Thursday, May 30, 2013

Simplifying your life

I have been lucky enough to review a few items from Simplified Pantry.

Simplified Dinners and Simplified Dinners Gluten Free/ Dairy Free have been much more than just a cook book in my house. They have completely changed my meal planning. 

It starts of simple enough.  You use a master shopping list that she provides.  It has basics and you can download a sample here.

You buy whatever meat and veggies that are on sale that week and prepare a meal from them.  The idea is that if you keep the items from the master shopping list on hand, you can always make a meal from the cookbook. 

This cook book is very different than any other I have ever seen.  The sections are based on the type of main dish and meat you have.  Don’t think there are just a few recipes in here either.  There are tons.  In fact, I don’t think we have even had the same meal twice yet. There are 16 categories all with multiple variations. 

This left meal planning flexible enough for me.  I was able to think ahead of what I wanted to make for dinner.  If I had planned on something that took a while to cook and I forgot to start it in time, I was able to just choose something else using the ingredients I had on hand. 

These meals are all easy enough to prepare and the ingredients were all real whole foods.  I love that!!

The most interesting thing for me was that after the initial stock up of pantry items I am actually spending less each week on groceries than I used to.  We are also eating much healthier. 

There are 2 separate books the regular version and the new GFDF version. Each PDF book is $12.99.

Another neat thing I was able to review is Paperless Home Organization.


This has been such a motivator for me.  Paper is my struggle.  I have multiple filing cabinets and paper stacks are still everywhere.  Using the system put together in this book can eliminate most all paper.  While I am not fully ready to give up on the paper version of everything.  This system has sure made it easier to locate something when I need to find it. 

This book takes you step by step through setting up the system.  I already had the email set up and a calendar somewhat in place.  I had never heard of Evernote, which is essential to this system.  All have free apps on most any app store. 

Don’t think you’re going to have to load up on a bunch of apps,  this system only uses a few.  I already had a to do list app in place that I love.  So I did not use the one suggested.  It was very easy for me to tweak this system for me.  Even though I am still not totally ready to give up on all my paper, I see how parts of this system have improved.  

Everyone in my family has some type of device so we have been able to set up the calendar like the book says and the kids are able to enter their own things and have it show up on my calendar under there name.  This has been great for when I need to know where they are going to be at or if they need a ride somewhere, they can check if I can do that before they even ask me. 

This PDF book sales for $3.99

Until June 3, 2013, you can use code TOS2013 to get 30% off any of her ebooks.  What a deal!!!

To see what others think of all 3 of these items check out this post. To see a wide variety of reviews check out our crew blog.


Friday, May 24, 2013

Scaredy Cat Reading Level 3 {a review}


Joyce Herzog has created a reading system that makes sense to kids.   It is called Scaredy Cat Reading.

After using the placement test, I knew my daughter was on track for Scaredy Cat Reading System Level 3, $100, so that is the one I requested.

Scaredy Cat Reading System is set up to make reading fun!

After about 30 pages of teacher training, you are ready to teach the Scaredy Cat way where mastery is the key! 

There is also some teacher prep work as far as cutting out some of the game cards.  I decided to break that up into chunks.  Each week I cut out what I think we will use for the following week.  That way I haven’t been getting overwhelmed with all the cutting. 

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Games, games and more games is the Scaredy Cat way. 

They use a “Menu Plan” to classify what type of day you will be having.  By doing this you keep things new.  Joyce Herzog says, “Variety is the spice of life!”  Don’t worry, she also says, “DO not plan to do every activity.”

The “Appetizer Day” is for wetting their appetite and having fun, showing the student more fun is to come. You just do one activity on these days.  Some examples are Cartoon Days, or a Letter Master Day. (more on the Letter Master below.)

The “Salad Day” is for getting into in a little bit more.  On these days, Katey didn’t even realize she was learning yet.  You just do one activity on these days. Some examples are a Story Day, a Bingo Day, or even a Review Day.

The “Main Course Days” are the bigger lesson days, you do two activities on these days.  Some examples are, a Lesson Day (doing a lesson from the book), a Work Day, or a Test Day.

The “Dessert Days” are fun days, you celebrate the progress your child has made, or play a game with them. 

