Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Happy Birthday Princess

The "joys" in having a toddler is all the cutesy-little-cartoons and cutesy-little-songs that go with them. Well...there's this one channel that our 4 year old likes to watch and in the mornings, they play this song:

Now mind you most mornings when I hear this song begin, I run for the other end of the house with coffee cup in hand. Because most likely I think my head may explode if I don't. This song has become the new 'thing' on birthdays around here- a new tradition of sorts. So now we sing the traditional 'Happy Birthday' song and then we sing the 'Happy-Happy Birthday to you' song. Usually the birthday-child is mortified and the rest of the children take pleasure in the 2 minutes of torture. Again, I look for somewhere to run...

Ok, so this one is a little blurry.  My camera battery died as I was about to take the first cake-picture.  So, I grabbed my phone.  We do what we can, right?  Look at my little-big girl, she's 6.

We sang the menagerie of birthday songs...the kids laughed...the grandparents wondered what in the world just happened...and I enjoyed all the blue teeth/lips from the Smurf cake.  

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Before Five in a Row -- TOS REVIEW


I can't tell you how much I LOVED doing this review- I simply adore this book.  Before Five in a Row by Jane Claire Lambert is a book of creative ideas designed to help you gently, consistently prepare your children for the life-long adventure of learning.  For preschool age children (ages 2-4), this book is WAY more than a 'school curriculum'!  This book offers a plan where the parent and child reads the same book aloud for five days in a row. After each reading, they discuss various aspects of the story or complete the suggested activities. The original Five in a Row materials were geared towards early elementary students, but I was lucky to review the book that they’ve developed for younger children.


The book is divided into two parts.  The first section contains hundreds of simple ideas and activities developed around 24 of the finest books EVER written for young children.  These are truly the cutest, sweetest books you'll ever find-Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear?, The Runaway Bunny, The Carrot Seed, Corduroy, Caps for Sale, The ABC Bunny, The Snowy Day, Katy-No-Pocket and Blueberries For Sal.  We were able to find just about all of the books we needed at our local library.  We loved some of these so much we decided to add them to our personal library!  Each unit provides creative ideas and enjoyable activities designed to build excitement and a love of learning with your child while building the super important skills for learning-readiness.  Our 3 year old loved doing these activities and having special reading time with Mom- she tells me she loves doing school.  YAY!  :)

Part two of Before Five in a Row is an awesome, comprehensive resource filled with specific ideas designed to help prepare children for learning through simple, everyday activities.  There are ideas for bathtime, bedtime, in the kitchen, at the grocery store and MANY more.  The info and inspiration given in this book helps the parent make the most of these precious years and pave the way for 'real learning' down the road.

While we used this book of ideas in our homeschool,  it would be appropriate for any preschooler.  The parent-child bonding this book facilitates is priceless.  Nothing is sweeter than your little one snuggled up against you while you read a book...absolutely priceless!  :)

Although there are no sample pages available for Before Five in a Row, there is a special explanation of the book available on the Five in a Row website here. Before Five in a Row costs $35 can be purchased from Rainbow Resource

To see what my fellow Crew Mates had to say about Before Five in a Row, visit the TOS Homeschool Crew Blog to read more.

**Disclosure: My review and opinion written in this post is entirely my own. This product was provided to me for free in exchange for my review as a member of the 2011-2012 The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Happy Belated Birthday, Spuddy!

My one and only 'body-born' boy turned 9 years old on September 4th.  His nickname is Spud...or Spuddy...or Spudderd.  We couldn't make it up north to celebrate with extended family so we asked him what he wanted to do to make his day special.  He replied, 'I want to see Sue the T-Rex.'  So, off we went on the Metra train to the Field Museum in Chicago to meet Sue.  Here's the view of the city from the Field Museum- you can barely make out Lake Shore Dr. on the right hand side.

The front looked very majestic!  We were all so excited!  Right now there is a HUGE whale exhibit- did you know whales are HUGE?  The kids crawled through a model of a whale heart, that was huge!  Did you know the tongue of a whale weighs more than an elephant?  Amazingly huge...

