Monday, February 25, 2013

Review: College Common Sense


This year was a milestone year in the Smith house. Our biggest baby entered sixth grade. That's middle school. Gasp! How did it happen so fast? 6 and 1/2 more years and we are looking at college. Noooooooo!!!!  But as much as it pains me to admit it, that time is coming. Fast.

Not only does college mean my baby is growing up, it means that we're going to need to open up the purse strings. College isn't cheap. Enter College Common Sense, a program designed to help parents and students navigate through the mystery of paying for college by helping you find "free money."

College Common Sense

Denise Ames, financial aid consultant, is the creator of the Going to College and Paying for It Online Video and workbook program.  She designed this program to help parents and students find as much "free money" for college as they can. And as early as you can.

She has created an entire DVD/online series that explains what exactly is financial aid, the major steps to going to college, how to choose the right college for you, how financial aid works, where to find the "free money," and how you fit into the process. Working as a financial aid officer at a private college for over 10 years, Denise has a lot of knowledge to share.

Denise recommends starting as early as possible, even with your elementary student. You can't start accumulating money for college early enough. She offers lessons for four different levels: parents and students of elementary age, parents and middle schoolers, parents and high schoolers, and parents and students of college age.

With the younger students, Denise suggests working through the program with your student at least once a month. She offers lesson plans and activities tailored toward this younger ages. By starting to learn about this process early, your student will have a greater understanding of how to find as much aid as possible. It's never to early to begin earning scholarships. With the older students, Denise recommends letting them take the reigns and take the lead in their education.

Our Experience

We received the online video and workbook.

The Going to College and Paying for It lessons are made of six 20 minute videos that go along with the workbook.  You can also sign up for her free lesson plans to use along with the dvd lessons or on their own. The lesson plans are delivered to your inbox weekly and each plan has a different focus and activity to get your child actively thinking about, and sometimes preparing for, college. And the website itself is chock full of valuable information.

Since I was working with a middle schooler, we went through the videos and lessons together. We began by creating an All About Me notebook and a scholarship binder.  The notebook is for the students to write (or draw) about their dreams and interests. It will give them a record of their thoughts and dreams to look back on and those are the very things that are so important to know when choosing a college. Both the binder and the notebook are intended to give the student ownership of their education. We all know that we tend to work harder towards the things that we are personally invested in. College should be one of those things.

In the first lesson, The Big Picture, we learned about the difference between tuition and the cost of attending really are. I think it was an eye opener for Mackenzie. We also learned how to, and how NOT to, choose a college. Denise had great tips on what to do and ask when you visit a campus.
I also really appreciated how she explained that it is the students responsibility to make sure that they know and obey the stipulations for the aid that they've been given. If you were expected to maintain a certain GPA to receive money then it is 100% up to you to make sure that you adhere to this. If you don't, and you lose the money, you have nobody to blame but yourself.

In the next lesson we learned How Financial Aid Works. Mackenzie, 12, started zoning out during this lesson. I, however, found it fascinating. I learned a lot about a topic that I thought I knew quite a bit about, having received my fair share of financial aid all those years ago. She explains the different types and walks you through when and how to apply. She tells you what to expect after you apply for aid. She also provides worksheets that will help you calculate the cost of attending a particular school.

The third lesson is All About the Free Money. The Scholarships and grants. She goes into the different types of scholarships, how to find scholarships, how to decide if you qualify for a particular scholarship. She also reminds the student, again, to pay attention to the obligations that might be attached to the money. I just love how she repeatedly puts the student in the "driver's seat" so that they understand that this is their education and they are responsible for every aspect of it.

The remaining lessons are The System That Works, You in the Process, and Putting it All Together. This is where you get into the nitty gritty of finding and applying for scholarships. She gives very specific, step-by-step directions on how to do this. And she has you create a scholarship binder so that you can keep everything organized in one place.

While Mackenzie wasn't as interested in it as I am, I know that this will be a great resource down the road for her. It gives her step-by-step way to secure financing for her education so that she can "Be the Master of Her Own Future." I think that might be the best part of the program for me, teaching the student how to take charge of their life.

All and all, I found this to be a great asset to anyone planning on attending college or who will be putting children through college. I learned a lot more about securing money for my kids and I will be reviewing this again and again to keep it fresh in my mind. I also definitely plan on having my children become more involved with this program as they hit the high school years. And who knows? Maybe between now and then I'll have secured them a little extra money for college early.



