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Beginning of the Year...Stuff

It's already that time of year where I can't remember what it felt like to have free time, except we have added more activities this year, so I *really* can't remember what free time felt like! I can't remember what it felt like, but I know I miss it...


You know, I wonder how many people actually have that real friend who they can call when they are despairing - when everything is going to hell in a hand basket and when they feel like they have no one to turn to. I know some people have that person for sure, but I do find myself wondering if such a friend is an urban legend. 

I have always taught my kids (like other parents do) that life isn't fair and that there is absolutely no point in wishing it otherwise. I have never tried to parent them "fairly," because they each have very different personalities and very different needs. For some of my kids, I can see that lesson paying off. Therese suffered an injustice last week. There's no point in going into it, but she got screwed. She was really upset for a few days. Then she picked herself up, enumerated the good aspects of the situation, realized that it was the way it was and she wasn't going to be able to change it, and she got on with her life. She's fine now. 

I don't have SAD, in fact, I love the winter. I love short days and long, cold nights. I do get SAD to the extent that getting back into the swing of not being home always brings me down, though (introvert problems!). The solution to that problem is just not to wallow in it. I know that depression is a clinical condition. With my family history, how could I not? I also know, though, that so much related to feelings is a *decision*. That's one reason I get so irritated when people say things like, "I just wasn't in love with him anymore" as a rationale for divorce. Love may start out as a feeling, but its continuation is a decision. Similarly, sadness is a legitimate feeling. Deciding whether or not to indulge it is just that - a decision. We are not ruled by our feelings. That's why I don't buy the argument (regarding sex) that kids are going to do it anyway - let's give them all the condoms they can carry and wish them well. We have mastery over our feelings. We decide when and how much to indulge them. We can (and should) acknowledge them, but we should never allow them mastery over our lives. If they *are* taking over our lives (any feelings), we need professional help. 

I realize I'm probably babbling - it's just that last week was a hard one with a few things happening both to Therese and me that made us, well, sad. We both realized independently, though, that we don't have time to be sad. Life marches on. We acknowledge our sadness and then ask ourselves what we are going to do about it. In many cases, you can sit around thinking and talking and writing poetry about how sad you are, or you can get up and join the human race and live your life proactively. Make things happen. Offer up your sadness and get over yourself. I only wish I had enough time to sit around thinking about how sad I am! I barely have enough time to write this blog post!

N.B., I'm not talking about people who are sad because of a legitimate life event, like the death of a loved one. I'm talking about people who give into that impulse that nags at your brain that says, "you're sad - aren't you sad? Do you realize you feel sad?" Really, I'm talking to melancholics like myself. We have to fight that impulse all the time, but fight it we really must, or we will become absolutely insufferable to live with. I can't even stand myself when I succumb to that voice. 

Funnily enough, another thing I always tell my kids is that nothing good ever comes of being angry. I say that because, well, I have a bad temper! I should listen to myself. I lost my temper (which is rarer these days, thanks be to God) and screamed at Nicholas. I scratched my throat in the process (or did something that makes it hard to talk without needing to drink constantly). Too bad I have to give a 20-30 minute talk tonight. Joke's on me...

Back to our regularly scheduled day...

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Review of Armfield Academic Press

Therese (15) has expressed an interest in learning French for awhile, so having the opportunity to review Armfield Academic Press's Getting Started with French was perfect for her! What was even more perfect from both of our perspectives was the fact that these lessons, particularly those at the beginning of the book, are very short and easy and are designed to be completed in only minutes. What could be better than Therese getting to learn to French without it interfering in any meaningful way with her other subjects?

Introducing Getting Started with French {Armfield Academic Press}
Getting Started with French is a book designed specifically for homeschoolers (and self-taught students), which could be one of the major reasons that it slips so well into your existing curriculum plan. I know that one reason that I have been hesitant to let Therese pursue her interest in French is that I didn't think she had room for it in her schedule, but with Armfield Academic Press, she does.

Getting Started with French is a 281 page softcover book, about 8.5" x 11". It contains 172 lessons, a short introduction explaining how to use the book, a short page of advice on how to continue the study of French, a comprehensive answer key, a pronunciation guide, a glossary, and a subject index. Although it may be tempting to jump right into the lessons when you first get the book, especially given the brevity of them, resist! The section titled "How To Use This Book" is critical. It is full of great information and tells exactly how the book should be used to its fullest effect. It also tells how to find and download the accompanying free pronunciation recordings and audio commentary of the book's authors. It's truly the best of both worlds. You can move at your own pace and teach yourself, but help is truly right at your fingertips (or your earbuds). You aren't at the mercy of your own ability to interpret a written pronunciation guide. I really enjoy this method of learning. Once you've settled into the program, it is suggested that you devote about 30 minutes a day to it.

Therese and Getting Started with French

The way Therese typically likes to do many of her school subjects is by binging: she will do days and even weeks worth of work at one time. She likes to get in the zone of a subject and stay there. That method is especially tempting with a course like this one where the lessons are very short. The authors specifically caution against that, though. Because it is necessary to internalize a foreign language, to marinate in it, it really is most effective to only do one lesson per day. As I indicated previously, though, that's actually better for her schedule. It's nice when everything conspires to give your child what she needs anyway!



Each lesson proceeds in the same way. First, you learn the new word for the lesson, listening to the pronunciation guide (spoken by a native speaker) to make sure that you are pronouncing the word correctly. Next, you read the grammatical information in the lesson, listening to the audio commentary in order to most fully understand how the French language actually works in practice. In many lessons translation exercises come next. One can choose to do them mentally or to write them down. Then, the authors stress the importance of verbal practice, or French conversation. After all, the best way to really learn a language is to speak it. Finally comes French Composition, or the art of translating English to French. In order to do this, the authors suggest using the answer key to translate the English translations of the French exercises back into French. This curriculum really is all-encompassing!

I really appreciate the simplicity of Getting Started with French. It is thorough but gentle. It includes everything you need without requiring you to purchase a huge expensive curriculum package. The audio downloads are a wonderful (free!) addition. This curriculum is proof that you can incorporate language study into your day without it becoming either invasive or a hassle.

If you don't want to study French, don't worry! You can also select from Getting Started with Latin or Getting Started with Spanish! Getting Started with Russian is also in the works! I like this method enough that I will likely check out one of these other books (as French is not really my language of choice). Also, don't forget to click the banner below to see how other Crew families are using Getting Started with French!

Introducing Getting Started with French {Armfield Academic Press}

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Smoothies!



The other food craving I've been having/indulging lately is smoothies. I typically make them thusly:


  • Frozen fruit (any mixture)
  • 1 banana
  • Protein Powder
  • Chia seeds
  • Flax seeds
  • Spinach or spring mix
  • Almond milk with coconut
If I eat (drink) this mid-morning, I'm typically full until dinner. It is *so* good. You don't taste the green stuff at all (and I put in a lot). It helps solve two problems for me: I don't like to eat breakfast and I sometimes forget to eat lunch (especially once the school year gets going). It doesn't hurt that it tastes *really* good!

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Review of Apologia Astronomy, 2nd Edition

Apologia: Exploring Creation with Astronomy Review

Oh, Apologia Educational Ministries, will you ever stop knocking it out of the park? I'm going to guess no. The streak certainly doesn't end with Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition, that's for sure. I have and used the 1st Edition of this fabulous curriculum, and all I can say is, Apologia took something that was good, and they made it great!
Apologia: Exploring Creation with Astronomy Review

There are four components available for this curriculum, and I was blessed enough to receive all of them:

 Here is a direct comparison between the two Lessons 6 - The Moon:


Here it's very easy to see the addition of new activities: they are now interspersed throughout each Lesson, rather than placed only at the end as before. This picture shows the same place in the Moon chapter in each edition (2nd Edition is on top):

  • Astronomy 2nd Edition Notebooking Journal - for grades 3/4-6. Beautifully updated with full-color (note that in the sample picture below, the Notebooking Journal on the right is the one for Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics. I don't have the 1st Edition Notebooking Journal for Astronomy, but I did want to show you a direct comparison between the two editions' Notebooking Journals. The new ones are just stunning!).

  • Astronomy 2nd Edition Junior Notebook Journal - K - 2nd/3rd. Compared to the standard Notebooking Journal, the activities are guided toward younger children, with more coloring pages, primary writing lines, and easier overall activities. The Journal still supports the textbook, though, with pages that correlate with each chapter/lesson. The Junior Notebook Journal is a wonderful way for younger children to participate in science with their older siblings without having the pressure of too much writing!
  • Astronomy 2nd Edition Audio CD - this MP3 CD is the audio book of the textbook read by Jeannie Fulbright herself! Now, in our family, I do the science as a read aloud, but that's not always possible or desirable in every family. If you have a child who prefers to be read to, who is a slow or reluctant reader, or who has a learning disability related to reading, this CD is a wonderful addition to the standard textbook!