Here's Sue!  She's named after the woman who discovered her... Sue.  This T-Rex skeleton is the most complete found to date, and in the best shape.  And it's in Chicago.  :)

This was an underground exhibit.  We were 'shrunk' as we entered.  We got to see what it would be like to be microscopic size and walk around underground.  The kids thought it was awesome...especially the 'shrinking' part.  There was a lot of talk about the show, "Honey I shrunk the kids."  LOL

The following day was his 'real' birthday so that's when we had cake and opened presents. Spuddy requested chocolate cake with fresh raspberry sauce.  He loves raspberries!  

Of course, as per our annual talk-while-eating-your-birthday-cake-and-sit-under-the-table-until-it's-gone game, Spuddy spoke.  So, under the table he went.  This is such a typical face for him!  

This is another typical look for him- crazy excited.  He enjoyed his usual...  HAPPY 9th BIRTHDAY, SPUDDY!

Friday, September 16, 2011



Who doesn't love that title? turns your computer into an online learning academy by providing daily academic lessons for young learners in an interactive, easy to follow format. For the best results, children should log into daily and complete their lessons and quizzes. This “daily” strategy builds invaluable study habits, leads to better grades and greater self confidence.

The makers of BigIQKids say, "it is important your child (or students) complete their lessons everyday. Each lesson takes between 10-15 minutes to complete and will soon become part of the young learner’s daily routine. Most important, our programs will not advance the student until they have achieved mastery of each individual lesson. This is critical to our unique approach of working around each child’s own pace and comfort. We build proficiency leading to subject matter mastery which is periodically checked with review tests and quizzes."

Parents (and/or teachers) receive email reports detailing their student’s progress. These reports provide insight as to time spent, problem areas and test results. You can also view the child’s progress in BigIQkids Reports found in each program. Programs can work with existing curriculum or on their own with pre-loaded lessons, quizzes and tests. You have the ability to customize your child's programs- please see below for info on the what each program has to offer:
Spelling & Vocabulary: With a over 40,000 word dictionary, BigIQkids spelling & vocabulary program comes pre-loaded with 40 lessons for K-adult appropriate word lists. Or, as a parent or teacher, you can easily enter your own word lists and the program will automatically create a week’s worth of lessons, quizzes and tests around your own list with the goal of achieving 100% on the Friday spelling and vocabulary tests. The program includes tracking and progress reports. You can build your own curriculum or use our default settings. The program is completely customizable and goes around a student's progress.


  • Math: You can set up a child's lesson to mirror what they are doing in their current curriculum. For example, if the child is on double digit addition and single digit multiplication, the program can focus on just these two areas providing invaluable practice and reinforcement that is certain to provide them with the tools to ace their next test. Or, BigMathTime can automatically generate grade specific and subject specific lessons as per your requirements.  


  • U.S. States: Every elementary student will be confronted with the need to know their US State facts to mastery. BigStatesTime is the ultimate tool in learning the state's location, capital, spelling, abbreviations and general state facts. The program allows parents/teachers to add additional facts which will be included in the child's lessons and the program culminates in a “State Mastery Exam” that, if passed with 100% mastery, awards the child a State Master Certificate.



    The kiddos liked working in this program.  The math & spelling didn't seem to excite them as much as the U.S. States did...I think it was just the content material.  When they all got their turn with the states facts, it turned into a MAJOR competition (of course, this didn't surprise me!). 

    And who wouldn't love this friendly buddy to help you along?


BigIQKids spelling & vocabulary program is ALL FREE! There are premium programs for math and U.S. Geography. To learn more about the differences, please see below:

FREE vs. PREMIUM programs:
  • BigIQkids Spelling & Vocabulary Program is FREE!
  • *There's a 7 day free trial on ALL programs!  What a great option...go and check it out!  See if your kids end up in an educational competition like mine did...  :) 
    Check out the FAQ page for any other questions you may have about the program!

    To see what my fellow Crew Mates had to say about BigIQKids, visit the TOS Homeschool Crew Blog to read more.

