children 4-10 years of age how to read and write at a third grade level. So teach a child to read today and give the gift that lasts a lifetime.”


Reading Kingdom offers information on their site to help you decide if your child is ready for this program, with topics such as early readers, accelerated readers, and struggling readers.

To learn more about how Reading Kingdom is fundamentally different from other reading systems available today, you can download this very informative pdf

My twins are enjoying Reading Kingdom very much, and frequently ask to do it. In fact, “Mr. Loquacious” often asks to continue on after his official session is done! This is a win/win for me, since he, especially, doesn’t like to stick with one thing for very long.

If you’d like to check it out, there are tons of sample lessons here, including part one and part 2 of the skills survey. There are also a good number of other resources, including printable worksheets to help re-enforce what your child is learning.

Reading Kingdom is an online, subscription based program, which can be purchased for $19.99 per month. You can get the entire year at once, for $199.00, and additional students are $9.99 per month or $99.00 for the whole year.


Furthermore, for those who truly cannot afford it, Reading Kingdom has a scholarship program! To apply, go here.

Other Schoolhouse Review Crew Members are using Reading Kingdom with their children as well . . . to find out what they think of this program, please click below.


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As always, I would love it if you follow my blog via email! Never miss an update by clicking on the “sign me up” button at the top of the page and entering your information. Hope to have you join me for all of my “Journeys Through Life”! πŸ™‚

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Filed under education, family, home education, homeschool products, homeschooling, Kids, Learn to Read, Reading Kingdom, Schoolhouse Review Crew Post, TOS Review, Uncategorized

And the Winner of the Free Ticket to the Annual Schoolhouse Expo is . . .

The Ministry Mama, who has a very good blog here. Congratulations, and watch your email for the code to enter when you register here for the Expo!

Just as an aside, I ended up actually having one of my children draw the winner, I didn’t realize that charged for doing drawings. Here are the pictures to prove I did a blind drawing!

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Congratulations, and please watch your email today for your code!


Filed under Schoolhouse Expo, Schoolhouse Expo Give Away, Schoolhouse Review Crew Post

America The Beautiful . . . a T.O.S. Review

Oh my, were the boys and I excited when we opened the box from the Notgrass Company containing the complete American History curriculum we were going to review!

Book after book came out of that box, beginning with two thick hardcover books containing 75 lessons, which are put together in a series of 30 units between the two. “America the Beautiful: Part 1” covers the year 1000 to the year 1877, while “America the Beautiful: Part 2” covers the late 1800s to the present. We also received another large, hard cover book, “We The People: Words From The Makers of American History”, a wonderful collection of excerpts from biographies, articles and pieces of American literature. Next, we found the America the Beautiful Student Workbook, a very nice wire bound book, and the America the Beautiful Lesson Review, also a very nice wire bound book, which we will use in later years when we re-do this curriculum at a time my boys can do more in-depth work. Next out of the box was the book “Maps of America the Beautiful“. This book is full of very nice outline maps to be used in the different lessons. We are liking that we don’t complete a whole map at one sitting, in fact, we go from map to map, depending upon the lesson we are in. Next, we have the “Timeline of America the Beautiful” book, which I just love! I’ve wanted to do some form of timeline work in our home-schooling, but really wanted it to be in a book, and this perfectly fits what I wanted, and what my kids can handle. Last, but not least, I found the “America the Beautiful Answer Key” book, with answers to everything. From the website:

“America the Beautiful by Charlene Notgrass is a one-year American history, geography, and literature course designed for students in grades 5-8. It combines the flexibility and richness of a unit study with the simplicity of a textbook-based approach to history. Daily lessons guide your child chronologically through American history, highlighting key events, people, and places.”

This curriculum is absolutely beautiful, and so very easy to use! I really don’t have to do any teacher prep, other than to make sure we have the materials for the family activity listed for each unit, if we choose to do it. So far, we’ve done just one of them, because the others either didn’t interest us or were a bit overwhelming for our household.