How We Used Astronomy

Several years ago, we read Apologia's Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 1st Edition. At that time, we did many of the activities in the book (my children were more in the target age for this series, which is K-6th grades). This time through, we are enjoying the book as a read aloud primarily, as Mary-Catherine (11, 6th grade) works through the newly updated Notebooking Journal. I won't prevaricate: we have used Apologia's Notebooking Journals before, and while my kids have liked them, they haven't loved them. The new editions are so much better! I am sure that color makes them more expensive to produce, but it doesn't seem to me like the price to the consumer has increased (don't quote me on that - it's just a mom's observation based on what I remember from buying them in the past!). The color makes them more appealing, though. Here is Mary-Catherine working on a Lesson Six (The Moon) crossword puzzle (tomorrow we start Lesson 8 - Space Rocks. I think we're all really looking forward to that one!):


The 2nd Edition text is just beautiful. The kids (13, 11, and 11) have noticed the difference. Right away they pulled the 1st Edition off the Apologia shelf (yep! A whole shelf!) to compare the two. There is less text on each page and more beautiful illustrations. Plus, because it's updated, you can now see relevant dates for upcoming things like solar eclipses! The previous edition still lists dates like 2007 and 2008!

If for any reason (and I personally can't think of one) you have shied away from Apologia's fabulous elementary Astronomy curriculum in the past, I strongly urge you to give this new 2nd Edition a look. It's just gorgeous, as are the supporting Notebooking Journals. By all means, click the banner below to see what other Crew members had to say, too!
Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition Review

Crew Disclaimer

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Review of CHSH-Teach.com

Christian HomeSchool Hub {Download Club}
You might be thinking another worksheet site review (not if you're anything like me, though!), but I promise you that this one is unlike anything you've ever experienced before! CHSH-Teach.com is a different breed of worksheet site altogether. In fact, the CHSH Download Club might change the way you view download club memberships altogether. If you've dismissed every one you've come across, give this one a look. When you see everything you get for $25, I promise you won't believe it. When I tell you that the site is the work of one woman (Lynda Ackert, a Christian wife, mother, and lifetime educator), you will likely be more than slightly impressed. Personally, I'm blown away.

Christian HomeSchool Hub {Download Club}

Just looking at that graphic above makes me want to go right back on the site to find everything that I've been missing in the last six weeks! It also makes me wish that I still had young children, because the worksheets that I had access to when my kids were learning phonics were all exceptionally boring. Further, I had to compile "units" on my own. CHSH-Teach.com has done all of the work for you. If it says "Unit" in the description, it's a unit. The phonics units come complete with handwriting activities, games, and everything else you could want to reinforce the actual lesson. In fact, the "ch" unit is 48 pages long! Why am I telling you about phonics when my kids are all jr. high and high school aged? Probably because teaching my children to read was one of my least favorite activities and checking out phonics resources is one of the first things I do when I see a new website like this one!

So what exactly is CHSH-Teach.com, though? Well, this helpful graphic kind of says it all!

Christian HomeSchool Hub {Download Club}

Through the Download Club, you have access to tens of thousands of downloads in virtually any subject you can think of, including Bible, languages (Spanish, French, Italian, and ASL), Language Arts, arts, music, and crafts, science, social studies, health, electives (architecture, character studies, and social issues and safety education). You can search for a resource by subject, by grade, or by month (so helpful when you have younger students and you like to tie your studies in to the month's "themes"). 

One thing you'll notice right away that differentiates CHSH-Teach.com from other download sites is that far from offering only worksheets (although the worksheets are awesome - I love them!), this site offers entire courses and books for download! For example, my children are studying Astronomy right now. Because it is a subject we have studied before, and because they are now older than the first time we went through the course, they can handle more upper-level material on it. It was very easy to search the site for Astronomy materials and to come up with these reference materials!


I was able to download each of them to my computer and then use OneNote to further organize our Astronomy lessons! It took all of about two minutes - it was wonderful not to have to hunt down supplementary resources myself!

