Friday, April 26, 2019

Garden Update 2 - April 2019

It may not look like much changed, but we've about got it licked.  Both compost bins are installed now and all but one of the beds is completed.  We still need to put something new around the asparagus and apple mint beds.  I'm leaning towards trying the cement blocks.  It would be more permanent and we wouldn't have to worry about rotting wood or invest more into the composite boards right now.  I'll update when we decide and get whatever we decide on installed.

Some aisle ways still need to be cleaned of weeds but most of it is clear at this point.  All the previous compost piles are now distributed. I even got the rhubarb separated and replanted the other day.  It was doing great but with the hot sun out today, it wasn't looking so good.  Praying it is just the stress of transition and that the transplants will take off after recovering.

I got a few strawberry transplants from my friend whom I had shared with a few years ago. I was so happy to be getting more of the original ones back in the garden.  I lost most of them over the winter.  Praying it all takes off well.

This weekend's project will be clearing the area in front of the garden and getting the rose bushes out and planting/transplanting what needs to be there.  I need to transplant a clematis start to the other side of the entryway, transplant some more oregano, and plant another peony plant I bought last year that never got in the ground!  I also have several bulbs to plant and the septic area to clear out and plant.  It seems endless, but it will get done, God willing!

Hope your spring projects are well underway and going well.  Many blessings to you and your family!

Thursday, April 18, 2019

CrossWired Science REVIEW

CrossWired Science, "A Whole New Way to Do Science."  This is an online subscription service so you will need access to the internet.  I received access to their first two projects, Sound, and Fluid Dynamics to review.  The idea behind this company really is "a whole new way to do science."  Named "CrossWired" because they aim to teach science as a whole, not in bits and disconnected pieces.  They want kids to learn about God's creation and how it ALL works together.  How different disciplines of science work together and are interwoven in "real life."  They are in the progress of growing their program so it is pretty much a "work in progress" (beta stage) at this point.  In addition to this review and others, I think the best way to see where they are going is to go to their ED Whys? page and read what they are about, what their thinking and motivations are, and where they would like to be.  I truly believe that their vision is unique and will be more than we all hoped for.

Two current projects: Fluid Dynamics and Sound

I agreed to review this with my Kindergartner daughter.  She LOVES learning through videos so this curriculum is a big hit with her.  I have other science videos loaded on her Kindle for her and she has learned SO MUCH through them.  The videos on CrossWired Science are engaging and seem to keep her interest just fine.  There is more content on the site now than when we first started the review.  I am very happy with the direction things are going and look forward to what the finished product will look like.  I wish I had considered adding my son in on the subscription.  I can still add him on, but not at the lower add-on price since it wasn't done with the original subscription.

CrossWired Science is geared for all ages from Pre-K to High School.  There are two levels currently available, First Timers and Second Timers.  The First Timers is meant for the younger crowd and those using the curriculum for the first time.  The Second Timers level is more in-depth and has more difficult questions.  The idea behind their goal is that your child will use this throughout their school years and have covered all of the material a total of 3 times.  Repetition is core to long-term retention and even though they will "repeat" lessons, they will be different with more in-depth material to cover over time.

There are 8 "Core Videos" in each "Project."  As the program has evolved over my review period the projects are more complete and also incorporate experiments, general links (for further study), U-Choose (activities, articles, books, coloring pages, etc), reinforcement (more activities and projects), field trips, reading, gold dig (digging deeper), and devotions.  There is a course navigation list on the right of your screen with a progress bar for the current project.  They have now also added calendars for suggested use of the curriculum and this is great if you don't want to come up with your own schedules. It helps to direct and guide you on what to cover each day and how much time you should spend in different areas.

Each video has a worksheet (PDF printable, or online) and online quiz to complete for reviewing the information learned.  Since this is a work in progress there is more being added to each section almost every day.  Your current subscription if you sign up through May will continue until July of 2020.  The subscription is generally for one year.  Please keep in mind that there will be a LOT more content available over the next year.  Again, please read their Ed Whys? to get a feel for their heart in all this and what their future goals are.

Sample worksheet

Online quiz

Little Bug has been enjoying it and we are taking it little bites at a time.  I know she will learn through their technique because it has worked so well for her with other programs we have used.  I am so excited about the future of CrossWired Science and I look forward to continuing to use them in the future.  We like what we see and how things are working.  We give Sound, and Fluid Dynamics a thumbs up!