Age Range: elementary through college

Pricing: $50 for the DVD and workbook or $25 for a 12 month subscription to the online program


Friday, February 22, 2013

V is for...Video

I am a little behind with my Blogging Through the Alphabet. V was stumping. All I could think of was Valentine. I'm not into Valentines Day. At. All.  So I stewed on it for a bit.  And then it came to me. Kayleigh got a Hello Kitty Video camera for Christmas. Cha-Ching. I had my V.

So my dear readers, I perused her memory card and have prepared this tasty snack for your viewing pleasure.  So take a peek into Kayleigh's mind and see what she thinks is worth videoing. And good luck figuring her out.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Weekly Wrap-Up: The One With Tears

So there were a few tears this week. For various reasons. I'm schooling girls. They're naturally moody. One is hitting the hormonal years. Both with the diabetes.  It's to be expected. There are actually tears several times a week. I just found this weeks tears to be more interesting than normal.


Mackenzie spent a lot of time this week catching up on her swimming creatures science notebook and ocean box. She's great about taking notes while I read, a bit lazy about the other stuff. And I don't even make her do the busywork pages like the crosswords. So this week she played a bit of catch up.  She's still not caught up. lol

She did get a walrus added to her box. But the shark and ray are still missing. As soon as I work up the energy to walk up the stairs, I'm going to get her on those. I don't care if it's not a school day.

We are still studying India. India is fascinating. India is beautiful. India is heart breaking. We've been reading through Teresa of Calcutta and the images of Teresa working with the poorest of the poor led us to Sobfest 2013.  We haven't had this good of a cry over a Sonlight book since we read Lincoln, A Photobiography with Core 4. We've had a few tear ups and sniffles, of course but this was a full on cry. Great book!!!  Amazing woman. Such an angel. We're going to keep the tissues handy while we finish this one.

Now we're dying to watch Something Beautiful for God, the first documentary of Teresa. The one that brought her to the attention of the world. Except that we can't find it anywhere. You can find the book but not the movie. Gah!!!!!

We are also still loving our read aloud, Shadow Spinner . If my voice could handle it, we'd be done already because we're dying to know what happens. Thankfully Mackenzie's reader, Around the World in 80 Days ,  is not dependent on the state of voice. I think she might be ahead of schedule but she's not talking.


Now Kayleigh had tears for a totally different and much more amusing reason.  I got out the scissors. Now scissors in and of themselves, do not make her cry. She likes to cut things. Things like her hair or Mackenzie's math. However, when you ask her to cut on a line. Waterworks!!

We read a poem about a bat in Language Lessons for Little Ones so I thought it would be fun to make a bat out of her hand and foot prints. Being that she's five now, I thought maybe she'd enjoy cutting out her foot while I tackled the hands. Nope. Same story, different age. Please note that she is perfectly capable of cutting on a line rather well. She just doesn't like to do it. Too constricting, I guess. She did like drawing the teeth on the bat though. lol

Cutting lines isn't the only thing she doesn't like though. She doesn't care for cheerleading either. For years she's been BEGGING to do cheer like her sister. This year was her year. Do you know what she said after the first practice?  "I didn't know this was going to be too much hard work."  I about peed my pants from laughing. Cheer is through our local homeschool group. The coach is moi. I was a dancer in my youth but never a cheerleader. Everything I know about cheerleading comes from You Tube. Clapping, stamping, and shouting the cheers are about as tough as it gets, people.

Little Miss just doesn't  like to be told what to do. I'm making her stick with it for the season. I need the extra body. This week I bribed her with a lollipop to make it through the game. It worked. Even with the knowledge that a shot of insulin followed the lolli.  Next week I'm going to tie one to a stick with a string and wave it in front of her for extra motivation. Plus it will amuse me.

In other news, she's been helping me with some review items. One you can read about by scrolling back a couple of days and the rest you are going to have to wait for because she's not talking. Or cutting. Or cheering.


Linking to: Photo Collage Friday, Homeschool Mother's Journal, Weekly Wrap-Up, Preschool Corner

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Reviews: God's Great Covenant Old Testament 2


I am a huge fan of Classical Academic Press products so I was super excited to be given the opportunity to review God's Great Covenant Old Testament 2, A Bible Course for Children.  Having been fortunate enough to review another one of their Bible studies, I knew it was going to be good.