How about spelling? Spelling is one of those things that frustrates me about homeschooling because no one book is just right. The list may be right, but the activities don't work for that particular child. Books that are *only* lists are way too much work for me, because my 6th grade son still really likes activities. Well, only yesterday (August 30, 2016 as of this writing), CHSH-Teach.com uploaded the first 6th grade spelling unit for me (okay, it wasn't for me, but it felt very personal!) -- all 121 pages of it! Here is just one of the exercises that jumped out at me. Begin a lover of word puzzle books, I really appreciated seeing something fun and different for my son to do!



One of the most delightful aspects of the site has to be the "Curriculum Treasures from the Past." Here you will find vintage textbooks and readers. Can you find them elsewhere? Sure, but why bother looking when they are all gathered here for you. First Lessons in Geography has to be my favorite! "How many continents are there?" "Two." "What are they?" "The Eastern and the Western." And I thought it was going far back when my parents learned that there were five continents ("Eurasia")! So delightfully vintage!

If you like to supplement your existing curriculum, or if you get bored with your existing curriculum (I'm so guilty on both counts), you will definitely want to check out this Download Club. If you're one of those social types (not guilty here, I'm afraid), the site even boasts forums, groups, and a community blog. It really is far more than just another worksheet warehouse (far, far more). 

Don't take my word for it, though. Visit the site and check out all of the free resources and then click the banner below to read all of the other Crew reviews. I'm willing to bet you won't be able to resist!



Christian HomeSchool Hub {Download Club}


Crew Disclaimer

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Review of Spiritual Circle Journal

Spiritual Circle Journal
I have four kids who love to journal and keep diaries, so when I saw Spiritual Circle Journal come up for review, I knew that it would be a blessing to one of my children. The Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids & Teens is recommended for ages 8+, but can be used by younger kids. It is wire bound and contains 66 journal pages and 66 white pages. This journal facilitates what I think of as directed journaling, as the pages have graphics designed to elicit specific entries. Having said that, you can, of course, make of this journal anything you wish. For my 11 year-old daughter, though, the pages were just perfect!
Spiritual Circle Journal
Each of the outlined shapes in the journal symbolizes something the journaler is supposed to write in the space:

Moving from left to right, the shapes signify the following: a journal entry, a lyric or verse, a message, a confession, an example of God moving in your life, a lesson learned, a prayer, a thank you or adoration, and actions (something God wants you to do). For kids who want to journal but may not know how to start, or for kids who especially want to keep a spiritual or Bible-based journal, this is an *ideal* option. Even for kids who may have been wanting to learn how to art-journal but are unsure how to begin, this journal is a great beginning step. 

The number of ways you can customize the journal is endless. For girls, it is a chance to use their undoubtedly large collection of colored pens. Adding stickers is a great touch. For kids who don't necessarily want to journal these prompts, you can work with them to substitute different prompts for the shapes, while keeping the essential spirit of the journal intact (i.e., for Catholics, journaling about a saint studied during the week and/or a virtue exemplified by that saint would be one excellent option). For kids who really resist journaling, only asking them to fill in half of the shapes one day and half of the shapes the next day (in the course of the once-a-week journaling) is a way to show them the joy of journaling. Really, it becomes addictive quickly!

Mary-Catherine and Spiritual Circle Journal

I had originally thought of Therese when I saw this product online, but when it came to the house, it was Mary-Catherine with whom it resonated the most. She loved the design of the journal and wanted to start using it right away.


She had no trouble remembering what was supposed to go in each shape, nor did she have trouble deciding what to write. She did decide fairly early on that it made sense for her to make a couple of entries a week, rather than the once a week suggested by the author (but that will vary by child).

If you're unsure of exactly how to use the journal once you receive it, fear not! There is a three page parent/teacher/leader guide to explain the journal more fully. In the guide, the author explains her purpose in creating the journal, gives ideas for how to begin your child on the journaling process, and explains the importance of writing vs. typing in developing memory retention skills. Even if you get the journal and want to dive right in, I would strongly encourage reading this valuable introduction.

39 other Crew members have been using the Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids & Teens, so be sure to click here to see what they had to say!

Crew Disclaimer

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Wordless Wednesday - My Lunch of Choice of Late

Multigrain Flaxseed Wrap with garlic hummus, red onion, avocado, red pepper, tomato, spring mix, and red chili paste. I find myself *craving* this sandwich all the time lately! It is so good, so easy, and so incredibly guilt-free.


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