    **Disclosure: My review and opinion written in this post is entirely my own. This product was provided to me for free in exchange for my review as a member of the 2011-2012 The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Time 4 Learning-- TOS REVIEW


Time 4 Learning is an online home education program that mixes fun with learning!  This program is not only for homeschoolers but it works for after school learning/tutoring and summer instruction as well.  My kiddos love to do anything on the computer so this review was right up their alley.  There's some online academic instruction and then some fun- what a perfect combo!

The Time 4 Learning program offers language arts and math and is considered a comprehensive program for preschool, elementary school, and middle school. Science and social studies programs are provided as a free bonus for most grades.  Another bonus is that if your child is on different grade levels for reading and math skills, Time 4 Learning tailors the program to meet your child's specific needs.

Parents can track your child's progress throughout the program as well as participate in the "Parent Community & Forum" area.  Below is an example of a progress report you may see regarding your child's work in the program:


There's really cool looking students in the program too. Now my kiddos want red hair and mini-mohawks...


Oh, that's right...I'm supposed to be talking academics here! Sorry, I was sidetracked by the cool graphics, weren't you? So, on my first-grader- here's a taste of some phonics:


Don't worry, she didn't ask me for a button nose.

In all seriousness (I can be serious?), I really did like this program. The "Getting Started" Area was super helpful and answered all my questions. It talks about things like "Where does my child start? How do I track my child's progress? What do I do if I need help or want to ask questions? Can I preview a lesson? How many lessons should my child do every day (I have 1 extremely motivated child who would actually do 10 lessons and ask for more!)? And how do I use the lesson plans provided?" This was plain 'ole good, comprehensive, fun learning. Of course the kids liked the games the best- they just 'suffered' through the academic stuff (or so they say).

So do you wanna try it out? Here's the details:

No contracts! Cancel at any time!
$19.95 per month for the first child
$14.95 per month for each additional child
Two-week money back guarantee!

Sign up for Time4Learning HERE!

To find out more about Time4Learning you can hop over and visit their FAQs page.

To see what my fellow Crew Mates had to say about Time4Learning, visit the TOS Homeschool Crew Blog to read more.

**Disclosure: My review and opinion written in this post is entirely my own. This product was provided to me for free in exchange for my review as a member of the 2011-2012 The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. **


Monday, September 12, 2011

Iced Coffee

Ok, one of my new favorite people of all time is The Pioneer Woman- she even got her very own show on Food Network!  That was just an added bonus for me cause I absolutely adore her.  I've been oooing and aaaahhhhing over her blog for a long time, mostly over her food and recipes.  She's my kinda girl!  I'll link you to her blog in just a minute...hang tight...please!  :)

In one of my many searches through her SCRUMPTIOUS recipes I found 'Perfect Iced Coffee.'  My sister brought me a cold brew maker many years ago and I thought it was super yummy but didn't drink iced coffee all that often.  Now that I've grown to depend on some coffee (especially around 3pm!) and it's hot outside, iced coffee is the perfect match for me!  I drooled as I scrolled through her cold brew pics and couldn't wait to make some myself.  I think the favorite part is that she kept A TON of the prepared coffee in her fridge (in a jug with a spicket!).  Did I mention I like her?  I would love to talk to her or meet her someday!  Anyone going to Oklahoma anytime soon?  :)

So, here's my take on her Perfect Iced Coffee.  It turned out quite yummy...

Then go look at her blog.  See if you get lost there for hours- like I did.

Totally yummy- I love coffee.  

This was 10 oz. of coffee and 1 1/2 gal. water.  I stirred it around and around in my bread-dough-bucket.  You can let it sit 8 hours- I left it over night.

I used a small mesh strainer and paper towels.  Nothing fancy around here- it did the job.

The leftover coffee looked so yummy to me... have I told you I love coffee?

The upcycled water container with spicket.  I like spickets too.  And now there's 1 1/2 gallons of iced coffee in my the fridge...waiting for me to open that spicket...and fill my glass.

LOTS of ice, cold-brew-coffee, half & half and caramel flavoring.