About God's Great Covenant Old Testament 2

PhotobucketThis study covers the second half of the Old Testament from Samuel to Malachi. You and your student will enjoy a chronological study the rise and fall of God's kingdom, the prophecies of the coming of Christ, and the lives of many prophets.

The book contains 32 chapters divided into five themed units. If you study one chapter per week, the study can be completed in one school year.  Activities range from Bible readings, memory work, story time, comprehension questions, puzzles,  and maps.

Our Experience

We received the student workbook, teachers edition, and MP3 files. They were everything I expected a Classical Academic Press product to be. Bright, clean, easy-to-read texts. Fun illustrations. Easy-to-understand maps. We loved it. In addition, I purchased the Old Testament Timeline and Map Set to add to our study.

Each chapter starts off with a Memory Work page. This includes the lesson scope, Read To Me bible readings, theme, memory verse, key facts, things to remember, and a "Message from the King." We would work on this page on day 1.  A lot of times the bible readings were really, really long. Thankfully there are bible apps that read them to us. There's an app for everything. ;) After the bible reading we would work on the memory verse and discuss the key facts. Mackenzie really liked the Things to Remember section because it quickly sums up the main points. The "Message from the King" section helps you apply the lesson to your life.

Day 2 we would do the Story Time pages. The story is "written by" the "royal chronicler Tobias", a fictional character designed to capture the students attention. The story reinforces the lessons from the previous day's reading but in a format easier for the student to grasp. You can either read the story aloud yourself or use the MP3 files.  If you suffer from "Sonlight throat" like I do, those audio files come in handy.

On Day 3 Mackenzie would work on the Review Worksheet pages. These pages review the memory verse, key facts, and story facts using comprehension questions and puzzles. Mackenzie, like last time, was more than happy to work on these pages and looked forward to them.

On Day 4 you move onto the Quiz.  The quizzes cover the memory verses, key facts, story facts, the main point using a variety of methods. Fill in the blank, matching, crossword puzzles, true and false, etc.

The student book comes with four black and white maps to refer to while you study the lessons.  The maps, as always, are really well done and easy to use. We pulled them out of the book and laminated them so we can refer to them for a long time.  Since I had purchased the extra map set, we mainly used those. I found the set to be well worth the money. The maps were large, sturdy, colorful and easy-to-read. The timeline is wonderful too.

The teacher's guide contains the entire student text, answer keys, and tons and tons of notes. Everything from historical and geographical information to cultural and theological ideas. The notes are worth their weight in gold. And there's a place to add in your own notes too.

Once again, we are thoroughly enjoying this study. It's such an easy way to dig into the bible and we are learning together.



Age Range: Third grade - sixth

Pricing: Student Book- $22.95, Teacher Edition- $24.95, Audio Files- $9.95, Bundle- $49.95
              Map & Timeline Set- $36.95

Samples are available on the website.


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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Review: Flowering Baby

PhotobucketIf you are looking for an easy way to include your little ones into your school day then the Flowering Baby preschool curriculum might be just what you are looking for.

It's easy for the little ones to "get lost" in the shuffle of a busy homeschool day. The Flowering Baby program is a simple and easy way to spend some fun and educational time with your littlest students.

About Flowering Baby

Flowering Baby, created by a mother/daughter team, combines Classical, Charlotte Mason and unit study philosophies to create this developmental approach to educating the whole child. The curriculum offers five volumes for every age, from birth to five.

Volumes 1-3 (ages birth through 3) offer activities based on age alone. I perused Volume 2, for ones and twos,  and it included daily activities that include music, art, stories, social games, and movement activities. Volumes 4 and 5 (ages 3-5) include a monthly section that covers things like math, language, science as well as a theme section for a unit study type of feel.

Our Experience 

PhotobucketWe received the downloadable PDF format and it was simple and easy to get right onto my iPad. (My preferred method of online reading.)  Kayleigh and I used Volume 5 Monthly Curriculum Guide Four to Five Years Old and Theme Guide Four to Five Years Old.

I decided to start off with the Monthly Guides. It is set up to be really easy to implement. You start off with a list of supplies needed, book suggestions for each "subject", music suggestions, and holidays for that month.

It then moves to daily activities which include: ABCs, stories, math, colors, shapes, science, physical, and Spanish. Some of the activities are very specific, like "Read Three Billy Goats Gruff and use blocks and animals to act out." Or "Read The Old Lady Who Lived in the Shoe and discuss the aging process."