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The Letter Master – Ah, yes, let’s meet him.  He is great!  With all the levels of Scaredy Cat Reading you get a mini comic book which tells the story of how the letters got their sounds.  It is fun.  This is something you read/listen to repeatedly to get the letter sounds down.  Joyce suggests listening to it while playing with Legos or something similar.

This system is based on mastery.  How does Mastery usually happen?  By doing something over and over. That could be boring.  That is what is so great about this.  You change it up every day, even though your child is learning/reviewing the same thing until they have mastered it.  Mastery is considered reading words from the rule they are working on at 30 words per minute.  By then they will have become sight words.

I have been glad that we could just jump right in and begin at the level we needed.  This can be used for any age and I think my older children can benefit from the spelling rules taught.  

This product is so great for me because there is just enough structure to keep us going, yet it is flexible enough for us not to get bored with it, and easy enough for us not to get burned out on it.  Each day has taken us about 30 minutes to get through a lesson.

This isn’t really age specific, so if you have a child learning to read, have them take the placement test and see which level would be a good fit for them.  There are 4 levels of the system.

Many of Joyce Herzog products were reviewed by the crew, including all levels of Scaredy Cat Reading System. Check out this post. While your there subscribe to our crew blog.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Science Naturally


Can you spare a minute in your day for science fun?


Of course you can!

That is just what Science Naturally has come up with in their new book One Minute Mysteries: 65 More Short Mysteries You Solve With Science!


We were lucky enough to be able to review this 166 + page book which includes 60 mysteries to be solved using basic science knowledge. There are also 5 bonus science mysteries and 5 mysteries you solve with math.  Each mystery is on it’s own page you turn the page for the answer which includes a picture.  This is the second book with science mysteries.  They also have 2 books with mysteries you solve with math.  These books were written by a father daughter team. Check out their author bio at the bottom of this page.

We read a few every day at lunch time.  They literally took about one minute to read each mystery.  The kids took turns guessing and most of the time it turned into a discussion, which was nice to get them thinking and talking about the same thing as a group.  Remember my kids are 14, 12 and 8.  They were all discussing their opinions. 

Once they were ready I read the answer.  Which gives an explanation with it.

Go ahead try a few mysteries out with your family!  RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW!

That was fun, wasn’t it?

Don’t forget this book is for ages 8-12 and is only $9.95.

You can get it here. 


Don’t just take my word for it, check out this post to see what others thought.  To see a wide variety of reviews check out our crew blog.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Can we say “stressed”? {Week in Review}

First of all, I would like to say:

Please forgive me for the way this post is jumbled.  I am trying out using Evernote for blogging and just entering things through the week on that.  Then transferring them over to a post for our week in review.

After a stressful weekend, I was not ready for Monday!

My husband took my keys to another state for the week.  Ahhhh.  I had a ton of errands to run.  By the time I realized this, all the dealerships were closed for the weekend and the soonest they could make a key would be Monday and even then it would cost me $200.  I ended up finding a ride 2 towns over to go pick up his truck and drive that around until he had found someone coming back this way to bring me back my key.  I know some of you are one car families and make it work.  The problem with this for me, was that it was not planned.  So I had a ton of errands to do.  A TON!


  I created the kids end of year plans.  We finalized them Monday morning and discussed some expectations.  They can be done with school as soon as they complete everything and then they can take a break until June 10th which is when we will start our summer schedule.  Stay tuned for our end of year schedule and summer plans later this week.

After all this I had one kid ready to finish up that day!  The other two wanted to take that day off and I decided to let them. 

We did get in some unscheduled learning. 

Our bug collection made a lot of progress this week. 

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We also got out our Discovery Scope and looked at dandelions (a composite flower).  Here is a picture I took using my phone through the Discovery Scope.

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We also spent some time at the park while waiting for Emily’s softball game to start. So far they had been undefeated.  The had their first loss this week. 



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Last week we were learning about details in paragraphs.  The kids wrote paragraphs describing how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. We put their paragraphs to the test .  They had to read them while I did exactly what they read.  This made for some fun family laughs as some steps were skipped. 

Evernote Camera Roll 20130514 145526Katey has been learning all about space so far.  We have been learning how to use binoculars to look at the night sky. 

Tommy did the self test in grammar (english grammar 101) for module 1.  He scored great!

He has also started his own lawn mowing business with his friend. So far he has been quite successful and this is proving an opportunity for him to learn applied math with expenses and cash flow as well as partnership and communication.