If you like what you see and decide to give them a try be sure to use the awesome coupon code they gave me to share with you.  The cost for the program is extremely affordable (currently only $27.95/year plus $10 for each additional student) and even better with the $5 off code of 5offCWS.  Folks,  this is a LOT of awesome curriculum for next to nothing.  You really can't go wrong by trying it out and I don't think you can hardly be disappointed in the content.

Please be sure to check out what other reviewers are saying by clicking on the graphic below.  Enjoy!

Sound, and Fluid Dynamics {CrossWired Science Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, April 17, 2019


If you've followed my blog at all you know I might be slightly obsessed not only with chickens but especially my roosters.  When you hatch your own eggs and raise them, you do tend to get an attachment to them and the cockerels (young male chickens) tend to be more personable.  The above is a picture of one of my young roosters, Pepper.  He is currently in a pen with his "brother," Pip (a silkie cross young rooster).

I have some hard decisions in the future because I already have too many roosters and I don't have a place to put either of them permanently.  On top of that, they have begun to fight each other because they are in such close quarters right now.

I know it's not much to be too newsworthy but I wanted to take the opportunity to mention that you can house roosters together if they have been raised together.  You can actually have "bachelor" colonies fairly successfully if you need to keep spare roosters around (in case one of your main ones are taken by a predator or some accident).

It is generally recommended that you keep 1 rooster per 10 hens for good fertility and not having your hens overworked by roosters.  I have heard more or less also (as few as 8 and as many as 15 hens per rooster).  I personally think that 1 rooster per 10 to 15 hens is a pretty ideal ratio.  I do have a pen with 1 rooster and 4 hens and there has not been a problem with overmating but he is also an older (about 3-4 years old now), more mature, rooster.

Also, remember that you DO NOT have to have a rooster to get eggs.  hens lay eggs regardless.  A rooster is good for keeping peace in the flock and watching out for predators. His warning signals can send hens running for cover in a flash.  It is quite a sight to watch.

How about you?  What do you do with your extra roosters besides rehoming or processing them?

Stopmotion Explosion REVIEW

Guide Book

They say there is a first time for everything, right?  Well, I must say that reviewing the Stop Motion Animation Kit from Stopmotion Explosion hit it out of the park for my son!  I remembered that he had taken a class at our local library on videography but I did not realize that they had worked with stop motion.  He was SO EXCITED to be able to review this product.  In the kit, we received a quick start guide, the Stopmotion Explosion guide book (294 pages), CD-Rom program disc (animation software, Audacity program, and many extras including some sound effects), and a full HD 1080p camera.  Everything you need to get going is included in the kit.  You will need internet access to use the online content that includes step-by-step video tutorials and sound effects.

System requirements are a computer running OS X 10.7+ (MAC) or Windows 7 and newer (the computer we used had Windows 7).  If you do not have a CD-ROM drive you can access the contents on the CD disc online at the link given in the Quick Start Guide.  With the included Quick Start Guide you can be up and going in a very short time.  

The Quick Start Guide gets you up and going fast.

The Stop Motion Animation Kit is recommended for ages 13+ but younger children with good computer skills and/or additional help from an older sibling or parent can also successfully use it.  The online video tutorials are VERY helpful.  Just what is stop motion anyway?  It is basically taking a series of pictures and stringing them into an animated movie.  The process can be a little challenging and the editing a little frustrating, but the end result is so worth it.  To be able to view a movie that you created from scratch is pretty cool.  There is even an app that you can download and use to create a movie clip on your phone or tablet.  From what I can tell you can create but not edit from your phone.  I'm guessing you would take the created file and import into your editing software like Movie Maker.

Free App download

The instructions guide you through how to go about editing your creation(s).  If your computer doesn't already have Movie Maker on it you can download it yourself for free.  We learned online that Movie Maker 6.0 is the better one to use because the newer version for Windows Live isn't as versatile.  Audacity is an audio editing program and it is available and loads from the included program CD (or as a free online download).  In the "What's Next?" chapter it discusses how you can take it to the next level with better software (which of course isn't free).  Please note that with all that is included and with the free downloads available, you can create wonderful movie animations.  The lack of quality of our sample videos in this review is due to the technical difficulties we had (with our computer) and the fact that he forgot to add brighter lighting when filming.  The guide book stresses how important good lighting is to the quality of the finished product.

He needed much better lighting here.

Creation in the making

Since my son is older and had a little experience I just turned him loose with the product.  There were some technical difficulties along the way (our computer, not the program), but he managed to get things done.  We lost his original creation which was awesome so I'm sad about that.  We had to start over and ran out of time for more edits.  I will definitely take the time in the future to look at this more in depth and make my own movie!  I think the amount of instruction given with the guide book and especially the online videos is terrific.  It all takes time to review, but the instructional videos are wonderful. These are some sample practice videos he created.

Be sure to check the CD-ROM contents out because there are extras such as sample movies, sound effects, PDF version of the Quick Start Guide, and a PDF of a blank storyboard sheet.  Again, there is also plenty of material available online through their website and links provided in the guide books. Here is one of my son's final creations.  Not his best, but we didn't have time to redo after he lost his best one.

There are 17 chapters covered in the Stopmotion Explosion: Animate Anything and Make Movies guide book that include:

  1. How Movies Work
  2. Animation Actors
  3. Creating Stories
  4. Building Sets
  5. Cameras
  6. Lighting
  7. Composition
  8. Animating
  9. Flight
  10. The Art of War
  11. Sound
  12. Video Editing
  13. Files and Formats
  14. Frame Conversion
  15. Sharing Your Animations
  16. Animating with DSLRs
  17. What Next? (suggestions on how to take it to the next level)
It's easy to see that they have all the basics covered for you to have success in creating stop motion videos.  The included stop motion camera makes this kit such a great deal for your little creation artist.  We definitely give the Stop Motion Animation Kit a double thumbs up!!  We are hooked and look forward to creating more stop motion videos.  In the words of my son, "It was a really good program."

You can connect with Stopmotion Explosion on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, and YOUTUBE.  Please also be sure to check out the other reviews by clicking on the graphic link below.

Stop Motion Animation Kit {Stopmotion Explosion Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Garden Update - April 2019

Finally!  We have begun the garden.  I have been the most anxious this year to get it started.  I think because, for the most part, it did so well last year.  I have high hopes for this year.  I have decided to buy most, if not all, of our starts from a local nursery that produces exceptional plants.  The rest will of course come from seed.

Work in progress

Getting there!

Last weekend I went and bought cabbage (two kinds), broccoli, peppers, and tomatoes.  A few years ago we got broccoli in the ground at the right time and it was soooooo delicious!!  The last two years we haven't gotten such a good crop (planted too late).  For peppers I chose sweet banana, sweet green pepper, sweet red pepper, and of course jalepenos.  For tomatoes I went with Amish Paste (we loved these last year, bought 8 this year!!), Brandywine (heirloom), and Celebrity (good slicing and salad tomato).

Two kinds of cabbage


I have yet to try out my pressure canner, but I am so excited for this year. I have bags of potatoes in the house that I have GOT to get pressure canned.  I also received a couple boxes of apples that I need to fix up into some applesauce, apple pie filling, apple butter, apple jelly, and whatever else I can come up with.

Overwintered Sage is doing great!

Overwintered Thyme did great (even though hubby
 ripped it up thinking it was a weed!)

We were able to purchase, at a phenomenal price, more of the composite raised bed kits so now that project is almost completed.  I think with what is left of the apple mint and my asparagus, we will just do wood in a special U-shaped configuration.  I'll post pics once we get it completed.

I think I lost most of my strawberries so will have to start over with those again and my rosemary plant didn't make it again. I have never been able to successfully overwinter rosemary here in zone 6.  I will try something different this year if I get a new plant.  There will be more to follow so I will update as it comes together.  How is your garden sowing going?

Christian Heroes - C.S. Lewis BOOK REVIEW

We enjoy our read-alouds and we especially enjoy books from YWAM Publishing.  Our newest read was C.S. Lewis: Master Storyteller from the Christian Heroes: Then & Now series.  I received this softcover book along with a link for the digital study guide.  I just love the study guides that come with these books!  The book has 192 pages and the study guide I printed out is 82 pages.

Additional resources in the study guide

This book is suggested for ages 10+ and I agree with that for reading on their own.  Of course, this book is great for any age as a read-aloud.  We just love these Christian biographies that include history and tell such wonderful stories.  This story of C.S. Lewis interested even my 6-year-old kindergartner.  Both my kids love the Narnia series so this was a good book for us to review.

Maps included in the study guide for some geography study if you choose

It was nice to be able to learn more about the life of C.S. Lewis.  My son and I knew a lot about his life already, but I had not ever learned about his earlier life and it was really nice to get the full picture of how is life evolved over time.  Especially how he had started with Christian roots, walked away from it, and then became not only reacquainted with his faith but became a strong advocate for Christ and wrote such wonderful books that have no doubt helped to lead many to Christ over the years (and still do!).

Clive's (Jack's) relationship with his brother Warren was so interesting to learn about.  It allowed me to better understand how and why they had such a close relationship.  Something else new that we learned was about his close friendship with "Paddy" and his devoted obligation to help take care of Paddy's family should something happen to him in the war.

Learning about Jack's father losing so many close family members in such a short time was sad.  I really l like the honor that was portrayed by Jack throughout the book prior to him losing his father despite the seeming coldness that his father treated him with over the years.  There were many wonderful life lessons throughout the book that I enjoy my kids being exposed to and are great conversation starters in areas such as honor, perseverance, and hope.  I had also forgotten that he knew J.R.R. Tolkien!  That was pretty cool for my son since he loves both the Narnia series AND the Lord of the Rings series. Rich with history, two World Wars, his journey through Christianity, many wonderful books and his marriage to an American, Joy Gresham, this book has a lot to learn from.  It is a definite must read in my book suggestions list.

I think the most exciting part for me this time is that my kindergartner daughter is getting older and more mature in her studies.  She just loves to learn and was so excited about this book!  It tickled me and was sort of comical but I really enjoyed how much this seemed to inspire her and wants me to read more books like this (her AHA! moment where she is getting it as we generally read these types of books, LOL).

I recommend you consider getting the digital study guide.  It can be tricky to download (if you have trouble be sure to choose the option to expand ALL files) but once completed has a lot of options and ways to use it.  We tend to just use the study guide as read aloud questions that we go over and discuss.  I like to keep this low key since I want them to continue to love the reading part and learning.  I don't want it to become a drudgery or something else they have to work on or study.  I like that there are guides for Classroom & Homeschool and also for Small Group.  There are so many suggestions and lots you can do with what is included in the study guide.  You can use it to cover multiple subjects including geography since there are maps included.  Scriptures are also included for additional Bible study.

I can't say enough about these wonderful historical biographies and we wholeheartedly recommend C.S. Lewis: Master Storyteller, part of the  Christian Heroes: Then & Now series.  You can connect with YWAM Publishing on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, PINTEREST, and INSTAGRAM.

You can check out Harriet Tubman and Milton Hershey, two other books from the Heroes of History series, that I reviewed in the past.  Please also take the time to check out the reviews on others from this wonderful publisher by clicking on the graphic below.

Study Guides - Christian Heroes Then & Now & Heroes of History {YWAM Publishing Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Friday, April 5, 2019

Fix It! Grammar REVIEW

Grammar has always been a struggle for my son.  We have used many programs over the years and some have been better than others.  We have made progress, but then he seems to lose it.  I was so excited to give Fix It! Grammar from Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) a try.  It isn't your typical grammar curriculum.  Yes, you will learn grammar rules, but not in the traditional way.  I received spiral bound softcover physical copies of the Student Manual and the Teacher's Manual for Book 1: The Nose Tree.

Student workbook

The problem that is described that I agree with is that when our kids learn their grammar rules, they have a hard time translating those rules and what they learn to their actual writing. Yes, they seem to be able to complete the worksheets, but when they are writing their compositions and what not, they tend to lose or misapply what they have "learned."  Fix It! Grammar helps to connect the dots and has them correcting sentences each day and then compiling those sentences into a completed work.

The Teacher's manual is really all you need because it comes with a link to download the needed Student Manual and their copyright allows you to print as many copies as you need for your students.  It is a lot of printing (over 100 pages) so you may choose to just purchase the Student Manual. Inside the Teacher's Manual are also e-resources for additional material that helps to explain the program.  I was able to watch a webinar explaining what the program was and how to use it. I found it VERY informative and I appreciated how she explained the purpose of the teaching method.  There is also an introductory video from Andrew Pudewa (director of IEW).

e-resources available as part of the Teacher's Manual

To summarize, the e-resources available with the purchase of the Teacher's Manual are as follows:
  • Fix-It! Student Book 1 e-book (132 pages)
  • Mastery Learning e-audio
  • But, but, but . . . What about Grammar? e-audio
You will need to create a FREE account on the IEW website where you can download your files and have access to them for future use.

The program is simple and concise.  There are a total of 6 books in the Fix It! Grammar series.  Each book has it's own Teacher's Manual (that includes a free download of the Student Manual).  The books are color coded for the grade levels they are appropriate for.  Each book has a total of 33 weeks of lessons to be completed in 4 Fifteen minute sessions per week.  If you have an older student starting at a younger level you can double up and complete 2 books within one year.  Each book consists of a story that your student will edit one sentence at a time and then rewrite correctly.  Grammar cards are included at the back of the Student manual and can be cut out and mounted on a page or put in a pouch for easy access. Your student will need a lined notebook in which to rewrite the story as they complete their edits each day.

Sample lesson plan

The Teacher's Manual walks you through each lesson step by step with corrections included.  You will start with "Learn It" to teach the concept(s) for the day.  For example in Week 1 day 1, you learn about indent, nouns, homophones, and end marks.  Your student will then look at a sentence and properly edit it.  Once you approve the edits your student will rewrite the corrected sentence into their notebook.  There are also bolded words each day that are used as vocabulary words for your student to define, look up if necessary, and write in the back of their notebook.

Week 4 student workbook page completed

Notebook page work in progress rewriting the story

The 6-book Fix It! Grammar series includes the following books with their levels listed (you can purchase books independently or as a 6-book package):

  • The Nose Tree (Book 1) - Grades 3-5 (can be used for grades 3-12)
    • parts of speech, phrases, very basic editing
  • Robin Hood (Book 2) - Grades 3-5 (can be used for grades 3-12)
    • review parts of speech, phrases, clauses, basic comma rules, basic editing
  • Frog Prince, or Just Deserts (Book 3) - Grades 6-8 (can be used for grades 6-12)
    • subject-verb, phrases, clauses, more punctuation rules, usage, introduce essential/nonessential, deeper editing
  • Little Mermaid (Book 4) - Grades 6-8 (can be used for grades 6-12)
    • subject-verb, phrases, clauses, more punctuation rules, more usage, essential/nonessential mastery, deeper editing
  • Chanticleer (Book 5) - Grades 9-12
    • review subject-verb, phrases, clauses, editing most grammar and punctuation
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Book 6) - Grades 9-12
    • brief review of clauses and phrases, advanced editing
You will also notice that the books are color coded.  IEW color codes their books for grade levels.  Green is for Elementary, Blue is for Middle School, and Lavender is for High School. Of course, the books can be used at multiple levels as I listed above.  IEW provides a FREE placement test for you to determine which book is best for your student(s) to begin with.  If your students are weak in grammar or need review it might be best to begin with Book 1.  Older students can easily double up on assignments and complete the books in a much shorter time to "catch up" to grade level.

Free Placement Test and other resources

In the webinar, it is explained that the last two books are quite challenging and not everyone will get a chance to get through them depending on when you started the program in school.  It is suggested that if you at least get through the first 4 books that you will have a pretty good sound mastery of proper grammar necessary for everyday writing and communicating.

It has certainly been a challenge for my struggling learner, but I think we are making some progress.  We have started at the beginning so that he doesn't have any gaps.  We are taking it very slowly.  I want him to "get it" this time and KEEP it!!  I want him to be able to express himself and communicate with others through writing.  I don't ever expect him to write a book, but he does need to learn and know how to effectively communicate with others in writing.  I believe it is a necessary life skill.  You can't always talk to someone or have access to a phone or computer.  You may, at some time in your life, find it necessary to at least write someone a note.  This may seem logical or simple to most, but it is quite a challenge for my dyslexic/dysgraphic son.

Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW)

I really like Fix It! Grammar and highly recommend it for grammar study.  After listening to the webinar again I might get the suggested program for us to use first before we finish up with Fix It! Grammar.  Once we get through the other program I will DEFINITELY continue with this program.  I am so happy we were able to try it out.  IEW has a WONDERFUL return policy so if you try something out and it doesn't work, they will refund your money no questions asked.

You can connect with Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) through FACEBOOK, TWITTER, PINTEREST, YOUTUBE, and INSTAGRAM.  Please be sure to also see what other Crew members have to say about this book and the other 5 in the series.  Just click on the link below!

Fix It! Grammar {Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...