Acting out Three Billy Goats Gruff

Most of the activities are not very specific at all, like "Blue: Read book. Dress in blue for the day. Play I Spy Something Blue. Color a picture using only blue." Or "Ears: Read book. Discuss our ears and that they are one of our five senses. Identify sounds." Their are book suggestions for each unit or you can easily substitute what you already have at home. They also include a lot of life skills like practicing your phone number, reasoning, self identity, and board games.


Next we checked out the themed guide. The curriculum suggests doing two themes per month. You can do the themes in any order that you'd like so you can choose the themes that most interest your child. Some of the themes include Aquarium & Aquatic Life, Bodies of Water, Fish & Frogs, Gardens, Space and many more.

Like the monthly guide, each theme offers book suggestions, supplies needed as well as suggested websites and field trip ideas.  There are six days worth of activities for each theme and four to six discussion questions.

I didn't find the theme section to be as organized as the monthly guide. I chose to start with the Fish & Frog theme, focusing on the fish, since my older daughter was studying fish at the time. I thought it would be nice for the girls to have a similar study and maybe do some activities together.

I was a little disappointed to find that there weren't many suggestions for fish books or activities. Most of this theme revolved around frogs.

After a deeper look into the other themes, I found what I was looking for. In the bodies of water theme I found four suggestions for books on fish. In the Arctic theme, I found a fish craft.

I didn't find these activities to be as well thought out as the monthly section either. Some themes were more exciting and other were very minimalist. Read a book, make a collage, draw/paint a picture, etc.

I also thought that the writing activities were not developmentally appropriate. "Write arctic/aquarium words. Arctic, aquarium, whale, ice, Eskimo, penguin, sea, seal, and shark." Most kids at this age are just learning to form their letters so I really didn't see the educational value in it.  At our house it was a lesson in frustration for my almost 5 year old.

I was a much bigger fan of the monthly activity guide. The activities seemed to be more age appropriate and had more of a variety. I loved how it wove activities into daily life, such as counting the beans on the child's dinner plate.

All in all, if you're looking a no-frills,  easy-to-implement program for your little one, then you should definitely check out the Flowering Baby program.  I could easily read the activities, gather up a few supplies, and start teaching in just a few minutes. No stress, no hunt for obscure supplies, basically just open up and go.



Age Range: birth to five

Cost: $30-$38 per volume
           Get 10% off by using code "Blog10" at the checkout.

Samples:  Birth to One
                One to Two
                Two to Three
                Three to Four
                Four to Five


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Monday, February 11, 2013

Waaahhhh!!!!! My baby is....

five today. Like last week wasn't bad enough, with my big baby turning six times two, now the small one went and got older too. I hate that. A lot. Boo!

Five is my least favorite birthday. (I reserve the right to change my mind next year when the big one turns six times two plus one. ) Five means that they're school age. Which, in theory, means that they conceivably could start spending the majority of their time with some stranger. Ack!  Okay, I realize that I home school so I don't have to share her with a stranger but I still don't like the idea of it.  It's unnatural and sad.

I think I'll spend the rest of the day trying to convince her that she's three.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

U is for... Understand

Diabetes is a complicated, confusing diesease. Most people don't know anything about it until they have too. I know I sure didn't have a clue.

I have family member nearby with type 2, and that had been my only experience with diabetes "up close." I do/did have some other family members with it but I was young and didn't realize. Then this past July, type 1 diabetes jumped into my world. My good friend's sweet, precious toddler was diagnosed with it. I quickly learned that type 1 is nothing like my limited experiences with type 2. I would pick my friends brain about his care and it kind of made sense but not exactly.

2 months later it made more sense. My Mackenzie was diagnosed this past September and having to deal with it full time, it suddenly made a lot more sense.  After my little Kayleigh was diagnosed, everything I thought that I knew about diabetes was proven wrong because, as we in the D-World like to say, "Your diabetes may vary." That is a huge understatement. It's ugly and unpredictable and nothing like type 2 diabetes, which is ugly in a totally different way.

Since type 1 diabetes is not as common as type 2, people often make assumptions about my daughters based on what they know to be true of type 2.  Please understand that they are not the same disease at all.

So the purpose of this post is to give you an understanding of the similarities and differences of these two deadly diseases.

What They Do Have In Common

Diabetes, in general, is a metabolism disorder. Metabolism refers to how your body breaks down food for energy and growth. The majority of the food we eat is broken down into glucose, a type of sugar in the blood. Glucose is the main source of energy for our bodies.