The spring weather has been gorgeous so we have spent much of our reading time outside. Evernote Camera Roll 20130515 152515

We have also been able to play outside quite a bit!


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Tyler has been learning how to do puzzles. He still needs a lot of help, but he just loves putting them together.

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I have been feeling so disrespected lately.  I did end up losing my cool.  I have also been feeling stressed about many things outside of my control in my life right now.

Then Tyler got an ear infection and we are currently without insurance.  My husband recently went through a job change.  We couldn't afford COBRA until the new insurance starts so after taking him to the doctor and getting his prescription we had to pay $170 in medical bills and prescriptions.

We headed to Cheer Nationals for Katey.

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  Her team ended up winning second place which is great.  I am so proud of how hard she practiced and how brave she and her team was for getting up there in front of all those people and judges. Evernote Camera Roll 20130518 155224

It was at an amusement park and we had intended on taking our kids on rides and spending the day there.  The problem was it poured rain.  I mean poured for half the day.  We decided to bag it and just have a fun day with the kids.  The day seemed ruined because we were all so excited to go to this whole thing and we had planed out the whole day.  I guess this is God showing us how to roll with the punches….

Here is to hoping this is our last week of full school and we can take a break until our summer schedule starts.  Smile 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

College Prep Genius

College Prep Genius has came out with a book for kids going into high school and their parents, High School Prep Genius, An Academic Guide to Excellence. $29.95

High School Prep Genius is a 4 part book

Introduction which includes
  • How to Use the book
  • College and Career Notebook
  • Student timelines, both before and after high school begins.  (perfect for 7th and 8th graders.

Foundation For Personal Success which includes
  • Personal development
  • Your interests and beliefs
  • Being healthy and having financial independence

Foundation For Academic Success which includes
  • Academic development, studying, tests, organization
  • Going beyond the basics

Foundation For Future Success which includes
  • College; testing, paying for it, choosing one, applying for one, and college essentials

There are also 5 appendixes with things such as How to Build A Homeschool Transcript, Talent Searches, Great Books, Reducing Test Anxiety, Admissions Terminology.

We read through the 55 page introduction at the same pace.  Then I assigned out weekly reading for me and daily reading for Tommy. 
The introduction has sample charts.

I appreciated how at the end of each chapter has a guide for parents. P8101736
Sometimes they have homework for the parents. The homework is often simple things that can really benefit your child. P8101733
Here is a picture of the beginnings of Tommy’s College and Career Notebook.  By beginning this in 8th grade and staying on top of it each year, high school transcripts and college applications, as well as job applications or résumés will be easy to pull together.
This notebook and the how to of it all has been my favorite part of this book so far.  I know as he hits older grades we will both benefit from this book immensely.  I plan to have both of us finish the book (yes, all of it) over this Summer and then each year I will have both of us re-read the grade he is in as well as the future grade.

High School Prep in my 14 year olds words. 
The books gives lots of good tips on scholarships and testing for college.  It has a lot of life and school advice, from study skills to financial advice.  It helps you understand just how important high school is, no matter what type of high school you do. [public school, private school, homeschool, etc.]  I really like the book.  I like how it helps me plan for my future. It shows me things to think about that I wasn’t even thinking of.  I think every kid and their parent should have to read it in their 8th grade year. 

While this book is intended for 9th graders there is a chapter for 7th and 8th graders, as well as there is much to do the summer before 9th grade.  My 8th grade son has been so excited to read this book and foresee what he wants for his future.  


To see what others think of this check out this post. To see a wide variety of reviews check out our crew blog.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Papa’s Pearls {A Review}

Papa’s Pearls is a book written by Diane Flynn Keith about her father’s upbringing and how he raised her.  Throughout the book she shares some of the many bits of wisdom instilled in her throughout her life by her Papa. 

Papa was a depression era kid who was raised on street smarts and headed down the wrong path.  This book shares his story how he was able to turn his life around and become a successful business owner while the odds were against him and when no one believed in him. He did all this using the bits of wisdom shared throughout this book.

Each bit of Papa’s wisdom comes with a story that shares how it came to be.  Many of the stories hit close to home for me.  My Great Grandfather served in the CCC, so did Papa.  Papa became a successful business owner, my Grandfather was a successful business owner. 
This book is a short read, just over 100 pages and 17 chapters long.  Once I started reading it, I had a hard time putting it down.
After reading it I brought up some of the bits of wisdom to my family, sharing with them in my own words the stories of Papa.  This was able to create family conversations on character.  We were each able to form our opinions on what happened and discuss them.