We’ve chosen to work on this as a group, since my boys are at different levels of ability due to ages and varying special needs, and we take from two to four days per lesson. I read the actual lesson out loud, while we all look at the illustrations and photos given (which takes perhaps more time than it’s supposed to, because my boys love to ask questions and discuss what is in the lesson as we go). Then, there is generally a selection to read from “We the People: Words From the Makers of American History”, which is also a read-aloud. After that, we do the various end of lesson activities, which range from “thinking biblically” (for which they each have their own 3-ring binder), to vocabulary (which we often do orally), to a map page, and a page in the Student Workbook. All of this, as I said, usually takes us anywhere from two to four days, but we stretch it like that primarily because I have found that for my boys, the knowledge will stick better that way. The author of this curriculum, Charlene Notgrass, makes a point in the introduction to tell us not to be a slave to the written schedule, but to make it work for us, so that’s precisely what we are doing, and it’s working! Therefore, although this is written as a one year curriculum, we will be stretching it out for as long as it takes to go through it, and then, perhaps go back and do it again, using the “America the Beautiful Lesson Review” Book when the boys are older.

There are ten novels assigned at different times during the course of this curriculum, beginning with Unit 4. They are:

The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare (Units 4-5)

Amos Fortune: Free Man by Elizabeth Yates (Units 6-7)

Brady by Jean Fritz (Units 9-10)

Bound for Oregon by Jean Van Leeuwen (Units 12-13)

Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt (Units 14-15)

Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Units 16-17)

All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor (Units 19-20)

Blue Willow by Doris Gates (Units 21-22)

Homer Price by Robert McCloskey (Unit 25)

Katy by Mary Evelyn Notgrass (Units 29-30)

The first five books go with “America the Beautiful: Part 1”, with the second five going along with “America the Beautiful: Part 2”. To get us started, I purchased the first three novels, and will get the rest as we get close to needing them. All are easily available at bookstores or your library, with the possible exception of the final book assigned, which was written by the daughter of the author of this curriculum.

I was a little bit nervous about whether or not my boys would (a) enjoy this curriculum, and (b) be able to do the work involved, but they really do like it, and because we are doing it together, and they are taking turns on each map lesson and student workbook lesson, they are handling the work quite well. Of course, if anyone looked at either of those books, they would immediately be able to tell that four different people had written on each and every page! πŸ™‚ Doing the workbook and map book this way makes it much more manageable for my children. We do the timeline book orally together, and then “The Artist”, who has the easiest time with writing things down, actually writes the entry into the space provided.

If you would like to view samples of the different books in this curriculum, you will find them here. You will find the table of contents and a sample unit from “America the Beautiful: Part 1”, the table of contents, a sample unit and the index from “America the Beautiful: Part 2”, sample pages from “We the People”, sample maps from ” Maps of America the Beautiful”, sample pages from “Timeline of America the Beautiful”, and you may view the “America the Beautiful Answer Key”.

The Notgrass Company also offers a family newsletter, for which you can sign up using your email address here. It is emailed every couple of weeks, and includes “family activity ideas, articles, information about our products, and special offers.”

Here is “The Artist”, copying an entry into the timeline . . .

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“The Batman”, coloring in a section of one of the maps . . .

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“Mr. Loquacious”, also doing map-work . . .

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and “The Puzzler” working with “The Artist” on one of the Student Workbook pages . . .

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One of the end of unit family activities was to make Navajo Flat bread, which we did one evening when my husband had offered to make “breakfast for dinner”. It was very easy, and the boys and I all worked on it together.

This is all that we needed to make a batch of Navajo Flat Bread . . .

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Here are pictures of each of the boys taking a turn at hand mixing the dough . . .

First up, “The Artist”

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“The Batman” . . .

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“The Puzzler” . . .

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and “Mr. Loquacious”!

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Then, I kneaded the dough . . .

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after which we were instructed to let it rest for ten minutes. Then, we divided it into ten balls and began rolling!

“Mr. Loquacious” . . .

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“The Artist” . . .

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“The Batman” . . .

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and “The Puzzler”!

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Here are the boys with all ten circles rolled out . . .

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and finally, a piece of Navajo Flat Bread in the process of being fried!

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The bread was soft, and tasted very good with butter and honey on it. It was a tasty addition to our scrambled eggs with sweet onion and ham!

The “America the Beautiful” curriculum is available to purchase here for $99.95, and includes the following books:

“America the Beautiful: Part 1”
“America the Beautiful: Part 2”
“We The People: Words From the Makers of American History”
“Maps of America the Beautiful”
“Timeline of America the Beautiful”
“America the Beautiful Answer Key”

The “America the Beautiful Student Workbook” is available here for $11.95, and “America the Beautiful Lesson Review” is available here for $9.95.

For the most part, “America the Beautiful” is definitely a hit in our house, and we highly recommend it! The only thing I wish would be different would be to have (especially in the workbook!) Bible verses to be from the KJV. That’s the only Bible my family, and my church uses, so when a workbook page uses a different version, I either have to re-create the page, or go ahead and do it, using it as a lesson in why we believe as we do. I chose to do the latter here, because the only way the rest of the page worked was by using the verse as given.

Other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew reviewed this and other products from the Notgrass Company. Please cruise on by and see what they thought!


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As always, I’d love it if you follow my blog via email! Just go to the “sign me up” button at the top of the page, click it and follow instructions to never miss an update! πŸ™‚

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Filed under cooking, education, family, food, home education, homeschool products, homeschooling, Kids, Schoolhouse Review Crew Post

Transitions Part 6: A 1700 Mile Adventure

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When we left off yesterday, my boys and I had just left Oklahoma City and headed toward Texas, where we would be spending one final night on the road. I was feeling pretty proud of myself, as I had never driven so far on my own before. I had been out west, as far as Phoenix and California, many years ago, but had gone by plane, never driving. I had honestly had my doubts about how well I would manage, and thought I would get lost, even with my GPS lady talking to me through my phone blue tooth, and my printed out directions from place to place. But so far, I had done well, even on the stretches where we had changed hotels, and thus changed directions!

My husband had warned me to put the AC on re-circulate for a while after crossing the Texas border, and he was RIGHT! I’ve never driven through cow country before, and the smell is very strong! We did enjoy looking at the scenery while going through the state though. I think Texas is where we saw a massive windmill farm. The boys thought that was pretty cool. They had been seeing lots of horse trailers on the freeway for a while, too, which was new to them.

At one point, we stopped for gas, and I took a picture of the sign for the sole purpose of posting it to Facebook, back to our friends in Port Huron, because when I left Port Huron, I paid nearly four dollars per gallon for my gas!


We also took the opportunity to have everyone go to the bathroom. In the ladies bathroom, they had put up large sections of paper for travelers to write something about their trip. I added “moving from Pt. Huron MI to Albuquerque NM”

paper in bathroom

Eventually, later than planned again, we reached our motel in Amarillo Texas. My husband had booked us into a Super 8, where we ended up with a surprising room! I got us checked in, and we went to the room we were directed to, but once I opened the door and went in, I was SURE they had us in the wrong room. I told the kids to stay put while I went back to the lobby to find out what was up. I asked the lady who checked us in if this was the room my husband booked us into, and she said yes, it was. Still concerned, because I honestly thought that perhaps after seeing that I had all the kids with me she had switched us to a bigger room without saying so, I asked how much they were charging me for this room. “$72.99”, she said. “Seriously?” I asked. “But it’s a suite!” She then told me that all of their rooms were like that, and that it was the only Super 8 in the country set up like this. So, if you ever need to stay in Amarillo Texas, go here!

When I texted my husband to tell him, he cracked up, because the only reason we were at that Super 8 was that the one he had stayed in when HE moved to Albuquerque the month previously was all booked up! πŸ™‚

Here are all the boys relaxing in the living room of our little suite . . .


The couch pulled out to a bed for the twins, so no using their inflatable sleeping bags that night!

Our eat-in kitchen area, where we chose to eat supper. Rather than going out, I ordered in a pizza for the boys and a salad for me . . .