The glucose in our blood is used for energy in our cells. Insulin is necessary to get the glucose into our cells. It is a hormone produced in your pancreas. You can think of insulin as a bridge. If the bridge isn't there, nothing can cross over. You won't be getting any energy to your cells.

Eventually the glucose builds up in your blood stream until the levels are too high, resulting in hyperglycemia.

There are 2 main reasons why this occurs. 1) Your body does not produce insulin. (type 1)  2) Your cells  do not respond properly to the insulin.  (type 2)

How They Differ

Differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes
Type 1 diabetesType 2 diabetes
Symptoms usually start in childhood or young adulthood. People often seek medical help because they are seriously ill from sudden symptoms of high blood sugar.The person may not have symptoms before diagnosis. Usually the disease is discovered in adulthood, but an increasing number of children are being diagnosed with the disease.
Episodes of low blood sugar level (hypoglycemia) are common.There are no episodes of low blood sugar level, unless the person is taking insulin or certain oral diabetes medicines.
It cannot be prevented.It can be prevented or delayed with a healthy lifestyle, including maintaining a healthy weight, eating sensibly, and exercising regularly.

Type 1 Diabetes

First and foremost, you should know that type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. Yes, you read that right. It is an autoimmune disease.

Basically, my daughter's own bodies are destroying the insulin-producing beta cells in their pancreas. They are not producing insulin. It had nothing to do with their weight, what they ate, how much they ate, how active they were. Their body's own immune system destroyed the cells. There was nothing we could've done to prevent it.  The beta cells in the pancreas have been destroyed and there is no way to reverse it.

When you are a type 1 diabetic, you are insulin dependent. For the rest of your life. Insulin is not a cure. It does not "heal" the pancreas. It is necessary in order to stay alive. Without insulin, cells cannot absorb the sugar that they need to produce energy.  Without insulin, the food that my daughter's eat to stay alive would eventually kill them.

Until there's a cure, there's not much we can do other than manage it the best we can. There is no controlling type one diabetes. It's too unpredictable. It's a difficult sort of life that I'm not capable of explaining. I just don't have the words. Thankfully a fellow D-Mom, over at The Princess & the Pump, has done a fabulous job of giving people a glimpse of what it's like living with type 1.  Check out "There is Something You Should Know" or "Do You Know How Lucky You Are?" for a peek at life with D.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetics generally have 1 of 2 problems: not enough insulin being produced or insulin resistance where the insulin being produced is not working properly. The latter being the most common reason.

There are many reasons that can lead to insulin resistance: genetics, obesity, increasing age, or having high blood sugar for long periods of time. The problem is the cells themselves. They build up a resistance to the insulin and nobody is sure why. So the cells reject the insulin, which causes the pancreas to send out more to get the energy where it needs to be, thus causing the cell to be more resistant. Kind of like a vaccine or an allergy shot that's given to build up your immunity to the "whatever."  It's a vicious circle.  And how rotten is that?

Type 2 can be treated, prevented, or delayed by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Physical activity and good food choices can go a long way to avoiding this horrible disease. Other treatments include oral medications or insulin injections.

The other rotten thing about type 2 is that there might not be any symptoms. People often die from complications of type 2 without ever knowing that they have it. This is part of the reason why it's known as "the silent killer."

Type 2 diabetes is most common in those over 40, but it's becoming more and more common in children. Maybe a side effect to the "video game era" we live in?

The End Result

While the two diseases are vastly different, neither one is a walk in the park. They are both deadly.  Despite all of the medical advances in treatments, diabetes still remains the leading cause of blindness and kidney disease. It also puts you at a great risk for heart disease, stroke, and foot/leg amputations.  In one year, more people die from diabetes and the accompanying complications than from breast cancer and AIDS combined. Yet few people are aware of what diabetes is nor do they understand the seriousness of the disease or recognize the symptoms.

It is my prayer that you will share what you have learned about diabetes with somebody you know. It might just be that certain someone who needed to hear it most.


Monday, February 4, 2013

T is for... Times Two

Today my biggest baby is turning twelve. Except that I am very, very, very against my baby turning twelve. So we shall refer to refer to it as the year Mackenzie turned six times two. The times two must be whispered because I don't like this part of the equation. I'm not joking.

So today my oldest baby is six times two.  Sigh...

Happy birthday to my sweet, sweet BABY!!!



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