Now go and look at Ree's site...she did a much better job documenting than me.  Do you want some iced coffee now?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Lesson Planning

So, I've spent the better night writing out lesson plans for the week.  I've got the kiddo's lesson plan book out, my school stuff out and I'm trying to merge everything so I don't forget anything.  I feel like I'm in a wind tunnel...where are all my ducks?  Are they in a row?  This is what I've been staring at for the better part of 3 1/2 hours...

But really I'm dreaming of this...Adler Planetarium in Chi town.

They just so happen to have free admission this Tue & Wed for residents.  And I just so happen to have an unused train ticket in my purse.  And 6 backpacks with coordinating lunch bags and a stroller...and 4 umbrellas...and lots of water bottles.  Think it's too early for a field trip the 2nd week of school?

R & R Games --Pig Pile -- TOS Review

Welcome to our very first review!  Games, who doesn't love them?  If I gave you a glimpse into our 'game closet' you'd see that our family adores them- in every shape and size.  Pig Pile (from R&R games) showed up in a cute, compact box with 80 playing cards, 40 adorable little piggies and the instruction sheet. 

Pig Pile is a fast paced game for 3-6 players.  In each round, players race to be the first to get rid of all their cards and collect the most pigs.  Each player gets 10 cards- 3 that face down (known as the SLOP pile) , 3 that will face up and 4 cards to hold in hand.  After each player has the allotted amount of cards, the remaining cards are set in the middle of the table face down (as a deck to draw from).  The basics of the game are that you play a card from your hand face up to the center of the table (this becomes the Pig Pile of cards you try to get rid of).  If you have more than one of the same card, you can play all of them at the same time.  You then draw one card from the deck. The next player does the exact same steps only he must play a card (or cards) that are equal to or higher than the number the last player played.  Once a player has no cards left in hand, they can play from the three face up cards in front of them. Once you get down to having no face cards and none in your hand, you move on to playing the SLOP pile (or face down cards).  The player who gets rid of all his cards first, wins the round.  The next player to go out by getting rid of all his cards comes in second, and so on and so on.  To score the round, the player who goes out first takes three pigs.  The second player to go out gets two pigs.  The player left with the most cards gets no pigs (boo-hoo!) but in a three player game, the third person always gets one pig.  You play and play and play the rounds until all the pigs are gone, whoever gets the most pigs at the end wins the game!

Of course, there are some twists and turns thrown in this fun game like the #4 card represents being 'Hog Tied.'  The #11 card is a 'Ewe Turn' and when played it reverses the direction of play.  The #8 card 'Hog Wash' and the 'Hog Wild' cards are special cards that change the flow of the game even more! 

Our thoughts:
I ran this game through the critics (our kiddos) and they adored it- especially because of all the cute, little piggies.  The game is for ages 7 and up but our five year old did quite well, with just a little help.  With four kiddos playing the game, it seemed to take forever to get anyone out and get through the whole draw pile before moving on to the SLOP pile.  We ended up modifying the rules slightly so the game moved along at a quicker pace and the kids didn't get bored with the repetition and waiting.  There also seemed to be quite a few rules and getting to know the 'special' cards and their meanings seemed a little confusing at first.  The more we played the game, the easier it became.  The kids can now play this game alone and I love hearing their giggles when they start collecting 'the little piggies.'

You can get Pig Pile from R&R games for $15.95.  They have other fun looking games on their website too, such as birds, bugs & beans and Hey Waiter. Check them out! They are currently offering a 20% discount to anyone purchasing Pig Pile or Flea Circus through the TOS Homeschool Crew reviews.  Just enter the coupon code, CREW20, to receive the discount now through December 31.  You can also check out the TOS Homeschool Crew Blog for more reviews on Pig Pile and other R & R games.

To see what my Crew Mates had to say about the games they received, check out the TOS Homeschool Crew Blog under R&R Games. Disclosure:  My review and opinion written in this post is entirely my own. This product was provided to me for free in exchange for my review as a member of the 2011-2012 The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew.