Women of God can never be like women of the world. The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined. We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith. We have enough greed; we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity. ~ Margaret D. Nadald

Our Father also gifted us with the nature to nurture, keen sensitivity to the Spirit, selflessness, discernment, and heroic faith. No wonder our Father placed us at the heart of the family and thus at the center of the plan of salvation. We are the Lord's secret weapon. ~ Sheri Dew

I'd love it if you would follow my blog!

25 March 2012

TOS Review - I See Sam


Where does one start with "I See Sam"??? How about the part where I read the instructions the first night I got my "I See Sam" box, tried it with my son the next morning, then immediately shot an email off to the vendor because I NEEDED this for my daughter ASAP, and am getting ready to buy the next set for my son?

Yes, I'm THAT impressed. After trying so many curriculums, book sets, methods, apps, online programs, you name it!, I have finally found a "go to" product. I have had lots of things that I like being offered in various programs for different reasons, but I feel like "I See Sam," a part of theReading for All Learners "Little Books" program, combines them all into one cost effective curriculum that's easy to use.

In preparing for this vendor, crew members were asked to have their child take a placement test to see what set of books would be appropriate for their child. After some thought, I decided that I should try the product with my oldest son because his reading had become stagnant over time, and I wasn't sure what to do to get him moving forward again. So, I followed the assessment instructions found here, and remembered really quickly why I chose him for this product! He was making silly mistakes throughout the assessment, and I knew he knew better! After some time as the assessment progressed, I realized that these mistakes were why I needed to use this product with him and I requested Box Sets 3 & 4. While he tested fine for Set 3, the assessment for Set 4 was giving him a lot of trouble. I'm so glad that he got placed where he was! Initially I didn't understand why I would need him to read through a set that he had already "mastered," but it was clear that the Academic Success for All Learners people know what they're talking about :-D.

The books challenged my oldest while not being overwhelming, he looked forward to them everyday, loved the story, studied the pictures, enjoyed talking about them, and was THRILLED to see his reading advance!

Here is Set 3 "our yellow books":

And Set 4 "our green books" (Original names for us to use, I know, but I do enjoy the colors on the outside, and that the pictures inside are fun, but are black and white so they're not distracting):

How do they books work? Why am I so sold on this for reading??? EASY:

Once you've had your child take the assessment and get the set that fits them best (be honest, when it says they can only make "x" amount of mistakes just go with it, even if you think/know your kid knows that or can do better), you'll get a box with up to 27 books and a teachers/parent guide telling you HOW to use the books, along with a cute chart for your child to track the books they've completed.... my son got to a point where he was planning how he was going to color in the shape with the number book he read in it... I didn't realize how big that would be for him to visually see where he was at.

In the guide there is a copy of a full book that is diagramed to show you what you'll encounter as you go through the series. What stuck out to me as I was reading through the instructions was that each book starts with a section that reviews sounds specific to the book that you're reading that your child should already know (and that they must know before they move on), then it adds new sounds for them to master before moving on, then it provides words and new words that the child must know. I hope that's not confusing! (Look at it here!) The process is simple, and what happens is that your child has all the skills in hand, once they've finished with these pages, to successfully read the book! It's B E A U T I F U L!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! There are no surprise words hidden here. I've enjoyed other series of beginning readers that build on basic phonics and are not throwing out words like "said" etc that the child has no basis for knowing what it is! (*cough* I learned that lesson early on thanks to another homeschooling mom :-D). So, your child starts reading, and then at the bottom of the page there are prompts for questions to ask your child to help their comprehension, as well as a little smiley face to remind you to praise your child... and, in the guide, it lets you know that specific praise is vital. This was a BIG help for me.... it's easy to say "good job" it's hard to remember to do it frequently or point out "you're doing a great job figuring out the word "x".

The other thing that I think is unique to this system of learning is how they advise you to go over words. They have you go about teaching your child "the slow way" and "the fast way" of sounding out a word. By doing this, you aren't teaching your child any irregular words.... for instance, "the" is sounded out the slow way letter by letter "t" "h" "e" and the fast way it says "the." While I appreciate sight words, there's something liberating about your child still being able to use their original phonics knowledge... it helped my children gain more confidence by not discounting what they already know. There is even specific guidelines for how to say these sentences as you go through these steps (my kids are sleeping, maybe I can type those up for you later!) The books run in sequence, each one building on the next, and you have a progressing happy reader on your hands!

Everything is laid out before you, you can't fail with this program! After passing through the "slow way/fast way" a couple of times with my oldest who was making silly mistakes, he QUICKLY learned that if he wanted to continue on without stopping to do this on words he already knew that he was going to have to put forth a better effort.... and he did! He completely despises having to stop to review words (which you're instructed to do each time they get a word wrong i.e. "this word is 'Sam' we sound out this word the slow way "s" "a" "m" and the fast way it's "Sam"). It's SO clever!! This system does not have any down side in my eyes. My son finished out set 3, started set 4 (which is pushing him in a great way and building AMAZINGLY well on the skills that he already solidified in the previous set). He loves all the stories and it was a happy surprise that set 4 has multiple stories in each book! Additionally, there are assessments along the way, and it's great to see how far he's coming. He notices his progress and enjoyed that bump in the right direction! Have I mentioned how much I love these books?? Here's a video for you too:

Now, while I wasn't technically given sets 1 and 2 to review, I can't not say something about them!!! My daughter is my super dyslexic, we didn't even know if she could learn how to read because it's so frustrating for her even though she really wants to, kid. SHE'S READING!!! I could cry! Not only is she reading, but since she has learned how to read she spends more time figuring other things out because this has opened such a big, heavy, door for her that she's felt has been locked for so long! It's been amazing, and I am a life long I See Sam user. I'll be purchasing sets 5 and 6 in April, and I look forward to walking all of my children through these books. I've yet to see my husband really truly be impressed with a program.... her progress left him SPEECHLESS. The Sam hand puppet is even a member of our home... he's cute and fun for even my little guys. The name "Academic Success for All Learners" is definitely one that describes this company! I am so grateful and feeling so blessed to have been able to review this program. The results that I saw with this program have been priceless and almost instantaneous! I can recommend this program to ANYONE and feel great about it. These books are a welcomed addition to any home with readers who are at or trying to be reading at a K to almost 4th grade level.

If your curious to see the scope and sequence of the books you can find it here. As for price? Each set (of up to 27 books) is $30 and can be purchased through www.iseesam.com. Would I pay a bunch more for these books... you bet!... am I glad I don't have to, absolutely! The low cost, especially when factored into how many times these will be used over and over with all of my children, makes this homeschool mom very happy!

If you'd like to see what other crew members are saying about I See Sam please go here.

*As a member of the 2012 TOS Homeschool Crew I was provided a free copy of this product in exchange for my honest review of its content. I have not received any other compensation for the opinions stated here, and they were not promised a positive review.*

21 March 2012

Weighing in Wednesday: Post Move Edition....

What does weighing in after an international move, an unpredictable baby, lots of snow, rain, freezing wind, a husband who's at work all day and into the night, no house and therefore no workout equipment look like? Ummm.... U G L Y!!!!! :-D. The last time I was able to hit the gym I weighed in at 188lbs... I think that I've lost some since then, but not having a scale here in the house hasn't helped watching that.

So, in trying to not make too many excuses, I ordered some workout videos. I love toning, and if you survey enough videos on Amazon you'll find some through reviews that will get you exactly what you need. Personally, I have a thing for the Biggest Loser tv show.... as in, we don't have tv, I have no desire to ever have tv and we don't actually own one for that matter, but I do just about anything I can to find access to be able to watch it on the computer (it's on my screen behind this post at the moment, in case you were wondering :-D). Anyway!!!! There was a trainer on the show for most of the seasons named Jillian Michaels, and I absolutely loved her. So, since I couldn't watch her beat people up, I decided to look into some of her offerings and let her beat ME up :-). Yes, masochism does run deep in my family... I thought we established that?

I bought a set of hers and then added an additional one... the one came first and I've done that a few times, and hurt pretty good the next day or two (it's a good pain :-D... especially since my core leaves much to be desired at the moment), and the set came recently so I haven't delved into those yet. I also got a Bob Harper video (Bob is still beating up on people though).

Anyway, I've also tried to be better about what I eat. I suppose going off the notion that if I can't read the label then it has no calories doesn't work so well! (I still believe though!!!!) *laugh* What can you do? We've never been to Japan as a family, and my husband hasn't been here since 2000, so we've been hitting his nostalgic hotspots and goodies... maybe a little too often. We also attend a Japanese church and have been invited to members homes, where we eat more delicacies. Yah... on top of that we aren't in a home, so just imagine living in a hotel without even enough utensils and flatware to put food out for everyone, so cooking isn't that high on the things to do often. It's bad. I have bought quite a few things to rectify that (spices, kitchen stuff etc), but it's not perfect by any means. I'm mourning my cast iron sitting in storage waiting to be delivered... don't mind me :-).

So, despite all that.... I ran into a lecture the other day that has helped shape how we eat a bit more, Enjoy!:

We don't buy into all of what is said, but it is compelling. The statement "moderation in all things" comes to mind when you finish this. While he has really good points that shouldn't be dismissed, but I'm not going to freak out or make a fuss when I eat out (unless of course it's at the Chili's on base... I looked up the nutritional info online one night and about died!)

This weeks goal is to do at least one exercise video a day and be careful about what I eat (unless of course the day in question is Saturday... which I've designated my leeway day... unless of course you count today when I took the kids out for "Japanese Fast Food" in mourning my husband having to be in Okinawa for a few days and therefore not here... hey! It shook things up and I'm pretty impressed with myself that we ventured out quite a bit to different places outside of the base and that we didn't hit anything or anyone and I found where I wanted to go! Just imagine a single driving lane in the states... now turn that single lane into a two lane road.... fun times!) Okay, yes, that's a gigantic excuse, but we'll move on and get better!

How are you doing???

20 March 2012

Mothers/Young Children

Here is a part of a talk from Motherhood: An Eternal Partnership with God by Elder Holland. His message is one that I'm trying to keep in mind lately and in response to the below babble :-). Being cooped up with 5 little ones, not getting very much sleep, not being in our own home, and a husband's sporadic schedule has me a little worked up... this brings some solace to me.

19 March 2012

Time Keeps Going....

... and if I never take the time to sit down and blog when everyone is sleeping it'll never happen!

There's been lots of reevaluation in my life right now. We currently don't have a permanent home... we have a temporary home, supplied with standard items and the only sense of "home" and "familiarity" is in the clothes that were brought in our luggage for this grand adventure. We sent the kids blankets and other things we use frequently in our unaccompanied baggage shipment (the military's way of saying a few things that you want flown over without you and delivered soon after you arrive at your destination... as opposed to all the rest of your things, to include furniture etc., that will get there when it gets there). Anyway, said shipment has been here since we got here (and the rest of our household items for that matter), but without a home we have yet to have them delivered. Is there really no housing here? No, not necessarily. The majority of it is tower buildings (like the one that we currently reside on the 6th floor of), and we need to be on a certain side of the base in order to have our children go to school with out Bishop's children off-base in the Japanese schools, there's a lot of renovations happening, the housing offices doesn't really know what is and isn't available and/or when, and there's very little officer housing... so things are complicated. It's a headache to say the least. I have a lot of mixed feelings on the whole thing. I'm a bit more than stressed out but trying to keep calm for everyone else.... 5 kids 6 and under in a 3 bedroom place with nothing familiar to them and a dad who is gone pretty much from when they get up to when they go to bed has left many of them a little more than stressed out (out of control behaviors and comfort habits like finger sucking etc are at an all time high at the moment). No end in sight for this extended TLF stay and TDY's (temporary duty assignments i.e. husband going out of town for extended periods of time) set for every month for the next few months and deployment(s) on the horizon, have me about tapped out.

Now, on the flip side? I am extremely grateful to have a place to live at all! It's hard to live like this... my children desperately need normalcy, schedules and some stability... but we have a roof and protection from the weather (not necessarily earthquakes, but that's another story all it's own!). I read about the unrest in Syria, I think about the industrial revolution and how many family members and even families lived in one small home. I think of those who lost homes in the slew of natural disasters that have come in full force all over the world over the last year and have no where to go, and no hope of recovering the things that were swept away. I may be uncomfortable (and desperately wanting access to my treadmill), but I don't have to worry about so many things that others do. So, I am blessed, and I am grateful, and I'm praying daily (multiple times usually) that I can handle this the way that I need to!

On another note... I handle things better when I'm distracted :-D. Yes, yes, you know I'm quirky, and this is one of those things that I just do (and I KNOW others do to), deflection can be good sometimes! I still get what I need to done, but when faced with many things that I don't' have control over, I have to find something somewhere. Perhaps the lesson here is that I just need to let go? Maybe... I'll have to revisit that sometime. For now, I have to deflect in order to keep from going truly insane. I read Thomas S Monson's biography "To The Rescue" a lot faster than I thought I would.... it was one I brought on the plane thinking it would keep me busy, and it did for a bit, but it's over sadly (Fantastic read though! You should pick one up!)... I ordered some more books to keep me company until we get a home and I get my other books that have been waiting to be read. Here's what's on it's way, feel free to comment if you've read any!:

-A Watchman on the Tower (Elder Boyd K Packer's biography... the other book I was reading before we shipped our things was Teach Them Diligently, he was also referenced in President Monson's biography and a few CES Broadcasts that I've heard, so I wanted to read more about Elder Packer in the meantime).

-Increase in Learning by David A Bednar

-Return to Virtue by Elaine Dalton

-Being George Washington, The Indispensable Man, as You've Never Seen him by Glenn Beck.

Yah.... I can't do anything on a little scale can I? This isn't even the half of what I wanted *laugh* I'm waiting to see if Deseret Book has a sale for Conference to see about getting the rest (I want more biographies :-D).

It'll be really nice to get these books, reading things like this is a huge stress relief for me. I also thought the George Washington book would be especially nice seeing as how I'm delving into my Master's in American History for another distraction. Yes, being taxed down with papers to write and due dates helps me cope with life, what can I say? It's that or training for races... and with a bunch of little kids and no treadmill I can't do the latter at the moment. So, multiple avenues of stress relief are being visited at the moment.

I'm also learning Japanese through a BYU Independent Study course. We attend a Japanese church and the people there are incredibly kind and very helpful with my struggling language abilities. I'm enjoying learning and being able to communicate more, but have to focus on one day at a time so as not to get too overwhelmed with how much there is to learn!

You know that phrase at the top of my blog "the more I learn the more I realize that there's a lot more to learn"? That phrase is not just there because I like the way it looks! It definitely describes how I feel about everything. I'm at a constant run trying to catch up and wanting to learn everything in one day, but that's not how it is to be. We learn step by step, line upon line, here a little there a little, right? And sometimes the lesson is just to be patient and work a little each day? Anyway! There's a lot more to learn, but I know more now that I used to! That counts for something right? :-D

We've also been revising eating habits here. We watched the Forks over Knives documentary before we left NM, and when I went looking for it while at the gym one day I stumbled on this lecture. So, after having Nathan watch it we've been trying to adapt to more vegan eating habits. While we don't agree with EVERYTHING the guy says, we still agree with quite a bit. We weren't much for eating meat to begin with, but man! Dairy! I LOVE dairy! So, trying to find good recipes to replace our go to ones has been something that I try to do (and not think about how much easier and cheaper it would be in the states!) One of my friends from UT directed me to a fantastic site: http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/, and Engine 2's recipes(featured in Forks over Knives), and I picked up a Forks over Knives book at the BX which also had recipes. I'm not into "fake food" or foods galavanting as something else. So, that makes this a bit more challenging. For me, processed food is processed food and moderation in all things it key.

Anyway! There's a lot and yet very little going on here all at once. Time keeps going at a blistering rate and I feel overwhelmed by things I can't control.... hence the deflection. Things I look forward to are taking turns reading every other verse in the Book of Mormon with Noah, and sitting to read library books. We're trying to work on other things "school related" but just like I'm having a hard time focusing on one thing, my kids are also having a hard time focusing on anything in particular and their normal resources aren't available. We try and hit the park, but it's snowed a few times, rained a lot, and been bitterly cold more than I care to think about. We've braved the bitter cold windy days for the sake of sanity though.

I'm actually looking forward to my older children going to the Japanese school in the hopes that it'll bring some balance to the force. I'm also excited for the opportunity that they'll have to be immersed in the language and culture that their father loves so much. We've been blessed so much to be here and I'm sure we'll continue to be. What's life without some opposition though, right? I'm trying to focus on the positives and not focus on the things that are hard and discouraging. I think this time has really helped drive home the idea that we don't really know what other people are going through or how that effects them. I know that many people out there have some empathy for me, but some of you are wondering what I'm finding so difficult. That's fair... I don't know what has me all worked up either! Okay, I kind of do, but I need to get over it :-). In any case, if you've gotten this far in my babble, here's a beautiful blog post that I'll turn you to thanks to another blog that I frequent. Things aren't always as they seem.

That's enough of my random thoughts for now. Weighing-in Wednesday will be back tomorrow.... okay, granted that's most of yours Tuesday's, but it's Wednesday for me and if I factor in time changes I'll forget! Bear with me here while I try to attempt to straighten my life out or at least find the new path that's been set before us :-).

16 March 2012

Love, Laughter, and Limits Parenting

Hi everyone! I wanted to share with you a website for YOU that I think you might find to be a really fantastic parenting resource for yourselves or to share with friends as well. My sister-in-law sent me an email asking for participants for her dad's Master's project.... it would be watching parenting videos. I honestly can tell you that I wasn't interested too much in the project at first except that it would be a help to family. However, after spending some time on the site, I am now very grateful to have been able to have been asked to participate and asked if I could share this information with you!

So, here we are :-). The Love, Laughter, and Limits Parenting website is the work of Tom Dozier, a graduate student at CSU Stanislaus. Through video presentations Tom gives short lectures accompanied with power point presentations on many issues dealing with children. Right now the site is set up with videos addressing before birth through toddler, but Tom is in the process of creating more videos to add shortly. Eventually there will be video's up through young adulthood! Here is why the site works in their own words:

Love, Laughter, and Limits teaches you practical ways to be a warm, positive, and happy parent. But it works because it is based on extensive research. What makes LLL unique is that it is based on both the fundamental research in the science of human behavior and broad research in child development, psychology, and other fields. As I work with parents on their individual parenting challenges, I am always impressed at how quickly and positively children respond. It is the behavior science perspective that makes this stuff really work! But behavior science research is based on short-term studies, and parenting is a long-term proposition. The broad academic research is critical to know what issues are important for the long-term growth and development of your child. By combining these two forms of research, LLL can help you interact with your family in ways that produce good behavior now and contribute to your child's long-term growth and development.

You know I like to research! I research just about anything and everything and am interested in just about anything and everything. I was really surprised at the research that was presented in these videos. Many things I knew, however, there were things presented that I didn't know or that built upon principles and things I already use and believe in using with my children.

Head over to Love, Learning, and Limits Parenting website and start learning for FREE! These classes are free until 1 April 2012.... however, if you finish all the courses and give feedback before that time you'll have free access to the Love, Learning, Limits website you'll have free access to the site for the rest of 2012. I definitely think this is worth your time to check out. I'm enjoying the lectures and find that the questions I get asked most are better explained here then I've ever done. I'm interested to see what's up and coming as the later years are addressed! (Yep, I just told you that this mother of 5 is still learning about parenting... I know, you're shocked ;-D.) It takes about 5 hours to watch all the videos, and with the short segments they're actually fun to turn on during quiet moments here and there.

Try it out and tell me what you think!

05 March 2012

TOS Review - K5 Learning

This is a sight/site that makes my oldest jump for joy:

K5 Learning is an online reading and math learning program for kids pre-kindergarten through 5th grade. I was able to try this program out for the last few weeks, and it's one that my son asks for regularly. I'll have to get more of his personal responses for this review (he wanted to give me input for this review as his sister got to give hers previously, but bedtime came before I sat to write this. I'll have to catch him in the morning!) Anyway, from what I can tell it was quite the hit with him!

I like that this program is very thorough and clear in teaching each lesson and takes time to test the child on that information. My son had been playing around with it for some time before I figured out/realized that I was able to get a free assessment done for him in reading and/or math. I requested both and set him to work. Shortly afterwards I was able to go into my reports and get a pretty good idea of where his strengths and weaknesses were. If I'd have to say what the most valuable part of this program is I'd definitely highlight the reports... I find that the information that I was able to gather there has helped me focus how I teach to him. Along those lines, an additional highlight of this program is that based on the child's scores it adapts lessons better fitted for their abilities to help them gain the knowledge needed to further excel in that area.

The first time that I logged into the site I remember that there was a character that was wearing a tank top, and I didn't like that. However, subsequently I haven't seen her again, and I was informed by the creator of the program that I can preview the lessons and use my discretion on if I would allow my children to do a certain lesson.... however, the characters are meant to be role models for children and he didn't expect that I'd have any issues (and I haven't since). I feel comfortable allowing my son free reign on K5. There are no chat capabilities, outside ads, or outside links. I know when the program is on that all he can access is the learning and quiz screens (there's reading lessons, math lessons, spelling facts and math facts... the last two we really didn't use. In any case, I also know that if I have any questions/concerns about the program that I can feel free to shoot an email to the creators and that they will respond quickly. I think that impresses me most of all! I also like that one of K5's self proclaimed advantages is that they aren't focused on "edutainment." That word definitely fits with a lot of products that I've seen out there and I'm glad to see one that uses their time more effectively. My son loves this program and learned a lot, but even though the characters are interactive he wasn't being entertained.

K5 offers a 14 day free trial offer that allows you to get a feel for their program with unlimited assess to 4 complete programs with "no obligation, no credit card, and free math and reading assessments." K5 also offers a monthly subscription to their program for $25 for the first child and $15 for each additional child, or an annual subscription for $199 for the first child and $129 for additional children.

To see what other crew members are saying about K5, please feel free to go here.

*As a member of the 2012 TOS Homeschool Crew I was provided a free copy of this product in exchange for my honest review of its content. I have not received any other compensation for the opinions stated here, and they were not promised a positive review.*

02 March 2012

TOS Review - Reading Eggs

When asking my daughter what she thought of Reading Eggs her first response was "cool!" I have to agree :-)

Reading Eggs is a really fantastic program that helps children build all of the skills necessary to be confident readers... all while having lots of fun!

I tried this program out on my ever so dyslexic 5 1/2 year, and we both have loved it. This is one program that she asks to use everyday (she just asked about it right now in fact! *laugh*). I had her start at the very beginning of the program with phonics etc, although there are options if your starting with kids that already read some. Meeting her was a cute duck that tracks her progress along a path. When going into the first lesson we meet another character, an ant, who introduces the letter that the child is working on, tells the child the sound the letter makes, has the child click on the letter coordinating with that sound, sings songs, acts silly, and is my daughters FAVORITE. The child is then guided through more activities with the same letter, ending with making "sound books" (which is also a highlight for my daughter). The sound books allow the child to find the written words to put with pictures.

I think the progression from learning the phonics of a letter clear through putting it to use in words is seamless. The creators of this program should be VERY happy with themselves.

We have a slow internet connection here, so my daughter has also had the opportunity to try out Reading Eggs clever egg catching game that plays while her next page is loading. So smart! It keeps the child interacting and engaged during loading so they don't lose interest.

I think the only think that I don't care for is the actual game section.... which kids of course love! What can I say, I'm a prude :-D. I think the program by itself is fun and very well put together and doesn't need a supplement of activities. That being said, the games are educational from what I've seen, and the option to dress your progress duck in different clothes using the coins one's earned is fun for the kids. Maybe my issue is more that I can't tell if there's a time limit for the games. It seemed like my daughter spent more time away from the lesson then I cared for.

Anyway! Back to my pros, Reading Eggs also tracks the child's progress and is really user friendly. I highly recommend it!

Reading eggs can be used for children ages 3-13.... and there's a FREE TRIAL! . Reading eggs can be purchased by creating a login and then selecting "Purchase Reading Eggs" on your dashboard. Then the options for a monthly $9.95, 6 moth $49.95, or 12 month $75 subscription come up. A nice break for parents with multiple children is that they offer 50% of for additional children getting the same package. Definitely a bonus!

We've really enjoyed this program and has improved my daughters understanding and confidence with letter sounds and relating them to words. To see what other crew members are saying about this product you can go here.

*As a member of the 2012 TOS Homeschool Crew I was provided a free copy of this product in exchange for my honest review of its content. I have not received any other compensation for the opinions stated here, and they were not promised a positive review.*