Here is the bedroom . . .


Since we didn’t have to check out until 11:00 a.m., we didn’t! It was a comfortable room, and really, we needed to kill some time anyway. Our plan was to arrive at our new home AFTER my husband had gotten out of work that day, since I didn’t yet have keys to the house.

We left the Super 8 at around 11:00 a.m., and hit the road for New Mexico. According to my directions list from Google, which matched my GPS turn for turn, it would be about 5 hours (I think) to Albuquerque, so I figured it would work out just fine for getting there AFTER my husband was home. But then, as we crossed the state line into New Mexico, there it was. The big sign that said “you are now entering mountain time”. I had forgotten we would be going through one last time change, and it would suddenly be an hour earlier! So, I decided we needed to stop for lunch and kill another hour!

We got off the freeway at “Historic Santa Rosa NM”, where we saw signs saying we were on historic Route 66, and found this restaurant . . .


From the Santa Rosa, NM website:

“Route 66 Restaurant

Offering the best in American and Mexican food, including home-made specialties like chile rellenos. Walking distance to major motels.
Historic Route 66
Contact: Patricia Velasquez
Phone: 472 9925”

We really enjoyed our experience there, the food was very good, and the children’s menu had Mexican dishes for my twins, which they liked. The place is decorated with historical Route 66 pictures and memorabilia, and my kids were snapping pictures of everything, using their camera functions on their electronic games. I would definitely go there again. It’s locally owned and operated, which is something my husband and I really like.

Stopping for lunch used up just the right amount of time, and we crossed into Albuquerque shortly after 4:00 p.m., right in the middle of big city (to me!) rush hour traffic. It scared me half to death! We had just moved from Port Huron, MI, a city of about 7 square miles in area, to Albuquerque, a city of about 187 square miles in area, and I had not had a lot of experience with this amount of traffic, at least not in a very long time. But, we made it to the house, getting there about 5 minutes before my husband. He took us in, and we saw our new home for the first time, filled with moving boxes that had finally arrived.

This is our front room, which is now a combination playroom, TV room, music room, library and craft room.


The dining room area, just off the kitchen . . .


Master bedroom . . .


and master bath . . .


As you can see, a lot of work was ahead, to get all of those boxes unpacked and put away! One of the first things on my agenda was to get the master bedroom in order, so we’d have a comfortable sanctuary at the end of each day . . .


But before getting started on putting things to order, I just wanted to sit. This is me, in my new living room, after going around to look at all of my new home . . .

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Then, my husband took us out to supper at IHop, since we’d not had one in Port Huron, and the boys had never been. It was good, but I was tired, so once we got home again, I think it wasn’t too long before we all went to bed, because, as I said, there was a lot of work ahead! πŸ™‚

I’ve come to the end of the 2013 Summer Blog Hop, and have enjoyed it, so much so that I think I’ll probably participate in the next blog hop hosted by the Review Crew, so stay tuned! And as always, to make it easier for you to stay tuned, I invite you to follow me via email, by clicking the “sign me up” button at the top of the page. I’d love to have you join me on my “journeys through life”!

and hop on over to the main blog post, to check out the other 89 bloggers participating, by clicking below . . .

Summer Blog Hop

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Filed under 1700 Mile Adventure, Albuquerque, Blog Hop Aug. 5 - 9, family, food, moving, Schoolhouse Review Crew Post, Transitions, Travel

Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura . . .a T.O.S. Review

I was really pleased to have the chance to review the DVD Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura, as I’ve been a long-time fan of Little House On The Prairie. I am old enough to have watched the television show every week when it was first broadcast, and now my children enjoy watching as well! My children and I are also going through all of the books as read alouds, and we began with Farmer Boy in preparation for this review.

This documentary is produced by Dean Butler and Legacy Documentaries, who portrayed Almanzo in the TV series, and has for nearly 30 years had an ongoing association with the series and the Laura Ingalls Wilder community.

From the website:

“ALMANZO WILDER: Life Before Laura” is an all-new documentary produced in partnership with the Almanzo and Laura Ingalls Wilder Association in Burke, NY. The program offers a unique look at Almanzo’s early life through original footage and re-creations shot on location at the Wilder Homestead, supported by visual and text excerpts from Farmer Boy”

This DVD documentary runs almost an hour, and is hosted by Dean Butler. Some of my kids were excited that we were going to sit down and watch it, although “The Batman” wanted to forgo this in favor of playing his Nintendo 3-DS. Mom prevailed, and we settled in one afternoon to view Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura.

It really didn’t take very long before even “The Batman” was enjoying it, because we had, as I said, prepared by reading Farmer Boy. The documentary is filled with re-enactments from the book, and my boys were quick to point them out, talking all throughout the program about each one as it was shown, and what they remembered from the book.

Three of my boys are very literal children, and the two younger ones, “Mr. Loquacious” and “The Puzzler” kept asking how come “Laura” didn’t look like Laura. I had to explain several times that this was not the TV show that they watch, but that it was a program telling us about the “real” Almanzo when he was a boy, and (briefly) the “real” Laura, when she first met Almanzo.

Being boys who love to eat, they loved all of the descriptions of food in the documentary, as they had loved them in the book. One of the narrators talked about that as well, saying that most likely, a lot of those descriptions were exaggerated by Laura in her writing. She and her family had been poor, while in comparison, Almanzo’s family would have been considered rich by her, most likely.

The boys were really interested to see that the incident in Farmer Boy, when the new teacher restored order in the school with a big whip, was also in the documentary. As Dean Butler commented during that portion, it may seem harsh to some readers, but it certainly was a time when young people were held accountable for their actions!

My children enjoyed hearing about Almanzo’s growing up years, his longing for a colt of his own, how he spent his days. The descriptions of barn chores and such made them realize they are not as overworked as they sometimes make out to be, LOL!

The documentary Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura is available for $21.95.

My boys and I absolutely recommend this DVD to you! It would be a good addition to home-schoolers studying American History in the mid-1800’s, or doing a unit on Laura Ingalls Wilder. It’s great for learning about how people lived during that time! Beyond that, it’s a good, wholesome, family DVD! I will not hesitate to let my children watch it without me, anytime they like. In this day and age, that’s kind of a rarity, and we have to be careful of what we let them view on their own. I would say that this DVD would be good for any age, beginning with children who are old enough to sit and listen to the book Farmer Boy being read to them.

All in all, we really enjoyed this documentary, and now the boys are ready to finish reading the book and move on to reading the rest of the series. I think you will enjoy it, too!

To read what other crew members thought, please click below . . .

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Filed under Almanzo Wilder, education, family, home education, homeschool products, homeschooling, Kids, Schoolhouse Review Crew Post

Transitions Part 4: A 1700 Mile Adventure

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Well, I should have mentioned this yesterday, but I didn’t even realize it until I was going to bed last night! Yesterday, August 6, 2013, my kids and I had officially been here in NM for a whole year! Honestly, it doesn’t seem like it’s been a whole year since we arrived! It’s been a year full of change, and has had its ups and downs. My husband and I have, between us, gone through three surgeries, we found a wonderful church family, my kids and I got booted out of the first home-school group we joined (which turned out to be a good thing, but I digress!). Our first winter here was the best winter I’ve ever been through, as you can guess, having come from Michigan. We really do like being here! So now, let’s get on with our journey from Michigan to New Mexico, with our day in St. Louis, MO!

We had a very nice sleep Thursday night, in our beautiful room that my cousin Anne had gotten for us, and woke ready to have a great day in St. Louis! After everyone was showered and dressed, we went to the very good breakfast that came with our room. I think the hotel lost money on the breakfast that my boys had that day, lol! Then, while waiting for Anne to arrive, we went ahead and got packed back up and put our belongings back into the minivan.

When Anne arrived, we piled into the minivan and headed to the St. Louis Arch . . .


Which is part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, and is a National Park.


We parked on what I *think* I was told is a levee, right at the river, where we saw this riverboat cruise boat.


Stretched across the area where we parked were many of these very heavy chains. You can see in the picture of the riverboat that they are used for mooring. The boys found them interesting, and were pretending to try to lift them (they were, of course, way too heavy!)


So, we walked along the river front to a point where we could get to the Arch, which is really quite beautiful, as you can see in the picture higher up in this post. There are a TON of steps to climb to get to the Arch!

Here is “The Artist” stopping on the way up . . .


and here am I, with “Mr. Loquacious”


I’m going to stop right here and tell you, I was really nervous about this excursion! My improved health from my weight loss was still relatively new, and I worried over whether I would really be able to handle all of the steps, etc. Well, as you can see, I did! I was also able to get through all of the little turnstiles inside, as well as fit into the tiny little carriers that we went to the top in. Here are pictures of each of us inside the one they have set up for photos . . .

First, “The Artist” . . .


“Mr. Loquacious” . . .


“The Batman” . . .


“The Puzzler” . . .


And me!


Now, you can see how small those things are, right? Now imagine all six of us, crammed into one for the ride to the top. A year previously, I would never have managed, not at 320 pounds. I also would have been quite miserable upon moving to Albuquerque, where we are almost a mile higher in elevation than we were in Pt. Huron. The weight loss journey is one I am so glad to have taken, for many reasons!

Anne went and got our tickets to go to the top of the Arch, and then we had a little over an hour before our scheduled ride, so we used that time to walk through as much of the museum as we could. We really enjoyed it!




All of the boys in front of one of the exhibits . . .


all the boys with Anne . . .


Anne and me . . .


one of the views through the windows at the top of the Arch . . .


After we had finished at the Arch, we drove back over to the hotel to pick up Anne’s car, and then went to eat an early supper at a restaurant nearby, for BBQ. It was very good, I’d never had BBQ done the way they do it! I don’t recall the name of the restaurant, but it was right across the parking lot from the hotel, and we loved it!


After our dinner, we said our good-byes. Anne headed off to her home, and we headed on to Republic, MO, where we spent the night at a motel and then the next morning, Saturday, we spent the morning visiting with another cousin, Anne’s brother Ed and his family. Unfortunately, I forgot to have my camera with me during that visit, so I have no pictures. 😦

From Republic, we headed toward Oklahoma, where we would be spending the night at the home of a long time dear friend of mine, which I will tell you about tomorrow, if you come back! πŸ™‚

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Meanwhile, please, hop on over to the main crew post to see what the other Summer Blog Hop participants are up to!

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Filed under 1700 Mile Adventure, Albuquerque, Blog Hop Aug. 5 - 9, exercise, family, health, Kids, Schoolhouse Review Crew Post, Transitions, Travel, weight loss

Transitions Part 2, A 1700 Mile Adventure!

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Hello, my blog reading friends! You may recall that back on July 10, 2013, I began a series of posts called “Transitions“, promising to continue the series a little later. Well, the continuation begins today, as part of the Review Crew’s Summer Blog Hop! I think you’ll find the Summer Blog Hop to be a fun ride, with 90 bloggers and 450 posts on a wide variety of topics. So, without further ado, let’s get on with the Hop! πŸ™‚

If you went back and read the first Transitions post, you will recall that we had finally gotten our belongings loaded up, and were about to set off for our big move to Albuquerque, NM. And so we did, rather later in the day than we planned, after the delay of waiting for the moving truck to arrive until much later than expected. But, finally, we were ready to go, on the afternoon of July 30, 2012!

We headed west out of Port Huron, MI to Flint, MI, so we could make a brief (hahaha, as if brief visits and good-byes EVER happens in this family!) stop at my brother’s, to say good-bye to him, my sister-in-law, one of my nieces and her beautiful little girl.

Here is “The Batman” playing with my great-niece, Penny before we left to head on to another little side trip . . .


And here are all of the boys and Penny together!


From there, we headed to Northern Michigan, more specifically Rapid City and Bellaire, MI, to see my mother’s last surviving siblings, Aunt Marge and Uncle Jim, and their respective spouses, Uncle Leon and Aunt Ann. They are all elderly, and I wanted very much to see them before we moved so far away, so my husband made it workable for us. I’m so grateful to him for doing that for me . . .

With our late start, and then a longer stop than we planned in Flint, we didn’t get to our motel (The All Seasons Motel in Bellaire) until about 10:00 p.m., but they were ready for us, after my husband had called them to say we were delayed. It was a small, basic room, which was fine for us. We just needed a place to sleep, shower and change, as we spent most of our time there either with my aunts and uncles, or swimming, or roaming around the village of Alden, showing the kids some of the places we went to when I was younger.

“The Batman” and “The Artist, bedding down for the night . . .


Mr. “Loquacious”, sound asleep . . .


And the “Puzzler”, totally zonked out!


Spending the morning at Torch Lake, in Rapid City MI . . .

“Mom! Are you SURE this water is warm enough?!” (Torch Lake is a spring fed lake, and cold when first going in, lol!


They soon decided it was worth it, though!





In Alden, MI wandering around before heading back over to see the aunts and uncles one final time before heading west . . .

This sign is right at the edge of the lake in the village of Alden . . .


Torch Lake has been rated by National Geographic as the cleanest lake in America, and the third cleanest in the world!

One of the shops we like in Alden . . .

Carter’s Candles, I still have a Petoskey stone magnet from this store that my husband and I bought on our honeymoon 23 years ago!


Love the new Alden sign posts!


At this point, we’d checked out of the motel, and gone back to see my aunts and uncles one last time. Here are the boys with my Aunt Marge and Uncle Leon . . .


And here is the only picture that came out of me with them, I look half asleep, lol!


After saying good-bye one last time, we headed down the road to my Uncle Jim’s house to see him and his wife, my Aunt Ann, one final time . . .



It was a difficult good-bye for me. As I said before, my Aunt Marge and my Uncle Jim are my mother’s last surviving siblings, and they and their spouses are all in their late seventies and eighties, so this was very likely my last time I will ever see them. It was very quiet in the car for a while after we left . . .

We then headed west, and as we were going through the area of Holland Michigan, I phoned my Aunt Carol, who lives there with her new husband. She is my Uncle Keith’s widow, and I so loved him, and her, so I was hoping we could meet up briefly. She didn’t answer her phone, but called me back shortly after we passed Holland. We turned back, and met her at a road-side farmer’s market.

Here are the boys, entertaining themselves while we wait for Carol to meet us . . .


We followed her over to the beach on Lake Michigan, someplace we’d never been, which meant we’d now driven from the east coast of Michigan (Port Huron) to the west coast of Michigan!


Here are the boys with my Aunt Carol . . .


and here’s one with just me and my aunt!


And now, we were truly leaving Michigan, on August 1, 2012, with our next stop being a quick night in a motel in Indiana. Stay tuned tomorrow for the next leg of the journey, because it starts out super FUN (see the sarcasm there, lol?)

As always, I’d love it if you’d sign up to follow my blog via email! Just click on the “sign me up!” box at the top right of this page and enter your email address! πŸ™‚

Hop on over to the main blog hop post, so you can check out all the other participating bloggers!

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Filed under 1700 Mile Adventure, Blog Hop Aug. 5 - 9, family, Kids, Schoolhouse Review Crew Post, Transitions, Travel

Christi The Coupon Coach: Couponing Made Simple . . . A TOS Molly Crew Review

Full disclosure here, I just love it when I get a review from the Molly Crew at The Old Homeschool Magazine! These reviews are for products for us mamas, not just for the kiddos. πŸ™‚

This time, I received a copy of the book “Couponing Made Simple“, by Christi the Coupon Coach (Christi Bassford).

This is an extremely easy and quick read at 123 pages, and the type is a bit larger than normal, which I personally appreciate, given that my eyes are getting older every day! I was actually able to read this in one day, a major feat in my house, lol!

Christi’s system is pretty simple, as described in the video below:

Right from the beginning, I liked her Dedication page, where Christi did the obligatory dedications to various loved ones, but she also made a point of putting the following in her dedication something that matters to me, and to a lot of my readers: { “Most of all, my work I dedicated to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is by His grace that I draw every breath and strive to fulfill the command “whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” } This is an attitude that is very important to me.

From Christi’s website:

“What if you could save 50% or up to 80% on your grocery bill??? If I can, why can’t you? Join me as I teach my step by step plan that has helped me and others save thousands of dollars on groceries!
There is a lot of buzz about couponing. A lot of people are excited about couponing and want to do it well, but I have found that many become overwhelmed, confused and unorganized.

That is why I have taken the new world of couponing and put it into a book that gives a step by step plan to follow. I have also developed an organization system. This allows people to be successful on their very first trip.”

I was excited to try Christi’s system, because anything that helps me to be a good steward of what God provides to us is something I want to learn about. Unfortunately, I did not do well with the couponing for groceries or household items, primarily because the coupons we received really did not have any for things we actually need or use, plus, I was recovering from surgery, and my husband was doing all of my grocery shopping. Because we ended up with a lot of out-of-pocket costs for my surgery, and are still paying off the surgeries he had in December and January, we really are needing at this time to buy only what we absolutely need, and not stock up on much of anything. That was a bit of a disappointment, but in her book, Christi goes way beyond couponing for groceries and such. She talks about saving money in many other ways, such as thrift shops, yard sales, and the thing that worked for me, the fact that sometimes, it’s worth it to wait for something to go back to full price, if you have the right coupon.

I have long desired to buy a Cuttlebug embossing machine, made by Provocraft, to use along with my Cricut when I am scrapbooking and making my hand crafted cards. The machine is regularly $89.99, but one week, it was on sale for $69.99 at Hobby Lobby. I had been saving a $20.00 gift card I had received as a birthday gift back in January (thank you Charlene!), and thought I would strike while the iron was hot, but Christi says to wait until you can get the BEST deal. Well, Hobby Lobby has a weekly coupon for 40% off, but that works only on regular priced items. If I purchased it at the sale price using my gift card, it would have cost $69.99. I figured out that if I waited a week for it to go off sale, I could use the 40% off coupon, bringing the base price down to $53.99, then stack on top of that my $20.00 gift card, bringing my final price down to $37.77, after the state sales tax was added on.

Here is my Cuttlebug . . .

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Here is my receipt!

cuttlebug receipt

Also, her advice to watch for the rock bottom sale price paid off as well. Hobby Lobby put all of their embossing folders on sale for 50% off, which brought them to $2.50 each, so I got six. Here they are . . .

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They also had the storage tote for embossing folders on 50% off sale, so I got that as well . . .

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And here is the receipt for those items!

embossing folders and holder receipt

And would you like to see why I so very much desired these things? It was so I could make things like this, for my personal card ministry, and because I also want to begin selling my hand crafted cards. Here are two different cards I made using my Cuttlebug along with my Cricut, which I already own . . .

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CTMH Cards by Me 014

So you see, even though I have not yet mastered grocery shopping with coupons, I was able to save a bunch on things I really wanted needed! I do intend to try again with the grocery system when I am able to drive again, and when/if we begin seeing coupons for things we would use.

I think the best part of the book is in chapter ten, “Beyond Couponing”, in which Christi tells us about “the best deal”, for which you don’t even need a coupon, and it is absolutely free. By ending the book with this particular deal, Christi is absolutely living out her Christian testimony, and following a command given by Jesus Christ. I hope you will read it, and believe, because I’d love to meet you in Heaven one day! πŸ™‚

I do recommend this book if you want to read about different ways to save money for your family. If you do want to coupon, Christi also gives a list of her favorite online coupon match sites here.

You can purchase “Couponing Made Simple” by Christi the Coupon Coachhere. The Physical copy of the book is $18.00, and the Kindle edition is $4.99.

To find out what other crew members thought about this book, please click below


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Filed under card making, Christian faith, Couponing Made Simple, Molly Crew Review, paper crafting, Schoolhouse Review Crew Post