I really did enjoy this book as it took me back in time and I was able to take papa’s pearls of wisdom to heart with the stories.

Papa’s Pearls can be purchased here as an author autographed copy for $21.97, which includes shipping.

To see what others think of this check out this post. To see a wide variety of reviews check out our crew blog.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Week in Review {May 3, 2013}


We have come a long way this week.  I have changed a few things up a bit as far as chores and responsibilities.  I will write up a post about that after I have given it a few weeks to see if it holds up.  But we are part way into the second week of it and so far I am pleased.

You will see a few changes that have happed throughout this post.

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One of the changes is that I have the older two take turns reading Katey science books out loud.  This benefits from this are many.  They get a brush up on science and reading out loud as well as bonding time and Katey gets her science in.

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Another change is that I had each of the kids create “keepsake boxes”.  They are basic paper, filing boxes and they can put special projects or items in as they wish.  We talked about how they are not to be filled with junk.  The items need to actually be special to them.  I have hopes that we/they will go through them when they are full and decide again what is worth keeping.



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I have created rewards for Katey to become motivated to do her schoolwork.  She struggles to get through everything each day.  She is excited to earn this Weather Kid Kit .  She has to complete all of her schoolwork for 15 days to earn this. 

Other Happenings

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Softball season has started back up here and Emily is playing great this year.  It is really neat to see how she improves each year.  It is a sport she loves playing and she got on a really great team this year.  She hasn’t witnessed or experienced any bullying, which she has seen on other teams.  The real team commitment shows too.  They haven’t lost a game yet.  (knock on wood)

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I let the younger kids have a picnic for dinner one night!  They thought this was so neat since picnics at our house are usually for a snack or lunch.

One day I opened my fridge to find this! Evernote Camera Roll 20130503 164616

A fridge full of animals. 


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We went to the store one day and they had bunnies.  Tyler was so excited.  He kept talking about how cute they were.  He had to have his picture taken next to them.

We had gotten word that the Kyle Petty Ride for Charity was coming through our town.  We decided to take a lunch break and head over to that.

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We got to meet Kyle Petty.

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We also got to meet Hershel Walker – NFL player. 


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School Happenings


Katey has been making amazing strides in math, thanks to Math U See. She started the book Beta in January and completed lesson 23 this week.  I am going to order the next book for her to begin in about 3-5 weeks.

While she is still not where the state thinks she should be in reading I have seen her make vast improvements since the beginning of the year.  I wondered if she was ever going to read.  She is still sounding out words and working on some phonics rules, as well as fluency.  It will all come to her if we just keep practicing.  I am sure.

Tommy and Emily both had State CRT Testing this week and we spent time each day doing test prep in place of science.  We continued in our history read aloud, Sacagawea.  We are taking that slow and clicking on the links and following rabbit trails as they come. This has been great.

Emily has gotten to Chapter 15 in Life of Fred--Decimals and Percents .  She is Life of Fred books.  This is the second one she will complete this year.

She also began Hunter Education classes

Her book of choice to read this week has been The Homework Machine .

Tommy has gotten to Chapter 27 in Life of Fred : Pre-Algebra 2 with Economics .  This is also the second Life of Fred book this year for him.

He is almost through with the first module of English Grammar 101.  This course has been perfect for him.  Each lesson is short and to the point.

Tommy’s favorite subject has definitely been High School Prep.  (Review coming soon) He has been reading through this daily and has gotten great advice from it.  I love the motivation it is giving him to plan and prepare for his future.

He isn’t really into a book right now.  His daily reading has come from many places, magazines, websites, or smaller books.  I am hoping next week to get him into the new book series by Susan MarlowBadge of Honor (Goldtown Adventures)


I am trying out a Paperless Home Organization System. (Review coming soon on that too). I can already see the time I am saving.  WOW!!   This is one I can’t wait to tell you all about!!


Disclaimer: There are affiliate links in this post. There are also freebies. There are also just links to products without affiliate links. I'm trying to show what we did and where you can find it, not to sell you a product...although if you decide to buy one of them, please feel free to use the links and support a fellow homeschooler. Thank you!


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